Thursday, February 28, 2008
"Rosa" did a great job, but the difficulty of thinking in two languages simultaneously was apparent when she began explaining something to us in Spanish. The best moment came, though, when two parties were speaking and Rosa began explaining their conversation, not noticing that they were already speaking English! We really did laugh out loud. ;-)
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Mix, squish, scrape, squeeze. Bury things. The goo is solid then liquid then solid then liquid then...
Monday, February 25, 2008
Lately my posting makes it look like I do a lot of cooking with my kids. Fooled you! We had three meals in November, but didn't really start up again until February. The idea (ideal?) is to have each homeschooler plan and prepare a meal (usually dinner) monthly. I'm hoping we're back on the bandwagon and will keep going now. Here follow some random thoughts on how this works for us.
Life is usually too busy now for a weeknight meal, so step one is putting a date on the calendar, and that is almost always on a weekend.
Next comes the menu planning, and they are allowed to use some school time for this, but of course a child in regular school could do this with some free time. We sometimes make familiar dishes (after all, they don't know how to cook them yet), but they all prefer browsing through cookbooks for ideas.
We own a few children's cookbooks, but I get most from the library. At our branch, the juvenile nonfiction is mixed in with the adult (Dewey decimal 641 or 641.5), so I just walk by the shelves grabbing the ones with a "J" above the call number. As you browse you'll find many that suit your family. Current favorites include cookbooks by Emeril Lagasse. I haven't seen his show (apparently he's over the top!), but his children's books are great. The food is interesting and real, and the instructions are fine. As I mentioned last night, we sometimes edit for sugar, fat, or salt. I still remember a sweet potato casserole that was sweet enough for dessert even after removing much sugar and butter and all the marshmallows! So far we've used There's a Chef in My Soup! and There's a Chef in My World!, and apparently there are others.
The child chef and I review ideas and settle on a menu. This is the beginning of the educational side, because we cover some nutrition and basic menu planning (example: ham and sweet potatoes and canned fruit salad and bread and dessert and a sweet drink do not make a good meal). We also cover looks and flavors. Does the plate need something green or colorful? Are the flavors likely to go together? Are there too many difficult dishes to actually pull off? How will it be to serve (soup and salad and applesauce makes for many bowls)? You get the idea.
Once the menu is set, I go over the recipes, adding necessities to the grocery list. Sometimes the children help, and it would be educational for them to do it all, but it's just not practical for me. I know what we have on hand already, for one thing. I think I'll try to start involving them more in this step.
If we can, we do some prep the day or two before. When Daniel made ice cream, we cooked the custard base a day ahead. Joe is making dinner tonight, so last night we made his Swiss pasta sauce and put together the dry ingredients for the gingerbread.
Actually cooking is of course the heart of this activity, and I try to let the children do as much as they can. It takes a very conscious holding back/patience to let someone slower do something I'm very experienced at. I think this is what holds a lot of us back, but the rewards are great. These meals take a lot of time to prepare because the cooks are slower and also because they are more elaborate than a typical family dinner.
I have several different ways of interacting during cooking, tailored to the child, the recipe, and the time available. We read through all the steps together, then begin. I usually direct, especially if I change the way a dish goes together. The child chef may get training and then supervision of new skills--cutting, wisking, measuring, scraping, kneading, etc. Sometimes they can do a lot on their own, and I'm just the assistant--gathering ingredients, washing dishes and the counter, putting things away. Last night Joe browned the frozen pork by himself while I made plane reservations online. Then he gathered and measured for the gingerbread while I washed and tidied. Today we worked together.
Another perk of cooking a special meal is that the guest chef may invite a friend over to eat, and sometimes to help cook, too. Someone usually asks, but cooking doesn't get them out of their after-dinner chores. After all, I cook and help clean up on all the other days! ;-)
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Are you giving up what you said you would?
Are you doing those "extras"?
Did you pick the wrong disciplines? Do you need something more challenging or more realistic?
Lent is a period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Elizabeth and Danielle have both been posting a daily reminder/reflection/suggestion of how to fast, pray, and give in our lives as wives and mothers. Each is short and thought provoking.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The hot dogs were simple but good. Hot dogs (we splurged on Nathan's) were each wrapped in a slice of bacon and then baked at 375* for 45 minutes. I didn't believe they would take so long, but they really did need the full time. They were served with diced tomato, shredded lettuce, and mayo (as well as the usual condiments), but I think they were better without.
We make ice cream by cooking the custardy base a day ahead so the eggs are safe (former dietitian bacteria phobe!) and everything has time to chill. On Friday this gave me a chance to give Daniel a different sort of math assignment--recipe manipulation. It went something like this:
The recipe calls for 1 2/3 cups of milk. The texture of ice cream is strongly affected by appropriate fat content, so we need to use the whole milk the recipe is assuming. However, we don't keep whole milk in the house. So figure out how much low fat milk and half-and-half we need to use to "make" whole milk. Make the calculations, but also explain how you would measure it in real life.
1 cup low fat milk= 2.5 g fat
1 cup whole milk= 8 g fat
1 cup half-and-half= 24 g fat
If you're interested in giving this a try, the answer is in the comments, along with the follow up question that I gave to Daniel.
By the way, the ice cream was delicious! We usually us The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, given to us by those wonderful Nelsons.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Or maybe: What Did You Really Give Up for Lent?
We all have busy lives, but the pace here has been ratcheted up lately. Yesterday's list of ten "gotta do"s has TWO checkmarks. Okay, then...
So this morning, I'm lying in bed deciding whether or not I'm really going to crawl out at 5:45, because Thursday is a "short walk" day, so I don't HAVE to. Then I think maybe I'll get up now, take the dog out, and finally make the salt dough crown of thorns my kids want/expect/need/use every year. After all, Lent IS a week old already. Then I wonder why I haven't heard teen noises (yes, some get up before me). Did I sleep through showers and doors, or is it actually too quiet?
Get up. Wake them up. Yes, they're running a bit late.
So now it's: Make a lunch. Suggest the end of shower #1. Make two bagels. Get dressed. Make hot chocolate. Unlock a finicky car. Get another one out the door--insist on a coat. Meanwhile, Dusty is prancing and jumping (he really is cute) and following me everywhere. Is he begging for that ham sandwich or desperate to pee? Let's hope I don't find out...
None of this is rushed or panicky, but by the time we head out for our walk, 45 minutes are gone. The crown of thorns is postponed again.
This is how it's been lately. It's always something. I really am glad I got to help the teens this morning. Lots of days I don't do anything for them, and barely see them before school, so it feels great to do a little actual mothering. It's just that I didn't get to do what I had planned.
And that's where Lent comes in. Elizabeth has written more than once about how sometimes God chooses our penances, and they're not the ones we planned for ourselves. And Len has also encouraged me that doing what the family needs is better than doing what I want, even if what I want is very good.
So I try to let go and offer even the busy-ness to God. The checklist looks like I haven't accomplished much, but there's a lot more to family life than that list. If my attitude is right (loving, serving, patient, cheerful, or at least TRYING for all those), I will be offering something good. Time to try!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Margaret Rose Schmidt. May she be with God soon. Thank you.