Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce

We've had a garden every summer since 1996.  The vegetables grown have varied, except for tomatoes.  I always grow tomatoes.  I've never canned spaghetti sauce.  Never.

Tomato Juice?  Yes
Salsa?  Yes
Pizza Sauce?  Yes (once)
Spaghetti Sauce?  No Never

Until this year.  The tomato plants just won't (present tense) quit producing tomatoes.  So I decided to finally try my hand at making spaghetti sauce.  We're not huge spaghetti w/ meat sauce eaters, but I think that's about to change.  I like to write just how I think, so here goes.

My friend makes spaghetti sauce so I asked her for the recipe.  She obliged and emailed it right over. The email began with, "I loosely follow this recipe."   Then she went on to share her directions.  My first time.  Loose directions.  More directions.  The original recipe starts with canned tomatoes, but I'm supposed to convert that into garden fresh tomatoes.  I just couldn't do it, so I did what any woman with an entire cabinet full of cookbooks, canning manuals, and food magazines would do.....I Googled "Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce".  I found a recipe with similar ingredients to the original "loosely followed recipe" only this one started with a 1/2 bushel of garden fresh tomatoes.  Now that I can understand.  Even better it claimed to take only 3 hours.  Perfect!  Because that's exactly the amount of time I'm willing to spend on this project.

Approximately 32 hours later, I began ladling spaghetti sauce into clean, hot Kerr jars.  I'm not sure where exactly the "3 hours" number came from.  Maybe they assumed the tomatoes were already picked, washed, weighed, and quartered.  Maybe they thought my food press was hooked up to an electric crank with endless energy for cranking and saucing tomatoes.  Maybe they were home alone without any butts to wipe, books to read, writing assignments to edit, clothes to wash, lunch to make, dinner to make.  Maybe they were simply in a time warp.  I'm going with the last one.

Anyway, the sauce is on the canning shelf ready for our next spaghetti supper, which looks to be sometime in December based on our spaghetti eating history.

Here's the picture version of what I did...basically.

By the way, more tomatoes await picking.

The recipe I used, which I followed to the "T" came from food.com.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Cranberry Nut Pie

Today I'd love to share a recipe with you that we LOVE.

Cranberry Nut Pie

This is so easy to make.  First make or buy a single pie crust.  Fit it to a 9 inch pie plate and flute the edge.

Pour in 2 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional).  I only had a tablespoon of walnut crumbs so I sprinkled those over the cranberries to add a bit of nutty flavor.  But my favorite is to add the nuts.

Top with 1/3 cup brown sugar.

Mix together 1 egg, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup softened butter.

Mix until it's very light in color. 

Top pie with mixture and spread around to cover cranberries.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  The top should be nicely golden.
Allow to cool and serve with whipped cream.

Recipe for 1 Cranberry Nut Pie
1 pie crust
2 heaping cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. butter, softened

Line pie pan with pastry crust.  Add cranberries and walnuts, sprinkle with brown sugar.  Mix the following and pour/spread over cranberries:  egg, sugar, flour, butter.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Cool, cut and eat.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Langer's Feature Family

Langers Cranberry Juice Cocktail, 64 ounce (pack of 8)

Early this year we were contacted by Langer's Juice Company to become the next family farm/grower featured on their juice bottles.  Our cranberries are used in Langer's Cranberry Juice Cocktail and juice blends.  If you're interested in seeing the label or buying juice:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Using Science Kits for Homeschool (and my reviews)

We are three weeks into our 36 week homeschool year and we've been using science kits again in the younger grades.  I really like science kits for many reasons:

1)  Everything is in one box ready to go.

2)  Readers can complete these on their own, allowing mom (or dad) to conduct other lessons.

3)  Relatively inexpensive.

4)  Fun (the good ones are).

5)  Often spurs the imagination to try out other experiments with the remaining supplies.

I'm going to share with you some of the science kits we've used and give you my (hopefully) brief review.

Candy Chemistry - age 10+
Sam is currently working through this kit.  The kit is complete except for the food items needed.  It definitely screams fun with the word candy in the title, but it starts off pretty slow with volume, temperature and heat transfer.  It looks to be picking up intensity because he asked if I'd help with the next experiment, making hard candy.  He's a little nervous about how quickly sugar can burn.  This kit has a lot of extra science info in the instruction booklet.  I noticed he was only reading the experiments so I did read over the science lesson portions and we discussed the vocabulary used.  This kit has proven to keep his interest so I'll give 5 stars.

Snap Circuits - age 8+
We started with the Junior kit and Sam had so much fun we added the Extreme kit for this year.  This kit teaches about electrical circuits while kids build systems with motion, lights and sound.  5 stars.

This had potential for science instruction, but was mostly for fun and the bath bombs didn't want to stay together very well.  Nothing like the pictures.  Even so, Amber still had a lot of fun with this one a few years back and used up all the supplies.  4 stars.

This was a total disappointment.  Very babyish.  Upon completion (not much worked or amazed) everything went in the trash. 1 star.

This is a series of about 10 sets.  Each set comes with 3 kits.  Each kit is a different topic.  Both Amber and Sam have used and enjoyed these kits over the years.  What I like is that most everything needed is included in the box and the direction booklet has a section specifically addressing the child making it very easy to understand.  What the kids like is that the experiments actually work.  Last year Sam did one kit where the yeast was old so it didn't work, but once we used fresh yeast it worked.  One of Sam's favorites was the owl pellet dissection.

Professor Ein-O Egg Science - Egg-stra-ordinary - age 8+

This isn't the egg-zact kit we used last year, but it's very similar; it might be the updated version.  This was super fun, entertaining and engaging.  Give a boy a few raw eggs, let him know he might be breaking them, and you have the recipe for a fun science hour.  This gets 5+ stars.

This is just a snippet of the kits we've used over the years.  I know there have been many others I've forgotten.  However, if you're considering using science kits in your homeschool or thinking up gift ideas for a youngster, try one of these kits.  Learning should be fun.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Cranberry Harvest....and so it begins

We just began our HyRed harvest.  HyReds are a variety of cranberries that color early, therefore we get a head start on the harvest with this variety.  I'm going to be sharing lots of information on cranberry harvest, cranberry recipes, and the fun and woes of cranberry harvest.  Stay tuned over the next month for more, lots more.  

This is the old style of cranberry harvesting using a hand rake.  This is back breaking work if done all day so Warren only rakes a box or so this way.  I can't imagine the harvesters of yesteryear doing this all day usually earning a few cents for each box filled.  As you can see the cranberries are in water for harvesting, but they do not grow in water.  Throughout the year the cranberry beds are basically dry, except during irrigation.  I guess I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'll be sharing more about this and some pictures later this week.

Homemade Pancake Mix

For some reason when I'm up to my eyeballs in canning (perishables), I seem to think I should stock the pantry with homemade mixes, too, which really could be done anytime like when the wagon loads of tomatoes are put up and the endless boxes of apples are sauced.  I'm not sure if it's the prepper in me or maybe I'm part squirrel.

Here we go with another recipe that comes in handy on busy mornings and makes for a quick lunch, too.  Whipping up an individual batch of pancake mix isn't hard, but it takes minutes that sometimes I don't have.  So instead of pulling out the dry ingredients for just one batch, I like to mix up a big batch all at once.  Then all I have to do is add the wet ingredients and warm up the griddle when we're craving pancakes.

I like to line up the dry ingredients with the appropriate measuring cup or spoon.  I set my empty pancake mix container on the right and then add the ingredients as if I was making only one batch.  I give it a quick whisk and then add another batch, whisk, repeat.  Kind of like the directions on the shampoo bottle.  Does anyone waste shampoo by actually washing and repeating?  Just scrub harder the first time.  Back to pancakes.  You might notice I do not have a measuring spoon for the salt, that's because I eyeball it.  And since you only used the measuring cups and spoons for dry ingredients, give them a quick wipe on your apron and put 'em back in the drawer.  No need to wash dishes that don't need washing.

Homemade Pancake Mix (one batch)

2 1/4 cups flour
1 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

My container holds 5 batches.

When ready to use, measure out 2 1/2 cups mix and add 2 c. buttermilk, 2 eggs, and 3 T. melted butter or oil.  Stir, leaving a few lumps and fry on hot griddle.

Linking up with Raising Homemakers for their Homemaking Linkup.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Encouragement for the Mom of a Reluctant Reader

So much is out there about teaching reading, whether it be in a school setting to a group of kids or at home to only one child at a time.  Most of the info provides similar tips for teaching reading.

> read aloud beginning at an early age
> teach the alphabet song
> teach the letter sounds
> teach sound blending using 3 letter, short vowel words
> read p̶a̶i̶n̶f̶u̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶b̶o̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ appropriate early readers
> continue adding sounds and blends
> encourage child to read aloud to you or siblings
> watch them catch on to the reading thing by 2nd or 3rd grade

Most of the time this works for most kids.  Therefore, sometimes this doesn't work for some kids.  What if you happen to have kids in the latter category?  Well, you probably feel frustrated and discouraged.  Maybe angry, maybe sad, maybe like you don't know what you're doing.  I happen to have children in both categories so I know just what it looks like and feels like to have kids who pick up on reading following the general path listed above and kids who don't follow that path.  Now I know what to look for....the clues in the early years that help me know if they are going to be quick learners or struggle with reading.

But I didn't always know.  When we began this journey of homeschooling I assumed I would use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and we'd be done - they would be readers, period. done.  That didn't happen.  We did 100 Easy Lessons, Bob Books, Teaching Reading Through Literature, Happy Phonics, Starfall and probably others I've forgotten.  Obviously, she didn't just catch on, but, my stubborn attitude paid off this once because I never quit.  We just kept reading and reviewing and finally she became a reader.  Of course, now she reads for enjoyment more than any of her younger siblings.  After teaching two more who followed the typical path, I believed that I just got better at teaching reading and that was why it went so well.  Wrong!  When it was time to teach reading yet again, it was like reliving those early days all over again.  Really?  Had I lost all ability to teach reading in just a couple short years?  Of course not.  So I started researching and found out that I have a couple of kids who struggle with dyslexia.  It meant that they could indeed learn to read, but the path would take a different route.

This post is turning out to be more of a memoir than encouragement.  Sorry.  Anyway, if you find yourself frustrated or discouraged with teaching reading to your child please, please, please don't blame yourself OR your child.  Seek out a solid reading program proven to work with dyslexic or other struggling readers and stick to it.  I've been using All About Reading for the last few years and it is a solid reading program.  Peter who is 3 is already showing signs of being an early reader (he'll be the first) and I can't take all the credit.  The All About Reading Pre-Reading program has been terrific for Joe and Pete.  They love Ziggy Zebra (puppet) and they love the alphabet posters.

Most importantly, don't give up on your child if they are struggling or reluctant to read.  Search out info on dyslexia, it's more common than you might think.  Remember that your instruction is only half of the equation; the other half being your child and their readiness to begin learning to read.

To learn more about the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs please click my affiliate link below.  Thanks.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Nature Club - Worm Charming Edition

Nature study has always been a big part of our homeschool.  And in my opinion the best way to study nature is to spend time outdoors.  We're very fortunate in that within seconds of walking out our door we can be in the woods surrounded by nature.  But even so, we still participate in a nature club with a couple of other homeschooling families.  Mostly we go to a local county park/campground, but we've also explored fields and vernal pools at the homes of the nature club families.

Of course, I like to keep things simple, so I pick a topic relative to the time of year and then decide on an activity to do.  We like to keep our formal part of nature club to 30 minutes and then let the kids have lots of time to explore the crayfish in the river or play on the playground before having a light snack.

I chose WORMS as our late May topic and we did a really fun activity.


Basically you need two strong sticks about 15 inches long.  Stick one in the ground about halfway.  Use the other stick to vigorously rub the vertical stick in a back and forth manner as if playing the fiddle.  In time, worms should start to appear at the top of the soil.  We were all amazed this actually worked.  Everyone was a bit skeptical.

Ta Da!  A worm appeared.

After charming enough worms, I gave the kids a paper plate to use as an observation tray and a homemade worksheet.  They placed their worms and a cup of soil on the plate, made observations and then answered the questions.

Once they finished up we gathered for a short discussion, returned the worms to home and headed off to play.  This was a really fun activity, one that older and younger kids alike enjoyed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Commemorating the 7 Sorrows of Mary

Like I said before, I like to keep it simple when it comes to living the liturgical year.  Yesterday, September 15, was the day the Church remembers the 7 sorrows of Mary.  These are sorrowful events in Mary's life, each one involving her son, Jesus.  Any mother of boys knows they can cause much sorrow.  Things haven't changed much in the last 2000 years, have they?  Anyway, I grabbed whatever kids were close by and we talked about the sorrowful events and then I made cards with pictures depicting the events for them to put in chronological order.  They nailed it!  Then we prayed a Hail Mary for each event and a Glory Be and I reminded them to think of others' sorrows before dwelling on their own.  That was it and they were off and runnin' again.

Sam hung around for a bit longer so I had him order the cards again just to be sure he wasn't relying on his older siblings' knowledge.  I copied the page of pictures from  A Year With God:  Celebrating the Liturgical Year (page 200).

Over the years I've stopped over thinking our liturgical year activities and stopped trying to make them perfect, beautiful moments.  I think it's more important to just grab the kids and go for it.  I'm not trying to make them into theologians, but introduce them to the beauty of faith, saints, scripture, and religious art.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fried Potatoes - The Easy Way

We are a household of fried potato lovers.  Boiling up potatoes ahead of time in preparation for having fried potatoes doesn't seem that complicated.  And it's not.  The problem is now that homeschool is back in session, watching the pot of boiling potatoes so it doesn't boil over or the potatoes don't get over-cooked wastes precious minutes that should be used teaching reading and math lessons.

So I came up with a simple way to cook the potatoes that doesn't require me to hang out in the kitchen when I should really be attending to lessons.  I use my crockpot!

Step 1 - Wash potatoes
Step 2 - Slice potatoes in quarters the long way
Step 3 - Place in crockpot, drizzle with olive oil (about 1-2 T.), sprinkle with Kosher salt

 Step 4 - Cook on high for about 3 hours, stir once half way through

Here they are getting nicely done, cook time depends on the heat of your crockpot
Step 5 - Refrigerate until cool.
Step 6 - Slice as you wish, heat cast iron skillet on medium, melt butter, add potatoes and fry until desired crispness.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

A Few Tips

I make 5 pounds of potatoes, if you are making less, crockpot cooking time will decrease.

I get this started in the early morning so that I can get them in the refrigerator before lunch, then they have enough time to cool before making them for supper.

If fried potatoes aren't your thing, then serve the cooked potatoes as is with any toppings you like.  I'm thinking a taco potato bar would be a quick and easy lunch.  Serve the potatoes with any leftover taco meat, nacho cheese, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, and sour cream.  Or how about loaded "baked" potato bar.  Serve with diced bacon, sliced green onions, shredded cheddar cheese or pepper jack, butter, and sour cream.  Oh, now I'm getting hungry.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Homeschooling the Senior Year

Emily is a senior this year.  We've been doing this homeschooling thing since she was in kindergarten.  I still remember sitting on our old green couch with her and the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book stretched across our laps.  Most of our lessons were interrupted because of her hot feet or need for another drink of water or another trip to the bathroom or she wanted the curtains closed or she wanted a light on or, or, or, or.  You get the picture?  

With perseverance from both of us she learned to read and so much more.  I often field questions about homeschooling and once they find out I have highschoolers the questions just pour in.

Is that legal? 
 Why yes it is.
Doesn't she want to be with her friends? 
 Absolutely, however, homeschooling has afforded her the opportunity to make friends in many ways, so most of her friends don't go to our district's high school.  I'd also like to think that some of her best friends are her siblings.
How do you know all the material?
I don't.  Homeschooling has taught Emily to be a self-directed learner.  She knows how to read over the material and ask necessary questions as needed.  We use the library and Google a lot.
What about MATH?
Yeah, what about it?  She does it, I help her, sometimes we learn together.  (I also love math)
Will she get a diploma?
She will get a diploma that I create.  Her transcripts will also be created by me.  Her grade point is calculated by me.  With the growing number of kids graduating from homeschool, colleges have adapted their admission requirements to allow homeschoolers to apply without any troubles.  Emily took the ACT, she has plenty of references, she can write a mean essay and her transcript is detailed.

Those are the biggies.  If you have others, I'd love to answer them in the comments or on FB.  Today I'd like to share the curriculum choices for Emily's senior year of homeschool.

This is what Emily's desk looked like on the first day of school this year.  She really likes history and it looks like she's planning on accomplishing that first.

This year I made up a printable checklist in order to keep track of all her school work.  She follows along day by day checking off each assignment as it's finished.

This crate on her desk holds all her materials.  

She's teaching the 2nd grade First Communion Prep class at our parish.

Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2 - this is a computer based program with automatic correction.  If she gets a problem wrong she can immediately watch the problem worked out by the teacher.  The immediate feedback helps correct the student's thinking helping them to get the next problems correct.  This has been a great program for Emily.  The teaching is very thorough and the lecture portion can be viewed as many times as needed to learn the material.  Emily has done Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 and Geometry

Easy Grammar Ultimate Series:  Grade 12 - Easy Grammar is an awesome series.  It teaches prepositions first and instructs the student to always cross off prepositional phrases before looking for other parts of speech.  Once the prepositional phrases are crossed off there are less choices for direct objects or subjective complements.

Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course Level C - Mr. Pudewa is the great teacher responsible for this writing course.  The DVD's are interesting to watch and Mr. Pudewa's instruction makes the writing process simple.

Barron's E-Z Anatomy and Physiology - I chose this for her because she's planning on studying Animal Science at the college level.  However, I could not find a course specifically targeting animals, so I decided this was the next best option.

A Literature Approach to U.S. and World History: From the Civil War to Vietnam -  this is a two-year course.  It involves a ton of reading, includes suggested movies and study questions.

Starline Press Health - this program is a workbook style curriculum including 5 units, each one in a separate workbook. It's very straight forward:  read, questions, review, test.

SPANISH 3 - She takes this at a nearby high school.

VIOLIN - She takes private lessons and plays in the orchestra at the high school.

So this is how it looks to homeschool a senior in high school.  Fun.  Lot's of fun.  And hardwork.

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

3 Easy Steps to Put the White Back into Dairy Show Whites

We've just finished the animal showing portion of our local fair.  Emily shows dairy, which includes cows, heifers, and calves.  Amber showed our POA, Pearl, for the first time.  It's a lot of work for the kids and parents, but the lessons learned make it worth it.  Of course the trophies, ribbons, and fair premiums are appreciated as well.  

But speaking of lessons learned, I've learned a few tricks over the years about laundering dairy show whites.  Would someone please tell me why all white clothing is the uniform of choice for dairy showing?  Don't they know cow poop splatters in every direction when it hits the ground.  Anyway, I'm sure my opinion (they should wear greenish, brownish show clothes) isn't going to change the minds of the national dairy showing committee, if there even is one.  

First off this isn't the best example of dirty because they are Emily's showmanship pants.  They don't wear these very long and work extra hard to stay clean because part of the judging is based on the showman's appearance.  But you can see a few manure stains on the pant leg.  They sometimes have to lean on the animal so the backside of the show pants are usually quite dingy.

First step is to soak the pants in Clorox 2.  I fill the sink with hot water and pour in about 1/3 cup of Clorox 2.  I let the pants soak for at least 24 hours, swishing them around a couple of times.

After they've soaked, I search out any stains and apply a liberal amount of OxiClean Max Force Gel Stick.  I'm not normally brand loyal, but in this case, stick with the brand.

 I use a bristled scrub brush and vigorously brush in a back and forth motion over the stain.

I let the OxiClean work in for about 20 minutes and then transfer to the washing machine.  Add the recommended amount of (any brand) laundry soap and about 1/4 cup bleach.  I set my washer to the "whites" setting and launder.  It's amazing how they return to their original whiteness.

Now, this pair of show whites is not the ones pictured above.  These were much dirtier than those and look how clean they are.  The pockets are nice and clean.  The bottom hemline is ultra white.  Ready for next year.

And since show whites are kind of boring blog fare, here's a picture of Emily with Margret.

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