Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Peak at Our Week: Easing into Summer

In My Life This Week
Inspired by Melis at The Joys of Home Education and My Party Passion, I decided that what my kids and I needed were some new family traditions. Or to revive "forgotten" ones. So, we had FAMILY FUN FRIDAY! I baked up some quick nibbles and we spent a couple of hours playing Sorry! and Way Back When in History. Would you believe that I came in DEAD LAST in Sorry!? :sigh: But I redeemed myself in History! 

Things I'm Working On
Have you seen "Lost"? Yeah, that drama show from 2004-2010 where passengers of a plane crash survive on a remote island and deal with "the others". I started watching it on Netflix. Why didn't someone tell me about it before? Totally hooked! I'm working my way through Season 3 right now.

On the Menu
• Cheese Pizza with Baby Carrots and Greek Nonfat Yogurt Ranch Dip and Apple Crisp • Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas with Chunky Salsa and Apple Crisp   BBQ Chicken or Hot Dogs with Tator Tots and Applesauce • Chop Suey with Tomatoes, Garlic and Onions • Meatfloaf Patties with Potatoes and Cantaloupe 

Homeschool Happenings
We've moved onto SUMMER SCHOOL around here. I can't say as we're DONE with the year, but our days are short and our free time long.

Jake is still working a couple of hours each day to finish up Biology and his Civil War paper. I back-tracked with Sam and restarted Hooked on Phonics. (An informal on-line assessment showed weak phonetic and blending skills.) But my BIG GOAL for this week was to get EVERYONE reading more.

I also got our portfolios caught up and ready for review which is TOMORROW

Our Read Aloud
Guess what? The kids seem to like The BFG (Dahl)...and we might actually get through THIS book! It IS kinda fun to read! Any suggestions for the next humorous book? Mathilda, maybe?

Places We Went, People We Saw
• At the S__'s for Board Games, Kayaking and Biking (All) • Cook-out with Family (All) • Swimming at the Lake (C/S) • Boy Scouts (J) • Doctor Appointment (S) • Portland Sea Dogs (J) • Clarinet (C) • 

Our Favorite Things
After a week of cold, soaking rain, the sun FINALLY popped out, dried us out and warmed up the temperatures.

Something to Share

Did you miss these posts?
As the Garden Grows: SFG, Seedlings and Spring Blooms

As always, linking up to these AWESOME blogs:
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

As the Garden Grows: SFG, Seedlings and Spring Blooms

:achoo: :sigh: Unfortunately this time of year reeks havoc on my seasonal allergies. Pollen  finely dusts everything outside: the van, the lake water, even the kayaks on the trailer. Poor Jake and Cati aren't immune this spring. I guess they're growing up, huh? We're going through a lot of Zyrtec and tissues these days.

But it only slows us down a little.

Our gardens are up and growing! The snow peas, peas, cucumbers, beans, and pumpkins have sprouted and are growing quite well. We're still waiting on the potatoes and carrots, and the tomatoes will be planted in another week or so (when temperatures will hopefully be warmer).

We plan our gardens with the "square foot" way. Have you heard of Square Foot Gardening? It's a less labor-intensive, raised bed method of gardening. Depending on the plant, a particular number of seeds or seedlings are planted in each square foot of garden space. I found this handy-dandy chart on Facebook last week to help plan sowing.

The graphic didn't help us with our garden this spring, but we're fortunate to have the book! :wink: Here's a video introducing this method by the guy who started SFG.

The basic premise of SFG is to build a 4' x 4' frame with weed cloth stapled to the bottom and filled with "Mel's mix", a combination of compost, vermiculite and peat, with a grid on top of 12" x 12" squares. Each square is planted with a particular number of seeds depending on the plants' space needs. SFG is less labor-intensive and less wasteful (as it uses less space and less water).

You don't need to follow the method EXACTLY. We're repurposed platform bed frames, door frames and even bureau drawers (with holes drilled in the bottoms for drainage) as SFG frames. None are the 4'x4' size, but still manageable...and I didn't have to  buy materials or build the frames. Reuse, right?

Another idea is to purchase concrete or cinder blocks from a home improvement center or building company. They're quite inexpensive, can be painted pretty colors and will certainly last a while. And you can fill those small holes around the edges with easy-to-grow annuals. This blog has a great tutorial to build one of these raised beds and the kids at All Things Beautiful created one here.

Photo Credit 

Tip: Don't worry about purchasing weed cloth or barrier cloth for the bottoms of SFGs. Line the ground beneath the frame with newspaper or cardboard then fill with your soil mixture. The newspaper or cardboard will kill the grass and weeds, but will decompose over time.

And in our experience, you don't even need the boxes to follow the SF PLANTING method. :wink: We planned our 22x14 IN GROUND garden with small rectangular areas divided by hay-lined walkways. We used sticks to draw out square foot sections in the soil and planted seeds based on the number suggested in the graphic above. 

Really, a simple, quick, inexpensive way to garden!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Peak at Our Week: Rearranging

In My Life This Week
With the help of my oldest son - I needed MUSCLES! :wink: - I rearranged my bedroom, moving the bed to another wall. He dragged up the LONG bureau from the diningroom (emptied of school supplies) and placed it at the foot of the bed...and removed a tall, narrow bureau and a headboard. I'm liking it much better (even though the wallpaper needs removing and the walls painted). I have some BIG PLANS for changing things up around here, but I'll be doing a little at a time.

I suppose I'll soon have to get a "move on" and get our portfolios up-to-date and contact our assessor, and start REALLY thinking about next year. Have you started yet?

On the Menu
♦ Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole ♦ Cereal and Fruit Night ♦ Baked Ranch Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Corn ♦ Cheese Pizza and Apple Crisp 

Homeschool Happenings
Same ol' same ol'! Just wrapping up those final loose ends before (a much needed) summer vacation. Jake continues to work on his civil war battle strategy paper and Biology. Since Sam is being a bit more - AHEM! - "challenging" with school lately, Cati decided to move on with SOTW without him. It's the final thing she has left and I can't blame her for wanting it done. And Sam? Well, I am hoping he'll finish up SOTW and 2 pages of Math NEXT WEEK. Or the week after?

Our Read Aloud
I'm not sure why read alouds flop around here. Perhaps it's our up-and-down schedule and finding a good time? or maybe what I'm choosing to read doesn't hold our attention? This week I decided to start  The BFG by Roald Dahl. Wonder if we'll finish this one?

Places We're Going, People We're Seeing
♦ Boy Scout Camperee (J) ♦ Portland Seadog Baseball Game (All) ♦ Movies (C/S) ♦ Scouts (J/C) ♦ Softball (C) ♦

Our Favorite Thing
The Marsh Marigolds are blooming in and around the pond near the beginning of our road. They're bright, sunny flowers that are quite beautiful among the dark, deep greens of the pond. We watch for them every spring, along with the cacophony of the Spring Peepers who have been out for some time now.

Something to Share

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Clucks and Quacks: Little Girls Ranging with the Big Girls

One of the tricky things about getting new chicks when you already have an established flock is introducing them to each other. Sometimes things don't go so smoothly...

but our big hens seem to be accepting the little ones.

Aren't our Welsummer chicks cute? I love the brown, gold and black markings. And it'll be fun to get their reddish brown eggs when they're bigger.

Free ranging can be a GREAT time to introduce new chickens to an established flock. 

So after a week or so of the Wellies protected by a large wired dog crate outside, we swung open the door and let them to explore. They headed to the flower garden while the big girls explored the dog crate and ate some spilled chick feed.

But soon ALL the girls were off and exploring, scratching and pecking...and, um, fertilizing the lawn. The big girls pecked at the little ones a few times, the little ones letting out high cheeps in response, but they're starting to establish pecking order (which is a REAL THING) and mingle as a new, bigger flock.

Our next hurdle? Well, we'll continue to let them free range together (under supervision) for a couple of weeks and then try having everyone hang out in the run together, ducks included. (The ducks really don't pay much mind to the the chickens, big OR little. :wink:)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Question-of-the-Week: Food Savings

Just for fun (and because sometimes I'm really do need creative and tried-and-true suggestions) I'll be posting a QUESTION-OF-THE-WEEK on Monday. Sometimes about homeschooling, sometimes about parenting, always random and maybe a little unpredictable, but mostly for amusement and sharing. So, just comment your answers below and feel free to comment on comments! :wink: But remember, it's just for fun so keep it friendly. (You guys already knew that though, right?)

How do you save on food costing? Tips and tricks?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

As the Garden Grows: We're Sowed and Blooming

So, are you gardening this year? How're your crops growing? Our seeds arrived by mail from Pine Tree, a Maine company "down the road" from us, and we were anxious to get this season's garden planted. With the help of Jake's friend L_, we got ALL those seeds into the soil, watered well and hopefully on their way to germinating. The Early Girl Tomatoes will be planted later in May when it (hopefully) warms up a tad more.

2013 Crops
Bush Romano Bean
Windsor Broccoli
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Small Sugar Pumpkin
Early Girl Tomato
Kennebec Potato
Parisian Carrot
Knight Pea
Carouby de Maussane Snow Pea

To prepare to sow our seeds, we marked squares in the soil using sticks. These grids helped us to place the seeds with recommended spacing, except for carrots. Have you seen carrot seeds? Teeny tiny, itty bitty! Then, using Jake's quickly drawn map we planted the seeds.

Jake's Kennebec potatoes arrived a few days later and he got those "bedded down" in the larger garden. And now we wait for our seeds to germinate and start growing.

In the meantime, Cati's flower garden continues to grow, and the common violets and dandelions are out. The flowering trees have buds. Everything seems to be popping up quite nicely this spring!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Peak at Our Week: Tick, Tick! Time is Winding Down

In My Life This Week
There was POURING RAIN for a few days. We're pretty dry around here and our garden needed a good soaking, but sometimes I also look forward to rain because it means our days are slower and quieter with less running to-and-fro for this-and-that. This single Mom needs some days like that. Days filled with sleeping in, Netflix movies, library books and warm crockpot dinners.

This week was also a BIG ONE for my upcoming divorce: we went to court to establish custody, visitation, support, and division of marital property. Fortunately we - my husband and I - were able to come up with an agreement beforehand and everything went smoothly and quickly. 10 minutes, ladies! It's still not an easy time for the kids and I, but it's a bit of a relief to have these things decided legally.

Of less importance, Jake, Sam and I loaded up the new-to-us 6x4 trailer with bulky trash, hooked it up to the van for the first time, and dropped 740 pounds with of refuge at the Transfer Station. I can't tell you how AWESOME it was to FINALLY get rid of that stuff!

And I solved SOME of my little black fly problem with these...

On the Menu
• Baked Chicken Drumsticks and Fries with Asparagus (FROM THE GARDEN• Beef au Jus Sandwiches with Baked Fries and Beans • Chinese Take-out • Chicken and Rice with Peas and Carrots • Egg and Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwiches with Bananas • Spaghetti with Tossed Salad 

Homeschool Happenings
Well, Cati and Sam just need to finish up Story of the World II: Middle Ages for this year. This week we read about Christopher Columbus and watched "Christopher Columbus: Explorer of the New World" from Netflix and then moved onto the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas, and did mapwork.  And Jake? He only has his English research paper and Biology to complete now, but it's QUITE a bit to finish in our remaining 15 days of school. (Not that he can't do MORE days! :wink:) 

But the BIG THING this week was that a friend gifted us 2 bikes for Cati and Sam. Our old bikes were in super rough shape - Did I mention that I ran over the front wheel of one with the van? Yeah, I did! - so getting new-to-us ones has been exciting and they've been riding for HOURS, sometimes even in the POURING RAIN. Now, I'm on a hunt for bike for Jake so he can spend the summer biking with his buddies.

Places We're Going, People We're Seeing
• Softball (C) • Scouts (J/S) • Library (C) 

Our Favorite Thing
Whoever said chickens weren't HILARIOUS has never had any! I surprised the kids with a pizza picnic for lunch. Ava, our newest hen, flew up into the tree house where Sam was, looking for nibbles. Sam threw a piece of crust down onto the lawn hoping she would go after it, but instead the 6 others made a MAD DASH for it and Sassy got the prize. For the next 20 minutes we watched her "chicken dance" around the yard with 5 others tailing her for a bite. QUITE entertaining! (Or maybe you had to be there? :wink:)

Something to Share

 Other Blog Stuff
Click these links to see what else happened this week and to get some FREEBIES around the web. (Some aren't highlighted red...for some reason. :sigh:)

• Canning Quick Bread (Banana Bread Recipe)
• Question-of-the-Week: End of the School Year
Critical Thinking Company: Sign Up for Catalog/Newsletter, Get Several PDF Workbooks (including Visual Mind Benders)
Crafty Classroom: Formula Poetry Notebooking Pages
Summer Reading Programs: Earn Books, Money and Movies From Different Companies

As always, linking up to these AWESOME blog hops!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Canning Quick Bread? Who Would've Thought!

Photo Credit
Yes, you CAN can quick bread! 

Not that ANY quick bread around HERE lasts long enough TO BE canned. :wink:

When I saw this on Pinterest, well, I had to give it a swirl. Canned banana bread?! Huh. :ponder: The possibilities! Perfect for road trip snacks. Picnics at the lake. Gifts! And I can reuse those Mason canning jars just collecting dust and taking up space in the cupboard.

And they're just plain ol' cute. Don't you think?

So, using a simple recipe from a friend for banana bread (that I tweaked with additional spices because banana bread REALLY should have cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in it), I baked a few of these up...and they worked perfectly. I did have my doubts that they would "pop out easily " like described in the comments here, but slide right on out they did. And the kids thought they were pretty nifty. I just wish I had more wide-mouthed jars...

Banana Bread
1 egg
1 c sugar
1/2 c softened butter
3 smushed, peeled bananas
1 t vanilla
2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t ginger
optional: 1/3 c chopped walnuts, 1/3 c mini chocolate chips


1. Beat together egg, sugar and butter until creamy. Add in smashed banana and vanilla.
2. Mix together flour, salt, soda, and spices. (I'm lazy and do this right on top of the wet ingredients. :grin: But if you don't mind cleaning another bowl, do this step in another mixing bowl.)
3. Mix together wet and dry. Fold in nuts and chips (if you like).
4. Spray WIDE-MOUTH canning jars with cooking spray or wipe inside with butter. (Use a sandwich baggie over your hand to do butter and your hand won't be a mess afterward.)  Fill 1/2 full with batter. Wipe opening clean of batter drips.
5. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes (but it depends on the size of your canning jars so adjust as needed). A toothpick inserted some come out mostly clean. Remove and immediately twist on lids (with a pot holder :wink:). 

Note: The heat from the bread just out of the the oven sealed ALL my Mason jars once cooled. Listen for the "ping" or push the top of the lid as it shouldn't move.

Pinned and Adapted from here.