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Thursday, May 28, 2015

yogurt




I have been making yogurt for most of my life. I was about six when we bought our first milk cow and began to learn how many wonderful things we could make from the abundance of rich, Guernsey milk that she produced. I still love the stuff--plain, sweetened with honey or stevia, with granola, with fruit, strained into yogurt cheese and spread on crackers--I could literally eat it every day.

In recent years, yogurt has enjoyed a popularity surge that goes beyond the crunchy, health food crowd. Your closest grocery store most likely carries a dizzying number of brands and flavors. There is Greek yogurt, yogurt with fiber, even squeezable yogurt for children. You can get it imported from France, with cream on the top. The choices can be overwhelming.

In her new cookbook, simply entitled Yogurt, Janet Fletcher guides you through the maze of choices. From explaining the health benefits of this incredible cultured food to its history around the world to describing the different options that are available to teaching you how to make your own at home, this is basically a fun-to-read yogurt encyclopedia. The wealth of information is then followed by mouth-watering recipes from around the world. Feeling snacky? Try some roasted tomato bruschetta with yogurt cheese on a baguette. Looking for a cool, easy summer soup? She has you covered with chilled avocado and yogurt soup with tomato salsa. Having company for supper? Serve them lamb meatballs in warm yogurt sauce with sizzling red pepper butter, a scrumptious Eastern Mediterraneal recipe. There are so many dishes in this book that I want to try, it's hard to decide where to start!

Whether you are new to the world of yogurt or have been eating it for years, this book is sure to inspire and teach you new, fun and delicious ways to incorporate this superfood into your diet.

For more information, click here.

To learn more about the author, click here.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

crackers




 I know, I know, what kind of crazy person takes the time to make their own crackers? Well, I never claimed to be completely sane. Actually, these little guys are a lot of fun to make. Plus, they taste great and the ingredient list doesn't include anything with a scary-sounding name. Have you read the ingredients in a box of crackers lately? With the exception of a few organic brands and maybe wheat thins (which still have nasty GMO oils), they read like a production list from a chemical factory.

I used this recipe, and while it doesn't really taste like wheat thins to me, it does have a hint of sweetness that reminds me of them. I used real butter, of course, and would like to try it with an alternative sweetener.

My biggest problem is keeping my kiddos from eating the entire batch in one sitting. I have to dole them out, because they do take some time and effort. But it's definitely worth it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

10 things I wish I had known as a first-year homeschooler

In case you're wondering, these are cows' ear tags. Owen finds them in the pasture and numbers them to use on his future cattle herd.

With another school year under our belts, I've been thinking a lot about how our schooling has evolved over the last 6+ years, and some things that I wish I had realized early on. When I think of how stressed and twisted up I was over everything, trying to be the perfect teacher/mom...oh, goodness, I was awful! I still get twisted up from time to time, but I hope and pray that some of these lessons are truly sinking in.


A fun way to learn the states...found for a dollar at the local grocery store!

1. Formal preschool is not necessary. Preschoolers love to learn. They love to learn so much that they pretty much learn effortlessly. Beatrice is 2, which is not even considered preschool, and she already knows many of her colors, just from watching her siblings and casual questioning from Stephen and me. I didn't have to sit her down with a workbook, or schedule thirty minutes of school time every day. It just happened. Same thing with numbers, shapes, letter sounds, even simple reading--it just happens, if your home is one where books and learning are encouraged and emphasized in daily life. Let your preschooler be a kid. Let learning be a joy.


Philip is our artist in residence.

2. Beware of curriculum fairs, homeschool conferences, and even teaching supply stores. While these certainly have some helpful aspects, especially in the way of workshops,  I simply cannot handle the dazzling array of curriculum and manipulatives. The very atmosphere, to me, seems charged with "You're not doing enough and you need to buy this and this and this and this in order to be a good homeschooler". I end up spending way too much money on things that I don't even use that much.

Owen is our math kid. At 6, he already does big math problems in his head. Even though he still writes his numbers backwards most of the time!

3. Know that expensive curriculum is nice, but not necessary. For the first few years with Ethan, I mostly used cheapo books from Wal-Mart. I drew worksheets on copy paper. I printed free stuff that I found online. I use the public library a lot. I mentioned in an earlier post that we used Apologia science this past year. It was great and the kids loved it, but honestly...there was nothing in there that we couldn't have learned from library books. It happened to be in a very appealing, creative format that was fun to use, but would I consider it necessary? Not really. If we can afford it, I will probably use it again, but if we can't, I won't stress.


He's decided that he is moving to West Virginia when he grows up. No idea why.
 
4. Focus on the 3 R's: Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic. Especially reading. If a kid can read, so many of the other subjects--history, science, even spelling--sort themselves out. Ethan is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the Revolutionary War. He can quote battle facts, including who the commanding generals were on both sides, how many casualties each side had, how many prisoners were taken, and who won. We have never done a formal Revolutionary War study. He has learned all of this from reading on his own.

Plans for an Olympic competition.

5. Don't compare your kids to anyone else's, whether they are public schoolers or homeschoolers. Your kids are unique. I have found some of the greatest pressure to come from fellow homeschoolers who want homeschooled kids to not only keep up with public school standards, but to excel in such a way that they show everyone how superior homeschooling is. Honestly, I don't care what other people's fifth graders are learning right now. I know Ethan and I know what he is capable of. I know where his passions lie. In some areas, he is probably at college level and in others he would be considered below his expected grade level. It will all shake out by the time he graduates, I promise.

I love little kid writing!

6. When a kid starts crying, it's all over. You can force the issue and finish the lesson but I promise you, they are not learning at that point. Let them take a break, go outside for a few minutes, have a snack, switch subjects, or sit down and cry it out--but drop whatever is causing tears until they are in a frame of mind to learn again.

This one I especially wish I had learned earlier.

I could identify all except the animal on the bottom left. Turns out, according to Owen, that it is a kangaroo.

7. Know that they will eventually get it. Don't despair when you have to explain the same thing, day after day, like they have never heard it before. It might not click at the age that everyone says that I should click, but it will click at some point. I didn't think Ethan would ever understand place value. He could do the work, but he had no idea why he lined up the ones and tens and hundreds. Without that understanding, it was really hard to move on to bigger math concepts. This past year, he has finally gotten it. And he has flown through his math book. I wish that I had pushed less, patiently explained more, and just waited until he was ready to understand.

Love, love, love Teaching Textbooks. One place that, if all possible, I will not skimp on expense.

8. If something isn't working, don't hesitate to ditch it. You are not married to a particular book or method or curriculum. For someone like me who tends to be something of a perfectionist, it is really hard to leave a book unfinished. But if you hate it or the student hates it, then what are you accomplishing by insisting that they finish it, just for the sake of finishing? Find another book. Try a different method.
 
9. Little boys especially do better with short lessons. Fifteen minutes at a time is often all that they can handle. Mix it up. Throw some jumping jacks in there. Let them burn off energy between subjects.
 
10. Pray. When things are going well, pray. When an issue comes up, pray. When you don't know how to teach something, when you want to tear your hair out, when you despair that your child will graduate with more than a sixth grade education--pray. You have, at your disposal, the assistance of the Teacher of all Teachers, the One who created you and Who created your child and who knows how to get through to both of you like no one else does. He will rush to your aid. I promise. I have experienced it. Trust Him.

stream of consciousness

 
Nothing major on my mind today. My sainted husband has taken the three boys to the dentist ( Hope all goes well) and I am sitting here with a cup of hazelnut coffee sweetened with stevia, feeling conversational. So how about some complete randomness?
 
School is winding down and I am ready for a break. We mostly school year-round, taking breaks as necessary, but I do like to give everyone at least a couple of weeks off at the beginning of June. We have already finished several of our books and Ethan will do his last Math lesson tomorrow. The longer I homeschool, the more comfortable and confident I become with the whole process. I don't pay that much attention to grade levels and testing, but let each child progress as they are ready, and we are seeing great results. Ethan is suddenly grasping concepts that I thought he would never understand. And Owen is at that point where reading is starting to click, which is so much fun.
 

We did Apologia science this year, which the boys loved, but a good part of their science is hands-on. They love to find, photograph, and learn about our local wildlife. We have tons of red, black and yellow salamanders and blue-tailed skinks, crawdads, colorful songbirds, snakes of every kind, fish, woodchucks, rabbits, deer, wild turkey, and more plants and wildflowers than I can name. Every day, it seems, we discover something new.

The other day, the girls came in from outside. Anwyn had a fistful of wildflowers, which she handed to me with a "here, Mama!" Beatrice, right behind her, also said, "here, Mama!" and handed me a handful of worms. I never know what to expect from that girl. But I've learned to look before I take anything that she offers. Both girls are fearless when it comes to picking up all manner of creepy-crawly things. I love their courage, but I want them to have a healthy respect of things that could pinch. Or sting. Or bite.


These books were my Goodwill find last week. They came from a local library and are in like-new condition. I paid a dollar apiece, which is more than I like to pay for used books (25 cents is about as much as I am willing to pay), but like I said, they were like new. And..well...how can you pass up Eric Carle and Beatrix Potter?



We finally got all of the sheep sheared and treated for mites, so hopefully I will have good wool next year. The lambs are growing like crazy, and the funny thing is that their half-sister, who lost her baby, has adopted them as her own so they have two full-time mamas. I don't think I have to worry about them getting enough to eat.

Also on the farm, we are getting ready to Artificially Inseminate our heifers. If reproduction isn't your thing, then just skip this paragraph...but in case anyone out there is interested, AI is a way to introduce some really awesome genetics into our herd much less expensively than buying actual cows and/or a bull. Next year's calves will be half Red Devon, from some of the top Devon bloodlines in the country, and we are excited to see how they turn out! As an added bonus...how many women can brag that they have a semen tank filled with liquid nitrogen in their bedroom? Another thing to add to my list of things-I-never-thought-I-would-say. Lol.

In pregnancy news, we are entering the third trimester. To be honest, I am getting really excited at the thought of being able to move freely and wear normal clothes again, but I am also trying to enjoy every moment of this pregnancy (and a few more months of sleeping all night!). We're still trying to decide on a name. I think we've nailed it down to a couple of options and just have to choose between the two. Naming little girls is hard.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

baby bonnets





I'm slightly obsessed with all things baby girl these days (can't imagine why!), and last week I made this new little one some bonnets. We spent a lot of time outside and I figure that she will need something to protect her face from the sun.

I used this pattern from Purl Bee and I can't recommend it enough. It's fully lined, which gives it a nice finished, sturdy feel, but is so easy to put together. I can literally make one in an hour. And I can get the 0-3 month size out of a fat quarter.

Monday, May 11, 2015

mothers day



 
Honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, every day is Mothers Day to me. My family shows me daily that they love and value me, and I told Stephen that I didn't really care about gifts or cards or flowers this past weekend. I just wanted to spend the day with the people that I love most. So we packed a picnic lunch and went to the David Crockett State Park for the day.
 
 
We hiked some short trails and looked at some of the exhibits (most were closed until after Memorial Day). Davy Crockett settled here for five years when he was in his early thirties and established a mill where he manufactured and sold gunpowder, flour, and whiskey. When a flood wiped it out, he was unable to recover financially and ended up moving to another part of the state. From there, he went on to explore Texas and met his untimely death at the Alamo.


There is a working water mill here today.


The girls were obviously thrilled about getting their picture taken. They really had a good time, I promise!


This Canada goose was on the edge of the lake and wasn't scared of us at all.


No idea what these trees are, but the flowers are exotic looking!


It was a perfect day. I am so very blessed to be a mama.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

egg cups


Last year, I saw these egg cups at a Hallmark store and fell in love. I have no idea why. I never use egg cups. I don't make soft boiled eggs. I had no reason whatsoever to buy them. But they were just so cute. And inexpensive. So I bought three of them.


Turns out that they are perfect for lots of things besides eggs. Those little Pepperidge Farms mini pastel-colored mints? They hold the perfect amount.


They are also great to serve high-density snacks for little girls, like raisins and nuts. I don't know about your kids, but mine can easily eat an entire box of raisins in one sitting. If I put some in an egg cup, it feels like a special treat. And I still have some left to put in granola the next day.


One of these days, I might actually make a soft boiled egg and use the cups for their intended purpose. Or not. But whatever I use them for...they are just so cute!