Monday, February 28, 2011

Three Bears in the Kitchen

William decided this evening that he wanted to cook dinner for the family. Thomas and Michael jumped right on board as his assistants. On the menu: spaghetti with marinara sauce, mixed vegetables, and fruit cabobs.

William stirring the pot.

Thomas rinsing the pasta.

Michael skewering the fruit.

The final presentation. Nice!
It was a good meal, made even better by the fact I got a break from cooking!

Thank you, boys!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Homeschool Art Show

First of all, I have to send out a big, huge THANK YOU to Christin for putting this together. "This" was an art show for our local homeschool group. Kids from nine different families participated, and Christin graciously turned her livingroom into an art gallery for the occasion.

Second, I have to say I was impressed with the variety of submissions from the kids. No two artists used the same media or technique or style, and there was quite a bit of thinking outside the box, such as BooBoo Bear's submission, "Mr. Balloon Head"...

This past Christmas BooBoo had picked out our "new" lighted decoration for the lawn, and some scoundrel(s) stole 2/3 of it on the second night it was out. Only 2/3, because the legs were very firmly staked into the ground, not conducive to a "snatch and grab" decor theft. BooBoo was so upset over the matter, that he insisted on keeping the legs. He added one of his hoodies, a flexible plumbing pipe (the arms), two kid-sized golf clubs (to operate the legs), and a happy balloon head. A masterpiece!

Display of artwork.

T-Bear's "virtual" LEGO creation.

BroBear's portrait of Papa Bear.

The artist's wall.

One of my favorites....Nic's rain painting.

H's town square.

RobotSon created a stop-motion music video featuring LEGO characters.

Grace's daughter's paper doll wardrobe.

The awards ceremony.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Typically Random Day

Okay, show of hands. All of you full-time, at-home parents out there: How many times in your full-time parenting career have you been asked the question, "Yeah, but what do you DO all day?" Kind of annoying, idn't it?

Those of us who happen to homeschool at least get a bit of a break as most people envision homeschooling as some sort of intensive school-at-home operation that takes at least as many hours per day as the local public school does (it doesn't), but it's a trade off because we have to deal with the same tired old question, "Yeah, but what about socialization?" But, that's a topic for another post.

In answer to the the first question, here's a quick look at my typically random day yesterday.

My day started out pretty quietly, with reading The Omnivor's Dilemma in bed. Don't mistake this for a bit of "light reading"; it will make you want to change everything about the way you feed your family. And, I read for the umpteenth time The Velveteen Rabbit to BooBoo (his current absolute favorite read). And the first chapter of Anne of Avonlea to T-Bear.

After hubby'd had his tubby, I slipped in for a quick wash-up (sharing baths saves on water and gas for heating said water) and got dressed. Then, downstairs I made summer squash soup.

Post-boiling, pre-puree'ing.

BooBoo Bear, my kitchen helper.

The finished product. Yes, it was quite lovely.
The past couple of weeks I've gone nuts making fresh soups of every description I can think of. Some have been not-so-great, but most have been fabulous. As the first "meal" of the day (we don't really do breakfast), it really gets me feeling good, and just bustin' to get outside and into the garden. Hubby agrees. The kids, not so much, though BroBear has been raving about just about every soup I've made, as long as he can follow it up with at least to PBJ's.
After we'd had our fill, I put the rest into ice cube trays and froze them for Mimi (she's been recovering from surgery, so we're bringing her soups for light, easy meals). I also negotiated a composting co-op with her whereby we combine our kitchen and green waste, and our two composters, to see if we can get a little compost factory going. We'll use my composting bin to "collect and hold", then transfer to her tumbling composter to compost the batches. We both had terrible luck with the tumber getting far to wet, and I couldn't get the bin to compost completely. So, hopefully we can strike just the right balance to get some good compost going.
BooBoo decided he wanted to plant some spaghetti squash in "his" garden, so we put the seeds onto a paper bag out on the table on the back deck to dry.

BroBear and BooBoo both decided they wanted to grow avocado trees (even though neither will allow an avocado to pass their lips, and I doubt they will thrive in our area). A few days prior, two pits from a previous meal were skewered with toothpicks and put into jars of water on the window sill (has anyone else ever done that?). I decided they were not getting enough sunlight, so moved them to the back deck. Made a mental note that BooBoo's pit was up-side-down, so I can point out the difference between the two plants when (if) they sprout.

I spent about an hour in the "yarden", tending to the newly-sprouted irises (weeding, composting and mulching), and finished mulching the bulbs I'd transplanted last week. I actually used the mulch PapaBear and the Cubs made last weekend with the chipper/shredder, which was cool. It got me thinking all about "suburban ecology" and the importance of re-investing nutrients taken from your property's soil back into your property's soil, rather than throwing it away in the green waste bin or (goodness gracious) burning it in the back yard.

Somewhere throughout the day, the kids did some "learning". We take a relaxed, eclectic approach to home learning, with a healthy dose of TJEd thrown in. Student interest-directed, lots of reading, and a bit of on-line computer learning for good measure.
Although I don't count this type of thing as "studies" (the State of Georgia does have it's standards, even for homeschoolers), I consider these types of project to be at least as valuable as academics, if not more so. Bro and BooBoo joined forces to create this elaborate ramp, which BroBear mastered on his scooter (the helmet was an intensely negotiated qualifier, thus the slightly "tween" look on Bro's face at the end of the video).

Okay, let's see. Somewhere along the line we had afternoon snack, and I'd been tracking T-Bear's BG throughout the day. Overall, his BG has been drifting slightly upward, so upped his Lantus by 1u and was keeping an eye on him.
And, I grabbed some "left over" organic cotton yarn from my stash and started knitting a kitchen scrubby. Also in The Basket are a holiday stocking for Grace, a red bear for T-Bear (BTW the pattern can be found in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson recommended to me by Grace, and BooBoo is insisting on a bunny from the same pattern), and a sock for ME!.

This was inspired by Tanya's Paperless Kitchen. Last week I hid the paper towels in the pantry, and replaced them with this:

Do you like my sign? ;) We already have piles and piles of "clean up towels" in the kitchen for every assortment of disgusting clean-ups, as well as cloth napkins (though, probably not nearly enough for the entertaining we do).
I'd been having some difficulty getting my artisan bread to rise this winter, since I keep the house on the cooler side (to save gas) and we don't have a pilot on our gas stove. But, I came up with a solution. I put a cast-iron frier on the stove, heated it up, turned off the gas, and put the dough container near enough to it to benefit from it's long-radiating heat.

It worked. Ain't that lovely?

Since PapaBear went to the trouble of buying me a new baking stone (I have a knack for shattering them), I figure it's time to get back to baking bread. I compromised my "whole grain" standard by using all-natural, unbleached white flour because this bread just does NOT do what it's supposed to with whole wheat flour. Let's just say, this is one of our guilty pleasures.
Nana (MIL) arrived in the late afternoon (hem, Hubby, a little notice would have been good) to work on her taxes. It gave me the perfect opportunity to alternately chat, listen to Shakespeare's Sonnets for Classic Moms Book Club, and finish the first washcloth (which was immediately put to use in the kitchen).

PapaBear ordered Japanese for dinner from a local place, and picked it all up for this box, which kinda blows my mind.

And, after dinner we sat down for a game of Canasta. BroBear loves this game as much as Papa, Nana and I do (I'm all about Cut-Throat Canasta), and I love that he loves it. It's a fabulous way for the kids to learn complex addition...counting by combinations of 5's, 10's, 20's, 50's and 100' well as strategy. BroBear won the round, though I was only 150 pts behind (we both scored over 4,000...not bad considering I did not get a Wild Card Canasta).
And, thanks to Nana's card holders, I was able to finish up my second wash cloth while playing...

Yes, I AM a multi-tasking maniac. When I pulled out my camera to take this shot, Nana just about lost it.
So, that was just about the brunt of my day. Except that my day rarely ends when I go to bed. I had to take a wild guess at the carbs T-Bear ate for dinner and figure his insulin dose accordingly, because I couldn't find a carb count for tempura. And then check his BG more frequently than usual in case I mis-guessed.
About 1:00 am I woke up with Tempura Revenge and was sick for a few hours (sooooooo not used to fried food, and I wasn't the only one experiencing Fried Food Regret). Checking T-Bear's BG at 3:00 am he was too high to let slide (over 300), so I gave him a correction...which means I had to check again in 2 hours to be sure he didn't crash. Still high 2 hours later, but not so high I had to risk another correction (and possible crash). And, sleep simply would not come for more than 30 min at a time.
Got out of bed later than usual today, and tried to guide my family through the day today...but, really, mostly read and knitted. Some days are better, and more productive, than others.
So, what does this review of my day say to me? That I spend a lot of my time and energy on things that are not necessarily valued by our modern industrial society.
Things like reading to improve oneself and one's understanding the world. Reading aloud for hours at a time to our children, so they develop a love of learning and exploring and understanding and literature and their human history.
Saying "yes" to a child's need to build something on their own, to master the use of tools, and to show off what they have accomplished. Supporting children in exploring what may very well become a passion in their lives.
Baking bread from scratch, making soups from fresh ingredients, and supporting a beloved friend through her recovery by delivering said fresh soups so my friend knows that she is loved, and so my children, hopefully, will develope the compassion to do the same for others during their lifetime.
Putting aside the convenience of resource-killing paper products in favor of re-usable towels and cloths, which will have to be laundered ad-infinitum in a desperate attempt to keep up. Just because it's the responsible thing to do.
Combining my energy and attention with those of microbes and critters I can't even see to re-invest green matter back into our little patch of Earth in the form of compost, and recruiting others to help in the process. Showing as much love and attention and respect to our little bit of Earth as possible, so our kids will develope the same sense of reverence and awe.
And, so much more than I can express.
This is what I spend my life on. This is what I "do" all day... For just one day. Because tomorrow will most likely be completey different.
And, so do a dozen other parents I know personally, and dozens more through the internet.
We're all out there, every day, doing what we do everyday, whether we are acknowledged or not.
Because, what we do is IMPORTANT, whether we are acknowledged or not.
So, Rock on! I'm right there with you, and I KNOW what YOU do everyday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So, What ARE We Eating? - Vegan Burritos

These absolutely rocked!

Kitmama found the recipe from SophistiMom, and we combined cooking forces last night for dinner. Rather than freezing them for future use, we immediately fried them in a little bit of olive oil (don't you just love that lovely golden crispiness?), and we used both flour tortillas and whole wheat tortillas. And, we opted for my Fresh Avocado Salsa rather than the recommended guacamole.
And, yes, they were just as good as a day-after lunch!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three Bears for Safe Births

These little guys got delivered to Grace today to be put into Safe Birthing Kits for Craft Hope's Konbit Sante service project.

"Weeeheeee! We're goin' to Haiti, baby!"

"Ready to go!"
Grace was kind enough to coordinate our local homeschool group's putting together five Safe Birthing Kits for the project, sew the tote bags all the supplies will go into (above is the tote she made for me for our trip across country), and mail everything off. Kit made two adorable little knit zebras. Maria made receiving blankets, and Christin and Paige contributed the rest of the supplies.
Thank you, Grace, for bringing this project to our attention, and getting it all together!

Monday, February 21, 2011

More Random Snow Pix

No, it did NOT snow again. Mimi very kindly sent these to me today (taken Jan 10th) and they made me here they are.

Papa Bear snowboarding on tobaggon.


BroBear snowboarding.

BooBoo saucering.

Mimi's hubby and granddaughter.

BooBoo's pure joy.

Mimi's hubby...more pure joy.

Yep, that's me.

Cutie Patutie.


BroBear returning up the hill.

More BooBoo Joy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

So, What ARE We Eating? - Day-After Tacos

The other night I made black beans and rice, and we had some left over. For lunch I spooned the rice/bean mix into corn tortillas and fried them up for crispy tacos. No cheese or sour cream. Dipped into guacamole, they were fabulous. And, the kids even ate 'em ;)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Spanish Rice

Grace asked about my Spanish rice recipe. As with everything else I cook, the recipe is pretty loose and I mess about with it considerably. But, it looks pretty much like this:

2 c brown rice
water as directed
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can tomato paste
2-4 tsp chili powder
2-4 tsp paprika
2-4 tsp cumin
2-4 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste

Yeah, I know, that's pretty loose with the seasonings, but it really depends on how much "flavor" you want. Our kids lean towards not spicy, so I go easier than I would if it were just for adults. I usually go with the 2 tsps of each, and then adjust after tasting. And, don't overlook the does make a difference in the overall taste.

Sometimes (if I have time) I will "brown" the rice in some olive oil before I add the water and other ingredients. Otherwise, just cook it the way you would usually cook your rice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

So, What ARE We Eating? 2

The other night we had fish tacos. Two large pieces of cod poached in lemon and lime juice with a little bit of salt, pepper and garlic powder; break the cooked fish up in smaller pieces so everyone can get the amount that will fit in their corn tortilla. Top with Fresh Avocado Salsa and little bit of shredded lettuce. Home-made Spanish rice and some refried beans on the side, and you're all set.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Weekend of Gardening

No, I haven’t let Mother Nature fool me into thinking that Winter has passed and Spring is here. I’m wise to her wily ways. But, the weather was lovely enough, it was a great opportunity to get outside and get some basic maintenance done.

I always start out the growing season with lots of vim and vigor. Some years I stick with it and we get a nice garden. Some years (like last year), I get everything planted and set, remember to pluck fresh herbs and produce from the garden when I’m cooking, but never seem to get around to the maintenance part. You know, like fertilizing, weeding, raking, pruning, mulching. That kind of thrilling stuff.

This weekend I left the heavy lifting to Papa Bear. Saturday he rented a chain saw and took out the dead apple tree on the side of the house. The local Sapsucker population had been sucking the poor thing dry for years before we bought the place, and it finally succumbed to the arboreal leeches. The Cubs helped haul the branches and trimmings out to the front driveway, and Papa Bear got the whole thing cut into firewood-length logs, with miscellaneous stuff stacked ready for chipping. With the apple tree gone, it opens up some possibilities for gardening in the side/back yard. We’re going to keep an eye on that area and see what the sun patterns are like.

I focused on the herb garden. We’ve got some survivors from last year, which is great. Last spring’s survivors gave us some nice pickin’s, particularly the chives. This year’s survivors include chives (again), rosemary, oregano, sage and thyme. I left the plant name labels in place last year, so I know what’s what, and where we might still get a surprise or two. I carefully raked away the leaf mulch from the fall (my garden helper, T-Bear loaded the leaves into the garden cart for me) and dumped them in the spot we intend to build a new leaf-mulching-composting-gig in the back, and pulled weeds. I spread a nice layer of compost over the entire garden, including the strawberries, and worked it in a bit, then added a layer of cypress mulch (left over from last year).

The strawberries have been proliferating since their planting last year.
I did some much-needed pruning of the hydrangeas under the magnolia tree, and trimmed back the lower bit of the magnolia to make a little more space. Then de-cluttered the base of the hydrangeas, fertilized with compost, and topped with mulch.

Last but not least, I tended the bulbs which are currently pushing their little shoots out. Again, removing leaf mulch, loosening up the underlying cypress mulch (how I love to mulch!), feeding with compost, and topping with fresh mulch (the whole loving mulch thing again). From last year, we should be getting snowdrops, daffodils, hyacinth, daylily and tulips.
My final gardening act was to put up a cute little white trip-em-up fence as a gentle reminder to folks to STOP WALKING THROUGH THE FRICKEN’ GARDEN! Of course, certain small people in my family may simply take it that they will earn extra points for “difficulty” while hopping through the obstacle course they take my garden to be. I won't name names, here, but two out of three Cubs qualify.
My desperate attempt to keep everyone from tromping through my herb garden!
Yesterday after an hour of patiently and lovingly caring for my herb garden, while simultaneously very patiently reminding any number of children to please NOT walk through the garden, and another half hour of screeching “STOP WALKING THROUGH THE GARDEN!” loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear from within their homes, I let slip the term “MoFo” aimed directly at my beloved husband after he intentionally stomped (carefully) through my garden “just to mess with you”. It definitely was not one of my finest marital moments. I am still debating whether or not my terminology was or was not entirely warranted. But, apparently he forgave me (and showed appropriate self-reproach) because I received a bouquet of roses in a really LARGE wine glass held by a tux-bearing bear, and heart-shaped box of truffles with appropriately loving card as an early Valentine’s Day gift. Love my hubby ;)

Oh, yeah, and speaking of compost…. My compost pile is a sad, sad mess of uncomposted matter. I have proven to be a miserable composter since moving to GA. I thought I was going to beat the compost beast by spending too much money on a fancy compost tumbler, but I gave up after several months of having WAAAAY too wet mush coming out of it and passed it on to Mimi with my best wishes for compost success. I then reverted to my previously tried-and-true cube composter, but have failed in my composterly duties by not turning it enough (and generally just ignoring it). As a result, I find myself in the position of having to pull the whole thing apart, shuffle it around, and start over. But, not today.

Today, I had a stroke of brilliance. Since I had some nicely composted material wedged in with uncomposted egg shells (we could not POSSIBLY have eaten THAT many eggs!) and other inert matter, I was fully prepared to beg Papa Bear to stop in the middle of whatever he was working on and build me a little compost sifter to wean the chaff from the grain, so to speak. Well, while digging through the garage looking for a missing gardening tool (ain’t there way too many of those?), I happened to spy a plastic milk crate full of “stuff”. Hmmmm, I thought, the square holes in that crate are just about the right size for a compost sifter…which I need. So, I carefully transferred (okay, dumped) the contents of the crate into a box sitting in the garage, and, viola! I had a compost sifter!

But, the REAL genius of this inspiration is that I had already grabbed some unused recycling bins and pressed them into service as garden bins for collecting weeds and hauling smaller amounts of compost and mulch to and fro. And, the milk crate fit PERFECTLY inside one of the recycling bins! It was Providence, I swear! So…

My bin of way chunky, not completely composted matter…

...went through the milk crate…
...and gave me not-perfectly-composted-but-definitely-workable compost…

...and the remaining rejects…

...get dumped back into the composter. Once I get it re-set-up. Which I will do another day, ‘cause I’m BUSHED!

So, that’s it for this week. Next week…keep watching for bulbs and tend to them as they poke up. Try desperately to weed the rest of the front planter so I can use it for something PURDY. And transfer the green spear-like thingies still surviving in the veggie garden into the rest of the front planter. Whatever they are, they’re pretty friggin’ hardy, because they’ve survived the entire winter (three…or was it four…snows, and dozens of hard freezes) while being NOT planted in the ground…just sitting on top where I abandoned them last year not wanting to really figure out where to put them. I THINK they might be irises… I really should plant them and find out ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

So, What ARE We Eating?

You all pretty much know what we're trying to avoid eating. So, what, exactly, ARE we eating? I'll try to post some of our "successes" as they come along...not so much the failures ;)

First and foremost, thanks to KitMama for making this dish for us on our first "vegan" Tuesday Night Family Movie Get-Together. I would be cautious about billing it as "Mac & Cheese", because it doesn't taste the same, but would totally be billed as a great "pasta dish". And, learn from my mistake and avoid being stingy on the blending time...

Give it a whirl. Doesn't take much longer than regular baked Mac & Cheese, and is really, really tasty!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Report Card

This morning I girded my loins, took a deep breath, and reported T-Bear's numbers to the Endo.

I'm always a little anxious about reporting his numbers because we're not exactly the "ideal" D-Family. We don't eat at regularly scheduled times, usually skip breakfast (we don't even get out of bed til 10:00), and I don't force the kids to eat when they're not hungry. While we're very comfortable with our family's food life in general, it looks a bit different when your eating habits are being expressed in bald numbers, right there in black and white. To their credit, the CDE's at our Endo's office have NEVER given me a hard time about any "deficiences" in T-Bear's reports.

But, this was the first report made since our dietary changes, and I've been doing a lot of tweaking of numbers myself since our last report over a month ago (that in itself causes me to wince). I was half-expecting to be grilled about these "changes" and what the heck I was feeding T-Bear that so radically changed his BG. But, of course, the CDE was just as pleasant and supportive as they always are.

"I think you did the right thing lowering his Lantus and changins his ratios," is what she said. That's all I needed to hear. She wants me to lower is Lantus (AGAIN) down to 10 u, and drop his supper ratio from 1:10 to 1:8 (slightly more insulin per carb).

Overall, T-Bear's BG has been about equal parts on target, low, and high. But, he has not had any way-highs...nothing over 230. That's a big change from regular highs in the high 200's and low 300's. He's still going low during the night (thus the additional drop in Lantus tonight), but his lows haven't been as upsetting for him and they correct easily. From where I'm sitting, aside from having to get up every night to check his BG, it's pretty much all good.

And, Papa Bear has lost 20 lb without even trying. I'd bet his cholesterol has dropped into the normal range, too.

We're not what I would call "vegan" or even "vegitarian". I'm using little bits of meat, chicken, and dairy here and there, but most of our meals qualify as vegan. We're doing a red meat meal maybe once a week and fish a couple of times a week. We celebrated the SuperBowl with tri tip and grilled salmon, but opted for 6-layer bean dip with our chips rather than sour cream-based dips. MIL's fabulous broccoli salad did have some meat in it, but was easily picked out if needed. T-Bear's had may one or two small glasses of milk since our switch, and is fine with it. There's been a little grumbling from family members here and there (mostly from Brother Bear who's eating like a horse right now), but no revolt so far.

I think we're on the right track.

Oh, and I do have to say "thank you" to our friends who visit frequently and have been supportive of our dietary shift. Your willingness to accommodate "interesting" meal choices helps enormously. Love you all dearly!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Just Irritating

I just got an e-mail from Dean over at Dean's Beans. For those of you who don't know Dean and his crew, this is the group we get our Fair Trade organic coffee beans from. You know, that incredibly fabulous blend of beans that all the ladies swoon over when they come for Tuesday Homeschool Meet-Up. A nicer bunch of folks you'll not often come across in the coffee world. They guarantee their growers get a fair price for their coffee, support sustainable organic agriculture, work on community projects in the villages where their growers live, and still manage to sell us coffee at a decent price. And, to top it all off, Dean himself played a drunken pirate in one of the Pirates of the Carribean movies. Can't get a higher recommendation than that.

So, Dean and his crew do good works. He was called by PBS Biography offering to do a show on him and his group and the good works they do. Sounds great! Being spotlighted for being a social entrepreneur, bringing attention to an important issue for growers and coffee drinkers alike. What could be better?

But, it would cost Dean $22,000. Really. He would have to foot the bill to get his bio done.

Read Dean's letter here, and tell me if that isn't the most rediculous and disheartening thing you've least in the last 24 hours...