Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Story of the World – Our History Curriculum for 4th Grade

Last year, based on feedback from other homeschoolers, we used Sonlight curriculum for Social Studies, Geography, Language Arts and Science.  Regardless of how good or bad a curriculum sounds, it’s always good to get the feedback of someone you know who has used it, as well as what learning and personality style worked best with it.  We loved the literature-based approach of Sonlight, but with me working full-time outside of the home this past year, it was way too much to keep up with and I felt it lacked review to ensure retention of information.  This year, we are using The Story of the World, Volume II for History.  We received a number of thumbs-up from homeschoolers we know regarding these curricula.  And by “this year” let me explain our “school” year.  We take the month of June and around the 2nd week of December through the Epiphany off.  The rest of the time, we are learning in some form or another.

This is our 3rd year homeschooling.  B went to public school for kindergarten and 1st grade, but we made the decision to homeschool him for 2nd grade, and have reevaluated that decision in the 2 years since then.  At this time, the hubs and I have decided to homeschool B through elementary school and see if he wants to go back to public school when he reaches middle school age.  In my estimation, that gives me 4 years in which to teach him all he needs to know according to the state standards.  Although we are using a different timeline, we hope to arrive at the same destination within the same ETA.  ;o)

I was excited about the Activity book that SOTW offered but didn’t have an opportunity to see what those activities were until it arrived.  So far, there are great craft ideas but they involve supplies we don’t have on hand and buying them can really add up.  There are also role playing activities which can be challenging with an only child.  But we are creative and we really enjoy this curriculum.

The hubs and B have visited my SIL at the beach a couple of weekends this Summer and I’ve stayed home to have a nice break.  So last month, B and I went to my parents for the weekend to give the hubs a nice break at home by himself.  My brother came over and I enlisted his help in a Celtic reenactment.  My brother and B made Celtic double-headed war axes and then proceeded to have a battle.  I thought for sure my mom would have some blue eyeshadow left over from the 60s for me to paint their faces like warriors, but I was disappointed.  My brother has no hair so we could not use gel or crisco to spike his hair out and B’s hair is wild most of the time anyway, so we just let them at each other, as is.

Today we are reading our first chapter on Islam.  While B was doing his map work and some other activity pages related to this chapter, the two of us were singing Carpenters songs complete with harmony.  We are quite a pair when left alone together all day!  ;o)  We have so much fun.  In a couple of hours we’ll be heading to the sprayground with some other homeschool families.  I love our life!


Cooking Class instead of Leftover Wednesday

I don’t have a Leftover Wednesday post this week.  Yesterday I gave my first private cooking lesson.  It  was 5 hours long, we made some great food together and had so much fun!  B and my student’s children played well the whole time.  We chopped, talked, mixed, laughed, basted, cried, roasted, laughed some more and cleaned up.  My student bought all the food, enough for both of us to split; I couldn’t have been “paid” any better than that!  ;o)  And she ordered pizza for lunch.

First we put a Beer in the Rear Chicken in the oven.  Here’s all that’s left of my half:
Next we made pico de gallo.  We put some of it in a bowl with mashed avocados for guacamole and some in another bowl with corn and black beans for salsa. There was leftover pico de gallo for my student to put over chicken, in tacos or to just eat with chips.
Then we made a huge batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti; enough to fill a casserole dish for me, one for my student and one for her neighbor!
I came home with so much food, dinner tonight will be all these wonderful leftovers.  I truly enjoyed cooking with a friend.  I’d love to do that on a regular basis – get together with friends, make big batches of dishes and we all go home with meals for our families.

A Kindred Spirit

I’m giving my 1st private cooking lesson in less than half an hour, and we ran to the store to get some ingredients for the “class”.  Remember in my post Good Things Come In Threes, when I talked about receiving a compliment from a friend for always looking on the bright side?  Well, I met a kindred spirit in the cashier we went to, Karen.  Karen asked the gentleman who was 2 customers in front of me how he was.  He grumbled some complaint.  Karen responded with, “Well, if you’re not behind bars or 6 feet under, you’re doing pretty well in my book!”  LOL!  I could have hugged her for that!  The gentleman had no response.

Then when it was our turn, B got the dreaded question from Karen, “You’re not in school today?”  B responded, “I’m homeschooled.”  Karen said, “That’s great!  So you’re in school right now!  You’re learning economics and food safety and how to cook right here in the store.  What did you learn this trip?”  Another reason to hug Karen.  We all need a little Karen in our lives for some perspective!

What a small world!

This morning, B and I joined some other members of our homeschool group riding on the Leesburg, Virginia Trolley.  I’ve wanted to ride on it for a long time but never did.  We had a great time.  We got on in front of the courthouse and rode the loop for about 45 minutes.

We were supposed to meet the other members of our group in front of the government center and I had no idea that was different from the courthouse.  There was another homeschooling mom who was waiting with her children at the same stop as us and we introduced ourselves.  As we chit-chatted to get to know each other, we talked about where we live now and where we used to live.  We started realizing we had some freaky coincidences in where we both previously lived – same city, same community, same street….same house!  She and her husband bought our house from us in 2003!  And that house is in another state!  We were both shocked!  What a pleasant surprise!

B was 7 months old when we sold the house and she and I laughed today about how I tremulously asked them at closing if they were going to leave B’s nursery as it was or were they planning to redecorate the room.  She looked like a deer in headlights when she answered back then.  I put her in a terrible position to either lie to sooth me or tell the truth and probably make me cry.  She hesitantly replied, “Weeeeellllll…we don’t have plans to have kids anytime soon….sooooo…”  The hubs removed me from the attorney’s office toot-sweet after that before I started bawling.  LOL!  It was cute to see B’s reaction and her oldest’s reaction when we told them that their very first bedrooms were actually the same bedroom in the same house.  What a small world!

Me and B

The trolley arrived at our stop and we were the only ones who got on.  However, all the other homeschoolers in our field trip group were waiting at the government center, which was the next stop.  It was a nice ride and I got to see parts of Leesburg I’d never seen before.  When we got off, the woman who bought our house and I exchanged emails so we could keep in touch.  I am so glad we went!

After the trolley ride, we had some errands to run, the temperature kept going up and we getting hot. We stopped at our community’s clubhouse to find out when the pool opened up since schools are back in session and were surprised to hear 2pm.  We were there when it opened and had the whole place to ourselves (well, and the lifeguards) until we left at 3:45pm.  It was an all around fantabulous day!

Good Things Come In Threes

Forgive me if I have said this before; I have the worst short-term memory!  But a friend of mine recently told me no one she knows is able to look on the bright side as much as me and I had shown her the bright side of a bad situation she and her kids got into in public one day.  Have you heard that saying that people may not remember what you did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel?  If I’m not known for much, I’m very proud to be known for looking on the bright side and helping others to see and feel the bright side, too.
I was thinking about what she said and wondering why I am like that and why more people are not.  I found an answer for me: I look for and find silver linings because, sometimes, silver linings are all I have!  I am so grateful that in this economy, God has seen fit to provide us with what we need.  We have a roof over our heads, two cars with gas in them, working A/C, food in the fridge and pantry, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, the hubs has a job to go to, all utilities are on, none of us are sick, we have family and friends who accept and love us, we spend everyday together, we laugh everyday together and we know how much we mean to each other.  And you know what?  If one or half of the things on this list changed tomorrow, my disposition would not.  I reap what I sew, people.  I say the occasional cuss word and call people on their shit but I also put out love and goodness and friendliness and do unto others as I’d have them do to me with no expectations.  And just when I thought my cup could not runneth over any more, I received 3 more blessings.
  1. A week and a half ago, I received a call from a friend’s husband.  His wife is celebrating a birthday soon and he wants to send her away for a weekend.  And as much fun as she’ll have with a whole weekend of no cooking, cleaning or kids asking for this or that, she’ll have even more fun with a friend.  So, he wanted to know if I would go with her.  I told him I would talk it over with the hubs and see if we could swing that weekend and he said something that almost made me cry on the phone.  He said, “The only thing I’m asking of your family is your time.  This is my birthday present to my wife and I am treating both you and her to this weekend.”  I was so shocked.  I was so grateful.  It is something I could not have done myself.
  2. A couple of days later, I was washing the dinner dishes when a friend called.  She decided to go to a movie at the last minute, was driving to the theater and asked if I wanted to come along, her treat.  The movie started in less than 20 minutes.  The hubs told me to RUN!  LOL  It was such a sweet thing for her to do and I really needed to get out for a laugh.  I’d had my cranky pants on all weekend!  We saw The Campaign and it was HILARIOUS!!!
  3. My brother was on vacation for 11 days and returned to the area this past week.  He called Saturday evening and said he wanted to take us and my parents out to dinner last night since he hadn’t seen us in a couple of weeks.  He’s so sweet!  Neither the hubs nor I had to cook or wash dishes, we got to spend time with family over a delicious meal and we swapped dinner out last night for “Papa John’s $5 Pizza Night” on our menu plan!  Win-win-win all around!
After we came home from dinner last night, the boys played catch in the alley while I walked laps.  It was so quiet!  Usually the hood is bustling with kids and animals.  But last night was the last night before the public schools started back today.  Everyone else was inside, laying out clothes, ensuring the bookbags had everything they needed in them, getting into bed, etc.  But we were outside, with full bellies, getting some exercise, enjoying the sweet, clean smell after the rain and the display of clouds moving away as the last of the sunset tried to poke through.
It just doesn’t get any better than that and I am truly a blessed person with so many wonderfully, generous people in my life!

Our DIY Chalkboard Table

Last weekend, we turned the top of our kitchen table into a chalkboard to use with our homeschool lessons.  We received the round table, plus three leaves, from friends a few years ago.  Our own oblong dining room table was too big for our kitchen and this table was perfect.  It wasn’t in the best condition, but we loved it.  And we loved that table into an even worse condition.  ;o)  I’ve wanted to make the top a chalkboard for several months.  We even bought the supplies at the end of Spring, but it’s been too hot outside to do this and I did not want to do it in the house.   Last Saturday was beautiful, not too hot, so we decided it was time.  We only did the table top but we plan to do the leaves in the future as well.
This is the “before” picture.
Close up of the stains, I mean, love we have given this table.
It took the hubs 45 minutes with an electric hand sander to remove the shine from the table.


I painted 2 coast of primer and used sponges for this project. It will go faster with a roller.


This is after the 1st coat of chalkboard paint.


This is after the 3rd coat was applied Sunday morning.  We brought the table inside because rain was in the forecast. The table had to sit and “cure” for 3 days before we could use it.



 After 3 days, we had to cover it with chalk. The hubs and B did this by rubbing the sides of long chalk pieces all over the top and sides of the table. Then once this chalk was wiped off, it was set to go!  We find the chalk comes off better with a rag (one of the hubs’ old undershirts) than with the eraser.  And the table top can be washed with soap and water!


After I took the picture at the beginning of this post, B erased it, I popped up the other side and he promptly created a video game with 4 levels.  I’m so glad we finally did this!


Menu Planning & Grocery Spending

Our food costs are way out of control!  It is obscene how much money I spend to feed a family of 3 each month  and I’ve been perplexed on how to bring it down.  Couponing doesn’t help.  I shop at Wegmans and I can get their store brand items cheaper than any name brand + a coupon.  And their store brand products are just as good, if not better, than most name brands.  In addition to spending a ton at the grocery store, I eat out too much.  “Hi, I’m Jess, and I’m a fast food addict.”  How many of you said in your head, “Hi, Jess” after you read that last sentence?  hehehe  We’ve been eating out at a nice sit down restaurant once a pay period and if you add drinks to dinner, that’s a hefty bill.  And getting pizza or Chinese takeout once a pay period adds up, too…I’m trying to be real here and lay all my cards on the table.  As a side, I was talking with my friend, CC, earlier this Summer about writing a book.  I’m worried that strangers won’t “get” me or find me entertaining because they don’t know me; they’ve never heard me speak.  My friends hear my voice in their head when they read my blog.  She said I will connect with strangers because I talk about things that other people think or have experienced but don’t talk about it.  So they will relate to me.  That was great encouragement to me and I love CC even more for that.  Anywho, so I’m bearing my food soul here for you peeps and we can’t be spending our too few dollars on all this food!

All the bloggers who save a ton of money credit extreme couponing, menu planning and shopping only once a month with keeping food budgets low.  They also live in areas that have cheaper costs of living than I do and have a variety of lower cost grocery stores around, i.e. Aldi, Kroger, Publix, etc.  I thought shopping once a month was ridiculous; what about produce?!  It’s not going to last that long!  Then Holy Spirit-led Homeschooling guest posted on Money Saving Mom and she listed specifically which produce items they eat the 1st, 2nd and 3rd weeks and then canned produce the 4th week.  Pretty impressive!  I rarely by canned produce, unless it’s specifically required for a recipe and there really is no substitute, i.e. a jar of marinated artichoke hearts for spinach and artichoke dip.  But I do buy frozen produce and have even frozen fresh produce I’ve grown, picked or bought.  So, I can make produce stretch a month.
I’ve done my fair share of menu planning.  Y’all have seen me fall of and climb back on that bandwagon over and over and over…  But I only planned dinner menus.  I realized earlier this week that that has been my problem!  By not planning or buying for all lunches and breakfasts, there’s not enough in the house for those meals.  Hence I go out more and B eats cereal every morning.  And that shit has got to change! So, I made a menu plan for 3 meals a day Wednesday, being conscious of what is already in the house.  I saved over a third at Wegmans yesterday over my last shopping trip.  Now granted, two weeks ago, we were out of all meat, so I had to restock our meats.  When I do that every 2 months, the bill is higher.  But during my last shopping trip, I bought half the meats at Costco, so I still saved some good money at Wegmans yesterday.  :o)  I planned 14 Breakfasts and 14 Lunches but only 12 Dinners because there will be 2 “Leftover Wednesdays” in there.
So, fingers crossed that I am turing over a new leaf and am on the track to food savings!  Now I’m off to type up the menu plan from my notes and hang it in the kitchen for all to see and stick to.  Pray for me!


I showed B the printed out menu plan.  He started hyperventilating over the fact that cereal for breakfast is listed only 3 times in 14 days.  LOL  But he got excited when I let him pick out what we’ll have for dinner tonight – Saffron Rice with Shrimp – and I intend to have him help me.  He taped the menu plan on the front of the top oven, “Where all the magic happens,” he said and had to add some drawings.  It’s very simple, and I hope to improve on the variety, but it’s a start:

Leftover Wednesday – Breakfast Hash Curveball, Bagel Pizzas and Pork Fried Rice

I got busy today with leftovers!  We had leftover steak in the fridge and I wanted to make My Breakfast Hash this morning.  Sadly, I discovered we were out of potatoes.  *sniff, sniff*  Hungrily, I decided to clean out the bread cabinet and found 3, plain, mini bagels in the back.  I had made a batch of spaghetti sauce last week and still had half a jar left.  Ding! Ding! Ding! Bagel pizzas for B!  I looked in the fridge’s cheese drawer but no mozzarella.  I went looking for mozzarella in the freezer and found something else I didn’t know I had – half a bag of Arby’s Curly Fries (not from the restaurant.  You can buy them in your grocer’s freezer now).  I decided to try substituting the curly fries for the fresh potatoes in my hash.  Then I found an unopened bag of mozzarella for the bagel pizzas.  We also had half of the hubs pork loin from Monday night’s dinner, so I assigned him pork fried rice.  Phew!  Here we go….

Opened bag of curly fries, bag of steak leftovers and an onion.  With the seasoned fries, I didn’t need salt, pepper nor paprika in this dish!
Since I have so many pictures in this post already, I won’t add play-by-play ones of my cooking; I’ll just tell you.  I heated vegetable oil in my pan and added a handful of curly fries.  Once they crisped up on both sides, I removed them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and added half an onion, chopped, to the pan.  While the onions cooked a few minutes, I chopped the curly fries up and added them back into the pan to crisp up some more and let the onion continue to cook.  I chopped the steak added it to the pan and heated it through a couple of minutes.  Here is the finished product!


These are the ingredients I had for pork fried rice.  Slim pickin’s this week, I tell ya!  I’m trying to get better at buying less and not buying anything else until the next shopping day.  You get creative!  I only had 1 carrot left, half a bag of frozen peas, a tomato from my mom’s garden, a shallot, some garlic, some ginger, the other half of the hash’s onion and Wegmans Stir Fry Sauce.  No, I’ve never had a tomato in fried rice before, but it needed to be used up so we gave it a try. It worked.


The hubs grated the ginger, diced everything else and stir fried in our wok with sesame oil.  Carrot, shallot and onions first, because they take the longest.  Then peas, garlic and ginger.  Removed all that from the pan.  Tossed the pork around to reheat but not to overcook.  Removed from pan.  Threw a few portions of cooked brown rice into the wok and crisped that up, then added 2 eggs and continued to fry.  Once eggs were cooked, he turned off the flame, added veggies and pork back in and added some stir fry sauce to taste.  It was so good!  It made enough to feed both of us for dinner and lunch leftovers for both of us tomorrow.  Leftovers from the leftovers!  I love it!


B had bagel pizzas for dinner.  Not because he does not like pork fried rice; he really does.  But I wanted to use things up and he was thrilled to be eating pizza.  And, as the hubs said, “More leftovers for us!”  This is a shot of the ingredients for the pizza, but I don’t have a shot of the result.  I’m sure you can use your imagination, though.  While the pizzas were in the oven, I ran out to chase and catch a full rainbow!  While doing that, the pizzas were done and B chowed down on 4.  I came back and ate one while the hubs was cooking our dinner and the last one fell on the floor.  Totally forgot about a picture.

How It Went At The Doctor’s Office Monday

I’m sorry I did not update y’all yesterday on how I was feeling!  Still sleep deprived and we had a busy day that wore me out.  At the doctor’s Monday afternoon, the strep test was negative.  I asked him how accurate those fast strep tests are because I have a ton of friends who kids were sick last Winter, the fast strep said negative but when sent off to the lab, a week later they were informed their child indeed had strep!  My doc, and I love him and trust him very much, said that although the fast strep is not always accurate on kids, it is pretty accurate on adults.  I didn’t want to have strep, but it had been bothering me since last Winter and my doc will let me take up his time asking as many question as I like.
Since I’d been dealing with the scratchy throat since last Wednesday, he would be willing to give me an antibiotic if I wanted one.  It could be bacterial or viral.  If viral, they run for 7-10 days before getting better and mine had been getting worse for 6 days.  I do not want to be on an antibiotic unless it’s necessary, so I opted to wait it out and see if it got better.  He said if later in the week it was not getting better, I could shoot him an email and he’ll send the script to the pharmacy.  Isn’t he awesome?!  I love that I can email my doctor!  Also, I told him I needed to schedule an annual physical with them for both me and B.  He said, “Since you’re here, I’ll save you the trip and do it right now.”  So he gave me a physical and ordered the blood work I need to have done.  I just need to visit the lab in the next 90 days to have it done, when it’s convenient for me.  And, BTW, I have Kaiser Permanente.  A lot of people bash HMO’s, either because they had a bad experience or, mostly, because they hear bad things from other people and won’t try it.  But we’ve had great experiences since we signed up in 2005.  With the number of times B’s been sick, tested and to the ER, we have saved a TON of $$ with KP.  And I love listening to Allison Janney on their commercials, too.  :o)  Anywho, my two cents on KP.
My doctor also said that he’d seen nothing but sore throats for the past 2 weeks and a lot of them were allergy related.  The cooler than normal temps here in August were triggering the Fall allergens early.  After I got home, I realized that I had been outside a lot over the weekend working on a project and we’d had the windows open.  I also was not drinking as much water as usual because I was so busy.  So that night I took an allergy pill before going to bed. I still had to sleep upright, but I was able to fall asleep a few times for an hour or so – progress.  
Yesterday morning the temperature was 74 degrees, so I suggested we go for a bike ride.  I was exhausted after changing into my clothes!  But we went for a ride through the hood and then played with the neighbor kids when we got back.  We were out for close to 3 hours and I got me some sun.  :o)  I took another allergy pill after dinner and I was able to lay down all night!  Woohoo!  Now, I didn’t sleep all night through.  B had a nightmare, came into our room, climbed in our bed and the hubs went to B’s bed for the rest of the night.  B is an “active” sleeper, so I didn’t get much sleep after that.  But I am on the mend!
Monday after I got home from the doctor’s, I was so tired and had a headache from hell.  The hubs took care of dinner again, and made a fabulous pork loin with herbs from his garden:
Later today I will have three, yes three, leftover meals to share with y’all, one of them using the leftover pork loin!  Have a great Wednesday!

I feel like CRAP.

I didn’t sleep last night.  At all.  We had a full weekend of decluttering, cleaning and a DIY project that I can’t wait to share with you at the end of the week.  I was so ready for my bed last night but when my head hit the pillow, my throat started to burn.  I sat up and it stopped; laid back down, it burned.  I started coughing and clearing my throat to stop the burning, but it didn’t help.  And not heartburn burn; gritty-sand-rubbing-a-partched-throat burn.  I grabbed my pillows and went downstairs to the couch so as not to disturb the hubs.  I popped a Roccola in my mouth and laid down.  Nope.  No go.  I sat up all night.  Finally, just as the hubs was leaving for work around 6am, I dosed off.  Less than 2.5 hours later, I was startled awake by a big BAM!  B, who was watching TV, yelled, “It wasn’t me!  The cats are running around!  They did it!”  After inspecting the 1st floor, I found that the cats had jumped on the baker’s rack and a hardcovered cookbook had bellyflopped onto the kitchen floor.
My throat hurt, I sounded like a bullfrog and my head was pounding.  I cancelled B’s handwriting lesson today, called the doctor to get myself an appointment for this afternoon and sat down to have a pity party.  An hour and a half later, I finally stirred myself to eat some breakfast.  Thank goodness I made a fresh batch of Sausage Pancake Muffins over the weekend!  I just popped a couple in the microwave.
The boy has taken full advantage of my weakened state!  He talked me into a Star Wars movie marathon and Jiffy Pop for lunch.  :o/  At least Han Solo was able to pull me out of the pity party.  ;o)
BTW, during the kitchen decluttering, I decided it was time to bless someone else with my penis cake pan.  We’ve had some good times, my penis cake pan and me.  Brought many smiles to many a potluck occasion by making Crack Cakes in my penis cake pan.  It’s sad to let penis cake pan go, but I know it’s selfish of me to keep penis cake pan all to myself.  He was created to bring joy and delicious desserts to the masses, so it’s time for him to leave the nest.  Any takers?  No?  OK, I’ll just add it to the pile going to my parents’ October yard sale.
I hope y’alls Monday is going better than mine.  If not, I have a penis cake pan and Crack Cake recipe that will fix you right up!  No?  Than maybe you need a Han Solo, I mean, Star Wars marathon, too.
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