Thursday, May 18, 2017

What We're Reading Now

It's no surprise that as homeschoolers books often take center stage.  We use tons of books for school - textbooks, atlases, living books, classic literature, biographies - and so many more.

I love reading about what others are reading.  I get so many good ideas for future reading, so I thought I would share our most recent book picks.  Maybe you'll find something new for your summer reading.

Amber is always reading something.  This year I've been assigning historical fiction as part of her history/literature studies, but after fifteen or so historical fiction novels she was ready for something totally different.  These Word Cloud Classics are beautiful books with faux leather softcovers embossed with book quotes.  They are sized nicely for travel, too, easily fitting into a purse.  Of the three or four we own, Amber chose Peter Pan for her last assigned reading of the school year.

These books are so lovely and would make great gifts for young people who enjoy classic literature.

She also reads for fun.  She enjoyed this book and grabbed another of the author's books at our next library visit.  

Now Sam is not a strong reader.  He does not read for fun; he reads because I make him.  He reads because I read to him.  The Incredible Journey Books are meant for ages 7-11.  Sam's 12.  He finds these books very easy reading, but still enjoys the stories.  I chose this series to correlate with his Geography studies.  Each book takes the reader to a new destination:  Caymen Islands, Mexico, African Desert, and more.  Sam labeled a world map as he read these books - a great addition to his formal Geography studies.

He also reads and rereads his PULL magazines.  His current high speed sport of choice is BMX racing.

Joseph is making noticeable progress in his reading this year.  We've been especially good with daily reading lessons which is making a huge difference.  He's still working through All About Reading Level 1.  I've been bribing him with chocolate to read using the notecard method described in this post.  He's also become very adept at reading Margaret Hillert's Beginning to Read books.  He's having an easy time picking up the dolch sight words since he's so visual in his learning.  His absolute favorite is Not I, Not I.

I should really do a video of him reading the book.  He's just so sweet (when he wants to be).

There's so much noise around this place that a few months ago I started reading to the little kids on my bed.  They love being able to cuddle up in mom and dad's bed, especially if good books are involved.  Our latest chapter books were Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan and Sam the Man and the Rutabaga Plan.  Peter and Maria absolutely adored these books.  Multiple times a day they asked for me to read more.


If you have a budding backyard farmer they are sure to love these stories.  They made for great read alouds, too.

I enjoy a good memoir and Kelly Corrigan's The Middle Place did not disappoint.  It was a quick and enjoyable read.  Laugh out loud moments interspersed with head nodding interspersed with a few tears.  The general story:  a woman with breast cancer who adores her father, who also gets cancer, bares her soul.  Other than being a woman, wife, and mother our lives are not parallel, but the story is still very relatable.  

I added her other two books to my summer reading list.  


So that's what we're reading now or at least within the last few weeks.  

Have you read any books lately that are must reads?  I'd love to know because my "Read Next" list isn't nearly long enough.  Hah!

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Black Bean Quesadillas :: Frugal Friday Lunch

I think the cold, wet days of this Wisconsin spring are almost behind us.  YEAH!!!  Today is absolutely gorgeous, then it looks like one more gloomy day before the sun hits.  Here's the upcoming forecast and I couldn't be happier.  There's a pep in everyone's step, smiles on their faces, and the scene from the kitchen window is three shirtless kids jumping on the trampoline.

  • Thursday
    May 4
    PM Showers
    PM Showers
  • Friday
    May 5
  • Saturday
    May 6
  • Sunday
    May 7

When the weather finally decides to warm up we love to take full advantage of it spending as much time outside as possible.  All that outside play and sunshine makes for a bunch of hungry tummies.  Come noon, making lunch is usually the last thing on my mind, but eating lunch is the first thing on everyone else's mind.

That's when I pull out a few simple pantry staples and make Black Bean Quesadillas.  These are especially nice during Lent when we want to change it up a bit with the meatless Friday meals.

Here's what you need to make a large family portion of black bean quesadillas.

2-3 cans black beans
about 1 cup salsa + more for dipping
flour tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
shredded cheese - colby, colby jack, cheddar - or mix it up
sour cream

Basic Directions - can be adjusted to fit any family size

Drain and rinse black beans.  Dump into flat bottomed bowl/pie plate.  I use a deep dish pie plate and then use a fork to smash the black beans somewhat.  Add salsa.  Just enough to wet the beans.  You don't want it too drippy.

In the picture below you can see the process of building the quesadillas.  Lay out flour tortillas on baking sheets (Amazon tells me I purchased these in 2011 - I use them almost daily and they are still in great shape; definitely worth the price).  Top with black bean mixture, add shredded cheese.  Cover with 2nd flour tortilla.  Sometimes I add sliced black olives.  Sometimes I make a couple quesadillas with just cheese and black olives for the little kids or just cheese.  These are so versatile.

The pan on the left is my favorite Nordic Ware baking sheet.

Before going in the oven.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until the flour tortillas are as crispy as you like them and the cheese is melted.  We like the tortillas crispy around the edge, yet soft in the middle.  Let them cool a bit, if you can wait, then cut into wedges with pizza cutter.  Don't worry if some of the good stuff squeezes out, just stick it back in or grab it quick before someone else does.

Plate up with additional salsa and a great big dollop of sour cream.  Yum!!

In other recipe news:

We try new recipes quite often, usually found through Pinterest.  Some quickly become family favorites and others, not so much.  Amber made Brookies the other day.  They came together quickly and disappeared super fast.  So if you have a bake sale coming up and need a show stopper cookie, you'll definitely want to give these a try.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

April :: A Month in Review

April was a light blogging month.  I did share 5 of my best homeschooling tips.  I know - 14+ years of homeschooling and only 5 tips.  Hah!  I also shared about our casual way of learning in the early years.  Sharks took front and center for a few weeks.  Peter now knows that shark books have a call number of 597.3 at the library.  He's checked out every one of them and I've read just about every one of them.

Without further ado, here's a chronological photo dump from April with captions.

One of the favorite, yet more stressful, spring events is Creative Arts Day.  CAD is a county wide 4-H event which gives youth the opportunity to develop, perform, and be judged on their favorite creative arts.  Trophies and ribbons are awarded to the top placed finishers.  This year Sam performed a violin solo and was awarded a blue ribbon for his BMX safety gear demonstration.  Our 4-H club performed a 1-act play; both Amber and Sam participated.

Amber drew from her homeschool chemistry labs and did a demonstration on extracting DNA from saliva.  Although she was incredibly nervous, she was awarded a blue ribbon.  The most anticipated part of Creative Arts Day is the 1-act plays.  Amber received the 3rd place high school actress trophy.

Blurry auditorium photo.
Once CAD was over we settled into a more normal spring filled with cooking and sibling competitions, trailer painting and fishing.

Country sausage gravy over biscuits is favorite.  I tried a new one pan method, which results in a super flavorful, creamy gravy.  And there's only ONE giant pan to wash instead of two.

Always some kind of competition going on outside my kitchen window.  The tires were from last weeks tire flipping competition.

Emily's college and work schedule keep her gone for lunch and coming in right at the end of supper so she hasn't been cooking much this year.  With her impending move, she decided to use her spring break to brush up on her cooking skills.  She made us these delicious homemade cheese fries to go along with our Friday fish fry.

Amber and Emily (and us) bought a pretty run down trailer for super cheap.  Amber's been giving it A LOT of TLC.  It's on its way to looking pretty sharp.

We've been having an Easter egg hunt and homemade pinata bash for years.  It's a most anticipated family event.  I took over 100 pictures, but this is by far a favorite.

Amber pushes Joseph aside when Warren yells, "GO!"  You're never too old for an Easter Egg Hunt and never too young to be pushed around by your older sister.

Again, my camera card has over 75 pinata pictures, but I'm just sharing one.  We make our pinata with a 12 inch latex balloon, newspaper strips, and Liquid Starch.  This year we covered the balloon with 7 layers.  Each layer has to dry completely, about 1 day.  We started a week in advance.  It's super easy to do, cheap, and holds up fairly well even through teenagers.

I've been taking the kids' Easter picture on this step since Emily and Nick were toddlers.  It's getting pretty crowded, but they still squeeze in upon my request/begging.

A beautiful Easter basket cake my friend Karrie made for our Easter dinner, complete with a delicious lemon filling.  I might have had a piece or four.

And still more fishing.
April isn't all fun and games.  There's plenty of work going on.  Warren pressured up the irrigation engines and prepared for his yearly newborn baby, i.e. frost watch.  Only it's worse - a baby can be tended to in the warmth of your bedroom, but frost watch?  He has to slip into clothes and head outside and frost watch nights are the coldest nights of the spring.  Try getting back to sleep after you just got a cold sprinkler in the face.

Anyway, frost watch comes with the job, and he tends to it like a trooper, rarely complaining, unlike me with newborn babies.  I think I complained.  I'm sure I complained.

Our first walk on the marsh of the spring.  We actually had a warmish Wisconsin day so we had to take advantage of it.

Moving water again.  Here's an old post about checking and moving water on the cranberry marsh.

When you're on a walk and your brother keeps trying to run ahead of you.  People, it's not all sunshine and rainbows around here.

And still more fishing.

I hadn't sat down at the sewing machine in months.  Piles of jeans with ripped pockets and blown out knees, a torn flannel shirt, a blanket intended to be Maria's extra winter blanket, and church pants needing hemming all waited for me in a heap.  With a prom dress waiting to be altered, I had to tackle the pile or stuff it all in a garbage bag and forget about it.  I chose to actually tackle the pile.  It was made easier by binge listening to The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast (see the computer laying on the floor).  Maria blessed me with her singing, too.  As I type this nothing awaits mending, even the prom dress was finished on time.  (Note:  Emily just entered stage right wondering if I could help her fix her swimsuit.....and so another pile begins).

BMX season is back in full swing.  Sam's in the white.

So far Nick's the only successful turkey hunter in the family.  Sam still has a couple days of season left.
Although not out of the ordinary, snow on April 27 is still annoying.

But it did make the fish bite.

April wasn't quite full enough so Amber decided it was time for an appendicitis.  Just 5 nights before prom.  She's young and super healthy so she healed up enough to still attend prom and dance the night away from what I heard.
Well that should do it.  May is right around the corner and one peek at the calendar has me hyperventilating thinking about all that's to come - our 2nd high school graduate, our oldest moving away for her summer internship, year end conferences, curriculum planning for next year already, preparing the garden.  I'll stop now; it'll all get done - it always does.

What was the highlight of your April?  What are you most looking forward to in May?  Share in the comments.

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