Friday, April 18, 2014

Random Thoughts: While the cake is cooling....


My week has flown by. Between a homeschool convention last weekend and sick boy for most of this week...Not to mention I'm at least a month behind schedule.

Enough complaining. I've got some Random Thoughts to share tonight. So while I'm waiting for a cake to cool so I can frost it (because I can't possibly be bothered with cleaning off that stack of odds and ends on my table), I'll do some rambling. Lucky you.

1. I love our local Homeschool Convention. Popular to contrary belief, I don't know everything.
Attending every year gives me a much needed boost of inspiration and is a healing balm for my weary mind. This parenting/homeschooling gig is tough stuff. Our Homeschool Convention is reasonably priced and just down the road a bit from me. Which makes it doable on many fronts. This year I was smart and wore comfy shoes. One of my best buddies also brought me a fanny cushion. I love her. My fanny was nicely cushioned all weekend. I think I need to start carrying one with me...for all those random fanny sitting moments.

2. This year the convention just so happened to coincide with the Color Run. 1000's of runners/walkers gathered in the grassy patch right next door the convention center. You could see the Tutus from a mile away. We did get a glimpse of the participants after they had been blasted. They kind of looked how I feel most of the time. A bit dazed and confused.

3. Wednesday morning Josiah woke up with snot. This wasn't ordinary snot. It was the never ending fountain of snot. He finally took to stuffing Kleenex up his nose. He also insisted that he was perfectly fine to go to swim team practice. He had a change of heart when I (graphically) explained the meeting of snot and pool water. His nose is still running. Though it is now more of a trickle and less like a gusher.

4. So I'm in charge of Easter desserts. I did volunteer. Mostly because I could make something I could eat. But here's the thing. I am not a baker. I have a few standbys I can manage without total disaster. However, Holidays are usually when I have the worst luck. I started my baking this afternoon. Along with supper. I had a coconut cake, chocolate cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting, chocolate chip cookies, twice baked cauliflower salad, pan fried fish and roasted brussel sprouts....all going at the same time. The real food was for supper. I need to maybe work on time management. Ya think?

5. Today's disaster involved the coconut cake. My go-to recipe is extremely rich and definitely not sugar free. I attempted to recreate it using more healthy ingredients. I was envisioning a tall, beautiful and luscious coconut cake. It didn't happen. About 7pm I was on my way back to the store. This time I got ingredients to make one of those old-fashioned poke cakes. They are hard to mess up. The jury is still out. It's the cake cooling on the counter. At least my other desserts turned out. .

6. Josiah insisted that he go with me. He made the chocolate chip cookies and has been my sous chef all evening. He told me that he needed to inspect the ingredients. I have a feeling it had more to do with snagging a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup at the checkout. He was disappointed. Mama don't play.

7. On our way to the store I pulled up to an old car. The whole engine was exposed. The car was as rusted as could be and loud. Very, very loud. There was a beautiful girl sitting in the passenger seat who, when we stopped at the stop light, looked over at me apologetically. I smiled at her as we silently commiserated over the clunkty-clunk of the old car. The driver was a young man who was probably her boyfriend. He had this "aw shucks" persona and practically beamed with satisfaction. Josiah couldn't stop staring. I could see stars in his eyes. "That car is cool," he said. As they drove away the girl put her hands over her ears. We could see a variety of wires and pipes hanging from the bottom of the car. It looked like one of those "do-it-yourself" battery kits. Josiah's already making plans for his cool, rusty car. I'm thinking I need to invest in ear plugs.

8. The Studly Muffin took Josiah on a bike ride today. They road 10 miles. I thought for sure that Josiah would be ready for a nice, long nap this afternoon. No such luck. That boy has more energy than the energizer bunny himself. I don't get it. He wears me out just looking at him. He will come home from swim team practice after doing consecutive 200s in the pool. And bounce of the walls. Remind me to tell you of the call we got last week one night about midnight. It seems someone was bouncing around in his room. And possibly reenacting the Revolutionary War. Or at least a Jedi battle.

9. Easter plans? We are heading to the farm tomorrow (Easter desserts in hand). The Muffin has some fishing on his mind and Josiah is anxious to meet up with the cousins. I would like to paint my toenails. Is that too much to ask? I wore flip flops today to the grocery store. I'm sure the state of my pedicure was enough to frighten small children. I'm such a girl.

10. Well. My cake is cool and it is time for phase 2. Frost the thing. I want to leave you with one of my favorite songs. It is one I can listen to not just for Easter, but all year long.  It is absolutely fantastic.

Have a blessed Easter weekend...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A TOS Crew Review: Curiosity Quest

We love documentaries at our house. We are kind of nerdy that way. Even better are the documentaries and videos that I can incorporate into our homeschool day. You see. I have this curious boy.

We just finished reviewing some great educational DVDs from (appropriately titled) Curiosity Quest. We received the DVD Combo Pack – Swimmers of the Sea (Sea Turtle Rescue, Penguins, Salmon) and the DVD Combo Pack – Produce (Mushrooms, Cranberries, Orange Packing).

What I Received 

So just a little about Curiosity Quest.

Curiosity Quest is a fun educational program that explores all kinds of topics based on viewer’s questions. Joel Green, the host, takes us (the viewer) on ultimate field trips all over the country. 

Curiosity Quest is all shown on PBS on stations throughout the country, as well. Each episode is 30 minutes long. I don't believe my local PBS station shows them so it was nice to be able to become introduced.

The DVD Combo Packs each come with 3 episodes on one disc and cost $24.95. They are intended for ages 7-14, but I have to say I enjoyed them as well. There is a Homeschool Annual Membership so you might check that out as well. 

How We Used Them

 I really enjoyed having these videos on hand. We watched them during breaks, for science, with friends, when Mama needed a nap….Josiah’s 12 so it’s not like he’s going to get into huge trouble if I decide to take a break, but still. He is 12 and I prefer him to spend his time in front of the television watching something that will educate.

Each video features live interviews with kiddos. Josiah wanted to know when they were coming to our city. I think he has some ideas of his own. Fair warning!

I thought I would give you a brief description of each video and give you Josiah’s thoughts. I told you he has some ideas.

In DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea, We explored sea turtles, penguins and salmon. ($24.95)

Turtle Rescue - We got to visit a Sea Turtle Hospital in Florida. First of all, Josiah wasn’t aware that there are hospitals just for turtles. He was impressed. He also got to watch this one with some friends. They were equally impressed with the turtle named Bubble Butt (true story). There were giggles for daayys over that one. Thank you, Joel.

Penguins – We took a fun trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Josiah said that this one was his favorite. Mainly because the penguins are so entertaining to watch. He would like one for a pet. No thank you. Though it might be an improvement on the Zebra he wanted when he was 7. Did you know that Penguins molt? It’s rather vicious. 

Salmon Hatchery – We went all the way to Alaska on this trip. Josiah learned that the salmon return to where they born to lay their eggs. He said it sounded like a lot of work! So is taking out the trash.  We have been to a fish hatchery, but the salmon are especially energetic. It was neat to see.

In DVD Combo Pack – Produce, we got to explore mushrooms, cranberries and oranges. ($24.95)

Mushrooms – We headed to the Monterey Mushrooms facility and got to see how mushrooms are grown and shipped all over the world. Josiah spent most of the episode with a scrunched up face. Fascinating, but he’s not touching one. He’s such a “fungi!” I personally love mushrooms. They apparently grow big and fast. Anybody want to go into mushroom farming with me? 

Cranberries – This time we went to a cranberry bog in Wisconsin. It’s cold there! Josiah thought maybe we could flood Papa’s field to grow cranberries. I had to explain that I didn’t think it would work out. Plus, the fields are flooded so that cranberries are easier to harvest.They really don't grow underwater.

Oranges Packing – This one was a fun one, too. We got to visit an orange grove. That was also a good lesson for us. We live in Missouri…not quite a good climate for growing oranges. We found out that an orange tree can produce a massive amount of oranges! Orange juice for life. There were so many steps the oranges had to go through before actually shipped to us. There is a black light that checks for mold after they are sprayed with chlorine. Maybe I need to use one of those here at the house. 

Here are a few more thoughts from Josiah: Straight from his mouth.

“When I heard the phrase “Combo Pack” I thought it would be like a regular combo pack. You know. The kind that has the Blu Ray, DVD and Digital Copy. I was surprised to see there was only one disk.” 

My response: Maybe you worry about that kind of stuff too much. Ya think? He is my future filmmaker (or weatherman…he hasn’t made up his mind yet). 

Speaking of weather. More from Josiah.

“It would be really cool if they made a Curiosity Quest video about Tornadoes. It would be hard to make. I would be up for that.”

“The guy talks to us like real people.” 

He is right. Joel Green is engaging, energetic and doesn’t talk down to the audience. He asks all the right questions. 

I personally enjoyed them and wish we had more in our library. They are worth having. They would be especially good for those of you who use Unit Studies. There is so much information in each one of these videos!
You can read more reviews by clicking the banner below. Curiosity Quest can also be found...

Click to read Crew Reviews

Friday, April 11, 2014

5 Days of Culinary Adventures for Boys: Wild & Peculiar Cooking

Years ago we lived outside Memphis, TN. Downtown Memphis featured a restaurant where you could go pick out your own steak and cook it on a massive grill. Along this grill was every seasoning known to man. Men stood around this grill armed with turning forks...sprinkling this and dashing that.

I never got the attraction. I let The Muffin cook my steak. I went out to eat...not to cook.

I think it was the Call of the Grill. Cooking in the elements holds a fascination for many. I want to give you a few challenges and resources to help your young man find his inner Wilderness Survivor.

1. This site (which made me pucker up...and not in a good way) has all manner of Wilderness eating. Just in case you ever want to eat a bug they will tell you how. Boys will undoubtedly find this fascinating.

2.  And in case you want to eat your bugs first here is a site (with illustrations) on how to build all kinds of cooking fires. I think it would be a good printable.

3. I thought this was cute. Cooking eggs in a paperbag.

4. Here is a video of Easy Emergency Wilderness Survival Food. Just in case you leave your campfire at home.

5. Just in case you don't have time to drag the boys into the wilderness you can find wild edible plants in your backyard.  Of course, when you start foraging you need to be sure you know what you are foraging for. All God's creations are not harmless....even if they are pretty.

6. I mentioned yesterday that I enjoy watching Depression Cooking with Clara. She talks in the video above about making a dandelion salad.

7. Some of my favorite meals are Hobo Meals. You can make these over an open campfire, on top of a grill or in the oven. You can find my post for Hobo Meals here. Try these at home with your guys. They will be a hit!

A really yummy campfire dish are Campfire Banana Boats

I want to discuss Peculiar Foods just for a minute.  If your son is like mine any food that is not a pancake, mac & cheese or comes from a fast food restaurant is a Peculiar Food. I promise that I've exposed the child to new and different things since he was able (to be exposed). Sometimes we just have those picky eaters.

Nevertheless, strange food is somewhat a fascination. Here is a challenge.

The challenge is to take your son to a store like The Dollar Tree and have him choose items that he is unfamiliar with along with some familiar things and make a dish.

It's amazing what they will be willing to try if it is there own creation!

I thought briefly I would take him to the Asian Food Market (which we love)...but I thought the Dollar Tree would be more contained and a little easier for me to assist (which I didn't need to).

He took this challenge very seriously and finally settled on the ingredients below.

He wasn't familiar with the pickled vegetables or asparagus tips. He decided that he would make a pasta salad. I was pleasantly surprised. However, I think he came up with this choice because he had helped me make a pasta salad a few weeks ago. This stuff made sense to him. I was also surprised he didn't make a beeline towards the canned fish.

He wanted a tomato in his salad and because he likes ranch dressing on his lettuce salads he decided to use it as the dressing to his pasta salad. 

He was pretty proud of himself.

It was actually quite yummy.

And if your guy is into the real peculiar foods the series Bizarre Foods is a fun one to watch. There are plenty of episodes on Youtube. I've included just a snippet of this one on Strange Bugs in Madagascar. I think your guys will get a kick of it. Mine did.

I've hope that you've gotten some inspiration this week from this series.

I am participating in a bigger blog hop. Check out some of the blogs below or click on the banner for even more.

 Beth @ Acorn Hill Academy ~ Nature Study
Aurie @ Our Good Life ~ Photography Tips and Tricks
Dinah @ The Traveling Classroom ~  Tips for Learning a Second Language
Julie @ Nurturing Learning ~ Art Resources
Tara @ This Sweet Life ~ Preparing for a New School Year
Sara @ Embracing Destiny ~ Purposeful Living
Beth @ Ozark Ramblings ~  Photoshop Elements for Homeschool
Hillary @ Our Homeschool Studio ~ Fitting in the Extras

April Blog Hop

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A TOS Review: Supercharged Science 2014

Josiah and I were given the opportunity to review the fantastic e-Science Program from Supercharged Science last year. It was really a great experience. I was excited to see my name on the list again for the Supercharged Science review again this year.

What I Received

I received a 6 month premium membership to the e-Science Learning Program from Supercharged Science. It is a monthly subscription service that gives the user accesses to a plethora of Science Units, which include lessons, videos, experiments and other valuable helps. Aurora Lipper is the genius behind the program. She is a former NASA Scientist whose contagious enthusiasm for all things “science” help make this program top-notch. 

Her engaging teaching-style along with fascinating content make the video lessons and experiments a highlight of the program. Supercharged is appropriate for K-12.

Here are the units available with the e-Science Program. 

Unit 1: Mechanics
Unit 2: Motion
Unit 3: Matter
Unit 4: Energy 1
Unit 5: Energy 2
Unit 6: Sound
Unit 7: Astrophysics
Unit 8: Chemistry 1
Unit 9: Light
Unit 10: Electricty
Unit 11: Magnetism
Unit 12: Alternative Energy
Unit 13: Thermodynamics
Unit 14: Electronics
Unit 15″ Chemistry
Unit 16: Life Science 1
Unit 17: Life Science 2
Unit 18: Biology 1
Unit 19: Biology 2
Unit 20: Earth Science

A couple of other units dealing with the study of science itself, science projects and math are also available.
The user will get access to 2 units per month, but we are guaranteed that we only need ask if we want access to a particular unit we haven’t yet accessed. I got access to all the content and Units on the site for the purposes of this review. 

Something new to the e-Science Program is that you can now see topics based on grade level. I actually really liked this. There are sooo many choices that last year I had trouble deciding what to tackle first. Though most would undoubtedly choose Unit 1 (duh), I really wandered all over the place. It’s a habit. 
I want to share some our Supercharged Science adventures this time around. 
I first went on the site and wandered (again). Then I asked Josiah to browse around and see what he thought he would like to study. He chose Earth Science and Meteorology. I should have known. He has plans to be a Meteorologist when he’s grown (or a Superhero). It also worked out that we started a weather unit in our little Co-op. Woo Hoo! 

Earth Science just happens to be Unit 20.  On the left of the main page for Earth Science are all sorts of options. It allows me to look at the shopping list of materials needed for the experiments, download the unit itself or just go to the reading, experiments and exercises as I need them. 

We chose to first start with the Lesson on Atmosphere. Of course! Here is a portion of the reading for the lesson.

Even the reading had a hands-on activity to try. One of the things I love about this program is that the experiments can be as simple or as advance as you need them to be.

It wasn't that hard to come up with a piece of paper for this activity. It was simple, yet made its point. 

One of the big pluses of  Supercharged Science are the quality videos that are provided. 

On this day we are attempting the impossible. Could this balloon fit into this mason jar? 

A little heat was applied to the situation. Any day Josiah can mess around with matches without dire consequences is a good day for him. 

We watched as the bottom of the balloon slowly sagged into the jar. 

Aurora has a terrific section on how to create a Scientific Journal. Courtney here is only in Kindergarten. We don't expect her to jot down astute observations.  She simply drew pictures of the experiment.

The girl has a future in illustrating scientific publications. I can feel it. 

Now, I expected a bit more from Josiah because he is 12. However, he is also dyslexic. I love that Supercharged Science emphasis the hands-on approach to Science. Josiah's Scientific Journal wasn't complicated, but he enjoyed the processes of keeping one because he could make it his own.

Here is one of the experiments we did at home. We also made a rain gauge on this day. Part of being a meteorologist is knowing the instruments.

We are a bit behind in our rainfall for the year, but Aurora even has a solution for measuring rain without rainfall. 

For this experiment, Josiah was testing to see if air really took up space!

 This was a fun one he completed all by himself. He found the materials and made it happen.

 For this experiment, we had help with our Co-op friends. 

We wanted to see if we could make it rain inside the jar. By the Way, this picture was taken weeks and weeks before the previous picture of Josiah in this shirt. You can tell because his hair is shorter in the first pictures (when he is wearing the shirt). He does have more clothing (I promise)...I think he just reaches for the closest thing...which is usually in his laundry basket. Back to the topic at hand!

And would you rained! Coolest thing ever...

The next lesson in the Earth Science unit is on Geology. But because we are going to be studying pond life for a time we might move over to Biology 1.  He's been looking at the videos and is really excited.  The first section is on Invertebrates. Good Stuff.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the additional material that I found to be so helpful on the Supercharged Science site. The Resources section has tremendous helps on actually teaching science. I mentioned this in my last review. This was so beneficial to me...primarily because learning Science in my own early school days wasn't actually a positive experience. I found it dull, dry and excruciatingly boring. I realized later that it wasn't that Science itself was was the way in which it had been taught.

Supercharged Science steers away from the lifeless and dull.

Just a few additional thoughts...

There is really a lot of material on this site. 100's and 100's of experiments and resources are available. If you are like me and get lost in the details I would recommend starting with the free Science Lessons available. It will get your feet wet. 

Right now Supercharged Science is offering full access to the e-Science Learning Program for $1. (for the next 30 days)

Pricing for the K-12 Plan (which is what I reviewed) is $57 a month. The K-8 option is available for $37.

All you need to utilize the program (other than the subscription) is a computer and a reliable internet connection. I didn't have to purchase any special equipment (though I have my eye on a microscope for the next Unit) and many of the experiments Josiah was able to complete on his own.

This program can be used as a supplement or as a stand alone science curriculum. There are even helps available to help you incorporate Supercharged Science into your box curriculum. 

Again...we had a great experience with Supercharged Science.

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