Somewhat Muddled Musings

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We are Rainmakers

We started our science project for this week, and before we knew it, it was already 1:30 - I wish all of our school days flew that fast!!

We've been studying clouds and rain, so decided to make a cloud mobile. However, Mom did not follow the directions well (recurring theme?) so our mobile really didn't do well. We improvised by creating a wall hanging of sorts on a post in the dining area.
Cloud Mobile - wall hanging
  • Use posterboard to create vague cloud shapes
  • Use cotton balls to mimic the structure of a cloud. You can do both sides of the posterboard as one side dries for a 3-d effect. Use puffy balls for cumulus cloud arrangements, small bits of cotton ball spread thin for cirrus clouds. Nimbus is a smaller cumulus arrangement. Stratus clouds are pulled thin, but not whispy. use as many of the formations as you are studying - we stuck to the main 4, and added the cumulonimbus as that is their favorite kind of cloud.
  • Punch a hole in the posterboard and string onto a dowel, using fishing line or thin string. Make sure to hang each formation in it's appropriate place in the sky -cirrus clouds will not hang down as far as stratus since they are high elevation formations.
  • An alternative arrangement would be to do the posterboard on only one side, and then place on a wall or display board.
  • we decorated our nimbus/cumulonimbus clouds with punch dots glued to fishing line, construction paper lightning, and cotton ball whisps made into tornados. We also used a marker to color the bottom of those formations to mimic what they look like for rain, to help make them look more realistic.
Enchanted Learning has a great unit for additional cloud information for the lower elementary set.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Wrap up 1/22/10

This week was hit and miss with a lot of things.

Hit: Lots of Science which the boys love - and included seed shopping!
Miss: My house..a wreck

Hit: Trip to the Lucky Layla Dairy farm - which sells raw milk!!! And has some of the best dipping caramel I've ever tasted. But can you imagine having to spend $7/gallon on milk? Sometimes, really makes me thankful that I don't even like the stuff and that it doesn't like me, though the lady running the tour of the farm said that many lactose intolerant folks can drink raw milk without issue.

Miss: Trip to the farm - hated seeing animals treated in a manner that makes me so uncomfortable. They tie up their calves from just after birth for 11 weeks until they're ready to be released to the fields. I know there is a reason to keep them separated from their mommas, but to see them stuck in the same spot for almost three months made my heart hurt. But here's one of the cute ones that had just been released into the holding pen and about to be released to pasture. There are about 20 cows ready to give birth at any time, so we may be driving by often in the next month or so trying to catch a birth!
Hit: Watching Connor take to latch hooking like his great-grandfather. Grandpa used to do a lot of needlework, which men (for the most part) just don't do. We have samples of his handiwork all over the house and in Baga's room. I love seeing it. So it warms my heart to see how much Connor has taken to this form of handiwork. He's finished two full stripes just a few days later. It helps keep his hands busy and his brain focused, especially when we're doing read alouds.

Miss: Medicaide/Insurance/Bureaucracy - 'nuff said.

Hit: Losing 15 lbs! I'm really thankful for the use of the gym at the dojo when the boys are in class. And I've been using the Wii a lot more.

Miss: that bag of funyuns last night - though Russ claims it's one of the 'healthier' bad chip snack foods that we can eat. I'd be just fine if he'd stop bringing them into the house! But, I married a salty crunchy guy who needs it every once in awhile. He just needs to start hiding the bags.

We had a fun Monday off with Connor attending the bowling party @ the local place with all of his church friends, while Aiden and I had a date, getting ice cream and then doing a tour of independent garden shops planning for our garden. We purchased a great seed viewer @ Wells Brothers
They were kind enough to give us some fresh carrot and pea seeds, which we then planted on Tuesday. Last night, one of the peas has already started it's first root.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What We Ate Last Night

I love my Google Reader. I had such a hard time following blogs, trying to check up who posted when, etc., and I'm not fond of the built-in RSS reader. One other benefit is reading a ton of great blogs I would've never bothered with before..some on food, homeschooling, preparedness, homesteading and crafting.

In my reader the other day was this lovely recipe for Chicken Vindaloo. I love Indian food, but Russ hasn't fully come over to the side, just because he hasn't been exposed to it. The boys really haven't had much of it at all. One of Russ' favorite tv characters, Dave Lister from Red Dwarf, always ate chicken vindaloo all the time. So...we tried it out last night from the recipe we found in Chaos in the Kitchen. What made it doubly great is that it was a slow cooker meal!

Slow Cooker Chicken Vindaloo (adapted from Chaos in the Kitchen's recipe)

6 chicken breasts cut into strips (this was more than the original recipe called for, but it gave us leftovers for the weekend, and there was plenty of sauce for all the meat)
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger grated *
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or use a stick as original recipe calls for)
30oz can of tomato sauce (2C)
1/2 tbsp curry powder
1.5 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt (or salt to taste)
fresh cilantro

Optional: cubed potatoes
2C fresh green beans
other veggies

Serve over noodles or rice with naan bread or any other flatbread

* I keep a 'hand' of ginger in the freezer at all times, and just grate it into whatever recipe I need. No need to thaw.

Lay chicken breast into bottom of crockpot with onion, garlic and cinnamon on top. Add rest of spices into tomato sauce and mix, then pour over chicken pieces.

We omitted the green beans from the original recipe as I knew my crew probably wouldn't like it, and served them on the side. But you can add other veggies as your stomach desires. A non-typical version has cubed potatoes which we'll try next time.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, julienned.

I cooked on high for about 1 hour, then low for 2.5 hours. It was easy to put together, tasted great (though mr. pickypants wouldn't have anything to do with it).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Retraining our palettes

I have a problem not having a bread for breakfast. It's how I was raised, how my palette thinks it received adequate nutrition (so that I'm not grazing an hour later for something to chew), and what my boys really like. We do go the Lender's bagel route, and for years, just purchased the onion flavored ones. Then, when trying to begin to make the switch to healthier alternatives of what we loved, we made the switch to 100% whole wheat Lender's bagels. We loved them immediately, and didn't miss the onion flavored ones (which is really a mask to cover what is coming).

I ran out of my freezer stock of them, and our local store has been out the last two times I've gone in to pick some up. So, I finally broke down and got the white they were out of any other option we'd actually eat (raisins do not belong in baked food items, ever.). This morning, we had them, and ICK! I'd forgotten how awful white bread can be, especially in big lumps. I was happy to see that our palette for white bread has changed, and that in this case, we actually do prefer the heartier whole wheat alternative. The boys have stopped complaining about not having white bread for sandwiches any more - even Russ now chooses healthier alternatives when he's picking up a loaf for me.

I know when we'd made attempts in life before to lose weight, one of Russ' biggest drawbacks to eating healthier foods was that they just didn't taste as 'good' as the fast food he was so used to eating. The salt, fat, and MSG added just didn't compare to veggies and things I prepared at home. This time round, it's been really different. His palette has changed...he's been able to move away from most fast food and thinks it tastes awful. It reminds me of the Biggest Loser last night when a couple sat down to watch Jillian Michaels eat a typical meal for them. She just couldn't even gag the stuff down, yet they thought it tasted good.

Retraining is a big key! Now, if I could just retrain my body not to crave soda!

Monday, January 11, 2010

That does it!

That does it. Yesterday, when doing the grocery shopping, I noticed that every single loaf of reasonably priced 100% whole wheat sandwich bread contained HCFS (high fructose corn syrup) which we're really trying to get away from completely. The loaves that did not contain HFCS were running pretty high prices, and our family goes through a lot of loaf bread. SO...I'm now ready to tame my yeast demon and get on the bread making wagon.

My other concern is how long store brought 'healthy' bread can actually last...and that can't be healthy for us. I'll make a confession here. We have a pile on our kitchen countertop that is a monster. Things can get lost in it. 1/4 of a loaf of bread was lost in it while we were on holidays for Christmas this year. It was a 100% whole grain bread from a major manufacturer that had been bought about a week before we left. So this bread was over 3 weeks old...and no sign of mold or mildew or anything looking like it had aged. That worried me...the amount of chemicals and preservatives that are in the ingredients list is one of those things we're really trying to move away from.

My biggest thing has always been proofing yeast - I'm so not getting it. Friends laugh at me (Veda & Karah - I'm talking about you!!) at how something so easy seems to be such a chore for me, but I mess up even the most basic bread roll or pizza dough recipes.

So this is my tame the yeast monster, conquer it, and put it to good use.

This will be one of my go-to sites because I love the idea of having a starter in the fridge all the time. I'm not sure how it'll translate to our kind of bread use for everyday baking, but it's a path in the right direction for me.

Any tips or hints? Good whole wheat/whole grain breads for everyday use?

My thought is to pull out the bread machine, let it proof and rise the bread, then pull it to bake in the oven so we can have more 'usual' sandwich/toast shaped bread for our days, and do artisan breads a few times a week for dinner, etc. Thoughts? Help? Steer me in the correct path!