Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rebooting the house

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My father fell several months ago and broke his hip.  Since then my family has been in a low-grade crisis mode, with all of us trying to help my mother as best we can.  This has meant a lot more travel for all of us than usual.  It has also meant a lot more emotional upheaval than usual.

At times like this, my greatest need is to have a to-do list, preferably one I don't have to create because that is just one more thing for my to-do list.  While browsing the interwebs, I found an article about freshening your home with feng shui.  It was meant as a Spring cleaning guide, but I am using it as my household reboot to-do list.  

Since my tendency whenever I'm stressed is to take to the waters, today Ella and I are going to tackle the family bathroom.  She picked the picture above because she likes pink and she likes things that smell good. I've heard that lavender stems can be burned as incense so after we finish feng shui-ing, we'll go out and cut a couple of stems and give it a go.

What is on household agenda this week?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yay! We're Not-Back-To-School! LOL

The annual Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop--that showcase for homeschoolers who are celebrating their homeschooliness--is for me a huge amount of work but also a huge amount of fun, and since I missed it last year I'm ready to get back in and join the fun.

The first week of the blog hop is always curriculum week, and the instructions on the iHomeschool Network announcement are as follows:

"First week in August:  It’s a curriculum hop. Share your well-researched plans on your post."

Uh, yeah, I am not an organized person.  Never have been, never will be.   So these days I bow to my inner bedlam.

Instead of well-researched plans, I have well-enough-researched plans.  I still use the "What Your __ Grader Needs to Know" from the Core Knowledge series--in our case, "blank" = 5th.  Using that as a baseline measurement, I figure out what we have available to us each week as far as time, materials, etc, and figure out what we can reasonably accomplish if I'm optimistic and nothing goes wrong.

Then I put that on my favorite blank weekly lesson plan form from Donna Young.org Printables and Resources--just the facts, ma'am-- such as "Review Electricity";  "Cut and paste Division lapbook";  etc.

THEN the magic happens:  at the end of the week, I make note of what we actually did, and go from there for the next week.

See?  Good enough.

Oh--the other part of the instuctions for curriculum week are "Show us what you love", so if you must have details:

Found the entire "What your ___ Grader Needs to Know" series at a local used bookstore.

Science:  TOPScience.org is where we now get our science curriculum, and if you are in the Nashville area you can join us for a weekly science lab at our home studio.  For Fall we are doing Animal Survival.  For Spring we will do introduction to chemical analysis.  We're also trying the video program from The Happy Scientist, which will supplement nicely, I think.

Math:  a few lapbooks from Homeschool Share, and some "curriculum" books we got at Costco.  And I ordered the Get a Grip job box from TOPScience.org, which covers working with volumes, working with fractions, decimals, percentages, and symbolic algebra.

Literature:  lifted direct from the Core Knowledge 5th Grader book:  we'll be reading from Sherlock Holmes, Don Quixote, Homer's epics (Iliad and Odyssey), and if she can stand it, Jekyll and Hyde.

There will be other stuff--field trips and guest scientist visits--and the usual lounging around watching Mythbusters.

Take a moment to visit the curriculum blog hop at iHomeschool Network and check out what other homeschoolers are doing this year.  And please be sure to leave a comment when you visit their blogs--it is a huge encouragement to know someone has seen and heard your plans!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

One-Pot Meatloaf and Potatoes, plus SPECIAL GUEST INGREDIENT

How to make a delicious, home-cooked comfort food meal in a single, magnificent pot (plus SPECIAL GUEST INGREDIENT).

First, watch my friend Martha Stewart's episode with her mother in which they make ketchup from scratch which they then use to make homemade meatloaf fit for a king, or at least for the Kostyras.

Then decide you can do it better, stronger, faster, and proceed as follows:

Blend some tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs and put them in the bread machine.  Henceforth, you will refer to this dramatically as your SPECIAL GUEST INGREDIENT.  Start the jam cycle, then singe yourself looking inside to see why it smells like something is burning.
It got kind of splashy up in there.

Midway thru jam cycle, add vinegar, brown sugar, and some spices, then let it finish. Taste the new-born ketchup and be pleased.  Discover after you remove the pan the reason why it smelled like it was burning.
Yeah, I'm wondering how I'm going to clean that up too.

Put a bunch of new potatoes in the bottom of a stove top pressure cooker, add a couple of cups of water, and salt if you want.
Wash them first.

Smoosh your favorite meatloaf mixture into a steamer basket and place it directly on top of the potatoes. Smother with your delicious homemade ketchup (sadly, not pictured). Lock and load, pressure cook on high for 12 minutes or so.  Quick release pressure to check meat temperature--you're aiming for 155ºF-ish in the center.  Repressurate if needed to reach temp.

Once it is done but before serving, slice off a piece and taste test to see if 2 pounds of meatloaf is going to be enough for 3 people, or if you'll just have to make something else for the rest of the family.
You have to taste it first, you know.  For quality control purposes.

Remove steamer basket full of your personal meatloaf serving, and marvel at the beauty of the perfectly cooked new potatoes in beef broth. Accept family accolades, toot your own horn, and remember that you only used one pot to prepare dinner so you are going to get off easy with kitchen duty tonight.
Nom nom nom.

If, for some reason, you have leftover potatoes, I recommend you do the only honorable thing and turn them into The Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes.  You're welcome.