Sunday, May 31, 2009

What Can You Buy For $169.60?

What can you buy for $169.70? A whole boatload of groceries, that's what. Yesterday, I decided to do some price comparison between Trader Joe's, Aldi's and Stop and Shop and made out quite well. I have to say that I was very disoriented having never shopped in Trader Joe's or Aldi's so it took me quite a while to acclimate myself. I had not been shopping in almost 3 weeks other than the organic meat my husband bought at the farmers market. I was really low on a lot of items for my pantry but think I fared ok with making meals and using what we had on hand. We didn't go hungry and I made some really good meals this week.
This is my kitchen table chock full of stuff. Let's start with Stop and Shop. I hit some really good deals. Barilla pasta was $1.00 a box so I restocked on 10 of those and used 3/$1.00 off coupons. Kellogs cereal was also on sale, save $4.00 when you buy 4 boxes and I had 4/$1.00 off coupons and earned gas rewards points($0.30 a gallon of gas off) and a free gallon of milk. I had several coupons for free items. One of my coupons was buy any Ritz and get free Artisan wheat thins. I had coupons for the Ritz and the Artisans crackers too. I wasn't sure those 2 coupons were going to go through but they did. Some stores won't let you use coupons when the item is listed as free. I'm glad I tried. I'll be doing this more often.
I ended up having $53.75 in manufacturers coupons, $30.44 in store card savings and $4 off my order because of the double coupons. On my register receipt I had purchased 145 items. Not a bad excursion if I do say so.
Here is another angle of my table. My family has been looking into buying more organic stuff and I really wanted to price compare. Trader Joe's was really nice to shop in. I did buy some whole wheat hamburger buns for $1.89 that were delicious and reasonably priced. I was able to sample some food while there, most was really tasty but in reality the sizes of boxed items are too small and too expensive for me to purchase regularly. Their organic produce was very reasonably priced and I picked up quite a few things while there. My bill at Trader Joe's was $70.08 for not a lot of items but I will return for their produce. That's at least a start in buying organic. Their cheese selections were also quite good and competitively priced. But not being able to use coupons there really threw me off my game and I felt quite guilty about buying some items.
Here's another view looking down the other end of the table. One of my most expensive purchases today was the Castile Soap-geez it's expensive. I use this for making most of my cleaners now that I'm not buying any chemical stuff. It does however go along way when you are just using teaspoons of castile in the cleaners.
I also went to Aldi's and was again thrown off my game. I was quite annoyed that I had to fish out a quarter to unlock the carriages and then couldn't figure the whole chain connector thing out. I did get my quarter back when I returned the cart but it is a pain. You also need to bring your own shopping bags because they just pile everything in your cart warehouse style. Aldi's was dirt cheap for stocking up on snacks and canned goods. Canned corn was 40 cents a can, I bought a whole case as well as a case of black beans and diced tomatoes with chili's. Bagels and bread were a bargain at $0.99 each. Vanilla Wafers were only $1.29 compared to Stop and Shop's $3.69 for the same item. Cat litter was $3.69 for the very large scoopable kind. Most of Aldi's carries odd named brands of items so I didn't have any coupons there either. My total at Aldi's was $66.27 ($4 of that total was on new tote bags that I purchased-I needed a few more)

This is more stuff I was able to purchase and couldn't fit on my table for the picture. Aldi's had cheap tomato sauce. I'll use just about any jarred sauce when I don't have fresh tomatoes in season to make my own. Sauce is one of those items that can be doctored up and fixed to your liking so find the cheapest you can.
Even with us buying organic meat for $135.00 ( it will last about 2 months) and with my $169.60 that I spent yesterday we are still under the $100.00 a week budget.
My husband is insisting that we are over budget but we are having difficulty figuring out how to categorize items when I shop at places that are both grocery and department stores like Target or Walmart. Short of dissecting every receipt, I'm not sure how to tackle this. Right now everything is getting put in the grocery line items and we are frustrated.
I'd love to hear how others manage this.
Happy shopping!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Gifts from the Pantry

In our efforts to save money and get our grocery shopping down to twice a month (excluding produce and milk), it's important to learn to make meals from your stockpile and pantry.
I mentioned in a previous post that we ordered some free range whole chicken from another homeschooler. I cooked two whole chickens for dinner one night last week. One of the chicken we ate and the other I broke down into several meals.

Both of the chicken carcasses went into a huge pot with carrots, onions and celery to make some delicious homemade chicken stock. If you've never tried making your own stock please give it a whirl. It's really not difficult and the taste is worth the effort. Have you noticed the price of chicken stock lately? It's very expensive here and I don't use bullion cubes at all because the sodium, chemicals and taste are just horrible.
This is two of the four quarts of homemade chicken stock I made. The chunks are just ice as I froze these to use with another meal.
The chicken on the second bird was cut off for homemade chicken soup. Even though the chicken is already cooked, I cube it and saute' it in a pan with mushrooms, garlic, onions, zuchinni and carrots. It really gives the soup another layer of flavor when you saute' the items first. I add the broth after the veggies are cooked and then the potatoes at the end just before it's finished cooking. I had some cooked noodles from another meal and added those to the individual soup bowls. The hot soup warms the noodles quickly and they don't get mushy in the pot of soup.

If your pantry is well stocked with dried beans, peas, and grains, you should be able to create meals without too much difficulty. Stretch your meals, use the leftovers and see what you can come up with. We recently had a ham dinner. I always buy the bone in ham because it adds so much more flavor to Pea Soup. I also make a fresh Pea Soup when the peas are in season. With dried peas, I soak them overnight to help get rid of a bit of the starchiness and to soften the peas for faster cooking time.
The rest of the ham can be cut off the bone and used in the soup. This ham bone was in the freezer for a few weeks and they keep perfectly fine. I add the whole hock right in-it gives delicious flavor.

I add some chunks of potatoes at the end of cooking and the ham cubes that I cut off the bone. If your soup is too thin, just add a bit of cream, cook a little longer and enjoy.

Tomorrow I do need to go shopping and restock some pantry items. I went through my coupons tonight and hopefully I will do well in saving some money.

Most of these meals can also be cooked in your crock pot on busy evenings when cooking a meal may seem impossible. I've also been meal planning for the week and choosing meals according to my grocery list or sale flyers. Creating meals such as lasagna or Shepherd's pie, that can stretch over several meals really helps to save money too.

Check out your pantry, see what you have, browse some recipes books and be a little creative when it comes to meal planning. In the process you just might save a few dollars.

Baby Chicks Arrive

Our new baby chicks arrived yesterday! The post office called about 12 noon and said that they had a peeping package for us. I'm not even sure the kids put shoes on before they got into the car-they were so excited. I had set the brooder up the day before-we usually line an unused dog crate with cardboard boxes so they can't get out. Turn on the heat lamp, add some pine shavings and we're set to go.

Here's what they look like when they arrive in the box. We ordered 12 hens but unfortunately they only shipped 11. My Pet Chicken emailed this morning and is trying to resolve the problem. In the box is a heating pad to keep them warm on their journey home.

We got them settled right in and they were peeping very loudly. All of them began to drink and eat immediately. I'm amazed at one day old how they know how to do that.

We ordered 2 Cuckoo Marans which are just beautiful. The three Easter Eggers are brown, Chipmunk colored and a smoky yellow. We have one Plymouth Rock that is smoky colored, a Buff Orpington and 2 Australorps and 2 Dominiques. The Australorp and Dominique chicks look very similar and I'm having a hard time telling them apart. One of them has already been named Trouble-she makes a break for it everytime the cage door is open and pecks my finger. Remember the movie "Chicken Run?"

The marbles are so the little chicks don't drown even in the very shallow water dish. I forgot how tiny these babes are. I had the water bottle on the wedge of brick to help keep the litter out but it was too tall for the little fluff balls to reach. Now they just like to sit on it because it's nice and warm under the heat lamp.

And sometimes they sit in the water dish-and poop in it. We do water changes about 5 or 6 times a day. They are very messy with kicking litter and managing to get waste into the water.

Morgan got a little cuddle time last night with the Easter Egger that looks like Chipmunk, one of our grown hens that lays green eggs.

Excuse the wet head on Morgan-it was after bath time. I think this is one of the Dominiques that she is holding. Hard to tell.

The Chicken Whisperer quickly claimed the Plymouth Rock. We decided to hold off on naming the girls until they are feathered out. It will give us a better idea of personality and coloring. Does anyone else dote this much on baby chicks?

They are so fun to watch. The babes fall asleep standing up sometimes and fall over or sleep with their beaks in the pine shavings. Several times I had to rouse them just to be sure that they are ok. They are-tiny newborn babies need lots of sleep.
We are anxious to see all the different colored eggs we get in the fall when these girls start laying. For now...we will enjoy them being babies.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Freebies on the Almost a Farm

I have to admit, I've been a blogger slacker. Well not really, it's just sometimes life is in full bloom and calls for our attention. What have I been up to? Moving horse manure and I don't even have a horse. One of our neighbors posted on freecycle that she had plenty of free composted horse manure. Of course I jumped at the chance. Larry went on Monday morning and loaded our wagon with about 5 yards of free manure for all of our gardens. This was a huge $$ savings for us and I made a great connection to get all the free fertilizer I want. The farm is only 10 minutes away from us so that's even better for gas savings. Thankfully, Larry helped me move the last couple of yards into the gardens-hoo boy were my muscles aching. But I can't wait to see how lush and prosperous my gardens will be. Check with your local farms about free manure for your gardens. Many farms are more than willing to give this away.

A full cart of manure. Would you believe I still have more gardens to take care of? Sue, the owner of the farm told me to call her anytime. Now that's taking care of your community.

After all that hard work, Larry and I settled in for the evening with a nice organic steak. I'll post our meat purchases another time. We found a nice farmers market to buy grass fed beef and other products. These lovely greens however, came straight from my garden. I picked my first crop of lettuce and spinach and made a wonderful salad for dinner.

I ordered 30 pounds of fresh farm raised chicken from a fellow homeschooler. She charged $2.50 a pound and processed the chickens herself. I cooked two of them for dinner the other night. One we ate and the other will become chicken salad and chicken soup. Delicious and I feel better knowing my chicken was not factory raised and pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.

I also grew some Marigolds from seed and transplanted the rest of them into the garden this weekend. The Marigolds and Sunflowers were really the only flowers that did well. All of my other seeding attempts failed miserably because of the downpour rain we had and I ended up buying most of my plants for the vegetable garden. But I'm guessing with the amount that I planted that it will soon pay off too.

I think these are Bachelor's Buttons but aren't they pretty?

The Baptisia is starting to bloom and is a gorgeous violet color. These were free from a friend but beware, they do spread like wildflower.

I have two of these trees. They are called Golden Chain Trees and resemble Wisteria but are yellow. Usually, these are covered with honeybees and the humm is so loud you can hear it from inside. The bark also gets covered with lime green colored lichen and is just as decorative.

Our homeschool group met last week and for the first time this season we were able to sit outside under my beautiful Willow Tree. The kids were busy watching the chickens play.

We shared watermelon and apples and Karyn cut some coupons and Lisa knitted more washcloths. These families have all become my friends and look forward to seeing them every week. The conversation, support and ease of pace is just wonderful.
The kids busied themselves playing all afternoon.

Sweet Willow enjoyed some juicy watermelon.

Gideon contemplated some apples.

Avery enjoyed running with the big kids and eating the watermelon. Our Parents Planning night is this Sunday. No children, just some good food, planning and conversation. I'm so looking forward to it once again.
On Sunday at church, the kids Religious Education classes studied our 7th principle and made all green cleaners. We had a blast with the kids and talked about recycling and how not to use chemical cleaners from the store. The RE team purchased blue buckets and 4 spray bottles and then the kids formed teams to make the cleaners. Each team made a general purpose cleaner, window cleaner, air freshener and floor cleaner.

Celia and Patrick measure out the recipe for the floor cleaner.

The kids and parents sat in Fellowship hall and listened intently on ways to help our Mother Earth. We were so proud of the kids as many are already using green cleaners and recycling.

One of our homeschooling moms Julie brought in her worm composting and showed the kids how to make their own for homemade compost.

When the buckets were completed, we sold them to the congregation for $25.00. All of the 15 buckets sold and the proceeds will be given to the Providence Animal Rescue League, the kids service project for this year. It was a very fun time with them.
I am ever proud of all that they accomplish.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Homeschooling a Different Learner

This is a hard post to write-it is brutally honest and I was reluctant to share the intimate details of my son's life on such a public forum. Excerpts of this post were taken from a letter that I wrote to my son's school when we finally decided to homeschool. My oldest son, now age 12, has Tourette's Syndrome. Homeschooling was not our first choice and we worked diligently with the public school to get him the services he needed. However, we were viewed as one of "those parents." You know the type-overinvolved in their kids life, think they know their child better than the educators, asking for things the system can't (won't) provide. We were those parents.

We are finishing up our third year of homeschooling. There are days when it has not been easy or enjoyable. Other days, it is as easy as breathing. Patrick is a different learner. I hestitate to use the label "special needs" because we are all different learners. He is a highly intelligent young man who loves learning. At least he does now. But Tourette's has brought him some difficulties-especially now with the hormones of pre-teens kicking in.

Tourette's is a neuro-biological disorder that causes both vocal and motor tics. Often times, learning difficulties co-exist with this condition. While in public school, Patrick had many labels on his IEP. More labels (diagnosis) get you more services. What we learned was that the more services we obtained for him the more it dampened his spirit and inhibited his learning.

We fought for 4 years with the school system and when we decided to homeschool I was scared to death. I dreamed of homeschool days where Tourette's wouldn't affect my son. Somehow with homeschooling the tics and learning difficulties would magically disappear and my son would thrive. He has thrived but Tourette's and learning disorders do not magically go away. It was a realization that I couldn't fix him...we thought he needed fixing as the public school led us to believe. Tourette's is not the swearing, head turning disorder that is characterized on TV. Some days, you can't tell Patrick has Tourette's, other days you wonder how he makes it thru the day with so many tics and vocal phrasing. Sometimes the spontaneous utterances make us laugh. Like when he shouts out, "I like pants."

So here is Patrick's story-as seen by his mom. Some of you have read parts of this before. It bears repeating. It is an important story. It is all the guts and glory that this magnificant child is.

Twitch and Shout
Turkey gobbles, flapping arms, monkey calls and foghorns. It’s not a place at the beach or on a farm. It’s not anywhere but my twelve year old son’s brain.

Six years ago, at the age of 6, Patrick was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, a Neurological disorder characterized by both vocal and motor tics. On a day to day basis we are never sure whether we will see hand licking, neck straining, monkey calls, whoops, hopping or just facial grimacing. The symptoms are wide and varied and it is important to remember that all of this is taking place in a child with above average intelligence.

Larry and I were familiar with Tourette's as a few family members were diagnosed with the disorder. However, what we had was no idea about the long and arduous journey before us. We had no idea about the learning disabilities that are associated with this disorder and while not every child has all of the co-morbidities associated with Tourettes, every Tourette’s child has at least one.

In the coming years, we heard terms like Visual-Motor Integration Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexic tendencies, poor memory recall, Dysgraphia, Executive Dysfunction and age seven, Patrick was also diagnosed with a seizure disorder.

I have been a Neurosurgical ICU nurse for many years and you would think that I would have a great understanding of these terms, but quite frankly, my husband and I were blindsided. Our son was incredibly intelligent, how could he possibly have all of these issues? The diagnosis and labels that were placed on him seemed incredibly cruel and not at all befitting to the child we knew.

Larry and I spent our allotted thirty seconds in denial and faced the reality that Patrick could not do this alone and it was up to us, as his Parents, to get him everything he needed to be a successful part of life.

The coming months seemed to blur into one large test. It tested our skills and commitment as parents and tested Patrick’s reserve to cope with an onslaught of assessments. We tried five different medications to help with the ADHD, focusing issues, control of his tics, and worsening seizure disorder. The side effects were many and Patrick was left with anger outbursts, crying spells, nausea, extreme tiredness and just a general feeling of not being himself. Many nights, I shared in those tears that he refused to show.

But these things are not who Patrick is. Patrick is a smart, lively, loving, humorous and the most empathetic child I’ve ever met. He has a strength that I’ve never seen in another human being. He notices small details in the world that others would miss, like the gold flecks in his friend Victoria’s eyes. He has never been cruel to another child as his heart has felt that pain.

There is no other word to describe this disorder but ridiculous. That’s it. It is a disorder that as soon as you figure it out-the symptoms change. The tics change and morph and what worked for you yesterday does not work today.

When it became apparent that Patrick was struggling with his class work in public school, we approached the school and asked for an evaluation. Patrick was tested by Educational Specialists, school Psychologists, Occupational Therapists and we met with the team afterward to discuss his “problems”. Patrick passed all of the tests with above average intelligence despite severe deficits in many areas. We were told that he does not qualify for any services because of his “cumulative” scores. We needed a diagnosis written on paper for him to qualify for services. The more diagnosis he had, the more help he could get.

The next nine months are spent fighting for services with the Special Education Department in my son’s school until he is finally deemed eligible for services. The school offered him minimal assistance, mostly a behavior plan, but at the time being new to the system, we didn’t know better. We agreed to the plan but questioned how a behavior plan could help a child who had no control over his behavior.

We assumed the school would make available exactly what he needed and provide ongoing assessment and adjustment of his Individualized Education Plan or IEP. The IEP is the paper they give you after services are awarded that tells you everything your child can’t do and what they are going to do to help him. It’s also supposed to contain what he can do and has achieved, but we found that information very sparse.

Over the next several years, my husband and I met with Tourettes experts throughout the state. We researched scads of information, devoured and dove into anything that even remotely relates to Patrick’s disorder. We came to understand not only about the disorder but why his brain functions (or doesn’t function) the way it does. We become experts and advocates on all things Tourettes. We learned to interpret the school testing scores and what they mean and are suddenly taken aback at the lack of help he is getting and how poorly he is doing academically.

Patrick had progressed into the fourth grade and settled into the school environment easily for the first time. He was happy and liked school and Larry and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Our elation soon turned to despair once again as more and more of his work received an “A” one day and an “F” the next. Patrick started with his usual mantra of “I don’t like school, I’m bored, I had a terrible day, The teachers don’t understand me, I’m ticcing so bad in school that I can’t focus on what the teacher is saying and when I ask for them to repeat it –they get mad. “

Larry and I have knots in our stomachs on a daily basis. Homework is a nightmare and rarely finished. Patrick would spend all day trying to suppress his tics and then come home only to explode for 3 hours straight of non-stop ticcing. His brain is exhausted from trying to concentrate, his muscle strength depleted from a body that is in constant motion. He is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, as are we.

His work and testing output had always been variable but he has not yet learned his multiplication facts, cannot “see” punctuation because of the visual processing disorder and is missing huge chunks of basic learning that the teachers and team seemed to either overlook or miss in the past few years. We stress to the team that despite high intelligence on his initial testing, his grades do not reflect his knowledge. Multiplication signs and addition signs look the same to him because of the dyslexia. Larry and I highlight the multiplication signs pink and the addition signs blue so that he can differentiate between the two. His teacher sends all of his work home for me to recopy and highlight instead of making the accommodation within the school.

We requested another IEP review meeting where we provided the school with three pages of modifications recommended by Patrick’s Doctors and gave them an index titled, “Modifications for the Child with Tourette Syndrome and ADHD” all 432 pages of it. We also supplied them with information on the free seminars that TSA provides to schools and the Medical/Allied Professionals within the community.

Larry and I are hesitant but pleased at the conclusion of the meeting. The team seemed receptive and assured us that the IEP would be rewritten. Indeed it was, but missing is the vast details of exactly how they are going to teach him and measure his progress on a daily basis.

Our anger cannot be measured and inside we are silently screaming. Larry and I sat in our family room that night….mostly silent, our words exhausted, not knowing where to turn.

We decided to call for a Mediator from the State Department of Education. Someone to help us, help the school understand about our son and develop an appropriate IEP. The school agreed to most of the modifications although they can’t understand why we chose mediation and they are defensive and confrontational during the meeting, as are we. They ask us what they are supposed to do with our child yet they offer no assistance in alternate programs to help Patrick learn. They have not contacted the TSA group, Patrick’s doctors, other school systems, an LD gifted instructor or other educators to find a program that will work for him.

Larry and I asked that Patrick be allowed to retest when it is apparent that he knows the material and poor grades are achieved. We are told it puts him at an unfair advantage over the other students. We also asked for an alternate grading method and were told “Well, He’s getting C’s, it’s not like he’s failing.”

We are told that sometimes it is best to leave the teaching up to the professionals who see our child six hours a day and know him best. We are told that including that much detail on an IEP is cumbersome and that the modifications that are already on the IEP are “umbrella statements” and cover a lot of things.

We tried to explain why timed testing is never a good idea for the child with Dysgraphia and poor memory recall. We are told that the other students will notice if Patrick is still working when the test is over. Consistently we are told that he will bring down the state average on NECAP testing. Indeed he does. Patrick failed both the Math and Reading section of state testing despite reading at an eighth grade level. During the meeting, we hear things like “We don’t want Patrick to become enabled by the modifications.”

“I do !” I scream at them. “I want my child to be enabled to do the things that other kids do with whatever he needs to accomplish it. I want to enable him to succeed in a way that works for him. It is our job as parents to enable our children, to equip them with skills and help and confidence to succeed in the world. Yes, I want to enable him.”

The burden of finding what learning method will work for our child is placed in our hands. From the comments in the room that day we realize that they do not understand Tourettes and it’s co-morbidities despite the vast amounts of information that was given to them. They do not understand my child.

Larry and I left the meeting quite somber and realized that we are no longer advocating for our son and his needs but are now left defending him and how he learns. We have been to 18 different meetings with the school and are still no closer to getting him what he needs. I stood in the parking lot of the school that day sobbing, as Larry tried to find words to comfort me. All he could do is was hold me until I stopped shaking.

That night we are once again enveloped in silence not even knowing where to begin this all too familiar conversation. We don’t talk about the meeting for many days. Patrick brings his work home from school and while he is not looking I throw it all out. The teacher places big red comments on the paper like, “Parent signature needed,” and “Were you listening today?” The red marks have taken over his learning and it is a poor reflection of what he knows. Even the papers that require a parent signature for failing grades get tossed. Our relationship with the school, SPED team, and teachers is now nonexistent. Looking back on what we went through, this was the turning point for our family. We were slowly shedding the public school from our life one paper at a time.

We knew that there had to be a better way for our family but we also knew we were in a precarious position. Both of my parents had passed away in a short eighteen month time frame, Patrick’s seizure disorder was worsening, my daughter survived three years in Patrick’s shadow of issues, and we had just learned that we were going to be parents again with the pending adoption of our third child.

I wanted my family back and the only decision left to make would be when we
would start to home educate our children, all of our children. Our family had been torn apart by the school system. They questioned our parenting, claimed to know our child better than we did as parents and treated our son as a diagnosis.

There was an overwhelming sense of peace after we decided to homeschool. I was scared to death to homeschool but more scared of what would happen to my child if left in the public school system. It is a decision that we waited far too long to make. Are we taking the easy way out by not holding the public school accountable? We don’t think so. We hold them accountable every day our child succeeds at home. Our path to homeschooling was not our first choice. We came here out of disappointment, we stay here for love. Our family has grown closer and my daughter no longer lives in the shadow of Patrick’s disorder. They are siblings and best friends because his issues do not matter at home.

Where are we today-nearly 4 years later? Patrick is now at grade level in Math and is a full grade ahead in most other subjects. Math still presents great difficulty for him because of his poor memory recall. Some days-we just have to put it away and try another day. He is finishing 7th grade and still struggles with his multiplication facts but he is learning them. He struggles with Math and some days can’t remember what he learned the day before and we must review everything all over again.

The Sciences facinate Patrick and he works at a high school level. Grammar is still difficult because of the visual processing portion. He can't "see" punctuation and his writing is often one long run on sentence. The computer and spellcheck has mostly solved that problem. He devours books and reads everything in sight. Perhaps that is where he gains his vast knowledge on so many things.

He is thriving and loving learning again. Mostly, he has learned to like himself and trust his own learning. His tics have diminished greatly because the anxiety of performing has been removed. Other days, the tics are quite bad and accomplishing anything is a feat in itself. It certainly hasn’t all been easy. The challenges don’t disappear when you decide to Homeschool but they are more manageable and you find creative ways of dealing with what doesn't work.

I do worry about what the future will bring for him. It may take him longer to accomplish his goals. It may not. I question if I am doing enough for him to help him thrive and survive in this world. Only time will tell. But at least we will be on the journey together.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making Meals from the Pantry

Every so often, the kids get tired of the same meals. I decided to change it up this week and try some vegetarian meals. I also didn't do any grocery shopping this week other than my produce so I had to snoop around the pantry and be creative. Last night for dinner I decided to make potato pancakes and carrot salad. I had 10 pounds of potatoes sitting on my counter so I was glad to use some of these up.
Potato Pancakes
5 pounds of grated potatoes (this fed our family of 5)
1/4 flour
2 eggs
salt and pepper
After grating the potatoes put them in a colander and press all of the water out. If you don't get the water out you will end up with potato soup and your pancakes will never brown. I put mine in cheese cloth and squeeze them out that way. They end up very dry with almost no water and that's what you want. Once the potatoes are dry, mix all of the above ingredients together with the potatoes. I use a 1/4 cup measure and pack the potatoes in and then plop them in the frying pan. It really helps them hold their shape better.

Cook in olive oil. They take 5-7 minutes to cook on each side.

Let them carmelize and brown nicely. The potatoes need to cook for a good amount of time. These are too pale and not quite ready.

Almost there...they should be very brown when you take them out of the pan.

Drain them on some paper towels and give a good sprinkle of salt.

The Carrot salad was delicious. Grate some carrots and the juice of one fresh lemon, 1/4 cup of olive oil and some fresh parsley. It was a wonderfully light dinner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quonset Air Museum Field Trip

We had a field trip to today to Quonset Air Museum in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

Let's take a moment to pay homage to our flag. It was huge.

The were so many restored planes and helicopters.
Tae and Morgan had a blast in the cockpits.

The warehouse where the planes were kept was very old.

Tae and Morgan getting eaten by the plane.

Patrick, Tae and Morgan explore the inside of one the huge helicopters.

Pilot Tae.

How cute.
If anyone has an abandoned plane they would like to get rid of, our kids would surely love to have one to play with in the backyard.
I have no idea what the names of all the planes were.

Can you say claustrophobic?

These were really cool. They are hand drawn flight plans. Basically the crew that was on a mission would fly over the area and draw what they saw. See the white out? We learned that they used the same map over and over and just erased the lines or painted over them to draw new maps or adjust the layout of the places they already visited. No computer coordinates and printouts back then.

Here's another one. It even shows the storms, clouds and bad weather that the crew ran into during their mission.

This is a picture of Charles Lindbergh Jr. who stopped at Quonset in 1927.

Some of the pilot space was so small. The seats were hard as a rock and I can't imagine flying for such a long time in these things.

I have no idea what this suit was for. I'm guessing it was fireproof. Tae said it was for space aliens and so wanted to bring it home.

We learned some history on the Wright Brothers.

Top right is Orville and bottom left is Wilber Wright. I love the old pictures of them.

Tae's imagination ran wild today. Here he is jumping out of the plane with his homemade parachute (coat). He so loved the controls on all the planes. Who knows-maybe he won't be a weatherman......maybe I see a pilot in his future. I think we have a few years to decide.