Thursday, February 28, 2013


This is part of my effort at continuing education.  Last night I took a sushi class at The Cook's Shop.  The class was led by Chef Dave Rudie.  The time and supply fee were both great investments.

I can't get over how much sushi I was able to make for a fraction of the cost of what a sushi restaurant would charge the six of us.  We really can't get out of a sushi restaurant for less than $120.  I bought supplies for at least two sushi dinners with miso soup for less than $60. 

As an added bonus, I really love making sushi.  It's like art and food together.  Plus, it can't be rushed.  That makes sushi time the perfect time to enjoy a glass of wine while I create.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Munchies: Pretzels

We used the soft pretzel recipe created by Alton Brown on the Food Network.  Those of you that know me will find this difficult to believe, but I followed the recipe and didn't change a thing.  When it comes to making pretzels I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and didn't want to screw it up.  Adhering to a better safe than sorry philosophy of pretzels paid off and we created magic. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Weekly Recap: February 18-22, 2013

Another weird week is complete.  K16 was home from school for President's Day on Monday.  She was off today, Friday, because of icy roads.  The rest of us muscled through so that we can ski on Monday and Tuesday next week without any work to catch up other than Bible.

We are moving forward really well.  We should be set for a good long break at the end of March.  In fact, we are further along than I expected to be in most subjects.  I am thinking that we may take extra time in April and May to concentrate on physics, art and Latin.  I use to love May term when I was in college.  Maybe we'll try that.

Highs and Lows

High - Grammar test because it was things I already learned.
Low - Puking and missing the co-op carnival.

High - History because I like learning about stuff that went on in the world.  The wall between East and West Germany was what I found especially interesting this week.

Low- Math because learning real life math makes no sense because in real life I can just carry a calculator.

High - Math.  I'm proud of what I got done.

Low - Bible because my computer got taken away.

High - Reading Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi.  It was a very different and unexpected book that we really enjoyed.
Low - H13 isn't moving forward as I'd like.  In Bible, she's 10 weeks behind.  In Algebra, we are redoing chapters 6-8 because she cheated her way through them the first time. I'm tired of policing her and exhausted by the need to monitor a child who is so clearly capable but choosing NOT to do work that would take her much less time and energy to complete than it does to avoid.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dinner Tonight: Oven Roasted Barbeque Brisket and Roasted Fingerling Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Tonight we tried some new things.  I never cooked brisket before.  We are cleaning out the final cuts of our last steer from the freezer.  Brisket is almost all that is left.  Here's the recipe I chose to try:  Oven Roasted Beef Brisket I.  This recipe is for a four pound brisket.  My brisket is much smaller.  Of course, I made a few other adjustments to the recipe.

Oven Roasted Barbecue Brisket

1.5 pounds beef brisket
Mrs. Dash and garlic pepper to taste
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup beer

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees).
Sprinkle both sides of brisket with seasonings. Place in a large covered roasting pan.
Cook covered at 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) for 1 hour.  This is just the seasoned meat.  Nothing else should be in the pan at this point.
Cover meat with sauce, cover, and cook 1 hour longer.
Remove meat from pan, slice, cover with sauce and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Another item from the pantry that needed to be used was fingerling sweet potatoes.  M8 and I went to an auction in the fall and bought these cute little sweet potatoes.  All my normal sweet potato recipes call for much larger, peeled potatoes.  Clearly, something else was needed.  S11 commented tonight about how fortunate we are that we can go look for recipes to make anything.  He is so right! 

The recipe I found for our sweet potatoes was this one.  As so often is the case, I didn't have all the ingredients for the delicious sounding recipe so I took it as a jumping off point.  If you make the actual recipe, let me know.  I'd love to hear how it is.  This is what I ended up making.

Roasted Fingerling Sweet Sweet Potatoes
1 lb fingerling sweet potatoes, washed, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 T olive oil
1/3 c Brown Sugar
½ teaspoon Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Place in well oiled pan and cover.  Roast in preheated oven until tender, about 30-45 minutes.

Best of all both these dishes fit in the same over to be cooked at the same time.  I love it when that happens.  I have two ovens but I hate having to heat them both up for a normal dinner.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Munchies: Beer Butt Chicken

A while back I posted about how to roast a chicken.  That is my go-to recipe for making chicken.  Only slightly less used at our house is the beer butt chicken technique.  I originally heard about doing this on the grill.  Coat your chicken in melted butter, slather on the salt and other seasoning, insert the beer can and cook on the grill until done.  It usually takes about an hour at 350-400 degrees. 

Grilling is amazing but sometimes it's not pleasant.  Right now grilling would be especially unpleasant so I opt for using the beer butt technique in the oven.  These handy beer can holders that I bought are convenient but not strictly necessary.  I have two of them.  If I'm cooking a third chicken I place it in between the two chickens on the can holders.  I pour out 1/3 to 1/2 of the beer.  Usually I opt to pour the beer into a glass for later consumption.

The chicken slips, bottom opening first, over the can and holder.
Before cooking I sprinkle the chicken with a saltless seasoning.  Since Rob's heart issues we have cut way back on butter and salt so I forgo the slathering and coating.  The chicken is still tasty and way more healthy.   

I like it when my chickens look chummy so I arrange them for conversation. 

I drop the lowest shelf of my oven all the way to it's lowest setting in order to accommodate the upright chickens.  While the chickens are cooking (375 degrees for an hour) I enjoy the beer I set aside earlier.

With no more fuss, the chicken is done and fall off the bone tender. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekly Recap: February 11-15, 2013

This week was a week of celebrations.  Fat Tuesday, Valentine's Day and Rob's Birthday kept us partying three out of five days.  It's a wonder we got anything done!

We are all settling into a work and school at home routine.  I have to admit that it's going much better than I expected.  Not only is it nice to see Rob during the day, but he's relaxed and pleasant to be around.  Bonus, today when the cows got out he was there to help us get them back in the barn.

We finished studying WW2 this week.  It involved lots of hard discussions.  It's difficult to explain to children how normal people can kill other normal people, whether in war or concentration camps.  The idea of war is a difficult one to grasp. 

As a parent/teacher, I found myself struggling with how much to expose the children to as we did our study.  I opted to skip graphic footage.  We'll have another go at this era in history in four years.  Everyone will be older then so it may be more appropriate to dig deeper.  We did watch The Diary of Anne Frank.  H13 read The Hiding Place.  S11 read Survivors.  We listened to Number the Stars together. 

In math, M8 is working on multiplication.  We played with dice today to review 1-6 x 1-6.  I'll get out the 12 sided dice next Friday.  S11 is working on word problems building on percents, decimals and fractions.  H13 is working on graphing and slope-intercept.

Our Valentine's Day began early with a party at co-op on Tuesday.  We took 7 dozen sugar cookies to decorate and 150+ valentines to pass out.  Each valentine contained a Valentine coloring page and a heart shaped crayon made from recycled crayon bits.  It was a fun project.  You can find directions here. 

We celebrated Fat Tuesday with jambalaya, corn bread and chocolate chip cookie dough covered brownies.  You can see more of that celebration here.

We began our Valentine's Day by writing love stories.  You can read those here.  For our family Valentine's Day dinner we enjoyed pizza and more sugar cookies.  M8 decorated the dining room for Valentine's Day so we had a very elegant pizza dinner in the fancy room.

With so much celebrating, it was hard to concentrate on the work at hand but, for the most part, we had a pretty successful week.

High - History.  I think WW2 was a very interesting and scary time.
Low - Bible.  I'm way behind so I had to do a lot of it.

S11 had his birthday last Thursday.  His big gift, a Kindle, didn't arrive until Monday.  He was pretty pleased.

High - History.  I thought the information about WW2 was cool.  I know that kind of sounds wrong.
Low - Math.  It was really hard to figure out how to do the problems.

High - Math is my high because it's my favorite subject.
Low -  History because it's too long.

High - Getting so much done this week, with school and with life.  Things move pretty fast around here and I feel good about most of it.
Low - H13.  I feel worn down by the resistance she continues mount.  I know it's "normal teen behavior", and it's exhausting.  She is so talented.  Yet, without forceful insistence, she'd spend all day every day+ in bed.  She's bright, but not accountable for the work that she needs to be doing.  This one area where I haven't gotten homeschool figured out.  How do I hold a stubborn student accountable and still have a homelife I can enjoy?

Love Stories

Our writing assignment today was to write a love story.  Here are the love stories I received:

I walked around the restaurant with my big, fake, waitress smile glued to my face. All the happy couples that I was waiting on were too busy with each other to pay the bill, and one couple had been hogging up a table for two hours. Chelvok’s was a fancy restaurant and our reservations were made months in advance. We really didn’t need our tables hogged up for the entire night by one couple. I usually wouldn’t mind all the happy couples if my boyfriend of three years and me were one of them, but my boyfriend had completely forgotten about Valentine’s Day!

He had been promising something big for over a year and then, on the perfect day for romance, I didn’t even get a “Happy Valentine’s Day!” I had decided not to cry, but I had been pretty bitter since he left for work. I couldn’t believe that he had forgotten the most romantic day of the year, and our anniversary to boot. I felt tears coming to my eyes as I thought about it, and quickly asked my next table if they wanted refills.

“Vanessa Melody Sintax, please come to the stage!” a voice called my name through the speakers.

I walked up to the stage in confusion. The first thing I saw was my boyfriend on one knee and wearing a tux. He looked at me and smiled then he pulled a ring out of his pocket.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Yes! Oh absolutely yes!” I squealed, and for the first time that day I let myself cry.

S11 “I love Valentine’s Day,” Lucie said.
“Why?” Tony asked. “It’s only a day full of dating and you don’t have a date.”
"I know, but boys want to date me so I get tons of chocolate,” Lucie explained.
“Oh,” said Tony. “Well, I have to go to the bathroom.” He grabbed his cell phone, dialed and said, “I don’t want the chocolate anymore.”
“All right,” the store man said.
“Oh, Tony! I have to go. Bye!” said Lucie. She grabbed her phone, dialed and said, “Get me that chocolate and charge Tony.”
“Okey dokey,“ said the store man.

Toby: Alice, I think I like you.
Alice: Really? I should have told you this.
Toby: What should you have told me?
Alice: Just that when we were friends for five years, I liked you. That’s why when you asked me to be your friend I said yes.
Toby: You mean you didn’t just want to be my friend.
Alice: Yep, that’s it.
Toby: You mean I’m not charming?
Alice: If that’s what you think I’ve been saying for the last five years, no.
Toby: All right. Is there anything else you need to tell me?
Alice: Just that I hate flowers.
Toby: (making a hand signal to wave off the flower delivery.)
Alice: What was that for?
Toby: Oh, I have to go. Bye!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

This Fat Tuesday came with a smaller celebration.  It was just us and I didn't go overboard with the party prep.  The menu was simple as well.  We feasted on spinach salad, cornbread, and jambalaya with turkey kielbasa.  Dessert, because Fat Tuesday requires a fabulous dessert, was brownies with cookie dough topping. 

We spent some time at dinner discussing Lent and what we feel about giving up or adding something to our lives.  I expressed my belief that what we do during this time should make an impact in our lives and the lives of others.  K16 is going to spend more time in prayer.  H13 is going to give up yelling when angry.  S11 is still trying to decide how he will mark Lent.  M8 is giving up ranch dressing.  Rob and I are still discussing what we are going to change.  It feels as if there have been so many changes in the last six months.  Perhaps spending more time being intentionally grateful will be enough

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Munchies: Hot Cocoa Mix

I ran out of cocoa mix on a snowy day.  Not a good move for someone trying to win the mother of the year award.  When I mentioned my distress to my husband, he told me that his mother made something called "Girlscout cocoa" that was the best cocoa ever.  That information sent me on a search. 

Here's the recipe I decided to try.  As you can guess, I changed it a bit because that's the way I do things.

Hot Cocoa Mix
Makes 5 1/2 cups of dry mix

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered non-fat milk 
2 teaspoons cornstarch

The recipe was approved by one of my children.  The other two who tried it said the cocoa tasted like coffee.  This is their way of telling me that they wanted more water and less mix.  We are in the middle of several snowy days.  I'm sure we will soon be trying the new recipe again, with less mix.  I'll let you know how that goes.

If you like this recipe head on over to Frugal Mama and get the large batch instructions for gift giving.

If you want a different recipe, my cocoa can had this recipe on it.

Mix together:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/1/3 c nonfat dry milk (dry)
Makes 2 1/4 c dry mix.  Add water to make 9 6fl.oz. servings.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekly Recap: February 4-8, 2013

The snow we received gave us a few late starts at the beginning of the week.  We'd rather hold school now and get out earlier in May, but we also like to have a leisurely start when everyone else is off.  It's a nice perk of setting our own schedule. 

On Tuesday morning S10 got up early enough to make snowmen before school started.  There was lots of sledding in the afternoons.

Thursday we took the entire day off as a celebration of S11's birthday.  No school on birthdays is another perk of setting our own schedule.

We ended our school week by watching The Diary of Anne Frank. After finishing the movie, M8 gave a speech she had prepared about the women and the dictators of World War 2.  We were especially delighted that she provided refreshments.

Highs and Lows:
 M8 - High - Writing a speech about World War 2.
         Low - Math - Multiplication flash cards are difficult.

S11 - High -  My birthday!
          Low -  Daddy wasn't here.

H13 - High - Writing prompt.  I found it interesting and really enjoyed it.
          Low -  Daddy wasn't here.

Me - High - Celebrating S11's birthday.  I love to celebrate!
         Low - Too much snow.  Too many distractions.  Too little time.

A Delicious Birthday Dinner

S11 chose steak, Caesar salad and rolls for his birthday meal.  The sirloin steaks came from our own cattle.  It was too cold for me to want to grill steaks outdoors.  The steaks I've made indoors have not really been all that great so I went in search of a better steak recipe.  Thanks to Jessie Cross at The Hungry Mouse I found this recipe.  It's not so much a recipe.  It's more a technique.  It is easy, delicious and the only way I will make steak when the grill is not a good option.  Honestly, I may even do this when the grill is a good option.  Seriously, go check out The Hungry Mouse.  Even if you don't want to make steak there are a ton of recipes and other things over there and the pictures are gorgeous.

To go with the steak I tried a new roll recipe from my KitchenAid cookbook.  It was perfect!  I'm always struggling to get bread made in time for dinner.  For some reason, thinking of side dishes at 3pm just doesn't come easily.  This recipe is a wonderful solution to my inability to get my timing right.
KitchenAid Sixty-Minute Dinner Rolls

1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
 6 3/4 teaspoons dry active yeast (3 packages yeast)
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F – 115F)
5 – 6 cups all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan,over low heat stir milk, sugar, and butter together. Heat over low heat until butter melts. Cool until lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. (I warm my mixer bowl by filling it with hot water before I need it.  Right before I'm ready to get started I empty the bowl, dry it, and attach it to the mixer base.)  Add lukewarm milk mixture and 4 1/2 cups flour to yeast mixture.  Using a dough hook, mix on low speed for about 1 minute. With the mixer still going, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix about 2 minutes until dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl. Knead on low speed for about 2 more minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic – the dough will still be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning it to grease the top. Cover the dough with a clean, dry dish towel, and let it rise in a warm place, free from draft, for about 15 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 24 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and place on baking sheet.  Cover the rolls with the dish towel, and let the dough rise for about 15 minutes. (The recipe in the book suggests making fancier rolls by cutting the large rolls into four equal pieces and cooking them in a muffin pan or rolling them out and making curlicues.  To me, that adds to the time and effort required.  Complicated isn't necessarily tastier.)

Bake at 425ºF for 12 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown. Remove from pans immediately, and cool on wire racks.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Happy Birthday S11!

S11's started a little earlier than I expected.  He was up well before dawn asking if he it was time for his birthday to begin.  I told him no and he crawled into bed with M8 and me to wait for his special day to begin.
We started the day with decorations and a gift.  S11 chose his favorite cereal, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, for breakfast.

Lunch as shrimp cocktail and that's all.
Dinner was steak, Caesar salad, rolls and sparkling cider.
Birthday cake was the perfect finish.

Skylanders from Aunt Christy.

Cash from Grandmomma & Grandpap.

Happy Birthday S11!