Monday, June 30, 2008

Still Tasty on Day Two

The Polka Dot Brownie Bursts are still fabulous on day two. Moist...chewy...chocolaty. They are so fabulous that I decided I should check on their nutritional value, to see if I should really have my fourth one of the day.

The verdict is...

Total Calories - 126
Calories from Fat - 62
Total Fat - 7g = 11%
Saturated Fat - 4g = 21%
Trans Fat - 0g = 0%
Cholesterol - 26mg = 9%
Sodium - 73g = 3%
Total Carbohydrate - 14g = 5%
Dietary Fiber - 1g = 2%
Sugars - 8g
Protein - 2g
Vitamins - (too shameful to mention)

I'm thinking three was plenty!

It's interesting how some cookbooks neglect to include the nutrition information for their recipes. I need to get in a better habit of checking on those pesky seemingly-void-of-nutrition-facts recipes cause, dang, I could have had a small piece of cheese cake (mmmmm, cheese cake) had I known the amount of calories in those three oh-so-yummy cookies.

I might need to run an extra mile tomorrow night to compensate. Our neighbors look at me funny when I'm out running. Little do they know that I don't necessarily run for exercise...I run so that I can burn enough calories to have dessert each night and still fit into my pants the next day :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Moist and Chewy Brownie Cookies

Apple Pie Calzones and Other Cookie Recipes by Brekka Hervey Larrew was on display at our library last week. The cover just looked so yummy that Jolie and I had to bring it home and give some of the recipes a try. Honestly, it nearly leapt off the shelf and into my arms.

We picked out a few recipes and headed to the Commissary and got our supplies. Tonight we tried Ms. Larrew’s Polka Dot Brownie Bursts, and were very impressed.

Polka Dot Brownie Bursts –

2/3 C vegetable shortening
1 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 T water
½ T vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ¾ C flour
1/3 C cocoa
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 C white chocolate chips

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine shortening, brown sugar, water, and vanilla with a rubber scraper.
2. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and throw shells away. Add the eggs to the large bowl one at a time.
3. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the large mixing bowl. Stir with the rubber scraper until all ingredients are blended.
4. Add 1 ¼ cup white chocolate chips to the dough and mix well.
5. Place 1-inch balls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Press 5 or 6 white chocolate chips, flat side facing up, into each cookie.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes [at 375 degrees]. Do not overbake. Use an oven mitt or pot holder to remove baking sheet from oven.

Because we do not cook with shortening, I replaced the shortening with butter. We also used less white chocolate than the recipe called for. The cookies are very moist and very brownie like. The kids loved them. Jolie doesn’t care for the white chocolate much, so she picked out each morsel from her cookie. Next time we might use mint chocolate chips, regular chocolate chips, or maybe I’ll add a little swirl of peanut butter to the batter.

We are looking forward to trying several more of the recipes in this book, as well as checking out some of the other children’s cookbooks in this series: Banana Split Pizza and Other Snack Recipes; Monkey Pudding and Other Dessert Recipes; Oodle Doodles Tuna Noodle and Other Salad Recipes; Peanut Butter and Jelly Sushi and Other Party Recipes; Wormy Apple Croissants and Other Halloween Recipes; Cheesecake Cupcakes and Other Cake Recipes; Banana-berry Smoothies and Other Breakfast Recipes.

Larrew, B. H. (2008). Apple Pie Calzones and Other Cookie Recipes. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tentative School Schedule

It’s that time once again when I try to come up with a daily schedule for our school year. It usually takes a few weeks to work out the kinks, but for the most part, a semi-structured day works well for us. I am fairly flexible with the schedule. There will be park days, doctor’s appointments, and sick days, all of which will alter our day.

The schedule is mostly for me, so that I say on track. My kids aren’t naturally as regimented as I am, but as a family I’ve found that having a general schedule helps the days go a bit more smoothly.

Below is a tentative schedule for our school year.

730 Wake up / Morning Chores
800 Breakfast
830 Clean up / Family Meeting
900 Math / Manipulatives
930 Oral Lessons
1000 Snack
1030 Read Aloud
1100 History (M/W); Science (Tu/Th)
1200 Reset
1230 Lunch
100 Quiet time / Individual Studies
200 Individual Studies / Free Time
300 Snack
330 Reset
400 Free Time

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dutch Babies from Heaven

For our fifth anniversary, Justin and I spent a few wonderful days at All Seasons River Inn in Leavenworth, Washington. The room was beautiful, the town was charming, and the breakfast was delicious. We enjoyed the breakfasts so much, that I bought a cookbook from the B&B highlighting many of their most enjoyed breakfasts.

Our favorite dish from our stay was the Dutch baby pancakes with apples. I made them for brunch this morning to mix things up from our usual pancakes or French toast on Saturday. The kids love them. This morning, Jensen asked for more “apple pie” when he wanted seconds. As usual, they were a big success. I always have to make extra apples because they go fast.
Here is the recipe that can be found in Recipes from Breakfast at All Seasons River Inn by Kathy and Jeff Falconer, and Friends (2003).

Dutch Babies with Apples

Per person:
1 egg
¼ c milk
¼ c flour

At least 30 minutes prior to baking time, place individual ovenproof glass baking dishes in a 450 degree oven. Beat together eggs, milk and flour. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drop 1 tsp margarine into the bottom of each dish and swirl to cover the surface. Evenly divide the batter into baking dishes. Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Remove pastries from dish to serve and add topping. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Apples (bananas or peaches as alternatives):
1 small apple per person
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon

Melt butter in saucepan. Peel, core and slice apples. Stir sugar and cinnamon. Cook until tender. Spoon over Dutch babies and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Just Having Fun

Today was a relaxing day at the Miller’s house. We slept in, had a nice brunch, got some pictures hung, and went to the park.
We have a wonderful kids’ park right down the road from us. It’s brand new, just opening a few months ago. There is equipment in all shapes and sizes, just perfect for the differing ages and abilities of my kids.
The kids had a blast…Justin and I did too.
I’m sure we’ll be making weekly trips to the kids’ park.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

School Talk

Yesterday Jake and I had our educational talk about next year’s “school” year. Taking guidance from Diann Jeppson’s discussions in A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion, we discussed his goals (short and long term) and interests, as well as what he felt were his strengths and weaknesses. I explained to him that we would be doing school a little different this year and that I wanted to find out from him what he was interested in learning, what he has enjoyed over the years, and what he would like to discontinue.

I was surprised at many of his responses. Subjects and topics that he has seemingly not enjoyed in the past were high on his “interests” list. He even spoke of learning about subjects that he doesn’t necessarily care for, but that he feels are important and need to be studied. Like all mothers, I know my child is bright, but I was impressed by the maturity he displayed during our discussion.

Because I am not a person who easily adapts to new things, I had already prepared a list of subjects and topics that I thought Jake should study this coming year (remember, Jaynelle: Inspire, not Require). He had already mentioned the importance of math, logic, science and history during our discussion, so I asked about his interests in literature, Latin, writing and general language arts (the other subjects on my list). Though not a big fan of writing, he agreed that it was an important skill to have, and would be willing to work on it, as well as the other subjects.

I addition to my original list, he mentioned his desire to do some woodworking and study architecture. Building (especially with Legos) is a great love of Jake’s, so I wasn’t surprised when he requested we add those topics to the list. I’m excited about him exploring woodworking, building, and architecture. Those are topics I have little experience with, so I hope he’ll be able to teach me a thing or two.

So, our list in progress for the next “school” year is –

Math: Math-U-See Epsilon; Mathematicians Are People Too, Volumes I and II
Logic: Mind Benders computer programs A1/A2 and A3/A4
History (Ancients): Greece, Egypt, Rome, China, Sumaria
Literature: Confucius, World Folktales, Roman and Greek Myths, Homer, Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Iliad and Odyssey, Cicero, Virgil
Science (Biology): How Nature Works (life, plants, water, insects, birds, reptiles, mammals); Joy Hakim science books (Aristotle, Newton, etc.)
Latin: Latin’s Not So Tough, book 3; vocabulary review
Writing: Cursive
Language Arts: Explode the Code; G.U.M. Drops (I was not going to have him continue these programs, but he insisted)
Woodworking: How to use tools, workshop safety, Birdhouse, etc.

Although the list doesn’t vary much from our last few years of work, this coming year he has a say in what he’ll be learning, and chose to continue with a modified status quo. Our next step is to get him a planner and work together to write down his learning goals on the calendar and find out what subjects he wants to study each day. He mentioned that he wanted to look in to varying his routine, possibly studying some subjects on one day and others on another. That will be something for us to discuss at our next “planning” meeting.

The last issue we discussed was how long he would like to spend studying each day. He said he would like work for two hours each morning and two hours each afternoon. I think that four hours a day might be a bit much to start with, so we’ll probably readdress that topic at our next meeting as well.

I think our meeting went very well. We ate some muffins and drank some water and just talked. The other two were occupied in their rooms, so we had some time just to sit and chat.

My next task is to establish a Master Plan for Education. According to Diann Jeppson, this plan should include a classics list, cultural literacy, academic programs, adult skills, organizational programs, experience, spiritual education, family relationships, and places to go. I won’t copy down her example of a Master Plan (it’s very long), but it is a great reference that I will be pulling from when I ultimately create my list. I have already thought about many of these areas and have a pretty good idea of what will be included in my plan. I’ll post my Master Plan as soon as I have it completed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Where Would You Go First?

So where was the first place we went as a family in our new town (other than to the grocery store)? We went to the library. While holding the key to learning just about anything in the palm of our hand, we use our library cards like most people use credit cards. We frequent the library at least once a week, leaving with bags overflowing with all sorts of books (paper and audio) and videos (educational and entertainment).

As homeschoolers, we find the library very helpful. The library systems we have utilized over the years have each saved us a large amount of money. Though I do have to admit we still buy lots of books (we have six full sized bookcases to prove it), it’s the library that helps us to supplement many of our educational books. This resource gives the kids (and us) access to areas of study rarely frequented by the traditional learner.

The kids are also participating in the library’s Summer Reading Program. I am sometimes weary about summer reading programs. I don’t like to artificially reward the kids for reading. I think that they should read books that are interesting to them, when they are interesting to them, not necessarily because they’re going to be getting a prize for reading. The ultimate reward for reading should be the knowledge they gained from reading the book, or the pleasure they received from the process. Call me old fashioned if you must.

Well, this library has a slightly different program, so I decided we would give it a try. The kids are asked to roll a die each time we come in and then they will “move” along their game path the rolled number of spaces and read the type of book described on the spot landed upon. Today, for instance, Jake rolled a 1 and was asked to read a story about an animal (pointing him to the call number of the animal books in the youth section of the library). Jolie rolled a 6 and was asked to read a story by an author whose last name begins with the same letter as her last name (M). Jensen will be participating too, and he (well, really I) rolled a 1 and will be reading a book whose author has a last name beginning with E, F, G, H or I. The kids have all met today’s goal, so we will probably be making another trip to the library in the next few days so we can roll again and see what type of book we will be encouraged to read next.

So where was the second place we went as a family, you might ask? The recycling drop-of center, of course. Our new town doesn’t currently have curbside recycling pickup, so we’ll be taking our recycles to the drop-off locations around town when we are out and about heading to other places (there is one on base, near the library, and behind the organic food store that I know of thus far). I am pleased to say that our new town allows us to recycle more items than any other place we’ve lived. I can’t imagine us filling the 90 gallon garbage can each week, yet trash is collected twice a week! Come the beginning of the year, our town will be starting curbside recycling pickup, so we’ll be able to downsize our trash can (to a 45 gallon can) and upgrade to a 90 gallon recycling can. I’m sure we’ll proudly be filling the recycling can each week.

We take great pride in being recyclers. While in Virginia, our curbside recycling even caught the attention of others on our block, who would ask us which weeks were recycling weeks so they could recycle too. The kids have been recycling since day one and are trained to look at the bottom of any plastic container to see if we can recycle it. We have been at homes of friends and family and had the kids ask where they put their recycles. Unfortunately in some instances we’ve found that they didn’t recycle. Maybe the kids’ asking put a little bug in their ear.

Again I ask, where would you go first in your new town? I am one of those people who think a person's actions speak louder than words. We are trying to teach our children to be proactive, thoughtful, compassionate people. I think our first family adventures in our new town have spoken volumes about us. What would your travels say about you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We're Here!

That's right. We made it and are officially moved in.

There were only a few mishaps along the way. Well, really just one. Our stuff didn’t arrive when originally promised. We called the carrier, the military, the dispatcher. No one knew where our stuff was. Our hands were tied, so what did we do…we sat in an empty house and waited, guessing where our stuff might be…on its way to California, strewn about the highway, burnt to a crisp…let your imagination run wild. Luckily, our stuff arrived the next morning, with little to no damage that we have found thus far. Our only total loss was a small pressboard bookshelf that a neighbor had given us.

We have nearly unpacked all of our boxes. The master is the only room left that really has boxes. We unboxed the kids’ rooms first so that they would have something to do while we worked on the rest of the house.

Justin and I have different unboxing methods. He is more of a “get-everything-out-of-the-box-first-so-I-can-get-the-box-out-of-the-room” kind of guy, where as I’m more of a “let-it-sit-in-the-box-till-I-know-where-I-want-to-put-it” kind of gal. During our last move, Justin unboxed everything by himself while I was in another state waiting to give birth, and the move before that was fairly simple, and we hadn’t yet established our unboxing styles. We are a bit more set in our unboxing ways now that we are “old” (in the military, we are nearly over the hill), so we are doing a bit of compromising and it is all coming together nicely. I bet everything will be in its place before he reports to work on Monday.

This being our fifth move in ten years, we have learned several lessons about moving.

1. Do not, for any reason, leave your valuables assessable to the packers, no matter how nice they are. They might just steal from you.

2. Be sure to pack truly sentimental items with you. No one will ever be able to replace those baby books or expensive instruments should they be lost or broken, so take them with you.

3. Be kind to the movers. Don’t forget, they are the ones who will be transporting all of your worldly possessions to your next destination. Upsetting them might not be good for your belongings.

4. Although not technically required, feed your movers. They tend to move a bit more quickly when their tanks are full.

5. Do not plan to do anything else on moving day(s). Packing, loading and unloading take time, and no matter what time they guesstimate they will be done, add several hours to it.

6. Be flexible. Each move is different (different locations, different numbers of family members, different amounts of belongings). Be as organized as possible, know who to call if there is a problem, and relax. As I have learned, getting uptight doesn’t do anything for anyone.

What to do...

What do you do when you're bored in the hotel room, waiting to drive to Florida?

Jump on Daddy-Man, of course.

What do you do when you're bored in an empty house, waiting for your stuff to arrive?

Ride on Daddy-Man, of course.

Daddy-Man...The most bestest daddy ever and ever!

Seeing the Sights Before we Left

Before we left Virginia we wanted to see as many history-based locations as possible, so we made back to back trips to Jamestown and Yorktown, spending as much time at each location as the children would allow.
At Jamestown, the kids really enjoyed seeing the ships. One of the gentlemen taught the kids how to raise and lower the anchor. I enjoyed the gardens, and seeing how the families lived during that time in history.
Yorktown offered equally enjoyable experiences. The kids really enjoyed getting to help plant some tobacco. We all were amazed by the descriptions of how the battlefield surgeons dealt with and helped injured soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Justin and I tried to impress upon the kids the living conditions of the people living during the Revolution. Their homes were small, yet adequate. The children had to contribute to the family in order for them to survive. Jake also enjoyed driving though the area looking at the battlefields (while the other two slept).
Although we didn’t get to see all of the historical sites we wanted to, we hope to be able to make another trip to the area when the kids are a bit older so that they can appreciate the experience even more. I’m sure Justin will be itching to get back out that way as soon as he starts working on his Revolutionary Studies courses.