Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaching Tuesday--Schooling with Games

Kids learn better when they are having fun. Mine are no exception. Even the ones who are in public school love the games and silly songs the teachers use to help them learn. My third grader came home this week singing (to the tune of Farmer in the Dell) "The variable stands alone, the variable stands alone. When you have an equation, the variable stands alone."

D taught his 7th and 8th grade classes a game of integer football. The concepts of positive and negative numbers is a more accessible to the children when it's explained in real world, sports terms.

Teach the distributive property using a card game analogy! You distribute the numbers like you'd distribute or deal out cards! Johnny and Sarah are ready to play. You need to deal out 5 cards to each player. 5(J+S) or 5J + 5S. Each round you deal, they are given 5 cards. Johnny has played 3 rounds already and this is Sarah's first round. 5(3J +S) or 15J+5S. Johnny and Sarah are on separate teams so they can't share cards.

If you play chess (and I don't, but the kids do) you can teach many math concepts. How many move options are there for each variable change? The board is easily modified into a coordinate plane and the pieces become 3D, hands on, movable...perfect for difficult concepts and great for hands on learners. Keep track of the moves in a game and invite your child to tell or write the story (using characters) of the battle that just took place.

Another fun game to play is Vocabulary Scrabble. The play is the same as regular scrabble, but the rules are a few extra rules. Each time a word is played, you must define the word and use it in a sentence. The players also have a list of vocabulary words. If a word off the vocabulary list is played, the player gets an extra 50 bonus points.

Challenge your kids to a race. For every page they read, it equals one mile (or 10 miles for smaller readers). See who can get across the country first.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Good Sunday afternoon to everyone. My computer has been most unreliable, so I wanted to get a jump on the menu planning before the comptuer finally kicks the bucket. It takes about 20 minutes for the internet to load. Gotta love laptops from 2002! I remember when we thought this thing was lightening fast! Our new computer will hopefully be here by the next time Menu Plan Monday rolls around.

  • Monday: Chicken Pot Pie (we're pretending it's fall)
  • Tuesday: chicken and rice
  • Wednesday: Enichilada Casserole
  • Thursday: Beef Fajitas
  • Friday: French Toast
  • Saturday: Spaghetti
  • Sunday: Apple Pork Roast
The Apple Pork Roast is one that my MIL used to make and DH begs for every fall. You make the pork roast in the crockpot with just salt and pepper. Then you make cinnamon apples and add cinnamon red hots and spoon that over the pork roast as you serve it. It's not my thing since I really detest pork, but it makes hubby happy so I cave and fix it once or twice a year.


There are going to be some changes happening on this blog starting this week!

After being out of college for 13 years, I figured it was about time I started actually using my degree. That is to say, I'm going to be blogging with a purpose! I graduated with a degree in communication emphasizing in journalism, advertising and public relations. While I've done odd jobs here and there in editing, tech writing and even (don't laugh) photography, I really haven't done much with that very expensive piece of paper that says I finished college!

The blog itself isn't going to change substantially. I'm still going to feature my awesome sewing, my mad cooking skills, pictures of my cute kids, home organization, etc. It's just going to be more focused and more organized.

My goal is to offer you, my readers, more. More in the form of information, helpful hints, product reviews and giveaways.

Here is the schedule of upcoming bloggy events:

  • Monday: Menu Plan Monday will still be here!
  • Tuesday: Teach it. This will feature cool things I've learned, projects, organizing, homeschooling tips and activities. Basically anything involved in learning.
  • Wednesday: Whatever. This is my favorite day of the week and we're going to save it for just...whatever.
  • Thursday: Tasty Thursday. This is the day for new recipes or yummy foods we've discovered.
  • Friday: Frugal Friday. My day to share how to save a buck.
I will of course, have extra posts some days if the whim strikes me.

So, stay tuned and I hope we can all learn from taking this blog to the next level!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting kids to eat healthy

I will be the first to admit, I'm a lazy mom. I'm not a short order cook. I firmly believe that if mom makes it, you need to eat it. Unless the majority of the family votes the meal is vile, then everyone is free to make sandwiches.

Food has always been an adventure in our home. We have made a conscious effort to expose our children to a variety of ethnic foods. You never know what you're going to like.

DH lived in Japan for two years and brought a love for Japanese foods in to our marriage. We cooked a lot of Asian-inspired foods, heavy on the veggies. It's what was normal in our home. When we first moved to the south, I was determined to make authentic southern food in the form of fried green tomatoes, pulled pork and collar greens.

I found a recipe on the internet and set to work on the greens. I followed the directions exactly. We sat around the table and the children looked skeptical about the food. We each took out one spoonful of greens and on the count of three, we all took a bite. And, by the count of four we had all spit it out on our plates. It was awful! Later, a friend informed me that you need to thoroughly wash greens in a salt water solution to get it clean or else it tastes very bitter. No kidding!

When I told my mom about this latest food adventure, she was so surprised (as usual) about how adventurous my kids are when it comes to food. My dad is a very picky eater. And it always amazes me how parents think kids think veggies are a bad word. In fact, that's a blogging topic of the day from twittermoms...how to sneak veggies into kids. More and more parents are looking for ways to trick their kids to eating healthy foods. The latest is putting them in to yogurt by Littleblends.

I learned a valuable lesson when I prepared the greens for my family...properly cooked foods taste better and that goes for veggies, too! Veggies are not supposed to be mushy. Mushy vegetables are overcooked. Overcooked foods do not taste good. People (including kids) do not like overcooked foods.

Here are some additional tips for getting your family on board with vegetables:

  • Start young. Contrary to pop culture, babies don't need to eat pureed foods. They can go straight to table foods if you delay solids. Give them mushed versions of what you are eating. Don't hold back on the flavors unless it is exceptionally spicy. My kids were eating curry before they were a year old. I had another that was eating cucumber and octopus salad at 7 months.
  • Expose them early and often to a variety of tastes. The more normal you make unusual foods, the more likely they are to eat them, this goes for veggies, too. Don't dumb down foods! Just because they are kids doesn't mean they can't enjoy strong flavors.
  • When it comes to introducing new foods, give it to your kids as a challenge. Don't ever tell a child they won't like something! Instead, ask them "Do you think your taste buds are grown up enough for this?" If they don't like it, then say "We can try again later when your taste buds are bigger." What kid doesn't want to be like the big people?
  • Get kids INVOLVED in meal planning and cooking. Watch Food TV together, look at cookbooks, cooking magazines, etc. Kids are much more likely to eat something they prepared. The food becomes familiar and less scary. It also is a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time together.
  • Toddlers especially love to help in the kitchen. Have them dump ingredients in. Use it as time to teach counting and the importance of following directions. Big kids can learn FRACTIONS by helping you cook, too!
  • Learn to cook it properly. I know I already said this, but it bears repeating...food prepared properly just tastes better. Watching some Good Eats. Entertaining and Educational.
  • If all else fails, cheese makes everything taste better

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weekly Meal Plan

Things are crazy tight right now financially, so we are making things work with what we have on hand. That means, it's really back to basics with our pantry. I don't think that basic ingredients necessarily mean you have to have a basic dinner every night.

Sunday: leftovers Flatbread Pizza Trio (spinach, garlic chicken and bbq chicken pizzas)
Monday: Tex Mex Shepherd's Pie
Tuesday: Fried Chicken Taquitos
Wednesday: Tagine style Chicken (minus the prunes)
Thursday: Lynne's Lasanga (once I get the recipe from Lynne, I'll post it!)
Friday: Breakfast
Saturday: Spaghetti

The quick grocery list for this week?

One whole chicken fryer (poached and picked clean)
3 lbs of ground beef
Cheddar Cheese
Mozarella Cheese
Spaghetti sauce
cottage cheese
corn or flour tortillas
sour cream
pancake mix
spaghetti noodles
flour and assorted seasonings

Yup, and all of that is right in my pantry at this moment! There's nothing exotic on my list either. Most of the fun flavors and spices and fancification of our meals comes from spices and seasonings. It's a little punch that can go a long way.

Another fun way to shake things up is to take a classic like Shepherd's Pie and then using Mexican flavors (onions, garlic, cumin, chili powder) to shake it up a bit. Or swap chicken for beef and vice versa. Chicken taquitos, or even fish tacos, are a nice change of pace.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tell Tale Heart by Alex

As part of our short story unit, we read Poe's Tell Tale Heart. This is one of my favorite stories and I was very excited to share it with Alex.

Unfortunately, Alex doesn't share my love of Poe. He was completely freaked out (which, IMO, is half the fun of Poe!) He begged me not to assign any more scary stories. This does change my plans. We were supposed to read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow next! He did enjoy Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. It's definitely a must read. I remember reading it in grade school. It's one of those stories that has stuck with me for more than 20 years.

For project side of our short story unit, Alex was asked to write a persuasive essay on whether or not the narrator was sane and to create a six panel comic strip illustrating a scene from the story. I loved what Alex came up with and plan to have him continue with making comics of our reading selections.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's wrong with being a Tom Boy?

When Kari (now 6) got her first doll, she threw it across the room and screamed "Let's WRESTLE!" She's never been what one would call "girly." About the only thing girly about her were her curls. By the time she was 5, she had racked up more ER visits than my other kids combined. DH and I like to joke that we have our own wing at the hospital. She's had to be superglued (modern equivalent of stitches) three times, two concussions, and dislocated her elbow and her shoulder. Oh and one other time she managed to put her teeth through her upper lip and get them stuck. We have pictures of her climbing the ladder to the attic before she could even walk.

She is constantly covered in dirt. Her clothes are so stained from being outdoors with animals and mud and whatever else she dreams up, that I don't even buy her new clothes except for church. Even her school uniforms I try to find used because she's just so rough on things.

I'm not sure when it happened or even how, but she's decided she wants to play with Barbies. I felt myself recoil when she told me the only thing she wanted for her birthday was a Barbie doll. She's never in her life played with dolls. She's never really played with toys. She's always been about animals and being outside and climbing.

Dolls? My daughter wants a doll? It just seemed so strange to me. I felt like I almost failed as a mother.

Barbies aren't banned in our house. I had a huge Barbie collection myself as a child. But for Kari to want a Barbie?? It was like there was a disturbance in the Force...

I couldn't come up with any good reason not to buy her one. In fact, she took her birthday money from grandma and bought herself another one. So now we have two Barbies. I'm secretly hoping maybe she'll decapitate them or pretend to feed them to her wild animal stuffed toys, like a kiddie version of When Animals Attack.

Meanwhile, I'm pretending this is a stage she's going through. She's in school now and perhaps there's some peer pressure going on. Her best friend is a bit prissy and loves dolls and make up. Maybe she's looking at her big sister who's always been girly and prissy and wanting to try it on. I just have to remember to let my kids figure out who they are on their own. I'm not a failure as a mother if my girls play with dolls.

And yes, I do find it ironic that I'm more upset about my daughter playing with dolls than I was when my son carried around a doll.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

EMF and fires oh my!

I've been having a lot of trouble just staying focused and organized with things.

Maybe I can also attribute my generalized feelings of anxiety lately to high EMF? The more I read about it, the more plausible it sounds. We live in an older home that was built on land that used to be a cemetery. While I enjoy a good ghost story, I don't necessarily buy in to the whole ghostie thing.

Our home definitely has been dealing with high EMF and I'm hoping it is now taken care of. We had a power line break outside the house. No idea exactly how long it's been down. We had a small electrical fire Monday which resulted in us calling the power company. They were out right away. They diagnosed the problem immediately. He didn't even have to get up in the cherry picker to see the line was broken.

The lights in our home have always flickered when the a/c and garbage disposal were used. No sooner than the line was fixed, then the lights were no longer flickering! This could explain a lot of our unfortunate electrical explosions and meltdowns. We can say fairly certainly that it caused our PC to die, the modem to melt (those were within 20 minutes of each other Monday) and the dryer. It is probably the reason for the TV, ceiling fan explosion and lamp shooting sparks. We're filing a claim for the things we know for certain with hopes that the electric company will pony up and replace or repair the items.

Meanwhile I'm stuck using a laptop we bought in 2001. I mean it works, but doesn't have any bells and whistles.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Buy my stuff!

Well, in my effort to pay my ticket, I'm sewing some cute stuff!

This darling little dress is a 3T and it can be yours for just $25 (price includes shipping).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why do we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?

Here's my confession: I hate my driveway. That's not really all that earth shattering, but the fact of the matter is my driveway is causing me a lot of problems lately and I need to get my true feelings off my chest.

For those of you that have been to my house, you know exactly why I hate my driveway. Chances are, you hate my driveway, too, especially if you're one of the people who have driven off its edge. Sorry about that, btw.

It's a single car in width and the flat part of the driveway is butted up next to the house. The driver side opens on to a good 12 inch drop off in to our neighbor's yard. Under the driveway has eroded on the property line. Sometimes the neighbor's have fire ants in their yard and when I park up next to the house, I have to get out of my car, step in to the neighbor's yard avoiding the fire ants.

The fun begins when I have to get the baby out of the car. Step down, step up, climb IN to the car and if we're not so lucky, baby is sleeping and that means pulling out the infant carrier. Carrier goes on to the seat, I step down into the neighbor's yard (again avoiding ant hills), reach as far as I can and lift the seat out. There's just not enough room for me to get the seat out and turn around. I tried it once and almost killed myself. The baby would have been safe in the carseat, I'm sure...unless the fire ants got to her, but we're not going there today. So now I'm walking in the neighbor's yard and get my door shut.

Use the passenger side, you might suggest, but there's not enough room for an adult to get in from the open door on the passenger side. I have to back up to let anyone in on the passenger side.

All of this is even more fun if it's raining!

So we've established I have a very narrow driveway, but that's not the only reason to hate it. It's also on a steep incline. The part next to the house is flat, but it's got quite a grade on it. I've fallen on my butt just walking down the driveway to get the mail.

If D parks in the driveway first I'm totally screwed if I have to unload anything out of the back of my van. If it weren't for my lightening fast reflexes, I probably would have broken my toe today. I opened the back and everything that had been so neatly packed fell out. I jumped out of the way, narrowly missing being hit with myriad objects slated to go to the thrift store.

Parking on the street...alas, is not a favorable option either. If I park away from our mailbox (it's a federal crime to block mailboxes) I end up directly in the line of fire from the across-the-street neighbor's driveway. We've already been hit from someone backing out and not paying attention. We also have a problem of other people thinking it's a load of fun to speed down, then back up the hill. And by back up, I mean they do it in reverse. Yes, we've called the cops and no, they don't care. My insurance can't take the hits (puns intended!).

Yesterday when I had things to unload and a sleeping child in the car, I made the (in hindsight) poor judgment to park on the dirt in my yard. I figured it's my property and it's dirt, not grass, so no harm done. Plus, I was leaving again in a few minutes to go return a rental. Well, in that very short period of time, some city worker who was looking to make a few bucks for the city, noted that I was parked in my front yard and gave me a ticket!

So now, I really hate my driveway. Really detest it.

The thing that irks me is if D had moved his car for me to park, he would have pulled on to the lawn and he would have been the one getting the ticket while he waited for me to get done. DH's car is smaller so he doesn't have the same issues with the driveway as I do.

Plus, its my property! I own it. As my friend Amy pointed out, the whole point of being a home owner and *not* living in a place with an HOA is that I should have the right to "paint my house pink and stick plastic flamingos in the yard" if I want! If I want to stick up tinfoil in all my windows and create a lawn gnome garden and wait for the aliens, I should have that right! And, if I want to park on my DIRT so I don't break a toe or my neck, then I should have that right!

I need to move to the country...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Clone of a Subway Chocolate Chocolate chip cookie

I've been working on perfecting a cookie recipe. I'm not one to reinvent the wheel, so I started with an excellent recipe from Alton Brown. I've been tweaking it for awhile with different types of milk, trying to get just the right richness and softness. I've tried using things to make it healthier, like flax but it wasn't quite the right texture.

Last night, I tried a new combination that hit it out of the park and tastes exactly like the chocolate chocolate chip cookies from Subway...the ones our local shop no longer serves.

So here it is... Please try it and let me know what you think! Next go around I'm going to try mint chocolate chips or maybe mint extract instead of vanilla.

Clone of a Subway Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 C dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Melt the butter. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and add in cocoa powder. Set aside.
Pour the melted butter a large bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons half and half and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Use a spoon or rubber spatula.
Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

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Foodie Friends Friday ** 

Friday, September 4, 2009

Congratulations :D

A big congratulations to Lisa and Emily who were the lucky winners of the Homemaking Cottage Deluxe Editions Subscriptions! Emails with your subscription information will arrive to you soon!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. I will be doing some more give aways on the blog, including some crafty things :D

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Mine, as usual, has already been derailed by life. The heating element has gone out in my dryer. And with six kids, I can't wait until DH gets around to getting the part and fixing it. That means I get to spend a lot of my weekend at the Laundrymat. Fun times, I tell ya!