Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Cookies ~ Declutter/Organize/*Maintain* in 2010

I have been kicked out of the kitchen! We are doing our annual "each child makes their own batch of Christmas cookies to share with the family" tradition that we just started today. :)

Oldest dd just put a batch of cinnamon sugar drop cookies in the oven. Yeah, it just beeped!
Middle dd is making chocolate chip cookies right now to slide in when the other ones come out. Mmmm.
Youngest dd and I will make sugar cookies. She wants to use the cookie cutters and decorate with icing.

Why are we making Christmas cookies on December 31st? Well, for us the Christmas season is in mid-stream. Don't ya' love it? We still have a gingerbread house to build, Advent Adventures to catch up on that we missed, stocking stuffers to get (all on sale now, happy dance - IF I can get out of the house before they box them up to send to nowhere), and rooms to clean/organize. Oops, don't know how that chore slipped in there!
It is so weird to tell the olders, "Let me know if you need any help" and just... leave the kitchen... (and stay nearby within earshot until they're ready to put them in the oven - Me a helicopter parent?? Nah!)

[Hours later]

Here are oldest dd's cookies:

Here are middle dd's cookies:

We ate cookies for afternoon snack with milk and later actually had them AGAIN after dinner with eggnog as a New Year's Eve treat. Ugh, too much sweetness at one time for me. Next week most of the candy/cookies will disappear so I let them overindulge. Dd complained that I'll probably freeze half of her batch - but she sure doesn't complain when we pull some cookies out of the freezer for surprise treats now and then or on Sundays!
What's Cookin'?
Yesterday was our first day home from a Christmas roadtrip to see my in-laws. I had lots of catch-up food work to do:
- Made yogurt.
- Made bread (the recipe said that it makes four 1 lb loaves but next time I'll divide into 2 or 3 loaf pans instead. Very good but short!
- Made yogurt dough for empanadas and an upside down pizza (right now the dough is just sitting on the counter staring at me)
- Cooked chicken and rice with veggies for dinner.
Tonight I just have some bone broth going. We used some for soup tonight so I topped the crockpot off with more water and will keep it going a bit longer. Even dh and youngest dd said that they liked the soup!! I just added cooked brown rice, celery, and a bit of seasoning.
Need to declutter?
Between yesterday and today we got both dc bedrooms cleaned, decluttered, and organized. I didn't go over them with a fine-toothed comb but they are clean, tidy, and livable. Truth is, youngest dd already has a new play set-up left out that slipped by me this evening (a complicated bunk bed that she made combining 2 different baby beds - it took her about an hour this afternoon to build it). Since they're having a sleepover together right now for New Year's Eve and I'm such a softie, I'll let her keep it out tonight and pick up tomorrow.
My immediate goal is to get the house in order before we start back to school. My looooong term goal is to MAINTAIN it! To help with the decluttering/organizing/maintaining (and motivation) I am going to keep these decluttering calendar pages handy this year. I've printed them out and have them on a ring. I'll keep it in the kitchen area. You can download them here and even sign up for a newsletter:
May you have a happy end to this year and a great 2010.
[BTW, I don't know what's up with the line spacing but it will not let me fix it - hope this post isn't too hard to read!]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

High School History Part 2

Here is the chart I came up with by comparing a school district, a part-time private academy, classical ed, and entrance requirements for state and private universities. I don't know why it changed the font in parts when I pdf-ed it; but if it's a problem reading it please let me know and I'll change it.

My current high school plan for history (subject to change!):

9th: World Geography (30 minutes 2x weekly); Modern US History (60 minutes 2x weekly)

10th: World Geography (30 minutes 2x weekly); Ancients World History (60 minutes 2x weekly)

11th: Government (30 minutes 2x weekly); Modern World History (60 minutes 2x weekly)
12th: Economics (US and Global) (30 minutes 2x weekly); History (Original documents study of various time periods) (60 minutes 2x weekly)

Please let me know of any blatant errors.

What's Cookin'?

- Youngest dd had a chocolate cake on Sunday. For the icing I used 2 softened sticks of butter, 2 dashes of vanilla, and powdered sugar until she said it was good. I keep devolving R's recipe into something thrown together but I still love the recipe! I never thought of making icing on my own before that. Thanks so much! For the cake itself, um, well, okay, it was boxed! I broke down and got the high-end organic box of chocolate cake 'cuz of the trans fats and such and it was soooo good.

- Last night we had homemade chicken noodle soup. We came home AT dinnertime and I needed something fast and nutritious. Keeping homemade broth in the fridge is a lifesaver. I poured some in a pot, threw in some noodles (happened to have vermicelli but sketty noodles work fine), tore up the lonely piece of leftover chicken into pieces, and added some frozen peas. It was delicious and took less than 15 minutes start-to-table. Once it was served I added some Salvadoran cream to mine and it was delicious (I've also used sour cream, whipping cream, and plain milk to make cream soup). The dc really liked it but dh was mysteriously absent :) - working on the car actually (He got the part put on, yeah!!!).

- I made a practice run of cinnamon rolls the other day (we eat C. Rolls on Christmas morning). It was excellent considering that I was using a 10-grain bread dough. I need to make another batch of plain dough to have ready for Christmas.

- We made some chocolate syrup by putting raw cacao powder in honey. It was gloppy in dd's milk but we're going to try it in hot milk - I think it will dissolve fine next time.

- I let a little package of chicken go bad in the fridge because life was just crazy. Whah! I hate wasting food!! It was just a $2 pack but still...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

High School History ~ 3 Kings Day


Oldest dd starts high school next year ...(pause for brief freak-out)... and the tiny remnant of Type A that exists in the corners of my self is prompting me to do this little planning project. I'm making a spreadsheet showing different scopes/sequences for history based on different sources/approaches. I'll be working backward to see what we need to focus on next year. The areas I'm exploring are: a school district HS history classes; a private part-time school history classes; classical ed; university requirements from a state university; university requirements from a private university. I'll post my findings later.

Three Kings Day:

I am so psyched about this new recipe. Our family tradition on Jan. 6th (Epiphany or 3 Kings Day or Dia de los Reyes) is basically this:
1. Eat a crown cake for breakfast [Oh, and we hide an almond in the crown cake and that person gets a small prize.]
2. Open stockings
3. Drink apple cider or hot chocolate while packing up the Christmas decorations and taking down the tree (I'm going to try homemade chocolate syrup using honey/cacao - we'll see how it goes).
4. Give a huge, satisfied sigh (while dh puts the boxes in the attic)

This is how we *use* to make the crown cake:

Layer 2 cans of cinnamon rolls in an angel food cake pan. Bake. Dump on a plate and drizzle with icing. Tastes delicious but full of the trans fats that we now avoid at home. Last year I *think* I used Kelly's bread recipe with her cinnamon roll instructions and did it basically the same.

(drum roll)

This year I'm using this recipe for sourdough monkey bread. I killed my sourdough starter a couple of months ago but I just started my first attempt of the 5-minute soaked bread recipe. In fact, a few minutes ago I took out a blob of dough to rise for the 10-grain variety. Anyway, I think you could just use whatever your basic bread dough recipe is and continue with her instructions. How easy can it get? Roll balls, dip in melted butter, roll in cinnamon sugar, put in the angel food cake pan, bake. Eat. Eat. Drink milk. Eat. Mmmm.

For the icing I'm going to use the butter/powdered sugar/vanilla combo (compromise food, to be sure - but in a small amount!). I will probably wing the amounts at the last minute.

By the way, this was posted on Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly at

What's Cookin'?

-I just had the *best* snack! Leftover spaghetti squash pesto heated in chicken broth with Salvadoran cream added in the bowl after serving with some salt added.

- Black beans were soaked last night and cooked all day in the crock pot. They are done and we'll eat them tomorrow mixed with rice (Casamiento) and corn bread on the side. I may throw some salsa in the Casamiento if I remember.

- There's a loaf of bread rising on the counter. I'm trying this recipe (I didn't have wheat gluten nor the seed mixture for the top):

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Advent = preparation of the heart and home for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Advent Wreath:
Here is a picture of our Advent Wreath. Different Christian denominations sometimes have different colors. Ours are 3 purple, 1 pink, and a white Christmas candle in the middle which I *still* don't have. Advent is a penitential time and thus the purple color, with pink as the third candle to indicate that this time of fasting, prayer, examination of conscience, penance, etc. is almost over and the glorious celebration of Jesus' birth will soon be here. This site explains it better:

"The Advent wreath is an old German tradition that has gained much popularity in the last few years. Most Christian homes and communities practice this custom during the Advent season."

"Fastened to the wreath are four candles standing upright, at equal distances. These candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of the candles are purple, reminding us of the penitential nature of the season. A rose or pink candle is lit for the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday. The name is taken from the entrance antiphon or Introit "Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice." It is reminding us that the end of Advent is almost here, and we can hardly contain our joy. "

Jesse Tree:

We LOVE Holy Heroes Advent Adventure. They have 2 daily videos with one of them being an explanation of the Jesse Tree ornament for that day, including scripture for that ornament. Even if you are not Catholic, if you are doing a Jesse Tree this year you may want to take a look at that segment each day. Scroll down to the Jesse tree video segment. It's not too late to sign up for the daily e-mail links and you can back track to see previous Jesse Tree videos.
Below is a picture of our Jesse Tree. The laminated paper ornaments have lasted for years and we remake the simple paper tree each year - it takes me maybe 5 minutes (as you can tell by the quality!). Ours is just taped to the side of our kitchen cabinet. Last year we were fairly good about reading the scripture from the Bible and putting up each 'ornament' at breakfast daily. This year I've pretty much bombed on every Advent tradition (sigh) so we catch up when we can. I share this humble Jesse Tree so you won't be intimidated by the beautiful examples online. I especially like the one in which each ornament is on a small round piece of wood. Remember: the focus is Jesus, not our pride in having the "perfect" Jessee Tree :).

I originally got the pictures for our Jesse Tree ornaments from Domestic Church. I *think* I printed them on cardstock but it may have just been regular paper. The dc colored them. I then laminated and cut out. They don't have direct links so this is how to get there: On the top bar click on "fridge art." Then under Advent and Christmas click on "Family." Once in Family click on Jesse Tree. That will take you to the page with the links to print. I used pdf but they have them in gifs also.
Baby Cradle:

Our youngest donates a small baby doll cradle each year. This year it's broken but we're still using it :). Every time we make a sacrifice we cut a small piece of yarn and put it in the cradle. The idea is that by Christmas Eve the cradle will be lined with lots of yarn and be nice and soft for Baby Jesus. They really enjoy this and I've put in a few strands myself!

The picture below is last year's. I have to smile when I see it because the doll barely fits in the carefully lined cradle. You can barely see the yarn underneath. This doll is known around here as "yellow baby" because she originally had on a yellow outfit.

St. Nicholas Day:

Not technically an Advent event but falls during Advent. Our dc set their shoes out the night before with straw for the dear Bishop's horse (or grass from the back yard!). In the morning they find chocolate coins, a quarter, a candy cane, and maybe a Santa chocolate in each shoe.
I totally bombed St. Nicholas Day this year though - totally forgot until that morning. Agh!!! I've been struggling with no car, no time, no energy, no money, etc and it slipped. We're going to do it another day.

I should point out that we've always told our dc the truth about Santa. We try to watch/read a biography about the REAL St. Nick yearly but we "do" Santa for fun also.

If you haven't visited this website yet, it's a must. It is awesome with lots of info and ideas. This is a layout of the St. Nicholas presentation found there. I usually keep it in the religion cubby of our shelf work and they will pull it out and present to each other. Last year I put it up when rearranging so I need to take it out. Gee, sure would have been nice to re-present on St. Nicholas Day!
I'm bummed that I can't find Santas for my "collection" (of one!) that don't look like "Santa" but rather look more like a Bishop or of the Old World style St. Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas Lapbook:
We used info from the website above to create lapbooks several years ago. This is just the cover but if I have time and remember I'll eventually upload the inside.
Advent Lapbook:
The same year we did these. I need to do them again with youngest dd.
What's Cookin'?
Well, when I *started* writing this post I was having a productive kitchen day - mostly because there were some things that just couldn't be put off.
- I processed all of those lovely pumpkins. The baking was the easy part. The dc helped me 'gut' them and scrape off the meat. The company was nice - otherwise it would've been drudgery. Come to think of it, dh quickly disappeared when I pulled out the pumpkins! [I'm not complaining, actually he's trying to fix the car]
- Oldest dd made a batch of cinnamon sugar cookies.
- Middle dd made another batch of the same cookies
- Youngest dd made a mess playing with her toys :). I think she got 'kitchened' out from the pumpkins.
- I FINALLY got to make a meatloaf for dinner that I had been trying to get to for days. We had mashed potatoes with sweet pototoes together. Peas rounded it out perfectly (and the dc also had bananas - I know - doesn't go at all).
- I browned another pound of ground beef for tacos/spaghetti/whatever.
- Oldest dd and I made a pumpkin pie while middle dd was making her cookies.
Last night I made spaghetti squash with pesto. I wasn't sure the family would go for that noodle substitution so I made a small pot of noodles for them with pesto and I added a bit of chicken in it. I served them the sketty squash with just butter on it. They liked it that way and I loved it with pesto. [I got another one yesterday for $1 a pound - I think I'll cook it and freeze it]
- Middle dd made blueberry muffins for a Food Show.
- Oldest dd made peanut butter ball cookies for a Food Show.
- My water kefir has been totally neglected this week and has probably turned to vinegar. I'm going to put in 1/2 juice, 1/2 water for about 8 hours to revive them a little. I have a 1 qt jar and an "experiment" 2 qt jar that I usually use for lemon/ginger. I think I'll throw them all together in the 2 qt jar for this revival. Then I'll do a plain recipe for a few cycles.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kroger Spectrum oil sale

If you are local (or have a Kroger grocery store) and you use Spectrum's coconut oil or palm oil you may be interested in this. Kroger has the refined coconut oil on sale for $5.99 and the palm oil (NON trans fat vegetable shortening) for $4.99 (I think?). I got 2 of each and saved about $10.00. I've seen these on sale for several weeks - I don't know how long they will be on sale but it's not just the weekly ad sale.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Snake Game/Avocados/Apple Juice/Food rant-titanium dioxide

Yes, that's quite a title! :)

Snake Game:

All of my dc (and I!!) are pulled toward the snake game. The olders outgrew it and youngest dd has been using it this year (and last year). I made it using pony beads and pipe cleaners. That was extrememly inexpensive and has lasted about 5 years (is it possible that it's been that long???) with a lot of use in a home environment. This picture is tiny - below is the link to my webshot picture.

When I first introduce it I use some snake pages someone shared in which there are numbers that evenly work out to tens. For example: 2+8+4+6+9+1+7+3+5+5. They can be scrambled but the pairs should always be together so that there is a ten for every 2 bars. These are in the box and the child uses them on their own. Once they are ready (and can proficiently self-check, which seems to be the hard part) I introduce the black/white bead bars and they can begin to create their own snakes.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Here is a great demo video (short and sweet) by Suzanne of JMJPublishing. Click on Positive Snake Game 1, 2, and 3.


I have a love/hate relationship with avocados. I LOVE to eat them. Especially on a sandwich (with or without ham) with sauerkraut. I HATE to waste them. Which I do. A lot. You would think that someone who grew up in the tropics eating them all season long would know how to properly select one. I either cut them too soon (ick) or wait too long (ick, ick). Or, my all time favorite - set them in a bowl on top of the fridge for "just a day" and forget all about them.
Recently my mom had some little snack packs that I fell in love with immediately. Single servings of fresh avocado. Portable too! They slip easily into my lunchbag for on-the-go eating or at work. Unfortunately they are a little too much for what I want to spend for 3 servings.
Last week I got a different kind of packaged avocados (read: less expensive). They were halves, not mashed, and the only ingredient is avocado. No preservatives. They are vacuum-packed and have an early expiration date. The package had 6 but they are all in the same seal so I had to decide how to handle the extra (even I can only eat so much avocado at a time!).

I remembered the advice posted on a group: freeze it! After eating my fill of avocado sandwich I mashed the rest and mixed it with fresh juice from 1/2 lemon (actually it was a 'lime' which are green lemons to me and limes are a different fruit altogether - sort of like calling a grapefruit an orange, but anyway...). I added a little Real Salt also. After mixing I spooned it into an ice cube tray and stuck it in the freezer.

I was making rice wraps for lunch (youngest dd really likes rice wraps with meat and cheese) and remembered the avocado in the tray. I popped them out, left one to thaw, and put the rest in a baggie back in the freezer. I put it in my rice wrap with (you guessed it) sauerkraut. They stayed a pretty bright green and it was delicious! [Should I add that, being the impatient person that I am with inanimate objects, that I put it in the skillet a minute to hurry it along??] $1.99 is worth it to me for approximately 10 servings of delicious and healthy avocado - and no waste!!


The other day I had the pleasure of being stranded at home for the day. It really was a pleasure that I relished (once I got over the fact that I couldn't do what I had planned for the day). I had a container of organic apple juice that the dc had picked weeks ago for a remake of the "Killer Pancakes" recipe that are sort of like 'pancake muffins.' I didn't want it to go bad so I did the following on our home day:
- Apple flavored Killer Pancakes [the batter was a fiasco so I ended up pouring it in a baking pan and later cutting like granola bars - they ended up really liking it]
- Apple water kefir
- Apple juice jello. I was so thrilled when I found out that you can make jello from fruit juice. They can enjoy a mainstream treat without the dyes and excess white sugar. The recipe is on the box of plain jello but it's basically 2 cups juice plus the packet (pour 1/2 cup juice in a bowl and sprinkle the packet on it while you boil the juice. Then pour in the juice and stir to dissolve. Done. No more work than the normal packets and no dyes!).

Taking advantage of being at home I also:

- Made a batch of yogurt using Braum's milk because they don't "routinely give antibiotics" to their cows nor does it have hormones. Not organic but the closest to it on a tight food budget. That's my compromise milk and I save the good milk for drinking.

- Made rolls for sandwiches.

Warning against exposure to nano titanium dioxide:

If I understand correctly, it's the nanoparticles that you can inhale or ingest that are the problem, not the actual titanium used for joint/teeth implants. Honestly I haven't studied that but the focus of this study was the nanoparticles. (Thanks, C. for posting on the group!)

I've noticed titanium dioxide in foods recently but I'm focused on so many things to avoid already that I barely registered it. That will now change. I usually put the packages back anyway (sigh). Our modern lifestyles lend themselves to convenience foods but many of the modern convenience foods are poisoning our kids. Even traditionally healthy foods have unnecessary additives. Please, banana flavoring in dried bananas (I am now grabbing and pulling my hair). "Mold inhibitor" in cheese??? Give me a break! Cheese molds. It's natural. That chemical that we'll find out later causes cancer isn't! Now I only buy block sharp cheddar cheese with the Kroger or Wal-Mart label. Kraft has it in their block also and they all have it in the shredded. Either eat it quickly, freeze it, or cut off the fuzzy green parts all around the outside, lol.

I feel a rant coming on....deep breath....that's better...

I REALLY want to check out and read Pottenger's Cats. My dc are 3rd generation cats (that sounds so weird, lol). In his experiment the 3rd generation quit reproducing entirely (or was it the 4th? Like I said - I still need to read it). Obviously the study was with cats and does not directly pertain to people; but it does point to the role of diet/nutrition and it's effect on a species. We have so many fertility issues in this country. Coincidence? And that's just one indicator of the damage done to humans. My mom's generation started off with good, healthy, traditional foods. Her's changed to the modern mass food conveniences so that's what I started out with - trans fats, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, dead milk, dead/toxic cereals, etc and it's all I knew. My dc started off with that even before they were born. Along with all of the bad I and they were ingesting was the LACK of good stuff to counterbalance it. Is it any wonder that even during cancer treatment she was still running circles around me as I struggle to rehab from Lyme?? She at least got a good start before her eating habits changed. I think that made a difference.

Quote of the Day:

"Humour plays close to the big, hot fire, which is the truth, and the reader feels the heat."