Friday, November 27, 2009

Odds and Ends

It is Thanksgiving week. I'm always in awe at how much work needs to be done. We spent the holiday at my Husband's Brothers house so no turkey cooking for me. There was still plenty to do around the house. The kids had an easy week for homeschool. Patrick took a math test and aced it. We are so proud of him as math is not an easy subject for him.
This week I tried my hand at making some homemade crockpot yogurt. It is much thinner than regular store bought yogurt but tastes so much better. I leave the yogurt plain and we've using it to make fruit smoothies in the morning with bananas.
It's also a huge money saver if your kids like yogurt. One quart of milk makes about 6 pints of yogurt and that's about a week in our house.

I made some homemade bread to go with a Blackbean vegetable soup.
Another money saver in baking your own bread.

I found a great recipe for some Gingerbread Pumpkin muffins.
They were picture perfect and made a great breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.
I don't know what I would do without my Kitchen aid mixer.
See? Don't they look gorgeous?
If I had planned ahead I would have made some cream cheese frosting.
Maybe next time. This recipe is a keeper.
I pulled all the ingredients from the pantry and used some pumpkin puree that I received from my friend Amy. It makes the whole house smell so good.
The vultures (my children) were swarming around these.

And for Thanksgiving I had to make an appetizer.
My friend Kayrn gave me a savory recipe of Dates stuffed with goat cheese, almonds and wrapped in bacon. Then they are drizzled with a Balsamic, maple, fig reduction and baked. They were so delicious and everyone loved them.
I also brought my sister a dozen fresh eggs from our chickens.
Hot and steamy right out of the oven.

Morgan helped Tae make a feather headband for Thanksgiving.

The mayhem of arts and crafts.

Tae decided to use masking tape instead of staples.
He says the staples dig into his head.
This week we learned about the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving.
We didn't get to make our homemade cranberry sauce though.
Maybe this week as a treat.
Lots of cutting and taping.

We took a break and made a blueberry smoothie with the homemade yogurt.
Delicious!

Dixie our evil cat slept on the shelf in the scrap paper basket.

Ummmmmm-this is Morgan.
I have no idea.

Oh and I visited my friend Amy who gave me some really yummy pumpkin puree from her homegrown pumpkins and some jarred autumn olive jam.
I gave her some homemade applesauce.
She also gave me some lessons on goat care. Here are her two very cute goats named Summer and Snowy. Guess which one is Snowy?
Goats looking for treats.

Goats looking for some attention in their play yard.
Amy taught me about their worming schedule and how to trim their hoofs.
The goats were so cute but they nibble on everything in their path.
Shoe strings, coat sleeves, hair.
Absolutely adorable. Then I checked out her ducks and chickens.
She has quite the little farm going.
It was a very full week with lots of time with friends and family.
Happy Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Happenings This Week

I thought I would share some random pictures from this week's activities.

Patrick is studying the heart and circulatory system.

He drew this awesome picture of the heart.

Today we were blessed with 9 eggs from 10 laying hens. Awesome.

The girls are laying very well. We've had 24 eggs in 3 days.

Morgan made purple spaghetti.

I have been stock piling our cabinets again. This is my pantry all organized.

Another cabinet that was reorganized and restocked.

Our homeschool group met and made these really cool turkeys.

Love the Turkey toupee'.

So much cutting and gluing and pasting.

This says, "Star nose mole lion giraffe."

Morgan is studying genetic traits.

This is the animal she came up with if she crossed 3 different species.

Totally a star nose mole lion giraffe.

Tae made a "to do" list. It says, "sleep in Morgan's room, hide in the attic (with) dad. He wrote this all by himself. My aspiring Kindergartener!

Tae worked on his first grade math book. He blasted through his Kindergarten math in about 12 weeks. We love the counting bears for helping with Math.

How was your week?


Friday, November 13, 2009

More Home Organizing

I've been working on a huge project for church so for the past several months I've let a lot of things slip. My organizing has been next to nothing and I've just recently regained control of my grocery budget. Groceries are one of our biggest expenses and it was really bothering me how much I was spending on incidental trips to the grocery store.
This week I decided to regain some order. When my house is not organized it makes me feel very out of control. I was having difficulty finding our homeschool materials, my office/classroom was a mess and my kitchen looked like a tornado hit. It doesn't make for a very efficient lifestyle if I can't find anything I need or have to move a mess to get to something.

This is one of the best purchases I ever made. I originally saw these at the teacher's store for $14.00 but decided that was too pricey. I went to target and found this carryall in the cleaning aisle for just $3.00. I like the curved 8 inside compartments because they fit plastic cups just perfectly. This carryall sits on our homeschool desk so that we can reach everything we need. It also cleared out a huge amount of space out of my filing cabinet.

In our carryall we have gluesticks, scotch tape, scissors-both adult and kid, glue, calculators, rulers, masking tape, sharpie markers, dry erase markers, pencils, a notepad and coloring markers. The best part is that we can carry it to another part of the house if we need it.

My household management book has been sitting on my kitchen counter unused for months now. I purged and cleaned this out and really took a look at what I use and don't use. All of my homeschool information I moved to a separate binder and put that in my office since that is where all things homeschool are. Some sections just did not work. I printed a calendar section-all 12 months- that I never used. We have a dry erase calendar in our kitchen and I have my personal planner so printing out extra calendars for the binder was both a waste of time and ink.
I need to personalize the cover a bit more. This came from:
Here is what works for my. In the very front of the binder I have a ziploc baggie that contains a ruler, scotch tape, an eraser, stamps, address labels, pen, pencil and dry erase markers.
At least now I'm not fumbling through my junk drawer looking for stamps. I use the address labels on all sorts fo things. If I lend a book to friend I throw an address label on the inside cover so that the borrower knows who to return it to. The address labels also work great on the bottom of dishes when you make a meal for someone. When your host washes it they know exactly who to return the dish to.

Another page I use frequently is the Kitchen Conversion Cheat Sheet that I got from the Homeschool Planner. It really helps when I'm cooking large meals and have to double or triple the recipe. It also has some past time measurements on this so I can use my grandmother's recipes again. She has things like "a jigger" or "a peck" of onions. Good to know I have this and can recreate some of her old time recipes.

I have a section for emergency contacts like the hospital, local ambulance and there are numbers of doctors that we may visit a little less frequently.

I have just started to use this Pantry/Freezer Inventory section again. I have let my stock piling and pantry supplies get very low and have not kept good track of them. You can't do good meal planning or cost effective shopping if you don't know what is in your pantry and freezer.
This section also has several blank grocery list pages and a maximum price listing page. The maximum price listing page comes in very handy when shopping. I also keep a listing of the minimum prices I've seen. So for something like tuna-maximum price I've seen around here is about $1.69 a can with a sale price of about $1.00 each. The weeks it's listed for $1.69 are the weeks we don't buy tuna. Buy it on sale when it's 10/$10. That's a saving of $6.90! You can't know what a bargain is if you don't know what the average prices are. Also watch out for "sales" that say 2/$5. The stores like to try this one a lot. If tacos are normally $2.50 a box then a "sale" price of 2/$5 isn't really a sale. It's a gimmick to get you to buy more items.

I will be using this section more too. A lot of people make the mistake of looking through recipe books and planning meals that way. The key to savings is to do your grocery shopping, stock piling using coupons and sale items and then creating your meal plan from what is in your pantry and freezer. Right after Thanksgiving, Turkeys will be on sale at rock bottom prices along with all the Thanksgiving trimmings. Look for sales on pie crusts, produce (potatoes, celery, carrots, yams, apples, mushrooms, cranberries) stuffing, broths and pie fillings.
The stores tend to overstock these items and need to move them fast after the holidays. I will stock up on many of these items and use coupons to further reduce the cost. From the turkey we can have a roast turkey dinner (who doesn't love Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches?), I can freeze the rest of the turkey for another meal and use the carcass to make at least 6 quarts of broth to freeze and to use at a later time.
The extra produce can be frozen for other meals. I like hitting the BOGO sales on potatoes. I can cook up the potatoes, cube them, freeze and thaw when I need them for mashed potatoes or the topping for Shepherd's Pie. Extra mushrooms and apples I can dehydrate for a later use in soups or stews. Cranberries freeze really well. Stuffing has a very long pantry shelf life and so does the canned pie fillings and broths.

My Gardening section was probably used the most this past year even though my garden was a total loss due to blight. I had drawings of my garden plans, seeds I wanted to plant, some articles of new crops I want to try and a listing of companion plants.
One section I didn't show was my Cleaning Recipes. It has all of my natural cleaning recipes like the laundry detergent, all purpose cleaners, window cleaners and a few others.

There is also this listing that tells when it is safe to put plants in the ground.
This chart came from www.yougrowgirl.com

My Recipe section is the most used. This is only for very frequently used recipes like my bread and muffins, Vegetarian Enchilasagna and Shepherd's Pie. There are several others but it's not for every recipe you have just the most frequently used ones. I've further broken down the Recipe section into drinks, appetizers, breakfast, main dishes and desserts.

The Master list section has things like current clothing and shoe sizes (I keep a smaller version of this in my pocket book so that I always have the information at hand). It also has a listing of birthdays and anniversaries, information about the chemicals for our pool, service listings of our boiler and maintainance repairs of appliances.
In the coming weeks I need to organize our homeschool curriculum books. We order books for the coming year usually in February or March but since the kids are coming up in grades we can reuse a lot of them. I really need to sort the books by grade so that I can easily find them. We are hoping that the only books we'll need to purchase for next years homeschool are my GULP! highschoolers books. Patrick will be starting 9th grade next year, Morgan will use all of Patrick's previous 6th grade books and Tae will just need his Reading and Math book (that is consumable for first grade). I am anxious to get started.
Keeping costs low and staying organized take a lot of work but the more you get used to it the more effeciently everything works.
How is your organizing coming along?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Letter Mm

I'm wondering how other people do it. Life I guess. This past week I was very overwhelmed with homeschooling three kids, managing my home and all of the other life events. Months back I started a household manual to help me stay organized and a homeschool filing system. I've barely used either. I need to get back on track with my groceries and spending too. Somedays it's just harder than others.
This week we covered the letter Mm.
Tae worked on his word wall words. He had Many Mm words this week. Many of them he is recognizing but now he's starting to sound words out.
It's really neat to see his brain working and processing the information.
We also started making letter file folders. He can look through magazines and cut out letter for beginning sounds or just draw the pictures.
These people shapes came from Lakeshore Learning.
They come in all colors and Tae had fun making a "me" person.

His "me" person has mittens.

And stayed at the table while he colored the letter Mm.
And ate dinner with us too.
We learned Mary had a little Lamb and Mary, Mary Quite Contrary for Nursery Rhymes and our two months that begin with Mm-March and May. And of course Monday!
I've been using some printable mini books from www.dltk.com . They have some great books for the kids. Each letter has a different book and we read it every day with Tae.
Starfall www.starfall.com also has a great computer game for the kids. Their printable mini-books reinforce the computer lesson. There is so much good stuff online now for curriculum choices and things to supplement their learning.

The art project this week was making Macaroni necklaces.
I took several cool shapes of macaroni and put them in bowls.
I added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to each bowl along with food coloring.
Each bowl needed about 10 drops of coloring to get really vibrant colors.
Stir everything up so that it's well mixed.
All of the Macaroni needs to be wet with vinegar and color.

We used green, red and blue.
Let the Macaroni sit in the liquid for 30 minutes.

Ditalini pasta works well for little hands.

Then we drain off the vinegar and dry the Macaroni on a big cookie sheet covered in towels. Keep blotting to get extra moisture off. The Macaroni will take at least a day to dry.
You can speed the process by drying in a microwave if you want.

After we finished beading the Macaroni, Morgan and Tae made more people figures and created a home for them. I wonder if the people will fold the two loads of laundry so eloquently displayed in the background. One can only hope.

We keep all of our work on this cork board. The mini-books are placed here so that everything is in one spot. On Sundays when I do lesson plans, Tae likes to sneak in to see what letter and other fun stuff we covering.
What do you for Kindergarten?