Friday, April 12, 2013

Boy in the Kitchen

David woke up while I was in the midst of my morning quiet time a couple of days ago.  Rob and I had already eaten breakfast together earlier that morning (quiche and a nonfat latte for me, cinnamon roll and mocha for the hubs from 929 Coffee Bar --the best coffee shop in town!), so I thought that it would be good for David to prepare something for himself and Aidan to eat. This would allow me to finish reading my Bible. :)

David was not interested in the options of oatmeal or scrambled eggs and toast (two things he knows how to make and prepares semi-regularly).  His lack of interest in making scrambled eggs could have resulted in the fact that he nearly caught my oven mitt on fire the day before when he forgot to turn off the gas burner before dumping the eggs onto his and Aidan's plates...that's only a guess though.  ;) His disdain for oatmeal probably stems from the fact that he tells me (all. the. time.) that he likes my oatmeal much better than his own. He really wanted apple puff pancake, but hasn't learned how to thinly slice apples yet.  Plus, the cast iron skillet we use for apple puff pancakes is full of canola oil from our homeschool cooking lesson the night before--Indian Fry Bread. After much pondering on his part, I saw him grab Hasty Pudding, Johnnycakes, and Other Good Stuff: Cooking in Colonial America.

 He told me that he was planning to make johnnycakes using the recipe from this book.  Then he proceeded to get out all of the ingredients and got to work.  My instruction was to use the griddle instead of my tortilla pan since I figured the surface would be easier to work on for my budding chef. David put everything together and only needed assistance pouring the batter for the first johnnycake.
David - waiting patiently for his johnnycakes to be ready to flip.
 He was so pleased with how they turned out, and with the fact that he read the recipe and made them all by himself. I love seeing him so happy with his accomplishment.  He had an idea, set out and followed through until he completed it.  True, his johnnycakes may not look as nice as if I had made them, but they still were good to eat.  My kitchen may have looked like a bomb blew up in it.  However, by allowing him to try, I was able to see the most awesome smile light up my 11-year-old's face. This mama is realizing that she needs to let go more often in the kitchen.  She needs to relax, let go of control and let them go and learn and grow.  Yes, the kitchen will be a disaster zone.  Yes, there will be many questions asked, and not every attempt will end up as a glowing success. But in the end, as the mama, I need to let them try.
Aidan kept Quincy occupied so David could cook in peace.
Now, to begin teaching and implementing kitchen clean-up skills! ;)

Making Cascarones - a Tutorial of Sorts.

Friends in the Rio Grande Valley introduced us to the Easter tradition of cascarones during the years we lived there.  This Pacific Northwest girl had no clue what these were when friends first told us about them. However, after our first hunt and ensuing "battle," we were hooked and wondered how we missed out on such an awesome and FUN tradition to celebrate Resurrection Sunday! 

Fast forward to last year--our first Resurrection Sunday living in the Hospitality State. The boys, Rob and I all missed having cascarones as part of our celebration. One cannot drive around Starkville to look for people selling boxes of these confetti-filled eggs like he or she could while living in the RGV. Truthfully, they are unknown around these parts. We had friends from out of town just before Easter, and I was in the midst of planning the International Fair for our local homeschool group, so I did not have time to sit down and make them.  So sad. :( The boys periodically mentioned to me (hinting, begging...) the idea of making our own cascarones this year. At one point in time, David even brought me the instructions he found in one of their Boys Life magazines!  Yes, this mama got the hint. I have written out the instructions of how we made these with the photographs below. 

First, you need to have empty egg shells. If you are planning to make quantities in the hundreds and have the storage space, plan to save egg shells throughout the year. However, we live in a fairly small house, and the egg cartons housing the empty shells took up residence on top of my washing machine (which lives in my kitchen). Crack the bottoms of the eggs and peel the shell off.  You don't want your holes to be too big because they are a bit more difficult to cover over later, but you also want to be sure that they aren't so small that you cannot get the egg out.  After you crack the egg, use your finger or a butter knife to break up the yolk so it will come out more easily.  Or, if you are more of the patient sort like myself, you can gently shake the egg until all of the contents come out into your bowl.  

Once you have your empty egg shell, rinse it out thoroughly (this is crucial--you don't want your eggs smelling up your house!).  I put a drop or two of dish soap into the egg shell, add hot water, shake it around and rinse well.  Then, I set them with the open sides down onto a folded paper towel to dry.  Once the egg shells are dry, place them (gently!) in a bowl, basket or in empty egg cartons until you are ready to use them. 

The empty egg shells are symbols of Christ's empty tomb on Resurrection Sunday.  The shells themselves also symbolize new life--just like the new life we have when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. 

Now the fun begins.  Dying the egg shells.  You could also paint them, but we made almost 100, and dying them seemed to be the best way to ensure less breaking of the egg shells with my over zealous helpers! :)  David is very excited about the color of his egg.

For the dye, we just followed the directions on the back of the PAAS (sp?) egg coloring kits for the vibrant colored eggs.  A few of my friends pinned directions on how to use Kool-Aid to color eggs onto their Pinterest boards.  I had one packet of cherry Kool-Aid left, so we mixed that with 2/3 cup very warm water and added it to the mix.  The Kool-Aid tended to color the eggs a little bit faster, and the red was very vibrant.  We are interested in trying other Kool-Aid flavors next year.

 Aidan wanted to color eggs red because red symbolizes the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins. :) I love how he embraced that symbolism.

Ahem - please excuse the disorganized artwork and .22 targets from 4-H hanging on my fridge in the background. The fridge has become the boys' art and show-and-tell gallery. Oh, and that tired-eye look Aidan is sporting? The pollen that is currently floating through the air turning everything green outdoors is making each individual in this household miserable from allergies. :(

 Here are the boys in the midst of their egg-coloring operation.

 Once the eggs have been colored, allow them to sit and dry completely, the open side facing down.  Having the insides dry before moving onto the next step is very important!

Now that your eggs are colored and are dry, it is time to fill them!  My amazing husband drove all over town looking for confetti; however, there is none to be had in Starkville.  Had we been willing to drive to Columbus, Jackson, Tupelo or Tuscaloosa we might have been able to find some to buy, but since we were pinched for time (and were NOT going to drive out of our way for confetti), we used paper Easter grass instead.  Rob and I cut the Easter grass into small pieces so it was more confetti-like, then we set up an assembly line around the "island" to fill them.  Each of my guys was assigned a color, and they passed the egg shells around until some of each color of confetti was placed inside.  I was standing at my post cutting more confetti.  (The blister on my thumb is almost healed now!)

Once the eggs have been filled, you will need tissue paper squares.  Any color will work (we chose purple to represent the royalty of Christ). You also need Q-tips, Elmer's School Glue and a paper plate or paper towel.  Put a puddle of glue onto the plate or paper towel, and dip one end of your Q-tip into the glue.  Spread the glue around the edge of the hole in the filled egg and place your tissue paper square over the hole.  Add more glue, if needed to help hold the tissue paper in place.  Put the egg, tissue paper side facing up into the egg carton and continue this process until you have finished covering the holes in all of your eggs.

 Once they are dry, the eggs are ready to be hidden and hunted for.  Once the eggs are found, break them on your children, parents, friends, etc. The confetti inside is a great reminder of the celebration and hope we have of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ.

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures." 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NKJV)

"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Family Movie Night Fun

Maybe I'm using the word "fun" a little bit loosely here with regard to last night's Family Movie Night. :)  I live in a house where testosterone runs rampant.  This mama can only take so much of The Avengers, superhero movies, war flicks, etc.--those things that the male members (who outnumber me 4:1 now that we have a puppy) of my household enjoy thoroughly.  So, when it is my turn to pick the movie, I tend to throw them a curveball.  The 11-year-old member of my household usually says, "Please, no movies with love." or "This better not have any mushy stuff in it." The almost 9-year-old is not quite as opposed to movies with those types of themes as his elder brother.

Last night's movie choice was the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I think the last time I watched this was when I was either ten or eleven and was staying with my grandparents. Needless to say, it has been awhile since I have seen it.  Oh my, how I enjoyed watching it last night though! :)  Here are a few comments that I heard throughout the evening (or things that elicited laughter).

"I really DON'T like musicals. They sing, like, every-other-word!" said the 11-year-old. The irony in this statement is the fact that he sings nearly every-other word out of his mouth! Living with him is like being a part of a living musical.

"Aidan seems to like [the movie]." I said as my little man was snuggled up next to me on the couch.

"Of course Aidan likes it.  There's dancing.  He likes anything with dancing, some fighting and a little romance." explains the 11-year-old in his matter-of-fact manner.  Said comment elicits much laughter from his parents.  Aidan just smiles.

Millie, one of the characters in the movie, tells her six unmarried brothers-in-law things to say to the girl they are wanting to court.  One of the things she said is to call her "My Precious." This comment brought out a loud guffaw from the couch.  Rob and I look at each other and commented how David would probably use that very phrase with the girl he courts someday.  Then David laughingly says, "Hey! Gollum would have NO problems courting!" I should probably mention that we recently watched The Hobbit, and that David has a bit of an obsession with Gollum--to the point that he calls all of us or anything of his current desire "my precious."

I'm happy that my guys humored the lone female of the house with watching this musical.  Seeing it again brought me so much joy.  I think that they all enjoyed it too.  At the very least, we made fun memories! :)

Monday, April 01, 2013

Potatoes Romanoff

I offered to take a potato dish out to our friends' Resurrection Day celebration and potluck yesterday afternoon.  After pondering my options for nearly 30 minutes, I decided to make something that has been one of my favorite comfort food side dishes since high school days (one that was an Almira Community Church potluck staple around that time). Potatoes, sour cream, cheese and green onions--can you go wrong with any of those ingredients?

Here is the ingredient list and recipe instructions with my modifications:

8 medium potatoes (boiled in salted water with jackets on--I baked them this time around)
2 c. sour cream
8 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts!)
2-1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese (I probably used at least 3 c.--cheese is good!)
1 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. pepper (depending upon your preference--I tend to err on the side of more)

Remove jackets/peels from potatoes and shred them with a cheese grater.  Combine potatoes, sour cream, onions, 2/3 cheese, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Place mixture in a greased 9"x13" pan. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and paprika.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes.

You can make this dish ahead and refrigerate overnight.  If you do this, you will need to bake the potatoes for 60 minutes.  We would often "cheat" with the potatoes when preparing this dish while I still lived at home and would use store-bought frozen hashbrown potatoes.  The frozen potatoes do work well; however, you need to bake the dish for at least 60 minutes. In my experience, fresh grated potatoes tend to absorb the flavors of the sour cream, onion and cheese more readily.  This dish can't be beat whatever way you choose to make it though. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Family Vacation (Field Trip) to Virginia's Historic Triangle - photo heavy post

(Catch - up post and follow-up to our American History studies part 1 post)

December 2012 - our family made the trek to Williamsburg, Virginia to spend a week vacationing and touring the historic triangle of Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown.  Our final day was spent touring George Washington's Mount Vernon. This was a perfect way to end our studies on the American Revolution.  Seeing things through new eyes, and then also witnessing the light of understanding turn on for the boys was incredible.  :) I feel so fortunate to have the privilege to homeschool my children, and then to be able to take trips such as this one where we could help make learning come to life.  
Watching the cooper in Colonial Williamsburg
David and Aidan enjoyed getting to drill as new recruits in the Virginia militia.

The boys' senior officer - teaching the steps for preparing an 18th century firearm

David and Aidan were allowed to help out in the kitchen at the Powell House in Colonial Williamsburg.

More helping out in the kitchen at the Powell House

Having a race with the wooden hoop in the courtyard area at the Powell House in Colonial Williamsburg

David wanted me to take a picture of the powder kegs in the magazine at Colonial Williamsburg

The boys had to spend some time in the stocks for poor behavior ;) (just teasing!)

Aidan was learning how to play battledore and shuttlecock 

The back of the Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg - I was very excited to get to tour the palace on this trip!

Our family out in front of the Governor's Palace

This was one happy 10-year-old at the Yorktown National Battlefield - he wanted his photograph taken with almost every piece of field artillery we came across!

Fog hanging lightly over the field at Yorktown 

That musket was HEAVY! I think that my purse accessorizes it nicely though. :)

All 3 of my guys were part of the gun crew at the Yorktown Victory Center - each one learned their role and did a practice run or two before they actually fired the piece.

Another one of the gun crew--very fun!

The glassblowers between the old Jamestowne Settlement and the new Jamestown Settlement and visitors center. The boys loved watching the artisans at work. David said that he would consider apprenticing as a glassblower, a blacksmith or as a gunsmith. I think it has something to do with the fact that they all work with fire.

Boys wearing 17th century style armor at the Jamestown Settlement

David and Aidan - holding Pocahontas' hands at Jamestown

The boys with one of our interpreters at the Jamestown Settlement

David and Aidan on the replica of the Susan Constant

The Susan Constant (from the dock) 
Mount Vernon

The Christmas camel at Mount Vernon
Aidan led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and David read George Washington's prayer for our country during the wreathlaying ceremony at George Washington's tomb

The boys after they did the wreath laying ceremony at George Washington's tomb (the wreath is one they made with some of their friends in their Cub Scout pack here in MS - it traveled all the way to VA with no mishaps!)
The magnolia, holly and evergreen shrub wreath positioned between Martha and George Washington's sarcophagi 

 Overall, this was a very fun, albeit exhausting trip. My head hurt at times from all of the information I was learning.  :) Colonial Williamsburg and the Yorktown Battlefield were probably my 2 favorite stops on this particular trip, although I did truly enjoy it all. I think I can honestly say that the others enjoyed this trip as well.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Studying American History (part 1)

American Revolution Lapbook Cover
This month marks our 2-year anniversary of delving into American history for our homeschool.  Yes, you read that correctly--2 YEARS! What we started out with in Sonlight Core 3 (now called Core D) stretched into unit studies on Native Americans, Aztecs/Incas/Mayas, and early colonial history, namely Jamestown and Plymouth.  I should have some grace on myself for having taken a year to get to Jamestown and Plymouth--we did move from deep south Texas to north central Mississippi during this time which brought so many adjustments (first preparing our home to go on the market and be sold, packing and moving, adjustments to living in a new town, trying to establish a new routine, adjustments to living in a new house with all of the unpacking and settling that needed to get the gist!). The boys and I really seemed to start hitting a rhythm last fall when we were in the thick of the American Revolution, but I digress. :)
Aidan holding his 3-D model of the Jamestown Settlement
David holding his 3-D model of the Jamestown Settlement

While we were studying the Jamestown settlement and Pocahontas last spring, I stumbled across the Time Travelers History Study Series by Homeschool in the Woods Publishing. Oh my, I was in heaven!  Seriously, it was love at first sight. [sigh] :) Here was something that corresponded to our Sonlight studies that included projects.  The materials were so thoughtfully put together and beautifully done that I took the plunge and purchased the American Revolution CD.  The boys and I all love Sonlight; however, I find that I'm constantly scouring the Internet for project ideas to enrich our studies, so my discovery of Homeschool in the Woods was truly a blessing!

We took the first part of our studies fairly slowly, reading various stories about Jamestown, Plymouth and then the French and Indian War. We also spent a lot of time in Boston reading about the initial conflicts that occurred there, and read quite a few biographies and other stories about Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, The Boston Tea Party, John Hancock, etc. During this time, Homeschool Freebie of the Day offered two vintage radio programs about Paul Revere as a MP3 download.  The boys and I all enjoyed listening to those programs while discussing the events that were transpiring in the stories. 

The boys and I were still in Boston on October 19.  Yes, that would be just over 6 months after we "arrived" there in our studies.  You can now see that we do take things a little slow.  By this time, Rob and I knew that we wanted to take a family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia during Christmas break, so the push was on to get through the rest of the American Revolution unit before December 12. I created lesson plans (I will write a post about this process soon, especially since I will be going through the process again for post Civil War-WWII within the next month or two) to hold myself accountable, and so the boys could see what to expect each day.  The lesson plans also included books I needed to check out from the library, which was really helpful to keep myself organized! I think I can honestly speak for all three of us when I say that we really enjoyed studying this era in American history.  I know that I learned more about the history of my country going through this unit than I did in all my years of formal schooling (this includes college American history!). That being said, I am still thankful for my teachers and professors who invested their time, insight and passion when teaching me. Some of the information they shared in their classes ended up getting shared with David and Aidan. 

Below are a few photos of projects and one of the games we did while working through this unit, courtesy of Homeschool in the Woods. You might be thinking, "Did they ever finish studying the American Revolution?" Yes, we January 2013 when we wrapped things up with the writing of the Constitution and our Bill of Rights. We are now in the midst of the early 19th century. More to come on that later! 

The boys playing "Taxation Frustration"
Close-up view of the "Taxation Frustration" game - Aidan had the BEST quotes when we played this game! Let's just say that he was not overly fond of Parliament by the time this game was finished. ;)
Aidan posing with his haversack he helped make.
David - hand sewing the buttonhole on his canvas haversack he made when we studied the soldiers of the American Revolution.
Winter at Valley Forge dioramas

Inside view of the lapbook (sorry about not rotating the photo) 
Another inside view of the lapbook.
American flag "floorcloth" placemats--this might be my favorite project, even if David almost stitched over my fingers when sewing the hem on his!