Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Today is National Cream Filled Doughnut Day!! Who knew??

If you feel like celebrating (and really...who wouldn't want to celebrate this one), you could take the easy route and stop by a local doughnut shop, but if you're feeling like doing something from scratch, here's a recipe for indulgent homemade cream filled doughnuts to help you get your doughnut fix.  Heck, you could even call it home economics and do this for school.  It is cooking, and that totally counts!  Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Online Homeschooling Resource

As my kids get older, I'm all about them learning things on their own.  Also, as a one income family, I'm also all about things that don't cost a small fortune.  I recently discovered a new homeschooling resource that covers both those bases.  Its called Schoolhouse Teachers.  Its from the folks at The Old Schoolhouse.  They have hundreds of online classes available for all ages.   Pre-K through high school and even classes for adults.  I showed the website to my 16 year old daughter and she even got excited by some of the classes offered.  The best part is that you can try out their site and see what you think for $1 for the first month.  Its just $12.95 per month after that.  Or, you can choose their buy one get one free deal and buy one year and get the second free.  That's awesome!

One thing I appreciate about the site is that its for your entire family.  You pay the fee and anybody and everybody in your home can learn.  They don't charge per child like so many sites do.  To me, this was a no brainer.  Check it out, you might find some classes that get your kids fired up about learning!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Summer Bug Explorations

Boys being boys, and my having two of them means that we've seen a lot of bugs this summer.  We have had so many cicadas in our yard.  You never know where you're going to find their exoskeletons!  We've had them on the side of our garden boots, my husband's car tire, the house, etc.  My son, the expert, tells me these are common Dog Day cicadas.  I have to say, they are huge and quite impressive!  These guys can measure up to 2" in length.  Its especially cool when you find one in the midst of hatching out of its shell.  I found just such a specimen early one morning.

I came across him just as he was starting to emerge.  He's belly up at this point.  My little expert also tells me that this is a male because of his little cymbal flaps for making the super loud noise they're famous for.  Its how he attacks his mate.  Some people say the sound reminds them of a power saw.  It is certainly loud enough.  See how tiny his little wings are?

Just a few minutes later, his wings have fully unfurled and are almost dry.  He also somehow managed to flip over so he's not belly up any longer.

Now he's just waiting to fully dry before flying off, leaving his empty shell behind.  His color will darken and he'll turn either brown or black.  They vary greatly in color.  He will only live for a few weeks at best, but he'll be very busy during that time trying to continue the species.  Very cool!

This particular bug would make a great subject for any budding bug enthusiasts to study.  They are found everywhere, they big and impressive, and they don't bite.  There are lots of different species and some live underground for as many as 17 years!  You could create your own unit study, notebook pages, or even a lap book.  Happy learning!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Homeschooling Words of Wisdom & Encouragement

As this year comes to an end for most of you, I wanted to share some advice that was given to me by a fellow homeschool mom when I was struggling through our first year of homeschooling high school.  I'm a worrier and have had a seriously hard time adjusting to the rigorous amount of work involved in homeschooling my 9th grader.  Thankfully I reached out to some fellow homeschool moms in my tiny Catholic homeschool group and received these words of wisdom.  I am sharing them with you with her permission.

1 - Prayer. Pray alone, together, and as a family.

2 - Family Unity. Enlist your husband's support to back you up emotionally and practically, if possible. Have him help strategize accountability.

3 - Consistency. Be consistent with expectations and consequences. If it is a situation where respect isn't being given, address that issue. If it's underperforming academically, set benchmarks and enforce them.

4 - Communication. Discuss the situation with your child and strategize ways to resolve disconnects. Chances are that not only you are unhappy about the way things are going, but they are as well. They should have a vested interest in helping to solve these challenges with you.

5 - Listen. Listen to God speaking to you through your heart, your intellect, your husband, and others. Then take steps that will best fit your family's unique challenges. For me, it meant choosing a subject a child loved (acting) and immersing her in set design and acting classes for high school credit (which also motivated her to work harder to complete other work so she could pursue her passion). For another, it meant looking beyond the skipping of lessons/ missed class work to determine that child was bored and needed a more engaging way to learn math beyond textbook (it ended with a math tutor for one and online for another). 

6 - Think Outside the Box. If every subject is simply read a chapter and test, that would bore most people. Skip every other chapter test and find another way to pursue learning of those concepts. Write a report on a related project. Cook a meal from a country you are studying. Have them prepare a 4 week exercise routine for you and their siblings to do with them. Watch a documentary and prepare a paper on 10 things learned from that documentary. Research and draw medieval costumes in history. Write a poem about a book they read. Design a PowerPoint presentation about types of mammals in Biology. Pre establish a grading rubric (x points for neatness, x for creativity, x for grammar, x for content, x for using MLA or APA format, etc.), then use these types of projects to break up the testing monotony, and provide other ways to earn grades that aren't solely based on traditional tests.

7 - Keep Goals in Sight. Determine if your goal is college preparatory or not. Do you want to take advantage of free community college classes by grade 11 (only books have to be bought)? If so, make sure they are focusing on those subjects that will best prepare them for their future environment. Reading, writing, and math skills must be strong before entering community college, and a solid science foundation is important as well.

These are some things that come to mind. It's a huge challenge to be seeking ways to challenge and encourage your kids spiritually, academically, emotionally, and socially. 9th grade was a big challenge year for me with my firstborn daughter, 8th and 10th for my son.... Quite honestly, it was prayer, communication, and the support of my husband that got me through it. 

Hang in there, and do what you can to take a step back and re group with your child so that your relationship can grow in a positive way, and you can work together to find ways to make these high school years successful and rewarding for both of you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Veggie Delights!

I posted earlier about our garden.   I love having a garden.  Who wouldn't like heading out to the back yard for fresh, organic produce?  I know where it came from, and I know that its safe.  No nasty pesticides to worry about.  This year we planted several kinds of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet onions, tomatoes, okra, green beans, corn, squash, zucchini, bell peppers (red, yellow & green), watermelon, and cantaloupe.  Its early days still, but the lettuce end of the garden is doing great!

We have several heads of broccoli ready to go as well, and our long awaited cauliflower is starting to produce tiny little heads.  We've had so much produce that we've been able to share the bounty with family and friends.  

It is so wonderful to be able to have a large garden after so many years of dealing with my tiny 4' x 8' raised bed garden in Georgia.  I personally can't wait until the summer veggies start producing!  How about you?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Krispy Kreme Field Trip - YUM!

This week my kids and I had a very impromptu and last minute field trip to a local Krispy Kreme Donut factory which is located about 20 minutes from my home.  Let me just say that from the moment you step out of your car in the parking lot, you are hit with the most amazing smell.  I don't know how the people that live near the factory stand it!  I would gain weight on the wonderful smell alone.

Before I get started on the tour photos, I thought I'll share some facts about Krispy Kreme that we learned while visiting.  Krispy Kreme was born in Winston-Salem, NC, in the summer of 1937 by Vernon Rudolph.  He purchased a yeast raised donut recipe from a French chef in New Orleans.  He started selling the donuts to local grocery stores.  The smells permeating the air attracted attention and people wanted to buy the hot donuts they could smell, so he started selling them out of his factory location.  Over the years these donuts became more and more popular.  Shops began popping up all over the southeast.  At the time of Vernon Rudolph's death in 1973, there were 60 shops.  1989 brought the very first Krispy Kreme retail store front located in Greensboro, NC.  Today there are  1000 stores across the county.  They can even be found in Canada and Mexico.

The factory we visited in Concord, NC services the entire north and south east, even Canada.  They produce 300,000 donuts per day 364 days a year.  These donuts are shipped to grocery stores, gas stations and other retail locations.  Now that's a lot of donuts!  We also learned that as an employee of Krispy Kreme, they get all the free donuts they want, along with free Krispy Kreme coffee and Coco-Cola products.  Now you can understand where they get the energy to make that many donuts!

During our tour the line was running filled donuts.  Creme filled, chocolate glazed donuts to be precise.  We started out by viewing the donuts rising inside huge glass ferris wheel type machines.  Up, down and around they go until they have risen to the proper height.

Once they are finished rising, they get dumped out onto a conveyer belt of 350 degree oil.  They cook on one side and then are carefully flipped and cooked on the other side.  Before heading into a cooling compartment along the line.


After cooling, any duds are disposed of and two workers stationed on either side of the line carefully use a machine to poke a hole in each donut and fill them with creme.  Each worker fills two donuts at the same time.

 Next the donuts are placed back on the line and go through a machine that gives them their chocolate glaze.  Lastly they are inspected for perfection and placed by hand into their individual sealed boxes. These boxes are stacked at the end up the line and then shipped all over the country.

All of the kids that participated in the tour got to take home a complimentary package of freshly baked donut holes.  I may or may not have made them share. -grins-

All in all its a quick tour that took maybe 30 minutes in all.  But, it was interesting and there were free donut holes.  Win, win!!  Basically, this factory is a larger version of what you would see at one of their franchised retail locations.  If you ever get the chance, check it out!  Its a really "sweet" tour.  Pun intended.  LOL

Friday, March 18, 2016

New garden & new math, new bread recipe! YUM!!

This week has been an incredibly busy week for me on the home front. My parents have now officially moved from Florida to North Carolina, although their furniture is still in limbo, but that's a whole other story. Having them here means more going out to dinner this week, and impromptu visits during the day to drop stuff off and surprise my kids with lunch out at one of their favorite restaurants, Steak-n-Shake. I'm still trying to wrap my head around living in the same town as them again. Its been YEARS!

On the home front, we've been working on our garden. Last year we paid a local farmer to till up a good portion of the yard to have a garden. I've never had a garden other than my small raised bed garden in Georgia that measured a whopping 8 feet long by 4 feet wide. This new garden is more like 50 feet long by 25 feet wide. Its HUGE by comparison! We had great success with lettuce last spring, along with tons of squash and zucchini. Our tomatoes didn't do well, my okra died a slow and painful death, followed by my peppers. No idea what happened to our watermelons, but we did manage to get a few small cantaloups. I also had strawberries in our garden, but they didn't survive the winter. The one thing we had great success at growing in our garden last year was grass and weeds. This year we decided to suck it up and purchase a tiller. What a wonderful thing to have I tell you!! It makes short work of all the old grass and weeds, leaving behind glorious fresh tilled dirt. We tried to improve our red clay soil with a clay breaker type organic fertilizer mix. My wonderful hubby and son got that tilled in last Saturday, along with some chicken poop happily supplied by the girls, leaving the garden ready for our Spring veggies! Sunday morning my wonderfully helpful son, Adam, helped me plant tons of lettuce in four different varieties, along with broccoli, cauliflower, Georgia onions and a bunch of spinach. By some miracle, our kale from last year not only survived the winter, but its been thriving!  It kind of looks like little palm trees at this point.  All this planting only takes up about 1/3 of our new garden though. We're waiting until mid April to plant the summer stuff. Isn't it pretty?

I also made the huge decision to switch Haley's math from Teaching Textbooks back to Saxon this week. Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 just isn't working for us. I purchased the brand new version of Saxon Algebra 1 and it arrived from Amazon on Thursday. Can I just say how much I love Amazon Prime? What an amazing thing it is!

Just working through Lesson 1 in the book showed me just how much my math hating girl needs Saxon. Teaching Textbooks encouraged her to use a calculator and focused solely on algebra. Good old Saxon doesn't work that way. It made her do long multiplication WHICH SHE FORGOT HOW TO DO, as well as fractions and long division. Its way harder and more intense, but I feel it is honestly a stronger program. So, as much as I hate to jump in with a new math program in mid March of her 9th grade year, we're doing it. I'll do a review of it once we've used it a bit more.

Another big exciting thing I did this week was finally perfect my favorite homemade bread recipe using freshly ground whole wheat. I have been messing with recipes for weeks now trying to get it just right. I have this tried and true recipe that I've used for a couple of years now. My kids love it, and frankly so do I. Its fool proof. However, it uses store bought flour and includes 1 1/2 cups of white bread flour. I'm trying to eliminate as much processed food from our lives. I especially avoid all things white...white bread, white rice, white sugar, white flour, etc. However, the all whole wheat loaves I made were either bricks or the kids just didn't like them as well as my old standby. I decided to tweak it a bit and change up a few things and found an awesome new recipe that we all love. Its also all whole wheat! Win, win!

Now before you get all "who has the time to bake their own bread" on me, give me a minute. I use a bread machine. Yes, I do. I don't bake it in though. I don't like the tough crust and the weird shape with the paddle hole in the center. Better yet, I use a cheap bread machine. My machine is an Oster version that I purchased from Walmart for maybe $70 or so. I have carpal tunnel and just can't knead bread. No way, no how. This recipe originally came from a blog that had several recipes where the bread machine did the mixing, kneading, and rising, but the bread is baked in the oven. This is such an easy process that it makes bread making possible for even the busiest of people. Ask me how I know! So are you ready for this miracle of a bread recipe? Here goes:

Honey Wheat Bread

1 cup warm water (I use the hottest water that will come out of the faucet)
1 tablespoon milk (I use Organic Vanilla soy milk, but that's just me)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I use organic Sucanat, but have also used Sugar in the Raw)
1 teaspoon salt (I use pink himalayan sea salt and just grind a bit in)
3 cups freshly milled whole wheat flour (I use 1/4 cup of hard red wheat berries and 1 3/4 cup of hard white wheat berries)
1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon soy lecithin
2 teaspoons yeast

 My machine wants all the liquid ingredients added first, then the non-liquid. I just dump everything into the bread machine pan in the order listed. I make a small well in the center for the yeast. Next, I set my machine to the dough setting and let it do its magic. I do watch and help it get started by making sure everything gets mixed in well and I almost always add maybe an eighth of a cup of warm water as it first starts forming a dough ball. The freshly milled flour requires more water and seems to soak it up pretty fast. I don't want the dough to get too stiff too fast, so I add the water. Once its all mixed up nicely, I basically ignore the machine until it beeps at me around an hour later. At that point I have wonderfully risen, nice warm bread dough.

I simply turn the pan over and give it a shake and the dough falls out onto my floured surface for shaping. Usually there is quite a bit of sticky dough stuck in the pan as well, so be prepared to scrape it out with your fingers or a scrapper. My boys love the raw dough and love to scrape out bits and pieces to eat. Once you have it all out, shape it into a smooth ball.

I don't do any further kneading and my only real goal is to smooth it out in order to shape it into a loaf sized shape. I do sometimes have to work harder to get it in a nice shape, but usually its fairly easy.

Last, I carefully pick up my loaf shaped dough and plunk it into a well greased standard size loaf pan. Cover that bad boy and place it in a nice slightly warm oven to do some more rising magic. This generally takes my dough about half an hour. You want the loaf to be almost fully risen. In other words, fairly close to whatever height you'd like the baked loaf to achieve. If it needs more time, put it back in.

Once you are satisfied with the rise, remove it from the oven and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake it for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Carefully remove your masterpiece and enjoy! Its best to let it cool before cutting into its yumminess. Slather on some butter on a warm piece of fresh bread. Heaven I tell you!

That's about it for happening around here.  How was your week?  For more great Weekly Wrap Up posts check out Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!