Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Queen for a day

We have been meeting once a week with two other families for a History Coop this year. The curriculum that we are using is called  The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance, Revised Edition by Susan Wise Bauer. She has written the history of the world in a 4 volume set and we are at the end of the 2nd one. An activity book for the text has been giving us ideas for projects, games, and crafts throughout the year. I really like these books, mainly because they are a good outline for studying history. We do a lot of extra reading to go along with the chapters and the parents rotate teaching each week.

This week we studied Queen Elizabeth. After teaching a lesson, reviewing the chapter, and looking at lots of portraits of the queen, we took pictures of the girls dressed and posed like her.

Here are Ellen and Arianna and our other two friends. Beautiful!

The kids in the group (2 are not pictured) love going to "history" every week. They enjoy listening to and talking about stories from the past. They especially like doing crafts and dressing up. This year we have had them dress up like celtic warriors, samurai, knights, and ladies to name a few. They've also made all kinds of weapons including cannons, axes, swords, shields, etc. mostly out of cardboard tubes, paint sticks, and duck tape. In addition, they've done all sorts of crafts like mosaics, Japanese carp kites, illuminated letters, pysanky eggs, glue batik, etc. We've also tasted traditional foods from the Native Americans and the Moors.

I'm thankful to be involved in this group. We have developed some great friendships. Learning with friends can be a lot of fun! Besides having fun together it can also serve as an accountability group. Without them I might not push through the chapters and have the energy to do the activities. I know I've learned a ton about the middle ages from this coop!

Here's the link for the rest of the pictures I took today.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Surprised by squash

I have been working on a few squash recipes this week. I am amazed at how much you can do with squash! It can be put in almost any thing -- stir fry, pizza, soup, and my two new favorites, bread and pot pie.

I have adapted my old zucchini bread recipe and I now call it squash bread. The last batch I made actually had 3 kinds of squash mixed together since I had half a zucchini left from the day before, then I added a medium yellow squash, then half a trombone squash.
First I will share the basic recipe that I have adapted from several different cookbooks. You can modify the recipe several ways without changing the flavor very much. To reduce the sugar just leave out half. You can use 1/2 wheat flour and 1/2 white flour and substitute coco powder for 1/2 cup flour to give it a chocolate flavor. Add a handful of chocolate chips for more of a treat. You can leave out a 1/2 cup of oil without substituting the applesauce and it still comes out great although a little dry. We put earth balance (margarine) on it anyway so I like to decrease the oil. I made the muffins above with 2/3 the sugar and 1/2 the oil last night. I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on top and brought them to share with some friends and they were a hit.

3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds
1/2 cup water
1 cup canola oil or half cup oil and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

Mix the flax seeds and water and whisk for a minute then set aside. Mix oil, sugar, and vanilla, then add flax mix, and squash.

Mix dry ingredients together then add to the wet ingredients. Add nuts, raisins, etc. last.

Bake at 350. This makes 2 loaves or 2 muffin tins or one 9x13 pan.The recipe doubles easily.

Next, I adapted this pot pie recipe from Joy of Cooking. I was excited because the original recipe included winter squash and did not involve mixing flour into the base. You simply saute the veggies of your choice individually. Then mix them together with salt and pepper and pour into baking dish. Then cover the veggies with broth. While that is baking, mix drop biscuit recipe to spread on top. Easiest pot pie I've found and it tastes fantastic. Here's the link for a simple biscuit recipe that I love. If you want more details about the pot pie recipe just let me know. I don't want to type it up unless I know someone will want it:)

I was able to use up a lot of squash this week with those two recipes and also summer squash soup. The girls are not big fans of squash although Arianna doesn't mind it as much. Everyone loves it in the bread, though. Have I said enough about squash bread to make you want to try it:)

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Check out my gardening blog for a new idea for cooking butternut squash. I'm also looking for new ways to cook and serve summer and winter squash so please respond with your favorite recipe or idea.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ahhh, Summer!

The girls and I have taken a break from school work for few weeks. We home school year-round but take several weeks off during summer and around the holidays. Lately we've been enjoying sleeping in, staying in our pjs, long sessions of reading aloud and to ourselves. I've had extra time to work on organizing our schedule for the next year and order new books for the year. The girls have been reading a lot but they are experiencing some summertime boredom. I think it's good for them to figure out what to do with themselves at those times. Since we don't have a tv and I won't let them watch many movies (usually 2 a week) they've got to be creative. We have tons of toys so I keep reminding them about all the stuff that's in the playroom and their bedroom -- hundreds of playmobil guys and littlest pet shop, a closet full of stuffed animals, an unreasonable amount of dress up costumes, etc.
So the funniest thing they said to me the other day was that they didn't want to play with all their toys because they knew they were going to have to clean them all up later in the day! It's true, when they are really into something they will spread out in every room of the house and have little homes or shops that they visit with their toys. It's great fun and imaginative for a little/long while. They are starting to think about whether or not it is worth getting it all out if they are going to have to turn around and clean it all up! I wanted to say, "Well now you know how I feel every day with cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc." Don't worry I didn't say it exactly like that:) 

They had a sleep-over last night so I've had about 24 hours without them. I really don't know what to do with myself when they are not around. Isn't it true that we get so much more accomplished when we have a deadline or a short amount of time to do it? Well, I could be planning the school year, preparing food, cleaning, bills, working on my dance classes, weeding, but...I think I'll work on the blog. I'll get to that other stuff later:)

Daniel and I had a nice quiet evening alone. We enjoyed a home-cooked meal from the garden and he played the guitar while I worked on the computer for a little while. I love it. I feel like I'm being serenaded. Ended the evening with a movie from the library.

For the latest garden news...this is what we've harvested since June 1st (the last post about the garden).
  • 18 pounds of onions (almost all of the onions we grew this year)
  • 4 pounds of garlic (most of the garlic also)
  • 6 pounds of potatoes
  • 10 ounces of beets
  • 3 1/2 pounds of collards
  • 3 1/2 pounds of kale
  • 1 pound yellow squash (2 medium)
  • 2 pounds zucchini (3 medium/large)
  • 10 ounces basil

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Recital photos

Getting ready for the recital.
After the show. Girls in their contemporary costume. Mom and Devon in first photo and Daniel in second. Thanks for the pictures Grandaddy William!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Graduation and Dance Recital

We have had such a busy weekend that I'm actually glad it's Monday! Our homeschool group has a graduation ceremony at the end of every school year to showcase the students' work and award certificates of achievement. Here is a link to what Daniel wrote about the event last year. This year's graduation just happened to fall on the same weekend as our dance recital so we had two long rehearsals and 2 beautiful shows to attend!

For the homeschool graduation Ellen and Arianna were in a writing class which wrote and performed 2 skits for the crowd. They were also in the recorder class and performed a solo, a duet, and another song with the whole class. All of the students set up their science projects and artwork so that the family and friends could browse around look at their work. The event also included dinner and other performances by the preschool group and the highschoolers. Here they are all together.

Here are the girls playing the recorder. This is their second year playing.

Sunday afternoon was the dance recital. Ellen and Arianna are in different ballet classes but take a contemporary class together so they each performed 2 dances on stage. They were also on stage as assistants for one of my preschool classes. They have been helping me with 2 classes this year and so I needed them onstage to help the little ones. Ellen and Arianna both are very graceful and confident on stage. They absolutely love it all and danced like stars this weekend.

I had 6 classes in the recital this year so every few minutes I was ushering another group of little ones on and off the stage. I was so proud of all my classes and really had fun being a part of their lives this year. For most of them it was their first ballet class and recital. I hope they'll have fond memories of me and that whole experience. I wasn't in the dressing room with Ellen and Arianna since they were in the "older girls" room. I didn't take any pictures of them but William came to the recital will be posting some soon, right? :) Here is a picture of one of my cute classes. They were spring fairies.

The studio that I work for and we all take classes with is called Columbia Ballet School. It celebrated its 30th year anniversary this year. The recital was excellent and the older ballerinas who are really, really talented were a pleasure to watch.

We have a break from dance for a few weeks until we start back up with camp and summer classes in July. I'll be teaching ballet, tap and the mommy and me class while the girls take ballet and contemporary.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A week of cousins

My mom and cousin are in town for the week. The girls are having so much fun together. We went to the Edventure Children's Museum on Tuesday and Lake Murray on Wednesday. On Saturday, Ellen and Arianna have their graduation ceremony for the homeschool coop where they will be performing several songs on the recorder, 2 skits, and showing their art and science projects. Sunday is their dance recital. We are happy to have family in town to get to see these events.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Saturday Harvest with Beets and Onions

  • 3 pounds collards
  • 3.5 pounds kale
  • 11 pounds potatoes
  • 4 pounds bok choi
  • 14 ounces chard
  • 1.5 pounds beets
We ordered all of our seeds including the multiplier onions pictured below from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. We are very excited about the success of these onions. We have harvested a portion of the bed and now they are curing (drying) in the shed for a few weeks. Most of the bulbs are a nice size and much bigger than anything we've ever grown. We also harvested garlic this week but did not weigh them (or the onions) yet. We've decided to wait until they dry. We noticed that the local organic garlic was selling for $2 a bulb at the farmer's market! I look forward to doing a cost analysis to see how much money we are saving with growing the food in our garden.

Beets! This is another crop that we are successfully growing for the first time this year. We don't have very many but the ones we have are beautiful! I love the deep red color. I'd love for a suggestion on how to cook these. I'm going to try roasting them tomorrow. I don't usually buy beets so I'm going to have to experiment with some new recipes:)