We Love Autumn!

22 Oct

Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.  ~Carol Bishop Hipps

I love autumn.  Perhaps it appeals to the melancholy part of my nature.  Maybe because it’s the vibrant varicolored pivot between the endless green of summer and the endless grey of winter.  Whatever the reason, I am an eternal advocate for autumn.

After several years of good intentions, we finally made it out to the Pumpkin Festival at the farm our neighbors own.  We enjoyed beautiful weather, the variety of pumpkins, and the sunflower maze.

Mark trying to get Echo's perspective in the sunflower maze

Choosing just the right pumpkin

Alpha picking out a "Peanut Pumpkin"

Four out of five!

A Boy and His Pumpkin


Embarking on a Cooking Adventure

4 Oct

Our whole family loves Good Eats and Alton Brown.  I can’t remember exactly when we got hooked , but my daughter said it was his episode about ribs called “Pork Fiction.”  We’ll choose to watch that show over almost any other, although it is in competition with two of our other favorites, Mythbusters and Top Gear.  For me, Good Eats harkens back to my Bill Nye the Science Guy addiction in the 90s.

My girls, Bravo and Charlie, have been wanting to incorporate a cooking class into our curriculum.  The boys haven’t been quite as insistent, even though they are Alton Brown fans, too.   Once they have the ability to cook good food on their own, I think they will appreciate this undertaking a little more.  Anyway, I decided to buy two of Brown’s books as our textbooks: I’m Just Here for the Food 2.0 and I’m Just Here for More Food (Baking).

If you are not familiar with Alton Brown or his show Good Eats on Food Network, here is a review for his first book as posted on Amazon:

Alton Brown, host of Food Network’s Good Eats, is not your typical TV cook. Equal parts Jacques Pépin and Mr. Science, with a dash of MacGyver, Brown goes to great lengths to get the most out of his ingredients and tools to discover the right cooking method for the dish at hand. With his debut cookbook, I’m Just Here for the Food, Brown explores the foundation of cooking: heat. From searing and roasting to braising, frying, and boiling, he covers the spectrum of cooking techniques, stopping along the way to explain the science behind it all, often adding a pun and recipe or two (usually combined, as with Miller Thyme Trout).

I’m Just Here for the Food is chock-full of information, but Brown teaches the science of cooking with a soft touch, adding humor even to the book’s illustrations–his channeling of the conveyer belt episode of I Love Lucy to explain heat convection is a hoot. The techniques are thoroughly explained, and Brown also frequently adds how to augment the cooking to get optimal results, including a tip on modifying a grill with a hair dryer for more heat combustion. But what about the food? Brown sticks largely to the traditional, from roast turkey to braised chicken piccata, though he does throw a curveball or two, such as Bar-B-Fu (marinated, barbecued tofu). And you’ll quickly be a convert of his French method of scrambling eggs via a specially rigged double boiler–the resulting dish is soft, succulent, and lovely. But more than just a recipe book, I’m Just Here for the Food is a fascinating, delightful tour de force about the love of food and the joy of discovery. –Agen Schmitz

Our plan is to work our way methodically through his books, learning both the science behind the cooking as well as actually attempting the recipes given for each cooking method.   This week we will read through the introductory information in I’m Just Here for the Food and compile a list of required equipment and ingredients for the first chapter, “Searing.”  I haven’t decided if we will record our efforts on this blog, or start one dedicated solely to that end, but I’ll keep you posted one way or the other.

Homeschooling Wherever

28 Sep

Last week we traveled to Ohio for a wedding.  We enjoyed seeing family and friends and sharing in our niece’s special day.  One of the advantages of the homeschooling life is the flexibility it affords in our schedule.  While the kids had to “miss” school on Tuesday because we were driving, they were able to do a significant amount of their school work during the downtimes on our trip.

One unexpected educational experience on our trip came when we were visiting our friends, Chris and Kathy, in Cincinnati. Kathy is the founder and director of research for “EchoBats, Inc.” and puts on a great program for kids and adults about the world of bats.  After lunch, she brought out her three bats and a special electronic device that allowed us to hear the sounds the bats were making by converting the high range bat noises into lower range human sounds.  Kathy even let us “pet” the bats.  I was surprised with how furry their bodies felt and the leathery feel of the wings.  I have to admit, I thought they were pretty cute.

While you may be able to schedule schooling”, you just never know when and where true education will pop up!  Thanks Kathy!

National Punctuation Day?

24 Sep

Did you know there is actually a National Punctuation Day?  In the spirit of the day, we did an impromptu review of punctuation marks.  I found out that my kids knew most of the rules for punctuation, but I was surprised that they didn’t know the name for an ellipsis.

Of course, we had to watch some classic Victor Borge and his phonetic punctuation:

Here is a fun site for punctuation resources:


They even have a few downloadable newsletters full of interesting information.  Check it out!

Welcome to our Homeschool Room

25 Aug

Today is the third day of school and I wanted to share our homeschool space while it is still fairly organized.  In our current house, where we have lived for a little over two years now, we have the luxury of having a whole room dedicated only to homeschooling.  We have had several different set-ups over the years—we have done school at the dining room table, in the living room, on the road, and in a separate homeschool room.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

The advantages to doing school in main living areas (dining room, living room, etc.) is that school seems a little more integrated into everyday living.  Also, if you have babies and toddlers, they can be in an adjacent space and it is easier to keep an eye on them while doing school with older kids.  The disadvantage is that the wonderful mess of homeschooling is on display most of the time and that can be a source of stress for some.

The advantage to homeschooling in a separate space is you can leave projects out for days on end, the mess is (hypothetically) more contained, and if you need the mental closure to the end of a school day, you can just leave the room and shut the door.  The disadvantage is that school can feel separate from the rest of “life” and that can be contrary to some people’s philosophy of homeschooling.

I personally prefer having a separate room where most of our school stuff resides, but we do some activities elsewhere in the house.

Here is my desk, although I rarely sit at it.

My desk

Here are the kids’ spaces.  This is Alpha’s desk and the community computer.

Alpha's space

However, you will usually find Alpha tucked away in the Reading Nook when he is not on the computer.  This is the view I often have of him:

Alpha in the reading nook

This is Bravo at her desk, reading The Magna Charta for her history course:

This is Charlie’s desk:

Charlie's desk

And her collection of origami dragons she has been making:

Origami dragons

But today is one of the first pleasant days we’ve had in a long time, so she and her brother decided to do some of their school work on the flat roof outside of the schoolroom window:

Here is Delta working diligently at his desk:

Delta at his desk

Well, that’s our space.  You will probably see this as our backdrop in days to come, but it may not be so neat!

First Day

23 Aug

This morning was our first official day of the new school year.  Since we have been keeping late hours over the summer, I decided to gradually work our way back to early mornings, so I let them sleep until 8:00 (our goal is 7:00 for the kids, 6:00 or 6:30 for mom).  We ate breakfast of crepes,

did morning chores, and headed to the school room.  We spent the first hour in our “Monday Morning Meeting,” going over schedules, courses, chores, etc.  We passed out everyone’s books and got desks organized.  Then several started on their Quote Journals.

We started Quote Journaling last year.  Here are the guidelines:

  • write at least one quote a day
  • the quote can be from a book of quotations, the Bible, a song, a poem, a speech, or something a friend or family member said
  • use neat handwriting

Since we were having a “soft start” today, they only had to tackle two subjects besides their Quote Journals and Bible.

I found that we are missing a couple of required books (have no idea how I overlooked that) and still need to sit down with some and work our their personal weekly schedule.   Now, Alpha has gone to band practice, and the other kids are in the pool.  All in all, a good first day.

Last Summer Roadtrip: The Four States

22 Aug

Yesterday we took our kids on our last summer roadtrip, this one a spur of the moment thing.  Since we live in the southwest corner of Missouri, also known as part of the Four States area (Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas), we decided to eat in four states in one day.  We started off, of course, in Missouri eating breakfast.  We headed south and stopped briefly in Neosho, MO.

Neosho, MO

We continued south into Arkansas where our GPS took us on quite an adventure on some back country roads.  My husband swore he heard dueling banjos in the distance!  Despite the rough roads, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and saw several deer.  We ate our snack in the car since this part of our journey took much longer than expected.  We all cheered when we hit paved roads again.


We then headed west.  Once we made it into Oklahoma, we stopped for lunch in Grove.


After lunch, we turned north and stopped in Baxter Springs, Kansas at the Cafe on the Route for a sugar frenzy dessert.

Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive Ins and Dives (The Food Network) featured this small diner on his show a couple of years ago.

It sits on the corner of Main Street (Route 66) in Baxter Springs.

Dessert at Cafe on the Route

We sampled their desserts: Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae, Peach Meringue Pie, Blackberry Cobbler, and Deep Fried Cheesecake.  The cobbler and cheesecake were our favorites!  We plan to come back sometime and try some of their “real” food.

We got back home in time to spend the afternoon in the pool.  All in all we had a good day!