Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shelf Work Report ~ Garlic Tea

Shelf Work Choices:

It's time to get back in gear. We had Spring Break; then a crazy but wonderful youth fair week; and now it's time to get back into gear. Oh wait, that was last week when I started this post. Okay, it's time to get back in gear - again!

We had one good, solid 3-hr-work period last week with shelf work and it was wonderful and interesting. It's almost like they have to get normalized all over again. I don't know if we've ever truthfully been completely normalized because we aren't very consistent with our work periods due to other scheduling/work commitments and curricula choices. Mondays are our best days right now (along with laundry, cooking, etc). Anyway, I worked really hard on keeping my mouth shut and letting them choose (although I did ask youngest dd beforehand to eventually go through the low cubby so she can tell me what she really doesn't need/like anymore). Here were their choices:

- Oldest Dd actually worked on her algebra for at least an hour even though I had told them beforehand that they *could* do math as part of their 3-hr-work period at any point but didn't have to do math at all. Then she spent the rest of the time going through old lapbooks. Technically not a work but I figured her brain was tired from math and she wasn't feeling that great. Anyway, I was keeping my mouth closed!

- Middle Dd spent most of her time using the snap circuit board (and making a little propeller thingie fly around the study).

- Youngest Dd spent the entire 3 hours going through the basket of homemade books written by them over the years. Again, not technically a work, but, again, I was keeping my mouth closed. Plus, I thought it might inspire her in her own story writing and book making.

Skip ahead a week and we come to this week. We ended up only having an hour for shelf work Monday because I was determined to have a good writing lesson and by golly, we were gonna enjoy it :). So, after doing our maths, rebooting/loading laundry, finishing youngest dd's math, religion, handwriting, and coordinating all of the governments of the free world, everyone was ready for a writing lesson at the same time (phew!). I'll post that below. For now I'll stick with the work period.

-Oldest Dd: Zoology box and the world ball

-Middle Dd: snap circuit kit again and the world ball

-Youngest Dd: Hammer Tick (you hammer geometric shapes into a corkboard to make pictures), tangram card game with me (neither one of us could figure it out without the answer!), and the world ball.

The world ball is simply a ball with the globe on it. They roll it to each other and the receiver calls out whatever is under their right thumb. I got it years and years ago at Wal-Mart and they still enjoy it.

Writing Lesson:

In brief, this is what we did for writing workshop: I read a little from Ralph Fletcher's book Live Writing; I read a sort of tall tale called the Texas Stampede; we read some from a book called Short Tall Tales; we referred to a picture book I couldn't put my hands on at the moment about Davy Crockett saving the world that all 3 have already read; and brainstormed some tall tale exaggerations orally. Then the olders went back to write in their writer's notebooks. Originally I was going to have them write tall tales but realized while we were in our lesson just how hard that is. Instead we shifted and talked about exaggerations, which they used for their title on that page. Then they just focused on coming up with exaggerations. Youngest dd went back to write about whatever she wanted. Here are a few they generated:

-So skinny that... There's a fellow in Montana, who can slide through an air vent. And when he takes a shower he has to run around to get wet.

- So fast that... George Mayhill is so fast that when he runs over a bridge his reflection doesn't reach the water until about four minutes have passed.
- There was a librarian who was so small, by the name of Mrs. Molt. And to put a book upon the shelf she must use a catapult.

- There was a ball that was so bouncy, no children were allowed to touch it. For if they did the ball would bounce and come down in Kentucky.

It's all part of being a writer. These are in their writer's notebooks and who knows what inspiration will come of them.

Garlic Tea:

I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm frustrated, I'm desperate. I'm on day 4 of a nasty stomach bug and need some garlic tea. I've been taking garlic pills (among other things) but the garlic tea is what I need. So, I go to the website where I know I'll find a recipe - a wonderful candida site called healing naturally by Bee. I'll link her garlic tea recipe which I made with the following changes.

First of all, her recipe says that the garlic should be "preferably certified organic." So, I stumble out to the back porch and retrieve the garlic head that I never planted. Yes, from the feed store. It's been out and has a few black mold dots. Great. And some green sprouts. Great. So I pull it apart and manage to find 2 teeth (or cloves) that are clean, dry, with no sprouts. The other ingredients are grated fresh ginger and juice of a lemon. I dig through the freezer and pulled out some lemon slices and ginger slices that I keep for water kefir. I steep it all together for 20 minutes. I resist the temptation to let it sit longer to make it more potent, but I save the chunks of lemon, ginger, and garlic to make some more. You know, had I known that I would be out for the count for 4 days with fever, cramps, etc I would've been better prepared and gotten more groceries! Here's her recipe.

Honestly, I kicked the swine flu much easier than this! Come to think of it, garlic tea was part of my arsenal for that. Why did it take until day 4 for me to get to it this time? Ugh. I think I'll make an extra batch and freeze it for another time hopefully in the faaar away future.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Periodic Table of Elements ~ Sourdough Bread Recipes

Chemistry~Periodic Table of Elements:

A perennial favorite around here is the Periodic Table of Elements work. I got two identical posters of the Periodic Table from a teacher store. They actually had to order the specific one I wanted because the one they had in stock was too complicated for what I needed. It's been years but I think each poster only cost about $2. I laminated them. Then I cut one up and left one intact. The cut up one went into a little tackle box in the "Chemistry Box" on the shelf (picture is below and you can see it in front of the box) and the poster either hangs low on the wall where they can take it down (and see it often) or is tucked by my little filing cabinet where they can easily pull it out. I chose the Trend poster T-38193 at the time. I really like the primary periodic table by Teresa Bondora (see link below).
To do the work they simply lay the intact poster on the floor and lay the cut up one on top. As they get more familiar with it they can move to having the poster visible and making the layout with the cards only on the floor. As they are ready they can make the layout on the floor without the poster visible and use the poster just for self-correction. They don't have to know all of the information to do this work. They are becoming familiar with the table and learning as they engage with the material over time. That's part of the beauty of Montessori works: you teach the child to use the materials and the materials teach the concept instead of just using materials to demonstrate a concept that you are relaying to the child. Brilliant! I think the Earth shifted on its axis when my brain made that paradigm shift :).

One of my favorite inspirations for this and other ideas is How to Teach Science [http://www.howtoteachscience.com/index.shtml]. Teresa is on fire about teaching chemistry to youngsters. Once I had a question and she gave me the most awesome atom/electron lesson over the phone! You can sign up for a newsletter which has teaching ideas for a specific element. She has an elements coloring book coming out soon.
I've wanted to make an Elements Box for years. The sad thing is that so far I only have carbon officially introduced and gathered. Here Teresa talks about an Elements Basket. I would probably use a tackle box.

Here are some Periodic Table links. Some are interactive:






















What's Cookin'?
Sourdough Bread Recipes:

Here is my all-time favorite sourdough recipe that I used for about a year (?). I especially like it because you don't have to be specific about rising times and because it uses the bread machine. I would put it in the bread machine at breakfast and turn it on the dough cycle. At lunch I would grease the pan and punch it down in the pan. At dinner I would bake it. Easy! Of course, the thing about sourdough is that you have to keep your starter alive [I killed mine last fall when I attempted to work and haven't kept one since then]. Since it goes about 8 hours before baking the phytic acid is gone, it is more easily digested, and it's a true sourdough bread. This recipe slices easily for sandwiches. Oh, one thing though, the sponge (she calls it starter) that you make the night before of 1 C sourdough starter, 1 C water, and 1 C flour is actually enough for 2 loaves. I would do what I said above and then at lunch when I would empty the bread machine I would put the next loaf in (which I would put in the pan at dinner and bake at bedtime). If it's cold you can let it rise in the oven with the oven light on.


Here are some more recipes (some I haven't tried so I can't vouch for all of them):

[Nice and simple!]


[I *think* the one I tried from here was My Weekly Bread Routine - scroll down for it but the beginning is a very interesting read]



One thing that I miss since avoiding trans fats, soy, and high fructose corn syrup is English Muffins. I didn't have them often but sure enjoyed them when I did. Here are a few sourdough English Muffin recipes that I haven't tried yet. If you get to them before I do let me know how it goes.



What's Gardenin'?

We're having a freeze tonight. After 70F weather. Again. The peach tree has blossoms. Sigh. Last spring a late freeze messed up the local pear crop :(. I was really hoping to find a U-Pick place for pears and pit fruits this year. I don't know that I could be a farmer dependent upon the weather for my livelihood. I really respect you out there! [update: Dh helped me cover our little peach tree with a sheet and the small beds with a tarp. I found 3 frozen bees on the peach blossoms. Good thing we covered the plants. Not only did it freeze - it snowed! - and will freeze again tonight.]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vacation ~ Lemon Cake ~ Barn Owl Cam

We just got back from a little family vacation. It was wonderful. We saw pronghorn antelope, deer, and best of all - NO ticks! :)

The dc and dh went into a cavern and were full of excitement telling me about it (I stayed with the dog in the van reading, quite relaxing actually). That's what started the whole thing... We were reading Journey to the Bottomless Pit while studying slavery. One thing led to another and dh organized the trip to include a cave; along with horseback riding, historic sites for state history, the 2nd oldest Polish Catholic church (they've had perpetual Adoration there for the last 10 years so we were able to get inside, pray, and be enriched by the beautiful architecture, paintings, and faith emanating from within the small church), a Cathedral - the oldest standing church in the state (although they were fixing the speakers at the time we were there so it was a little...distracting - so beautiful though, amazing! Dh had to drag me and oldest dd out), and a Mexican market where the dc and I shared fresco de sandia (a watermelon drink) and a gordita. Not quite a pupusa but pretty close :).

We experienced quite the contrast of open ranch and hills, with NOTHING in sight, and downtown city life, with its different kind of fun and excitement.

What's Cookin'?

- Dd wanted a lemon cake for her birthday. It's amazing how often I find myself doing something I've never done before and hoping it comes out okay. I found and used this recipe with the following modifications:
I used palm oil to grease the pan instead of crisco. I used real butter instead of crisco. I used 1/4 cup white sugar and the rest demerara (or rapadura). I used Real Salt. I used 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract instead of the grated lemon peel (I'm lazy). I think I should have used the whole teaspoon. I used plain yogurt that had lots of whey (just because that's how it poured, not by design). I used a wonderful vanilla for the first time that I begged dh and dc to stop for on the way back from horse camp last weekend at a little store on the way. I didn't use the glaze; instead dd wanted cream cheese frosting (which I had also never made!). That was basically cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, and a dash of vanilla. [We also made brownies and a boxed (organic to stay away from trans fats) lemon cake with butter frosting]

- Now that we're back from our trip I have to think about food again. There's bread dough to get ready, almonds to soak, oatmeal to soak, groceries to get, kefir grains to revive, yogurt to make, meat to thaw and get in the crockpot, coconut bark to prepare, etc.

What's Schoolin'?

-Clickschooling is, that's what! Here is an awesome link provided by clickschooling this week. It's a live cam of a barn owl in its nest. Worth a peek:

-We had LOTS of informal lessons and learning opportunities on our trip. From state history, to earth science, to animal husbandry, to cultural and religious heritage. The wonderful lady at the ranch spent 2 hours with us *before* dh and olders even started the trail ride. Then it was a 2 hour ride. We learned a lot all around!

Fluoride in the mainstream news:

It's not very in depth. The news is that it is in the news :).

After *much* hunting around months and months ago I settled on this for the dc. Right now I have the teeth cleaner from Tropical Traditions for me (and dc use it sometimes). Otherwise, for myself, I use Uncle Harry's or homemade following a ratio for baking soda, salt, and H2O2 (with a drop of peppermint oil in the batch). It's hard to find a toothpaste with no fluoride and no glycerine. The one the dc use has xylitol and sorbitol (which slipped by me but I just saw it as I was typing) but we're using it for now - the jury is not out on it yet so I'm a little cautious of it. I don't feel comfortable with the alcohol sugars yet. I accidentally got them tea tree last time. Poor kids! I promised to get mint as soon as possible, lol. It also has a few other things I'm not sure about so I'm not necessarily endorsing it - it's just the best I've found so far and is available locally. I am still looking for something better for them.

Too Bad:

We stopped at a Czech bakery famous for its kolaches. We got some and I made myself not think of the ingredients and just enjoy. Mmmm. On the other hand, they had these beautiful loaves of cheese bread and other kinds of bread that I wanted to take with us. I couldn't bring myself to pay $7 for loaves with partially hydrogenated soybean oil (sigh!!). There was something else blatant in the ingredients that I can't remember. I was so disappointed.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I simply couldn't think of a more creative title other than "potatoes." Sad, huh?
I've read and heard over and over how easy potatoes are to grow. Last year I tried them in a container. Short version of the story: they rotted. This year I tried them (again) in a container taking more care with drainage and layers while also changing containers. Nothing. That was over a month ago. Well, this weekend I tried *again* (and yes, I'm aware of a certain definition of 'crazy' being doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!). I scraped off the top inch off of the container, put fresh red potatoes (little and not cut this time) and put fresh dressing on top.

We'll see what happens in that container... but this is what I'm REALLY excited about:

A few weeks ago dh built me the last two raised beds. Saturday I put a divider in one of them creating a little potato bed within the bed. I drilled holes in the divider so, theoretically, the worms can go across (more on my solution to the 'worm tower' later). Now the little red potatoes can get going while I work on building up the one next to it. Plus, when it's harvesting time I won't disturb the other plants. This was actually in my original paper plans and it's so exciting when a plan (no matter how trivial) comes to fruition. Here are some pictures I took right before covering up the last potato.

Lyme Disease Awareness:

Here is an opportunity to create more Lyme awareness. There is a contest to see which design will be put on a NASCAR race car. You can vote once a day until it ends. The design is pretty cool and lime green is always eye-catching. Chances are you know someone with Lyme and/or coinfections, even if *they* don't know it! Remember, less than half of 'lymies' had the bulls-eye rash and it is a clinical diagnosis. The CDC requirements are for 'reporting' purposes, not treatment purposes. Click on the 3D button to see all sides and don't forget to vote! Thanks!

What's Cookin'?
- Sunday we made banana pancakes for breakfast. We also made maple syrup candy (for our continued Laura Ingalls unit). I didn't want much candy (and I didn't want to use up too much maple syrup) so I only used 1/2 Cup maple syrup (the real stuff) and 1/16 C butter (the real stuff). I stirred over medium heat until grainy (I STILL don't know what that means!). Since I didn't want to put hot liquid in plastic molds I put them in little metal cups. They got quite distorted when I got them out but I tried to remold them for the picture. Dh says they taste like pralines without the pecans. They taste even better to me :).

- We made pretzels using the recipe at Holy Heroes Lenten Adventures. It is still rising so we'll see how it goes. We made them last year and the dc still remember that we used too much salt on the outside, lol.

What's Schoolin'?

- I thought I would show you our centerpiece from our kitchen table. Youngest dd was doing weight measurement in math today so that's why the labels are gram and kilogram. By the way, did you know that Base Ten Blocks are made to correspond with grams? I never have enough weights so that comes in really handy sometimes with the scale. I thought if I left this front and center, so to speak, for a few days it would help internalize it.