A happy heart makes the face cheerful...Proverbs 15:13

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer School: Cooking Basics Wrap up

This is the first summer that we have added additional fun summer school 'courses' of sorts. I decided to add on basic cooking and basic cleaning into the summer mix. You can see the full schedule for both courses here.

We had a blast this week cooking together. I tried to do a little bit of everything.

        From boiling water and cooking noodles....

To peeling, slicing, and boiling raw carrots ....

         And even one of our favorite breakfasts: smoothies.     

Some of our other dishes included: baked chicken breast, white rice,  scrambled eggs and bacon, biscuits(from scratch),  sauasage gravy, and homemade chicken noodles soup.

I have made the choice to continue doing this every summer, and often through out the school year. The kids truley enjoyed this time. With daddy being a chef, this is also an area that he can join in on.

If you are interested in trying some cooking with your children, but you arent sure where to start,check out mixingbowlacademy.com. They offer inexpensive online cooking courses for kids.

What is your favorite dish to cook up with your kiddos?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Zucchini Brownies

It has been ages since I have tried a zucchini brownie recipe. The last time the recipe was a failure! The texture and taste were just horrible. The kids couldn't believe that I had wasted chocolate that way.
I had a zucchini left over that was on its last 24 hours. So, I decided to give it another go.
My Verdict: Simple Delish!

1/2 applesauce(or vegetable oil)
2 C. shredded zucchini(squash works well too) ---------->
1 1/2 C. sugar                                                    
2 tsp vanilla
2 C. flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder                                                     
1 tsp salt                                                                                  

6 Tbsp Cocoa
1/4 cup butter
1/4 C milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2C confectioners sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9X13 baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, sugar and 2 tsp vanilla until well blended. This is the product when vegetable oil is used.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, 1/2 C cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir into sugar mixture.The mixture will resemble a cookie pie crust mixture.
4. Fold zucchini into chocolate mix.
     HINT: The water/liquid from the zucchini should be enough to turn this into the correct brownie batter consistency. If there is not enough liquid, just add small amounts of milk until the proper consistency is reached.

Spread mixture evenly into pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven until brownies spring back when gently touched. All to cool completely.

5. To make frosting: melt together 6 Tbls of cocoa and the butter. Set aside to cool. In a bowl, blend together confectioners sugar, milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Stir into the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting them into squares.

                                  6.   Enjoy

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Benefits of Penpals

Since we started homeschooling, I have been on the search for a legit penpal service for my children. I had failed to find one that didn't allow grown men overseas to be penpals with 9 year old children. Inappropriate!!
Recently, I have viewed many question on different blogs and facebook pages about moms trying to find penpals for their children. After noticing the need, I decided to start a homeschooling penpal facebook page. In less than a week we attracted 30 members to the page. Why is penpalling so appealing?
There are many benefits for a child who has a penpal(s).
1. Its allows for the good ole practice of putting pen to paper:
     With technology being the present and future of all communication, it is important that our children can learn the importance of old fashion writing.Many states are completely removing cursive from the public school curriculum. Having a penpal will offer them the chance to have a passion for 'pen to paper' writing as well as learning the continued practice of cursive . It simply encourages writing skills in a fun way! Many children are beginning to use abbreviated computer talk writing. Long-handed letter writing will also offer lessons in proper grammar.

2. It allows for your child to get to know another child, from another city or country, who may or may not share any interest with them.
        For some children, who may be shy, this is a great way to get them to open up on a personal level. Telling someone about yourself and learning about them in return offers your child a curiosity for people. As they get older they will be more willing to talk to people and find out more about them.
It also gives them a glance into another location in the world and the hardships of that area. It can also give them insight into other cultures. Hearing those experience first hand will be a learning experience that you just cannot get from reading in a textbook! This also helps if you have a child who feels like there is no one else like them. Finding other kids who have the same interest or schooling will give your child more self confidence!

3.Encourages learning another language.
         Whether your penpal is stateside or from another country, there is a great opportunity for language lessons. Your child could become a mini-teacher. Encouraging another child in learning English. In return they can also learn the language of their penpal. Again, this is something that will encourage them as adults to go beyond the language barriers and talk to someone they don't know. There are people every where in this world who have not yet heard the name Jesus. Encouraging our children to reach beyond the language barriers could be a major change in someones life!

4. Its a great family activity.
          This is something we all can do together. We often sit at the dining room table and discuss what we want to know about our penpals this time or what happened in our lives this week that we would like to share as we are writing. We also can share our letters with each other. In most cases, my intention is to have a penpal for the kids only to find out that the other moms involved are great pals as well.

Boys aren't always enthralled with writing to others. In their young age, its a fun experience. My hope is that they find connections and have learning experience that will encourage them continue in this penpalling activity!

What benefit do you find the most important when it comes to having a penpal for your child?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chore Cards

After many failures of creating a successful chore chart system, I am trying a new technique. Laminated Chore Cards.

We have tried so many techniques in efforts to have an orderly chore system. They all have failed. It has basically come down to me reminding the boys daily of what needs to be done.

Our closest success was the sticker chore chart. The boys had their own separate sheet, with their individual chores. It was simple. They completed the chore, they added a sticker. if their week was full they would get a reward. At that time it was allowance or they could trade that for a reach in the goody bag. The problem we ran into was that the chore would get done and then the boys would go on with their day and never make the completion. After a while of not getting rewarded, the chores just stopped getting done.

With my constant 'reminding' ,  the chores would get accomplished. However, I started to feel more like a broken nagging record. (My husband would be thrilled to hear me admit that). What we did was sit down and create a list of our daily chores. We separated them into morning and afternoon and then printed them out and made them into 4X6 laminated cards. We placed magnets on the back of each card so they could stay on the fridge as a "safe spot". Because boys loose everything if you didn't know! In the morning they can grab it to be sure they have gotten everything accomplished and then return it when we head down for school. Then check on it gradually throughout the day.

A list of items to be done weekly will be left on the fridge permanently, more as a reminder to myself. However, if they do the extra chores(without being asked) they will be allowed some additional allowance.

To encourage them I have slightly raised our allowance rates. That would motivate me. We are also creating our own 'piggy banks' of sorts using empty oatmeal containers or something similar.

Fingers crossed! If this works I could save some breathe, and time,  and use it during school time.
Not that they'd enjoy that any more.

What type of chore organization do you use?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Indoor Camping

I absolutely LOVE to camp. I love to be out in the wilderness, explore, and get dirty with my boys. However, we just don't get to go often enough. This summer we thought we would just camp out in the back yard, that way we would be close enough to the house for potty breaks or for anyone who happen to get spooked in the middle of the night. My youngest, whose 2, had never been before.
To bad we had planned our adventure in the midst of all the storms that hit the US. After seeing the boy's disappointment, we decided to have an indoor camping adventure.
We brought the tent inside and with 8 little hands helping, we set it up in the basement. I thought we were going to have to sleep on top of it being that the little ones were having more fun tearing down.

After the tent was set up, we did an indoor scavenger hunt. I pair them into 2 teams of 1 big kid and 1 little kid. They would not get the next clue until the previous item was put in their teams basket. The first team to finish their list won.
Some of our scavenger hunt clues were:
  • Something small and round
  • Something green
  • Something that is the same object, but different sizes
  • Something you wear
  • Something that comforts you when you sleep.
  • A red car
  • Something that tells or shows time
  • Something that stars with "L"

Once our scavenger hunt was over we made s'mores on our gas stove burner.

Once we made ourselves 'unsticky', I sat down all the boys to watch Scooby Doo Summer Camp. This gave me a few minutes to get the kitchen and dining room cleaned up.

No camping trip is complete without a campfire, right? So, we made one. We laid a floor fan on its back and taped pieces of red, gold, and yellow streamers onto different sections. When the fan is turned on,  the papers blow upward giving the 'fire effect'. Kids had way more fun taking the papers off and letting the wind float them high above our heads.

We sat around our paper flame and read a few books and learned the Kumbaya song.

Then bed time! Everyone grabbed their favorite pillows and blankets and came down to settle in. I was able to find night time noises online. I hit repeat and it played throughout the whole night. It was actually very soothing. My four year old loved listening to the bugs and would say "SHHHHH" and you could just see the concentration in his eyes as he tried to listen.

We had a blast with this indoor camping adventure!! This is a great idea for any time of the year! If you don't have a tent, use furniture and blankets and let the kids make their own.

Do you do indoor camping?  What is your favorite indoor camping activity?