Soft “Paleo” Chocolate Chip Cookies

January 4th, 2013 by Rachel

I love chocolate chip cookies, and I had perfected my recipe over the years. Thomas insisted that I keep that recipe a family secret, much to the disappointment of some fans of the cookies. I blame those cookies for about 10 pounds that I gained during my pregnancy with Sugar. Anyway, I have been trying various grain-free chocolate chip cookies over the past two years since I started following a paleo diet (not that cookies are paleo, but you know… a treat now and again is okay.) I never found a recipe that I liked enough to make more than once. I tweaked several different recipes and came up with one that my family and I love. The kids don’t even complain about wanting the old kind anymore!

Soft Grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups almond flour (locally, I get this at Brazos Natural Foods. It is the cheapest and best quality around. You can spend more and get Bob’s Red Mill, too.)
1/3 – 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (I also get this at BNF, it has a lower glycemic level than regular sugar or honey)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 cup chocolate chips (Enjoy Life are good, so are dark Santa Barbara chocolate chips)

Melt your butter and stir together all the ingredients. No need to beat it or anything, just combine everything in a bowl, then stir in your chocolate chips. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, no longer! They might not look all the way done, but let them cool completely on the cookie sheet. They are even better the next day, as if the almond flour softens more overnight. Makes about 15 cookies.

September in Our Home

October 5th, 2012 by Rachel

September was a whirlwind of a month for us with our Classical Conversations group starting back for the year. I am tutoring Bud’s class which is a lot of fun and sugar is in a big kid class, too. Our PE Co-op also began, thus homeschooling is going full-force. We started reading Story of the World about ancient times. We even made some little caveman wall paintings.

Thomas spent a week in Canada for work. It was our first week of CC and PE, but we survived! To help pass the time, we did fun things like getting yogurt in the afternoon.

Thomas celebrated another birthday. He is still a kid at heart, as you can see. The kids were really sweet and put together a whole shoe box of presents for him–stickers, their favorite crayons, pencils, drawings galore. It was really sweet.

We had dinner with some of our international student friends. They took us to a Korean restaurant (they aren’t Korean), and we had a lot of fun trying new foods and catching up about our summers.

We enjoyed the cooler weather and ate dinner outside one night until the mosquitoes drove us inside.

Thomas and Bud built a bird feeder in the backyard. The kids planted many of the sunflower seeds in their sand toys and many have sprouted. The feeder attracted a cardinal several times, but now the seeds have been consumed by a squirrel, hanging from the branch by his tail.

Sugar built a high chair for her baby, who enjoyed some scrambled eggs one morning.

Cleaning Confessions

September 14th, 2012 by Rachel

For those of you who have reading this blog since it’s inception 7.5 years ago, you may recall the string of green cleaning recipes I posted ages ago, back when Bud was a wee tot and I had all the time in the world to clean the house and tweak cleaning recipes. I got this email from a reader-friend:

If you’re up for it and have time, can you revisit your cleaning routines on your blog? Or I suppose you could just email me if you don’t want to write a post. Long ago when I first started reading your blog, you posted about green cleaning and your routine. But that was when you only had one child, I think. So, I’m curious how things have changed. Because I’m trying to figure it out with two children. And, I kind of wonder if the house will just be messy for the next 18 years. You seem to be a tidy person but you also don’t seem irritated that Speedy is always making messes. Have you had to dial down your expectations for the state of your home?

I spent a day at my friend’s house who used to work as a Maid Complete in Kansas City, seeing the way her house is set up and how she cleaned even when I was there, got me thinking. I have had to change my cleaning routines over the years, and I don’t hold nearly as I high of a standard as I did back when I first started blogging in both cleaning routines and using all-natural cleaners. Read more »

August in Our Home

September 5th, 2012 by Rachel

I have done a much better job documenting some of our bigger events in August (the Supercinskiad, Speedy’s birthday, my new pull-up bar), so this is light on pictures.

August seemed to fly by as we spent many days at the pool and hanging out with friends. I felt like I finally mastered our summer routine: park after breakfast before it is too hot, home for Speedy’s nap and school with Bud and Sugar, errand or trip to the pool, home for lunch and more naps, hang out or errands until dinner and bedtime. Sugar is swimming really well these days and loves to dive into the pool. She can swim at least 10 yards to me, then take a breath and head back to the wall. She likes to pretend to be Missy Franklin, and Bud holds a noodle in front of her as she swims to be the world record line.

I spent the last few weeks of August easing into our transition back to full-time school. I continued math, reading and spelling a few days a week during the summer so that Bud wouldn’t forget everything, and I just recently added science back into the mix. The kids have had a blast with science, and I am really happy that I started early to cover the extra lessons we wouldn’t need later in the year. We made some molds of pawprints and the kids pretended to be scientists for a day in their museum. We observed animals at two local pet stores, charting the invertebrates and vertebrates we saw, and we bought two sea snails to join our goldfish, and we have a gigantic bowl of mealworm larvae living on our kitchen counter. Fun times!

Thanks to the Maid2Match service I was able to free myself up and I spent much of my free time while the kids were sleeping working on lessons plans for the class I am tutoring at Classical Conversations this year and our at-home lessons plans for the fall semester. I really enjoy all the filing, copying, binder-making and such that goes along with this time. The Olympics were a nice time to get stuff done.

We said good-bye to some of our dear friends who moved at the end of August. I am sad to see them go as they have been sweet homeschooling friends.

We also enjoyed a birthday party with another friend who introduced Bud to the wonders of Wii dancing games. He was really good at it, too.

The garden is empty except for sweet potatoes. We are planning our fall garden and looking forward to fresh lettuce again.

I wrapped up another Bradley series of 15 total couples (!!!) and I am thoroughly enjoying a break before the next series begins.

A New Year of Homeschooling

August 28th, 2012 by Rachel

Bud is starting first grade, and Sugar is doing a little more school this year than the last two years where she basically played and colored. This is what is on our plates for this year:

Reading/Phonics – All About Reading Pre-Level 1 – We have been working in this for a few weeks now, and it is very appropriate for her reading level. We are working on letter recognition, sounds and handwriting.

Handwriting – Handwriting Without Tears and various activities (stickers, playdough, gluing)

Math – We are working on skip counting songs, counting, number recognition and writing numbers. So far, this has been through a few workbooks, but I plan to start doing Saxon 1 with her once or twice a week starting later this winter.

Geography, Grammar, History, Timeline, Latin, Science – She will be participating in a Classical Conversations class this year and will be working on memorizing her weekly memory work through CC and at home. In addition, she will completing many activities with Bud to supplement our weekly history and science.

Reading – We are working through Explode the Code Level 5, a few sheets a week. He also reads chapter books to himself and some aloud to me (A to Z Mysteries, Magic Tree House).

Spelling – Bud just finished All About Spelling Level 1 and will be starting Level 2 next week. I love this curriculum!

Math – Bud is already almost a third of the way through with Saxon Math 3. He made some great progress over the summer with speed and consistency with math facts. Math is one of his favorite subjects.

Language Arts – First Language Lessons by Susan Wise Bauer. We have been doing a few of these lessons a week with both Sugar and Bud. He is memorizing poetry, practicing narration and learning more grammar.

Geography, Timeline, Grammar, Latin, Math, History, Science – memory work through Classical Conversations

History – we will supplement our CC weekly history sentence with readings from Story of the World and various activities to go along with them. I have lots of fun activities on Pinterest.

Science – For the fall semester, we will be supplementing our CC science memory work with lessons and activities from Evan Moore Science books for grades 1-3 on Vertebrates, Invertebrates and Plants. We are also planning to raise some tadpoles into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies. We have completed most of our vertebrate unit already as the kids have been begging for more science.

Geography – we will supplement our CC memory work with learning a bit more about the countries we are locating (each week they will work on finding different countries and physical features on their maps and practice tracing them–we are doing Africa and Asia this year). We will also read biographies of missionaries to those countries, and use Window on the World to pray for those countries. We will also eat food from those areas and perhaps watch a travel guide show about some of them. This is not applicable for every week, but several of them.

Fine Arts – through CC we will be working on drawing for the first six weeks and supplementing at home with various activities and lots of time with Ed Emberley’s drawing books. Then we will do music and practice playing tin whistle and reading music (perhaps we will get a keyboard do more with this?), then in the spring we will work on art history and painting along with orchestra and classical music.

Physical Education – we are part of a PE co-op that meets weekly. The kids will also continue with gymnastics for the fall semester.

Scripture Memory – both kids will be memorizing Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments) with CC. In addition, we have been memorizing a verse a week from My ABC Bible Verses. I really like the applicable stories that go with each verse. Bud practices handwriting by doing copy work for the verse each day. We are also still plugging through some simple catechism work.

Thirty Thirty

August 27th, 2012 by Rachel

Yesterday was my 30th birthday. Speedy and I are almost Birthday Buddies, but I’m glad that I have my own day, that way I am not spending my birthday at Chuck E. Cheese for the rest of my life.

Since night wakings, homeschooling and letting my husband go to the gym prevent me from going to the gym, I have an awesome garage gym, mostly thanks to my dad’s generosity and welding skills. I can be very self-motivating and disciplined, and I actually enjoy getting to workout on my own (or with Sugar since she wakes up early to join me), so not getting to go to the gym hasn’t been much of a bummer for me. And I like getting to pick out the workouts I want to do, though my form on some of my lifts is suffering from lack of coaching.

Anyway, that was a long way to introduce the Thirty Thirty, and here is a picture of Sugar testing out my pull-up bar that Thomas made for me.

Earlier this month, the Crossfit main site posted a workout that I thought sounded epic, for lack of a better word. I decided that doing 50 reps of so many movements seemed a bit much, but thought that it would be fun to do the same workout scaled to 30 reps to celebrate my 30th birthday. I subbed good mornings for back extensions and did kipping pull-ups instead of jumping (big mistake, my arms were dead).

I woke up at 6 a.m. on my birthday and headed out to the driveway. As I warmed up, I thanked God for my life, the past 30 years, and this body that He created. It was a nice way to get ready for a workout. Thomas woke up after I had started and snapped a couple of pictures.

It was a great way to start my day! I even had sweat dripping into my ears.

Games of the XI Supercinskiad

August 13th, 2012 by Rachel

As I mentioned before, we enjoy the Olympics. If you have been reading our blog for longer than the past two years, you might recall that nearly every summer, we compete in our Supercinskiad games. Most of our games the first five times were board games, word games, and card games, except for leg wrestling. The Supercinskiad was not held last year as I was too busy nesting for a new baby to stop and play games. This year, we decided to make it more for the big kids to enjoy, and I think it was a blast. The kids got really into it, and even made flags for themselves. Sugar’s got ripped up by Speedy, but she was a good sport about it.

It was a grueling day of competition, but the athletes handled it well. The day started off with track and field shortly after breakfast before it got too hot. The first competition was hurdles… maybe 10 meters? Bud’s longer legs helped him secure an easy gold medal.

Then we headed to the park for some more games. Long jump came first with each competitor getting three attempts. We had watched highlights from long jump the day before, but Thomas gave the kids some pointers. My husband is awesome.

Check out the height Bud got on his last attempt! Again, Bud’s longer legs secured him the gold.

Afterward, we attempted some javelin throws with an old tent pole. Hilarious. Bud triumphed once again.

Check out the “javalin” right in front of Sugar.

Then we combined discus and shot put into a ball toss. Bud won, again.

Next the kids did a short distance sprint across the basketball court. It was a very close race with Sugar right on his heels, but Bud managed to secure victory in all three heats. The last track and field event was a longer run, about 400 meters, which Bud accomplished, but Sugar chose not to finish. It was really hot.

At home, we fed and hydrated our athletes, put Speedy down for a nap, and the gymnastics competition was underway. First was floor routine (super cute), followed by balance beam. Sugar managed to secure the gold in floor, but they both tied scores in beam. It was too hard to judge.

After lunch, the games continued at the pool. We had several short swims to Mommy, which Sugar won all but one heat. (She has turned into a little fish this summer!) Sugar won all the swim races except for the back float contest, which Bud was able to float the longest.

It was a lot of fun and I hope we get to do it again next year!

Olympic Funnies

August 12th, 2012 by Rachel

Thomas and I both really enjoy the Olympics, but we do not have cable. No cable in our neck of the woods means that with an antenna, you pick up two local stations (CBS and CW) and three PBS stations (KAMU, an all PBS-kids station–not complaining, and the National Weather Service station). During the 2004 Olympics, we were able to watch the Olympics on my roommate’s cable and nice, leather couches. After we got married, we didn’t even have a TV for the first three years. For the 2008 Olympics, Thomas sweetly rigged up a wire taped to a window that miraculously picked up fuzzy NBC. Now that we have older kids, we wanted them to be able to watch the Olympics. Some of my favorite memories as a kid are laying on my parents bed all day long, watching Kim Zmeskal do gymnastics, then attempting to do it myself. And during the winter Olympics, we would watch figure skating and then attempt to figure skate around the house, with jumping spins and all.

Anyway, all that to say, we got two months of cable (free installation!) so we could watch the Olympics. And we have. the kids have asked, “Are we watching the Olympics AGAIN tonight?” with a whiny voice more than once. Don’t worry, the cable will be cancelled soon. I have tried surfing through the scores and scores of stations available several times to find that there really is nothing worth watching.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the kids during the Thirtieth Olympiad:

Me: “What do you think of fencing?”
Bud: “It is cool, but not that cool. I thought they would be stabbing each other for real.”

Me: “That skeet shooting sure was neat, huh?”
Bud: “Yeah, but I really thought they would be shooting each other. That would be better.”

Sugar, after watching one of the track races and listening to the announcer say something about Carl Lewis: “Carl Lewis…. Carl Lewis… Carl Lewis… that is the name of one of my boy dolls!”

Sugar: “When I grow up to be big enough to drive, I am going to be in the Olympics! I will swim, dive, do gymnastics, and run really fast.”

In celebration of the Olympics, we held the 6th Supercinskiad. Post with lots of pictures forthcoming.

June in Our Home

July 26th, 2012 by Rachel

Better late than never, right?

June was filled with fun summer activities for the kids. We went to our fourth annual (so far) Big Rigs event at our local library. As always, there were lots of big trucks, lots of sweat, but no free popsicles this year (but they had free sausage! Yeah!) The kids posed for a few sweet pictures and they each helped operate a backhoe before deciding it was too hot and time to go home. Sugar was cracking me up as she sat in the backhoe helping move the levers and watching the bucket go up and down–her tongue was sticking out of her mouth so far. She was focused!

The kids also took gymnastics lessons after a full year off, and had a blast. Bud was not too keen about taking gymnastics (too girly, he says), but they offered a special “Super Hero Training” class for boys around his age. I love the creativity involved in this class. They wear capes and masks and run around doing obstacle courses and jumping around for an hour. It is great.

Thomas took Sugar on a date to a little Daddy-Daughter “Dance” earlier this month. Bud and I had a special night at home which included painting each other’s faces and playing a ton of games against each other.

Pa surprised Bud with his first BB gun at Sugar’s birthday party. After Speedy went to bed, the rest of us spent many nights having target practice in the backyard.

The garden grew a lot this month and is pretty much covered in vines–sweet potato, cantaloupe and watermelon vines. The tomatoes were covered in stink bugs and we gave up on them. The zucchini and squash all died from squash bug infestations. The bell peppers are growing well, and we planted some new green beans. Summer gardens are my least favorite.

The kids had swim lessons and made lots of progress, and I sewed Sugar a swim cover-up from an old towel. The old towel was quite bulky, so if you decide to make one, I recommend purchasing some terry fabric. Bud also had a paper-airplane making obsession for most of the month.

Alphabet Scavenger Hunt

June 21st, 2012 by Rachel

I got this idea from my friend Megan’s kids’ summer bucket list of activities. I gave the big kids a mission: find something in the house that starts with each letter of the alphabet and take a picture of it. Obviously, their pictures weren’t that great, but I was blown away by their creativity. You have got to check out what they picked for X. I think Sugar has a future as an actor and Bud as a director/writer.

A – (Sugar’s real name), B – Baby, C – carrots, D – diapers, E – eggs, F – flyswatter, G – games, H – high (ceiling), I – eye, J – (Bud’s real name), K – Kaley, the penguin’s name, L – legos, M – “me”, N – November, O – octopus, P – paper, Q – cute, R – racecar, S – Cinderella, T – top hat, U – up, V – vacuum, W – water, X – execute, Y – yarn, Z – zipper

Execute? Really? Bud is holding a wooden knife from our little play kitchen and took the picture. It only took them 15 minutes, but I highly recommend it as a kid’s activity.