Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Restaurant Review: Food For Thought in Williamsburg, VA

While on a trip to Williamsburg, VA, we found this excellent restaurant. It is called Food For Thought and they have a number of vegan items on their menu, and quite a few vegetarian ones as well. I called ahead to see what the wait time usually is for dinner. It was a Thursday night and I was told the wait is no more than 30 minutes on week nights but that she'd put me down on their "priority seating" list. It's not a reservation, but it does let them know what tables need to be set aside for what times. We got there and only waited about 5 minutes before they had a table ready.
 
Our waitress promptly arrived at our table and introduced herself and we let her know that we're vegan (and that my husband is vegetarian). She was very well-informed about plant-based diets and even let us know that most of their salad dressings contain honey (she knew that some vegans eat honey, some don't---we don't, so this was good to know).
 
Normally, they bring complimentary rolls and butter to the table. However, she put in an order of flatbread and bruschetta. She also brought over some vegan margarine in case we wanted that too (I was impressed that they even carried it!) My husband was at first disappointed because the rolls at the other tables looked really good, but once he began dipping the flatbread into the tomatoes, he was also impressed. The kids were ready to fight over their shared plate of bruschetta and flatbread and Liam (my almost 1-year-old) morphed into a tomato-eating machine. 
 
Bruschetta and Flatbread
 
 

Next up was the main course. I ordered The ULTIMATE Vegetarian. The description said ,"Enjoy half a roasted spaghetti squash tossed with sun-dried tomato pesto sauce or vegan basil pesto and topped with bruschetta tomatoes and pine nuts. Served on a bed of our jasmine mushroom rice." How could I not order it? I had never tried spaghetti squash (although I had heard good things), and I had also never tried a vegan basil pesto (pesto typically includes cheese, for those unaware of why I don't eat pesto). This was perfect!
 
I had already started eating it when I remembered I needed to take a picture (if I don't take a picture, I will only remember that it was delicious but will not remember the details).
 
The ULTIMATE Vegetarian

On the Kids Menu, they had a couple of vegan/vegetarian options. The kids shared the Chicken Strips and sweet potato fries. Don't be alarmed, it was vegan! They do serve actual chicken strips, but for vegan/vegetarian kids, they substitute the chicken with Gardein Chik'n. Same flavor, same texture, but no bones, skin, or cholesterol. Their batter was great (you can also get it grilled instead of fried).

Gardein Chicken Strips

My husband, who is not (yet) a vegan ordered the Baked Eggplant Marinara. It is completely vegetarian, but not vegan. The batter includes parmesan cheese and the eggplant was also topped with mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and pesto (not sure if they used a traditional or vegan pesto for this). My husband said it was delicious.

Baked Eggplant Marinara

I could not get over how filling and tasty the food was. After our meal, or server let us know that they do offer a vegan (and gluten-free) chocolate cherry brownie if we were interested. I would have taken her up on that if I wasn't so stuffed from dinner!

There were quite a few other dinner menu items that were vegan (or easily made vegan). As an appetizer, they offered a roasted red pepper hummus appetizer that comes with fresh raw veggies and toasted flatbread. For dinner, they offered Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Cilantro Lime Chicken (both of which could be made with the vegan chicken). Also on the menu was their version of Pad Thai, made vegan by substituting with the vegan chicken or tofu. The kids menu offered a veggie burger or a grilled portabella and zucchini served on their jasmine mushroom rice.

They also have a breakfast menu and lunch menu. For breakfast, they have a tofu scramble and at lunch they offer a quinoa lentil burger.

The next time we are in Williamsburg, this place is already on the top of our list for dinner. Until then, I'll have to experiment at home with spaghetti squash (now that I know I like it) and see what I can come up with!



Additional Vegan Reviews for Food For Thought:

PETA Prime: Craving Something Vegan in Williamsburg, Virginia?
Vegan Gal: Vegan in Virginia


Friday, July 24, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #29 (Preparing for a New School Year)

Life

A special week for our family, as our little Liam is now a year old! The year has gone by so fast. Before his birthday, he was still very much my little baby. It's only a few days after his birthday and I am already seeing more of a little boy rather than a baby. For more on his special birthday celebration (including lot's of pictures), click here.


We also made a trip to the library this week and I was able to get a lot of books we'll need for the first week of school. We also got a pile of "for fun" books to read. Sometimes I feel I should be bringing a wheelbarrow to the library to help us get back to the van. I love that my kids enjoy being read to, but it is such a heavy task.

Homeschool

School starts in just over a week from today (we begin the first week in August) and I am frantically purging, cleaning, and organizing the homeschool area. My in-laws donated their old kitchen table to us so that we may have a nice area for Bridget (and George) to do their work without a little Liam grabbing at everything. It's the perfect size and we are looking forward to our new work space. It is chaos at the moment, but progress is being made! I am determined to begin this school year with not only an organized school room, but a clean/uncluttered house as well. Yesterday, I filled up an entire trash bag of just paper. I've also been packing up books and other supplies that I know we will not be using this year. That little guy in the bottom corner has been "helping".


Bridget is anxious to start school. She has seen all of her new books and now her new table and is beyond excited about everything. She tells everyone that she is going to be a first grader this year. George just can't wait to color while Bridget does school.

If you missed my post on our curriculum choices for this year (first grade and preschool), you can check it out by clicking here.
 

Linking up to:

 
http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/weekly-wrap-up-the-one-with-the-first-week-of-school-2015/

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Liam is ONE!

Our sweet Liam celebrated his FIRST birthday today! Gosh, has it really been a year?
 
 
Liam is a great addition to our family. The kids fell in love with him the moment he was born. He's a great eater and is becoming a good sleeper. He took his longest nap in his crib today (3 whole hours!). Soon he'll begin transitioning to his crib for night time sleep (we co-sleep and it's been the best thing for all of us).
 
Here are some little tidbits of Liam on his first birthday:
  • He has 6 teeth (four on the top, two on the bottom).
  • He has the longest hair of all our children at this age.
  • He is our first red head (just like his daddy).
  • He still has big blue eyes.
  • He loves to snuggle on blankets left on the floor.
  • He loves playing with George's trucks (and makes sounds to go long with them).
  • With two older siblings, he knows how to hold his own.
  • He has a quiet disposition.
  • He's a very shy flirt. He'll grin at you for a second before he tries to hide his sweet smile in momma's shoulder.
  • He eats everything. There is so far not a food this boy has tried and did not like.
  • He's still not walking, but he is an expert speed crawler.
  • If he's about to throw a tantrum, he'll wait to see if you're watching before he begins.
  • He says "mama" and "bye-bye" (sounds more like "ba-ba") while he waves.
  • He loves to sit on daddy's shoulders.
  • His favorite time to play with the toys is after his older siblings have gone to bed.
We had an enjoyable day and took way too many pictures. Here are some of the highlights:
 
Cake!!! With all three children, I have waited until their first birthday to give them any sort of cake, cookies, ice cream, donuts, etc. Their diet before turning one consists only of sugars found naturally in fruits and whatever meal recipes I've made that call for a bit of sugar or agave. It makes their first birthday that much more special and memorable.
 
I've always done a little bear for the "smash cake". It's a tradition for our kids on their first birthday.
 

The kids were so excited for Liam to have his first taste of frosting. George had to take a sample for himself.


Liam has the funniest expressions! Glad I was able to capture this one:


He really did enjoy his cake. Most of the time, he was too occupied with eating but every now and then (with a bit of coaxing), we were able to get him to look at us and smile.
 

The damage:


He didn't make too big of a mess on himself but we gave him a bath afterwards anyway. After he was washed up, it was time to open presents. We requested practical gifts for his first birthday (since he plays with all of Bridget and George's old toys anyway) so he got lot's of diapers from both sets of grandparents, and some sippy cups from us.


After the party was over and the grandparents left, I tried to get some pictures of all three kids together. As most parents know, this is no easy task. George was holding Liam who was happy at first, then quickly got fussy. With all the chaos, I captured this one of Bridget. I think she knew this idea of mine was not really going to happen.


After about 30 clicks of the camera, I got this one of almost all the kids smiling and looking at the camera (sort of). No one was crying, so I consider that "mission accomplished".


Happy Birthday, Liam!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Restaurant Review: Pita Plate in Morehead City, NC

During a recent trip to Morehead City, NC, I had a bit of a challenge ahead of me. Being so close to the beach (cross a bridge from Morehead City and you are at Atlantic Beach), the majority of independent restaurants are going to be seafood restaurants. (Southerners love their deep-fried seafood and hushpuppies!) Those days are behind me now.
 
Fortunately, I found this cute Mediterranean restaurant called Pita Plate. It is located at  5167 Highway 70 W in Morehead City, NC in the Belk Plaza. It would be my first experience going to a Mediterranean restaurant so I was unsure of what to order. However, after looking over their menu online, I felt like this place and I were meant to be. Items on their menu were labeled if they were vegan or not (they were also labeled if they were gluten-free). It was a rare find here in the South. I was anxious to try this place out.
 
After we were seated and our waitress took our order, she brought over a basket of seasoned pita chips. Oh my were they tasty!
 
Seasoned Pita Chips (complimentary)
 
Because I was unsure of what the kids would eat (we eat hummus often, but everything else was new to them), I ordered the Pita Plate Sampler from the appetizer menu. It included (from L-R) tabouli, spinach pie, stuffed grape leaves, hummus (with soft pita for dipping), and falafel, all for $10.00. A meal in itself, really. It was almost too pretty to eat.
 
Pita Plate Sampler
 
The kids gladly ate the hummus, falafel, and some of the spinach pie. I tried to get them to try the grape leaves, but 5 and 3 year olds are rather stubborn when it comes to eating something green. So I gladly ate them myself. Yum! I also ate the tabouli, as I knew they wouldn't even try it. It was also tasty but very overpowering. I could not finish the serving. I'd certainly try it again, but a much smaller portion.
 
The kids (ages 3 and 5) enjoying their Middle Eastern lunch.
 
For my lunch, I ordered the Falafel Entrée (also $10.00). All entrées come with a choice of tabouli, fatoush, Greek salad, Caesar salad, or a green salad. I chose the fatoush salad, because I had never had it before. It is described as a "traditional Lebanese salad, spring mix, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, and radish; mixed with lemon juice, Middle Eastern spices, and olive oil). I'm glad I tried it, because it was good too.
 
Falafel Entrée

My husband (the vegetarian in the family) ordered the Veggie Burger. They had a vegan and a vegetarian option and the only difference was that the vegetarian one came with a choice of Swiss or American cheese. They both cost $8.50 and what sold my husband on getting the vegetarian option rather than vegan is because he felt he was essentially getting a free slice of cheese. That's what I get for being married to an accountant.

The veggie burger looked almost identical to the falafel, except in patty form. He said he was very surprised with how delicious it was. He even kept the lettuce and onion up there, which is a major step for him. Our daughter (5) ate the slice of tomato for him.

Veggie Burger

One thing I love about trying out restaurants that serve ethnic food (other than sampling the food itself) is looking around at all of the decorations. This place did not disappoint. It's almost as if I stepped out of eastern North Carolina and into the Middle East. There was a bench along each wall covered in beautiful throw pillows (the kids grabbed this seating option before I had a chance to sit), and the walls were also decorated with various artwork and items representing the Middle East. This was located on the wall above our table.

"Turkish coffee"

While we do not travel to Morehead City all that often, this place will be on my list to dine at again. There were a couple more vegan items to try out (and many more vegetarian items for those who consume dairy).

If you're going with kids, they do have a kids menu but nothing on it was vegan or vegetarian which is why we opted for the Pita Plate Sampler.


This review is from a visit made on April 18, 2015. All prices are what they were at the time of our visit.
 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

First Grade Curriculum | 2015-2016 School Year



I am very excited to be getting started this year with a full curriculum using the classical approach. It took awhile to decide on what method would be best for myself as a teacher but especially for my children. My daughter, the oldest, has thrived so far with the classical curriculum choices I had made for kindergarten and so I find it best to continue with what works.

Using The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (TWTM) as my guide, I have been researching and deciding on the curriculum that we will be using for first grade and how to implement it with my preschooler who also likes to be included in the homeschool fun.

Because one of the most often asked question I get from people who find out I homeschool is about the cost, I will be including the prices I paid for each item to give other moms an idea of what they could be investing if they choose to homeschool as well. Keep it mind that it is what I paid and not what the current prices might be.

Language Arts

Spelling

Spelling Workout A--Student Edition only ($13.47)
Spelling Workout B--Student Edition only ($14.28)

TWTM suggests this spelling curriculum as their top choice. I compared this one to Spelling Power and keeping my daughters learning style in mind, I decided that Spelling Workout would be the best fit for her. I ordered both Levels A and B, as A is very simple and TWTM said it is not uncommon for a first grader to progress to Level B before the school year is over.

Grammar

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1 ($11.53)
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Audio Companion Levels 1 & 2 ($9.38)

The audio companion was not required for the text but the cost wasn't too bad so I ordered it.

Reading

First Grade
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading ($19.38)
The Harp & Laurel Wreath (Poetry and Dictation) ($18.72)*
BOB Books ($93.13 for Sets 1-5 + Rhyming Words, Kindergarten Sight Words and First Grade Sight Words)**

We began The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading mid-way through Kindergarten. I wish I had discovered it sooner but I'm just glad I discovered it at all! It has been an excellent tool for teaching my daughter how to read properly.

*This book was purchased previously for Kindergarten, so I do not include it in my homeschool budget for first grade.
** I purchased the entire BOB Books set for use in Pre-K and Kindergarten. They are also not included in our budget this year.

Preschool
My First BOB Books: Alphabet ($11.89)
My First BOB Books: Pre-Reading Skills ($9.60)

Writing

The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook $27.23
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Grade 1 $11.49
Grade 1 Paper Ream from Zaner-Bloser $10.99

I was hesitant to introduce a writing program for first grade, but once I looked through the book I knew it would work perfectly. I think my daughter will really enjoy working through it.

We are continuing with Zaner-Bloser for handwriting. We're still very happy with it.

Literature

Literature will be based on what we are covering in history this year. A few of the various literature works I will be reading out-loud will be The Iliad, The Odyssey, Greek and Roman myths, Egyptian myths, etc. Along with those classics, we will be reading a wide range of books we pick up at the library on our current history topic. I'll be posting more about this later.

Mathematics


First Grade
Math-U-See Alpha ($88.88)

We got a very good feel for Math-U-See when using their Primer level in kindergarten. My daughter understood the teaching style used and thrived with it. She wanted to do it first thing each morning. I see no reason to switch if this is what she loves.

Preschool
Counting Bears ($8.41)
Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards ($15.99)

Along with the items mentioned above, I will be working with my son on counting, patterns, sorting, etc. Currently, he counts to about 20 (sometimes higher, depending on the day) but has yet to associate the higher numbers with their actual meanings. Once I get him to count with confidence, we'll expand on that. I'm not going to push him into doing something before he is ready... the joy of being a 3-year-old!

History & Geography

Story of the World: Ancient Times ($10.88)
Story of the World: Ancient Times Activity Book ($20.27)
Story of the World: Ancient Times Test & Answer Key ($8.64)
MapTrek: The Complete Collection ($45.98)*

We started reading Story of the World (SOTW) back in the beginning of kindergarten, but because we had an infant in the house things got busy and we stopped. I don't feel too bad since it is recommended that the four-year cycle of SOTW be started in the first grade anyway. This year, we're ready to go! My preschooler will also be joining us for our history lesson as long as he wants to be a part of it. He may not learn much but he does love to sit and listen to a story and do any sort of activity.

I have always been fascinated with geography and when I found MapTrek, I was excited to use it. It's pricey for one book but it does come with a CD to be able to print off maps to draw on. This can also be used accompany all four years of the history cycle, so I think it will be a good investment. The company who put together MapTrek also has some living book geography resources that I may include into our curriculum this year if my daughter takes an interest in it.

*I purchased MapTrek from Amazon, but to get a better idea of what it looks like I am providing the link to their main website.

Science

Elemental Science: Biology for the Grammar Stage ($19.25) [eBook, not pictured]
Kingfisher First Encyclopedia of Animals ($9.56)
DK First Human Body Encyclopedia ($14.49)
Plant Parts ($7.99)
Biology for Every Kid ($11.70)
Science Around the World ($11.94)

Art Skills and Appreciation

Drawing with Children ($14.96)

I wanted to get a book that would help my daughter to become a better artist. She loves to draw (and she is rather good) and I have tried to help her to improve on her abilities but don't know how to teach her the various techniques. It's a book we can use together and I think I will have as much fun with it as she will.

We will also be borrowing books from the library on various artists or pieces of art we will be learning about during our study of the ancients.

Music Skills and Appreciation

Piano
John W. Schaum Piano Course Pre-A The Green Book ($6.95)

We are still working on The Green Book and will progress to The Red Book later in the year.

For music appreciation, there are not many things to choose from with ancient history, but when we come across a new instrument used during that time period, we'll concentrate on learning more about it. Until then, we'll continue listening to our classical music CDs (my children loves these and my daughter likes to dance around the living room when they're playing). The more exposure, the better.


We are so excited to get started!

Week in Review 2015: #28 (Colonial Williamsburg)

Life

Nothing too exciting going on right now day-to-day, but we did take an exciting family field trip.

Homeschool

We went to Colonial Williamsburg! It was only for two days but we had a blast. We are fortunate that it is only a 3 hour drive from where we live. The kids did great during the drive and we started our historical adventure at Jamestowne.



This captures Bridget's feelings about all of the animal skins hanging everywhere. She knows and accepts that is what people had to eat back then, but it still made her uncomfortable. She was glad to get out of there. I love how compassionate she is but I wish she hadn't been so bothered by it, as it is a part of our history.

Making cornmeal outside was much more fun!


Next we headed to the ships and toured a replica of the Susan Constant. There are actually three ships to tour (the others were Godspeed and Discovery), but this was the biggest and we felt that by seeing one, we've seen them all (we had also toured the Nina and Pinta replicas a few months back so we've had our fill of ship tours for awhile!)


George thought it was a good time to take a nap in the officers' cabin.
 
The Susan Constant

The next stop was Fort James. Some older boys were finishing up a week-long summer camp and took part of a "battle" we were able to witness. One of the leaders talked to us bystanders about the camp and what the boys did all week. My husband admitted to me later that he wished he had gone to a summer camp that awesome! The boys did a great job.

 
George was precious wearing his military armor. Being a soldier, I'm sure he wasn't going for "precious", but I'm his mom and I call it like I see it!
 
We finished up at Jamestown in the afternoon and felt it was time to check in to the hotel.
There was so much more to do at Jamestown and we'll have to go back when the kids are a little older (maybe in 3 years when we cover that time period in history).
 
At the hotel we had some time to kill before going to dinner so we went for a swim! We had the entire pool to ourselves and he kids had so much fun. Then we went to dinner at Food For Thought.
 
After a good nights rest, we were off to Colonial Williamsburg. We toured Great Hopes Plantation on the way to the city. They had a good sized garden where the women worked and the men were in the tobacco field. As enjoyable it is to have a nice big garden to tend to, I'm glad that I live in todays age where I have a water hose to water the garden rather than carrying a heavy water bucket back and forth from a water pump. Also, if my garden fails, there is always the grocery store.
 
When we arrived at the city, one of our first stops was the military encampment. I have no pictures of us being trained with our muskets, as the sergeant would have yelled at me if I stepped out of line. Haha. Our sergeant was very much in character and we had a good time (except George, I think he was feeling a bit intimidated so he just stood frozen in line). We then moved on to another part of the encampment where Bridget learned to wash clothes. The kids then picked fresh green beans from the garden for the soldiers.

 
There was so much to see and do and I stopped taking as many pictures so  that I could enjoy everything with the kids. We toured the capitol building, various shops, houses, and then finally the royal governor's palace.
 
Another highlight of the day in Williamsburg was this woman:
 
 
She played this Irish harp so beautifully and when Liam began watching her, she started playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for him. I could have listened to her play all day. I wonder how much one of these harps would cost so that I could have Bridget learn to play it for me. Wouldn't that be lovely!?
 
We spent a lot longer at Williamsburg that we thought we would, so we were unable to make it to Yorktown to finish our historical adventure. We did, however, drive on the Colonial Parkway toward Yorktown after dinner before we made the drive home.
 
Colonial Parkway, on the way to Yorktown.

 

Linking up to:

 
http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/weekly-wrap-up-the-one-in-which-im-extremely-thankful/

Friday, July 10, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #26 and #27

Life

The kids have been enjoying the summer while I have been busy planning for our upcoming school year. We enjoyed a quiet Fourth of July at home. The kids and I made a dessert pizza which turned out really well. We topped it with fresh strawberries and blueberries.


I've never given my kids sweets before their first birthday (it makes their first taste of birthday cake that much more special and exciting), so Liam instead got to enjoy the fresh strawberries and blueberries without all the sugary goodness. He had no problem with this. It was his first time eating blueberries and he loved them.


Bridget had an extra special moment with Liam this week. I was vacuuming the living room and Liam was very upset, so Bridget picked him up and held him on the couch. She sang to him and rubbed his back and after only a few minutes he was asleep. She was very proud of herself for comforting her baby brother.


Homeschool


We've taken an even lighter approach to school for the month of July. I have been busy planning lessons for the new school year (we will be starting at the beginning of August). Curriculum (except for science) was purchased months ago. Our school room is almost put back together. We will be getting a new table for Bridget since the toddler table is way too small for her. With the boys also wanting to participate (yes, even Liam likes to get in the middle of things), the table has proven to be too small and too low to the ground and Liam constantly grabs at everything she's trying to work on. Hopefully her table/work area will be put together before we begin the school year.

History

We learned about George Washington and the battle for independence. I did not plan it this way, but it worked out very well with it being the Fourth of July. Along with the biographical books we borrowed about George Washington, we also borrowed a delightful little book called George Washington's Teeth (which were not made of wood, by the way). It gave us a lot of laughs and also a good opportunity to talk about how we can prevent our own teeth from falling out.
 

Linking up to:

 
http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/weekly-wrap-up-the-one-where-im-ready-to-start-planning/
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