Thursday, December 30, 2010

Who Done It?

Writing Workshop Mystery Story Unit:

I've been working on a mystery unit for my middle school writing workshop class.  Below is a link to my file.  Let me know if you have trouble opening it.  My main resources are:  Live Writing (R.Fletcher), Using Picture Storybooks to Teach Literary Devices (Recommended Books for Children and Young Adults) (S.Hall)(Volume 1), Notebook Know-How (A. Buckner); Encyclopedia Brown Books; Three Cousins Detective Club Books; Cam Jensen Books, and other trade books.

Here is the link to my unit (Please remember: no reselling and personal use only):

A note about Using Picture Storybooks to Teach Literary Devices...:
 My copy is Volume 1 with a copyright date of 1990. This is from the product description of Volume 2: "Both volumes of Using Picture Storybooks to Teach Literary Devices make it easy to find the perfect book to illustrate a specific literary device. The author has selected nearly 500 picture storybooks that effectively illustrate satire, allusion, pun, imagery, paradox, simile, analogy, and other literary devices. A substantial portion of each volume is a detailed guide for finding appropriate examples. This guide is alphabetically arranged from Allegory to Understatement and describes the appropriate titles for each device. Volume 1 spans books from 1980 to 1988, and Volume 2 covers books published since 1989 as well as classic picture books. All entries include full bibliographic information, a plot summary, examples of the literary device, and other devices used in the book. Entries in Volume 2 indicate appropriateness of a title for older students, the art styles used in illustrations, and suggested curricular tie-ins." They seem to compliment each other.

Volumes 3 and 4 jump up in cost considerably so I had to see those descriptions also.

This describes Vol 3: "The value of using picture books beyond the primary grades is becoming more widely recognized. This excellent resource, the third in a series, helps librarians find those titles that teachers can use effectively with older students. The descriptions of the illustrators' art styles and techniques are helpful to anyone involved in discussing or reviewing picture books. The 41 literary devices are arranged alphabetically, from "Alliteration" to "Understatement." The 120 books included were published almost entirely between 1995 and 2000. Each entry includes publication information, a brief annotation, examples from the text highlighting the literary devices, a description of the art style, and curriculum tie-ins. Appendixes group the books by author, title, art style, and curricular area."

Vol 4 description: "This fourth volume of the series, Using Picture Story Books to Teach Literary Devices, gives teachers and librarians the perfect tool to teach literary devices in grades K-12. With this volume, the author has added: colloquialism; counterpoint; solecism; archetype; and others to the list of devices. The entries have been reorganized to include all the information under the book listing itself. Each entry includes an annotation, a listing of curricular tie-ins for the book and the art style used, and a listing and explanation of all the literary devices taught by that title. Grades K-12."

Looking at those descriptions and what I already have (Vol 1) I think Vols 2 and 3 would be more useful to me than Vol 4. But if I could only get one (and found a good price) I might choose Vol 4. It would be a tough decision because I like the layout of Vol. 1 already.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reading Extension ~ Phytic Acid

What's Schoolin'?

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting is a great book for a reading extension lesson at home or at school.  A little boy and his father are homeless and live in the airport.  Before reading the book to the children have them draw or list items they would pack in a suitcase to go on a trip.  They do this inside a suitcase-shaped booklet on the top of the inside (if it is folded on the top and flips up; on the left side if the fold is on the side).  Then read the book aloud and discuss.  After reading the book they draw or list items they would pack if all of their belongings had to fit in a suitcase.  Our library doesn't have it but I have checked it out through inter-library loan.  I'm rechecking it out... maybe I should just get it for my own personal library!  It's that good.

What's Cookin'?

The dc are creating the menu today (and making the meals).  No oven cuts out homemade pizza.  That was their specialty.  So far all they've come up with is sandwiches, lol.  I think I'll recommend beef stew in the crockpot since the meat is already cooked and they would just need to cut up potatoes, carrots, and add some water/bone broth.  This should be interesting :).

Phytic Acid:  Here is an excellent overview of phytic acid and soaking grains, legumes, or nuts/seeds.  There are some links for further reading within this short, readable post:

Monday, December 27, 2010

E-Readers ~ Geometry 3-part cards

If you have an e-reader this may come in handy.  It is a free converter to your e-reader's software.  I don't have one but my mom got a nook reader from Barnes and Noble earlier this year.  She really likes it.  If I were to get one I would probably get the kindle from Amazon.  Either way, this converter would be useful:

From their website: "At the moment calibre has full support for the SONY PRS line, Barnes & Noble Nook, Cybook Gen 3/Opus, Amazon Kindle line, Entourage Edge, Longshine ShineBook, Ectaco Jetbook, BeBook/BeBook Mini, Irex Illiad/DR1000, Foxit eSlick, PocketBook 360, Italica, eClicto, Iriver Story, Airis dBook, Hanvon N515, Binatone Readme, Teclast K3, SpringDesign Alex, Kobo Reader, various Android phones and the iPhone/iPad. In addition, using the Save to disk function you can use it with any ebook reader that exports itself as a USB disk."

What's Cookin'?:

Breakfast Sausage Seasoning:  I avoid MSG as much as possible so I didn't really want to get a pre-packaged breakfast sausage ('spices' and 'natural flavors' often contain MSG) for the breakfast egg casserole I need to make. I sure would have liked pastured ground pork from the farmer but couldn't so I got plain ground pork at the grocery store.  Anyway, I found this breakfast sausage seasoning recipe that got good reviews:

[Update:  I was so impressed.  I told dh, wow, it really tastes like breakfast sausage!  I think the sage and the bit of brown sugar (rapadura) make it work.  I only had fresh sage and no marjoram but it worked fine. Update on the casserole:  My mom even complimented the casserole :).]

How do you make popcorn?  Way back when, I used microwave popcorn and ate it often.  In fact, one of my worst Lyme Disease memories is having such muscle atrophy/weakness that I had to actually rest in between handfuls of popcorn as I sat on the couch.  I literally could not lift my hand to feed myself more than one bite at a time.  Sad, eh?  Wow.  I am so, so, so (so!) grateful to be on the other side of THAT mountain!  Then I discovered, or rather became convicted of, how bad microwaves are for our health and freecycled it about 2 years ago - I can't believe it's been that long!  (you can start reading some info here)  I was then hooked on stovetop popcorn with coconut oil.  It takes almost as long as microwave, is fun, and tastes excellent.  It's even easier when you have a dc shake the pot :).  Well, last tax time we replaced our finicky stove unit for one of those glass top stoves.  I couldn't believe it when I read in the instruction manual to NOT slide pots and pans around while cooking [I think it said not at all but I do sometimes anyway if a pot is full of liquid and heavy or whatever].  Seriously, I would not have gotten it if I had read that before installing it!  Now what??  Since then I've been using the Whirley Pop and have been very pleased with it.  I put in 2 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil, 1/2 cup organic pop corn, and cook it.  The dc like turning the handle and making popcorn.  Then I put it in a big bowl, melt a bit of butter to pour over it, and sprinkle some salt.  Yum.

I would actually still prefer the old shake the pot over the stove technique simply because it's a big pot to store; but, if you have a glass top like me, it works great.  I just keep it stashed in the back of the cupboard.

What's Schoolin'?

Here are some Geometry 3-part cards for things like point, line, plane, solid, etc.  Remember: no selling and for personal use only.  I didn't put any copyright on the bottom of this one (I made it a long, long time ago), but please respect it - see how trusting I am??  The bottom line got cut off on the first page when I converted it to pdf but just cut it the same size as the others.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas ~ Cottage Cheese

~ Plaques: We try to make a keepsake craft each Christmas season.  This year I wanted to make Triptychs or Diptychs (scroll down here to see what I mean) but couldn't get the supplies together [read:  I came up with an alternative before I spent too much time driving around looking for tiny hinges].  We decided to make wall plaques instead for this year and maybe make those next year.  Each dc chose a picture keeping with the art style to decoupage onto a small square wooden plaque from the craft store.  They each chose a nativity scene.  Instead of the fancy decoupage we just thinned white school glue with water.  Below are some pictures I took of them while they were still drying.

~ St. Nicholas Figurines:  Inspired by several blog posts out there we made St. Nicholas figurines from wooden pegs.  They also made some more whimsical Christmas figurines (snowmen, angels, Santa).  Some inspirations are:

Click through all 4 pages:

"O" Antiphons (continued):  We have the symbols chart posted on the refrigerator and each day a different dc colors in the symbol for that day (yes, those are gear magnets holding it up - we're very high tech sometimes :) ).  I've been trying to follow the food/activity suggestions as best as I can.  Below is our coffee table:  the oranges are for O Dawn and the bowl of nuts/nutcracker are for O Key of David (an aside: the baskets on the shelf underneath are FULL of library books; 1 basket for me; 1 for youngest dc; and 1 for the olders).  For O King we'll make our annual mini-wreaths using leaves/berries from our holly bushes.  For O Emmanuel we'll drink eggnog in fancy stem glasses (for the chalice symbol).

What's Cookin'?

Cottage Cheese:   I am beside myself with excitement.  Myself is just plain tired, but *I* am excited :).  I have been wanting to make homemade cottage cheese but didn't have a recipe.  I found a recipe to make cottage cheese in a children's book of all places!  It is called Food and the Kitchen (Hands-On Science) (it says Smithsonian Institution on the cover).  The ingredients are simply fresh milk and buttermilk.  I got yucky buttermilk but that's all I could find.  After I started it last night I searched more online.  Some recipes heat the milk to just below boiling and add lemon juice or vinegar.  Other recipes use rennet plus buttermilk and it goes much faster with a larger curd.  I'm still in the experimental stage.  Unfortunately the rennet I looked at online that the blogger said was available at Wal-Mart has corn starch in it, so I'll have to skip it.  I'll list some sites with cottage cheese recipes below.  For now I'm using the book recipe:

1/2 gallon very fresh whole milk (I used 1 quart and adjusted the recipe)
1/4 C cultured buttermilk (I put in 1/8 C)

1.Let milk get to room temperature.  Pour into a clean pyrex bowl and set in a warm place.  Add the buttermilk and stir well.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Don't jiggle or bump after this!

2.The milk is clabbered when it is custard-like (or like yogurt)(in fact one recipe has you make yogurt first using a yogurt inoculation) and separated into curds and whey with the watery whey on top of the curd and on the sides of the bowl.

Use a knife to make cuts about 1/2 inch apart down and across to make squares across the top.  It should split and separate into the squares with clean edges.  If not, it's not ready - let it sit longer.

3.  This is the tricky part:  After the curd has been cut let it sit 20 minutes.  While you wait fill a pot 1/2 full of water.  Carefully put the bowl into the pot of water. [Here it isn't clear whether or not it will be submerged - I think not]   Heat the curds VERY SLOWLY so it coagulates and releases more whey.  Use the low setting and bring the temp of the curds/whey up to 100F.  This slow heating should take at least 30 minutes.  I think this part will be my biggest challenge - I'm not particularly patient with inanimate objects or food.

4. Remove the bowl, pour out the water of the pot.  Set a colander lined with cheese cloth (2 layers) in the big pot (I'll use my muslin).  After about 5 minutes, when the curds/whey have cooled slightly, pour them *gently* into the colander.  Occasionally gently shake the corners of the cloth so more whey will drain.

At this point it says that if making Cottage Cheese "you can twist the top of the cheesecloth 'bag' and squeeze."

5. Remove the cheese into a small bowl, salt to taste (1/2 to 1 tsp).  Refrigerate.

[As of this typing it has congealed somewhat but still has a way to go.  I tasted a bit and it tastes/looks just like sour cream - only better.  It's almost been 24 hours.  The book says that if it hasn't clabbered in 24 hours it probably won't; but then it says it can take up to 44 hours if the room temperature is about 60F in a chart it has.  Our house is about 70 and it listed 23 hours for that.  We'll see...]

Other Cottage Cheese Links:

This just uses raw milk - no starter:
Another with just raw milk:

[I plan on trying a combo of the 2 above recipe links for my second attempt]

Here are some more cottage cheese recipes (in no particular order):

I don't know anything about rennet but one rennet I saw had corn starch in it and another I saw had rennet plus sodium chloride brine, acetate, propylene glycol, caramel color, sodium benzoate!! I'm wondering if this one is okay?:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Some new recipes I've "got to try."

Broccoli/cheese nuggets (I'm assuming it calls for frozen chopped broc, not chunks; and fine bread crumbs, not coarse like my homemade ones - I should use the coffee grinder on my bread crumbs!).  I seriously cannot wait to make this and almost tried it with cauliflower and dh's packaged bread crumbs or almond meal.  I'm making myself wait until tomorrow when I have broccoli and homemade bread crumbs.[update:  I made it using almond meal that I had and they fell apart a bit - I ended up adding flour.  Try again using actual bread crumbs!][Tasted good though!  1/2 the batch is in the freezer]

Pumpkin milk shake (use 1/2 kefir; 1/2 milk)

Pumpkin granola (add whey and soak - use dehydrator until oven fixed?)

Easy Breakfast Casserole.  I like the open-endedness of this recipe.  I'll be making it this weekend for sure!

Fermented garlic.  My garlic plants are already over 1 ft high and winter hasn't even started yet.  Hope they do well over winter and didn't grow too fast beforehand.

Reese's peanut butter cups.  I should probably NOT make these :). [update:  These are beyond good!  Everyone liked them and they were unbelievably easy.  I ended up using dark Ghiraldelli bars (I *think* 73%) with our smooth organic peanut butter (I get the store brand organic pnt bttr but there are some here).  I can't remember the last time I let dc eat a Reese's cup.  Now I can say, sure, let's make a batch for a special treat. I skipped the yeast for the texture.  I'm not thrilled that Ghiraldelli has soy lecithin but used it for this.  I usually buy Enjoy Life dark chocolate bars.  I did the math and making these, even with luxurious Ghiraldelli, was still less than peanut butter cups at the grocery checkout - without the junk.]

Rendering lard in a crockpot.  I'm hoping to get some pastured pork fat to render (since I can't afford the actual meat!):

Eggnog.  Dd has already requested homemade eggnog.  I haven't decided on the recipe I'll try for sure but this one looks good:

Layered Mexican Casserole:

Antipasta Squares.  Could be made with yogurt dough?

Our Lady of the Rock (Benedictine Monastery/real food farm in Washington state):

Please read this short uplifting story and follow the links to Our Lady of the Rock main website and blog.  It does my soul good to know that they are there doing what they are doing (praying and working).  If you live nearby you can help them by physically volunteering (farm work is tough!) and by purchasing their goods by which they support themselves.

Here is their website and blog:

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Hundred Dresses ~ Store bought cookies

What's (not) Cookin'?

It is so frustratingly difficult to find commercial crackers or cookies that we can eat - and that's without any defined food allergies!  Sometimes it's just plain nice to pull out a box, KWIM?  I haven't been able to make crackers for over 6 months.  Actually, that's not completely true because I made pancake crackers a few times.  Anyway... Here are some cookies that I got for stocking stuffers for the dc.  They are delicious (yes - I got an extra box so I could make sure!).  I got the Butter Crisp and the Almond Thins.  Since we already do so much with almonds I got that box for the family and the Butter Crisps for their stockings.

Ingredients for these loveleyJules Destrooper Butter Crisps:  wheat flour, sugar, butter (18%), eggs, salt, leavening (sodium bicarbonate).  Wow, real ingredients.

Ingredients for the delicate Jules Destrooper Almond Thins: wheat flour, brown sugar, butter (13%), almonds (10%), salt, leavening (sodium bicarbonate).  Again, real ingredients.  I can actually pronounce every single one :).

They are still a treat but at least I won't have to cringe while they indulge (and I can even indulge myself - uh, oh!).  They are on sale for only $2.45 at a local store.  I think each box retails for $3+.

What's Schoolin'?

Who doesn't like stories with happy endings?  The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes is such a good book for youngsters particularly because there IS NO resolution.  It leaves one with a hollowness, lack of closure, and wishing it had ended differently; that the girls had had a chance to say sorry to the little girl before she moved.  I don't recommend books that are downers to be read *often* or to the exclusion of positive outcome books, but in small doses they are good.  This is a short read, not gruesome at all and addresses the issue of teasing, bullying, and standing passively by while it is happening to others. The interest level is listed as ages 7-10 (another list had 9-12) and the reading level is listed as 5.0.  Youngest dd in 3rd grade who just turned 9 is reading it.

As an extension I cut a dress shape out of unbleached muslin [that I had gotten to make small decorated tilmas but (alas) never got around to doing].  I dug out my Crayola fabric markers and Fabric Mate fabric markers.  After she decorated her dress she glued it into her Reading Response Log. [I'll update this post later with pictures]

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sprouted Flour Giveaway

My last post included how I had to make all white flour biscuits because I hadn't planned ahead.  Right now I'm whipping up dd's birthday cake but am also resorting to white flour.  (audible sigh)  I am a big candidate for buying sprouted flour but unfortunately cannot afford even the empty bag ;).  Kitchen Stewardship (isn't that a great name??)  is having a giveaway of some sprouted flour.  Head her way here:

Excel Math ~ "O" Antiphons

What's Cookin'?

Beef Stew:  I made beef stew the other night but didn't really have a recipe to follow when I made it.  I cooked a pound of stew meat in some oil (either palm oil or sunflower oil) until cooked through.  Then I put in coarsely chopped potatoes, carrots and about 4 cups of water.  I don't know much about herbs/spices but I had some sage growing before the freezes hit.  I ran out to get some.  By then it was pitch dark so I just pinched off a handful and ran back in from the cold :).  The sage turned out to be the winning ticket.  I put 3 fresh leaves in along with some parsley, basil, salt, onion powder, and a shake of ginger.  Once the potatoes/carrots were cooked and the meat was tender (about 45 minutes of simmering) I added flour until the gravy was a thick consistency.  [That takes the place of dredging in flour before cooking the meat] While it was simmering I whipped up some biscuits (though I had to use all white flour because this wasn't a planned-ahead meal and I couldn't soak the wheat).  I asked dh if this was a redo meal and he said (emphatically) that it should be a staple meal.  Dc liked it also (no leftovers). Yeah.  Easy. Healthy.  Tasty.  This should work really well in the crock pot - just do the flour right before serving.

What's Schoolin'?

Excel MathI *finally* ordered my math curriculum for youngest dd yesterday [We use a combo of Excel Math and Montessori materials/manuals].  Today I got a call from Becky at Excel Math and I talked with her m-u-c-h longer than she probably expected when placing her call, lol.  Why?  Because I LOVE Excel Math and can rave about it for hours!  I've used it in public school and in our home school for about 15 years.  This will sound like a commercial, but really, I have no monetary interest in their product :).  What I like about Excel Math:

-  One of the main strengths is that they are constantly practicing previously taught concepts in the practice pages.  They don't forget and it also gives them time to master it.  If they don't get a concept the first lesson, don't worry, you'll have lots of chances for reteaching/practice.

- It spirals with more and more depth each time a concept is addressed.

- It's not overwhelming.  The layout is nice and spacious and there aren't 10 million drill problems. 

- The first section is the teacher guided lesson that includes guided practice.  Often there are some math fact drills in that section as well (which is awesome - just enough).  Sometimes when you look at the page you see blank boxes in that section.  That's because sometimes the teacher will tell the students the problem as they go through the lesson (and the ss won't just be working ahead while the T is talking!).  At the very top of the guided practice lesson they have the objective for that lesson as well.  Very helpful.

-  The next section is the homework section (the second 1/2 of the front page).  We skip that at home but in PS they take that home after doing the guided/independent practice (the back side) during class.  Again, not overwhelming - just enough.  Not so long that it takes them all evening to do or all of your next class period to correct, but enough to get some extra independent practice.  BTW, the homework doesn't have the brand new concepts in it.  I think it starts from 2 weeks back (I can't remember exactly but it's pretty well thought out). 

- The entire back side is the guided/independent practice which makes up the bulk of your math time.  I say guided/independent because at that point it may be one or the other or both for some/all of the students.  At home it is usually independent but some concepts (like long division) are guided for a longer period of time (guided meaning they still need a bit of help and guidance to do the problems).  The variety of practice is absolutely awesome and the way the word problems are slipped in and develop complexity is brilliant.  By the end of second grade they are doing 2 step word problems that are quite complex for that age. 

- They have worked on incorporating more manipulative use within the Teacher's Guide rather than within the lessons on the student pages.  I love that take on it.  The lessons are not dependent on the manipulatives but the ideas and presentations are there in the manual if you want/need to use them.  There are paper options for manipulatives in the back in case you need them.  I have always supplemented Excel with heavy manipulatives use and didn't feel like it could stand alone.  However, with their current inclusion of more hands-on activities it probably would more so now.  I'll take a closer look at that when I get it and update this post.

- I have to add that when I was in PS and the dreaded state test came around I never felt the panic that I saw in some others regarding math.  We did some practice tests for the format, but I felt relatively comfortable with the math concepts we had covered since they had been continually practicing throughout the year.  I could focus on other aspects such as things not covered yet (depending on time of year of the test).  Since they had Spanish materials as well I could have students working in both at the same time and give the same lessons to the whole group.

-  They actually tell you up to what lesson is a review from the previous year and when new concepts start for the year.  They also tell which lesson starts new concepts for the next year at the end.  This overlap is why I'm not freaking out that dd hasn't started her new book for this year yet.  [Plus she's been using Montessori materials as well and is moving along]  I can look in the manual, find where the new concepts start and go from there.  Even if we just make it to where the concepts for this year end in May we'll still be on target.  Also, since she worked until the very end of the book (I think she has 2 pages to go) I know she has already been working on some of this year's concepts.  Hope that makes sense!

- Honestly, at home I don't use the Teacher's Guide much, but a close friend does and it has some wonderful extensions, lesson presentations, and activities.  I would highly recommend actually using it!

- Unfortunately it stops after 6th grade.  When we took a placement test for the new curriculum both olders skipped 7th and went straight to pre-algebra.  Like I told Becky, they actually could have fast-forwarded a bit of that too because a lot was review at the beginning for them.
Have I convinced you to give Excel Math a try?  Get a free sample packet.  Call and ask questions.  Talk about customer service!  A call after my order is placed just to check on me and see if I have questions on how to use it?? Unheard of!!  I have always gotten excellent customer service - for about 15 years!

"O" Antiphons:

I'd like to incorporate this into our family Advent prayers this season.  Since I am completely ignorant on the matter I'm handing you over to a link that explains it and even gives you a printable guide.  Today is O Wisdom (Dec 17th) (at least when I am typing this it is!).

Today's food ideas to coordinate with O Wisdom:  dark chocolate and eggs and other brain foods.  Wow, just this morning over breakfast I was telling the dc how good eggs were for the brain and that they are high in choline which turns to acetylcholine which helps you think; plus, eggs are on 2 separate lists for chemicals they contain (tyrosine and phenylalanine) that are precursors to dopamine (another brain must-have chemical).  Yes, I actually told them that while their eyes glossed over, lol, because I'm reading a brain health/chemistry book that I plan on blogging about later.

Here's another:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And the winner is...

The winner of the Fontanini Nativity figurines is:


Congratulations!  Thanks to those of you who entered - I just wish I had more to give away!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anne of Green Gables ~ History

I've been sitting here in my chair for about 10 minutes going back and forth, back and forth... and back and forth (!) about whether or not to have the olders do this study guide for Anne of Green Gables.  My thoughts were to do it orally instead of having them write the answers to every question.  My hesitation:  time.  Time and - How much it would enhance the experience vs am I just giving myself something else to feel bad about when we don't get to it?  I have a study guide already printed for Call it Courage for them to have the "study guide experience" in a much less stressful, intense way.  They also get plenty of 'answer the questions in complete sentences' at the end of each History and Science chapter in our spines.

Here is the free study guide (mostly questions for the corresponding chapters) that I found saved on my computer:

I think my question was partly answered by youngest dd's question to me earlier today.  I was showing her the reading response cards from which she could choose how to respond to the Beverly Cleary book she's reading (Henry and the Clubhouse).  After I gave her my spiel she asked, "Why can't I just read it to you?"  Out of the mouths of babes (of any age), as the saying goes.  We ended up snuggled on the couch with youngest dd reading aloud to me.  Yes, I think we'll just read and enjoy Anne of Green Gables with the olders or as a family read-aloud (and later watch the movie?)...  BTW, youngest has warmed up to the concept of the reading response cards :).

Reading Response Cards:  Mine are different and include written responses (such as the first example below) as well as some choices that are closer to a project, such as creating an ad poster for the book, a diorama, dressing up as the character and presenting, etc.  However, I don't have a file to share so here are a few links to give you an idea of what I mean when I say Reading Response Cards.

Current Historical Fiction Books:  Speaking of those reading response cards... The olders each picked one book out of 4 options to read and respond to using those cards (and present to the rest of us).  The books fall within our history time period (post Civil War; late 19th century).  The 4 options I checked out of the library are: The Great Railroad Race; The Journal of Sean Sullivan; Land of the Buffalo Bones; and The Journal of Joshua Loper.  They chose the first 2 and then we'll divide up the last 2 books.  The books are a bit below their 'reading levels' but hey, after reading Chemistry a little light reading is a nice reprieve!

Now to decide on Jack London's Call of the Wild!  It's so sad yet compelling... I happen to have a "high interest low readability" book from series called "Bring the Classics to Life" for Call of the Wild.  We may just read that first since it is abridged without the details and go from there; or read the first few chapters of the unabridged to get a sense of the language used by the author and appreciate the literature before reading the summaries in the Bring the Classics to Life version. Back and forth, back and forth...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Now that it's already Tuesday night... Here are my "got to try" recipes from RFW (Real Food Wednesday) last week:

Perfect since we're postponing fixing the oven until after Christmas:

Interesting nut-based chocolate frosting:

Berry Merengue Cookies:

I actually have all of the ingredients on hand for this!  I buy the store bagged pretzels from Sprouts because they have acceptable and minimal ingredients.

I'll have to look through these later.  We do more Christmas things between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan 6th) so there's no rush:

The family really liked the latkes last week and this is a different twist.  I'll use plain flour instead of Matzo meal and will change out the canola oil.

Whenever I see dates in the stores they seem expensive to me so I have never bought any.  To make them go further I might try 1/2 dates and 1/2 raisins.  Soak the cashews overnight (?) or use prepared almonds.

Garlic hummus.  Soak/Cook the garbanzos first.

Southwest Potato Hash (side dish using potaotes and black beans)

I've looked at countless bags of gingersnap cookies this past year and always put them back for some reason or another (usually trans fats).  I think I could actually make these.  I won't try them in the toaster oven though because I have to flip everything every 10 minutes in that machine and cookies don't always flip well half-way through!

Quinoa with sauteed veggies and goat cheese:

Breakfast/Snack "cookies" with raisins and nuts.

Buckeye candies:

I started a picture tutorial for Milk Kefir but I don't know that I'll have it ready to join in on tomorrow's (Wednesday) RFW...

What's Cookin'?

Ginger Candy:  I have GOT to make these!  Dd has been sick the last 2 days with a sore throat.  I got this link in their newsletter this morning.  It reminded that I happened to have some Reed's ginger candy in the refrigerator that I had gotten months and months ago.  I gave dd pieces of that (1/2 a candy has lasted all day because it's kind of strong).  She said that it really helps - much more than the Ricola cough drops she had been using (which I still plan on having around because the flavor I got has NO weird fake sugars and NO fake dyes, etc)

Pumpkin Cookies:  We made the recipe at Heavenly Homemakers and they are sooo good.  They are sort of cakie (that's a real word in my intergalactic dictionary!) and worked fine in the toaster oven.  I used about 1/2 the sugar in the recipe.  They had such a tiny bit of sugar and good pumpkin that we actually ate some for breakfast!  Dd also took some to her class for her birthday.  I was a bit worried about the other children not liking them because they were not overly sweet and a bit different.  However, that's what I happened to be making the evening before (read:  I forgot and was so relieved that I had the cookies baking!).  Dd said that everyone ate them up quickly so I guess that's a thumbs up?

We skipped the frosting and I ended up using white flour because there was no liquid to soak the wheat overnight.

As I'm typing I'm cooking lentils and have no idea what I'm doing!  I'm following the basic lentils recipe in Nourishing Traditions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

GIVEAWAY: Fontanini Nativity Figurines

This would probably win the 'strangest giveaway in blogworld' award if there were such an award.  I hope you don't think it's tacky that these are "previously loved" by my children.  They are in like new condition and I just want to share (and I'll even pay postage).  I could easily sell these (don't we buy/sell used items all of the time?) but I wanted to just give them to someone.  These are made in Italy, authentic Fontanini figurines.  Nice enough for a main Nativity and sturdy enough for little hands to use. 
In case you are not familiar with Fontanini, here is the Amazon search.  If you have a few moments take a look around:  Search for fontanini nativity

Somehow in my enthusiasm when the olders were little I accidentally collected 2 sets of figurines.  I would get one or two at a time after Christmas when they were on clearance.  Of course I could never remember from one year to the next what I had already gotten.  When we were putting out Christmas decorations this weekend dc decided to let a set go.  I thought maybe one of you would like these.  If no one enters I'll take the hint, lol.

My photography skills leave a lot to be desired but here they are (mat not included).  Mary and Joseph are approximately 3 inches tall.  Details on the giveaway are below.

This will need to be a quick turnaround.  To enter leave a comment with your first name, last initial only, and state or town (in case more than one have the same name).  That worked well for the Graphics Factory Giveaway.  I will have to make the deadline 7:00 am Central Standard Time on Thursday.  When it is announced Thursday morning the winner will have until 8:00 am CST on Friday to send their snail mail to me so I can mail it Friday morning.  If I don't hear back I'll have to re-draw a winner.  They will be mailed Friday... somewhere.  I'll include my e-mail when I announce the winner.  Contiguous United States only, sorry!  If you are on e-mail subscription and enter the drawing then you may want to just check the website Thursday morning since I'm not sure what time the e-mail updates go out during the day.  I will accept e-mail entries as well like I did last time.

What's Cookin'?

Here's a picture showing the family's spaghetti noodles (on the left) and my spaghetti noodles (on the right).  I sauteed cabbage shreds and then topped with the same sauce as everyone else was eating.  Even though I had some regular spaghetti for seconds, it still cut my carb intake by more than half (my second serving was much smaller than my first!).  It tasted pretty good too - I didn't miss the noodles.  Spaghetti squash works really well for this substitution also.

Reader Response (Grammar Boxes)

I received this wonderfully detailed response regarding Grammar Box material from Z. and thought others would benefit from it as well.  It is printed below with her permission.

Regarding the Grammar Boxes, I decided to go back to the source and pulled out my tattered copy of The Montessori Elementary Material: Volume 2 of the Advanced Montessori Method.  Don't let the title fool you - it's not too hard of a read (unless it's a brain fog day!) and helped me see one major mistake I made with my cards.  For each pair of sentences only the focal part of speech word card (that is, the word that is different between the 2 sentences) is changed to make the other sentence.  I made cards for each word for both sentences.  I only needed to make one card for the repeated words.  Does that make sense???  Clear as mud?  Uh-oh... the book explains it much better :).  I'll just chunk the extra words that I printed/cut out for the verb grammar box.

I was encouraged by the below e-mail; as well as affirmed.  I chose not to do the Grammar Boxes with the olders but we DID do the command cards.  I thought I'd do it *right* with youngest dd but the cards in general aren't really appealing to her.  That could have more to do with our lack of consistent shelf work time (or rather, too little of it on a weekly basis) than the material itself, her needs, or her learning interests/sensitive periods.  Right now I'm thinking that before I invest time in making the other part of speech grammar boxes I'll see how she responds to the verb grammar box.  Now to figure out the organization/display of the cards.  I'll be looking at the links I've already collected.

I purchased all the grammar box material (kid Advance) - including the filling boxes ( IFIT) for the cards and the card material itself (from Nienhuis). Having had 2 children now go through the grammar box material, here is a home made alternative I would recommend. I also have the Mont for everyone grammar material and find it is good supplementary work, but not enough in its own right.

Print up the cards on coloured paper from the Mont R&D albums (as they have detailed exactly what is in the Nienhuis material - without the $500 price tag) and laminate them.

You can use the paper mache boxes and paint the inside the various colours that are required for the grammar cards and then align them in the order as per the grammar box. Not sure if you know the way to work with them so sorry if I'm telling you something you already know.
When doing the exercise, the child puts the sentence card at the top of the grammar box - in relation to the mechanism of speech they are learning about. Then the individual component grammar cards rest in their piles in the little boxes underneath - but that is all. When the child is actually composing the sentence presented on the large card, they sort through and find the relevant mini card and then reconstruct the sentence on the mat! So the grammar box is in effect used as a storage container!
I then get the child to write up the sentences in their workbook and use the stencil template to draw the symbol above the word - this I am finding is creating more of an impact in understanding the grammar, than the grammar boxes. You can get the stencil from Nienhuis for $10 - that was a little tip given to me by a montessori teacher.

I find that my children actually 'understand' the component of speech we are working on better when using the command cards - again you can make these from your R and D albums. They are printed on white paper 'cue card size' & in a plastic sleeve, so you could just laminate and then stored in a coloured coded box, in relation to the component being learnt - again, I could have saved myself the money by buying a set of the paper mache boxes, painting them and then storing the cards in them.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Thank you, Z., for your input!

What's Cookin'?

Strangest fillings:  "How did you like the empanadas last night?"  "They were good but I'm guessing that they had something weird in them."  Then we played the guessing game ;).  We had empanadas, turnovers, foldovers, whatever you want to call them, for dinner last night.  The shape fit the crescent moon in the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe, which we were celebrating - plus I actually had the dough already made from a previous night (Rev. 12:1-5).  The filling?  Sauteed cabbage (1/2 a teeny tiny head that I cut before the freeze the other day), about 1/2 lb of precooked ground beef, and about 2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin - yes, pumpkin! - all warmed up together. 

A few nights before (when we were out of meat) I had filled the foldovers with scrambled eggs. I thought it was a little more interesting than a plop of scrambled eggs on the plate. In case you're wondering, a plop is equal to 2 dollops, more or less :).  These would make a great make-ahead breakfast that could easily be frozen.

Along with the meat empanadas we also had sopapillas (mmm) and cauliflower [made like mashed potato with parsley on the top of the mound with 3 cranberries -  to represent Tepeyac and the roses in bloom on the snow covered hill].  BTW, the yogurt dough from NT doesn't work for sopapillas, trust me... but then the recipe for actual sopapillas that I tried later didn't poof up much either (shrug).

After eating we pulled out the book by Tomi dePaola of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I happen to have the Spanish version so oldest dd took a stab at it using the beautiful pictures to retell the story.  I had gotten some unbleached muslin for the dc to decorate the 'tilmas' but we ran out of time.  Maybe today?