This Month's Featured Resources...

Father's DayTravel - CookingLatin WW2

Sunday, January 29

Slow Cook Superbowl

Super-Yummy Superbowl!
Nacho Cheese Dip
Don't just grab the can from the store, impress your friends with this easy-to-make homemade dip!

  • 1/2 c beer
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1/2 c salsa
  • 1 stick Velveta, cubed
  • 1/4 c fresh cilantro
  1. In a pan, mix beer, cumin, oregano, and garlic.  Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer 2 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, mix beans, salsa, cheese, and beer mixture.  
  3. Place into crockpot, cover and cook on low 3-4 hours (or high 1-2 hours).  When it bubbles, serve it with fresh sprinkles of cilantro!   
  4. Goes wonderfully with our homemade pretzels....

Barbecue Pork Sandwiches
As a Carolina girl, I can tell you that it doesn't get any better than this!

  • 1 c catsup
  • 1 c chili sauce
  • 1/4 c dijon mustard
  • 5 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 lb boneless pork roast
  • 8 buns
  1. In a pan, mix catsup, chili, mustard, vinegar, worcestershire, and garlic.  Bring to boil, reduce and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Marinate pork with mixture in a glass bowl - overnight.
  3. Place into crockpot and add 3/4 c water.  Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours (or high 4-6 hours).
  4. Shred cooked roast into pieces, place on bun and add barbecue sauce as desired.

Hearty Vegetarian Chili
....because we all have friends who eschew meat, but still love the game!

  • 1 diced butternut squash (peeled)
  • 2 diced carrots
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 38 oz black beans (drained)
  • 4 oz green chiles (do not drain)
  • 1 c vegetable stock
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • sour cream and cilantro, to taste
  1. Mix everything except cilantro in slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours (or high 3-4 hours).
  2. Serve with sour cream and cilantro, as desired.

Saturday, January 28

The Book Shack - Filling a Homeschool Need

Once upon a time, there was a magic place called The Book Samaritan.  For nearly seventeen years, the fairy godmothers provided families in need with books, curriculum, and supplies so that they could homeschool their children, even if funding was tight.

As time passed, the kingdom became a darker place.  Trolls hid beneath the rocks and tried to disguise themselves as villagers in need.  The fairy godmothers began to lose steam.  They had families, who also needed their help, at home.  Their good idea had begun to take over their lives, and they were tired.

They decided to close the castle doors, and draw up the moat, forever.

BUT!  Some villagers from a nearby village strongly believed in the fairy godmothers, and their mission, and they agreed to use the magic wand to continue spreading love and help across all the land.  The called it The Book Shack.

However, as these new godmothers belonged to a different village, the princess (who had helped the fairy godmothers along the way) would not be sending knights to aid with the mission in the new village.  And so, the new godmothers began to scour the land for knights and princesses....
It's a true tale.  The Book Shack is a non-profit group, an extension of the Book Samaritan which was run out of Pawhuska, OK for many years.  They operate in the same vein, taking in donated curriculum and books, and then shipping it out to homeschooling families who have felt the financial crunch and cannot afford supplies.

As it comes upon that time of year for used curriculum sales, keep in mind that you can donate any unsold items to the Book Shack, and you will be helping other families in need.

It might seem strange, giving away huge boxes full of supplies, curriculum, books, manipulatives, and other homeschooling items to people that you don't know, but you are helping another family to have that freedom of schooling choice.  Also, as an added bonus, both your donation and your shipping are tax-deductible.

How to help:

  • Book donations: We accept any used books, workbooks, flash cards, kits, DVDs, CD-ROMS, and school supplies. They will be catalogued for immediate redistribution.
  • Cash donations: Be assured that 100% of all contributions will be used to purchase much-needed curriculum and cover renter's insurance for the distribution center.
  • Books, curriculum, cash contributions and postage are all tax deductible gifts.
  • Please pray for our continued efforts to reach out to homeschooling families through this ministry.
Please forward curriculum donations to:

The Book Shack
PO Box 235
Prague, OK  74864
Please forward cash donations to :

NOTE: Shipping via "Media Mail" is the most inexpensive rate available. Just ask the clerk for the "Media Mail" rate when shipping books, curriculum, or other materials.

If you’re in need of materials, you can send a letter to this organization, along with your children’s grade levels, and they’ll do their best to help you out. Find out more about requesting materials.

You’re probably asking, “But what’s the catch?” It’s simple really. When you’re finished with the materials, they don’t want you selling them. They simply request that you send them back so they can be used by other homeschooling families in need.

Check it out. The Book Samaritan is a great organization that has already helped many homeschooling families, and The Book Shack will hopefully help many more in the future.

Tuesday, January 24

Slow Cook January

January : Winter Warm Up
Squash Enchilada Casserole

  • 2 c chopped butternut squash (peeled)
  • 16 oz hominy (drained)
  • 16 oz black beans (drained)
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1 large chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 c salsa
  • 4 oz diced green chiles
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 oz enchilada sauce
  • 8 oz pkg cornbread mix
  • 1 c shredded cheese
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1 egg
  • sour cream & cilantro, to taste

  1. Combine squash, hominy, beans, onion, pepper, chiles, salsa, garlic, and salt.  Pour enchilada sauce on top.
  2. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours (or high 4-5 hours).
  3. In a bowl, mix together cornbread mix, 1/2 c cheese, milk, and egg.  Spoon batter on top of veggies in crockpot.  Cover and cook on high for 50 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle remaining cheese over mixture.  Serve with sour cream and cilantro, if desired.

Winter Soup  (utilizes in-season veggies and the Scarborough Fair herbs)

  • 2 diced parsnips (peeled)
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 large carrots (chopped)
  • 1 diced turnip (peeled)
  • 1 diced potato
  • 2 c water
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 30 oz northern beans (drained)
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley

  1. Mix everything except the parsley together in the pot.  Cover and cook on low 10-11 hours (or high 4-5 hours).
  2. Stir in parsley before serving.

Spicy Apple Cider

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • 8 c apple cider
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 sliced orange

  1. Place cinnamon, cloves, all spice in cheesecloth and tie with twine.  
  2. Put cider, brown sugar, orange, and spices into crockpot.  Cook on low 2-5 hours.  Discard spice bag.

Tuesday, January 10

Schoolhouse Teachers Review

Only $90 / year or $9.95 / month -- it covers the entire family!!  Learn more here... Review is the homeschooler's online educational resource site.  It’s your one-stop helper-shop, with aids such as: printables, daily lessons, lapbooks, free e-books, and conference recordings on various homeschool topics prepared by recognized homeschool leaders.  You have access to daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly lesson plans by some of the best from within the homeschooling community.  Homeschool moms, you finally get a teacher’s aide with Schoolhouse Teachers!

If that weren’t enough, there are some seriously cool bonuses to having a Yearly Membership. They provide you with multiple printable planners, a free membership to World Book Library (e-books), Right Start Media access (streamable movies, such as Drive Through History), and access to the Applecore recordkeeping system.
There are sections on homemaking, homeschool living, monthly menu plans, and discounts for a multitude of vendors–there’s even a section just for craft ideas for the kids!  All of The Old Schoolhouse magazine back issues are online well, so that you can access the information as it becomes relevant to your school.  

Entire pages are dedicated to parenting special needs, preschoolers, high schoolers, and focused learning centers (new ideas for teaching struggling learners).  The Monthly Menu page offers up an entire month of seasonally-appropriate recipes for each month of the year.  While only a few are currently available, there are printable lesson plans for courses (they are currently working to get more up) that help you keep track of lesson completion.  They also offer a handy checklist that shows which courses are appropriate for each grade level.

The site includes both online and downloadable components – courses such as Lapbooking, Figures in History, and Literature are downloadable and printable in nature, whereas Family Fitness, Guitar, and Friendly Chemistry are best completed online.
  • There are over 300 courses taught by outstanding teachers. Courses vary in length from a few weeks to a full year or more, and there is something for every member of the family.
  • One membership covers every class on the site for your entire family, from preschool to high school, and beyond.
  • Classes are not live, so you can start ANY time!
  • Options are available for co-op or group use.
  • Try it FREE for 30 days here when you register for a free Welcome Basket.
  • Join for $12.95 each month.
  • Save over 10% on a one-year membership, just $139.
  • There are no per-class or per-child fees and you can cancel anytime.
I found the site simple and easy to navigate.  Since I was trying out this site in the weeks just before Christmas, I spent some time looking for holiday and winter specific lessons – and there were quite a few!  After a few minutes of searching around, I stumbled upon the Christmas Corner, where someone had already done the searching for me.  Very convenient!  They also have an Easter Corner, Summer Corner, and Fall / Thanksgiving Corner.

One thing that caught my eye was under the Freebies section, where you could print off an entire spelling unit that was Christmas-themed.   Here is a sampling of what I was able to find in less than three minutes, to plan out an entire week that included lessons for all of my students:
  • The Gift of the Magi, by O’Henry (complete story & Lapbooking unit)
  • Christmas Architecture (Architecture)
  • Christmas-themed prompts in Everyday Copywork
  • Rest Ye Merry (Simply Shakespeare)
  • Gifts & Winter – several cross-curricular winter activities
  • Tree of Jesse – Everyday Easels cross-curricular unit for several age groups
  • Winter Snowman Scene – crafty section
  • Joy to the World (Violin)
  • History of the Christmas Tree (Ditch the Desk)
  • Animals of the Nativity (Animal Science)
  • Angels in Art (Studio Art for Teens)

Honestly, there was enough fantastic stuff on the Christmas Corner alone that I could have kept the kids occupied, and learning, for more than the entire month of December!  But since we fell behind this year, we’re only doing Christmas fun for the last week of the semester.  Who doesn’t have to spend all weekend planning now??  ME! 

I also really appreciate the extras that come with membership, like the reading e-books (which helped my struggling reader), Schoolhouse Expo seminars, classes for adults, e-book library access, family movie access (streaming), planners, and member discounts.  Given the time of year, I especially enjoyed the “Twelve Days of Christmas Encouragement” section for homeschooling moms. 

I could see this being a really beneficial site for roadschooling families, because everything is housed online.  You can print out sheets as needed, from wherever you land, but the majority of courses can be completed online.  As long as you have reliable internet access, you could use from anywhere in the world

See more reviews of Schoolhouse Teachers at The Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, January 4

January Jump Start!

January – Jump Start! 
You've been told a million times that exercise is good for you, and it's true.  It's not just those "runner's high" endorphins—regular exercise can actually improve your life in many ways.   

We’re going to focus on the three main areas of exercise, and getting started in all of them!
1.   Cardio
2.   Strength Training
3.   Stretching

Seven Reasons Why You Should Exercise
  • You'll Improve Your Memory – 
    • Thanks to the extra oxygen being cycled, exercise can boost your memory.  Some folks come up with their best ideas while exercising!
  • You'll Have Better Posture - 
    • One of the best ways to fix your posture is to exercise the muscles holding you back.
  • You'll De-Stress - 
    • Got stress?  Exercise is a great way to combat it!
  • You'll Sleep Better - 
    • The best time to work out is in the morning or the afternoon, rather than before bed—if you exercise too closely to bedtime, it can actually have the opposite effect!
  • You'll Have More Energy - 
    • Exercising in the middle of the day can leave you feeling more energetic and productive for the rest of the afternoon.
  • You'll Get Sick Less Often - 
    • People who exercise regularly are half as likely to get a cold than people who don't—I’ll take those odds!
  • You'll Live Longer - 
    • Sitting all day is killing you—and just a bit of regular exercise can stave off the reaper for a while.

Seven Tips for Getting Off on the “Right Foot”
1.   Equipment : Invest in the right clothing and shoes - this will make your exercise more pleasant and help to prevent injury.  A good sports bra, non-chafing outfit, and comfy shoes will mean the difference between keeping at it for ten minutes or an hour.  Get fitted at a specialty store, so that you know which shoes to buy for your foot type.  You can find good deals at Amazon or RoadRunnerSports.
2.   Set a realistic goal : Maybe you want to run a marathon....eventually.  Start small, with a local 5K.  Sign up for it now and start training!  Work your way up from there...10K, half-marathon, etc.
3.   Pace yourself : Warm up with a jog, and then stretch for a bit to get your muscles ready.  Start running slowly and build up your speed.  If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, stop and go at a slower pace the next time.  You will see improvement if you keep it up!
4.   Food is fuel : You shouldn't starve yourself or stuff yourself.  Eat carbohydrates to give you the energy you need for running, and protein to help rebuild muscle afterward.  Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because you are running, you can eat whatever you like!  Eat healthy foods to fuel your wouldn't put nastiness into your car engine and expect it to run, would you?  A great post-run snack bar is the Luna bar, which is high in protein and comes in several flavors.
5.   Water :  When you sweat, electrolytes are lost - so if you're going to be running a very long time, you might consider a sports drink or Nuun tablets.  However, if you're going less than an hour, water is crucial and generally all your body needs for replenishment.
6.   Find the balance : Build your mileage slowly.  Start with one mile and work your way up.  Sure, you can go brag that you ran ten miles yesterday, but if you can't walk for a week afterwards, you're only hurting yourself.  Also, pushing yourself too hard too soon will lead to injury.  At the same time, do push yourself.  If you don't, you'll never get better.
7.   Keep it moving : When it's scorching hot or polar cold; when the world is covered in mud; or when you're just not in the mood to run - mix it up.  Dance, do yoga, strength train, play active games with the kids....keep your body moving to keep your cardio going!

Related Articles :

Stretching will reduce risk of injury and allow you to safely lead an active lifestyle.

How long have you been sitting down where you are right now?  I'm guessing the answer is "a while."  Take a moment to do the desk stretches shown above.  No matter where you work, taking a minute (a few times each day) to stretch will improve your outlook.

Stretching improves circulation and increases blood flow to the muscles.  You can stretch anywhere, but always remember to hold your stretch.  No bouncing!!  For more guidance, try a simple stretching DVD.


Six Things Weight Training Does for You
1.   Helps keep the weight off for good. 
2.   Protects bone health and muscle mass.
3.   Makes you stronger and fitter.
4.   Helps develop flexibility and better body mechanics.
5.   Boosts energy levels and improves your mood.
6.   Boosts metabolism, which translates to more calories burned.

Weight lifting can simply mean lifting your own body weight.  Push-ups, jump squats, lunges, and mountain climbing are all examples of exercises that provide strength training.

A good set of adjustable weights is perfect for the space-crunched home gym.  In a pinch, toning bands work well, too!

Try the arms and legs challenges presented below.  Build upon each challenge for thirty days and watch yourself tighten and tone quickly!

Tuesday, January 3

Teaching Kids About Herbs : Garlic

We're kicking off a new series this year.....each month we will bring you a seasonally-appropriate herb, so that you can teach your children how to use natural medicines and preventative herbs.  (You can also learn alongside them!)   We hope you learn something and enjoy!
January's herb is garlic.....not just for vampires, garlic also helps to ward off illness!

Just the Facts
  • Plant Description : Garlic has smooth, thin green leaves, a large white bulb at the root, and tiny white or purple flowers.
  • Parts to use : Bulb
  • Used primarily for : Cold / flu, bronchitis, parasites, poor digestion or circulation
  • You can make : Food spice, tincture, oil, salve, juice, or use raw

  • Juice : Mash an entire garlic bulb and mix with 1 cup apple cider vinegar.  Mix well and let stand for a day or two.  Strain out garlic pieces.  Take ½ tsp every hour at first onset of illness, until feeling well.
  • Cough Poultice : Mash an entire garlic bulb (not just a clove) and mix with olive oil until it forms a thick paste.  Wrap paste inside a thin towel  (ask your parents for one that can get dirty), and place the wrapped towel on your chest.  Cover with heating pad and let sit for 10-15 minutes.  *Garlic can burn gentle skin, so if your skin gets too hot or red, remove the poultice.*
  • Food Paste : Press three to five cloves of garlic with a garlic press.  Mix in 1 Tbsp olive oil, to make it a thick paste.  Dip pieces of bread into your mixture, and enjoy a yummy, immune-boosting treat!
Do it Yourself!
  • DIY Resources :  Use the hardware resources listed below, along with dried garlic, a garlic press, and planting bulbs
  • Not ready to DIY? :   Try the Minced Garlic or Garlic Capsules.
  • Fun Bonus : Wearing a crushed garlic clove around your neck won’t just repel vampires…this folk remedy will truly keep the germs away!  Eating a raw garlic clove daily also keeps your immune system humming along.
Great to Have on Hand!
These materials are used frequently when working with herbs.
·         Olive Oil
·         Mortar & Pestle
·         Glass Tincture Jars
·         Glass Salve Jars
·         Glass Spray Jars

These materials are great resources for going even further with your learning.
·         Wildcraft Board Game
·         Herb Gardening Starter Kit
·         Kids’ Gardening Tool Set
·         Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Sunday, January 1

Friday, I'm in Love (Cure)

I's actually Sunday, but we're talking about "Friday Boxes" today, specifically how they could fit into your New Year and the changes you want to make.  

See...if 2016 taught us anything, it's that we live in a world of negativity.  It's pervasive and surrounds us from every direction, and it can really get under your skin.  But you have the choice to passively sit by and let it consume you, or work to focus on the good.  Obviously, since I used the word "work," the second option takes a little more energy.

However, after watching the way that 2015 unfolded, and knowing that 2016 was only going to get a lot worse because of that pesky election-thing, I make the conscious decision last year that I wanted to teach my children how to focus on the good, no matter how small, in the midst of the bad.  And, never one to let me down, our lives in 2016 had a lot of bad in them.  I think they were just trying to help me focus on making this a true learning experience!

Thus, the "Friday Box" was born.  Every Friday, no matter where we happened to be, the boys took a slip of paper and wrote down the best thing (or things) to happen that week.  It could be something as simple as a special lunch out, or a big thing like a fun experience at overnight camp.  Faithfully, every Friday, they complied, until it became second nature.

This past Friday, the last of the year, we opened up the boxes and read the papers aloud, remembering the good times from the year.  While a couple of "we had no school" had slipped through, the vast majority of them were about little things, and good times, and we spent well over two hours just reminiscing about the good times we had experienced this past year.  

It's human nature for most to remember the bad more vividly than the good - it's how we evolved to make sure we stayed safe by remembering those negative experiences vividly so that we could avoid them in the future.  So, what do you want to remember about 2017?  

Giggles and laughter, smiles all around...those are the things that I want to remember.  The "Friday Box" tradition is here to stay at our house.  Will you start it at yours?

 Choose JoyAs an aside, moms, this is a good book to help you re-center your spirit and soul, too.  We all know that "when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," but I think the opposite is true, too.  Let's ring in this new year on a happy note.  The world around us largely sucks, that's true, but we don't have to let it suck us in.  Let's choose JOY!