Thursday, December 17, 2009

Look out Martha, here comes Jen!!

Martha Stewart has nothing on me! Adorable Quinn and I made some adorable play dough and put it in these adorable little buckets and passed them out to all the adorable little children in the neighborhood.

Isn't this just ADORABLE??!!!

History in the Kitchen...sort of.

We have moved past the Revolutionary War (how much of that can you really cram down a 10 year old's brain) and taken a giant leap to Lewis and Clark. I was hoping this would be more interesting to a boy. There's adventure, fighting, white water rafting, Indian encounters, etc. etc. etc.
We started out with a very cool video from National Geographic that was a reenactment of Lewis and Clark's journey. Not sure what Liam thought of it, but I loved it! As a mom I kept picturing myself traveling the country side with an infant, just like Sacajawea. Really, women today couldn't do it. We would have a gigantic diaper bag filled with butt cream, diapers, assorted plastic toys and teething rings. And we would be concerned about where we could plug in the butt wipe warmer. Sacajawea travelled though rain, snow, ice, treacherous mountain climbs, dangerous river crossings....all with a baby!!! She is my new hero.

Liam also read a book titled The Captain's Dog by Roland Smith. This was a book written through the eyes of Lewis' dog, Seaman (snicker snicker). I think he secretly liked the book but would never admit it. Instead he debated that he shouldn't be forced to read books he wasn't interested in. This is when I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud. This boy has a very rude awakening when he gets into high school. I had flashbacks of The Grapes of Wrath in 11th grade. What torture!

On to the fun stuff. Liam and I read a list of possible items Lewis and Clark would have taken on their journey. They didn't pack much food but instead focused on taking things to document their progress. They took plenty of paper, journals, maps, etc. They did, however, try and pack some dried fruits. They knew it would be very helpful since fresh fruit would be hard to find.
I'm not sure what brand of dehydrator they used. I bet they had one of those big Excalibur types with 9 trays. They were so lucky. All I have is my small, 4 tray dehydrator. We are really roughing it around here.

Here's the glop we made by simply cooking down some apples (actually a LOT of apples) and then running them through my handy dandy fruit strainer on my stand mixer. That device is the bomb!

I must say that I don't think I will EVER do this again. Not only did we use a lot of apples, but it had to dry for quite some time. AND...This is all I managed to wrap up for future consumption before the kids gobbled it all up. I am now convinced we would have starved if we were on that Corps of Discovery team. And I would still be looking for a massage therapist after carrying that darn baby over a mountain.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

100 Books in a Month Challenge

100 books in a month. Can it be done? Quinn isn't so sure. Simon thinks we can. Mom KNOWS we can.

If you follow my blog, you know I love my Google Reader. After awhile, Google starts suggesting other blogs to follow based on the ones you are currently following. This has been great! I have found some great bloggers out there but I'm beginning to feel a bit like a stalker. I don't even know most of these people! But you never know from where your inspiration will come. I will never be so arrogant to believe that I have it all figured out. There are some incredible women, homeschoolers, raw foodies, cooks, moms out there that can teach me a thing or two.

Recently I was inspired by another Homeschool blog called Home-Grown Kids. She challenges her child every month to read 100 books. Of course I had to sweeten the pot a bit. I told the boys that if we accomplish this task we'll take a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. You know I put a lot of importance on reading if I am willing to brave that germ infested place.

Little does Simon and Quinn know, but we probably read 50-60 books a month already. This won't be hard. But 100 is a HUGE number to these boys so they will be so proud when they reach this goal. And I am going to have fun reading all these great books. I'll keep a list of the books as we go so you can read along if you like. So far I think my favorite has been Cowboy and Octopus by Jon Sciezca. That guy cracks me up!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Help! We need a name for our game.

The kids made up this game that we've been playing for about a year now. We've tweaked it here and there and I think we have a winner. It's fun, it's simple, all it needs is paper and markers.....but it needs a name.

So here's the low down. We have two versions of this game.

Version 1:
Every player has a piece of paper and a marker or pen. It is preferable for each player to have a different color so everyone can admire each other's artistic style.
When the game begins, everyone starts drawing whatever they desire on their paper. After about 20 seconds, someone yells "GO!" and then each player passes their paper to the player on their left.
Everyone starts drawing again on their newly acquired picture, adding or enhancing to the last person's drawing.
You keep doing this for as many rounds as you want. By the end of it, you will have some very interesting drawings.

We had to come up with a few house rules after we played a few times.
Rule #1: No scribbling or crossing out pictures. This rule was created for Simon.
Rule#2: You can't just draw farting speech bubbles out of every creatures' behind drawn on the page. I bet you can guess for whom we made this rule.

Version #2: (pictured above)
In this version, you again start with a piece of paper and a drawing utensil for every player. This time you pick a "drawing comentator", aka DC, to facilitate the game. Using his/her imagination, the DC will begin to tell the other players what to draw, giving only one detail at a time. The DC will also draw so that a comparison can be made at the end of the round.
For instance, in this round, Roy told us all to first draw a barn. Then he told us to draw party lights on the barn. Then dancing goats, DJ chickens, a cow as a bouncer, and so on and so on. By the end, we all had very different drawings and they were hilarious!

So we've got the game but we need a name. Can you help us out? We're thinking of contacting GameWright and seeing if we can get this thing in production. Wishfull thinking, I know. This game may already exist on the market and we are again, a day late and a dollar short. But we're having fun.

Father Son Cake Bake or Son Cake Bake with as little help from Mom as possible.

Every year our Cub Scout pack holds a Father Son Cake Bake. The cakes get judged for creativity in several different categories; Scout spirit, patriotism, cartoon characters and sports. The idea is that the boys have to make a cake with their dads with no help from the moms! In some households that is a disadvantage. But in others......not so much. That would be the case in our house. Getting help from Mom does not guarantee a victory.

This year Dad was very busy "migrating" something or other so that WaMu customers can be bona fide Chase customers. Yada Yada Yada, Blah Blah Blah. I know it was all very important stuff but it was all very confusing. Long story short, Mom had to be the Dad this year. I really tried to do as little as I could and let the boys do the rest. The only help they really needed was with the stripes. It wasn't our best cake but it wasn't anything to be embarrassed of either.

Here's Liam icing the cake. Simon did all the baking.

Final result. Go Bengals!

Woof Woof! Holy Dog Treats Batman!

I figured out how to give the boys the baking time they desire while avoiding more cellulite on my hips. DOG TREATS! And I tell you what, these dog treats are fantastic! We did the Pepsi challenge with our Schnoodle to verify how incredibly edible these little biscuits happen to be. We placed one of our treats on the ground next to a store bought treat and Vader went straight for ours. Mmmmmm. And if you needed further proof of their goodness, the boys tried them out as well. They gave them a thumbs up!!

Here's Simon and Quinn making the dough. The recipes is:
2 TBL of Oil
1 cup of H2O
1/2 cup of Peanut Butter
Combine these ingredients then add the following, 1 cup at a time.
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

Roll out, cut to desired shape (we used lots of cookie cutters) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Being the cheapo that I am, I bought the cheapest PB I could find. I love my Schnoodle but I'm not serving him my organic, all-natural peanut butter.

Aren't these the cutest little things you've ever seen?

This is a triple batch.

Vader LOVES our treats!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


On Monday we played homeschool hookie and went Letterboxing instead. We love Letterboxing. If you are unfamiliar with this hobby, visit There are different versions of this; Letterboxing, Geo-Caching, Atlas Quest, and they are all tons of fun. The idea is to hunt down a hidden box. Inside that box will be a specially carved stamp and a notepad. The boys and I have our own little scrapbook that we carry around with us as we hunt. We collect these stamps in our scrapbook as well as leave our special "mark" behind in their notepad. For awhile we didn't have a unique stamp. We simply stamped a smiley face and signed our trail name, which is 'threeboys2004.' But thanks to Quinn's boyish, immature, 5 year old mind, we now have the coolest stamp ever!! Check it out!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Science in the Kitchen - Bread Part 2 (Gluten)

Gluten. Not just a new allergy.

I've learned a lot about gluten during our Science in the Kitchen series. Let's hope Liam has also picked up a tidbit or two. So here's the low down.

Flours that are high in protein will produce more gluten in your dough. There are basically 2 proteins in dough, whose names I cannot remember, that combine during the kneading process to create strands of gluten. Think of gluten like a balloon. The gluten will hold the gas needed to make a dough rise. Therefore, you should use a flour high in protein for yeast breads. Flours low in protein are best for pastries and cookies.

For our experiment, we took four different kinds of flour; all purpose, whole wheat, pastry and semolina. We created 4 separate "doughs" by mixing the flour with water. After letting it sit for 15-20 minutes, we took each dough ball and ran them under water. We did this until most of the starch was washed away and we were left with only the gluten strands.

After looking at only the gluten strings in each ball, we could tell which dough ball had the most gluten and which had the least. I won't tell you our have to do the experiment on your own!!

Here's one of our gluten balls. I think this was the Whole Wheat.

Science in the Kitchen - Bread Part 1

Yeast. It's all yeast these days!

Liam and I are continuing our studies in the kitchen. We've exhausted our studies of the egg and we are moving on to bread! Look out hips, here comes another 5 pounds.

We started our studies by discussing leavening agents. We made some cookies and muffins using baking soda and baking powder. But everyone knows that the Mack-daddy of leavening agents is yeast. And yeast is so entertaining. First question of the day....."does yeast like sugar?"

We did a quick little experiment by using equal amounts of yeast and warm water in two separate bowls. In one bowl we also included a teaspoon of sugar. Can you guess which bowl had the sugar?

If you guessed the bowl on the left, then you are right. In the same amount of time, the bowl with sugar created huge amounts of yeast foam compared to the bowl without the sugar. So the next time you make a yummy bread, be sure to proof your yeast with sugar.

The Arts Castle - 2D

Simon and Liam took a 7 week art class at the Delaware Arts Castle this Fall. Simon seems to love these classes but Liam....not so much. I get this impression because he likes to comment "Mom, why do you sign me up for things without asking first?" My response is always "Liam, did they ask you if you wanted to go to art class in public school?? I don't think so!" Keep in mind that by the time I pick him up from class, he seems to be enjoying himself and the projects.

This session was all about two dimensional drawings. Here is Simon's glue picture (they drew the creature with glue and then filled in with pastels.) Not sure what this little guy is. I think Simon mentioned something about a hamster.

Here is Liam's creation. This one I know. A dog!!

My favorite part about Art class was the one-on-one time I got with Quinn! It was worth every penny. Sometimes we would go shopping or out to lunch. And then if I'm honest, we would sometimes go home so that Mom could take a nap all snuggled with Quinn watching a video on the couch.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Literature in the Kitchen - Tomie DePaola

No wonder I have put on 5 pounds! I've recently learned a little homeschooling trick that is not too friendly on my hips. I'll tell you my little secret but you have to promise me you'll use if for good and not evil. And you must promise to share anything you produce from implementing this little secret. OK, here it goes.........the kitchen makes learning FUN!!

I came across a Scholastic book that shows things you can do with the kids while reading Tomie DePaola books. We recently read "Watch out For Chicken Feet in Your Soup." What an adorable little book. The boys loved my bad Italian accent. Or maybe I imagined that they loved it.

In the book, the old Italian Grandma makes bread dolls for the little boys. I tried doing some research on the origin of these weird concoctions, but I didn't come up with much. They seem to be a popular bread in Europe, especially during the Easter holiday.

Here's Quinn with his unbaked and baked Bread Doll. Isn't it cute? I'm sure he named it before he ate it. He's very creative when he names things so I'm guessing it was something like "Baby Bread."

And here's Simon bo Bimon with his finished masterpiece.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall Time Fun with our Homeschooling Peeps

Circle S Farms...good times. The boys had a blast. This place had quite a corn maze and a very intimidating Hay Barn. Again, I am just thrilled that the boys are making friends with some other Homeschooled kids. This is really helping Liam and Simon. Liam actually came up to me the other day and admitted there were some advantages to homeschooling. Wow! This is big!! Quinn still just tags along everywhere we go and loves it.

There were a gazillion of these caterpillars at the farm and the kids had them crawling all over them. We later found out that from Grandma that the orange stripe on these critters has something to do with how harsh the Winter will be. Not knowing how long their stripes were last year, I can't dole out any Winter tips. We will all just have to wait and see.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Science in the Kitchen - The Egg, Part 3

We continue our egg investigations with a little Flan!! How could science be so tasty? So if you are wondering how flan could possibly be tasty AND educational, well sit back and learn. Proteins! I won't bore you with all the details, but it all boils down to the proteins....oh and the fat. Gels love protein and fat.

Science in the Backyard (aka- Steve!)

Look at Steve! It seems like only months ago that Steve was this very large tadpole.

Now, he is this sorta small bullfrog!!

The boys found Steve in a pond near the house this Summer. After some negotiating and some terms discussed, Steve was given a home on our deck. It has actually been quite fun to watch Steve grow and shrink. I had no idea that they were bigger as tadpoles. I'm sure Steve will grow into a healthy, large Bullfrog and go on to populate the world with many more little Steves. This all hinges on whether or not I can convince the boys to release Steve back into the WILD!! I've tried explaining to them that the aquarium will freeze solid this Winter and leave Steve with no place to hibernate. AND, under no circumstances will Steve reside in our nice and cozy home.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Science in the Kitchen - The Egg, Part 2

The Translucent Egg.
Did you know you can remove the hard shell of an egg by simply soaking the egg in vinegar? It is so cool! This is your classic acid/base chemical reaction. The egg shell is basically made of calcium carbonate. The vinegar, containing acetic acid, separates the calcium and releases the carbonate as carbon dioxide gas. You can see all the bubbles of gas in the picture below. These bubbles started happening immediately.

After soaking for about 2 days, the shell has completely dissolved away and you are left with a translucent egg. You can't tell by the picture, but you can even see the egg yolk inside.
Now you would think that the egg would be fragile without the loving protection of its hard outer shell. Not so! This sucker is durable. It has the consistency of a rubber bouncy ball. You can see in the pictures below that I'm squeezing the egg pretty hard. Next cut it open and see what it looks like inside!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Science in the Kitchen - The Egg, Part 1

Liam's current interest (which changes frequently) is cooking. Uncle Jeremy would be proud! If I tell the kids they can watch a video, 1/2 the time they will pick a Good Eats video. I might need to give credit to Alton Brown for schooling my children. Even Quinn is coming up and telling me how to pickle vegetables and how to get the seeds out of a vanilla bean. There's one thing I know for certain, these boys will know how to cook for themselves. I won't have a daughter-in-law coming to me and telling me their man can't take care of himself. Next thing they will all learn is LAUNDRY!
But I digress...
With this new found love of cooking, the homeschooling Mom took over (with Dad's creative insight as well!) and decided to take school into the kitchen. First up....The Egg!

Specifically....The Egg White! What better way to teach about proteins and amino acids in egg whites, than Meringue Cookies!! Mmmm...Mmmmm
Here's Liam giving those egg whites a good whipping.

And here are the fruits of his labor, or I should say the cookies of his labor. We may have let them cook a little too long but they were still tasty little numbers. They tasted a bit like a nice toasted marshmallow. The Egg, Part 1....success!

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's the small things in life....

It is really the small things in life that bring us the most joy....right? I have been reflecting on my own blog title and realizing that I need to practice what I preach, so to say. Today does NOT seem like a gift. It seems more like a practical joke.

In the past few weeks I've noticed evident spikes in my stress level during certain moments of the day. Unfortunately, those moments are frequent and close together (I was trying to figure out the opposite of "few and far between!) Those moments happen to be........schooling my eldest!!! Particularly during times where he has to actually listen to me! He has a problem with that. We bump heads so many times during the day that it's a miracle neither one of us has a concussion.

So I must turn to the small things in life. Is it possible to find comfort in that cup of Oolong tea? Can 20 minutes of peace compensate for the last 6 hours of debates, arguements and head-butting? Or perhaps my newest addiction, Trader Joe's Non-Fat Plain frozen yogurt, can bring balance to the force. Thank you Jenilee for introducing me to this delightful little concoction. This yogurt with fresh raspberries is a little scoop of heaven. Ahhhh...I'm pretending that I don't hear any kids right now!

We're Back!

Wow! That was a very long hiatus from this blog. I have to admit, I completely shut down from all things "homeschool" over the Summer. It was a much needed break to help rejuvinate and re-energize my mind for these kiddles. I don't mind telling you....these boys wear me out!
But enough of my complaining, we are now back at it with full steam. I'm really trying to let "life" happen this year. If you know me at all, you know of my desire to have STUFF to show that we actually did something. I was this way as a kid. It wasn't enough to read a good book when I was little. I also needed to write that title down in my very cute Hello Kitty notepad so I could show everyone else I had read the book. Even though I still feel it is important to have the kids do WORK...I also want to be content in letting us live and learn through all that surrounds us. Even if it isn't something I can write down in my Hello Kitty notebook.

So here is Simon this morning...making his now famous, Pancakes. But I gave him a challenge. I asked him to make them while adding something NEW to his recipe. After a quick discussion of how Peppermint extract would make a pancake taste, he settled on Cocoa. But no pancake of Simon's is complete until a little food coloring is added. Today he chose blue, his favorite color. Now just imagine brown pancakes with blue food coloring. Yum!

A few weeks ago we blew off school to do a little Letterboxing with friends. It was very fun! The best part was getting lost in the woods. It took 3 times as long to get back to the car as it was to find the letterbox. That will teach the Moms to chat so much and not watch where we are going!

Prior to this trip, the boys took some time to carve some of their own stamps. I already knew Quinn would need a little help since I wasn't willing to let him use a sharp utensil for carving. He gave explicit instructions as to what he would like on his stamp. I personally think I did a fine job!! What do you think?

Quinn's Stamp!

The next week we went apple picking with our homeschool group. We love this group of people! They are fantastic! I feel like the boys are starting to make "Homeschool" friends. It helps so much. Liam is having a very rough start to the school year and making friends is easing his resentment a bit.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Silly Liam

Liam loves to be silly. He doesn't always know when to stop, but he definitely has a passion for being the home clown (I can't say "class clown" since I'm a homeschooler!)
A few weeks ago we did a small study on Picasso and his cubism. We decided to do self portraits in this style. I love Liam's interpretation of cubism. His artistic side is always fascinating to me. He doesn't get it from me!

Have you all heard of the book "The Dangerous Book for Boys?" Or how about "The Encyclopedia of Immaturity?" I would have to say that these are Liam's daily reference materials. He's got them dog-eared and ready to go at a moments notice. Not sure what book this idea came from, but it was fun running into "the leg" for a few days. We never knew where it would end up. Under doors, windows, couches, desks.....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Homeschool Home Economics

It's Spring and we have seriously fallen off the Homeschool wagon. If I am honest, I can look back and realize this happens every year about this time. The enthusiasm I had in September is no longer there in April. So to feel better about my kiddos' education, I look back on pictures to make sure we are doing "stuff". And then I get very creative and take that "stuff" and call it school!!! So today is Homeschool Home-Ec day. My kids are cleaning, baking, whining, cleaning some more, whining some more, cleaning some more! It's great.

Here are Simon and Quinn washing the BWT (Big White Truck.) I was such a great Mom. I didn't supervise this adventure one bit. In fact I have yet to go out to the car and see what a great job they did. I'm sure it is spotless.

Home Economics would not be complete without some cooking. Here's Simon whipping up some dried banana chips. These turned out very yummy. I'm always amazed though, at how much time drying fruit takes....and then my boys gobble it up in no time. I have dreams of seeing all this home dried fruits in cute little mason jars all lined up in my pantry. But they never even make it to the pantry. At least I know they are enjoying some dried fruit without all that added junk. Maybe I need one of those mega-12 rack dehyrdrators instead of my measly 4 tray dehydrator. That would be a question for my Green and Crunchy contact, Sheri!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Liam's comics, installment 1

This must be "Brag about Liam" day. Boy would he love that.
Liam has been drawing comics for quite some time now. As I post Liam's comics, you'll see a lot of similarities between his comics and those of Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes. Those are his favorites. He burns through those books. I just love that he has such a great hobby. I'll admit that much of the humor is lost on me. And I'll admit that I don't always "get" them. But I love them still the same.

We just got a scanner on sale the other day so Liam is now experimenting with scanning his comics and coloring them with a Paint type program on the computer. The results are great. He's doing a fantastic job. Here are his first 2 that he completed on the computer.

Burns' Night 2009

Every year, my mother-in-law, treats her Scottish husband to a night of total Scottishy things. She does this by celebrating Robert Burns, Scotland's most treasured poet. Some of you may have heard of him, others probably not. The only thing that seems remotely familiar to me is "your love is like a red, red rose"....or something like that. I personally believe it is just an excuse for people to get together, get drunk, eat haggis (because when else would you eat haggis) and write silly poetry. Good times! Really it is. We enjoy it every year.
This year, Liam by far, wrote the most creative poem. He was inspired by an ABC song written by The Barenaked Ladies. We had recently heard this song on the XM kids chanel and we all found it quite entertaining. Liam rewrote it, inserted his own special humor, and the result was a fantastic poem. Here it is.

A, is for aardvark. B, is for bleach.
C, is for chalkboard, for someone to teach.
D, is for dropping, a deuce.
E, is for exceptionally mediocre or loose.
F, is for floccinaucinihilipipificate,
and G, is for Georgia, a southeastern state.
H, is for her, and him, and he.
I, is for I, oh gee, what irony.
J, is for jackpot, you’ve hit it right in the spot.
K, is for kicking, that really hurt a lot.
L, is for licking, like slurp or pow,
and M, is for moo the noise of a cow.
N, is for nausea. O, is for 1, 2, 3.
P, is for pie, a food that’s very tasty.
Q, is for earthquake, if you leave out the earth.
R is for rhombicosidodechahedron, that’s a shape with some girth.
S, is for shut up, I’ll do that in a minute.
T, is for tub, with a couple folks in it.
U, is for umpire, now let’s play ball.
V, is for vacant, this is a free stall.
W, is for Winn-Dixie, full of cheapskate mothers.
X, is for xtreme, I couldn't think of any others.
Y, is for yip-yap, this song is full of it too.
Z, is for Zs, now it’s time to catch a few.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Christmas - Homeschool Fun

So, how many homeschool Mom's out there love the holidays because you feel every cookie made, decoration created, present wrapped, can somehow be categorized as "school!". It was craft central around here and I loved it.

First stop was gingerbread men. This is one of those activities that a mother hates but does only because she knows how much kids love decorating cookies. These poor men were so gooked up with frosting gel and M&M's that I'm sure I heard little gingerbread screaming in the background.

Here's Quinn helping with the baking while wearing Spiderman swim trunks. Tis the season!

I had no idea a child could decorate cookies and 'rock' at the same time.
Next stop...a paper tree. Believe it or not, the kids came up with this idea and then Mom and Dad provided the technical assistance. We have this blank wall in the family room that was screaming for some attention. The kids decided it needed a Christmas tree.

I think I was trying out soap-making that evening so Roy took it upon himself to create a design for the tree. We were all doubtful on its success but he definitely proved us wrong. The tree was adorable. We even put presents under it when it got closer to Christmas.

My special project this winter was the Snowman garland. Simon and Quinn were the helpers this time. I think I'll leave this one up all winter.

We had so many plans for the holidays that kept getting messed up with either weather or illness. We had hoped to get to the Zoo lights and to the Gingerbread House display at Franklin Park Conservatory. The only place we did manage to get to was COSI. The kids and I had fun that day. I love this picture of all of them there. They actually look like the love each other!!

This COSI guy was great. He got right down on the ground with the boys and showed them an experiment to explain shooting stars. Very cool. Finally a demonstration we hadn't seen before.