Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thrifty Thursday ~ Reduce Food Waste

One way we reduce costs is to keep food waste to a minimum in our home. This week it was time to take care of a few foods that were lingering. We have been doing Misfit Market for a few months now. They send you a box of produce that is at risk of being thrown away. All of the food is fresh and organic, but it is often the wrong size or there was too much of it produced and the stores won't buy it. We have really enjoyed our boxes, but we do end up with some odd things (at least unusual to us). This week we really needed to use up some kale. I decided to pull out the dehydrator and make kale chips. They came out pretty good and will hopefully be eaten up quickly.
Kale Chips
I found a box of gingerbread mix left over from Christmas in the cupboard and we had three very soft apples. I made gingerbread apple streusel. It came out well and got eaten up quickly.
We also had some left over cranberry sauce that no one was eating. I used it up by making cranberry sauce muffins. Yum.
I also had a bag of chili mix that was about to expire. It made a wonderful dinner of chili.
We used up some organic chocolate pudding mix that had sat in the cupboard for more than a year.
We had a spaghetti squash from our Misfit Box. My crew hates spaghetti squash, so I hid it in a cheesy sauce.
We also made a beef stew with some strong Medieval spices that were left overs from last year. I didn't get a photo of it.

We rarely have food go to waste. If the kids don't like it the first way it is presented, I recreate it into something else. That usually works.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Touch of Snow and Graduation Update

We had a touch of snow this week. It is the first real snow we have had this year. It was lovely for the 24 hours that we had it.

There are so many shows coming up. Anne was just cast for the Fables show in the Spring. She has the role of a camel and will be dancing on pointe (we think). She is continuing to learn all of the choreography for the Grade 6 Cecchetti exam that is in June.The picture below is a practice session of her solo in the Junior Showcase in March. She is doing a variation of the Arabian dance from the Nutcracker.
She is also preparing for a show with the Adult Company in March. There is so much choreography in her brain. I have no idea how she keeps it all straight. 
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Adult Company
Anne is making some great progress with her school work, too. She completed Health and U.S. History I this week. She is almost done with Earth Science which is a carryover from last year. We took this course really slow. She also passed the written part of the driver's test this week. She got 100% on the test. She now has her learner's permit, and we will start practicing her driving skills on a regular basis.

Dean had a great week, too. He completed U.S. History II. He also accepted a paying job to be a camp counselor for a week or two this summer at the camp he worked at last year. He committed to one week, but if he does not have a permanent job by then, he will b able to work the second week at the camp, too. The director of the camp is fine with that. We are picking up speed on completing Physical Science. It is going well. Dean has taken the lead to build the machines for our experiments.

His latest Eureka kit came out great. It is a table tennis robot. We are going to have fun trying to figure this one out. We aren't as coordinated as one might think. HaHa.                       

Anne and I had a bit of fun doing a snowy photo shoot. My girl is growing up so fast. The years just fly!

I put in Dean's paperwork for graduation this week. It is getting real! Our state issues a diploma to homeschool students who are enrolled and have followed the state requirements. They also provide a graduation ceremony a few hours drive from here. It is a huge affair that our oldest went through. Dean really didn't want to do the ceremony and requested to just have a party. We talked it out for weeks and decided to go with his desire to skip the ceremony. They will send him his diploma, and we are going to purchase a cap and gown for his party and present his diploma to him in front of family and friends. My husband is disappointed that he is skipping the big ceremony, but it is really Dean's experience. What he wants is of primary importance in this situation. I have some great ideas for his party. I am sure it will be a very special experience. The picture and bio below are what will appear in the statewide North Carolinians for Home Education (NCHE) magazine (graduation edition) for homeschoolers.

Dean, son of David and Dawn, is graduating after 12 yrs of homeschooling, with a double major in PE and Fine Arts. He is passionate about music and Belegarth medieval sport. He has been a camp counselor for several years and is a role model for youths. He is a compassionate young man with a heart for those less fortunate. He plans to enter the workforce while exploring other opportunities. We look forward to watching his light shine!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day ~ Our Week in Pictures

We had a tough week filled with little annoying obstacles. Thankfully, there is almost always lovely moments sprinkled between the tough ones. Dean had his wisdom teeth out last Friday. He has been an incredible trooper. We are so proud of him. I didn't pick up the narcotics that were prescribed, because I didn't want them in his body. He has managed with just an increased dose of ibuprofen. He is tired of pain but is turning the corner and not asking for his ibuprofen anymore. We are almost out of the woods!

We had a sweet Valentine's day with Tony's Chocolate, which is 100% slave free. We also had Mac and Cheese Pizza for dinner. It was pretty good. Dear Husband and I went out to dinner to eat Mexican food on Monday. We hate crowds and decided to celebrate early. I am glad we did because the rest of the week was pretty difficult.

We finally made it on a field trip I have had planned all year. We went to the Moogseum and learned all about Robert Moog. He invented the first commercial synthesizer and lived right in our fair little city. His synthesizer factory still operates here, but the museum just opened this past summer. It was a very modern and hands-on museum. There were theremins to play and lots of touch computers that allowed you to learn everything you could possible want to know about Robert Moog and his famous workshops. There were even video lessons on how to use a synthesizer and then you could try your skills with a synthesizer. I wish they had had the Grandmother Semi-modular Synthesizer, because it is much easier to use for new students. We had an opportunity to play with one at a record store once, and I wish this museum would add one. My kids were not super excited about this field trip. It was overstimulating to their ears and they are not the biggest fans of electronic music. They preferred the factory tour that we took a few years ago at the Robert Moog factory. I am glad to have it off our local bucket list.

My sink and faucet gave out mid week. The faucet started spraying from all the wrong places whenever it felt like it. My husband attempted to replace the faucet and found that the sink had a crack in it that would grow with time and that some of the washers were rusted to the sink. We decided to replace the whole thing. It was a huge headache for my dear husband, who isn't a natural born handyman. Replacing the sink and faucet really stretched him out of his repairman comfort zone. It took a couple days, but he accomplished installing all of the plumbing and a new sink. Whoo-hoo! I only had to wash dishes in the bathtub for two days. My new sink is so deep, and I really like it. 

Boomer is a very attentive babysitter of his little rat sister, Willow. He is very gentle with her as he is with all of the creatures in the house. He constantly amazes us with his sweet personality.

Anne made a small terrarium for earth science. She loves terrariums and has wanted one for awhile, but they are expensive. She found the container at a thrift store, and we bought the plant, dirt and moss from a hardware store. It came out great.

She also made Dean's Eureka kit from the month of January. He just didn't want to do this one at all. I told Anne if she followed the instructions from Eureka to create it, it would prepare her for making her own furniture someday. She hated the project. She said making cribs at work was much easier; she has helped put several of those together in the past year. She also informed me that her home would be filled with antiques and not furniture that had to be put together! LOL

We weren't able to get Anne's learner's permit this week because her birth certificate and Social Security card were missing from our fireproof box! We spent a morning at agencies ordering new copies. They gave us her birth certificate on the spot, but we have to wait for the Social Security card to be mailed. Ugh.

We watched two good movies in the past week to add to our U.S. History studies. First, we watched Remember the Titans, which is a great movie about desegregation. It also is about the high school and area that I grew up in, so I was extra excited to share it with my kids. We are not football fans, but that didn't take away from our enjoyment of the movie. It was great. 

We also watched the movie, Dick. It is about the Watergate scandal. It was pretty good and, once again, fun to point out neighborhoods and places where I grew up. I even heard the kids shout out a few times, "I've been there." I did think it was a bit confusing if you know very little about the Watergate scandal, so we will be following it up with a documentary or two.

I am hoping for a calm and productive weekend. A few of us feel a bit under the weather. I want to turn that around this weekend if we can.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sharing Great Literature with Reluctant Readers

I have a houseful of "reluctant readers".  I have heard plenty of times that reluctant readers are born from a lack of exposure to great literature or because they have been allowed to watch television or play video games instead of reading. Although TV and video games do pull at many children's interests, I don't think that is the primary reason why kids resist reading. I think kids and adults who have had lots of pleasant exposure to literature choose other activities other than reading because they have some difficulty with reading. We as people tend to try to choose the easy path whenever possible.

I think reading is by far one of the most complicated things that we do every day. First, students' eyes need to work properly to be able to read comfortably. They need to be able to track from left to right, up and down and keep each letter and word in focus. This process is much easier if both eyes work together and are equal partners in the process. Second,  students need exceptional reading comprehension to be good readers. This means they need knowledge of vocabulary meanings, skills in decoding of words, and the ability to read at a speed that is neither too fast or too slow so that the material can process into their brains. Finally, they need to have excellent processing skills to pull all of that together to understand and remember what they have read.

So as I said, I have a houseful of reluctant readers. Each of us struggles for a different reason. I was born with crossed eyes (strabismus), which were corrected surgically in babyhood. I then had many years of optometric vision therapy. However, my right eye is still very weak and would prefer to "sleep" through life instead of pulling its own weight. I wear special glasses to keep that eye engaged most of the time, but I am still worn out by the end of the day. Consequently, I usually don't choose to read, even when I have a book that I am really enjoying. In addition, I am a slow reader and have already spent hours of the day reading necessary material or reading to my children. Between these two issues, I can take weeks to finish one book. I feel ashamed admitting that, even though it isn't my fault. I even switch out books to take a book to the dance waiting room that isn't the one that I truly want to read, because I don't want people to see that I am still reading the same book as last week!

I could go on and explain all of the issues that each of my children have with reading, but we would be here all day. To say the least, we deal with focusing issues, dyslexia, memory issues, processing issues and reading speed. My kids all have great vocabulary. They always come out with advanced vocabulary skills on every test, and they have been heavily exposed to literature since infancy. They simply choose other means of entertainment because of the struggle they find with reading.

However, we forge on and continue to enjoy lots of great literature. Here are some of the ways we keep literature in our lives:
  • Large print books ~ Making the print large helps my crew focus, reduces how many words they have to concentrate on, line by line and page by page. It gives our eyes a break.
  • Graphic novels ~ I have found that there are some wonderful graphic novels for sale now that stick very closely to the story and use lots of pictures and few words to convey the story.
  • Audio books ~ This is not my kids' favorite vehicle to literature. They enjoy being read to but not listening to audio books. With audio books, they struggle with the reading speed, accents, and sound effects. However, my adult son loved audio books when he was a child, so they do work for some.
  • Reading excerpts from great literature ~ All one needs to do is Google best excerpts from a particular book and one can find lists of short passages. 
  • Movies ~ We have found some great movies based closely on literature.
  • Family read aloud ~ Great literature is meant to be shared. Reading together leads to wonderful conversations. 
  • Activities that enhance a story ~ Going on a field trip, or doing an art or cooking project that goes along with the literature often brings the story to life. 
  • Documentaries ~ There are often excellent documentaries on YouTube about great works of literature.
So how does this look in action? Recently, we completed The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Sometimes I start them reading a piece of literature or read it to them myself and find that they are "hating" it. Usually, this is because it moves too slowly, uses Old English style, or has too much imagery for their brains to process. When this happens, I change gears and reach them from a different direction. I knew this would be the case with The Jungle. It is very wordy and relies heavily on imagery. So I researched and found a graphic novel that portrayed the story through a nice combination of words and pictures. The children read it to themselves and answered comprehension questions that I wrote out. Then we watched a documentary on The Jungle from YouTube. Next, we read excerpts from The Jungle  that we found on and a few other websites. Lastly, we related the book to present times with issues that are still taking place in the food industry. We watched several episodes of Rotten on Netflix. My teens were truly touched by the plight of immigrants and our need for access to clean, healthy food. 

We wrapped up our study by learning about chocolate and how slave wage labor is behind most of the chocolate consumed around the world. We studied the companies that use fair trade cocoa and set out to find slave free chocolate. This small candy bar costs $5. It isn't cheap but tasted extra good, knowing that no one had been treated horribly in the process of making that candy bar.
“So long as we have wage slavery," answered Schliemann, "it matters not in the least how debasing and repulsive a task may be, it is easy to find people to perform it. But just as soon as labor is set free, then the price of such work will begin to rise. So one by one the old, dingy, and unsanitary factories will come down—it will be cheaper to build new; and so the steamships will be provided with stoking machinery, and so the dangerous trades will be made safe, or substitutes will be found for their products. In exactly the same way, as the citizens of our Industrial Republic become refined, year by year the cost of slaughterhouse products will increase; until eventually those who want to eat meat will have to do their own killing—and how long do you think the custom would survive then?—To go on to another item—one of the necessary accompaniments of capitalism in a democracy is political corruption; and one of the consequences of civic administration by ignorant and vicious politicians is that preventable diseases kill off half our population. And even if science were allowed to try, it could do little, because the majority of human beings are not yet human beings at all, but simply machines for the creating of wealth for others. They are penned up in filthy houses and left to rot and stew in misery, and the conditions of their life make them ill faster than all the doctors in the world could heal them; and so, of course, they remain as centers of contagion, poisoning the lives of all of us, and making happiness impossible for even the most selfish. For this reason I would seriously maintain that all the medical and surgical discoveries that science can make in the future will be of less importance than the application of the knowledge we already possess, when the disinherited of the earth have established their right to a human existence.”
― Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

The documentaries we watched ~ 

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Thrifty Thursday ~ Buying Used Items

I get asked often how we "make it" in this area and still have a stay-at-home parent (for the past 20 years). We live in the city with the highest cost of living for our state. Stay at home parents are hard to come by and many are working two to three jobs to make ends meet.  There are a host of reasons why we are able to keep a parent at home that stem from careful lifestyle choices to some wonderful blessings. Today, I am going to talk about one of the main ways we stretch our pennies. We buy very, very few things that are new. I rely heavily on thrift stores for almost everything we want and need. In fact, I kept very careful records in January, and we only bought new (outside of food and medications) two school workbooks, a puzzle, a package of copy paper, plant-based trash bags, two panels of drywall and a can of paint. That actually seems like a lot to me, yet I know it isn't in comparison to what many folks buy.

I keep a running list of what we are looking for, and we patiently gather things as we see them. We practice patience. After all, there are very few items that are needed instantly. Most things can wait. We visit thrift stores every week. We are blessed to have about eight really nice thrift stores in the area. I have found that, in our area, thrift stores run by charities or the hospital tend to have the best finds. Church thrift stores are small or very picked over and consignment shops tend to ask bigger prices than I am generally willing to pay. This is what we found this week.
No photo description available.

I found a brand new Vicks vaporizer still with tags on it, a cheese dome, a can organizer for the pantry and a dish drying rack.
  • The dish drying rack cost me $1 and retails for $15 at Walmart.
  • The cheese dome was $3 and retails for $32 at Walmart. We will use it for parties.
  • The can organizer was $2 and retails for $8 on Amazon.
  • The Vicks vaporizer was $3 and retails for $15 everywhere I looked.
We did the math and determined that we paid just 13% of what these items totaled would have cost new from a retail store. All of these items would have made a serious dent in my budget if I had purchased them new.

Now, the second part of this is to only buy what you need. The thrill of the hunt can become addictive. My daughter and I love to search for new to us stuff, but we hate having tons of belongings cluttering our home. So, we only buy what will truly enhance our lives and get rid of stuff as soon as it is no longer needed or enjoyed. This revolving door of belongings is easier to stomach, because we paid very little for them in the first place. Thus, parting with them is pretty easy.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Reaping the Harvest

We had a solid week around here. I love my teens! They are remarkable young people. As parents, we spend years sowing ideas and morals, nurturing the good and weeding out the bad. We chase away those that would do our little seedlings harm. We work hard and keep our fingers crossed that it will all work out. Then the harvest comes.

My little crew was faced with some hard realities this week and they breezed right through them. Dean came bounding up the stairs this week and practically threw his phone into my hands. He wanted me to read some texts that had come from a friend. His friend had made some wrong choices and ended up drinking with others until he was drunk in the middle of a public school class. Apparently, they are not watched at all in his school. My son was alarmed and worried. He wanted his friend's parents alerted at once so that they could make sure he was going to be okay. Dean very much understands the dangers of alcohol and lives every day with the results of his birth mother's choice to drink while pregnant with him. He was very, very upset with his friend's poor choice, and I am afraid that it made a big dent in this young friendship. I did notify the parents who were very thankful. With counsel, he is trying to be supportive to his friend making better choices in the future. I started sowing the seeds of avoiding alcohol and when to tell on friends way back when my kiddos were preschoolers. Dean learned his lessons well. I am grateful for his loving and tender heart.

Anne attempted to sign up for a sign language class at a local college this week. She wanted to skip the intro class and go to a more advanced class. She also needed special permission because she is under 18. For these reasons, I found myself on the phone with the director of registration and the director of foreign language. After talking to me about her skills and realizing where she had been trained up to now, they rejected her from the class. One of them had heard of her already in the sign language world of our small city and said her "skills were too advanced and she would intimidate the class!" I really am not surprised that she was rejected, but the reason has left us chuckling all week. She isn't going to live this one down too quickly. We have all spent the week teasing her about having intimidating skills. They did refer us to the local college which has the sign language interpreter program that she hopes to attend after high school. They thought she could take a class there that would be challenging. I may look into it next year. It is about 45 minutes away and our plate is full enough right now.

We have become a bit puzzle obsessed around here. We have completed four since Christmas and have two more in the wings. It is a fun distraction on a dark winter night. When we aren't building puzzles, we are playing  the game, Settlers of Catan

Lastly, I have been looking recently for a new bread recipe. Our bread recipe was getting boring and we wanted a change. I think we are getting close with the latest attempt. It was delicious!

Blessings,  Dawn