Tuesday, September 23, 2014

D.I.Y. Care Package For Chemo Patients

Recently, a very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. When the time came for her to begin her chemo therapy, I wanted to do something for her, but was at a complete loss. What do you get someone going through chemo? Flowers carry spores. They have very specific diets. They're not usually up for a visit. So what can you do? 

Here is what I came up with, after doing a little research into what a chemo patient may need. I picked out a pretty gift bag, and filled it with a journal and pen, a lip balm, some breath mints, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, travel Kleenex, and a chocolate treat. I included an encouraging card.

 These were all things she was able to use. She continues to fight, but I'm happy to report she is doing quite well. I hope this post helps someone, looking for an idea. Here's to winning the fight against cancer!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Let's Talk Chores!

The chores question comes up a lot. Here's a quick explanation of how we manage chores, in the Kitschy Homeschool House.

I'll be honest. My kids do a fairly minimal amount of chores. I'm a tough teacher. Their workload is much heavier than most homeschoolers I know. I expect a lot out of them during school hours, so I don't feel endless chores are necessary or fair. My kids need and deserve their down time. That said, they don't get off scot-free. Here's a break down of their chore list.

Morning Chores:
After breakfast each day, my oldest son (age 15) takes out the trash and recycling. My daughter (age 10) empties the dishwasher. Then they wash up, get dressed, and we start school. 

Afternoon/Evening Chores:
Sometime before dinner twice a week, my oldest two clean their bathroom. 

That's pretty much it. Now, they're all (including my 4 year old) responsible for keeping their rooms tidy, and putting away their own laundry. They're all also required to do anything I ask of them. For example, if I say, "Go gather all the dishes from around the house." or "Pick up the clutter in the living room," then they better hop to it. 

Short post, I know. How extensive are the chores in your household?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pork Scallopini with Tomato Red-Wine-Vinegar Sauce

This is a simple and quick entree, that my whole family loves. 

2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 2.5 lb pork loin
Salt & Pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red-wine-vinegar
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh torn basil

Thinly slice your pork loin, and sprinkle both sides with salt & pepper to taste.

Heat skillet over medium heat, add olive oil to pan, and cook pork 3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and cooked through.

Arrange pork on platter, and allow to rest, but keep warm.

Add a drizzle more olive oil to pan, and scrape the bottom. Add onions and garlic to the skillet, and cook 2-4 minutes, until nicely browned.

Pour vinegar over onions and garlic, and cook until liquid is reduced by about half.

Now, toss in the tomatoes and a dash or two of pepper. Cook about 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes just begin to shrivel and produce liquid.

Pour sauce over cooked pork, sprinkle with basil, and serve. Yummy!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How I Plan Our Homeschool Year: 3 Easy Steps

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I'm no good at "how-to's." Every homeschool mom has their own way of doing things, that works for them. This is mine.

Step 1- Researching Grade Level Requirements and Discussing Electives Options
             I start by doing a little discovery work, to find what each child should be learning that year. This is especially essential with my high-schooler, as transcripts and college applications are at the top of his ultimate agenda. Once we've covered the basics (this includes language arts, math, science, social studies/history, and foreign languages), we discuss electives. This year, my 5th grade daughter wants to concentrate more on her computer skills, and my tenth grade son will be taking a business management course, as well as a film making/film history course. They both will continue to take private art lessons, and my daughter will continue with her drum lessons.

Step 2- Purchasing Textbooks and Other Needed Materials
             Next, I jump on amazon.com and read tons of reviews from customers, many of whom are fellow homeschoolers. I select the textbooks I find best, for each subject, and any other materials (science kits, special calculators, etc.) that I think we may need. I do what I can to get the best deal, buying most of these items used. The kids and I hit the dollar store and Wal-Mart, for notebooks, pencils, and other back-to-school essentials.

Step 3- Planning Each Course's Pace and Planning Lessons
             My favorite step is doing an overview of each subject, and trying to pace the course to fit the school year. This simply entails looking over each textbook, doing the math of how many lessons versus school days, and figuring in field trips and projects that correlate. This is just an outline of our year, not set in stone, and very much subject to change. Then, I plan the first couple of weeks' daily lessons. Planning a couple weeks in advance allows me to be in the moment, yet prepared for what's to come.

That's it! Our school year begins in a little over 2 weeks, and I am ready!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Homemade Pasta Chips

Looking for an easy, yet impressive recipe for company? Well, here you go. These pasta chips are easy, but please note that patience is key. Your guests are sure to be dazzled. This recipe serves 6-8.

16 oz farfalle pasta (bow tie pasta)
1 & 1/4 to 1 & 1/2 cups olive oil, for frying
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 & 1/2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (homemade or canned), for dipping

Boil the pasta according to package directions.

Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain well.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high, until the end of a wooden spoon creates popping bubbles, like this:

Reduce heat to low. In batches, fry the pasta in a single layer. You should need to add a tad more oil, between batches, and also wait for the oil to reach the desired temperature again.

Once pasta is golden brown (about 8-10 minutes, per batch), remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Be patient. Pasta should look like this:

Sprinkle with grated parmesan, and serve with marinara. Yummy!

A couple notes:

I've found it works better to sprinkle each batch with parmesan, while still hot, before placing in the serving dish. This ensures the cheese is evenly spread throughout. 

Also, you can flavor these chips in a variety of ways. You can sprinkle with salt, chili powder, and garlic, and skip the dip, for example. Play with it!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Teaching Kids Basic Life Skills

It's summer! While fun is on the agenda, I also like to take this slowed down chunk of time, to focus on basic life skills. I want my kids prepared for the real world, and ready to live on their own, when they leave for college. There's only one way to achieve that. They have to be taught, and then they have to practice these skills, regularly. Here's my running list of things I want them to accomplish on their own, before flying the coop. Please make mention of anything you find I may have missed, in the comments. I'd like to cover as many bases as I can!

  • Budget-Almost everyone anyone knows is in debt. I'd like my kids to be equipped with the skill of living within their means.
  • Balance a Checking Account-Goes along with the budgeting, but people often skip this step, with today's technology.
  • How To Do Their Taxes-or at least how to find someone to do their taxes for them, and then check behind them
  • How To and When To See a Doctor-Knowing the difference between a tickle in the throat and the flu, and how to make an appointment is clearly important. 
  • Basic Car Upkeep/Change a Tire/Jump Start a Car-I mastered each of these skills before I was 16. They've come in handy more times than I can count.
  • Basic Housekeeping-I wish I had known how to keep a house clean, before I was in charge of my own, lol! It took me years to find my stride.
  • Laundry-Yeah, I'm not washing weeks worth of your dirty skivvies, when you come home from college. Let me show you how to manage that now!
  • Handle Basic Tools-Learning to use a hammer, screwdriver, drill, etc. is a must.
  • Build a Fire-I guess I just want to know they're warm.
  • Replace a Fuse/Reset Breakers-No one likes the dark.
  • CPR & Heimlich-Safety first.
  • Prepare and Cook Meals-I'd hate to think of my kids living on Pop-Tarts and pizza rolls...not that they won't anyway. I just don't want to think about it.
  • Return an Item-Confession. I was too irrationally nervous, to return anything, until I was in my late twenties. No idea why. I don't want my kids stuck with things they don't need or want.
  • Reattach a Button-Confession number two. My husband is in charge of this, at our house.
  • Parallel Park-My drivers education class did not require this. My mom taught me anyway. Go mom!
  • Speak At Least 2 Languages-I'd prefer Spanish be their second language, because it would be most helpful in the American job market.
  • Type-Computer skills aren't really a problem, in today's society, but proper typing is somehow hard to come by.
  • Navigate WITHOUT Electronics-GPS is awesome. It really is, but what happens when there's no way to charge the battery? I want my kids to be able to read a map, and find their way.
  • Negotiate-I'd like my kids to master the art of the haggle. Knowing how to manage a dispute, or get a great deal can only benefit them.
  • Basic Self Defense-Again, safety first.
  • Inform Themselves-Whether it be about politics or a skill I forgot to teach them, self-guided learning, and knowing how to weed out opinions from the facts, might be the number one life skill I'd like my kids to have.
  • How To Interview/Apply For a Job-Um, why is this not taught in traditional school?!
  • Listen-I don't mean obey. I mean listen, really listen to others, and learn to read between the lines. I don't want my children to be naive, and fall prey to people who won't have their best interest at heart.

This list is incomplete. I will surely think of more, before the time comes. Anything you would add?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

10 Cheap Ideas for Summer Fun

Looking for some simple and cheap ways to entertain the kids this summer? Here are 10 inexpensive ways to up the ante, and get the most out of those hot summer days!

1. Start a club! We love hosting book clubs and craft clubs, but anything that strikes your fancy can become a summer club. Find a few willing participants, set up dates and times, and throw in a few healthy snacks (consider taking turns with the other moms). Boom! You've got a fun way for the kids to get together, with friends who enjoy the same things they do.

2. Check out local day camps! Lots of churches host a week long Vacation Bible School. Not your thing? Try your local 4-H. They often have day camps, that only cost a few dollars. My kids have attended archery, reptile, doll making, gymnastics, swim, and basketball camps, all through 4-H, and we live in the tiniest town you can imagine. Many gyms offer summer clubs or camps, for children as well.

3. Create a backyard obstacle course! My kids love this! Use hula hoops, pool noodles, balloons, cones, or anything of the sort, to create a fun obstacle course. Maybe invite the neighborhood kids over, and make a day out of it!

4. Build something together! Take the time you'd normally be schooling, to create something useful with your kids. Think step-stools, birdhouses, etc. My oldest son LOVES to work with wood and tools, and this provides a chance for us to spend time together (not an easy task, once they reach teen-hood).

5. Take a daycation! Take off for the day! Pack a lunch and drive to the closest beach(or other body of water), and spend the day swimming, enjoying the breeze, soaking up the sun--you get the point! Even a simple picnic lunch, at a local park, can be just the change of pace you need.

6. Take advantage of local summer programs/specials! Bowling alleys, movie theaters, and libraries usually run summer specials or programs for kids. Again, we live in a very small town, but the bowling alley 30 minutes away offers 8 weeks of bowling for 8 dollars. Can't beat that. Many movie theaters have certain summer days, when they play a free movie (usually early, like 10am), for kids. Libraries often have weekly story times. Look into what your community offers.

7. Game Days! We have a rule in this house. Rainy summer days, are board game days. We break out whichever games we feel like playing, and spend the day battling each other. Give it a try. Your kids won't be as disappointed, that they can't swim or hit the playground.

8. Organize a parade or put on a play! Gather some of the neighborhood kids, and have a bike parade! Or get together with some of your local homeschool pals, and put together a play, to perform for the dads or other family members.

9Go old school, and play some classic outdoor games! We love family freeze tag, hide and seek, and kick the can. Add some extra cooling off fun, by incorporating the sprinkler!

10. Create a summer playlist! Who doesn't want to spend the summer jamming out to their favorite tunes?! Throw in everyone's favorites, set it to random, and crank it up. Watch your days rock!