Saturday, August 29, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #32, #33, #34


Our second week of homeschool started off well, until George woke up early Tuesday morning, threw up in his bed and then threw up in ours, then threw up 7 more times within an hour. After that, the bug was gone. Later in the week, I got a cold that stayed with me through the weekend and the beginning of the next week. It was not fun. I got behind on housework and schoolwork.

My husband and I also celebrated our ten year anniversary. We left the kids with my parents and went to our favorite Chinese place. After dinner, we headed to Toys R Us without the kids to check out possible birthday/Christmas presents. Even on a day about us, we're still thinking about the kids.

We took off of school last Friday to spend the day with my mother-in-law because it was her birthday. My husband happened to be off work that day anyway, so we made an entire day of it. We also ended up going back to his parents house on Saturday so he could fix something for them. We stayed most of the day and the kids got to spend some time with their cousins, which I know they enjoyed.

We also scheduled Bridget for dance classes. She has been taking ballet lessons for the past two years but this year will also be adding tap lessons (with the same dance academy). She is so excited. It makes our afternoons rather busy, but it is something she enjoys. Once George and Liam get more involved in extracurricular activities, I may need to have Bridget choose what she prefers (she also does gymnastics).


We've completed our fourth week! We're a little behind due to sickness one week and visits the next, with other issues in between, but the few things that we are still behind with can very easily be caught up. My focus has mainly been on Bridget, because she is the one with an actual curriculum and schedule to follow (and she's the one I've gotten behind with). I've allowed George to play in his room or to watch some morning PBS shows while I've done school with Bridget. He hasn't complained, but I hope to have him back at our school table with us next week.


We had gotten an entire lesson behind in math. On Sunday evening, I had her take the test for lesson 2 and on Monday she did an entire lesson and took the test for that and got it all correct. She was very proud that she earned herself a sticker. This past Tuesday we began lesson 4 and have been back on track ever since. I'm glad that she enjoys math so much.


We've had two lessons with spelling lists so far and Bridget is catching on well. She gets frustrated at times when I make her sound things out, but doesn't realize until after her meltdown that she knew how to spell the word all along. This is still a new 'subject' for her and will take some getting used to.   


This is currently my favorite to teach. I love history, but I'm very excited that  we're also getting more involved in science. As I mentioned in a previous post, our library didn't have a good selection of habitat books to choose from, and while there were a couple of habitat books good for children Bridget's age, many of them were geared toward the older elementary aged child. I found the perfect habitat books on and after a week of pondering, finally purchased them and they arrived two days later (gotta love Prime shipping!). I'm happy about the investment and after looking through the books, they are perfect for her age and will still be good to use when we repeat biology in the fourth grade.
I had this display board sitting around the house for the past few years after using it for a project of my own. The board itself was a little beat up but after covering it with some construction paper, it is back to good use again. It's our new "habitats board". Because I'm weird and like to color code things, I have white for the arctic and Antarctic (with the arctic on top and Antarctic on the bottom, naturally), black for caves and underground habitats, blue for water habitats, brown for forest, green for rainforest, orange for grasslands, and yellow for deserts (which are also divided into Sahara and Sonoran, as I have yet to find wild camels living in New Mexico and felt it important to differentiate between these two desert habitats... and while I wanted to include parts of Australia and other deserts around the world, I held back because my daughter is only a first grader after all).
I found images of each habitat via Google images and printed them off on cardstock to give her a visual of what each habitat looks like. After we finish reading up on each habitat individually, we'll begin learning about the animals that live in these habitats, and place pictures of them in the appropriate areas. Hopefully the board is big enough. I wanted to save the board for when we study plants in the Spring so that we can have pictures of various plants in each habitat, but the I think the animals will fill it up. Bridget is just as excited as I am about our science unit.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Week 35 Menu Plan

After a few recent conversations with people about our plant-based diet and the meals I prepare for my family, I had given thought to posting my weekly menu plan again. Then my friend Tiffany gave me the motivation I needed to just do it. She makes great meals for her little family and has begun posting her menu plan (you can check out her plan here). She has also given me some ideas for the coming weeks that I cannot wait to attempt.

This is our plan for the week:

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Chocolate Chip Waffles (made by daddy)
Dinner: Tofu Hekka
Breakfast: Cinnamon-Sugar Toast
Lunch: Fishless Filets w/ Tartar Sauce, Salad, & Pineapple Chunks
Breakfast: Multi-Grain Cheerios w/ Milk
Lunch: Tempeh, Lettuce, & Tomato sandwiches
Dinner: Mexican Pizza
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Tomato Soup, & Sliced Apples
Dinner: Lentil Loaf, Mashed Potatoes, & Corn
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Toast w/ Bananas
Lunch: Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Steamed Broccoli, & Mandarin Oranges
Dinner: Leftovers
Breakfast: Grits
Lunch: Southern Chickpea Salad w/ Crackers, Salad, & Grapes
Dinner: Pigs in a Blanket & Tater Tots
Breakfast: ---
Lunch: ---
Dinner: Tropical Island Kabobs with Cilantro Rice
I kept things fairly simple, and snacks this week will be whatever the kids want (that is mommy-approved), as I may be having surgery later in the week and may not be the one preparing the snack. Depending on the day I have my surgery, I may need to switch some meals around.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Restaurant Review: zpizza

During our trip to Williamsburg, VA, I wanted something fun, simple, and very casual for dinner before we made the 3 hour drive home. led me to zpizza. I had never hard of this pizza chain but if they served vegan pizza, I was interested! I checked it out online and it did not take long to decide that this was where we would be eating. (Note: zpizza also serves non-vegan pizzas so if you are strictly opposed to dining in an establishment that caters to both vegans and non-vegans, this is not the place for you.)

This zpizza was located in downtown Williamsburg (not the colonial part of course) at 4902 Courthouse Street, which was just a few minutes away from the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center.

Looking at their menu online, there is a box off to the right that you can check for "vegan" and it will remove all non-vegan options and/or cross out non-vegan items and will show you in red what the vegan substitution would be. (They have this same feature for gluten-free options, but this is a post about their vegan pizza. Check out their site to see their gluten-free options, as there are quite a few!) Using this feature, there were a number of options to choose from:

  • Berkeley Vegan (Marinara sauce, Daiya vegan cheese, Gardein vegan sausage, roasted zucchini, roma tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions, and bell peppers)
  • California Veggie (tomatoes, black olives, zucchini, bell peppers, button mushrooms, red onions, tomato sauce, Daiya vegan cheese)
  • Cheese (tomato sauce, Daiya vegan cheese)
  • Napoli (tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic sauce, and Daiya vegan cheese)
  • Provence (artichoke hearts, tomato sauce, roasted garlic sauce, tomatoes, capers, basil, and Daiya vegan cheese)
  • Tuscan Mushroom (Thyme, truffle oil, caramelized onions, roasted garlic sauce, mushroom mix, and Daiya vegan cheese)

Berkeley Vegan

The Berkeley Vegan pizza was the only one out of the list above that was 100% vegan to begin with and no substitutions would need to be made. It was a tough choice, as all the options sounded very good, but we decided on the extra large (18") Berkeley Vegan pizza. The price for this was $21.50, and it fed my family of 5.

This may be one of the best pizzas I have had in years, non-vegan pizzas included. The vegetables were fresh and I loved how they used tomato slices rather than chunks (my husband is not a fan of it being this way, but to each his own). The vegan sausage was tasty (in fact, I had to take a closer look at it to see if it was really vegan sausage). The kids really enjoyed it, too. My oldest (5) ate the pizza with everything but the mushrooms (she does eat mushrooms but only if I prepare them in dishes and have them look extra pretty). My middle child (3) picked everything off... even the vegetables he does eat. My youngest (1) ate all of the mushrooms and tomatoes that my husband picked off of his pizza, and also the crusts I saved for him from the slices I ate.

It took a few minutes to cool down enough to eat.
He was more than ready to dig in!

I was extremely impressed with the pizza. Once we got back home, I checked online to see where the nearest zpizza is to where we live. It is still a 1.5 to 2 hour drive. I hope that they will soon expand into the town we live in because I cannot wait to go back!

Additional Vegan Reviews for zpizza:
The Veggie Gal: Review of Vegan Pizza at zpizza
The Veracious Vegan: zpizza, DC
Vegan Beauty Review: zpizza: International Vegan Friendly Pizza Chain!
Full of Beans: Vegan Pizza, Minneapolis

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Recipe: Thai Peanut Sauce (Kid-Friendly)

I am always looking for a new and creative way to feed my kids their vegetables. I also try to get them experiment with new flavors. Their taste buds are still very young but I feel that the earlier I start them on a variety of flavors, the better.
While hunting around for a good recipe, I kept finding spicy peanut sauce recipes. I cannot give my children hot red pepper flakes. I'm just not going to do it. It was time I made an attempt to create my own kid-friendly version. It was a real hit!
This sauce is the first way I got my oldest to eat broccoli and enjoy it (she was 2 or 3 years old at the time). It has worked every single time, with all three of my kiddos. My oldest now loves broccoli (it's probably her top vegetable) and my middle child is very close behind with his love of broccoli. My youngest, who just turned one, had his first try of broccoli with this peanut sauce. He could not get enough!

Thai Peanut Sauce (Kid-Friendly)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 c. creamy peanut butter
3/4 c. hoisin
1 Tbsp. agave
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1/2 c. water
In a medium pot in medium-high heat, sauté the onions and garlic in oil until soft. Add peanut butter, hoisin, agave, and ketchup. Mix well. Add water and mix until well combined. Continue cooking until heated through.
Serve with steamed broccoli or spring rolls.

Tip: When feeding very young children, steam the broccoli until it is very tender and almost about to fall apart. My youngest has only 6 teeth right now and eating a crunchy piece of broccoli is not an option for him. For the older kids (ages 5 and 3), I take it out a bit sooner than I do for my youngest. The goal, at least for me, is to have them eat both the "leaves" and the "trunk" of the broccoli trees.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Restaurant Review: The Hop - Ice Cream Café in Asheville, NC

It is always a treat when we make a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. It is about a 5.5 hour drive from where we live, so it is not a trip we are able to make often. Not only is the Asheville area breathtakingly beautiful, they also have a huge vegetarian/vegan population. What does this mean for me? More places to eat out at! After a long day playing tourist, we stopped by The Hop - Ice Cream Café for a special treat. It was the first ice cream parlor I had been to since going vegan. There are many vegan flavors to choose from. They also sell non-vegan ice cream for those who are not quite ready to take the plant-based plunge.

I'm always up for trying something new and unique, so when I saw this beet flavored ice cream, I had to give it a try. In my family, we don't eat beets. My dad hated them as a child and did not give them a chance when I was growing up. At this point in my life, I had only tried beets once, and it was not in ice cream form.

I have to admit that I was very nervous about trying it, but after taking that first bite I was blown away.

It was shockingly delicious.

Vegan Beet Flavored Ice Cream (1 scoop-$3.35)

The kids were more interested in playing it safe. Bridget ordered strawberry ice cream and George wanted cookies and cream (both were also vegan). Since they ate all of it, I think it is safe to assume that they enjoyed it.

Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream (Kiddie scoop-$2.30)

Vegan Cookies and Cream Ice Cream (Kiddie scoop-$2.30)

Will we be going back again? You bet!

This review is from a visit made on April 24, 2014. All prices are what they were at the time of our visit.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #31 (Back to School!)


We had a birthday to celebrate this week! It's probably the least exciting birthday in our home, as it was mine. I'm not too big on celebrating my birthday. It's not that I'm ashamed of my age or that I'm getting older (I just turned 30, by the way). I'm just not a center-of-attention type of person. I don't need gifts, parties, pampering, etc. The kids tried to be more well-behaved for me though, which is always nice. Bridget made me a card. We went out for dinner to my favorite Thai restaurant, then came home and had cake. The cake was actually a 4th layer that I didn't use for Liam's birthday cake in July. I put it in the freezer and figured I could whip up a batch of frosting, plop the one-layer cake onto a plate and frost it. And that's exactly what I did, at 7 o'clock in the evening on my birthday. And only because the kids really wanted cake.


It was our first week back to school! Can I just say how much I love not needing to get the kids ready in a hurry to take them to school each morning? If I want to snuggle with the children in bed for an extra 20 minutes, I can (and I did). We still started school at around 8:30 every day this week. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. The new subjects were implemented nicely. George and Liam behaved enough for me to instruct Bridget. It was a good week.



Because we had taken a 3 week break from math over the summer, Bridget had a little trouble with the beginning of her new book. We've been working on the hundreds place value and using her math manipulatives. She's great at building the numbers but when it comes to saying them, she confuses herself by saying "thirty-twenty-five for 325. Now she is finally saying "three-hundred-twenty-five", at least most of the time. It really throws her off when I add a 0 in there.
George has a good time building puzzles and playing with whatever math manipulatives Bridget isn't using. He's not using those for counting purposes and instead builds towers and bridges. Whatever keeps him busy!



This is a new subject we've added this year. I think Bridget has enjoyed the first 5 lessons, as they have to do with writing the first letter of the word or circling pictures of objects that begin with the same letter. Fun stuff. Next week, we begin with our first spelling list.



This is also a new subject this year. We learned what a common noun is, and learned proper nouns later in the week. I'm actually two lessons ahead of where I had planned for us to be because I had been doing a lesson each day when in my schedule, I only need to do it three times per week. As Bridget likes to say, "Silly Mommy!".



While we did handwriting in kindergarten (and we are still doing it this year as well), we're also doing writing. Our copywork and narration exercises this week came from The Little House in the Big Woods. Bridget loved the excerpts and wanted to hear more of the story so it looks like I'll be reading The Little House on the Prairie books to her soon (although I don't know how I'll squeeze these in with all of the other books we're going to be reading).



We began the week learning about history and historians. The kids each made a timeline of their lives (so far) and we read a book about family trees. We also learned about archaeologists. Bridget enjoyed the books for these and made me read them again later in the week as our "for fun books". We then learned about nomads and read some books about them. We had briefly done this last year, so it was more of a review. Next week is when we begin covering the exciting stuff: Egypt!



We learned about animal habitats. We will continue this through next week. I was very disappointed that our library didn't have a good selection of habitat books, so I think I may be ordering some from Amazon. I hate to spend that much money on books but the one's I have found look interesting and child-friendly, so hopefully the kids can look through them for fun. Or I might do something entirely different. We'll have to see.

A Few Books We've Read...

One Small Blue Bead by Byrd Baylor
The First Dog by Jan Brett

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

SOTW, Ancient Times: Introduction

Books, projects, and activities in this post are appropriate for children in the grammar stage of their classical education (grades 1-4 or ages 6-9). 

Introduction: How Do We Know What Happened?

What Is History?

First we read the section titled "What Is History?" from our book. Then we read pages viii-ix from our Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.

I created my own notebooking pages to go along with our history curriculum. Nothing out there seemed to be exactly what I wanted. Because we are currently in  the grammar stage, I do not expect a lot of writing from my daughter. Just one or two sentences showing me that she understands what we read. I also wanted a notebooking page with a large area for an illustration, as I feel that art and creativity are an important part of learning and understanding. For a child unable to express themselves through writing, illustrations are the next best thing.

To understand what a timeline is, I had my children make a timeline of their lives, showing them from birth to their current age. Bridget is my primary student studying history, as George is only 3 years old. He will stick around for the fun things like stories and projects.

After the children made their own timeline, I introduced them to what we will be using for our big history timeline. While we did not necessarily study a specific topic in history, I felt that the best way to begin our timeline of the world is with Jesus Christ. They know who he is and that he lived a long time ago. Because we will begin our studies with events that happened before Jesus Christ, this is my way of putting things into perspective into their minds of when an event occurred.

What Is Archaeology?

We read the section from our book and also page ix from our Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.

Her drawing illustrates how archaeologists dig to find artifacts from long ago.

I printed out this coloring page of an archaeologist from here. My 3-year-old always wants to color with us. So my first graders is on top and my preschoolers is on the bottom (though I am sure you could have figured that out).

Our first bit of mapwork is an introduction to the continents, along with rivers and mountain ranges and the villages and cities built around them.


We add these words to our "dictionary" which is basically pieces of binder paper divided by letter with handwritten (by me) words and definitions. I try to make the definitions as easy as possible so that she can soon read them on her own.



I do not get to do nearly as much as I want to do with my children and various school subjects, as time does not always allow it. I do love getting ideas from sites like Pinterest and other blogs, and as I find those I will put them here for future use, as I have two more that will be moving up to grammar stage history before I know it!

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Day in the Life: Our Homeschool Schedule (2015-2016)

I love schedules, agendas, and to-do lists. I make them for myself and for my children. Personally, it helps me to function better throughout my day and reminds me of the things I need to get done. If I don't have it on my list, it will most likely slip my mind. I knew that I would need something similar for my daughter and her homeschool day.

We start off our homeschool day by doing our morning chores. These are the simple things like making their beds, saying morning prayers, brushing hair, getting dressed, etc. Then it's time for breakfast. I try to do something nutritious but also fun for breakfast. This morning, for example, it was cinnamon-sugar toast, strawberries, and [soy] milk.

Over the summer, Bridget requested that she do math first thing in the morning, so we made that change in our schedule this year. While she works on her math lesson (an instruction video and worksheets), George also does math in the form of puzzles and counting bears.

After math, we begin language skills. In kindergarten, this consisted of only reading and handwriting. This year we have also added spelling and grammar. While Bridget works on spelling, George and I work on the alphabet. This year, writing has changed a bit, from basic handwriting skills to learning to write complete sentences. Bridget does this Monday-Thursday. On Friday, she works on a handwriting lesson from her Zaner-Bloser book.

When I am working with Bridget on writing (which requires my instruction), George works independently on his pre-writing skills (straight lines, backward circles, etc.). This is a special time that we get out the dry-erase markers. Because these markers are only used for specific times, it's a special treat and keeps him occupied for longer. He's sometimes a perfectionist and keeps the eraser handy.

Our history lesson also includes geography (which is why you don't see a separate time for geography) and George usually likes to join us for this. He also joins us for science, but these subjects are not required for him. If he prefers to play quietly in his room, he has the freedom to do so. Typically though, he will stick around to see what fun we might be having.

Other subjects done once a week are piano, art, and music. I am teaching the piano lesson, as Bridget is still learning the basics. An hour of art is set aside for a special art project related to what we are covering in history, or for drawing lessons and other random art skills. Music this year is studying the orchestra and various composers. The reason for this is because ancient history doesn't really have much to study as far as music goes. Next year, when we are studying medieval times, we'll study music related to that period. We'll cover the composers again when we cover their time periods. For now, we're doing a gentle introduction.

Our littlest Sparrow spends his time hanging around the homeschool area with us. He'll get loud on occasion, and sometimes will need to be picked up. He's pretty good and entertaining himself as long as he knows someone is close by. If you go too long without paying him any attention, he'll start pulling books off of shelves. That's when I know it's time for some cheerios or a sippy cup of milk to distract him.

History and science usually include a project or coloring page, so while the kids are working on those, I step into the kitchen to prepare lunch. I style my lunches like "school lunch". I enjoyed school lunches as a child. Everyone has their stories about how gross the food was, but I guess I grew up in a district where the food was actually quite delicious. I recreate many of those items with a vegan twist. Today, we had "faux fish filets" and various sides to go with it. The kids love this style of lunch and I enjoy making them. Water is typically served at lunch, unless I've been a slacker with offering fruit. If so, they'll get orange juice.

After lunch, Liam goes down for a nap, George goes into his room for quiet time (or a nap if he prefers) and I sit with Bridget on her bed and do our reading lesson and practice. This is a subject that she needs my undivided attention and it needs to be quiet for her to focus (she's very easily distracted). After that, she can read for fun or play quietly.

The times given in our schedule are approximate. If Bridget is still working on a subject and close to finishing, I'll wait for her. Some subjects may take longer on certain days. Sometimes she wants to spend more time on something because she enjoys it. I don't want to put a cap on her interests and creativity just for the sake of moving on and sticking to a schedule, but I do try to keep her mostly on task. If we need to continue school work after snack time, then that is what we'll do (we've even done science experiments after dinner, because sometimes life just happens).

That's about it for our school day!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #30 (Our Last Week of Summer)


Our last week before school begins. Wow. Summer flew by fast! While most moms might be getting their kids on a schedule (go to bed early, wake up early) to prepare for the school year, I did the opposite. I let the kids stay in their pajamas all day if they desired, we watched movies late into the night (which is about 9 or 10 o'clock for them), and played all day. Okay, they played all day. I finalized homeschool lessons and continued working on our school room.


We start tomorrow!!!!! Bridget will be starting a formal first grade curriculum and George will be working on some preschool activities and joining big sister whenever something we're learning interests him. Liam will have free reign of all the toys in the living room, although I have a feeling he'll be more happy pulling books off the bookshelves and fussing at my feet wanting to be held.

Everything else is ready to go. The most exciting thing for the kids has been our new supply tote. We have every color of pencils, markers, and crayons imaginable, and lot's of writing pencils, erasers, scissors, tape, and glue; you name it and we've got it! Their eyes get so big when they see it, as they both cannot wait to dig in and create something. We'll be using it for just about every subject.

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