Thursday, June 23, 2011

Free Homeschool ID Card

Get a FREE
Homeschool ID Card!

I've participated in the Homeschool Buyers Co-op for several years now.  They have wonderful buys on homeschooling resources and they offer free homeschool ID cards for teachers & students.  You do have to sign up to get the ID card.  However, they don't send spam and don't sell your email.  Membership is free and gives you access to all kinds of great deals.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Way to go Lego!

For her birthday last year, Grandma & Grandpa took Constance to pick out a present.  Constance chose this Lego set specifically because it has a blond haired girl in it.  The girls like to use the Lego people to play pretend. Constance wanted a girl with blond hair like she has.

Before Constance was even able to bring the set home from Grandma's, her  (then three year old) sister hid the hair!  Of course, being three, she forgot where she hid it.  We thought the hair would eventually show up.  After a year, it still hasn't shown up.  

So, I went to the Lego website to see if I could purchase a replacement.  It wasn't there, and I emailed Lego for help.  Within a day or so, I heard back from Lego:

Dear D,

Thank you for contacting us on 06/02/11 and for your interest in LEGO® brand products.

I'm sorry to hear your LEGO piece needs replacing. We get to play with LEGO sets all day long (the best job in the world?), so I know that sometimes a piece wears out or gets lost or gets taken by a sibling.

That's why I've asked for a replacement piece to be sent out to you. We always try to match the color you want, but sometimes stocks run low, so we might have to send you a different one.

Although we usually ask people to pay for replacement pieces I'm sending this one for free - so now you can get building and have fun!

Your LEGO parts are on their way from our warehouse in Denmark and should be with you in 7 to 10 business days.

Thank you again for contacting us. We wish your family many happy hours of creative building with LEGO brand toys in the years to come.

Your LEGO Friend,

LEGO Direct Consumer Services

Note the purple highlight that I added.  They actually read my note explaining what had happened and customized the email back to me.  :-)  We received the replacement hair (would it be a wig?) last week.  

Thanks LEGO for great customer service!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Preschool at Home

In my earlier post, I stated that I don't believe that formal preschool is really necessary for most kids.  However, preschool aged children do need to learn preschool skills. Fortunately, preschool skills aren't very complex.

What should they be learning

Preschoolers should be learning about their five senses and learning how to take care of their bodies.  They should be learning to recognize and write letters and the sounds they make.  Many preschoolers will soon be sounding out simple words.  Counting, sorting, relative positions (up, under, beside...) and shapes are important to learn.  In addition, preschoolers should be learning about their community and society.

Easy, Everyday Lessons

Most preschool learning should be part of everyday life.  Preschoolers are naturally curious about everything.  Daily activities can be turned into learning activities without much effort on Mom's part.

For instance, at the grocery store, explore the colors and smells in the produce section. Count apples as you put them in a bag.  Talk about healthy foods.  Review how to stay safe in public and what to do if lost.

Everywhere you go, ask lots of questions and encourage your preschooler to politely ask questions, too.  Ask questions at the post office, dry cleaner, store, library, and every where else your errands take you.  Allow some extra time in your schedule to move at a preschoolers pace.

Explore the outdoors.  Your yard is good enough.  Watch insects.  Describe what is happening as you plant a seed and watch it grow.  Observe the weather and talk about differences between seasons. Talk about what clothes a person would wear for each season.

Read, read, read, and then read some more.  Read about our country's history.  There are wonderful books about our nation's founders and about holidays.  Read about other nations and other cultures, too.

Hands-on Activities

Give your child an old magazine, some scissors, and a gluestick.  Let him cut and paste to his hearts content.  It's not terribly messy and develops needed motor skills.  Help him write a story to go along with his picture.

Use chalk to write letters a big as you both are able on the sidewalk.  Form letters with playdough and cookie dough.  Use your bodies to form letters.  Draw letters in a bowl full of rice.

Once your child has learned to form letters, she'll probably want to write notes to friends and labels to pictures.  Help her sound out the words.  Don't stress if she spells things phonetically.

Get out the button jar & let your child sort the buttons into an egg carton.  Sort by size, color, shape, or any other characteristic that you fancy.  My kids love to get into the button jar.  They think that they are getting away with something.

Most Importantly

The most important part of schooling a preschooler is to have fun. Enjoy each other. Take time to answer questions.  And, don't make it harder than it should be.


Starfall -  Lots of animations.  (I've never used the paid part.)
Enchanted Learning - Not all is available for free.  Free stuff has ads.  But, lots and lots of good things here.
Worksheet Lab - Fun, colorful worksheets.  I just found this recently.
Handwriting for Kids - Writing skills.

Most "Preschool" or "Kindergarten" workbooks.  Just look through it to make sure that the work is about right for your child.

My all-time favorite resource is my public library!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dinner Redo: Black Bean & Lime Soup/Clean Out the Fridge Burritos

I love leftovers!  I like to cook, but often get busy with other things.  Leftovers make my life so much easier.  However, my family will start to complain if they have to eat leftovers too often. So, I've started trying to create two meals from one time cooking. The idea comes from Cook Once, Eat Twice.   The following recipes, however, don't come from that book.  I'm not really in love with the recipes in it.

Day one: Black Bean & Lime Soup. I have no idea where I got this recipe from originally.  I've changed it so that it can be made entirely with food storage items.  But, the truth is that I usually use fresh items, except for the beans.  I'm usually too cheap to buy canned beans.   

Black Bean & Lime Soup

Work time: 10 minutes 
Cooking time: 2 hours  
Must soak beans overnight

2 C (1lb) dry black beans
4 tsp chicken bullion
1/2 C dry onions
1 Tbsp garlic powder - I will often chop fresh onions & garlic, then saute them before making the soup
3 C salsa (1 to 2 16-oz jars, to taste)
3 Tbsp lime juice
4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp dry red pepper
1 C dry sour cream mix (optional) - I use fresh sour cream
Corn chips (optional) 
Cilantro, fresh (optional, but really nummy)

SOAK beans overnight.  

DRAIN, then cover beans with fresh water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes, turn heat down to simmer.  Cover and simmer until soft (about one hour) stirring occasionally.

ADD remaining ingredients (except for sour cream, corn chips, and cilantro) to the beans.  Cook 25-30 minutes, until dry onions are soft.  I will usually make this up in the morning & let it simmer most of the day so that the beans get really soft.

MIX dry sour cream mix with 6 Tbsp water and allow to sit while soup 

GARNISH each bowl of soup with
 sour cream and corn chips.  (And cilantro, if you have it.)

8 Servings 

(Nutritional content without garnish:  101.1 Calories, 0.9 grams Fat, 0.0 mg Cholesterol, 704.5 mg Sodium, 423.9 mg Potassium, 19.5 g Total Carbohydrate, 5.7g Dietary Fiber, 0.3 g Sugars, P5.6 g Protein.  --  Daily Values based on a 2000 calorie diet:  12.5% Vitamin A, 10.6% Vitamin B-6, 27.1% Vitamin C, 3.1% Vitamin E, 5.6% Calcium, 21.0% Copper, 20.8% Folate, 14.5% Iron, 12.3% Magnesium, 17.7% Magnanese, 5.5% Niacin, 2.7% Pantothenic Acid, 10.1% Phosphorus, 3.8% Riboflavin, 2.1% Selenium, 11.0% Thiamin, 5.6% Zinc.)

Day two: Clean Out the Fridge Black Bean Burritos

Minimum ingredients:
Leftover Black Bean & Lime Soup

Clean out the fridge ingredients at our house have included:  

Leftover cooked Rice
Leftover sauted onions
Grated cheese
Tomato (leftover from hamburgers)
Sour Cream
Lettuce or Spinach
and, my favorite:  Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch dressing

To take this up a notch, I've made the following chicken to go in the Burritos as well. Cooking the meat kind of defeats the idea of only cooking once, but I can marinate the chicken the day before, and it really doesn't take long to cook if I don't have to make the full meal.  

The chicken recipe is my take on Applebee's Tequila Lime Chicken from Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilber.  

Lime Chicken

1 C water
1 C teriyaki sauce
2 T lime juice
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger

4 skinless chicken breast fillets (I use frozen straight from the bag, and I don't defrost them first.)

Mix up marinade, pour over chicken.  Chill for 2-3 hours.  Cook in your preferred way (grill, saute, bake....)  I  usually throw these on the George Forman.  To use in tacos:  When the chicken is done, I remove the meat & boil down the marinade (partly to kill any bacterial from the meat & partly to make it thicker.)  Meanwhile I chop up the meat.  When the marinade is thick, I stir the meat back in.

Recipe: Fresh Lemon Sorbet

For Christmas, my brother gave us this ice cream maker.  We've been having a lot of fun with it.  Since Kathleen doesn't handle milk well, we often make non-dairy frozen treats.

Fresh Lemon Sorbet

Bits of fresh citrus zest add a burst of flavor to these refreshing sorbets.

Makes about eight 1/2-cup servings

2 C Sugar
2 C Water
1 1/2 C freshly squeezed lemon juice [If I have a lemon, I'll use whatever juice I get out of it, along with bottled. If I don't have a lemon, I just used bottled.]
1 T finely chopped lemon zest [If I have a lemon.]

Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-hight heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Cool completely.  This is called a simple syrup, and may be made ahead in larger quantities to have on hand for making citrus sorbets.  All to cool completely.  When cool, add the lemon juice and zest; stir to combine.  If not freezing immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Turn on ice cream maker and pour in ingredients.  All to mix and freeze until desired serving consistency after 12 to 15 minutes of freezing.  If sorbet is not thick enough, continue mixing/freezing until desired consistency is reached, checking every few minutes.

Nutritional analysis per serving:
Calories 204 (0% from fat)
Carbs 54 g
Protein 0 g
Fat 0 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 g
Sodium 3 mg
Cal. 5 mg
Fiber 0 g

Fresh Lime Sorbet:  Substitute 1 1/2 Cups freshly squeezed lime juice for the lemon juice and 1 T finely chopped lime zest for the lemon zest.

Fresh Lemon-Lime Sorbet:  Use half lemon juice and half lime juice and 1/2 T of each of finely chopped lemon and lime zest.

Fresh Pink Grapefruit Sorbet:  [Ewww.]  Substitute 1 1/2 C freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice for the lemon juice, and 1 T finely chopped grapefruit zest for the lemon zest.  Add 1/4 C orgeat syrup to the mixture (orgeat syrup is used for cocktails such as a mai tai or scorpion and can be found with the drink mixers in most grocery stores.)

Recipe from:  Cuisinart Recipe Booklet

We also have an ice cream maker kind of like this one.  With seven of us, we'll often have both ice cream makers going at once because neither one makes an awful lot of ice cream.  However, they are both super convenient because you don't have to add ice or salt.  You freeze the "bowl" that comes with the maker and use it instead.