Friday, January 30, 2015

Week in Review: January in a Nutshell

January brought new additions to our curriculum, and we couldn't be more happy! School got even more fun. In science, we learned about solids and liquids. We experimented with various solids and discovered which solids, when heated, turn into a liquid. And some liquids we even watched turn back into a solid.
We melted old crayons in the oven:

We melted chocolate chips on our tongues (George wasn't about to miss out on this one):
We experimented with ice and popsicles:

In history, we studied the Native Americans and we also began our 'States Study'.

For Delaware, we made a peach pie (their official state dessert!):
It was so delicious and I thought I had gotten pictures of the finished product, but cannot find them. The pie also disappeared rather quickly.
We started our new handwriting book. Bridget starts off each letter by complete a page from her book (tracing and then writing it on her own):

Then we do an extra practice sheet, using words from the lesson or other words mom thinks of:

Bridget is getting so much better at writing. She puts up a fight sometimes when I make her write her lowercase letters, especially when writing her name. We are also working on leaving a finger space between each word. I am pleased with her progress but we will keep practicing.

Not pictured is something else we learned this week in math... switching our horizontal addition problems to vertical addition! Bridget caught on very quick. We did only one math lesson but have been working on drill sheets. We started with drill sheets using only the numbers 0-5. Once she mastered those, we moved on to drill sheets using numbers 0-10. To solve the problems, she uses either her math manipulatives or she draws circles next to each number to help her count. The more drill sheets she does, the less circles I see on her paper, which means she's beginning to do it all in her head!

We also had some other exciting events this week. George turned 3!!! It's been a wild ride but we are so glad to see him so healthy and happy.

Liam is learning some new tricks. He's been rolling for quite some time, but now he is moving all over the floor. If I put him down and go do something for just  a few minutes, I never find him where I left. He's a mover! He's lifting himself up quite nicely and has even attempted to bring his knees in as if he's trying to get into  a crawling position. I'm sure it won't be long now. He knows what he needs to do to keep up with his big brother and sister.

Another trick he's learned is sitting up all by himself. He's face-planted a couple of times, but he keeps getting better and better. If he starts falling to one side, he uses his arm to try to get straight again. Bridget and George have been great in helping him. If I need to go do something, one of them will sit behind him while he plays with his toys. They're very protective and I love having them help.

I am thinking of making one more addition to our homeschool routine, to help us get a better start each day. Still working on how to implement it. I cannot wait to see what February will bring us!
Linking up to:

Kindergarten Curriculum | 2014-2015 School Year

I am often asked by other moms of how homeschool is going, what we use for curriculum, and any other general homeschool questions that non-homeschool moms ask (or moms considering homeschool but don't know where to start). This is only our first official year, so I am by no means a pro. But I have done a lot of research on what works for us and how and what I want my children to learn. So far, it is working and I couldn't be more pleased.

I started Bridget in Kindergarten back in August but it has been very slow moving because of the newest addition to our family arriving in July. I've been primarily focused on reading, writing, and math. We dabbled in some history but it took a lot of time that I didn't have (having a five year old, a toddler, and a newborn in the same house makes for a very demanding day for mom).

Now we're back into a regular routine (as regular as can be with a constantly changing infant), and are adding a few more subjects to our daily studies.

We start our homeschool day with our core subjects: reading ,writing, and math. If we finish those in a timely manner, we work on history and then science. I save science for the very end since it often includes experiments, which Bridget loves. It provides a bit of motivation for her to get her school work done.

  • Reading: The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, BOB Books (We used only the BOB books in 2014, but beginning in January 2015, I began using the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. After one month of using this book, I only wish I had started it sooner. We both love it!)
  • Writing: Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Kindergarten (After months of "free-style" teaching of basic handwriting, I decided to finally get a structured curriculum. Zaner-Bloser won because it is the style of handwriting I've been teaching her, and she's doing very well.)
  • Mathematics: Math-U-See Primer
  • History: Story of the World - Ancient Times, Elemental History - Adventures in America (We love SOTW but we stopped to focus more on reading. Now that Bridget is doing well with reading, we've added history back to the curriculum. But this time using Elemental History since it's gentle enough that we can breeze through it in a shorter amount of time. It also includes a states study. SOTW will be used again at the beginning of 1st grade.)
  • Science: Elemental Science - Intro to Science (Once I had decided on a science curriculum for first grade, I discovered that the same company had some more basic texts for K4 and K5. We're trying the K5 level and so far we really like it.)

We both like having a longer homeschool day. In 2014, every time we'd finish up the lessons, my daughter asked me if there was more. She was never ready to stop. Now we've got a full school day for her, but also keeping it fun and simple.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recipe: Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

I hadn't had a cinnamon roll in YEARS. I do love cinnamon rolls (who doesn't?) but did not live near  a Cinnabon once I left my hometown. Then I went vegan and thought cinnamon rolls were a thing of the past. Then I found this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks by Chloe Coscarelli. I could not tell the difference!

We also made these for a church Christmas party and I'm sure glad we kept a few extra in a pan in the car (they didn't fit on the platter), because the cinnamon rolls were gone before we knew it.

Want to know a secret? My husband made them! They're that easy.

Don't think for a minute that just because these are vegan that they are healthy for you. They're not. But they are a tasty sweet treat that we deserve to give ourselves every once in awhile.

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls
Recipe Source: Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli

Cinnamon Roll Dough
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. warm water, about 110 degrees
1 envelope active dry yeast
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

In a small saucepan, heat soy milk, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and margarine over low heat until the margarine is just melted. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Let it cool down until warm to the touch.

While butter mixture is cooling, place the warm water, remaining tablespoon of sugar, and yeast in a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Stir for a second or two and set aside for about 10 minutes. The yeast will get foamy, double in size, and reach the 3/4-cup line. If it does not rise in the glass, then the yeast is dead or the water was not at the proper temperature, so try again before proceeding to the next step.

In a stand mixer with the paddle or whisk attachment, combine the margarine mixture and the yeast mixture, and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, and add 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix for about 2 minutes and add 2 more cups flour. Beat for 1 more minute. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl. It will be somewhat wet and sticky. Place it on a floured surface and knead for about 2 minutes with your hands. You can add a little bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Place the dough in a large well-oiled bowl and rotate the ball of dough so it is completely covered with the oil. This will prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl as it rises. Cover with a dry kitchen towel and place in a warm part of the kitchen. Let it sit until it has doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the kitchen towel and punch in the center so that the dough deflates. Take the dough out and put it on a floured surface, cover with the kitchen towel, and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

Filling and Assembling the Cinnamon Rolls
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tsp. vegan margarine, melted
1 c. raisins

Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into roughly a 20-inch x 13-inch wide rectangle. No need to measure.

Combine brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush or spread the melted margarine over the entire surface of the sough. Sprinkle raisins and the sugar mixture evenly over the surface.

With the long end towards you, roll the dough up evenly. With the seam side down, use a sharp knife to cut the log in half. Then cut each half into six equal pieces. You will have 12 cinnamon rolls. Place the rolls, cut side up, into the prepared pan, in 4 rows, with 3 rolls in each row, leaving some space between them. Cover with a towel and place I n a warm place until they have risen and expanded, about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let the rolls cool for about 10 minutes.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. water

Combine powdered sugar and water, and whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls. When it sets, the glaze will be smooth and clear.

Recipe: Tofu Hekka

This is my vegan take on a Hawaiian island favorite, known as Chicken Hekka. “Hekka” is a sukiyaki-type dish, made originally by the Okinawans. When brought from Japan to multi-cultural Hawai’i, the Chinese bean threads (or more commonly known as “long rice” in the islands) were added to the dish.
Traditionally, the mushrooms used are Shiitake mushrooms, but my dad always found them to be a bit too slimy for his liking, so we used regular mushrooms. The original sauce ingredients also include a bit of Sake (rice wine), but because I abstain from alcohol, I chose to omit this ingredient.
Other variations I’ve made are the way the celery is cut (most recipes call for julienned celery, but I prefer the diagonal cut). My children also really love baby corn, so I’ve added this to the recipe as well.
In Hawai’i, the watercress can be purchased in one large bunch. However, on the East Coast I have only found them in small bunches, so I use two. The watercress on the East Coast looks slightly different than the variety found in Hawai’i, but I have found it to have the same delicious flavor.
Tofu Hekka

1 block firm of extra-firm tofu, cut into smaller blocks
1 pkg. Saifun bean threads
1 onion, cut into half-moon slices
½ c. carrots, julienned
4 stalks celery, cut diagonal
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. ginger, chopped
1 8 oz. can bamboo shoots
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 bunches of watercress
1 15 oz. can baby corn (optional)
Sauce Ingredients:
½ c. sugar
¾ c. soy sauce (I prefer Kikkoman)
¾ c. vegetable broth

Combine ingredients for sauce in medium sized bowl. Add tofu to the sauce to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
Soak bean threads in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain and cut into 3-inch lengths.
Heat oil in large wok and cook onion until translucent.
Add carrot and celery and fry for 2 minutes.
Add garlic and ginger.
Add sauce (but not the tofu), bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and baby corn.
Add bean threads and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add watercress and cook for 5 minutes.
Add tofu and cook until tofu is heated through.

Nutrition Information
Serving Size: About 1.5 cups; Servings per recipe: Approx. 8
Calories: 304; Total Fat: 1.9g; Sat. Fat: 0g; Cholest.: 0mg;
Sodium: 1713.4mg; Carb.: 62.2g; Fiber: 6g; Sugars: 15.4g; Protein: 10.7g

Monday, January 26, 2015

Christmas 2014

Christmas was not everything we had hoped it would be. The kids spent most of December with a runny nose and cough, and poor George got a fever we just couldn't get rid of. Even Liam couldn't avoid getting sick. But we did try to enjoy ourselves as best as we could.
Bridget was the first one to start feeling better, just in time for us to attend The Nutcracker. It was a special mommy-daughter date we had planned. She fell in love with the story and with Clara. During intermission, we went out to the lobby and got her a special Clara ornament.
Christmas came quickly. Before we knew it, it was Christmas Eve, and both boys were still sick. We unfortunately did not get to bake any cookies for Santa this year, but we did leave him some oreos to snack on. Christmas morning came and Bridget was ready. George threw a little tantrum first thing before he realized there were toys from Santa in the living room. I blame the tantrum on him not feeling well (he was still running a fever).
This was Liam's first Christmas, so I really took more photos of him. He was excited by the sound of the paper ripping. He did a great job opening his own gift from Santa (more bibs!).

Sadly, George spent the second half of Christmas Day looking and feeling like this:

It feels awful as a parent to see their child feeling so yucky, especially on a holiday. Thankfully, by New Years' he was feeling much better. Our family Christmas picture got postponed until after the New Year, the day before taking down the tree. All three kids were healthy, happy, and smiling. I guess things turned out to be alright after all.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

George's First Haircut

On December 21, 2014, I finally decided to give George his first haircut. In fact, it was the very first haircut of any of my children. So it was a big deal. I wanted to be ready before I cut off his precious baby curls. I knew the moment I cut them off, he would turn from 'Baby George' to 'Little Boy George'. December 21st was the day. I had to go ahead and do it before I changed my mind.
I knew I wanted to keep his hair somewhat long. So I started with the scissors. While George was very cooperative and excited about getting a haircut, he's still a wiggly 2-year-old. I gave up on the scissors and my husband got out the clippers.
All smiles and he hadn't even looked in the mirror yet:

George has since had another haircut, this time going all around with the clippers rather than leaving the top longer. It's much easier this way especially since boys have much more frequent haircuts. He sometimes misses mommy brushing his hair. Occasionally he'll bring me the hairbrush and ask me to brush his hair, and sits there like he's getting a massage. It's cute.

Kids 2014 Photos

Getting photos of the kids is always an adventure. The main reason for the photos was to get Liam in his blessing outfit. Since I already posted those adorable photos here, now it is time for photos of the older two, and then the three babies together.
Bridget is a very shy girl, especially when it's time for pictures. She's trying to smile, but just can't relax enough. She was excited about wearing her new dress and getting her hair done though. George on the other hand, he's not shy about getting his picture taken. His problem is trying to keep still and not play with the props.

Bridget finally began to relax and be comfortable with the photographer. She started dancing and playing. It would have been a great photo except for the fact that her hair is a bit out of place from all the twirling. But I do like the action shot!

George looks so grown up in this photo...

... until he lets out a big dinosaur ROAR!

And finally, all three of these precious children together:

Kid Convos: December 2014

The kids spent a lot of time being sick in December, so I was unable to record a lot of the things they said. But here's a gem.

Me: Here is a picture of mommy and daddy when we were young. We used to be skinny.
Bridget: And then you got married.
Me: Yep. And then we got married.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Cookies

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe Source: Chloe’s Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli
Makes about twenty-two 3-inch cookies.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour plus ¼ tsp. xanthan gum)
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
½ cup vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 or 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. (We just put the cookies directly onto a dark non-stick pan and they turned out fine.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat peanut butter, margarine, brown sugar, vanilla, and water until fluffy. Slowly beat in the flour mixture. If the dough is too dry, add a little extra water, 1 Tbsp. at a time. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of sough at a time onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 4 inches between each scoop. Score the dough using the back of a fork. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Let cool on the pan and serve.  

Recipe: Vegetable Lo Mein

I love, love, LOVE Chinese food. When I became a vegan, I thought that I would still be able to enjoy some of my favorite meatless Chinese take-out dishes. I was wrong. So many places add some sort of fish sauce or eggs or something that I no longer want to consume. So I began recreating my favorites at home. I like to keep things simple, and this recipe is about as simple as it gets.

Vegetable Lo Mein

1 pkg. lo mein noodles
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 cup carrots, julienned
2 stalks celery, diagonally sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced (stems removed and discarded)
4 stalks green onion, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/4 cup hoisin
1/4 cup sou sauce
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Cook lo mein noodles in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes (per directions on package). Drain.

In a large wok, sauté all of your vegetables in the vegetable oil until they've reached desired tenderness. Halfway through cooking the vegetables, add hoisin and soy sauce.

When the vegetables are cooked, add lo mein noodles into the wok. Stir until the noodles are nicely coated with sauce, and well combined with the vegetables.

Optional: A can of baby corn is a great addition to this recipe.

Note: Don't cook the noodles until you're about ready to combine them with the vegetables. Otherwise, they'll begin to stick together.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving was celebrated over a month ago, but I need to record it before I forget it.
I hosted our Thanksgiving dinner at my home again this year. It was just a small meal (by typical Thanksgiving meal standards), as it was only my parents coming over this year. The menu was:
Tofurkey (cooked with onions and the gravy that came with it)
Mashed Potatoes
Mushroom Gravy
Green Bean Casserole
Stuffing (made by my dad)
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Candied Corn
Cranberry Applesauce
Whole Wheat Rolls (made by my husband)
For dessert, we had:
Caramel-Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Cookies (pumpkin and peanut butter, both made by my mom)
Holidays with kids are always fun, and this Thanksgiving was Liam's first. Of course he was not able to partake in any of the delicious food, but his company was nice. 

Bridget was excited that she was able to fit in her turkey outfit one more year.

I was unable to get any good photos of George on Thanksgiving, but these are the photos from the day before. As I had mentioned in a previous post, George had a little run in with Granny's hot glue gun.
On the day before Thanksgiving, my parents came over to watch the kids while I made a quick run to the grocery store. Before I left, I handed Liam over to my dad and set Bridget and George up with play-dough at the kitchen table with my mom. When I got home, the play-dough was still all over the kitchen table and my mom had brought over some crafts to do with the kids (I did not know about this). I came inside, unloaded groceries, and saw Bridget and my mom using the hot glue gun. I took a deep sigh, and went back to the van to grab more groceries, and came back inside. Bridget was done with her craft, and my mom seemed to be putting away the hot glue gun. I went and got Liam from my dad to go change his diaper and get ready to feed him. As Liam was still on the changing table, my dad and I heard George let out a huge scream. My dad went running, I diapered up Liam, and met them in the kitchen. My mom and George were sitting at the kitchen table with the hot glue gun. After a couple of minutes, my mom finally gets up with George and brings him to the kitchen sink (he's still screaming bloody murder). At this time, I handed Liam over to my dad and took over with George. He wouldn't stop screaming and his finger looked raw. I took him to our bathroom and applied some ointment and a bandage to get him to calm down. This worked, so we sat down and ate a quick lunch and my parents went home.
After they left, I wanted to get  a closer look at the burn. This is when I took the following pictures. It looked so painful, so I called the doctor and they said to come right in. They made sure he could still bend his fingers, and they determined that it was a second degree burn. They gave us some special burn medicine and bandages to put on every day and they wanted to see him back the following week. George wanted his burn to be bandaged for almost 2 weeks (he didn't mind looking at it when we changed his bandage, but he wanted it to be covered when he played and ate). It was three weeks after the burn that George finally stopped holding his finger out. It was a very traumatic experience for him, and he still remembers it. I don't think he'll be doing anything with a hot glue gun for a long time!


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