Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our mini-vacation in Philly!

We spent three wonderful days in Philadelphia recently -- visiting museums and historical sites, swimming in the hotel pool and making precious memories together as a family. Here's a peek into our time away . . .

We visited:

It was a busy three days . . . but as you can see, we had so much fun!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Making bread

Back before Christmas, my wonderful husband blessed me by purchasing a new heavy-duty Bosch mixer and a Nutrimill for grinding our own flour. It was an exciting day when two big boxes were delivered to our home!
I've been using the Bosch mixer since we received it, but I had trouble finding a place to purchase wheat berries locally so as not to pay a lot for shipping. However, I finally found a place to buy wheat berries in bulk -- organic, no less -- so yesterday was the day to try the grain mill out! (A fun "home ec" day at GodSeekers Academy!)
Lael and Jaden were so excited to get started! They helped me unpack the Nutrimill and put everything together. We looked at the different parts of the machine to learn what each part does. Then it was time to add the wheat berries to the hopper.
Here are the wheat berries before grinding -- they look like brown rice. We started by grinding just two cups of wheat berries -- this would need to be discarded to make sure any dust or other contaminants on the Nutrimill were discarded as well.
Grinding grain is a bit noisy!
And here is the freshly-milled whole wheat flour!
What to do with flour you can't bake with! Why, play with it, of course!

Once the flour was milled, we made our bread dough, using this recipe:
6 cups warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
3 T. yeast
2 T. salt
1 cup vital wheat gluten
16 cups whole wheat flour (approximate, may be slightly more or less)
Combine water, sugar and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes to "wake up" the yeast. Add all the remaining ingredients and knead for 7-9 minutes. Divide dough into 6 pieces, shape loaves and put into pans to rise (covered, for 30-50 minutes depending on how warm or cold the room is).
Bake at 350 degrees F for 28 - 30 minutes.
This makes 6 regular size loaves of bread OR 4 loaves of bread and one batch of monkey bread (that's what's in the bundt pan)
This recipe is FANTASTIC! (Thanks to Tristan for sharing it!) It makes perfect whole wheat bread -- with the consistency of store-bought bread.
And the monkey bread is so yummy too! I only have 4 bread pans, so I had to figure out something to do with the rest of the dough ;)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick's Day fun!

So . . . yesterday was St. Patrick's Day . . . and what did we do to celebrate?

Well, since you asked ;-) . . .

This week we are reading a book by Tomie de Paola entitled Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland. It's a wonderful story which tells about Patrick and his call to be a missionary in Ireland.
Last week we decorated some shamrocks . . . did you know that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity? Just like there is one stem with three distinct leaf-shapes, we serve one God in three distinct Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We hung our decorated shamrocks on the front window of the house.
We began our day with green smoothies for breakfast -- so yummy! (Thanks to Linda for the suggestion.) The kids loved them so much they asked for them today as well!
We are working on a lapbook about Saint Patrick, as well as Ireland . . . stay tuned for pics of that soon. We also took a break and watched a Veggie Tales version of the story of Saint Patrick. If you've never seen it, you can check it out here.
Then for dinner, we had . . .

Irish soda bread
and Irish stew!
It was a fun day all around!
(However, Jaden was a bit disappointed that today wasn't a "special day" too -- instead of just a Wednesday!)

Giveaway at His Mercy Is New!

Candace, a fellow homeschooler, is having an amazing giveaway of some wonderful homeschooling resources at her blog. Some of the items include:
  • Rocket Phonics
  • Spears art curriculum
  • Critical Thinking - Building Thinking Skills book
  • Bible Story Songs cd
  • and even more!

So check it out . . . you can enter for a chance to win by leaving a comment on her blog . . . which is what I'm heading over to do right now! ;)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Picture time!

We were LONG overdue to have the kids' pictures taken (I won't say exactly how long, but it was before Jaden's second birthday!) So last month we took them to Portrait Innovations . . . and these are some of the 127 pictures they took!

I was so impressed at the fantastic job they did . . . the natural smiles and personality they captured of each of the children -- and we were able to take our pictures home with us right away, which was great at meeting my need for instant gratification! We'll definitely go back again!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ahhh . . . muffins!

So here's my little sous-chef helping me to make our new favorite muffins . . . pineapple-zucchini-coconut -- YUMMO!

Jaden's favorite part of this recipe is running the food processor --
just look at that concentration!

And just that quickly (okay, so it's not quite that quickly), you have MUFFINS!
Don't they look great?

Jaden really loves his muffins . . . so much that he gave one a kiss before eating it up!
And just in case you want to make some yourself, here's the recipe:

Pineapple-Zucchini-Coconut Muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)

3 cups sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups canola oil

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups shredded zucchini

1 can crushed pineapple, well drained

3/4 cup shredded coconut

Grease bottoms only of muffin tins (or use paper muffin liners) and set pans aside. In mixing bowl, combine eggs, oil and vanilla; mix well to combine. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir together until just moistened. NOTE: At this point, the mixture will be very thick and seem too dry! Fold in zucchini, pineapple and coconut.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool briefly before removing to wire racks.

With this recipe, I made two dozen muffins (standard size), one regular loaf - which baked for about 45 minutes, and two mini-loaves - which baked for 30 minutes. You can also just make 3 regular size loaves. If using loaf pans, make sure to grease/flour the pan, then layer the bottom with wax paper and grease that also.

And if you're going to enjoy a muffin, how about a story to go with it . . .

If you give a mom a muffin,
She'll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She'll pour herself some.
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.
She'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she'll find dirty socks.
She'll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She'll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan for supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She'll look for her cookbook ("101 Things To Do With a Pound of Hamburger").
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The check book is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.
She'll smell something funny.
She'll change the two year old's diaper.
While she is changing the diaper, the phone will ring.
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.
She'll remember she wants to phone a friend for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
And chances are...
If she has a cup of coffee,
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

by Kathy Fictorie

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I love . . .

. . . my grocery store! Now, before you think I'm crazy (although some of you that know me personally may well think that's the case), please allow me to explain.

Before we moved here almost two years ago, I'd never even heard of Wegman's. It has quickly become my absolute favorite grocery store for many reasons:
  • They provide FREE child care while you shop -- up to an hour and a half! And the kids enjoy W-Kids so much . . . they don't want to leave when I'm done shopping!
  • They have an amazing variety of foods -- great international foods section, wonderful organic and natural products, and their store brand is excellent!
  • They have a cafe and all kinds of prepared foods -- like a mini food court right in the store. (It makes a fun date place for my husband and me . . . and child care is free!)
But now I have yet another reason to love my grocery store: the cheese shop.
Lael and Jaden are learning about France right now in school, and I had this spontaneous thought while at Wegman's on Friday night: We should pick up some French cheese to take home and try . . . you know, for the experience. I mean, that's one of the things I love about homeschooling - the ability to provide my children with all kinds of different experiences and be able to enjoy the experiences along with them.

Now (here's a confession), I've never eaten any French cheese, at least not that I'm aware of. I stick to the classics like cheddar, Monterey jack, and parmesan (my absolute fave). Anyway, I had absolutely no idea how to pick out a cheese that we'd all enjoy, so we went up to the cheese shop and asked for help. I figured I'd get a suggestion of something to try and we'd just take whatever was recommended.

However, the lovely lady (I'll call her Jackie) who was helping us totally went above and beyond the call of duty! She let all four of us try not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different French cheeses:

two different brie cheeses - one mild,and one medium, a camembert, and a Port Salut.

Jackie predicted that the kids would like the Port Salut best and she was right! It was so yummy and creamy and good -- it had the texture of the mild brie, but the flavor was a little more intense. While we were sampling our cheeses, she talked about how the cheeses are made, where they come from, how to store them . . . she even told the kids to make sure to take their cheese out of the fridge about 30 to 45 minutes before eating it so that it would be even more flavorful.

So what started out as a simple question turned into a mini-field trip that none of us will soon forget! I love my grocery store!