Monday, January 31, 2011

Cheese Sauce Three Ways + One

Melt butter over medium heat on the stove in a medium size sauce pan. Add two tablespoons of flour. Add 2 C of milk. Cook until thick and bubbly and make sure you constantly whisk so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. After this step, you can turn this into just about anything.

For macaroni, add cheddar, American or Colby jack cheese. You can add as much cheese or as little as you like. Taste it until it’s good. I also like to add frozen ice cubes of pureed butternut squash. Pour over cooked pasta and eat.

For alfredo, add parmesan (1/4-1/2 C). You can also add Romano or whatever Italian type, white cheese you have on hand. You can add peas, chopped kale, steamed broccoli or chicken. Pour over cooked pasta and eat. 

For cheesy potatoes, add cheddar, American or Colby jack cheese. Or a combination of all three. Pour over peeled and sliced potatoes and bake covered at 350 for 35 min. Then bake uncovered for another 30 min. I also like to add about 1 Tbsp minced garlic to this sauce before I pour it over the potatoes.

This one isn't cheesy, but it starts the same way. After you have melted your butter, added flour and milk, add:

3 C chicken broth/stock
4-5 medium sized cooked and coarsly mashed potatoes
optional: chopped greens, garlic, bacon, bacon grease, sour cream, broccoli, shredded cheese

Cook until heated. Voila. Potato soup. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Random Garden Thoughts

I am craving fresh greens.

The kids and I started some herbs (and two flowers) yesterday. Oregano, cilantro, chamomile, thyme, rosemary, lemon balm and lavender. I also started three kinds of lettuce from last year's seeds. We should get the rest of our seeds soon so I will start the tomatoes and peppers in the next few weeks. All of the tomatoes I started from seed last year were unsuccessful (they didn't even make it outside) so I have a new system set up that should work great.

We're going to make a new herb garden in the front yard. I'm excited. I'm also going to do a lot of companion planting this year and am interested to see how/if it works.

Rabbit poop is a great natural fertilizer and I've been dumping it all into the compost heap. Rabbit poop doesn't need to be composted before use, but our compost bin is closer to the door than the garden. I am hoping compost helps the soil this year because I think it was a bit lacking last summer.

Speaking of rabbits, I assumed our doe was pregnant because she and the buck chewed through the plywood cage divider. Nope, not pregnant. As it turns out, she's uninterested in sex. I find this to be completely unhelpful. I had them together for a good chunk of today so we'll see if there are kits in 31 days. I'm doubtful. I tried putting the California buck in with our Flemish Giant doe, but she wanted to kill him. She is feisty and I'm considering having her spayed since she's just a pet.

Anyway, the garden. We will have strawberries this year. Just thinking about them makes my mouth water. I want to plant a couple of grape vines, blackberries and raspberries. All of our fruit trees should produce this year and I'm certain the kids will love fresh plums.

I'm sure I will post more garden details as plans progress. It's going to be a great and delicious growing season.

Scrunch Face

Just because he's still cute.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Big Shoes

Just because he's cute.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thanks, But I'll Take the Elevator

We turned our bathroom into an elevator. The pocket door was perfect and the kids pretended for at least an hour. The last part of the hour was spent pretending that the elevator was the one on Titanic. Unfortunately, their play ended because the Titanic sunk. We were all happy to have made it safely to a life boat in the dining room.

Indian Hand Pies with Lamb (and beef)

3 lb lamb stew meat
2 lb beef stew meat
3 Tbsp ground cumin
3 tsp turmeric
3 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 chopped onions
6 Tbsp chopped parsley
4 Tbsp chopped cilantro
3 tsp ground ginger
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 C peas
salt to taste
1 1/2 peeled and chopped granny smith apples

Brown meat and de-glaze the pan. Pour into oven proof pot. Add spices, herbs, onions, garlic and enough water to cover. Bake at 350 for two to three hours or until the meat is tender and the smell makes you  hungry. Add the potatoes and apples and cook on the stove top on low until they are tender. Add the peas. At this point you can do one or two things: make naan and eat as a stew or make dough for the hand pies. It's win-win.

6 C flour
18 Tbsp cold water
2 C lard (I usually use half butter, but there is a dairy allergy in the group)

Roll out a scoopful of dough, spoon on some of the meat mixture and seal the edges with a fork. Bake for 20-25 min or until golden. If you are feeling especially fancy, you can brush on an egg white and water mixture so the tops look glossy. Eat or freeze for later.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Carrots and Kale

This is one of my favorite things to eat. In fact, I could probably eat this everyday and just might this summer when everything is fresh from the garden.

4 carrots peeled and sliced
big handful of kale, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
salt to taste

Toss carrots, kale and butter into an oven safe pan. Bake at 375 until the carrots are tender. I usually take the veggies out twice to stir to make sure everything has been coated with butter.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Week 1/24

Maeve said she wants to learn about the planets so that's what we're doing this week. I think we'll start by making a hanging solar system. I'm going to have Finn make some of the planets too because he needs to practice holding a crayon/pencil and cutting things out. I'm excited to show the kids how to use a compass to make perfect circles. I see a lot more circle crafts in the near future.

I'm hoping to find some easy readers about space/planets either online or at the library. I'm going to have Maeve do some copy work too because she needs to practice her lowercase letters and numbers. For whatever reason, the 2, 4, 7 and 9 give her problems and she always writes them backwards.

I want to play a spinning game too. I'll have the kids spin at different rates and pretend to be certain planets so we can compare the two. If I can find something, it would be fun to think up an experiment or activity about how their weight differs on each planets.

This week should be fun. I have lots of ideas and no formal plan so I'll be flying by the seat of my pants.

Menu and Grocery list

My life is so much easier when I  plan out a menu. So here it is:

Monday 1/24
Breakfast: pancakes with homemade strawberry syrup
Lunch: baked potato bar
Dinner: Penne and meatballs
*make bread dough, get groceries

Tuesday 1/25
oatmeal with fruit
leftovers (freeze anything still left)
out to eat
*soak black beans, clean out freezer in the house and figure out what's in the small freezer, reorganize accordingly

Wednesday 1/26
homemade mac and cheese

Thursday 1/27
German apple pancake
homemade pizza
potato soup with broccoli and bacon
*attempt bread like Jimmy John's

Friday 1/28
poached eggs, toast, fruit
leftovers (pizza or soup)
marinated pork chops with teriyaki rice/carrots from freezer, rolls

Saturday 1/29
leftover chops with fruit
freezer meal

Sunday 1/30
oatmeal with fruit
pasta with olive oil, shredded chicken, Parmesan and Italian seasoning
hash browns, quiche
*make dough

Monday 1/31
grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit, carrot sticks
beef and noodles with peas

Tuesday 2/1
smoothies and scones
anything you can stab with a pretzel stick
out to eat
*cook a couple of chickens for stock

Wednesday 2/2
German apple pancake
chicken and dumplings
tacos (these will be so much better when we have fresh lettuce from the garden), beans and rice

Thursday 2/3
squash soup and beef barley soup from freezer, rolls

Friday 2/4
oatmeal and fruit
ham and scalloped potatoes, green beans (or maybe save this for Sat and make a freezer meal)

Grocery list:
Rice Krispies (at the request of my daughter)
sour cream

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Counting by 5s

These are milk caps from our glass bottled milk. Maeve traced a small spice lid onto scrap booking paper, cut the circles out and glued them to the milk lids. When the glue dried we numbered them 5, 10, 15, etc. I mostly cared about getting to 60 (prep for learning time), but we had enough to get to 75.

I think these lids would be fun to use as play coins or for a Plinko type thing with a peg board.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Homemade Face Wash

1 part castor oil
2 parts olive oil

I mix them together and store them in a glass bottle that I found at the thrift store. I rub the oils on my face and wipe them off with a warm towel.

Penguin Count by 10s

 Finn loves penguins and loves numbers so I knew this would be a hit. I bought flat, black, glass beads and painted them penguin style. Then I numbered the bellies and had Finn put them in order.

Apparently he can already count by 10s so this took him about three seconds to complete. That kid amazes me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cereal Box Penguin

I found this idea at Making Learning Fun. I drew a penguin, glued it to a Costco sized cereal box and cut the beak so that it could open and close. I printed off some fish and the kids went crazy.

Each fish has a word on it and I had intended to use this as a reading activity. The kids, however, had other ideas and their imaginations took over.

I still will use this for reading, unless of course a killer whale eats it next week.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No Poo, Take 2

I am on a no 'poo kick again.

This time I am determined to go one month. If anyone reading is unfamiliar with no 'poo, it means washing your hair with only baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Scrubbing my scalp with baking soda isn't too troublesome, but using apple cider vinegar as conditioner is hard on my nose. I can smell the vinegar long after my shower has ended and I do not like smelling like a bad salad. I much prefer my store bought lime conditioner, but this is cheaper and is supposed to be great for my hair. We'll see.

I have very coarse, curly hair and the apple cider vinegar does seem to be a great conditioner. My hair is soft and tangle free. I use coconut oil in place of gel and that seems to be keeping me free of fuzz. Of course, the real test is going to be this summer when the humidity turns me into Bozo the Clown. I know that is a really old reference and probably specific to where I grew up, but I couldn't come up with anything else. Just know that my hair has a mind of its own in the summer. Anyway, my point is that the no 'poo method is supposed to make my curls beautiful and my hair very healthy looking. My hair feels healthy, but doesn't look so great right now. If I remember I will take a picture at the one month mark so you can see for yourselves.

Penguin Finn

 This is Finn's nest. He insisted that he was an Emperor penguin even though they do not have nests.

It's worth noting that at the time of the photos, this basket was no longer completely full of toys and that the toys had been dumped and scattered all over the recently cleaned living room floor. Finn told me that if I ruined his nest and put the toys back in the basket I wouldn't be able to play the Wii for the rest of the day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time Off

 We took a couple of weeks off in December to just play. I emptied three of the bottom cupboards and the kids had a blast playing in them. They played in the cupboards long enough that I was able to pee by myself. It was somewhat of a Christmas miracle.

Just Another Day

 The bathroom pipes froze again this winter. And broke. My husband enjoys making bold, declarative statements and hates going in the crawl space so he said that the bathroom would be closed until spring. Unfortunately for my husband, this is his bathroom with the best bath tub in the house and he was not able to fathom winter without his tub.

So he fixed the pipes. And by "fix" I mean ran the copper pipes from our laundry room, through the house to his bathroom. I was promised that the pipes would be properly covered with drywall and that all of my walls and tile would be repaired, however, I have a sneaking suspicion that that project is the one I'll be waiting on until spring.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Future Paleontologist

Digging for dinosaur bones. She found a complete tyrannosaurus rex, put it together and has placed it very carefully back in its box. I'm not sure what the plans are for the box, but it has been deemed special and is sitting on her work station.


This is our black lab, Bridget. She is three and a half years old and I am finally finding myself yelling at her less and less everyday. I have moments of weakness when I think we should get another dog and then I stop and remember the long list of things that Bridget has destroyed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dinosaur Cake

 Maeve loves making cakes and loves dinosaurs so she decided to make a dinosaur cake. Isn't it lovely?

She did everything except the chocolate frosting. I love using recipes as a way to practice math, reading and following directions.


This is our beautiful new hearth (minus the grout and stain) that is waiting for our Jotul wood burning stove. Our stove was supposed to be installed in a couple of days, but the snow storm is making our wait 10 days longer. I am disappointed because we have everything ready to go, including the cast iron kettle to on top of our stove.

I will continue to be patient and cold.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Week of Jan 3rd

We are back at it. We took two weeks off to let the office get messy and destroyed, to finish Christmas presents and crafts, to enjoy family and to play. I think the kids are ready for some more structured learning and I am ready to have a clean office again. Here is our plan for the week:

Geography: Europe
-find Europe on map
-find Italy
-teach the kids some Italian (I am hoping they remember it so that they can tell my mom "I love you" when she visits. My great grandparents would give me money anytime I said something in Italian.)
Science: teeth and dental care
-why brushing is important
-hard boiled egg experiment: soak egg in dark soda overnight and see what happens, write down predictions
Math: measurement
-read Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

-practice Italian
-La Befena review or maybe read again
-see results of eggs and brush them
-talk about the importance of flossing (maybe do flossing demo/experiment if they are interested)
-measuring video

-non standard measurement
-measure things around the house with various objects
Science: sense of smell
-good smells vs. bad smells
-why do we smell?
-plug nose and try to taste
-make Italian bread (I realize this doesn't fall into the geography category, but it goes along with La Befana and I didn't know how to categorize it)

-make a thermometer
-talk about what else we measure
-match the smells (use old spice jars)
Geography (again La Befana)
-put little candies or cookies in shoes and maybe give some to friends to celebrate Epiphany

Here are the links I'm using for this week. You will notice that I am not printing anything. Maeve used all of my printer paper and I haven't replaced it.
(Inch by Inch, measuring introduction) (make a thermometer) (Italian bread recipe)