Friday, October 28, 2011

Freezing Carrots

My carrots did really well this year and usually they are the last to be picked.
They will actually keep in the ground over the winter if you cover them with straw.
Although I haven't tried it, I like the idea of pulling back the straw and getting carrots when I need them.
This year, I have been doing a lot of freezing because it is a little faster than canning...and we have a HUGE freezer:).
I like to package up a few to put in the crisper in my refrigerator, and the rest I freeze for soups, casseroles, and side dishes.
It is really easy:).

{According to The Ball Blue Book of Preserving}

1. Pick a large quantity of young, tender carrots and cut the tops off.
 I set all of the carrots in a sink full of cold water.
A lot of the dirt will fall to the bottom if you let them sit for an hour or so.

2. Wash, peel, and then wash again!
My kids like to help with this.

3. Dice or quarter medium sized carrots. For larger carrots, just dice into matching sized pieces.
Small carrots can be frozen whole.
Me? I just dice everything!

4. Blanch cut carrots for 3 minutes, whole carrots for 5 minutes.

5. Cool and drain on a clean dish towel on your counter top.

6. Package into freezer bags, label, and freeze.
They are good for up to a year:).

That's it!

You have a fast and easy addition to your meals...ready and waiting!

Have a great weekend!


Friday, October 21, 2011

School Days

We have homeschooled now for about 5 years and I have to say that we love it!
Will went to a public, two-room school for first grade, and although we really enjoyed it, it was quite a trek.
Tim had also developed severe asthma at that time and was in the hospital every time he caught a cold.
I wanted the best education tailored to their needs and to be able to foster our Christian beliefs, so homeschooling was the answer for us. 
Do I think it is for everyone?
There are some great schools out there and great parents who are on top of their kids and their education.
Each road has its ups and downs.
Believe me, we have some perfectly IMperfect days and once in a while I think it would be nice to have a day to myself  {I'm not superwoman}....
But for our family, homeschooling has really been our answer to prayer!

The biggest question I get is, "What do you do all day? How does homeschooling look?"
Wow! That answer encompasses quite a bit!
Some people are super relaxed with homeschooling, some run it more like a'm a happy medium:).

Here is a peek into what our daily life looked like a couple of weeks ago...

The weather was warm and beautiful, so some of my kids moved outside to work.
I love that!
Lily is at a 2nd/3rd grade level right now and enjoys reading.

Our kitchen table IS the school room in our house.
It is where most things get done.
Will is in 7th grade and things are a little tougher this year, but he is doing so well!
I have a system of giving each child a weekly outline of what needs to get accomplished.

Usually, I give a short lesson if there is a new concept, and them they are pretty self motivated to finish each subject. 
I have them check off their work and then correct their papers.
I don't grade at this point....I know where they are at and have them correct mistakes right away.
We can speed up or slow down as needed.
It is nice to be able to do that!
I keep these weekly outlines as part of their records for the year.
I have folders for each subject in a three-ring binder and have them put tests and other samples of their work to keep. At the end of the year, I put everything in a file and tuck it away:).

Lily was studying hearing and the parts of the ear in science this week.

Tim is in the 5th grade and Jack is in preschool.
This particular week we focused on the letter "A."
He practiced writing capital and lowercase A, we sang songs about the sound it makes, and we studied apples.
Jack made a little book about apples.

We made apple muffins together.

  And we cut apples open to examine them, counted their seeds, then made apple prints with paint and paper.
Most days my house looks like this...learning can be messy...but I love it!

We try to meet with a local homeschool group for PE and the kids take swimming lessons, but we also have a lot of activity at home.
Tim loves riding his horse, Clover:).
He took a break in between subjects to ride her.

Recess includes playing with these guys:).

We went on a field trip put on by the Dept. of Natural Resources and the local college.
It was all about relocating beavers and beaver habitat.
I had the kids watch a movie about beavers the day before and then told them we would have to write a small report about what they learned.
The best part? The field trip was on a farm that we lived on when Darren and I were first married.
Such good memories there...

The kids got to see a live beaver up close and personal. We were amazed that his tail was lizard-like. It had scales and was really strong.

They got to look at beaver skulls...

a beaver pelt {which helped bring people West}...

and beaver teeth. They are orange because they are made of iron and calcium and never stop growing.

This was a rubber cast of a beaver's back foot.
There is a split claw for grooming.

There was evidence everywhere that the beaver were around.
Fallen trees and piles of dirt that they roll in to mark their scent.
They looked similar to what a mole hill.

The beavers moved to a stream which is a tributary to the river that runs nearby.
It is really pretty....I used to walk here each day when I was pregnant with Will :).

Afterwards, we looked at stream water and found all kinds of life. 

The old farmhouse...

I think one of the aspects of homeschooling I love the most is that I get to learn right along with my kids!
I also love to be with have to when you choose this kind of life style.
I want them to have good memories together and I feel like I have more time to cultivate that.

When you homeschool, there is no controlled setting where the clock is ticking and you have to be finished up with a subject in 30 minutes.
 The dishes still need to be done, there are discipline issues, messes to clean up, and phone calls to answer....or not if we are in the middle of something:).
It is probably the one thing that is hard for new do you juggle all of that?
Well, it is a life style.
You have to be a bit flexible and yet have a schedule and plan.

I don't like a rigid time schedule, so we have a routine.
Around 7am we're all up.
Chores then breakfast.
Inside chores.
Start school.
 Break for lunch.
Finish school and any experiments.
Outside or run errands.

We do have music lessons, swimming lessons, 4-H, and friends over sprinkled in there, too.
The boys work a lot with their Dad and Grandpa {who lives 2 miles away}.
My Dad is a mechanic, so the boys help him with a variety of projects.
It keeps them busy and learning!

We incorporate tons of life skills throughout the day like cooking, baking, or mechanics.
The boys always have a project they are working on and usually this is a big incentive to get book work and computer time finished!

I have three boys and boys need to be busy...I have really found this is the trick to keeping things running smooth and it really cuts down on mischief {ie: teasing, yelling, arguing} haha.
It is hard for my boys to sit for a long time, too:). 
So, when I have them doing research papers or reading a book, I try and break it up into smaller portions.
As they age, I increase the amount of time I expect them to be able to focus.
I also want them to always do their best.

So, how do I know what to teach?
I get asked that question a lot.
There are a myriad of options out there, but we have a compilation of books.
The requirements also vary from state to state. We live in Washington where the laws are very homeschooler friendly.
I file a Letter of Intent with the school district and have my kids tested each year.
Most states have the school year requirements posted on the Superintendent of Public Instruction's website, and I do look at that and try and follow "what everyone else is doing." 
I am also not afraid to go against the norm.
Every school in our district is using different curriculum, so for example some of Will's friends probably covered the Rennaisance in school last year...we are covering it this year. 
No biggie.
I expect my kids to get their work done, but we are somewhat flexible in the day. 
If another learning opportunity comes up, we go for it!
Sometimes, we even take a day off if it is nice and get things done outside. 
It balances out if you think about the fact that we don't take every holiday off or half days that the schools provide. 
Because we farm, we are busy in the Fall and Spring. We believe that working as a family and learning life skills are also important, so most of our bigger projects in school happen in the winter. 

That is when we may start a class with other homeschoolers, take an art class, visit the library more often, or write detailed reports.
At the beginning of the year, I sit down and look through their books and decide how much they need to accomplish each day to finish.
This is what I use to create their weekly assignments.
What if we don't complete EVERY SINGLE PAGE at the end of the year?
It's OK.
Many times that is the case in a classroom. Usually the last few pages are review in a book, as well as the first part. So, I don't sweat over it:).

Here is what we are currently using for our curriculum this year.
I have provided links, just in case you want to check out the books:).
Remember...this is just what works for us, and it has been years of trial and error to get to this point.
If a book isn't working, we move on to try another and now we definitely have our favorites.

Will {7th Grade}

{We start out with a devotion time.}
I supplement with Spectrum Writing because I think that Easy Grammar needs more writing.
This combination has been great.
Math: Horizons 
Reading: Various books from the 7th grade reading list. 
Currently, he is reading Hatchet.
Electives: He is taking a woodshop class.
Art: Included in other subjects and an outside class this year.

Timothy {5th Grade}

Reading: Various books from a 5th grade reading list. Currently reading: Justin Morgan Had a Horse
Art: Included with other subjects and an outside class this year.

Lily {2nd-3rd Grade}

Explode the Code...for fun.
 We have just loved this set. I usually search Amazon for all of the different books and can sometimes find them used:).
Handwriting: Currently using a mismash of books, want to order THIS.
We are also reading The Little House Series.
Art: I include this in other subjects. Example: For history, we may use collage to make a picture of the Mayflower. We have also taken art classes before,too.

Jack {Preschool}

I have been using the site Delightful Learning to study the alphabet.
Her Alphabet Fun section is just amazing!!
I have been using bits and pieces of the curriculum to supplement and it is great!
Jack also uses Rod and Staff Preschool. I just love this company because their books are fun and have a simple, logical layout. They were designed by the Amish and are really comprehensive, but most of all the kids enjoy the books.
We also do a lot of reading together...brothers and sister included. 
So, there you have it! 
I know I could tell you so much more, but this post is super long as it is:).
Homeschooling has been great for our family, and if you are looking into it I would encourage you to give it a try. 
The road can be bumpy, but each year gets easier.
I think the time that you get with your kids is precious... and that their education is so tailored to their needs.
For us, life is a little slower paced, maybe a little messier, full of focus on the Lord and family, close bonds...and I love it that way.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Jennifer Rizzo Giveaway

Jennifer Rizzo happens to be one of my favorite designers and she is giving away an enormous amount of her goodies to one lucky winner.
I just love her comfortable vintage style.

What a wonderful collection of Christmas presents you would have if you won!
To enter, just click on the picture above.

Enjoy your day!
We have a day off of school and are cleaning out the garden.
 I have already seen snow in the surrounding hills!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pie Filling to Freeze

I don't know about you, but my family loves pie!
This recipe comes from a good friend, who has since passed away. I have slightly adjusted it over the years, and I am so glad she was kind enough to share this with me. 
I think of her every time I bake a pie:).
Sweet memories of a sweet person!
You can use any fruit {except all berry} and the pie bakes up wonderfully!

Rose's Pie Filling

2/3 cup white flour
1-1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon..or to taste
6- 6 1/2 cups fruit, peeled and sliced thin
If freezing: 1 gallon freezer bag

Pour first three ingredients in bag and mix.
Add 6- 6 1/2 cups of fruit, seal, and shake up until well mixed.
Squeeze air out and reseal.
Lay flat and freeze.

To Bake: Put frozen pie filling into crust lined pie dish. 
This is a pretty big pie, so be sure to mound fruit in the middle. 
Add 5 TBS. cold butter and dot the filling. 
Put top crust on, flute edges, and sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar, if you like. 
Line edges with foil to prevent burning.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes...until hot and bubbly.
{I usually put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack with a little foil on it...just in case the pie bubbles over a bit.}
Take foil off for the last 25 minutes to brown the crust.
Enjoy your pie!

I try to have at least 15 frozen pies in my freezer for the year...and we eat every one!
It is nice around the holidays to have something prepared and quick to bake.
I have made these combinations:

Apple Blueberry {Substitute 1 cup in blueberries}
Peach Raspberry {Substitute 1 cup in raspberries}

Here are some other combinations you could try...

Apple Goes With:
Apricot, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Cranberry, Peach, Pear, Plum, Nectarine, Rhubarb and Strawberry 

Peach Goes With:
Apple, Apricot, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Cranberry, Peach, Pear, Plum, Nectarine, Rhubarb and Strawberry

Have a great day!


Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Make Pumpkin Puree

Don't you just love pumpkins?
Not only are they great for decoration, but they are useful in the kitchen!

I have been making my own pumpkin puree for years now and it it quite simple!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Select a smaller sized pumpkin {I like the Sugar Pie variety}.
Lay it on its side and cut off the stem.

Cut the pumpkin into four pieces...

Using a spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and stringy meat. 
You can save the seeds for later and roast them:).

Place pumpkin quarters on a cookie sheet, anyway you want....upside down or right side up...and bake at 375 degrees for 45minutes to 1 hour. 
You want the pumpkin to be soft and thoroughly cooked.

Peel the skins off. They come off really easily.
Place pumpkin pieces in a blender or food processor and puree away.

If your puree is a little runny, just strain it through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth to rid it of excess water.
You want it thick.

 Use your pumpkin puree fresh or freeze it for later use!
This is how I store it...

Roll the freezer bag down so you don't get pumpkin everywhere.
Fill it with at least 2 cups puree, squeeze all of the air out, and freeze.

The possibilities are endless as to how you can use pumpkin.
You could bake it in a traditional pumpkin pie, or whip up something wonderful like...

{click on picture for recipe}

Honey Pumpkin Oatmeal,

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, or

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Spice Bars.

Have a wonderful Fall day!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Freezing Swiss Chard

 I grew swiss chard for the first time this year, and it was terribly easy.
The plant is resistant to all kinds of bugs and disease and can handle really cold weather.
It belongs to the cruciferous family and is packed full of nutrition.
 It is an excellent source of vitamins C, E, and K, carotenes, chlorophyll, and fiber and one of the most powerful cancer fighting foods.  
It is also an excellent source of several minerals including 
potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. 

To make a long story is good for you:).

I have been using swiss chard in smoothies, combined with fresh fruit and berries.
You can also use it in place of spinach.
 So any recipe that calls for spinach, you can replace with chard leaves.
I plan to mostly use it for smoothies this winter, but may try it in a quiche or as a side dish with a little olive oil and garlic.

To Freeze:

Prepare a sink of cold water. Rinse chard by lifting leaves in and out...leaving sand and soil behind. Then separate the stems from the leaves.

 Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. You can chop the chard leaves into about 1 inch strips if you like, or leave them whole. 
Drop about one pound of whole leaves in boiling water, cover and blanch for 2 minutes (blanch stems for 3 minutes).

Remove chard from water and immerse in an ice water bath for 2 minutes. Drain. A salad spinner works great!

 Pack in zip-closure freezer bags or freezer containers, leaving no headspace. Label, date and freeze for up to one year. I separate the leaves into their own containers, rather than putting stems and leaves together.
Source: HERE

Have a great day!


*Bonnie left a comment and I thought I would share...she has some great ideas for swiss chard!

Hi Julia,

I was excited to see you post on chard. I have been growing the Bright lights variety for years and it's a family favorite.

We freeze it, use it in quiche, fritattas, omelets, pasta, and our favorite way to use it...sauteed with a little balsamic vinegar finish.
Your photos are beautiful. I'm pinning. 

Thanks Bonnie!
 You can visit Bonnie at her beautiful blog, City Home/Country Home.

Blogging tips