Daily life

It’s that time again…

Posted on September 25, 2011. Filed under: Daily life, Homeschool, kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Yep, back to school.  We actually started back in early August, so we have been at it for about 6 weeks now.  I think we’ve finally gotten our feet under us.  We changed quite a few things this year – the biggest being our start time.  Extra curricular activities have been keeping us out in the evenings more and more, so we gave in and moved bedtime back to 9:45.  Of course that means wake up time gets moved back too (necessary to minimize grumpiness, trust me).  So this year instead of starting school work at 8:30, we are starting at 10.

It isn’t as lackadaisical as it sounds.  We do chores before school starts, and chores have expanded this year.  We now have a mini farm on our property (more about that in another post) so chores include feeding all the animals.  And feeding ourselves, getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.

Anyway, on to curricula!  We added Latin this year, and started a new spelling program as well as a new logic program.  Oh, and another big change – we are using an online math program!  So far everything is going well, and we stuck with a few favorites from last year too so we have some familiar items.  Here’s our list:

  • math – EPGY online
  • spelling – Megawords and Spellquizzer
  • language arts – MCT island level
  • science – living books, Education Exploration, and The Happy Scientist
  • history – Story of the World 4
  • logic – Logic Countdown
  • latin – Songschool Latin and Latin for Children A
  • piano – lessons with dad
  • ag – swine, poultry, and rabbit study guides (borrowed from 4H)
  • pe – karate

We are really enjoying the online aspect of school this year.  EPGY has a great interactive math program.  Spellquizzer gives me the freedom to customize spelling word lists, even to record my own sentences to go with them, without all the games and extras of SpellingCity that were sometimes too distracting for my little guy.  Exploration Education is a series of dvds with experiment pack, so all the lessons are done on the computer, and The Happy Scientist is a website with awesome science videos that we use to supplement lessons (and sometimes just for fun 🙂 )  Our ag study guides were downloaded from the 4H site, so we view them online as well.  It has really helped reduce our paper waste, plus the little guy likes using the computer – his non school screen time is restricted – so he is more enthusiastic about a lot of his lessons this way.

Overall we are really enjoying school so far this year.  As we progress through the year I plan to review the different programs we’re using too, so stay tuned!

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New recipe ideas – and videos!

Posted on May 15, 2011. Filed under: Daily life, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

MyBlogSpark and Bisquick have put together a few recipe videos to show us lots of new ways to use Bisquick – it isn’t just for pancakes and biscuits!  This video tells you how to use Bisquick to make a delicious crumb coating for chicken tenders.  It looks great, and I would never have thought to use Bisquick for something like that.  This one is a quick and easy blackberry shortcake.  I’m not a big dessert chef, but I might make this for a dinner party.  And it would be really easy to sub a different fruit, so you could use whatever is in season.

This caprese pizza recipe is my favorite – we love homemade pizza at my house!  It looks super simple and you could even prebake several crusts to keep on hand for quick week night dinners.  You could use them for other kinds of pizza too, whatever your family likes!  I think I will try a new experiment soon – freezing prebaked crusts.  That way I can make them every couple of months and keep 10 or so in the freezer.

What are your favorite uses for Bisquick?  Do you have any great recipes that are quick and easy?  Or do you make your own Bisquick style mix?  I would love to hear your ideas!

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Yoplait prizepack winner

Posted on February 2, 2011. Filed under: Daily life |

Sorry for the delay, I had intended to post this last night but got sidetracked with karate and grocery shopping and pig care and whatnot (yes, you read that right, I said pig care…more on that later).

Congrats to our Yoplait prizepack winner, Louis!  Your prizepack is on the way.  Please stop by again and let us know how you like it when it arrives!

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Some Curriculum Changes

Posted on January 15, 2011. Filed under: Daily life, Homeschool, Karate, kids, Money | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

The end of 2010 was a time of change for the munchkin and I.  He finished his spelling program and his science program well ahead of schedule (like in 1 semester instead of 2).  At the same time, we slowed down in math to consolidate multiplication and division facts, so we haven’t finished our 1st semester of math yet.  No sweat, he started the school year 2 years ahead of grade level in math, so if he finishes it 1 2/3 years ahead…well, I think he’ll be fine.

So here’s our updated curricula:

  • Math – Singapore Math 3A, followed by flashcards/worksheets/computer games to solidify facts, then moving into 3B when he’s ready
  • Spelling – we have started Megawords 1 and will be learning rules of syllabication, this will probably last us the rest of the year
  • History – still Story of the World 3, no changes there
  • Science – we finished The Elements and are now using living books about chemistry and watching videos from The Happy Scientist website, and in the spring we’re going to do a science project
  • Language Arts – still plugging away with MCT Island level, we find it to be a great program
  • Logic – he finished the Mindbenders logic puzzles book and has moved into a Critical Thinking Academy brain teasers book

He still goes to the public school one day a week for their gifted pull-out class.  And we are still doing piano lessons, martial arts, and painting, and we have added scheduled ‘outside time’ and home ec projects as well.  Home ec has been fun – often we do a cleaning project, but sometimes we cook something, or repair something, or work in the yard or garden…mostly just whatever needs to be done around the house.  I think it is good experience for him to see what is involved with keeping a household running.  As he gets a bit older and has more of an allowance to work with, I plan to add budgeting as part of home ec as well.  Right now he only gets $2 a week for chores; it is hard to budget when he doesn’t even have enough to buy a Happy Meal each week, lol!

 

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Betty Crocker – Behind the Scenes

Posted on November 26, 2010. Filed under: Daily life | Tags: , , , , |

I recently signed up for Pssst…, a General Mills program designed to share information about their various brands and products.  Today I got my first email from them – sadly it was not a free sample or product review, but it was a very interesting video about Betty Crocker that can be viewed here.

I had no idea they had such a large facility – over 7000 sq ft just of kitchen space!  It looks like it would be an incredible place to work, though I’m sure it wouldn’t be good for my diet, lol!

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A Giveaway for a Quick and Easy Dinner!

Posted on November 22, 2010. Filed under: Coupons, Daily life, Freebies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Congrats to the winner of our last giveaway from MyBlogSpark and Wanchai Ferry!  And now it’s time for another one!  This time MyBlogSpark teamed up with Betty Crocker to provide Betty Crocker Instant Mashed Potatoes to us and one lucky winner.  The prize pack includes a box of Homestyle Creamy Butter flavor and a box of Roasted Garlic flavor, along with a lovely wooden serving bowl, trivet, and serving spoon.

Oddly enough, around the same time I received this pack to try, I also was given a few packs of Idahoan Buttery Instant Mashed Potatoes and Garlic Mashed Potatoes by a friend, and one pouch of Great Value (Walmart brand, I think) Instant Mashed Potatoes by a relative who used the other pouch (two come in each box) to make potato bread.  So naturally I decided to do a taste test!

I have made mashed potatoes five times in the last two weeks, and have noted the response from hubby and son each time.  First off, I have to say all three were vastly superior to the instant mashed potatoes I remember from when I was a kid.  You know, the ones that came in the giant cardboard box and tasted a lot like the box too.  I have never in my adult life bought instant mashed potatoes, because I remembered them as a last resort emergency food when you were snowed in and had absolutely nothing left to eat.  Lol!  But all three varieties we tried come in pouches that make 4 servings worth.  I think separating the potatoes from contact with the cardboard box is brilliant, and eliminates the cardboard flavor!  Also, all three were incredibly quick and easy to make – a major plus if you have a crazy schedule like I do.  And really, what mom doesn’t?  Anyway, on to the results.

I used three criteria for comparison in my totally non-scientific test:  texture, taste, and ingredients list.  In terms of texture, the BC flakes dissolved completely, leaving no graininess, only a smooth creamy texture.  The others did pretty well also, but required a lot more stirring to get all the lumps dissolved.  The taste of the BC was very potato-ey (I know, not a real word). Of the two BC flavors, we like the roasted garlic best, but the butter flavor was good too.  We’re just garlic people, I guess.  The other two tasted okay as well, but were just not as flavorful.  As for the ingredients list, they all started with potatoes as the main ingredient – thankfully – but BC appeared to have fewer additives.  (Personal opinion only, I did not compare actual formulas or anything.  I only looked at the ingredients list on the side of each box.  I did note that all three brands had MSG, so if you can’t have that please take care to check the ingredients list regardless of brand or flavor!)

In the final analysis, my family prefers the BC mashed potatoes.  I try to avoid a lot of processed foods, so they will still be used sparingly, but on a busy night when I am running crazy trying to get everyone where they need to be and still get a meal on the ,a side dish that literally takes only minutes from cabinet to table will be a blessing!

If you want to try them as well, leave a comment!  I will select a winner to receive the prize pack from Betty Crocker and MyBlogSpark on Friday.  And for those of you who don’t win, use this coupon to try them anyway!  (If you live in the Southeast, Publix has BC potatoes BOGO this week too.  😉 )

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A New Freebie – For Date Night!!!

Posted on October 27, 2010. Filed under: Daily life |

Hubby and I try to have date night once a week.  It almost never works out due to crazy schedules, but that makes the occasions when we do have a date night even more special.  So I was very excited to be able to participate in the new MyBlogSpark promotion.  This time MyBlogSpark teamed up with Wanchai Ferry and Macaroni Grill for a prize pack that includes one Wanchai Ferry dry dinner kit, one Macaroni Grill dry dinner kit, and a $25 Visa gift card!!!

I made the Macaroni Grill kit for dinner this past weekend.  It is the kind where you add your own protein – chicken in this case, though it could easily be made with a non meat protein.  The one I got was the creamy basil parmesan pasta.  It was delicious, hubby ate two helpings!  I made it exactly according to package directions too, and it only took about 20 minutes.  Next time I might add some fresh diced tomatoes or some artichoke hearts as suggested on the box, but really it was great just the way it was.  Pair it with some candles, a movie and some quality alone time, and you’ve got the makings of a great date night.

I plan to try the Wanchai Ferry kit this weekend, although I don’t know if hubby will be home early enough from work to make it a date night.  But my little guy likes to help in the kitchen, so maybe it can be a family night dinner instead!

MyBlogSpark, Wanchai Ferry, and Macaroni Grill are also offering an extra prize pack for one of my readers.  Just comment on this post with ideas for a great at home date night, and I will choose a winner next week!  And for those who don’t win, here is a coupon so y’all can try these great dinner kits too!

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Yoplait Splitz Giveaway

Posted on September 14, 2010. Filed under: Coupons, Daily life, Freebies, kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Yoplait?  I really do.  Several months ago they teamed up with MyBlogSpark and offered a chance to try Simply Gogurt (Gogurt with no artificial flavors, preservatives, dyes, etc) and it immediately became our first choice for yogurt.  My son and I both love the taste and convenience, and I love that it doesn’t have all the additives, especially aspartame (I’m really not a fan of aspartame).

Well, Yoplait has given me another reason to love them!  They teamed up with MyBlogSpark again, this time to introduce a new product called Yoplait Splitz.  Splitz come in 3 ice cream like flavors – Strawberry Sundae, Strawberry Banana Split, and Rainbow Sherbet.  Splitz, like Simply Gogurt, have no artificial sweeteners or flavors.  And you can freeze it for an even more ice creamy treat!  They are delicious, and make a much healthy dessert than ice cream, with calcium and Vitamin D, and since they come in yogurt cups they are already sized for perfect portions.

Yoplait and MyBlogSpark sent me a freebie pack with a coupon for a free pack of Splitz, a fleece roll up picnic blanket, and an insulated bag perfect for carrying on picnics!  Of course, I immediately planned a picnic – a foolish endeavor in Florida during the rainy season, lol.  After getting rained out several times, I finally managed an afternoon at the park.  I froze 2 of the Strawberry Sundae Splitz and 2 bottles of water the night before and packed them at the bottom of the insulated cooler bag.  I packed our other snacks and sandwiches on top of that and off I went to the park with my son in tow.  We spent a little over an hour at the park in 90 degree weather before stopping to eat, so the water and yogurt were mostly thawed, but they had kept the fruit and sandwiches nicely chilled.  Plus the cooler bag has so many pockets I was able to fit everything we needed for our picnic in it and still had room to stick my wallet and cell phone in an outside pocket.

Yoplait and MyBlogSpark have also generously offered the same prize pack to one lucky reader, so we’re having a giveaway!  Just leave a comment to enter, and I will choose a winner on Friday.  For everyone else Yoplait is offering a coupon here.

Simply Gogurt is still my favorite yogurt for everyday snacking, but Splitz will be a great option for satisfying the occasional sweet tooth!

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Back to school!

Posted on August 6, 2010. Filed under: Daily life, Homeschool, kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

We started our new school year last Monday!  Yes, we started early.  One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can set our own schedule, and we like to take an extra week off for the little man’s birthday, so we start a week early too.

This is our third year homeschooling – I can hardly believe it!  We still haven’t added Latin to our curriculum (Latin is a must for any well-rounded classical education) but we did add a precursor to logic in the form of Mindbenders puzzles from the critical thinking company.  So far they are a hit.  Actually, he liked the look of them so much that he started working his way through the book over the summer.  I’m going to have to move up to the next book soon!  Anyway, for any interested parties here is our list for this year:

  • math – Singapore Math 3A and 3B
  • language arts – MCT Island level
  • spelling – Spelling City
  • science – The Elements, plus classes at the Florida Aquarium
  • history – Story of the World 3
  • music – piano lessons
  • art – painting lessons and art history
  • logic – Mindbenders logic puzzles
  • foreign language – still looking for an affordable Spanish teacher
  • PE – karate (and maybe swim team in the spring)

I have my excel spreadsheet with our schedule broken down by day, with the assignments all laid out to finish on time by the end of the year.  Of course, a lot can happen in the next 9 months – that is why I use a spreadsheet instead of a pen and paper, it is so much easier to adjust.  But back to that benefit of homeschooling – we adjust our schedule to life, rather than trying to adjust life to fit a schedule.

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Pillsbury Chocolate Chunk Fudge Brownies

Posted on July 6, 2010. Filed under: Coupons, Daily life, Freebies, kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

They sound crazy decadent, don’t they?  Well, they are!  These ready-to-eat brownies are part of another package from MyBlogSpark, this time teaming up with Pillsbury.  The package came with a cake/brownie storage container, a cake decorating kit, 2 types of frosting – chocolate and cream cheese.  There was also a $25 gift card for Sam’s Club, which is the only place to get the brownies!  I was all in a panic at first, because I’m not a Sam’s Club member, and I don’t live near a Sam’s Club.  But we went to visit my godmother for the 4th (BTW — Happy 4th of July!!!!), and lo and behold, she is a member!  So before we came home today I stopped by her local Sam’s Club and got the brownies.  Here’s a pic of the package:

The brownies are $7.98 and have 42 servings to the package, so they are a pretty good deal.  Especially when you consider that most brownie mixes cost around $3.00 and only make 12-18 brownies!

Once we got them home we all took turns trying out the cake decorating kit.  My hubby made the border, and I did the rest, while my son directed the proceedings and ate any excess frosting.  So it wouldn’t make a mess, of course.  😛  Here is a picture of the finished product:

My first attempt at decorating a cake. Ever.

I think my son summed it up best when he said “Mommy, you have to practice a lot before you can do a cake challenge!”  Did I mention he watches a lot of Food Network?

Despite my lack of cake decorating skills, the brownies tasted marvelous.  They were moist and fudgy and rich, and every bite had at least one chocolate chunk.  With make-at-home brownie mixes I always add extra chocolate chips or chunks to make them richer.  Store bought brownies are never chocolatey enough for me – but these were!  Thanks to Pillsbury and MyBlogSpark for giving me the chance to try these!

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