Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spelling Word Fun

I'm not big on spelling words, flat out. I'm not. I had no intention of having intentional spelling words with the boys. However, I've noticed some things that made me think I needed to take another take on spelling words. I have a reader who can, without doubt, read words like Death Star, Emperor, & Telstra without a double take. This same reader can stumble with much more simple words like are, there, and could. So, we decided to pull out some dolsch words. Dolsch words are the 500 most common words used in children's picture books. The idea is that if your child can read them they can read any child's book without issue. The reason I chose to use Dolsch words was that I could print them for free from the Teach This website.

I don't pick all words based on his ability, or inability, to read them. Sometimes I base them on his need to spell them. This particular child had a terrible time learning to speak. He seemed to have quite a stutter that would frustrate him beyond belief. Often this crept up each time he learned a new spiel of words, sometimes when he was just too excited to spit it out and other times there was on explanation for it. The point is, that even when he said words wrong we didn't bother to correct him. If he could speak without frustrating himself and in a way people could understand we took it and ran with it.

As he's gotten older we haven't completely corrected some of his words, and it shows in his reading and writing. We're not panicking, we're simply moving forward and working with it. So, for the past month or so I've had what we call "wheel words" which is nothing more then 12 dolsch words on a ring. He read them out he gets 5 seconds or less to look at the word and then he spells them to me. Within a weeks time he writes them on a white board or paper and usually he can tell when he's missing a letter even if he doesn't know what it is.

Checking his work on day one..

While making printables for school this week I came up with the fun idea of putting some of his words on paper with the letters he often leaves off or forgets all ready missing. I put them and a bag of bananagrams (we adore this game, but be forewarned fellow Aussies they freak when you take it through customs!) in a workbox and told him he had to find the missing letters and when he was done to use his wheel words to double check his answers. Day 1 he panicked. He looked at the words and knew what they were, but after 2 weeks off from colds he was convinced that I had gone loopy.

I sat down with him and asked him what the words were. Reminded him that he knew all these words and slowly he figured them out. On Day 2 he couldn't wait to tackle them and he did even better. It'll be interesting to see how he does applying the correct spelling to these words now. All though, in the words of a kind and loving friend, "Boys are notoriously bad spellers.." Then again, I know a certain girl who use to be a really bad speller too..

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter Baskets

I know I've mentioned that we don't do the Easter Bunny, but we do still give out Easter gifts & baskets. We like to give the kids a few fun things but also like to stock them up with a few Bible related items. Cds, books, a new Bible (if needed), Veggie Tale videos, and so on. This year, while considering what I might fill the kids baskets with I ran across the article It's Not About The Bunny, which gave me an interesting idea. While we've always filled our kids baskets with fun and creative things and very little candy the idea in the article about filling the baskets with things that will remind them of the Easter Story really excites me, and I thought I'd share that idea here. And, incase you're up to making your own Easter Baskets and have an unbelievable amount of stuffed animals (and if you don't have an unbelievable amount of stuffed animals, I'm pretty sure I could many of our's away..) there's an awfully cute Easter basket idea here.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Easter Fun

We're gearing up for a week full of Easter Fun around here. We've been down and out with one wicked cold that knocked three of us backwards for far longer then normal and we're so ready to jump head first into something far more fun then tissues, butter menthols, and peppermint chest rub. The upside to it all was that I had time, between viewings of Clutch Powers & G Force, to put together a week of Easter Fun stuff for the boys. Coming up with some fun plans for Easter was quite high on my priority list this year, and something I've been thinking about since February. I just felt the need to do a nice Easter study with them for school this year, as well as some really fun crafts too.

So, I was really excited to find the Easter Adventure 2010 from Scripture Adventures. I picked this up from Currclick this week. It's 100% awesome, as my boys would say. It's broken down with crafts, recipes, Bible Stories, and Easter Journal pages. I know my craft child will love getting his hands dirty this week and both of them will enjoy the Bible story. There's also a scripted Christian Passover Dinner included for anyone who wants to try it out. Mr Scarecrow & I had a look at it and decided it would be fun to do with the boys, and most certainly memorable. Morgan will especially enjoy it because it will remind him greatly of Mrs Katz & Tush, a book he really enjoyed. This will be our school unit study for the week too. (By the way, the Easter Adventure will be on sale with just over a $4 savings until the 5th of April. You can also currently get a free Easter Lapbook put out by Scripture Adventures if you're interested. If you go to Scripture Adventures Website and sign up for their free newsletter you'll also score a 10% off coupon which you can use on their website!)

Before discovering the fun at Currclick I came up with 7 additional Easter Crafts which have nothing to do with the Easter Bunny.  We have never celebrated the Easter Bunny here, and while we have nothing at all against the Easter Bunny, we do enjoy keeping our Easter a pinch more Christ centered. I was really eager to come up with some crafts that my kids would enjoy but didn't revolve too much around the bunny. This isn't always an easy task, and don't get me wrong there are some really cute bunny crafts out there, but I was really looking for something different.  My favorite may be the Life Of Jesus Bracelet.. The 7 crafts I came up with can be downloaded in pdf form here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Millipede Hunting..

In participation with Always Outside, we went on a millipede hunt today. Our home has been overrun with the crazy little things, and been driving us utterly insane. Seriously, pick up laundry to dump it in the washer and you find a few on the floor. Hang out the laundry, you shake a few out of the clean clothes. They climb around the bathtubs too. Nothing like showering and finding a few extra critters have joined you. These things are everywhere, inside and out. It's a typical sign of Autumns arrival. So, we joined in the fun and went on a learning expedition to see what we could learn.

The boys were impressed to learn that while millipede means thousand feet they really have far fewer. Then, when we did the multiplication we discovered that they have, on average somewhere between 60 & 700. A huge difference, which was made all that much clearer when I asked the boys how they'd feel about tying 700 pairs of shoes before playing outside. Morgan said, "Or having to retie them on the walks!" He was truly mortified. Unfortunately the fun link for the life cycle picture seems to have gone kapoot, but we did discover that when they hatch they only have 3-4 sets of legs. They grow more body segments and legs as they moult. So, when we went outside to find some, as we'd earlier chased all the ones we could find out, Jayden was certain he spotted one moulting. Leaves .. skin easy mistake!

The boys had fun making these, and unfortunately we only had two tubes so we couldn't make him as long as a proper millipede, but the boys didn't mind. They have high plans of decorating them, but we got distracted making fingerprint millepedes.

That was our test one, and when the boys saw the marker didn't wash completely off at first (as in stained my fingers) they decided they weren't sure they wanted in on it. Apparently one can play in mud, pick his nose, and eat food off the ground but marker stain just pushes them over the edge. Gotta love those priorities!

We also filled out journaling pages and they were required to write at least three sentences about millipedes. Jayden was done at this point so encouraging him to narrate three sentences to me was a small challenge. He also drew a crazy millipede and when I asked him where the pointy tail was and the antennae he went back to "fix" it. Morgan, on the other hand had fun drawing, he always does, and made two pictures. One all curled up the other climbing up a plant.

We also took a couple and looked at them under the EyeClops. That was fun, but we were slightly disappointed to not get it to be still long enough to check out his chomping mouth. We did, however noticed that even while curled up their little antennae go nutters sniffing out what's going on. When they feel it's all clear then uncurl and take off. It was amazing to see it so close up! We also noticed that if they get knocked on their backs they look an awful lot like mini snakes trying to get right side up. That was creepy. It was a really enjoyable afternoon!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CurrClick Easter Sale

CurrClick is having their annual Spring Sale & Easter Egg hunt. That means that not only do they have 207 pages worth of items on sale you can also look for 18 Easter Eggs located at random around their website. Each egg scores you a free product! I managed to find 17 of the silly little things, how many can you find?

They've also got a fresh stash of things added to their freebie section. Some of my absolute, as in you can't miss out on them, favorites would have to be: Scripture Adventure Easter Lapbook, 21 Day Memory Bible Verse Challenge, Take Me Home He Is Risen (perfect for little ones),  Resurrection Scavenger Hunt (genius idea!).

My absolute favorite though was a purchased sale item entitled Scripture Adventure's Easter Adventure 2010. I've been considering a week full of Easter fun in our home, but we don't do the traditional Easter Bunny and we never have. I have a weeks worth of fun crafts planned for my gang starting next week (Ebook & post coming soon about it) but was delighted to see this amazing Easter Study/Adventure too. I'm not sure if this is a new company to Currclick, but I can't wait to see what else they bring out!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Clutch Powers 2

The boys recently watched The Adventures Of Clutch Powers about a bajillion times while suffering with colds. So when I had to hear the story of Clutch once again over breakfast while I was battling my own cold I suggested the boys write stories about Clutch. Morgan took me up on that offer and typed some himself and asked me to type while he narrated. Here's what he came up with:

Clutch Powers 2

Clutch  went with his team to  find his Dad. The evil  skeletons  charged,  but the knights  charged  at the skeletons.  Then  Mallock the Malign uses magic to stop Clutch Power’s team.

Clutch found a  cage.   He saw a pair of  keys hanging from  Mallock’s cape.   Clutch   got    the keys from Mallock by making him take a bath.  When Mallock got in the bath, Clutch took the keys from his cape. Mallock told the skeletons to go find Clutch. Then, Clutch went to find the cage that he had seen.

He unlocked the cage, rescued his Dad. Then Clutch and his Dad had to battle the skeletons. The fought bravely and defeated 101 skeletons, but then Mallock was done with his bath.

Mallock got his magic wand and tried to defeat their power sparks with it. But Hogar came out of no where and whacked Mallock with his stone malice and Mallock was captured by Clutch. Then everywhere turned bright again. Then they stuck Mallock in jail, and then the space police thanks Clutch Powers and his Dad for saving the Lego World from the evil clutches of Mallock the Malign.

The End

Saturday, March 20, 2010


                                                                                A few months ago I picked up this very puzzle at a local store for 4 dollars. While Jayden knew his alphabet I knew he'd enjoy the puzzle. Trains, Mickey Mouse, and ABC's will go a long way with him. Plus, I figured I could stick it in his workboxes to do on his own when I was working one-on-one with Morgan. After a while I put the puzzle up on the top shelf of our game closet, which is where I store things when we need a break for them or where I store things we'll pull out during the rainy winter months. Only, while going over plans for the 2010 school term (which is a really funny story better saved for another post) I realized Morgan should be able to alphabetize up through the second and third letter and Jayden should learn to do it with the first letter. While considering the easiest and funnest way to teach this I remembered the puzzle hidden away upstairs. We pulled it out and I told the kids their first task of the day was to assemble the puzzle. They did.

Then I showed them a Children's Dictionary we were given. I told them they could find the meaning of any word inside of it, which was amazing to them because, shamefully enough, we normally use the dictionary online. They also pointed out that one of their cousins said that the dictionary is boring while another said it's quite useful. Jayden decided to quiz me and wanted me to show him chocolate in the dictionary. I did. We then resumed our lesson.

I told them that the reason we learned our ABC's first before we did anything else was because knowing the right order was really important. This was honestly a review lesson for Morgan, but he was on tenterhooks, perhaps expecting a different outcome. I told them that to use the dictionary, or a phone book, or the library box system they had to know what order the ABCs went in. (Our library's picture book system is set up by large rolling boxes labeled with A B C, etc.)

They figured that was simple because they knew their alphabet. They were right. Then I gave them so words written on index cards and told them to match the card to the train car that held the right letter. They did. Then we discussed, at random, which letters came before others. I might call out a word and they had to find it and tell me if it came before or after another word that I read out.

Then we discussed authors names, something they are fully aware of and love reading off their books. I explained that if Jayden wrote a book it would be filed in the C box at the library. That is his cousin, who thinks dictionaries are boring, wrote a book her book could be found in the B box. Then I told him that if his American Grandma wrote a book he could find it in the A box. Then I asked them both to tell me the title of one of their favorite books. Morgan chose books by Mo Willems while Jayden preferred books by Lynell Dodd. We then decided which box those books would be found in and why.

They really enjoyed this and asked if I would give them more words. We've played with this quite a bit since then using words with the same first letter so that we had to move to the second letter. I've also written words down for them and had them number them in order but allowed them to use the train to visualize the alphabet.

It's also made them more aware of the authors of their favorite books. For instance, I heard them discussing if they liked any books in the Y box while we were at the library the other day. They also decided to verify that all the books in the whole library were set up like that. The "whole library" meaning the Junior fiction and non fiction area.. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chocolate Carmel Slice

When Mr Scarecrow came to America he brought with him a small stash of recipes his parents had given him. They were dubbed as his favorites and they went into the stash of recipes in my recipe box, and thus became our recipes. Amongst those recipes was one for Chocolate Carmel Slice. There was a hand written note in red on this card that said, “Lawrence’s Favorite slice!” A small hint that someone really loved this special treat. Yet, oddly enough, I’m not sure I made it more then once or twice in America. 
You see, the recipe itself was simplistic but the ingredients were another story. While I was convinced I’d found a substitute there were those in our little patch who disagreed and so the favorite recipe hit the back of the box and there it stayed until we moved to Australia.
Now, don’t be fooled, Chocolate Carmel Slice is as delicious as it sounds, but it’s also loaded with sugar. Being the freaky organic eating non-sugar munching people that we are, the recipe, once again, hit the back of the box and seemed doomed to stay there forever. Then one day Jayden said, “Mom, how come you never make carmel slice anymore?” I told him it was sugary and he replied with, “But you can make anything! Can’t you fix it?” 
I’m glad my children have every faith in my abilities, especially when it comes to cooking something they enjoy, but I was honestly intimidated by this. First off, the recipe calls for a tin of condensed milk. While I knew I could buy it low in fat, organic, full fat, and even super sized cans of it I was totally unaware of a healthy sugar-less version of it.

I’d tried making my own condensed milk once before and the outcome was a total disaster, and not something I was willing to repeat with my more expensive natural sweeteners. I was able to put Jayden off for a while, but he started becoming increasingly persistent and even resorted to asking Nana to make him the sugary version. Then Nana asked us if it would be okay, and we had to say no. Which led me to pull out the recipe and scrutinze it and see what I could do with it.
For one thing, I have more natural sweeteners in my arsenal now then I did before, but that doesn't always make the job easier. Sometimes it makes it harder deciding which one will best complete the task. This recipe has been tested on my own small gang, my inlaws over Australia Day, and a client Mr Scarecrow works for it seemed to pass by all with flying colors. I felt that was saying something considering all of them were use to the normal sugary versions that each family makes or that can be picked up at every corner bakery or McDonald's (yes I mean the Golden Arches kinda McDonlad's..) around here.

Don't be intimidated by the recipe despite it's many steps. I promise you can really pull it off in very little time. The really hard part is waiting for it to fully chill. I think it's best if left in the fridge overnight before consuming, but there are those who'd disagree, and I truly hope those few are suffering terrible tummy aches for snitching pieces of it too soon!

Chocolate Slice

Preparing the Base:

1 cup of plain all-purpose flour; I've used whole wheat too without anyone noticing
1/2 c coconut sugar
1/2 c desiccated coconut or coconut flour (Coconut flour is just finely ground up coconut)
115g butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 180 (350). Mix the first three ingredients together in a small bowl; add the butter and mix until crumbly. If the mixture is too dry add up to 5g more butter. I find that 115 - 118 seems to work for us. Lightly grease a 20cmx20cm (8x8) square pan (if you're lucky enough to own a lamington pan you could use that instead..) & press the mixture into the bottom of it. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.


400g sweetened condensed milk; equivalent to 1 can
2 T honey
55g butter

Here's where we start getting tricky. We have to make our own condensed milk if you want a sugar-free version that does not have artificial sweeteners in it, at least in my neck of the woods. It's not as hard as it sounds, and it only takes a minute. Yes, it contains powdered milk and I know that powdered milk is not that good for a person, but considering we rarely eat this special treat we'll take our chances with powdered milk vs artificial sugars..

In a blender mix together 1 c of powdered milk, 1/4 t stevia, 1 T coconut sugar, 1/3 c boiling water (if you weren't using this batch for the chocolate slice you'd add 3 T of butter and could store it in your fridge for a few days, but we don't need the butter for this particular recipe) Turn your blender on and whirl until smooth. It will not get SUPER thick like what you see in the can, but it will be fine. Continue on with the recipe as normal..

Put the batch of condensed milk and the rest of the filling ingredients in a sauce pan on the stove top. Turn it on medium and let it cook until it turns a nice golden color and has thickened up a bit. Once it reaches the boiling stage I turn it down to a simmer and let it go for about 8 minutes. If you start working on this as soon as you pop the base in the oven, you'll be done just as the base comes out.

Pour the carmel on top of the base and spread it around evenly. Pop the whole thing back in the oven and cook for another 12 minutes. You're looking for a firm well set pudding/custard type appearance. Now that our oven no longer reaches astronomical temperatures 12 minutes seems to be just right. It will be a deeper shade of gold and lightly browned around the edges (see picture below.)

Don't panic if it bubbles up like mine did. As it cools the bubbles settle down and disappear, and even if they don't it won't effect the way it tastes! Next you'll need to melt 125 grams of chocolate. Now, if you're going sugar-free you could use unsweetened chocolate and add stevia to it as a sweetener. That's not an option for us as unsweetened chocolate isn't sold here. Other options would be Loving Earth, Sunspire Grain-Sweetened Chocolates, or make your own chocolate. There are many ways to do this but they are best saved for another post. Whatever way you choose simply pour the melted chocolate over the top of your carmel slice and spread evenly.

Resist the urge to gobble the whole thing up and pop it in the fridge. Let it cool until set or, as I said before, overnight. Then slice it up and enjoy. For easier neater slices dip your knife in HOT water before cutting, it really does make it easier. I also suggest sharing with a friend because you may find it hard to resist. 

Notes:  A recipe card will soon be joining this post. No, we do not normally store our chocolate carmel slice in a jar with a pretty ribbon around it. We gave half of the batch we made away for someone's birthday and we put it in the jar with the bow instead of a gift box. You can find a sugar version of this recipe here. Golden Syrup can most easily be compared to corn syrup, but it is not exactly the same. Cooking chocolate is simply referring to a chocolate that can handle being melted and hardened again, semi-sweet chocolate chips would work fine. Yes, we really measure things on kitchen scales here when we're baking. You can find a sugary version of the condensed milk here, or if you'd rather just use a tin of it help yourself. Don't blame me if you eat the whole pan of this sweet treat yourself!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Still Here..

We're still here at the Pumpkin Patch, just slow on blogging this week. I actually tend to do all my blogging on the weekend and schedule posts to pop up through the week. However, last week was so crazy for us we had a lot of downtime this past weekend and that included down time from blogging and other computer type activities. We were, in essence, entirely lazy. We're also working on an Australian Nature blog. Not because the world needs another nature blog out there, we're well aware of many amazing and fun nature blogs that are there to encourage homeschoolers and nature enthusiasts alike. However, while we've wanted to "play along" with these blogs we've had a hard time considering the vast difference between the northern and southern hemispheres, not to mention our array of flora and fauna aren't always the same either.

All of which has inspired us to create a nature blog dedicated to the nature we encounter right here in Australia. The idea was that if we shared 52 different ideas/plans/lessons/etc. in a years time we'd also be up and exploring more of it ourselves. Will it work? Time will tell, however we've been having a lot of fun getting things set up.  We're hoping to have our first post, All About Millipedes (don't laugh if your living in the Northern Hemisphere we've being overrun and inundated with them right now, and not the native ones but the imported pesky ones too!) up by next week for those wishing to "play along."

We're also fighting a cold, learning a new schedule, savoring the last of a summer that seems to want to stay, putting the effects of a new school term into action, rearranging the house and eagerly awaiting packages from our postman.  All though, between you and me I think the postman is officially freaked out when he heard us singing, "Oh Mr Postman, won't you bring us a package all wrapped in brown, don't' care where it comes from as long as it's mine..." What can I say, we're eager for our packages!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St Patrick's Day!

        May your blessings outnumber
        the Shamrocks that grow.
        And may trouble avoid you
        Wherever you go.
                             --- Irish Blessing

We enjoyed a few fun crafts today, and learning that the Shamrock can be used to explain the Trinity. Which led to a discussion that sometimes people feel "lucky" to find a clover with 4 leaves. Which made certain little boys ask if you could find clover with 3 & 4 leaves exactly how high did they go up to anyway..  You'll have to settle for a post without fun pictures from our little Pumpkin Patch, because the computer with photos on it is currently in the shop getting a bit more ram installed in it..

For breakfast we enjoyed Irish Soda Bread for breakfast. I altered the recipe by using 2 T of maple syrup, adding the finely grated and chopped peel of 2 oranges. I also used 1/4 c orange juice and 1/2 c milk. I swapped raisins for dried currants, and I used half whole wheat flour. I also chose to bake it on a piece of baking paper set on top of a cooling rack on top of my baking tray. I find my scones tend to get dark on the bottom before the inside is cooked and this recipe is quite similar to scones. Don't be fooled by the size of the dough, it rises a LOT. I also took a kiwi and sliced it (skin on) into thick thirds. I used a small heart shaped cookie cutter to cut 1 heart from each slice; 3 hearts from each kiwi. We turned them into shamrocks on the kids plates. (picture to come)

The boys made St Patrick's Day crowns and they had a great laugh discussing gold at the end of the rainbow and how silly the idea was. We printed the pattern on cardstock and the kids had fun coloring while breakfast cooked. We affixed their pieces to green foam and they proudly wore them all day long, much to the delight of those who spotted them.

Then Mr Scarecrow and I helped Morgan make a fun beard. Funny, isn't it, that the child who was terrified of growing a beard wanted to do this craft? Morgan and I rolled the papers and Mr Scarecrow glued them on for us. Morgan then wore the beard complete with funny green hat around the house for a while.  (picture to come) I admit to trying the beard on too but found that the paper and glue was quite stinky, but then again I've been told my sense of smell is a tad extreme.

We had baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese for lunch, and just for fun I tossed corn on the kids and told them it was bits of gold. This led to a discussion on the Potato Famine/Black Famine. Morgan made us a fruit rainbow for lunch using watermelon, green grapes, papaya, red grapes, blueberries, and apples. He laid it all out in an arc form on a cooking tray and we munched on it while we ate. (picture to come, because his looked way better then the picture I did find..) Then, we discussed rainbows and while we were discussing what makes rainbows Morgan simply says, "Not to interrupt you or anything, but honestly guys if God hadn't made it rain and flood the world we wouldn't even have rainbows. It all started, you know, with the first one. So, I guess even though it was bad, it was really good." To which I told him he was quite insightful, because honestly that comment really was. 

I also made some Mint Ice cream (I didn't bother to tint it green, swap the vanilla for mint.. and to make it super light and fluffy and totally yummy only half fill your ice cream canister. Trust me on this one..) and chocolate graham crackers (add 1/3 c of cocoa, and for ease of rolling out roll between two pieces of baking paper then slice with a pizza cutter and place the paper with dough on it right on your cooking tray) Once the ice cream was churned I spread it in an 20x20cm (8x8) pan and popped it in the freezer for a few hours. Once the crackers were cooled I cut the ice cream into chunks and made ice cream sandwiches. I only used 1/4 batch of ice cream (I make a 1/2 batch of mixture and only churn 1/2 of that at time) and it made plenty of sandwiches for us. When you only half fill your canister you'll get super light and fluffy ice cream and it will go farther then you expect! We ate them after a typical Silverside/Corned Beef dinner. I cooked the beef in the crock. I plop the meat in, cover it with boiling water and turn it on high for roughly 5 hours (3 pounds of meat) and let it simmer away all day. We enjoyed it with leftover Rainbow fruit salad and green beans.

We also read about Shamrocks and the cute little blessing above in China Bayle's Book of Days. The, just for complete fun we hid a few golden coins around the house and let the boys look for them. They found it amusing to find coins hidden in the bathroom and on the bulletin board. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Scrapbook Boutique

This weekend while the kids and I were at the library Mr Scarecrow ran to a computer shop across the street. While there he picked up my scrapbooking program, thinking he was getting the latest version. As it turned out, he picked up the very same version I had. He was highly disappointed by this and it caused some poking around on the web, and we stumbled upon the scrapbooking program put out by Simple Scrapbooks (use to LOVE that magazine..) called Scrapbook Boutique. It was quite cheap and downloadable and so Mr Scarecrow bought it for me. I was quite excited but had to wait the entire day for it to download. In fact, by the time I gave up waiting and went to sleep at 11 pm it STILL wasn't done! The worth was wait it though. Check out the 5 pages I made this morning while testing out the new program:

It's really simple to use with a drag and drop method. I'll still be holding on to my old program and using it LOTS for notebooking pages, lapbooks, and other fun printables. But I was honestly surprised by how simple it was to make a digital scrapbook page with this fun program! I also noticed you can go to the Simple Scrapbook website and purchase fun kits and digital items to go with the program. Even cooler, I can run this program on my Mac! The only problem with the program is that I think it'll be pretty easy to get addicted to using it! You can buy this program from Amazon if you want, but it's a bit pricer there.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Story of a Chocolate Cake

We buy our fresh produce each week at a veggie market. That might sound fancy to some of you, but I promise it’s not. Our local veggie market has no heat, the ceiling seems to be in constant need of repair. The leek farmer tends to be iffy on his deliveries. The organic tortilla chip company hasn’t delivered in so long that even the clerk is beginning to wonder what the hold up is. I can walk around the entire inside of the shop in about 10 seconds and the kids can, and do, run it in less then 5. It constantly needs to be mopped, there’s gobs of boxes hanging out the back door which is never closed. Farmers traipse in and out daily with muddy boots delivering fresh produce.

But we like our veggie shed. They sell locally grown produce and half of it tends to be organic. They keep us well supplied with the things we need and have accepted us as one of the regulars. They give us free grapes or melon or whatever tasty bits are laying on the counter in need of being used up quickly. It always smells of fresh veggies and occasionally Johnny is cooking up something really good in the kitchen.

So recently when they started carrying organic beef we were rather excited about it. We normally buy our organic beef from the grocer but for reasons I can’t fully explain (it’s really hard to concentrate on what the butcher is saying when you can’t get over the fact that he seems to be winking every few words..) other then something about customs. Which is truly silly that meat is being held up in customs or over customs forms because there’s a great organic beef farm not far from where we live, but apparently they sell their meat to the mainland.. Either way I’m getting away from chocolate cake.

We decided to try out one packet of this organic beef. We took it home and popped it in the freezer. In one of my many travels around cyberspace I stumbled upon a new recipe and it was put in the menu rotation this past week. On the appropriate day I pulled out our beef to defrost. When dinner time rolled around I opened the package and thought it smelled odd, but that’s not saying much.

I have a huge aversion to raw meat or cooked meat or just any meat to be honest. It’s a weird hiccup I have. I can stand there examining a dead animal on a nature walk while assuring Morgan he can stop screaming because it won’t hurt him and that it’s not nightmare worthy (he can handle bones but not carcasses.) Take me in a butchery and even the butcher starts to get concerned. I’ve been known to hold my breath and run through them as fast as I can. Or to hold my breath tell them what I need, dash out the door gasp for air and run back in. They use to be concerned about this behavior, but I’m pretty sure they are use to it now because they just shout out the door, “Anything else?”

So the fact that the meat didn’t smell quite right was no biggie to me. It seemed normal for it not to smell quite right. I threw it in the pan and started to brown it up, but as it browned that “not quite right” smell was quite familiar to my nose. There are smells in life you just don’t forget and growing up on a goat farm you kinda remember the smell of goat. So I’m standing there and I’m stirring this meat and I’m thinking that I might really have lost it this time.

I call Mr Scarecrow to the kitchen and ask him to sniff the meat. This is also not an absurd or abnormal request. He obliged and stuck his nose in the pan. He said nothing was amiss and I decided I was just freakier then normal. I added the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stirred it up. I tried the smallest bite I could, but I was sure it tasted weird.

Twenty minutes later I served a sloppy-joe meat on top of plates of rice. I called everyone to the table and told them to dig in. I decided that instead of attacking my salad I’d gut it up and eat a bite of my meat first. There’s only one way to get over a mental block, right? So I did. I pretended it was great and I ate more.

Morgan dug in with gusto and Jayden ignored his meat, very normal at our house. It was Mr Scarecrow that acted weird. He ate a bite and looked funny and then took another bite. His third bite was much less appealing because eventually he spit it back out on his plate. That is not normal behavior! This is the same guy who nearly gagged on over salted pasta once because he didn’t want to ask me if I’d tasted it yet.

He turns and says, “Does this, you know, taste funny to you?”

I’m eating a bite of the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted but I boldly say, “No, of course it doesn’t. You said it smelled fine and I’m gutting it up and eating it.”

He looks at me. I swallow, “Okay, it tastes terrible. I swear it tastes like goat, but we bought beef!”

Then, Mr Scarecrow looks me square in the eyes and says, “You never forget the taste of goat.” I pretended not to gag and decided salad was way better then meat. The guys, however, needed a trip to the Golden Arches to wash the unusual flavor of goat out of their mouthes.

We get home and decided that what we really needed was a big fat chocolate cake, but we don’t have one. It’s not like I intentionally fed my family goat now is it? I mean, I’ve fed them some pretty freaky things like spinach smoothies, and tofu based ice cream. I’ve convinced my kids that the green specks of spinach in their brownies are nothing more then secret ingredients. But, I never ever had any intention of feeding them goat. It just wasn’t on my to-do list! Had I intended to feed them goat, I would have had a chocolate cake ready, but they probably would have been on to me!

Bad meals, or ones under great question and scrutiny often get accompanied by some amazing desert. The trick is keeping the desert under wraps until they’ve tasted the food, cause otherwise they catch on. So when they went to bed without chocolate cake they were pretty disappointed, and I gotta say I didn’t blame them.

The real problem arose when they suffered through another day lamenting the fact that they’d eaten goat the night before and there were still no signs of chocolate cake around the house. In fact, I was pretty sure they were planning a revolt so on Friday I baked them chocolate cake. There was much excitement over chocolate cake considering it’s normally only served on birthdays. There was even more excitement when I threw a mint filling between the two layers and topped it with an agave sweetened chocolate icing. After all, it’s not every day you eat goat now, is it?

Note: Our mint filing was 6 oz of cream cheese mixed with 1/4 t peppermint extract 1/4 t of stevia and 2 t of coconut sugar. We mixed it up and added enough milk so it was easily spreadable. We make the agave icing by using about 1/4 t stevia and 2 T of agave or maple syrup. You'll need to milk to the recipe to help it reach a spreadable consistency.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bible Tails Calendar

Last year (or would that be the year before) my sister-in-law gave Mr Scarecrow & I this hillarious calendar called Bible Tails. It was so much fun flipping it over each month to see what crazy cartoon was ahead. We each had our favorites out of it and Mr Scarecrow actually cut his favorite out and pinned it to his office wall. So this year we decided we had to treat ourselves to a new one. We don't ordinarily bother to buy calendars because they seem to appear in our home with very little effort, but we sat there lingering over the last month of our Bible Tails and decided we really wanted to have that much fun again. In Australia you can buy it through Koorong, and if you cash in earlier in the year you can get it during one of their 20% off sales. Unfortunately they are currently sold out so if you want one now you'll have to try Amazon or CBD both of which ship this far. CBD, however, takes a really long time to get here.

So this month this funny comic popped up on our calendar and while Mr Scarecrow and I rolled with laughter while watching it the boys wanted to know what it meant. So we told them that it was the line outside the girls room on the ark. They accepted it and moved on, and then out of the blue that evening Morgan says, "So Mom, where exactly did they go to the bathroom on the ark anyway?"

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Silly Sentence Game

The other evening I decided to make our own version of a silly sentence game. The idea is to make several real sentences up but write the beginning, middle, and ending parts of it on different slips of paper. Then you draw one of each part out and read your crazy, silly, or totally incomprehensible sentence off. The idea, while not original, was inspired by the book Games For Reading by Peggy Kaye. I've checked this book out of the library so much I really should obtain my own copy of it before they start reminding me that I just checked it out last month. Yeah, it's happened to us before!

The idea in the book is to write the parts of sentences on index cards and then to rubberband the various groups together. While I had index cards and rubberbands I also knew the limitations of my kids. It would mean a lot of sorting which would take away from the fun of playing the game. So I loaded up my scrapbooking program and I wrote the various sentence parts in there and printed it all out on colored paper. The idea had been for the beginning parts to be on green, middle to be on yellow, and ending to be on red. Only, I was out of red paper. Not a big surprise, so we subbed the red with orange. We laminated all the strips, cut them out and put them in a small box. Then we each took turns drawing out sentence bits and reading them off. Jayden is super crazy for this game, which is great because I really made the game for him.

We've played this game at least twice a day since we made it. It seems to be a huge hit at the lunch table. I'm thinking we might all ready need to add a few more sentences to the box that work on various letter combinations. One of their favorite sentences was "My Grandma was there under my bed." They thought it really funny and then Morgan said, "Wait! That's like saying Nana was under our bed!" There was a whole lot of giggling and then Jayden said, "Or Gram-Gram.." and then they totally lost it. Apparently the thought of two grandma's hiding under their bed was more then they could handle. Want your own set of silly sentences? You can pick up the pdf we made here, but beware the side effect to this game seems to be uproarious laughter.

Note: You can read about Goofy Sentences (we prefer silly sentences) on Peggy Kaye's website here. It's one of the games she's put up in pdf form.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fun Math Game

This week we decided to play a new math game. The concepts we used weren't knew (addition & subtraction) but the game was new. It lacks a good and proper name, but that doesn't take away from the fun of playing it. In fact, Jayden really got into this game and insisted on pulling out his abacus and sat there adding each set of numbers up trying to determine what the best move was. Honestly, I don't think I've seen him concentrate on anything that hard! It was very unusual to have to wait so long for Jayden to make a move. The idea of the game is to add two cards together to equal the value of a third card. You can, of course, play with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. To keep it simple for our first time playing we went with addition, but used a bit of subtraction. Here's how you play:

Take a deck of cards and pull out Aces - 10's. We chose to use Uno cards so we had numbers varying from 0-9. I like using uno cards for math games so the boys can visualize the numbers. We need a new set just for math time! Shuffle the cards and lay 4 cards face up on the table, set the rest aside in a draw pile.

Next, look at the cards and determine if any of the numbers can be added together to reach a third number that is present. In this case we had 5+3=8. The player who's turn it is may take all 3 of the cards. Three more cards are then laid face up to replace those that were taken. Play continues around the table in this fashion.

When you hit a group of cards where no play can be made the player who's turn it is flips over an additional card and places it face up on the table. If nothing can be done the next player in line flips over a card and tries to add them up. Play continues until someone can make a move. When we played, we found that at most 2 cards had to be flipped.

In this case the 1, 1, 5, & 9 couldn't be used in the version we were playing. We drew another card and it was a 6. The player who drew the six can now take the 1+5=6 cards in order to keep play moving. We replaced enough cards onto the table so that there were still 4 cards face up in play. Continue until all cards are used up or no play can be made. We count the cards up to see who has the most if we're trying to determine a winner.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

FFWW: Early 19th Century..

We're still learning about WestWard Expansion around here but we're using Homeschool In The Woods Early 19th Century History Pack as our spine for the study. So this week the lessons we are tackling will come directly from the history pack, all though we may add a bit of Pony Express history in this week as well. The boys really loved the small glimpse of that time frame they had when we covered it last year so digging a bit deeper this time around will be fun for them. We're still plucking away with Little House too as we didn't have as many opportunities to read too much of the book last week. I was honestly hesitant to read this series to them because of it's "girlish" characters, but they really love it. This week our pickings will seem slim, but will keep us quite busy:

  • Little House On The Prairie & free lapbook that goes with it. We just fill it in as we read. Alternately it would have worked for the boys to do narration instead. We're also pulling some quotes from the book for handwriting practice.
  • Jimmy Spoon & The Pony Express -- this will be our read aloud this week and we may use quotes from there for handwriting as well or we may try some narration from it.
  • They're Off -- this is a picture book about the Pony Express that came highly recommended to us. We like that we can see the various stations along the PE route so we can mark them on our wall map for fun!
  • Hands On History Pony Express -- we'll do a few fun things from this book as well as enjoy some of the printables (pony express rider cards and more) for our WWHO notebooks
  • Early 19th Century -- this history pack comes with 5 weeks worth of lessons and we've really enjoyed them thus-far. Lots of lapbooking, notebooking, and hands on projects to enjoy too.
  • Multiples of 2 poster -- blog post coming soon, hopefully.. We'll also play some multiplication games this week as well.

See, we'll be quite busy this week, how about you?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Question #99

Nope, I'm not. My husband is, and so are my children but I am not. My husband is Australian by birth, thus so are his children. I am American by birth, thus so are my children. America does not recognize dual citizenship, Australia does. Because our children were born in America there was no fancy footwork needed there. We did, however, have to file for their Australian citizenship, travel to an Australian Consulate in America, and pay a nominal fee per child for them to be recognized by the Australian government as Australian citizens. That was a fun adventure in and of itself and one our family will never forget considering we got lost in downtown Atlanta, Georgia and were so lost the poor Australian Consulate couldn't help us find our way out. Nor could the 2 police officers we asked, or the three maps we encountered. No, it was a well dressed businessman that I asked in total desperation who was actually able to help us find the monstrous building we were searching out. Funniest part? 5 minutes from our hotel room.

I, however, am not an Australian citizen. I am living in Australia on an indefinite visa which permits me to live and work here as long as I'd like. It does not entitle me to vote, which we've had to clarify a few times to various voting offices... However, we had lots of fun listening to the guy in the immigration department become very wowed out by my visa. He was confused as to how I was granted such a visa so quickly much less at all, which in turn freaked us out until he verified that all the paperwork was in order. So apparently, I'm on a special visa, which means my parents were right all along, I am a pretty special person!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Homeschool Journal

While considering new ways of keeping track of the many upcoming plans we have for our school year, crafts, ongoing activities, and the likes I also considered journaling our school year. The idea was inspired quite some time ago and it was more a matter of making it work. I had planned to use a normal spiral bound journal/notebook, but I was concerned about how it would play out. Then there was a discussion on one of the homeschool message boards I frequent about Lifestyle Journals. The thought appealed to me and I even made a knock-off version to try out, but I wasn't very keen on it. It just didn't fit my needs.

As homeschoolers we are constantly learning and doing things and the idea of a weekly journal was something I was highly interested in. A place to note all the smaller things that weren't on the plans for the week. The discussion we had about elections and how they differ in each country. The random facts our kids come up with that lead to bigger discussions are constantly surprising and the conversations can be quite deep considering their ages. It's fun to keep track of these and to make notes of the unschooling moments we have, which can often lead to bigger studies.
So, I loaded up the trusty old scrapbooking program and made my own. I like to think of it as our 'Book of Days'. If you print on the front and back of a paper (I always do, paper's too valuable not to) it's only a 2 paper spread for each week, this works for me. I can print them off and jot down notes as they happen through the day or week. It doesn't take the place of my planner, but there are weeks when I only use the journal pages. I love that I can jot down notes at random for specific things we've done, even if it's just a discussion. Want to try them out for yourself? You can download them here.