Saturday, November 26, 2011

So what DOES a Vegetarian family eat for Thanksgiving?

People often wonder what in the world we eat for Thanksgiving.

It's such a silly question to me ... we eat what you eat, just not the turkey.

And, we LOVE it.

Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year.


What did we have?
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed redskin potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Green beans
  • Squash casserole
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Rolls
  • Olives, sweet gerkins
  • Shirley Temples for the kiddos
  • Death by Chocolate
 Interested in recipes?

Mashed Potatoes

1 bag of redskin potatoes
sea salt
sour cream

Chop potatoes and boil until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and mash with the remaining ingredients. Keep taste-testing and adjusting seasonings until it is perfect.

Amazing Vegetarian "Turkey" Gravy

I got raves and raves on this one, especially from my meat-eating friends. They couldn't believe I made it without any drippings. :-)

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
4 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos
2 cups vegetarian vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon "chicken seasoning"
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Saute onion and garlic in melted butter. Add flour, nutritional yeast and Bragg's and combine with the butter. Slowly whisk in the broth, combining with the flour mixture to avoid clumps. Add seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes. YUM.O.

Squash Casserole

6 yellow squash, diced
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 onion,chopped
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers

Turn your oven to 350 degrees. Saute squash in the EVOO in a deep skillet for about 15 to 20 minutes. At the same time, melt the butter in another skillet and saute the onion in that butter. Add the onion, butter, sour cream and cheese to a big mixing bowl. When squash is finished, place a clean towel in a colander, add squash to towel and squeeze as much liquid out of the squash as you can. Add the drained squash to the mixing bowl. Mix your 3 seasonings together in a separate bowl or cup. Now, measure out 1 teaspoon of that and add it to your bowl of goodies (throw the remaining seasoning into your mashed potatoes). Combine all of the ingredients well and then add to a square baking dish. Top with crushed crackers and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. ENJOY

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (or Tofutti if you are vegan)
12 oz light firm tofu
1/2 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice, no white stuff)
2 tbsp corn starch (non GMO)
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned)
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 graham cracker crust

Turn your oven to 350 degrees. Place the first set of ingredients (six) into a food processor with the s-blade. Process until smooth, scraping the sides and processing some more. Spread 1 cup of this mixture into the bottom of the pie crust. Now, add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides again. Smooth the pumpkin mixture over the white layer in the crust, leaving a slight heap in the center. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes.


I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving with people you love, food that was delicious and more to be thankful for than you can even list. I know I did!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday School

So, when I returned from my little vacation, I talked about my plans for our homeschool. Then, I gave it some thought and wouldn't you know, I've changed my mind.

I am in my third year of homeschooling and I learned a long time ago that we do not get much done in the way of "real school" between about Thanksgiving and New Year's. After learning that, I decided long ago that I would create a school calendar that reflected that fact. I decided long ago that we would not even attempt to "do school" between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

Fast forward to this year. Even though I knew myself and my family, somehow I lost sight of that and fell victim to the pressure to "catch up" because I felt like we were "behind".

So, I made these grand plans to get X amount done between now and Christmas.


Not sure what I was thinking. Please excuse that momentarily lapse in judgement. I've since come to my senses and remembered what I knew to be true.

Who can concentrate on "lessons" when there are Christmas decorations and Christmas music and Christmas stories to read and goodies to bake and gifts to make and wrap and lights to string and lights to go out and look at and live nativities to visit?

I mean, really.

So, my new and improved, revised plan is this: CHRISTMAS SCHOOL in December.

We got our feet just a tad wet with Thanksgiving ~ we read (and narrated) The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh and are focusing this week on getting our groceries for Thursday and cooking.

As for Christmas, my plan is to get started with CHRISTMAS SCHOOL next week (after Thanksgiving has come and gone). Some of the things I have in mind:
  • Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ~ We are listening to it, reading the story, will watch the DVD and are scheduled to go see the ballet in December.
  • Read Aloud "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"
  • Read Christmas Stories 
  • Make gifts, make cards
  • Baking, decorating
  • St. Nicholas (the real one)
  • Jesus
  • Solstice
I'm thinking that we will try to maintain a couple of things (like math and cursive and reading and the OM Fairy Tales), try to alter a couple of things (like copywork from the Christmas stories and our Bible time being focused on the story of Jesus and his birth) and just try to relax and enjoy.

From the library:
  • Country Angel Christmas, Tomie DePaola
  • The Clown of God, Tomie DePaola
  • Jingle, The Christmas Clown, Tomie DePaola
  • Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, Tomie DePaola
  • The Nutcracker, Jane Mason
  • The Nutcracker Ballet, Deborah Hautzig
  • A Visit from Saint Nicholas, and Santa Mouse, too!, Clement Clark Moore
  • The Legend of the Poinsettia, Tomie DePaola
  • In November, Cynthia Rylant
  • The Night Before Christmas, a Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clark Moore
  • Michael Hauge's Family Christmas Treasury
  • A Christmas Treasury, Very Merry Stories and Poems, Kevin Hawkes
  • The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories
So, we are finishing up The Wizard of Oz at night and when that is finished we will read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We are reading The Nutcracker during the day and will read the other stories throughout the next few weeks. Some more I need to look for, I guess, would be The Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

How do you homeschool during the Holiday Season?

Monday, November 21, 2011


It's what I'm grasping for, desperately.

This has been a very difficult year for our family.

Don't get me wrong, we chose the struggle when we chose to go a different way. We knew when we decided I would be a stay-at-home Mom that we were giving up material wealth. We knew when we again decided that I would educate our children at home that we were again giving up material wealth.

But, it was to be worth it.

And, of course, it is worth it. I wouldn't trade one moment of my life for one that meant that my husband and I both went to work every day and my children had their own separate lives.

I wouldn't.

I choose this struggle because I believe that the reward of putting our family first is worth any struggle.

But, that does not make the struggle easy. And, the struggle seems to be getting tougher by the day. You see, we chose to give up much in the way of monetary gain, but we chose it when things around us were okay.

Now, even the people who didn't choose this life are struggling.

That means that those of us who did choose it are struggling even more. A family of four (plus four animals) that attempts to survive on a blue-collar income that fluctuates with the economy, in THIS economy, STRUGGLES. in. a. BIG. way! I mean when our one paycheck depends on the paychecks of everyone else, in a time when their paychecks seem to be shrinking as well, we hurt.

We've been "poor" for as long as I can remember.

But, again, we CHOSE to be. I get that.

But, this has been the "poorest" year yet. And, I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel.

We are living paycheck to paycheck. We are behind on most bills. Each week I am making choices between needs. "What is more important this week? Toilet paper or toothpaste?"

When you are struggling to meet needs each week, obviously any sort of want is so far down on your list of priorities it has almost fallen off the piece of paper.

That's hard to accept. But, you get used to it. Sort of. Well, not really. But, you deal with it. What else can you do?

Then, you realize it is November. Thanksgiving is days away, before another paycheck and the money is already spent on bills.

Then, you realize that if it is Thanksgiving now, that means that Christmas is only weeks away.

You realize that not only do you want/need to buy Thanksgiving groceries, but you also want to buy a Christmas tree as soon after Thanksgiving as possible. And, heaven forbid, you might want to give your children a gift or two.

You know in your heart of hearts that the meaning of Thanksgiving and the meaning of Christmas both revolve around family and being together. That the meaning does not revolve around money. But, that does not take away the sting of wanting to give to your children (and your nieces and nephews) and thinking that you might not be able to.

When you sit down and try to figure out exactly how you can pay your rent and electric this month, you realize that there doesn't appear to be room for the Holidays.

Your heart weeps. You feel sorry for yourself. You feel lost, hopeless.

Then, you are reminded of the simple blessings.

Your children know that you love them. They know that times are hard and they don't care. They don't expect anything more than your love and guidance.

Your children hug you and assure you that everything will be okay.

"I can teach you how to knit, Mommy. Then, you can just make us something."

What really matters?

Is it hard to struggle so much financially? ABSOLUTELY

But, in the end I must remind myself of the reasons that we CHOSE this struggle.

They are smiling right in front of me! We love each other. We have a beautiful relationship. We will make it through the tough times and will remember being together more than what is or isn't under the tree this year.

And, as always, I need to remember to trust GOD.

He has not let me down yet. Why would He start now?

Wouldn't you know, as I am realizing that I do not have the money to buy groceries to cook on Thursday that God is lining up a side job for my husband to do tonight. That will give me just enough to get the groceries for Thanksgiving.

As I am realizing that I do not have the money to buy a Christmas tree, God is lining up another side job for my husband to do some time this week. That will give us just enough to get a tree.

One step at a time.

If I trust in HIM, He will provide what we NEED.

Possibly nothing more.

And, I must learn to be content with that. I must learn to be thankful for what I DO have right here in front of me.
  • A wonderful marriage to an amazing man who works so hard to ensure that I can be at home with our girls.
  • Two healthy children who are a shining light in any room they enter.
  • A home with real floors and running water and a roof that keeps me warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • Love and friends and family and life.
  • Freedom to make the choices we've made. Freedom to live the way we want to live.
  • A family that can be together for the holidays, which matters most.
Give thanks for what we DO have. Find contentment and acceptance in the little things.


One . step . at . a . time

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Home sweet home ... and thoughts on school

We've been out of town for a few days.

We had a wonderful time.

 We got to spend time with my mom and my grandparents.
 We went to the zoo (secret school).
 We went to Silver Springs (secret school).
 We rode glass-bottom boats and even learned some local history (secret school).
 We ate good food.
 We played in the pool (yes, in November).
 We took boat rides.
 We saw manatees migrating (secret school).
 We saw birds local to our area and named them (secret school).
 We saw alligators (secret school).
 We learned about snakes and bats and spiders and scorpions (secret school).

I could go on.

You get the idea.

We've had fun.

But, now we are pooped!

Tired, worn out, exhausted, a little bit out of it.

Now, it is time to unpack, clean up, pay bills, get back to LIFE.

Now, it is time to get back to SCHOOL.



Funny thing, while I was away, I was able to use my mom's I-Pad to still "check in" on my favorite blogs and what I discovered while I was away was that my favorite "like-minded", "like-schooling" mamas were making changes.

Making changes along the same lines as my own thoughts lately.

Don't you just love it when you stumble upon people who seem to think the exact same thoughts as you?

Well, before our trip, when I should have been focused on packing and cleaning, I was obsessed with school planning thoughts.

For NEXT year.

You see, I want to buy what I need for the 2012/2013 school year in February with my tax return.  We don't have a budget for school during the actual year, so I need to know what resources I want to use the next year and get them when I do have the money. The problem with that idea is knowing exactly what you want to use a year in advance.


If you've kept up with things around here, you know that I made the mistake last year of NOT doing that. Then, I found myself in September of this year with no plan and no materials and sort of at a loss.

Thankfully, I was blessed to be able to borrow materials for THIS year from one of those "like-minded" mamas I was talking about.

I am eternally grateful, unimaginably appreciative.

I was elated, excited, stoked to be getting the materials.

I waited patiently.

I wanted more than anything to LOVE the materials so much that all of my homeschool questions would be answered for the next ten years.

I wanted Oak Meadow to be THE answer.
I wanted to like it enough to stop looking and just use it forever.

That was my wish.

My wish was not granted.

Don't get me wrong. Oak Meadow is great. It is holistic. It is beautiful. I know that it is an amazing choice for a lot of people.

It just isn't the right choice for ME ... for the long haul.

While I find the materials that are in my hands (grades One and Three) complete, I started thinking about next year. I knew immediately that I did not want to use their materials for grade Four.

When I really started to think about it, I pinned down what I do want and no matter how many times I stray, I always come back to Charlotte Mason.

When I was planning the Oak Meadow materials for THIS year, I decided immediately that there were a few things I would tweak.
  • I much prefer the Charlotte Mason idea of copying only well-written literature, not copying our own summaries. So, when OM suggests summarizing stories and copying those summaries into the Main Lesson Book, I would find a good sentence or two from the reading for my daughter to copy instead.
  • I much prefer the Charlotte Mason idea of less writing in the beginning. According to Charlotte Mason, a child less than about 10 years of age would really not have to physically write much more than their daily copywork. The child in 1st or 3rd grade would narrate orally and only copy short bits, only as much as they could do perfectly in a short amount of time. OM includes too much writing too soon for my taste.
  • I very much prefer the Charlotte Mason idea of learning from WHOLE living books. While OM is story-based, the stories are all "adapted" and "altered" and inserted into these books written and compiled by Oak Meadow. I want to read whole, real books, by their original authors and in their original and beautiful language. You know, the kind you hold in your lap and admire on your book shelf. I don't want to read reprinted little stories in a syllabus or adapted fairy tales with no illustrations sprinkled in.
So, what I decided was this:

First Grade 

We are doing the Oak Meadow language arts for at least as long as the fairy tale and letter stories last. The Princess enjoys hearing the fairy tales (and that satisfies the Charlotte Masoner in me as well) and she loves to draw the letter pictures. Do I think she needs that? No, but we both enjoy it. So, we are doing two letters a week ~ reading the fairy tale, recalling the next day (a sort of delayed narration), drawing the picture, reading the rhymes and practicing the letters on the last day of the week (again, satisfying Charlotte Mason copywork for her age ~ letters first, then words and short sentences).  Will I continue the OM language arts after all of the letters have been introduced and drawn? Who knows. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

We are doing the Delightful Reading lessons. She LOVES these. She demands them, requests them, WANTS to do them, daily. So, I oblige.

I ordered and received Math Lessons for a Living Education from Queen Homeschool Supply and we are excited to get into that.

I was trying to do the science activities from both OM 1 and OM 3, but was not ever quite getting to the ones in OM 1. But, we are doing the OM 3 science as a family, so I think that is sufficient for my younger one as well. I will just relax and let it be.

So, from OM 1, I guess I'm only really doing the Language Arts at this point.

Third Grade

I am using OM 3 as a guide for content (somewhat), but the method is my own.

We are doing the science as a family on the weekend with Daddy. So far, I've been having the Hippie make an entry into her Science Lesson Book on Mondays that includes a couple of sentences about what she learned and a picture to go along with it. Since I have ultimately realized that I am not doing OM 1 science, I will start having the Princess draw a picture on Mondays that represents what she learned from Daddy over the weekend.

As far as the OM 3 Language Arts, when it suggests to read the folk tales at night and have the child make three entries into their MLBs that week (summaries and pictures), I'm basically changing that entirely. We are forgoing the folk tales and focusing on the Old Testament instead.  As I said above, I don't want her to copy her own writing, so instead of summarizing (though she IS narrating to me orally), I am having her copy a portion of one of the Old Testament stories that we read from Hurlbut's Story of the Bible.

She is also learning cursive and I agree with Charlotte Mason that while learning to print or learning cursive, the learning of the letter formation is the copywork. So, what I've been doing is having her form six perfect capital cursive letters on day one, six perfect lower case cursive letters on day two and then only copying a sentence from Hurlbut's Story of the Bible on day three or four. She has been writing a letter on the other day.

The other aspects of OM Language Arts include reading aloud (we do that) and her reading independently (she does that).

My plan (though it is not concrete) is to use the rest of the OM Language arts this year as a guide.

When it says to focus on poetry, reading some, memorizing some and copying some, I think we will do that.

When it says to add in spelling, I will not do it the OM way, but will possibly add in All About Spelling at that time. I'm still undecided on that.

When it says to add in some grammar, I may or may not do that.

As far as the OM 3 Social Studies, I sat down and looked at the actual materials. I used the content as a guide and rearranged to meet my taste. Oak Meadow uses two random stories from the Old Testament to illustrate the Ancient Hebrew culture. I decided to do the Old Testament all year long. OM touches on some Native American stories. I like that, but I will most likely add in several books instead of just doing the stories in the OM syllabus. OM also focuses on some frontier stories. I am planning to do American History next, so I may skip these altogether, knowing that we will cover that in detail soon.

According to my own rearranging, I figured we would "cover" the Ancient Hebrews between now and Christmas, then touch on the Ancient Kush and Ancient Phoenicians in January and February, then move on to Native Americans for the final term. This could change, of course, but I think it will time out nicely even if I decide to start American History early. We can easily combine the Native American aspects with the Ancient American History stuff I have in mind!

I left OM math out of everything.

We do handwork on our own.

We don't do recorder.

We paint when we want to.

The girls both enjoy picking simple recipes from the little cookbook that came with Oak Meadow and making snack for us.

I still want us to bake.

I still want the nature study.

I still love Outdoor Secrets and I still own Language Lessons books for each girl.


So, FOR NOW (and this is always subject to change as I see fit), we are doing this:

1st Grade:
  • Oak Meadow Letter Stories (Fairy Tales, Recall, Rhymes, Illustrations, Copywork)
  • Delightful Reading Lessons
  • Math Lessons for a Living Education
  • Reading practice from Arnold Lobel books, Reading Literature the Primer, etc.
  • MAYBE Language Lessons
  • MAYBE All About Spelling (when not doing Delightful Reading)
3rd Grade:
  • Learning cursive
  • Copywork related to Old Testament or Native Americans or from our Literature selection
  • Oak Meadow Third Grade Social Studies (Hebrews, Kush, Phoenicians, Native Americans, Map Skills, Economics, Law) 
  • Poetry memorization
  • Introductory Grammar (Sentence structure, Punctuation, Capitalization, Nouns, Adverbs, Adjectives)
  • Math Lessons for a Living Education
  • Life of Fred
  • Independent Reading
  • MAYBE Language Lessons
  • MAYBE All About Spelling
  • Oak Meadow Third Grade Science
  • Outdoor Secrets
  • Hurlbut's Story of the Bible (Old Testament)
  • Literature Read Alouds
  • Poetry (A.A. Milne & Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • Music Study (Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Orchestra, Opera)
  • Picture Study (Renoir & Native American Art)
  • Baking
  • Nature Study
  • Handwork Group (Circle time, knitting, weaving, etc.)
  • Homeschool Group, Field Trips, Park Days
  • Library

And, that is where I am at right now.

As always, that is subject to change. :)

Looking ahead ... I am planning next year as we "speak".

American History and Geography ... and the rest will fall into place.

Many blessings to you on your journey!

So blessed to be a homeschooler.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Comparisons and rhythm

I've had some questions lately about our rhythm and where I'm getting my ideas for school.

Let me start by reminding anyone who is reading this that we do NOT do it all.

Our day is NOT perfect.

My days are NOT free from tears, whether they be my almost 9 year old daughter's, my other child's or MINE.

My days are NOT free from chaos ~ two dogs that drive me crazy most of the time and make it impossible to keep my house clean, three kittens that do the same, paychecks that continue to get smaller, bills that cannot be paid, stress and more stress and my constant feelings of failure.

Please do not look at a post on my site and think that I have it all together.

Because I do not.


Each day is a new day.

And, each day I NEED a new day ... to make up for the one before it.

I am only starting to feel like we are getting into a groove.  But, we still don't have any math because I don't have any and I have no way of buying what I want/need. So, while our homeschool may be gaining some ground and moving in the direction of success, it is by no means perfect.

And, I'm utterly distracted. ALL . THE . TIME .

I truly want to be a PRESENT parent, but I fail miserably at that ... daily.

I am distracted because I am always planning (the upcoming school year, the next twelve school years, next week's school, you name it) ahead (in my head) and thus cannot just BE in the moment.

I am distracted because I am stressed about money.

I am distracted by animals and clutter and dust and dirt and hair and loud and hyper children who bicker.

So, if your house feels chaotic and you look here and think for even a second "Why can't I get it together like HER?", stop yourself. Because, ironically I am looking at your blog thinking the same exact thing! :)

Well, now that I got all of that off of my chest, let me answer a couple of questions.

Our rhythm?

The basic daily rhythm looks like this:
  • Morning Routine (dress, make bed, breakfast, teeth, animals, etc.)
  • Chores (we're working on this ~ honestly THEY do theirs more often than I do)
  • School
  • Snack & Recess (tends to stretch FOREVER)
  • School
  • Lunch
  • Quiet Time
  • Play Outside
  • Dinner
  • PJs, Teeth, Read Aloud
  • Bed
That's the GENERAL rhythm around here.

Sometimes we find it hard to start again after recess. But, honestly that is MY fault, not theirs. They are out there having fun and I get distracted and don't feel like doing school anymore. I'm working on that.

I don't plan too much in a day.

I purposely don't plan to have more than about 2 to 2 1/2 hours worth of school because MOMMY doesn't want to do it after lunch. The idea is to start about 9:30, snack around 10:30 or so and then school some more from 11:00 or 11:30 to 12:00 or 12:30.

Our Weekly Rhythm looks like this:
  • Monday ~ Home ... School
  • Tuesday ~ Home ... School
  • Wednesday ~ School in a.m., library and Handwork group in afternoon
  • Thursday ~ NO SCHOOL ... Homeschool Group
  • Friday ~ Home ... School
  • Saturday ~ Clean
  • Sunday ~ Family Time ... Football
I only schedule four days of school work. EVER.

One thing we've recently started and is working VERY well is that we have a Science Lesson on Sunday with Daddy. I'm ashamed to admit that my straight-A getting self has the hardest time wrapping my brain around moon and earth and sun and rotation and seasons and all of that stuff. I have "book smarts" but get all mixed up with some very common sense stuff. So, when I looked at my third grade science stuff and saw that the first lessons were about the earth's revolution and the moon and all that stuff that I barely understand myself, I asked my husband if he would like to teach this stuff on Sundays. He said he'd love to. And, he's done a lovely job so far. I even understand it now! Good Job, Daddy!

So, he teaches the concept on the weekend (girls don't even realize it is school) and then I have the Hippie make an entry into her Science Lesson Book on Monday (draw what she learned and write a sentence or two about what she learned). This is working well for us.

Well, I could write forever about school. So many more thoughts running around in my head. But, I must go have dinner with my family. If you are a fellow home-educating Momma and have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask! I love making new blogging buddies!

Many blessings on YOUR journey. May we all learn to stop comparing ourselves to others. Boy is that one we struggle with constantly! 

Love and Light
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