Monday, March 23

King Arthur & the Knights of the Bread Table

Recently, our home school group was selected to take part in the King Arthur Flour Bake for Good program - and we had a fabulous time!!!!!  For over twenty years, the Bake for Good Kids Program has been helping kids learn to bake and then share their homework with those in need.  In some cases, the company travels to a location to host an event, but we were provided all of the supplies and hosted the event through the home school group.
Imagine my husband's surprise when sixty pounds of flour and several other boxes of supplies arrived on the doorstep one afternoon!  The company provided ingredients, packaging, course booklets for the kids, and an instructional DVD.  The program is designed to teach kids in grades 4-7 how science, math, and reading all come together in a real-world activity.  The culmination of the project is a lesson in philanthropy, when they donate their efforts to a local charity.
The day before the BIG DAY, another home school neighbor and I got together and baked up a batch of practice bread.  We wanted to know exactly what we'd gotten ourselves into....how long would it take?  Were there any extra supplies we needed?  What snags were we going to run into?  All the little things that you want to be apprised of before entering a room with lots of kids and open sacks of flour!  We practiced with our boys, to see how well the kids would do with the project.
We walked through the four hour process (which took more like six, that first day), from mixing the yeast, to letting it rise, to the baking process.  My friend and I found some science handouts that explained how yeast works, as well as some science experiments that you can do with yeast.  Then, seeing as how it was supposed to rain cats & dogs on baking day, we found a video about the process to help occupy the kids during the downtime.
Baking day came, and everyone arrived on time (yay!), excited to start the process.  Given the size of the oven, some of the moms had started a batch early.  This would allow us to bake two batches of bread and minimize the downtime for rising.  We were missing a few kids, thanks to illness and the weather, but that meant that everyone got to have several hands-on jobs!
During the downtime, we also had a costume contest.  Since this was the King Arthur Flour Company, and many of us are currently studying the Middle Ages, we had a Medieval costume contest!  They also enjoyed sampling some of the bread that was fresh from the oven.  Yum!


The following morning, we bagged up the bread and drove it up to Straight Street Ministries, a food charity in the next town over.  They were very happy to see us, and many loaves of bread were delivered to locals in need within a matter of hours.  Overall, it was a win-win event!

Want to learn the basics of bread making?  It's easy!

Ingredients :
Directions :
  1. A lot of the families at the event had only ever used a bread-maker.  While they are a great kitchen tool and very handy, they are not suitable for this particular recipe.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, yeast, whole wheat flour, and warm water.  Cover with towel and let rest until bubbly.
  3. Stir in cooking oil and salt.
  4. Stir in 3 cups white flour, one cup at a time.  Measure out one more cup of flour and sprinkle half of that onto the sticky dough.  Work into dough.
  5. Flour hands and turn dough onto floured surface.  Knead well.  While it is resting, wipe oil onto inside of bowl.
  6. Knead a little bit more, then put the dough back into the bowl and cover.  Let rise in a warm place for an hour and a half.
  7. Punch down down.  Divide into half and form into loaves.
  8. Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet, and cover with a towel.  Let rise again for 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 375.
  10. Remove covering, slash tops of loaves, and bake 30 minutes.  Let cool, and enjoy!

Friday, March 20

Sweet & Low (Tedeschi Trucks)


My love of both chocolate and peanut butter combined comes directly through the maternal bloodline.  My grandmother created this recipe, and it was a staple of our Christmas 'junk food bar' every year.  Now that she is no longer around to make them, we've decided to try and 'clean up' the recipe a bit (click on ingredients to see our choices), leaving it a little bit healthier but every bit as tasty as the original!

Ingredients :
Directions :
  • Put chocolate squares into double boiler and melt them.
  • Spread peanut butter onto crackers, and use a second cracker to make 'sandwiches.'
  • Once chocolate is completely melted, place sandwiches into the bowl and cover completely in chocolate.
  • Carefully remove from chocolate and let cool on wax paper.  (To speed cooling, you can put them in the freezer.)
  • Slowly savor every bite!


Thursday, March 19

Using Dyed Easter Eggs after Easter

Soon, Easter will be over, and you will have dyed eggs sitting around the house.  Don't just toss them out!  Put those already-dyed eggs to good use for an art project.  This simple mosaic project will take 1/3 the time if you're using leftover dyed eggs.  

For our project, we made an Ancient Roman mosaic, but you can make any design you wish.  You can even whip up a batch of Snickerdoodle Easter Eggs to munch on while you work!  (Follow the linked recipe, but add food coloring.)

How to Make an Ancient Mosaic from Eggshells


Supplies :
  • Paper cups
  • Eggshells (save from a dozen or more eggs, wash them and let them dry out)
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Base for mosaic (at least 12"....I used the lid from a gallon of ice cream)


Directions :
  • After your eggshells have dried, break them into little bitty bits.
  • Put food coloring and water into paper cups.  We used red, green, and blue.
  • Put the eggshells bits into the cups, cover them with coloring, and let them sit overnight.
  • Dump them out the next day and let them dry on newspaper.
  • Using the different colors, create your mosaic.


Some tips:
  • If you use different sides of the eggshell, you will get different shades of the same color.  With red, I got red and pink, depending on which side I used.
  • If you're doing a circle shape, start with the outside and work your way in.
  • Save some of your eggshells so that you have the color white as an option.

Monday, March 9

The Irish Rover (Dropkick Murphys)

Recently, we brought you several crafts and a traditional Irish meal........and with St. Patrick's Day approaching, we wanted to share an Irish adventure!  

One of the blessings of marrying a foreigner is that you get to travel overseas to visit family. My husband Niall is from Ireland, and this Christmas we were able to bring our kids, ages 3 and 1, for their first Irish visit. 

The local library was one of our first stops. We are avid library goers back home, so it only made sense. I was surprised to find out that in Ireland they charge you to open a library account- while children are free, working adults pay five euro yearly, and unemployed adults pay two euro. Not too expensive in the grand scheme of things, but definitely different from the States. 
 
My husband's hometown is part of what's known as the "gaeltacht"- back woodsy portions that kept speaking Irish when it was outlawed during English occupation, mostly because they just slipped through the cracks. My husband went to a public school that taught all subjects in Irish. I was thrilled to see the tiny library's children section filled with Irish titles. While I can't even begin to pronounce this tricky and unfamiliar tongue, my husband and his parents and siblings were more than happy to oblige. We would love for our children to learn Irish! 
It's very easy to teach impromptu history lessons in Ireland, because everywhere you look you can see living history. Crumbling ruins of stone walls and houses fill every field. Monasteries and castles built as early as the 1100s litter the countryside. If you look closely at the rolling hills, you can see ridges in the ground that mark people's desperate attempts to grow potatoes in the most desolate of places during the potato famine. My father-in-law is a wealth of historical information, and loves to rattle off the dates and background information for every site we pass. While I hope my kids learned a lot, I know that I sure did!  

Ireland also presents a wealth of opportunity for scientific observation. Because it is so far north, the days are much shorter. The sun doesn't rise until nearly nine a.m, and it sets as early as 4 p.m. It never gets too high overhead- usually it just looms low in the horizon. In summer, the days are extremely long, with day light lasting until 10 p.m.  

Bird watching is also a treat around these parts. Did you know that the bird North Americans identify as a robin is in fact not a robin at all? It is actually a type of Thrush. It was named for the English robin {which is also found in Ireland}, because both birds are brown with a reddish orange belly. Robins in Ireland are such jolly little folks! They are smaller and rounder, with bigger eyes and puffed chests. Ireland is also home to magpies- black birds very similar to crows, except for their white markings. 
Photo Credit: Gidzy
Our children are still small, but I look forward to furthering their home education on Irish visits in the future! with so much to see and learn, I am thrilled that they were given this international heritage.

Ireland unit :

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Rachel O'Neill has been married to her husband Niall for 6 years. They live with their daughter {3} and son {18 months} in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Her favorite things include reading, tea-drinking, and knitting, and she is a big fan of literature based learning. She blogs about faith, homemaking, and family at The Purposeful Wife

Friday, March 6

Morning is my Destination (Tift Merritt)

There is a lot of scary stuff out there about processed foods these days.  When my health began to take a turn south a few years ago, I examined my eating habits, looking for one thing that I could change in the hopes of having a positive impact.  The results were amazing; they were both swift and recognizable!

I'm a big cereal & milk eater....eight years in a dorm room will do that to you.  It's portable, easy to store, and quick and easy to make.  But boxed cereals are loaded with sugar and chemicals, and most milk today is laden with hormones, and possibly antibiotics.  These are not things that I wanted to continue knowingly putting into my body - so I decided to change my cereal and milk.  I won't lie - it did take some getting used to, but the changes were so substantial that it's completely worth it!!


Cereal

Supplies :



**The beauty of this recipe is that you can use as much or as little of each as you'd like.  Don't like nuts?  Don't use them.  Want more fruit?  Use more.**

Directions :


**I first make up a mixture of chia and flax seeds - a bag will keep for nearly a year in the freezer.  I typically only use one to two cups of this mixture for a gallon of cereal.**



  • Chop the nuts (as fine as you'd like) in the food chopper.
  • In a very large bowl, combine all ingredients and thoroughly mix.
  • Store in a freezer bag (double bag it) for up to six months.  
  • For easier morning use, fill a quart jar with cereal from the freezer, and leave it out for daily use.  Re-fill as needed.




Kefir

Kefir’s tart and refreshing flavor is similar to a drinking-style yogurt, but it contains beneficial yeast as well as friendly ‘probiotic’ bacteria found in yogurt. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine symbiotically to give superior health benefits when consumed regularly. It is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals and contains easily digestible complete proteins.



Makes 1 cup

What You Need

Ingredients
1 cup milk, preferably whole fat (see Recipe Notes)
1 teaspoon active kefir grains (See Recipe Notes)
Equipment
1 pint-sized glass jar
Cheesecloth, paper towel, or clean napkin
Rubberband
Small strainer (preferably plastic, but metal is ok)
Storage container with lid

Instructions

Note: Avoid prolonged contact between the kefir and metal both during and after brewing. This can affect the flavor of your kefir and weaken the grains over time.
  1. Combine the milk and the grains in a jar: Pour the milk into a clean glass jar (not metal) and stir in the kefir grains. The milk can be cold or room temperature, either is fine.
  2. Cover the jar: Cover the jar with cheesecloth, a paper towel, or a clean napkin and secure it with a rubber band. Do not screw a lid onto the jar as the build up of carbon dioxide from the fermenting grains can cause pressure to build in the jar, and in extreme cases, cause the jar to burst.
  3. Ferment for 12 to 48 hours: Store the jar at room temperature (ideally around 70°F) away from direct sunlight. Check the jar every few hours. When the milk has thickened and tastes tangy, it's ready. This will usually take about 24 hours at average room temperatures; the milk will ferment faster at warmer temperatures and slower at cool temperatures. If your milk hasn't fermented after 48 hours, strain out the grains and try again in a fresh batch (this sometimes happens when using new kefir grains, when refreshing dried kefir grains, or when using grains that have been refrigerated).
  4. Strain out the kefir grains: Place a small strainer over the container you'll use to store the kefir. Strain the kefir into the container, catching the grains in the strainer.
  5. Transfer the grains to fresh milk: Stir the grains into a fresh batch of milk and allow to ferment again. This way, you can make a fresh batch of kefir roughly every 24 hours. To take a break from making kefir, place the grains in fresh milk, cover tightly, and refrigerate.
  6. Drink or refrigerate the milk kefir: The prepared milk kefir can be used or drunk immediately, or covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Recipe Notes

  • Activating Dried Kefir Grains: If you bought your kefir grains in a dried form, rehydrate them by soaking them in fresh milk at room temperature. Change the milk every 24 hours until the grains begin to culture the milk and make kefir. It may take 3 to 7 days for the kefir grains to become fully active.
  • What Milk to Use: Kefir works best with whole-fat cow, goat, sheep, or other animal milk. You can use low-fat milks, but refresh the grains in whole fat milk if they stop fermenting the kefir properly. Raw and pasteurized milks can be used, but avoid ultra-high temperature (UHT) pasteurized milks.
  • Making More or Less Kefir: You'll need about a teaspoon of grains to ferment 1 to 2 cups of milk. You can also ferment less milk than this, but fermentation will go more quickly. Your grains will start to multiply over time, allowing you to ferment more milk if you like. Maintain a ratio of about a teaspoon of grains to 1 cup of milk.
  • Taking a Break from Making Kefir: To take a break from making kefir, transfer the grains into a fresh container of milk, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to a month.
  • What to Do if Your Kefir Separates: Sometimes kefir will separate into a solid layer and milky layer if left too long. This is fine! Shake the jar or whisk the kefir to recombine and carry on. If this happens regularly, start checking your kefir sooner.

Thursday, March 5

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Just wanted to bring you a few photos from our week......   What does it look like where you are?

This is Oklahoma - we're not used to waking up for this many days in a row to snow!  But it was beautiful.....at least until the power went out.  Then it was just cold.

The kids found alternate used for things...like the swimming pool turned skating rink and stick turned snowball-deflector.

We walked over to the cemetery to clean graves, and had a quick history lesson.  They wanted to know why there were so many kids buried there, so we checked out the dates and discovered that many had passed during two periods...probably of illness.


The inevitable snowball fight, followed by a round of baseball practice.  That didn't go so well, since the ball was quickly lost!

We had to trudge the 1/2 mile to the mailbox everyday to get the mail.  That counts as exercise, right?

JUST when we were running out of firewood, everything melted and the world became a sunny, albeit sloshy, place again!

How was YOUR snow-filled week???    (If you are in Florida or SoCal, feel free to weigh in, too!)