Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 7/26/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Yes, yes, I know today is Tuesday.There's just been some extra things - good things - going on lately that haven't left me much time to post. So, without further ado, let's Smile!

1. Jake, during a discussion about the 5 senses: "You know what else you can smell? Trouble."

2. I wasn't supposed to look in the living room as Zac was making me a present out of Legos. He walked into the kitchen and dropped his creation on the floor, breaking it into pieces. As he was reassembling it, he told me, "If you look at me, you just need to close your eyes. If you want to say 'I love you' to me, you just need to say it and close your eyes."

3. Me: "What's 6+1?"
Alyssa: "7."
Me: What's 5+2?"
Alyssa: "7."
Me: What's 0+7?"
Alyssa: "7!"
Me: What's 4+3?"
Alyssa: "7!"
Me: "What's 2+5?"
Alyssa: "7!"
Me: "What's 94+7?"
Alyssa: "7!"

4. How I found Tyler after his nap:

5.  Zac, standing behind the pantry door: "Mommy, you go try to find me in the living room."

6. Me: "Zac, did you start the dishwasher?"
Zac, hesitantly: "Um . . . I think it was Alyssa's keys."
Me: "And were you holding Alyssa's keys?"
Zac: "Yes."

7. Jake woke up and organized his sock and underwear drawer, just because he wanted to.

8.  Alyssa, looking at a globe: "I'm looking for Earth."
Me: "The whole thing is Earth."
Alyssa: "But I'm trying to find the planet where we live."
Leighton: "The whole globe is the planet. Are you trying to find our country?"
Alyssa: "Yeah!"
Jake, pointing: "It's right here."
Zac: "I'll find where Tyler lives. Tyland!"
Me: "Thailand is a real country."
Zac: "Yeah, it's where you tie yourself up."

9. Jake: "If my arm gets cut off, can I get a robot arm?"

10. Jake, about something that had happened a couple hours earlier: "I remember it like it was yesterday."

What made you smile this week?

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Buttermilk Biscuits

Big, warm, soft buttermilk biscuits.

Eat them in the morning, slathered in gravy or eat them in the evening, alongside fried chicken.

They're pretty much perfect.

We used to buy the refrigerated biscuits in the blue can all the time. They were convenient, easy, and pretty good.

But then, years ago, I started making my own.

And I've never looked back.

Making homemade biscuits may not be as convenient as pulling a tube out of the fridge, unraveling the wrapper, whacking it on the counter, and placing the dough on a cookie sheet . . . but it's pretty close.

I toss the ingredients in my food processor, mix it up, plop it onto a cookie sheet, flatten it a little with my hands, and cut out the biscuits. Start to finish, it takes me about 5 minutes to whip up the very best biscuits. Ever.

The hardest part about it???

Trying to keep my little ones from gobbling them all up!

  • I never buy buttermilk. I measure about 1 cup of whole milk and mix in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar (or lemon juice) and leave it. After I add the other ingredients to the processor, the milk has curdled nicely, and I stir it and add it, as well.
  • I love my Silpat mats and use them whenever I can. I plop the dough onto a mat, cut out the biscuits, and bake them right on the mat. There is no need to use extra flour. There is no mess. The food bakes evenly.
  • Most recipes using buttermilk will include baking soda because of the acidity. I have added the baking soda to this recipe and have made different recipes altogether. The biscuits do not rise as well and are not as fluffy, in my opinion. 
  • These turn out well using whole milk in place of the buttermilk.
  • I almost always use butter-flavored shortening. It produces a rich, flavorful biscuit.
  • I have used half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. They turn out well, but as with any whole wheat recipe, the biscuits are a little denser and not as fluffy. I highly recommend using all all-purpose.
  • If the dough is too wet, add 1 teaspoon flour; if it's too dry, add 1 teaspoon water or milk. I like it a little on the sticky side. Too much flour will make the biscuits tough. If the dough sticks to my metal biscuits cutter, I shake it to get it out. I always have some residual dough on my hands when I am finished.   
  • As with any dough, you do not want to over-work it. I run my food processor long enough only to combine the ingredients. After I dump it out, I pat it a few times to get it to the thickness I desire. 
  • You can cut the biscuits any size. I use my 2½" or 3" (shown here) cutters. You'll know when they're done when the edges start to brown. I rarely use the timer when I make breads. I tend to just bake until my eyes tell me it's done.
  • If you rub a stick of butter on the tops when they come out of the oven, they will taste like KFC's biscuits, but better.
  • The biscuits start to separate across the middle. It makes it easy to pull the halves apart and add butter, jam, or gravy. Or, if you're like my hubby, you can eat them plain. (But why would you want to do that?)

Buttermilk Biscuits
2 c  flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/3 c shortening
1 c buttermilk

1. Place all ingredients in food processor, fitted with dough blade, and mix until dough pulls away from the sides.
2. Turn out onto a baking mat, or floured surface, and pat dough out to about 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used.
3. Bake on the baking mat or an ungreased cookie sheet at 400°F for 13 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown.
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 7/19/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Monday! (Yes, those two words can go together, ha.) This past week was crazy busy as we prepared for a yard sale on Saturday. We had way too much stuff. Waaay too much. The morning was very busy as there were people here constantly, but the afternoon was quite slow. A lot of people commented that it was the most organized yard sale they had ever seen. We had signs labeling everything. Big surprise, huh? I didn't have one person ask how much something cost or where to find a certain size. We sold a lot, but still have a ton of stuff left. We're going to have another sale later this season. Thankfully, most of the work is already done!

Ok, ready to Smile?

1. Somehow, I forgot to mention this last week . . . Tyler is completely infection free again!

2. Alyssa, while wearing a water mask in the house: "You look funny!"
Me: "I look funny?"

3. Me: "What kind of granola bar would you like?"
Zac: "Mushroom."
Me, confused: ". . . S'more?"
Zac: "Yeah!"

4. Me, pulling a green pepper out of the fridge: "Oh, no, it's wrinkly."
Alyssa: "You can iron it on the ironing board."

5. Alyssa, snotty: "You're a t-o-p-n."
Jake: "Do you even know what that spells?"
Alyssa: "No."

6. Zac, about the grilled cheese sandwiches: "May I have the cheese one?"

7. Alyssa, about the grilled cheese sandwiches, because Jake doesn't like cheese on most things: "Did you put cheese on Jake's?"

8. Zac, because I set out a plate of veggies: "Cool!"

9. Jake, trying to get out of eating the rest of his dinner: "But I ate one half and two quarters."
Me: "So, you ate it all?"
Jake, thinking: ". . . Oh. No." {finishes eating it all}

10. Zac: "Were you a kid when you were little?"

11. Zac: "Mommy, you're my sweet girl."

12. Alyssa, while packing to stay at my parents': "I think I'm going to need a bigger bag. This one's going to explode soon."

13. Zac, pointing to a picture "Do you know who this is?"
Me: "That's my papa; he's my grandpa."
Zac: "No. It's Papa's dad."
Me: "Yes, Papa's dad is my grandpa."
Zac: "No, it's Papa's dad."

14. Alyssa: "Mommy, when you were a little girl, did you wonder when you were going to grow up and be a mother?"
Me: "Yes."
Alyssa: "That's what I'm doing right now!"

What made you smile this week?

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 7/12/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Friday! We did a little more canning this week, made a couple pies, spent a bit of time playing outside, and spent a lot of time organizing and getting ready for a yard sale. Did you have a good week, too? Share a Smile with us!

1. Zac, flipping a coin: "Hands or tails?"

2. Jake, as I was cutting our strawberry-rhubarb pie: "I can't wait to get that on my tongue."

3. Me, racing to the door when Leighton got home: "He's my daddy!"
Zac: "No, he's my daddy!'
Me: "Ha, I got him first, so he's my daddy."
Zac: "We can share him."
Me: "We can? Oh, I guess I can share him with you."
Zac: "Yeah, 'cause I love him to pieces . . . I can have half of him and you can have half."


5. Zac, because I found the train he had been looking for: "Aww, Mommy, I'm so proud of you!"

6. Zac, while eating a piece of pie: "Our next 'speriment should be putting ice cream on our pie!"

7. Alyssa: "May we have some dip?"
Me: "What do you need dip for?"
Zac: "For dipping!"

8. Jake: "How many juice boxes are left?"
Zac, looking in the fridge: "Apparently, four."


10 .Tyler learned to blow on his food when it's hot.

11. Zac, because my dad has a broken foot: "Race ya!"

12. Since no channels come through our tv, all we get is the black and white static across the screen. Leighton told the kids that it's the fly races. They all sat around the tv, watching intently, trying to figure out which fly would win the race.

13. Zac, reclining the couch because I sat down after hurting my leg: "You need to 'lax, Mommy."

14. Jake, because his bandaid kept falling off: "Can't I just put duct tape on it?"

What made you smile this week?
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Friday, July 5, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 7/5/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5), Zac (3½), Tyler (1)

Happy Friday! What a fantastic week it's been. Leighton and I went away last weekend to celebrate our anniversary. My parents watched the kids and we enjoyed a few days by ourselves. We all went to pick strawberries yesterday and came home with 23 lbs. We've canned 3 batched of jam and 5 batches of compote and still have a bunch left to make more yummy goodness. Leighton worked only 3 days this week because of the holiday. We've loved having him home! We also got our very own Poppy because we loved the book so much. Even though this list is small, we've had lots of smiles this week.  

1. Zac: "May I have a pepper?"
Me, cutting produce: "Would you like orange or yellow?"
Zac: "Um, green."

2. Jake, while at the pet store: "Let's see if they have monkeys!"

3. Zac: "Look at my face. It's stuck to my face."
Me: "What's stuck to your face?"
Zac: "My whole face is stuck to my face."
Me: "Well, isn't that a good thing?"
Zac: "Yeah. But how do I get it off?"
Me: "Why would you want to take your face off?"
Zac: "So I can be a monster!" 


5. Zac, after being out of the bathtub for a few minutes: "Oh, no! My hands aren't wrinkly anymore. I want my hands wrinkly."

6. Zac, eating lettuce from my parents' garden: "Gramma, your leaves are yummy."

7. Alyssa: "Do you know why I chose a purple balloon? All the other ones tasted yucky."

What made you smile this week?
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Monday, July 1, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page

Everyone's homeschooling style is different. Being a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we are blessed with many products and incorporate different types of curriculum into our day. In that sense, our homeschool could be considered eclectic. Overall though, the area of study that is close to my heart is literature-based. I believe it's important to both read and study quality literature to get a thorough education. Another type of learning that I have come to love is unit studies. Taking one topic and immersing ourselves in it has proved very rewarding and engaging.

We recently were able to review Moving Beyond the Page. Let me tell you right now, I love it! It's a literature-rich curriculum based on unit studies. They offer topics for preschool through middle school and leave no gaps in education as they meet state and national standards at each level. The units integrates science, social studies, and language arts through critical and creative thinking, projects, and concepts. The offer full-year curriculum and individual subjects. Each unit can be used independently, but is designed to be used concurrently with the other subjects. They can be completed in about 19 days. We chose Poppy for our literature study and Lifecycles for our science.    

The Poppy unit is geared for kids ages 7-9 at the 3rd-4th grade reading level. It uses the book of the same name, written by the author Avi. We had never heard of the book or the author before starting this unit, but we are so glad to be introduced to them. The material is written for the student to read the book himself, but I used it instead as a family-read-aloud with my 7, 5, and 3-year-old. We love to cuddle up on the couch and read together. Poppy is a book that we enjoyed from the very beginning. It's about a deer mouse who questions the cycle of power and stands up to a great horned owl. The book follows her journey as she deals with loss, meets a new friend, and finds courage. The study divides the book to be read 2 chapters a day, but we easily could have sat and read the entire thing in a day or two. Each day at the end of the second chapter, my kids would beg me to read more.

After the daily reading, there are activities that further the study. Things like journaling, map reading, crafts, word study, character development, and discussions kept my kids busy.

 Many skills are strengthen in this study:
  • Analyze characters' actions and the consequences. 
  • Ask and answer relevant questions.
  • Develop vocabulary by listening to and discussing both familiar and conceptually challenging selections.
  • Identify synonyms and antonyms of words.
  • Increase oral and written vocabulary by listening, discussing, and composing texts when responding to literature that is read and heard.
  • Use correct punctuation in own writing.
  • Use structural cues such as prefixes and suffixes to recognize words.
  • Examine food chains in nature.
  • Evaluate rules and laws and appropriate consequences for noncompliance.
  • . . . and many more!     
We used the online version of the curriculum ($25.91), but there is also a physical option ($29.97). Both choices include a paperback copy of Poppy and an owl pellet. I've admitted before that I prefer to have a paper copy in my hands, but I was quite please with the digital curriculum. Each day, I would pull up the study on the iPad before we'd start reading. It was very easy to follow and easy to understand. It would also keep track of the portions we had accomplished. There were also worksheets that we printed to use. I'm not sure if I should say this because I know my electronic husband will tease me for finally agreeing with him, but I truly enjoyed the convenience of the online curriculum.


A real highlight was definitely dissecting the owl pellet. We learned that owl swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the feathers, fur, and bones that could not be digested. The thought it was disgusting at first, but quickly got over the gross factor and enjoyed searching for the bones. 

We have enjoyed this study so much that we have gotten the next book in the Poppy series from the library. We are also surprising the kids with their very own Poppy pet mouse this week!

After finishing the literature portion each day, we'd move on to the Lifecycle study. The science program is designed to encourage the love of learning through a hands-on inquiry-based approach. Instead of focusing on one subject for the year, they approach science in a spiraling matter and cover many aspects each year at an age-appropriate level.

In the Lifecycles unit, the student examines the life cycles of plants, insects, and animals. He will learn the role that each plays in the life cycle of others. This study is also best for ages 7-9 at the 3rd-4th grade reading level.

Again, there are both online ($41.86) and physical ($45.92) options of the curriculum. Both packages include 2 paperback books (What is a Life Cycle? and Who Eats What?) and a butterfly house kit. We used the spiral-bound copy of the curriculum.

My kids enjoyed learning about the stages in the life cycles of various things. There are many hands-on activities included in the study. They were busy drawing the cycles of grasshoppers, assembling puzzles of chickens, gluing salmon cycle wheels, labeling mealworms, identifying characteristics of living things, and creating pasta butterfly life cycles.

Some of the skills included are as follows:
  • Evaluate rules and laws and appropriate consequences for noncompliance.Classify and sequence organisms, objects, and events based on properties and patterns. 
  • Conduct simple investigations.
  • Identify the interdependence of plants and animals.
  • Observe and recognize that living things need food, air, and space to grow. 
  • Understand the interdependence of plants and animals.
  •  . . . and more.
We loved reading the books together and learning about the lifecycles. We chose not to order the larvae at this time, but we are looking forward to using the butterfly house in the future.  They especially liked the end of the study when they got to create their very own species of animal. One had an acid shell, while another possessed a poisonous sword-like tongue!  

The level of difficulty for these units was perfect for my 7-year-old. Some of the material was fun, and other parts were demanding enough to challenge him. My 5 and 3-year-old were able to participate in quite a lot of the activities, as well. I didn't have them do the most difficult writing assignments, but they did just about everything else with my help.  The each had a two-pocket folder to contain their worksheets and projects. They enjoy flipping through all they've done and discussing what they've learned.

Moving Beyond the Page has been a joy to use. It is thorough, challenging, and engaging. We will be ordering other units for sure!

Many of the other unit studies were chosen by my Crew members. Make sure to check out some of their reviews.

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