Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? is a fun book with lots of rhymes and poems.

Both kids colored a cover page for our lapbook binder.

We made a "fun" paper bear, with interchangeable clothes.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, however a paper bear, with paper tabs that hold the clothes on, and a four year old are not good ideas.  The clothes didn't stay on well and he was thoroughly annoyed at the bear pretty much every time I took him out. 
We talked about eating healthy, just like Jesse Bear does in the book.

We played a fun rhyming words game.

Since it is fall, I found some fun fall activities and printed them out.  He never tires of dot paint.
We labeled the parts of a pumpkin.  Who knew a pumpkin had a brain?

After nap time the kids went outside to play.

This was actually borderline science!  He had to describe the pumpkin: how it felt, how it looked, did it smell? etc. and then circle the correct answers.

William has his numbers down!  (Finally!)  Here he had to count the number of pumpkins and circle the correct number.

More pre-writing, which is quite simple for him, but he loves doing these sheets.  When he's finished with them he usually grabs his scissors and cuts along the lines.

Call me slow, but I just figured out that we can use the Scrabble tiles for this activity, instead of me tediously cutting out little squares of lettered paper!  Yah me!

I don't do a lot of patterns with William (I have no idea why not) but this week we did a lot of them.  He gets the whole idea of patterns, but was a little confused as to why I would want to put colored leaves in a line in the first place.

And that's a wrap for this week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Countertop Yogurt

We eat a lot of yogurt around here.  That and the fact that yogurt is loaded with probiotics is what prompted me to do a little research into making my own.  I figured if I could make my own I could determine what ingredients went into it, how long to culture it (a longer culture decreases the lactose), and control the cost.  All good things in my book.

I was determined not to have to buy another kitchen gadget.  I have many of them, but I refuse to buy uni-task items, such as a yogurt maker.  I found out that with a little practice I could make counter top yogurt in a crock pot.  It it so easy!  All you need is milk and bacteria.  I got my initial start-up bacteria from a store-bought culture, but you can also use plain ol' yogurt from the store. 

I heat my milk (about a half gallon) in my crock for several hours, until the temp is about 180.  This will sterilize the milk.  Then cool it back down so that you can hold your finger in the crock for 10 seconds without getting burned.  (About 90-110 degrees for a good incubation temp.)  Then stir in one cup of plain yogurt (I always save a cup of my original batch to "start" the next batch).  Put a lid on the crock and wrap in a towel.  It's a good idea to keep it free of cold drafts, as you want the milk to cool down slowly.  Incubate between four and 24 hours.  The longer the incubation period, the less lactose there will be (the bacteria consume the lactose).  And, well...that's it.  I store my yogurt in glass canning jars, and always use plastic or wood utensils when scooping out the yogurt.  Maybe it's an old wives' tale, but they say with any live culture not to put it in contact with metal, as metal is reactive and the culture might get damaged. 

The yogurt is quite good plain, but I usually have a batch of homemade granola ready to be sprinkled on the top.  (Store-bought granola is too pricey for me!) 

This is a half gallon of yogurt.  I make this amount twice a week so...yes, we eat roughly a gallon of yogurt a week.  Wow...

I've used my yogurt in all sorts of ways...I sub it in recipes that call for buttermilk (did you know you can make this yourself, too??), use it as sour cream, sub it for evaporated milk, put it in smoothies...the list goes on!  Basically, though...we just eat it.  The kids started out not liking it one bit.  I had bought the sugar-loaded yogurt for way too long and that was what they were used to.  However, little by little they have learned to really like it.  They are asking for it all the time now (but it better have that yummy granola on it!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

And we have rise!

I think I just might have accomplished a personal goal.  It's not a lofty goal, but since it has proven quite difficult for me, the fact that I DID IT the other day gives occasion for celebration.  Here, let me show you.

See?  See?  I was able to get a sourdough loaf of bread to rise!  Yes, I know that you are going to have to take my word that this loaf is an actual sourdough loaf, but trust me.  This is sourdough baby.  100% of this rise was created from a sourdough starter that I have babied for quite some time now.  Up until this point I had only created pancakes, crepes, and cheddar crackers.   But today!  Oh today was the day!  I have to say that it was quite good, too.  I made some cream of cauliflower soup and the bread made for a very yummy side dish.

The only thing that I have to figure out is how to decrease the first rise time.  My initial rise took almost eight hours.  I don't really have eight hours to wait, but if that is what it takes to have a perfectly soaked wheat bread that has soured...I'm all over it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homemade Cheddar Sourdough Crackers

Like I said, I'm trying to control what my family eats so that we eat healthier.  To do that requires more homemade items.  Another snack that quickly shoves the ubiquitous bag of goldfish out of my shopping cart is cheddar sourdough crackers.  Oh boy.  These babies are so good. 

I have to admit, though, that without a large food processor they were a bit tedious to make.  I tried my Kitchen Aid, my VitaMix, and my small food processor.  None of them were a home run when it came to making these crackers, but I was able to use my small food processor, putting small portions of the dough through at a time. 

Last week a made a batch of whole wheat crackers.  Wow.  Mega gross.  Even the kids, who normally eat anything labeled "snack", really didn't eat many of them.  I upped the ante with the whole wheat crackers, though, and made a hummus dip.  Yes, I soaked the beans and everything.  I'm not sure what I did wrong but with the gross wheat crackers and boring hummus...I think I'll stay with these cheddar crackers! 

Homemade fruit roll-ups

I've been on a mission these last two weeks: no more processed garbage food.  No more fast food, even though we really aren't fast food people.  More organic food (when it counts and if it doesn't interfere with my frugal-ness).  I found a great source for grass-fed beef (an accomplishment, seeing that we live in a desert!) and another source for low-priced organic produce, raw cheeses, and other food items.  I'd love to find a way to get raw milk at a decent price, but that one isn't happening quite yet.  (I know my mom is reading this and shuttering, remembering having to drink raw milk herself while growing up! But I want to give it a try.  The nutrients in that stuff just make my head roll!) 

A fun snack that I absolutely nailed on the head was fruit roll-ups.  The kids love fruit snacks and fruit roll-ups from the store, but they are loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and who knows what else.  Some of those "ingredients" are even hard to pronounce!'s my homemade version. 

I took some of my newly made applesauce (yes, I made another batch the other day) and some plums that were starting to go bad on the counter and pureed them in our VitaMix.  I placed some parchment paper on a tray and poured the fruit on.  Then I slowly dried it out, for about 10 (yes, 10) hours on 170 degrees.  After it was cooled I cut the dried fruit into strips.  The kids are able to peel back the parchment paper just the ones that are store-bought, but now I can feel confident that they are getting whole, real fruit for their snack. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's (Slowly) Beginning To Look A Lot Like Fall

Being here on the west coast is way different than being in Michigan, where I grew up.  Seasons don't really change dramatically like they do back east.  We have HOT or COLD.  There is not much in between.  However, it is mid October, so we are trying our best to get our home into fall mode. 

William insisted that we put a ghost on our door, just like our neighbor.  So, off went the adorable tin scarecrow, and on went the tacky white trash bag ghost.  They both think it is great.  Me?  The thing scares me half to death every time I open the door. 

We took a trip to our local pumpkin patch the other day.  It turned out to be a hot day!

The flying tubs were their favorite!  Amazingly they were able to get them to spin.  And yes, William has his arms in the air! 

I remember the flying swings being my favorite ride at the fair, so I'm thrilled there are swings at our little pumpkin patch for them to ride. 

We made caramel apples.  I can now say I will not make them for little kids again.  I do not like picking stuck-on caramel out of little teeth. 

The mornings here have been a bit more mild (nevermind the 90 degree afternoons!) so we've been heading off to the park as much as possible.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Katy No-Pocket

This book was...interesting.  First, let me air my hang-ups with the book, just to get them out of the way.  The book is about a mother kangaroo who has NO POCKET for her baby.  Seriously?  How in the world did the baby even come to be, without that necessary pocket?  Kangaroos are marsupials so the pocket is, well, important.  Another issue that just got to me was the poor grammar.  Oh my.  There were times when I had to re-read sentences just to get them to make sense.  The poor grammar had nothing to do with the style of the book, either.  It was just bad.  Moving on.

The kids, however, loved the book!  This is our first book where the main character is a kangaroo, so they thought that was quite neat.

We learned where kangaroos live - Australia.  And yes, I do know that he is pointing to the ocean.  There were several other pictures of him actually pointing to the continent, but the smile wasn't as good.  I went with a good smile.  We learned what kangaroos eat and that they are marsupials.  We also talked about what other animals are marsupials.  I was even able to find a short video online about kangaroos.  The kids' favorite one was of two male kangaroos having this horrific fight.  I have to admit, they do have impressive kicks.

The brown kangaroo is very funny.
She leaps and hops and runs like a bunny.
And on her stomach is a pocket so wide
Her baby can jump in and go for a ride!

The kids love learning poems!

Our October poem, that we sing while doing calendar time is:
(Sing to the tune of Found a Peanut)
Spell October!
Spell October!
Spell October now with me.

We have another very fun October poem/song that we are learning, but I'll share that another time.

Animal Classification
We learned more about animal families and classification.  Did you know that a female kangaroo is called a Flyer and that a male kangaroo is called an Old Man?  Me neither.  I love it though!


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Runaway Bunny

Oh, I loved this book so much!  Its about a baby bunny who tells his mom he wants to run away.  But his mother loves him so much, that wherever he runs, his mother is there to catch him in her arms and love him. 
We talked about cause and effect.

And...well...I guess that is all the pictures I took on this book!  Ha!  I will say that I did buy a Fold & Learn for this book.  What a colossal waste of money.  I didn't feel that I really got much for the high price.  There are so many resources out there on the internet that are free (I was having a hard time finding some for this book, though) that I was very disappointed in the Fold & Learn.  I will not be buying again. 

Caps For Sale

I'm a bit behind in writing these posts, but for the most part I have been doing our rows.  A few weeks ago we did the book Caps For Sale.  The book is about a peddler who wears his goods, in this case, caps, on his head.  One day he has a particularly hard time selling his hats so he goes to the country to rest.  After his nap he notices all his caps are gone!  You really must read this cute story to find out the rest.

I simply love these activities from Homeschool Creations.  They are great for introductory phonics, and they incorporate the book and theme we are doing. 

I forgot that a long time ago I bought a sticker book for Abby.  She has a great time playing with it while William does his work. 

William is continuing to work on his number recognition.  His letters and sounds are great, and with the help of these fun number mats his numbers are coming along quite nicely. 

We took some time to make several fall art projects.  William is showing off his pumpkin mobile. 

We go through A LOT of construction paper in this house, so I decided to put some of the scraps to good use!  I cut out the trunk of a tree and cut up bits of paper and the kids made fall trees.  William has his hanging in the upstairs window.

 I LOVE this picture of William!  It is so hard to get him to smile his natural smile for the camera so when I get one, I must post it.  Here he was showing his money cards.  In the story the peddler sells his caps for 50 cents each, so we learned about the various coins and what they each were worth.

This was a fun hat activity that kept Abby busy for, oh, 10 seconds...maybe.  It took a long time to cut out each hat that and for so little interest...not sure I'd do this one again.

I did make fun cake pops for the kids this week, in hopes of turning them into monkey heads.  Yeah, that didn't really happen.  But the pops were still good, plain and all.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Phone Dump

I know I'm a little behind in my Five in a Row posts, but that will have to wait.  I just purged my phone of all it's pictures and boy, do I have a lot of fun things to share.  Just excuse the poor quality. 

William took swimming lessons this summer.  It didn't turn out like I was hoping, due to a flaky teacher, but he had tons of fun and I'm glad we did it.

 I made relish for the first time!  It was a somewhat easy project, however it had to be started the night before, leaving the veggies in a brine, so the next day was a fairly straightforward process.

We are getting lots of work done in our backyard!  I'll post more about this later, but here's a sneak peak.  The circle you see is the start of our fire pit.  The concrete is stamped and colored (the powder you see is the color going on) and it looks so beautiful!  The existing patio was torn out, and new concrete was poured.   My little piece of paradise in the desert.

I also canned pickles.  The cukes were from my garden, and the spices I used were similar to the ones in the relish.  SO yum!
Abby is getting to be quite the helper when it comes to grocery shopping.  Out of the blue she insisted she take her shopping cart to the store and well, when a gal wants a cart a momma has to oblige! 

We went to our last Angel game last Saturday, and on the way down we stopped at Bass Pro Shop.  This Arctic Cat was quite the hit with Abby.   

I found this fun project on a blog I like and decided to make my own for our school room.  I ripped up a Dick and Jane book and Mod Podged away!  John promised me he's going to hang this up today, and the plan is to put a red book shelf under it.  I'll keep you posted. 

See that awesome turquoise light?  That was another afternoon project I did while the kiddos napped.  I have a brass lamp in the living room that screamed drab, and John agreed to let me take it to fab.  He however, wasn't sure of my skills and said that I needed to find a practice piece first.  I scoured the local thrift stores and found this beauty, loaded with brass.  I found a color I loved (that also happened to go fabulously with the turquoise pillows and vase I have in the living room) and got to work.  30 minutes later I had a brand new lamp!  I upcycled the ancient silk plant that was sitting in on the sideboard by pulling several flowers out and placing them in a bud vase.  Voila!  New decor!  (The lamp shade WILL be going, but I have yet to find one that I like.  If I can't find anything else, I might just pull the fabric off this one and recover it.)

I think we might have gone full circle in the bug department.  Remember those tobacco worms we found in our garden a bit ago?  Well, I think we found the adult.  The picture simply doesn't do it justice, as that thing was muy grande.

So much else has been happening over here, but that will all have to wait.  I have yogurt incubating on my counter that is simply needing my attention now.