Mar 27, 2013

Yeast Is Yeast, and Homemade Is Best!

Our ongoing study of the monochromatic kingdom of non-flowering plants allows us to chalk up baking as science. I'm talking yeast here, peeps. (I love homeschooling!)

To get us primed we read through the lower book, Molds and Fungi, in one sitting (a very UN-Charlotte Mason thing to do. whoops.) Lots of facts in an easy-to-read format. I learned plenty myself.
The other book, Molds, Mushrooms, and Other Fungi, is more Dorling-Kindersley style with lots of pics and stuff. Darling daughter Mei freaked at both of them at times. Therefore, boys will love them.

Our science curriculum, Considering God's Creation, is neatly lining up with the monthly Outdoor Hour Challenges at Handbook of Nature Study where they're currently focusing on Lichens, Mushrooms, and Moss. (You can see our other entries on lichens here and fungus here.)Yeast, being a type of fungus like mushrooms, I figure it fits right in.

Fungi, we learned, grow by sending out hyphae, which are like little tentacles looking for food, usually in the form of something dead. Get enough hyphae, and you've got yourself a registered, incorporated mycelium. When these hyphae want to start a new colony, they shoot some spores into the atmosphere (e.g. your breathing space) and hope to colonize in the great beyond. But the work is done in the dark, mostly underground. It's happening everywhere and we should be glad of it cuz' if it weren't, well, in a nutshell, we wouldn't be here to tell about it.

Want to see a mycelium at work? You won't have to go far. Got a rotting woodpile? Matted dead leaves you forgot to rake? How about well-seasoned shredded mulch? That's where we found this:

The white stuff is not some sort of messed-up spider web. It's the mycelium full of hyphae. And it's eating away at that mulch. Which is why we have to keep replacing it every year.

Another place we were able to observe fungi was on the bread that we purposely let go for the sake of science. After over a week in a Baggie with a piece of old brie, we got this:
Calling Alexander Fleming

 Not like you've never seen that before (deliberately). But it makes for cool microscope study. We're also comparing the french bread with a piece of cinnamon bread (not shown) to see if cinnamon indeed retards spoilage. It seems it does!

Notebook page from Considering God's Creation

So back to that yeast. It does not do the hyphae thing. But is IS a fungus. I'm so glad we know how to use it. It makes some of my favorite things possible. Like bread. I recently got my second bread machine and have gotten back into this fun, healthy, delicious hobby. And the timing was PERFECT because we were going into this yeast study.

Yeast makes the bread rise simply by---well---burping. You feed it, it eats, it digests, and it burps. And the burps make the bubbles that make the bread rise. Doesn't sound so appetizing when I put it that way, but...

Now to coalesce science with baking even more, we had to grow some starter. A starter is a happy little town of live yeast that live in a jar, and that you feed and take care of.  (You can name yours. Ours is Fi-dough.) If you do a good job, the yeast will reward you by rising your next batch of dough. But this will be a different flavor because THIS yeast is SOURDOUGH! And it happens when those spores that a yeast fungus releases are caught and given a nice home of flour and water.

Baker's yeast.
Want to try it? There are many, MANY places on the web that will teach you how to grow a starter. We ordered a fresh one for our purposes to ensure success. You can get some here. Did you know that they will taste different depending on where they are from? Because each region has a different yeast floating around in it! That's why a San Francisco Sourdough Bread can only call itself  S.F if the starter was actually grown IN San Fran!

Here, Mei is doing another experiment with some yeast to show how much it "burps." 
Mix a 1/2 cup lukewarm water with 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of dry yeast (doesn't matter what kind.) Set it aside for 15-30 minutes.
If you do it in the ziploc bag, like we did, keep a close eye on it or you will get to experiment with cleaning starter off the walls.
Left: Mixing up the ingredients to grow yeast. Right, the proof! Ka-BOOM!
Before: cold from the frig
Here's another example of just how fast yeast can grow. We took some of our sourdough starter out of the frig and warmed it for just 30 seconds in the microwave. It increased in volume by at least 2 tablespoons just from being warmed up!

After 30 seconds in MW: frothy yeast.
 But here's the best experiment of all: a piping hot loaf of homemade sourdough bread. If only we had some taste-testers! Any volunteers?

Got yeast? Got comments? Tell Mother All About It!

There's a Fungus Amongus!

In the natural kingdoms of the world, the non-flowering types are the Rodney Dangerfields. They don't get much respect. We're talking molds, fungi, mushrooms, that sort of stuff. But they don't deserve the "dis" they get. They decompose stuff, make nutrients available, draw or retain moisture, and on and on.Without them, as Dupont would say, life itself would be impossible. In the last couple of weeks, our attitudes toward these un-green things have been altered. We might still go "Eww," but at least it's an educated "Ewww."

With encouragement from the Outdoor Hour Challenge, this month we have spent a number of our daily walks looking for members of this kingdom. 

We realized our woods are rife with the evidence of decay. As I said in my last OHC post, We Like Lichens, these woods have suffered a lot of attacks by nature the last few years, being in a straight line with prevailing westerly winds. The historic D.C. derecho storm of 2011 brought down many trees along with Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. So, sadly, finding trunks and branches covered in bracket fungi wasn't all that surprising anymore. 

Anna Botsford Comstock in The Handbook of Nature Study puts it:
"...those of us who have come to feel the grandeur of tree life can but look with sorrow on these fungus outgrowths, for they mean that the doom of the tree is sealed."

On our hunts, the bracket fungus was the most abundant as it was not dependent on warmer conditions like mushrooms would have been. It's really just there year-round, so we were able to spot many examples during this unrelenting winter. It was interesting to learn that, unlike your basic toadstool-type mushroom with its "gills" under the cap for spore production, that the brackets release their spores through tubes found on the underside.

Various bracket fungi. Oh, and BLUE SKY for a change!

Below you can see a bracket that I harvested. Starting at the top left you can see the firm top side of the bracket, next the soft spore-producing underside, then (bottom left) a close-up of the tubes from which the spores are released. The last picture shows what you can DO with these fun-guys!
Outdoor Hour Challenge Fungi and Mushrooms
The undersides of these are now hard and brown from the cold and dry winter. It was surprising to find a fungus for drawing on in January 2007.

We have an annual tradition at our vacation cottage of finding a bracket fungus specimen and creating a scrapbook of sorts by etching little glyphs and captions into them as keepsakes of the season. Some years the woods are bursting with them, other years we can go all summer before finding even one. We have a basketful. I used to display them on a windowsill until I noticed black "dust" spilling out of their undersides. I wrongly concluded it was the result of little drilling bugs. Now, thanks to our study, I know it was the spores being released. I find spores less disturbing than little bugs. That's just me. 

If you want to make one, our advice is to look after heavy rains. They are fresh and moist then. Carefully, without touching the soft white side, break one off from the trunk.( The big ones can be very stubborn. ) Carry a basket or sack to help you tote it out unharmed, or you will be hiking with a fungus in your hand until you get home. 

Don't wait, but get right to work while the fungus is still fresh. Using any sharp instrument--pen cap, golf tee---draw and write on the soft white side. Plan your design because you can't erase! :-) Again avoid holding that side because your fingertips will also be preserved! 

When finished, stand it somewhere and it will dry and harden within a short time--a day or two usually. Then it is almost indestructible. The buyers of another old cottage nearby found a treasure trove of "artist's fungi" from the previous owners that were headed to the dump. They rescued them and found some to be dated from fifty years ago!

So who needs Creative Memories?  Have FUN-gus!

Got Fungus? Got Questions? Tell Mother All About It!
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Mar 22, 2013

Check, Please!


This is probably going to be the most politically-incorrect, begging-for-nasty-comments post I'll ever write. Unless my readers can forgive it because the prompt that I was told to write about was...


We were in China adopting our 15-month-old daughter. These trips are very, very organized with a new activity, tour, and dining opp every day. Or several times IN a day.  This would be okay IF you hadn't just added a new little person to your family. But by Day 10 (of 14 plus trans-world travel) you have lost interest in another Temple of The Divine Priesthood of Holy Sunshine.  Especially when you are sharing this experience with ten other families who are also losing interest because their babies, like yours, are keeping them up at night in hotels where nobody understands you need stain remover for the diarrhea on your white pants.

At long last, there was a night where we didn't have to experience tasting another animal body part we didn't know could be eaten (speaking of What I Ate,...). And WE were the fortunate ones who happened to have brought along a babysitter in the form of our 14-year-old, now-no-longer-only daughter. At long last, my husband and I could eat out ALONE.

Now the China Center for Adoption Affairs wants to make the best impression on you of your child's birth country, so one thing you can always count on is a top-rate hotel. We were in a 5-star Ramada while in Guangzhou. It was adorned with boutiques devoted to one Parisian designer after another. There were several top-notch restaurants. If Trip Advisor had existed a decade ago, we would have racked up tons of rating points without even stepping outside.

One of these dine-ins offered sushi of the highest caliber. (My WWII-vet dad was astounded that the Chinese would welcome a Japanese establishment on their shores. :-)  ) My hubbie, being a huge fan, lined us up for reservations there, having anticipated the chance the moment we checked in as much (or more?) than receiving his long-awaited daughter.

So to say we were ready to kick back, relax, and let down our hair was like saying Hitler was ready to stroll the borders of Germany. We entered the golden-lit room and were escorted to the sushi bar, noting the large tank of beautifully-colored fish. We chose to dine at the bar in order to be entertained by the chef preparing his consumable artistry before our eyes. Overwhelmed by the menu, as usual I let my expert order. Among the various sushis and sashimis, he chose some red snapper, ordered wine for me and a sake for himself.

The wine tasted so good. We weren't usually ordering drinks at these communal "new family" dinners. The rolls started arriving and we dove in with both chopsticks. We had another round of drinks. Then the red snapper was served.

It was presented on a skewer standing up like a single blooming rose. We watched fascinated as the chef sliced off nearly transparent pieces of its side with a knife whose sharpness would make a samurai proud.
My husband, the epicurean, made moaning noises of approval at the freshness. The chef was very pleased. He sliced more. We ate more. We drank more.

We became very attached to our snapper. We were the only English-speaking people in the room and could say whatever we wanted. We decided to name our fish. We named him Sam the Snapper. We smiled at our cleverness.

Then a strange thing occurred. I thought at first it was all the drinks. The fish moved. A gill or fin did a little flap. Alcohol clouding a normal reaction of shock, we stared in wonder. The chef proffered a new slice. My husband, knowing Sushi Chef Protocol, pronounced it "Very fresh!" Yeah, no duh.
Then another glance. This time it was the mouth and it was gulping! (Vegans and card-carrying members of PETA are now excused from reading.) But did I shriek in horror? NO! I was so plastered. I even thought I should decorate Sam the Snapper. Deftly with my chopsticks, I inserted a marigold garnish into its mouth. I laughed so hard I almost fell off my barstool.

We ate a lot of new stuff in our daughter's country of origin--fried chicken feet, Peking duck served with the head on, and everywhere greens that smelled like sweaty socks--all selected by the tour guides. But none of those could hold a chopstick to dining with Sam the Snapper. He sacrificed himself that we might have a few good, uninhibited, crass, adult, American laughs before we went back to our room where the "babysitter" was coming down with tourista and room service was rocking our inconsolable little one.

Thanks, Sam. Play it again.

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Mar 20, 2013

OHC: We Like Lichens and Most Mosses!

Dead?...or alive?
It's so nice to see that there really is something alive in the woods during this endlessly gray time of year. I can't remember the last time I posted any pics on this blog that had a blue sky in it. In a Mid-Atlantic winter, we get mid-tones and almost nothing else.

So you can understand our delight to be directed by the Outdoor Hour Challenge to go find the little guys that are doing their work no matter the weather: lichens and mosses.

The March Challenge newsletter informed us that there are three groups of lichens: foliose, fruticose, and crustose. It's really pretty easy to remember what they mean. Foliose looks like foliage, specifically funky lettuce.Crustose are found encrusting rocks  Fruticose looks like fine threads, which doesn't look like the word fruit, but whatever.

Cool lichen facts:
Lichens can delay global warming by consuming significant amounts of CO2, can prevent soil from drying out, help release important nutrients into the soil, and even provide food and, in some cases nesting material, for animals.

I gave an incentive.  For every example  found there would be a prize (Hershey Kisses always work). There would be a bonus if all three types were identified.

Lacking in natural formations in our area, for crustose we needed to expand our definition of rock. The neighbor's cement gatepost had some discoloration. Before, I would have assumed that to be some mold or dirt. But with our new knowledge, we could see that in fact it was the early stage of some crustose  lichen growth. Yeah! One down!
Trusting in the handy, dandy Magi-scope to confirm a lichen sighting
Into the woods, we went for more!

Beautiful array of lichens on gneiss
A lone rock peeking from under the dense layer of decomposing leaves revealed  crustose lichen on a more natural host.

Foliose was easy. Our mixed hardwood forest has taken a lot of hits in recent years from severe winds and storms, so there were stacks of fallen timber succumbing to decay. Even up and down dying trunks, we saw ample samples. :-)

(left) Foliose, like lettuce leaves, on branch; (right) fruticose found growing from leaf matter

Only one more to go, fruticose.  The day before I had scouted the area for quarry and nearly stepped on a tiny patch of this, the only one I saw in the entire walk. Maybe ever. I hoped Mei might be eagle-eyed enough to find it herself, but--my bad--I didn't make enough mental note to narrow the search. I did bring home a bit of my personal find so at least she could see it.

On the way back we opened our eyes to the only green in the monochromatic landscape: moss.

Cool Moss info:
Mosses play their part by holding back moisture and preventing erosion, and by being a "pioneer" species, breaking down acidic soil at the base of trees and paving the way for other plants to take root. But I bet you didn't know this:
"The value of Sphagnum [moss] for covering wounds has been known for centuries.  But it was not until the early 20th century that there was widespread commercial production, reaching its peak in the First World War, when some one million Sphagnum dressings per month [emphasis mine] were used by the British forces.  Sphagnum was harvested, cleaned and dried and sent off in bales to factories where it was sewn up in fine muslin and sterilised. " Uses of Mosses and Liverworts
(left) Moss with sporophytes, red spore-baring spikes;  (right top): moss and lichens together; (middle) spores on my finger; (bottom) a bit of sphagnum

Paying closer attention than usual, we realized how many different types surrounded us. I gave Mei the camera and she shot these. We took some bits home to draw in our nature journals, but the one with the fascinating spores wasn't happy in the baggie with its mates, and died before we could get around to the illustrations. At least, Mei could see the black spot on my finger where I had brushed against the moss capsules that held the spores.

In all it was a new way for us to enjoy a well-trod path, especially in what we once thought was a dead landscape. 
And yes, she earned her Kisses. 

Got Moss? Got Anything Green? Tell Mother All About It!

Then hop over to The Handbook of Nature Study Blog Carnival to see what other nature nerdies found! 

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Mar 19, 2013

Black Limo



For most, the word conjures happy times. Times to celebrate, to party, to top off  great memories of weddings and proms. Isn't one of the most exciting things that a senior high-schooler looks forward to on the Big Night is The Limo? ("Yeah, we crammed, like, 20 of us into the Limo! And Shawn snuck some whiskey from his 'rents bar, and it was , like, Freakin' AWESOME!")

My first limo ride was a little more sober. It was 1964 or so. The limo was headed to a funeral.

I was about four or five, no more than six. I don't have many vivid memories of my childhood despite the fact that my parents still live in the suburban WWII starter home I was born in. So I only know I was very young. My paternal grandfather, a "colorful character" as his son would say,  had died before I was born, the tragic and expected early end to a life of hard drinking and fast living. I've seen three pictures of him in my entire life. In each one, he had booze in one hand and a cigar in the other.

His wife, my grandmother, had been a delightful hostess at their sizable summer "cottage" in the mountains of Pennsylvania. There was always a stream of weekend friends, as the decaying guest book attests. She was slim and rather frail from the few pictures I've seen, but always looked very happy, surrounded by her family and friends. Then, her storybook world of parties and summer homes and socialites and household names fell apart when the government seized all their assets.Her husband died sometime after that from the stress of it all.

My father was the oldest of the three and the closest geographically and so the responsibility of her care fell on him. He and my mom moved her into a one-bedroom apartment in a fine neighborhood on the edge of the city, a handful of minutes from our home.We would visit her frequently. I remember my amazement at the large formal, above-ground, brick goldfish pond that reigned over the private grounds. Inside, I was fixated on a pair of purple glass salt and pepper shakers that looked like clusters of grapes lying life-like on their sides. If I ever find them in the family estate, I'm putting in a claim. And she always had these mysteriously- created lollipops with mille-fiori flowers embedded in them. She is handing one to me now as I write this.

Soon she developed ALS, or as it was called back then, Lou Gehrig's Disease. This was always mentioned to well-meaning inquirers as if it was a badge of honor to be thus diagnosed, to be related in some way to someone famous, even if it was through terminal illness. Eventually she became too weak to care for herself and moved in with us. It was strange and comforting at the same time to have this frail, failing old woman who was also our grandmother stepping falteringly around in our growing house of tumbling, crying, Boomer Babies.

Then one day, I was in a limo. It was going to a big, big yard full of rows and rows of white crosses. It was sunny. My mother, dressed all in black with a big skirt like I Love Lucy, faced me in the back seat. She was distracted and unhappy and I knew something must be wrong because she was smoking a cigarette. She had told me she only smoked when she was upset about something, so I knew this must be one of those times. And though there would be plenty of reasons after that, I never saw her smoke again.

And that was my first ride in a limo.

Hooking up with Mama's Losin' It.
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Mar 18, 2013

Menu Plan: March 18-24

It's another week. Yeah, you knew that because you are reading Menu Plan Monday and you figured, "Hey! It's another week! I'll let someone ELSE plan my menu! "

Good for you. That's the idea

Around here, we are glad that Monday means last week is OVER. However, even if this week turns out to be as stress-filled as last week, we thank God that he will be in the midst of it. 
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV

Now let's cook!

Most menu ideas courtesy of 5Dinners-in-1Hour. Without which last week, we'd have starved on top of everything else.


Mini Honey-Mustard Meat Loaves
Oven-baked potatoes
*Stir-fried Kale. So misunderstood. See recipe below.


Roasted Shrimp
Wild Rice blend  (Uncle Ben's)
Sugar snap peas


Pork Barbeque on 
*Homemade Buns (click on pic for link to recipe)
Cole slaw

 Kick Butt Buns (Get it? Butt? Buns? )P.S. This is not BBQ, okay?


Beef Fajitas on Whole Wheat Tortillas
Black beans
Sliced tomatoes and avocadoes


Date Night/Youth Club Night!


Spinach-Artichoke Bow Ties
Green Salad


Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Asian Rice

 Quickie Kale:

  Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a very large saute pan along with about a cup of chicken or veg broth. Season with a hefty spoonful of minced garlic.Maybe some dried minced onion too. Salt and pepper to taste.  Heat to steaming , then add a mountain of chopped kale (I bought Nature's Way pre-washed, pre-chopped). Saute until kale has become soft and edible. Serve hot. I like it with a splash of balsamic vinegar, just the way I  like steamed spinach.

This half a big bag....

...cooked down to this 4-portion serving.
Got Greens? Got Spring? Got Spring Greens or Green Springs?  Tell Mother All About It! especially the "green springs" part. We're getting impatient around here.
Linking up with Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie. Thanks, Laura!

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Mar 15, 2013

Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Blessings From Chaos

Some days have more hours in them than others. 
I don't mean that we get more hours in our day to accomplish things by being super-organized or having uber-reponsible, self-motivated kids. I'm talking about when life seems to throw more at you in ONE day than 24 hours should hold.

Well, this was a WEEK that had more DAYS in it than it should. Boy, am I ready to "wrap it up!"

Let's start with:
Just as I was finishing a devotional at Proverbs 31 Ministries and feeling refreshed and in control (God's so funny), Father R, who is on his way to a job interview, calls. 

He's wrecked the car. 

He is almost an hour away and needs to be rescued. At least we are organized enough (today) that we can grab the school books, we have a full tank of gas (today), and we have  nothing on the calendar like, oh.. I don't know...a three hour ortho appointment.

Pick him up. Drive to the repair shop. Woah! Looked like a car ER ward. And some were pronounced DOA!

Then he says, non-chalantly, "I found a message from your Dad. Probably has a tax question. I'll call him while you entertain yourself in the only Container Store in the state of Maryland." (I guess the company has found an inordinate number of hopeless hoarders here and pretty much given up. )

Loaded down with new plastic stuff, I return to the car. My mom must Go Directly to the Emergency Room, Do Not Pass Through The Doctor's Office. We are not exactly comforted that they need to keep her overnight. 

Tuesday. Still no satisfaction for the doctors, but it's looking like the prelude to a heart attack. Another night in the hospital.

At dinner, Father R gets the anticipated insurance call to tell him how much they'll cover for the repairs. "Surprise! Your car is totaled!"

Mom gets the green light and we, rather than my dad,  have chosen to be the taxi home tomorrow. 

It is my sweet, thoughtful little girl with the light-bulb moment that suggests making some meals for her. (I've only been making meals for the needy at my church for twenty years, but I didn't think of it myself.) 

So we pull some off the freezer shelf and create some more with less than 24 hours notice, thanks to the wonderful pre-planning  provided by We make three fresh loaves of bread in the machine. We get them together just in time to pick her up at discharge time.  We spend the rest of that afternoon cleaning out her frig and settling her down. Then the hour-and-a-half drive through rush hour home.  

My hubster quits his job.


It is at this point that I want to say: Hooray for a few textbooks, and some co-op classes (did I mention that I teach two days?)  to keep the week from being a total loss school-wise. 

But I also want to say, in the middle of all the chaos, that God--not me--WAS in control. Father R wasn't hurt, Mom didn't die, we'll get enough value for the car to go a long way toward a replacement, and Father got the job.  Most importantly, we were blessed to be a blessing, and Mei was a part of that.  

You can always find something to be thankful for even if you have to be thankful for an awful lot in one day. Or week. 
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 

James 1:1-3. The Message
Got a TGIF story? Tell Mother All About It!

Linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, The Homeschool Mother's Journal, Hammock Tracks, Collage Friday, and Beautiful Family Friday. Bless you, gals!
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Mar 9, 2013

Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Chocolate Chips

This Saturday morning there was another hungry girl at our table after a sleepover the night before. I always like to do something special for our young house guests (and older ones too), so I asked if she liked French Toast. 

"I only had it once before, " she admitted. 

Horrors. I'm still in shock. And I was frustrated because I was going to take  this opp to upcycle the ends of the various loaves I had made this week that were past prime. (That happens when you don't stir in the preservatives. Oh, Snap!)

Showing its age, n'est-ce pas?
Both girls agreed on pancakes, Mei particularly requesting chocolate chip, an indulgence another bestest friend gets almost daily. But wait! No more store-bought mix! What to do? Dust off my 30+year-old Joy of Cooking, that's what!

It had been quite a while since I had turned to this kitchen staple (punning? yes.) I was therefore so charmed to find this page marked. The notes probably go back 25 years or more:

So to the healthier-than-usual recipe, and to disguise said healthiness from the current critics, I chopped about a cupful of Giardelli chocolate chips. I keep Saco Buttermilk Powder on hand now that I'm using that bread machine, so subbed that for fresh. This also allowed me to make another batch as a mix and keep for future sleepovers. Topped with a dollop of peanut butter, we've got ourselves a complete protein and a Reese's fix before noon.

So get out yer baking stuff cuz here we go!

Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Chocolate Chips
Yield: about 14 4-inch pancakes

Blend together:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur)
1/2 cup buttermilk powder*

In a separate bowl combine:
2 tablespoons sugar, honey or molasses (depends on how you like your sweetness)
1 egg
2 cups water *
2 tablespoons melted butter or butter substitute
 (Option: use fresh buttermilk and eliminate water, combining with the wet ingredients)

Add wet stuff to dry stuff and stir a few times until there are no more large lumps. 

Stir in:
1/2 -1 cup chopped or mini chocolate chips. 

To make, heat griddle on medium heat. The chocolate will burn and stick at higher heat. If necessary, spray your spatula with Pam to aid flipping. Add a little butter when griddle is sufficiently hot. Pour a few tablespoons of batter onto griddle. Turn once when bubbles begin to pop. Check underside after a minute or two and serve warm with peanut butter, syrup, or a fav here--vanilla icing!

I ate mine standing up, rolling them into chocolate cigars, and downing them almost as fast as I made them. Take note: you have been warned. 

And remember, you can create a homemade mix by using the buttermilk powder, and only needing to add egg, butter and water at sleepover time!

Got breakfast inspiration? Tell Mother All About It!

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Mar 8, 2013

Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Meet the Artists

If we're not getting ripped off by our government in these parts, it's the Weather Shamans.

It was dubbed "Snowquestration" as a play on the recent Congressional stab at balancing a budget that has put so many--including our fledged "robin"---on a work diet through forced unpaid days off. The shamans made lots of promises of monumental adverse conditions--icing, downed power lines, bread and toilet paper shortages. But just like Congressional tactics, it didn't work out as planned.

I was stunned though by how many of my friends were pumped by the vision of a foot of snow dumped on us even as our daffodils have emerged. Seems we're so snow-day deprived that we'll accept it at almost any cost. Most of them sounded like what they really wanted was some weather-imposed family time. Funny. And sad. Needless to say, their kids are educated in the Red Brick Building.

Ginevra de' Benci.  The only Da Vinci in North America.
In our Yellow-Sided Homeschool, the weather PRIOR to the non-event was ideal to field trip to the National Gallery of Art on the Mall in Washington. (THE Mall. No "Five Belows" here.) Our goal was to see as many of the paintings that we had discussed in our co-op art appreciation class that uses "Meet The Masters."  It's such a privilege to be able to easily access originals of some of the world's greatest works of art. And it never fails to impress students to stand in front of the very work they have only seen in books or slides. To be able to see the brushstrokes and sometimes--as in the Da Vinci portait "Ginevra de' Benci"--the actual fingerprint of the artist.

Clockwise from top left: Entering the East Building through the "Multiverse" or as C.K. called it "The Tunnel of Awesomeness"; Calder over homeschoolers; Handy art.
Meet the Masters doesn't limit itself to earlier periods, but brings us artists right to the present day. Fortunately, the Gallery does too in its East Wing building which is devoted to modern art. We had fun  acting out some of the works as you can see!
Clockwise from top left: Marilyn by Warhol vs Mei by God; Waltz of the Georgia O'Keeffe Flowers; "La Scienza della fiacca" ("The Science of Laziness") by Frank Stella and kids who are NOT.

We tried to exit the city ahead of the usual rush (which normally starts as early as 3:30), but alas, everyone ELSE was in a hurry to exit the city ahead of the usual rush which meant that we all still stood in traffic. And just to be the first for bread, milk, and toilet paper.

So Winter Storm "Saturn" was all hot air like its namesake, but I still let Mei have a "snow day." I took on some more bread-baking projects and ended up with two fantastic baguettes and a sourdough boule!  On a sloppy night, it went perfectly with the slow-cooked minestrone from 5 Dinners-in-1
My First Sourdough Bread.Not my last.

Mei jumped into the first week of her new spelling workbook by Evan-Moor Publishing, Building Spelling Skills. While I was afraid the Charlotte Mason police would be after me for using a workbook, I think they might let me off with this one. It encourages creating a visual in the mind of the word, instructs to spell aloud while touching the letters of the word (multi-sensory), and even uses dictation! And it's not twaddley. OK, so Mei only got a 78, but I have confidence!

While I'm having fun helping little girls learn something I've loved my whole adult life, SEWING, Mei spends an hour in her co-op's Learning Through Games class. She's uber-duber disappointed that she's not taking sewing (she didn't know I was a helper),  but God had it all worked out. While I can teach her sewing any old time (and already have), homeschooling an only child leaves us with limited choices for game-playing.    So far she has played Quirkle and Set. I hope I get some leads on winners (haha) that we can invest in for home.

After Father R and I recover from Mei's hyper  lively friend sleeping over, we can look forward to some spring-like weather for riding lessons. It will be a welcome change. And just think: the farm could have been buried in snow. We'll forgive ya' this time, Shamans!

Got Snow, Saturn, Sequestration or Sourdough? Tell Mother All About It!
Linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers , Homeschool Mother's Journal, Collage Friday, Beautiful Family Friday and Hammock Tracks. Thanks, guys!
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Mar 1, 2013

Bird's-Eye View of the Week: TGINF (Thank Goodness It's NOT February)

I hate February. 
(so glad it's over.)

By this, the middle of the school year and the middle of another cold, dreary, perpetually cloudy, neither-snow-nor-sun, Mid-Atlantic winter, I always feel our school is stale, lifeless, and boring.  (I even develop a comma addiction.)

What, not you? You live in California, I bet.

Typical weather, but at least we're outside.

Simply Charlotte MasonSometimes what it takes is some new curriculum. For instance, try as I might to get Simply Charlotte Mason's "Spelling Wisdom" to work for us, I just can't. Don't get me wrong. It is a wonderful book. We both love the rich quotes. Mei has even run across some a couple of years later in their original works and remembered them. 
But it's just too much "me" work--dictating, discussing, dictating again. I find it slipping through the cracks too often to the point that we are on the first book after three years. (There are six.) 

I'm also still not convinced that she is learning to spell. (Sorry, Charlotte.) It does not rely on spelling rules or phonetics, so it becomes just a shot-in-the-dark approach. It presupposes that Mei will remember the words simply by having studied them for a couple of days. Maybe ALL spelling curricula more-or-less end up that way, but I'm not sure. Mei wants to continue to use it for copywork though, her idea. Intriguing since we don't do copywork anymore.
So I have ordered Evan Moor's "Building Spelling Skills Grade 6+". It works along the same 5-day format as their Daily Geography that has been very successful here. Open the book. Do. (It's nice to a have an occasional workbook to rely on. A CM curric does demand a lot of "me." ) If you've got any other ideas, I'm listening.

The Handbook of Nature Study blog's monthly Outdoor Hour Challenge nature study themes have been another Febreeze-for-school that I highly recommend. The focus in February has been birds, my fav topic. (I'm Mother Robin for a reason!)
It's gotten us outdoors, or at least LOOKING outdoors! You can read more of our birding adventures here and here. And you can find info about outfitting YOUR yard for birding here. You can probably guess I take  this subject seriously!! :-)  

She makes braces look good, doesn't she?
And how I could I forget that Mei got new chrome bumpers top and bottom? She's taking it like a trooper. The morning after she casually mentioned that some wire might need trimming as it had cut her finger during the donning of the rubber bands. Now That's Fortitude.

There has been an unexpected sign of spring though. Can you guess what it is? Hint: this is NOT a rose by any other name cuz it will NEVER smell sweet.

Guess what's NOT coming up roses?

Got cabin fever? Got a cure? Tell Mother All About It!
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