Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge - August 30, 2017

1. Can you believe we're rolling in to the Labor Day weekend? What's a project you'll labor over this fall?

Labor Day always seems to arrive quickly. The summer goes by so fast. 

This Fall, I am focusing on going through my home office and getting it back to a workable space. It became a "holding spot" for a lot of my parents' items when we sold their home after they died.

Cluttered with a lot of projects and work that
needs to be addressed. The piles on my desk are all things
I need to go through and do.
I want the space under my desk back again 
so I can sit there.

Part of the process is crafting since my Mom left many projects unfinished - quilts that had squares cut, but never sewn together; or quilts that were partially done.

Two of the quilts that I want to work on are
between the file cabinet and desk.
They are completed, but need mending and
other repairs (e.g., new batting). 

She had patterns for soft toys (e.g., stuffed dog, Humpty Dumpty) that I remember from my childhood that I'd like to try my hand at this Fall.

2. Tell us about the best perks you ever had in a job?

When I worked for Spirit Square Center for the Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was in a creative environment every day. There were artists-in-residence who had studios at the Center, so I could go down on a lunch break and see them at work. There were artist-educators who taught the arts to children from the local schools.

The multiple art galleries were filled with a variety of artwork. There was one in which we could participate one year. The walls were covered with a special photograph paint that was then covered with dark plastic.

We could bring in a photograph to have included in the exhibit. The artist would turn off the lights and remove a section of the plastic. The photograph was projected onto the wall that had the special  paint. Somehow it created the image onto the wall.

This was the photo I had the artist put on the wall.
It's a picture of my Mom as a little girl with her doll.

One-by-one, the sections of the wall were covered with photographs. It was an amazing historical collage of meaningful images to people who participated in the project.

3. August 31st is National South Carolina Day. Have you ever been to South Carolina? Any desire to go?

When I lived in North Carolina, I went to South Carolina a couple of times for vacation.

According to Southern Living, these are the top ten things to do in South Carolina...

Explore Charleston, bike, golf or relax on Hilton Head Island, see the beach and the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach, visit the state museum in the capital city Columbia, observe the wildlife and natural beauty of the Ace Basin, take a walk or hop on a trolley and check out Greenville's charming main street, visit Fort Sumter where the Civil War began, stroll through Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden in Bishopville leaving time to check out The Button Museum, also in Bishopville, see Morgan Island (also known as Monkey Island)-home to nearly 4000 Rhesus monkeys. 

Which is most appealing to you today? If you're a SC native, resident, or frequent visitor what would you add to the list?

I've been to Charleston and Myrtle Beach. We drove there, so we went through many town to get there...I don't remember what ones, though.

4. Beef, pork, country-style, barbecued, baby back, spare or short...your favorite kind of rib? 

Ummm....I guess I never really noticed a difference or have had ribs that much to know the difference between all the types mentioned. To me, it's the barbecue sauce and the quality of meat that makes good ribs. 

What's a dish you enjoy that really "sticks to your ribs?"

Scrambled eggs with shredded cheese, chopped vegetables (peppers or onions), and a bit of meat (ham or crumbled bacon) is a meal that is quite filling.

These are not the typical eggs I make. 
Back in April 2011, when we were doing a unit study on Mexico, 
we made Mexican scrambled eggs. 
The recipe called for more vegetables than eggs. 
The scrambled eggs I make typically have more eggs than fillings.

Oatmeal with raisins is another meal that fills me up in the morning.

5. What's one important skill you think every person should have? Why?

Every person should know how to prepare simple meal for themselves - breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Sophia made a beverage with fresh fruit.
This one had dragon fruit - a new fruit we hadn't tried.
It's the white one with black seeds on top of the oranges.
In the back are 20 quarts of pickles that we canned last week.
They need to be labeled and put away still.

There is no reason to go out for every meal because one doesn't know how to make their own food.

I made beef with vegetables and cashews stir-fry
that was served over rice for dinner on Monday.

It's healthier to eat at home, saves money, and creates a sense of togetherness for families to eat meals together.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

National Dog Day was last week. People were posting pictures on Facebook. I didn't get them uploaded in time. So, here's a photo of our dogs with Sophia. It's rare that all four are sitting so nicely together.

Can't forget about Eenie. He's sitting with Olivia as she was reading on her bed.

There's Meenie, too. She's Eenie's sister.

Also, am so excited that the African violets are blooming.

I have three plants on the east windowsill in the kitchen that are doing well and have lots of blooms. 

Two of the plants have never bloomed before - so it's a real treat to see them with flowers.

They were ones that the girls and I grew from an individual leaf that we bought at an African violet show several years ago.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back to (Home)School Checklist

When I was going through my files earlier this year, I came across a checklist for things to do at the beginning of a homeschool year. I added other suggestions from notes I had in my file to create a more customized list.

The text in italics is what I did this year. Photos will be added as the activities are done during the upcoming week prior to the official start of homeschooling for the 2017-18 year.

1. Make Legal Arrangements.
File the annual "Intent to Homeschool" form with the school district. Make sure to apply for reimbursement for supplies (up to their allowable limit). This year it is about $91 per student.

Filled out the paperwork and brought it to the district office on Monday, August 28th.

2. Review yearly goals and objectives with each child.
- Review long-range goals for each child's education and training in all areas.
- Break these goals into objectives to be reached this year, quarter, month, or week.

Both Sophia and Olivia picked out courses they wanted to take at the homeschool co-op and I determined the ones that would create a well-balanced load of courses that we would do at home. 

During the summer, we looked at their four years of high school and looked at what they would need to do in terms of courses each year. This, in some cases, was broad since we don't know what PSEO courses or CLEP tests they will be taking each year. The former are dependent on what the college and homeschool offer.

3. Select and Assemble Curriculum.
- Provide a variety of approaches: traditional textbooks, worktexts, unit studies, books, and life experiences.
- Consider using a variety of media to add interest and motivation: books, printed materials, videos, DVDs, computer software, educational games, tools, and manipulatives.

Both the girls have a variety of resources for their courses: Books (living and textbooks), workbooks, DVDs (video and audio), YouTube videos, hands-on experiments, projects, and field trips.

Olivia will be doing both the Further Up and Further In unit study for the Chronicles of Narnia book series as well as Missions and Marvels that is part of the Heart of Dakota curriculum. 

Both are multi-disciplinary, hands-on curriculum that look very engaging and interesting. The latter follows a Charlotte Mason educational philosophy.

4. Determine the School Year Schedule.
- Create a schedule that ensures that the number of school hours are met for each subject.

We began during the Summer 2017 with some subjects to ensure that all the coursework would be completed by the end of the school year.

In this way, too, there is less work that needs to be done during the "actual" school year between September and May when PSEO courses are in session. (PSEO courses are college courses that are paid for by the state of Minnesota. Because they are college-level courses, they are more rigorous and require substantially more work than a high school class.)

5. Mark Your Master Calendar.
- Have a large family calendar on the refrigerator so everyone knows what is happening on a daily basis.
- Include school days, vacations, library days, field trips, 4-H, lessons, and activities.
- Put all appointments, music lessons, and any activity that is held outside the home on the calendar.

This is such a good idea for our family since we have something going on almost every day. I did a calendar for the end of August and September; and will keep doing a new one for each month of the school year.

Waiting until about a week before the new month begins to do the calendar will help keep it timely and ensure that all activities and appointments are on it. 

6. Plan Your Study.
- Compile a syllabus (course outline listing topics, materials, resources, major projects) for each class at the beginning of the year. Add details, rearrange the order, and/or set assignment dates weekly or monthly as you go along.

This year, I created a syllabus for each course that falls under my instruction. (The PSEO courses and classes offered at the homeschool co-op will have their own syllabi.)

Syllabi and information for PSEO and homeschool co-op courses.

Syllabi for courses that I'm overseeing.

For each course, I listed what the girls need to do each week. They are able to mark off what they accomplish and take a more active role in managing their schoolwork and schedule. We have been using this new system for a couple of weeks now and it seems to be going very well.

7. Create a School Identity.
- Create a school name, mascot, colors, and logo.
- Create a memory book for each child (e.g., My Kindergarten Portfolio, My Memory Book for Grades 1-6, Junior High, High School).
- Create t-shirts with school name, mascot, or logo.

Our school name is The Academy at Harvest Moon. We've had this name since we started homeschooling. The "Harvest Moon" part has tied into everything I've done in terms of non-profits, businesses, and creative endeavors I've done/am doing.

When we first moved to the farm in 1995, I remember driving home one night from work. As I drove down the highway through the country, this huge orange ball was at the horizon in the east. I had never seen anything like it before. It was the Harvest Moon.

For my entire childhood and adult life, I lived in places where I never saw the moon rise on the horizon. It was breathtaking...and something that was a new discovery and experience for me. 

So, keeping"Harvest Moon" in our homeschool's name seemed like a logical thing to do since I wanted the girls to approach learning as a new discovery and new experiences. If they had moments that took their breath away or were exciting for them as part of learning - all the better!

In terms of a mascot, we've never had one. So, I asked the girls at dinner one night what they thought of having a homeschool mascot. They liked the idea.

They tossed out different ideas for a mascot: Danny (one of our dogs), griffin, phoenix, or dragon. The girls decided that they wanted a dragon as their mascot.

I was happy with this choice because it reflects their Chinese heritage; and is a familiar image we saw while traveling throughout China. Sophia also was born in the year of the dragon, so it's even more fitting. 

They want their homeschool colors to be red, gold, and silver. Red is considered  to be a color of good luck in China.

The logo is something that we still need to work on. They want their dragon to be red with gold and silver accents. The moon would be somewhere in the logo with the dragon.

Sophia found a dragon in a round (harvest moon) shape. So, we're moving in the right direction...we just haven't gotten there yet.

For the past two years, we created memory books/yearbooks through our 4-H club.

Since I resigned from being the leader, we won't be creating a book this year through the club. Rather, we are using the same company (TreeRing) and creating a memory book for our homeschool.

We are very excited about this since we haven't done this in the past; and it will be a great way to document what we will be doing during the 2017-18 homeschool year. The girls will be responsible for designing specific pages as well as creating two personal pages for their customized book (a feature that TreeRing offers).  

8. Make the First Day Special.
- Take photos. (Find photos from past years and put together in some way. Add this year's photo to the display.)

I found photos on Flickr and on my computer that I took on the girls' first day of school from 2007-2016. Sometimes, I didn't take a picture on an official "first day" since homeschooling for us is fluid. So, I chose photos that were taken in September.

Sophia on her first day of homeschool in 2007 (1st grade) and in 2016 (10th grade)

Olivia on her first day of preschool in 2007 and in 2016 (8th grade).

- Have a special lunch planned. Do a picnic by a river or stream; or in the backyard.
- Write down each child's favorites (e.g., book, food, activity).
- Have balloons, streamers, and/or a back-to-school banner.
- Have apple slices and caramel.

9. Create Back-to-School Traditions.
- Poems or clues for a scavenger hunt to find their school supplies (curriculum, new pens, rulers, bookmarks, erasers). 

I found an article in my files written by Nancy Manos called Back-to-School Treasure Hunt. It was in The Paper MACHE from the August/September 2013 edition. There was a set of five clues to use at the end of the article that I adapted for a treasure hunt on September 4th.

- Ice cream treat at Dairy Queen after dinner the night before school starts. We've been doing this for several years now which has become a tradition.

- Family Week - last week before school.

=> Monday - Chinese theme. When we all became a family. Get in the habit again of setting the table nicely with a candlelight and centerpiece.

We didn't exactly have the candlelight and centerpiece for the meal on Monday since I arrived home late from doing errands and working out at the YMCA. Dinner was at 7 p.m. which was late for us. 

At any rate, I made Cashew Beef Stir-fry - a recipe from Taste of Home (February/March 2009 issue). 


2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups cold water
4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 bunch broccoli, chopped  (I would use 2 bunches next time)
3 medium carrots, julienned
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound beef top sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 medium green peppers, cut into strips (I would use one pepper next time)
2 medium sweet red peppers, cut into strips  (I would use one pepper next time)
2 medium onions, halved and sliced
1 yellow summer squash, sliced  (I didn't use this)
1-1/2 cups salted cashews
Hot cooked rice


In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, water and 2 tablespoons soy sauce until smooth; set aside. In a very large skillet or a wok, stir-fry broccoli and carrots in 1 tablespoon oil until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the beef, garlic, pepper and remaining soy sauce; stir-fry until meat is no longer pink. Remove and keep warm.

In the same pan, stir-fry the green and red peppers, onions and squash in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Return beef to the pan.

Stir cornstarch mixture and gradually add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cashews. Serve with rice. Yield: 7 servings.

Note: This isn't a flavorful or spicy stir-fry. We had to add extra soy sauce, black pepper, and some salt. Sophia and I sprinkled wasabi peas on top to give it some extra kick. 

=> Tuesday - Tropical Paradise - as a reminder of our family trips to Hawaii when the girls were younger. Make a pina colada shake and have a Hawaiian-theme meal (Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp with White Rice, Spam, fresh fruit [e.g., mango, pineapple], and macadamia nuts.

Found a recipe for a pina colada shake from My Recipes. This was very good and we would make it again.


1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple cubes, frozen

1 1/2 cups vanilla dairy-free frozen dessert
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
3/4 cup frozen sliced banana (about 1 small banana)


Place all ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth; and serve immediately.

Also made Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp with White Rice. The recipe is from Savory Spice Rack.


2 pounds of jumbo shrimp (without the shells)
2 and 1/2 tablespoons flour (I used all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
18 large garlic cloves minced (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons total)
About 1/3 cup dry white wine
Fresh chopped parsley (optional for garnish)

White rice


Place the flour, paprika, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl, and mix these ingredients together until blended.

Add the shrimp to this flour mixture and coat the shrimp with the flour mixture (all of the flour mixture should adhere to the shrimp).

Set the shrimp aside, and let them sit while you cook the garlic (this time allows for the flour mixture to adhere to the shell of the shrimp).

In a large pan heat the butter and one tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat until the butter has melted.

Add the chopped garlic to the melted butter and oil, and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until you see the garlic has turned light brown.

Once the garlic has turned light brown, add the wine, and cook for about one minute.

Remove the garlic sauce from the pan and set aside.

Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and let it get hot. Then, add the shrimp to the pan.

Cook the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (the cooked shrimp should be pink in color).

Once you have cooked the last batch of shrimp, add the garlic sauce, and other cooked shrimp back into the pan, and stir. Then, remove the pan from the heat source. Garnish with parsley. Serve with white rice.

What didn't turn out so well was the Spam and fried rice. The girls had tried this at our 4-H club's Festival of Nations back in May and enjoyed it. Found a recipe online which looked similar.

Unfortunately, it wasn't. The rice turned out hard and crunchy, there were too many eggs in comparison to the Spam and rice. At least the girls had plenty of Spam to eat which they enjoyed.

=> Wednesday - Special breakfast of pancakes and bacon.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that our weekday mornings are not as rushed compared to if the girls had to ride a bus to school. So, they've enjoyed over the years special breakfasts - like pancakes and waffles during the week. When I was growing up and going to school, the special breakfasts were only made on Saturday and Sunday generally - when there was more time.

Eenie, the cat, has his eyes on the bacon. He's wondering if anyone will give him a treat. He's 14 years old now. Can't believer we've had him that long.

=> Thursday - State Fair competition (Computers - Sophia; Video/Filmmaking - Olivia) and dinner in the 4-H building.

We had a pork loin dinner with roasted potatoes and vegetables, mandarin orange salad, cake, and milk. It was substantially more than any of us could eat.

After the orientation, the girls were judged in their respective project areas. Sophia won a grand championship ribbon for the website she created: that promotes her new harp CD, tells people how to purchase it, and gives dates for her upcoming performances.

Olivia won a blue ribbon for the video she created called "A Better World for Animals." 

Both the girls were very happy with how they did - especially considering this was the first year in the projects for both of them.

=> Friday - Spend the day at the State Fair. Have lunch in the 4-H building.  We had a fun day exploring the fair; and seeing and doing things that we haven't done before or it has been a long time since we last did them.

One of the stops we made was the DNR building where there were displays of taxidermy animals. Olivia was able to quickly identify the mammals, birds, and snakes that were displayed. All those years of the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl paid off.

We ate lunch in the 4-H cafeteria (chicken sandwiches with cheese and bacon; fresh fruit; fresh vegetables; and Special K bars).

Again, the lunch was way more than we could eat. This time we got a take-home container and brought what we couldn't eat back to the hotel to have for dinner.

After lunch, we took a picture of Sophia with her purple ribbon and her project. 

We continued to explore the fair and saw the floral kaleidoscopes in the Ag-Hort building. There are flowers planted in the center and three kaleidoscopes on the outside. Sophia had the idea of taking a photo through the lens.

Her photos turned out a lot better because she was able to get more of the repeating patterns. The photo below is from my camera. It gives an idea of what we saw.

We were able to see the daily parade which was fun. There were quite a few marching bands and floats which we enjoyed.

The cow pictured above is the same one that is at the Washington County Fair which we go to each year. The girls sit under the cow by the front legs and I take a photo of them.

=> Saturday - State Fair competition (Community Pride - both girls). Go to Costco to stock up on paper products. Library. Pizza dinner.

We spent many hours at the fair again today (7:30 a.m. until about 2:00 p.m.). The girls competed again (as a team, though, this time) for Community Pride.

They shared how the club did a One Stop Donation Drop in which they supported 23 non-profits - local, statewide, regional, national, and global.

They received blue ribbons - first place - for the project and their presentation. Afterwards, we went around the fair a bit. Sophia's friend, Nikki, from the Take Action Camp in Arizona, was at the fair so they were able to spend time together which was nice.

While they were doing that, Olivia and I spent time in the Fine Arts Building and saw a variety of paintings, photographs, and sculpture.

In the Creative Arts Building, she tried her hand at lace making with bobbins. She caught on right away. The demonstrator was impressed with how fast she could understand the pattern that the bobbins needed to go in to complete each row.

By 2 p.m., we were ready to leave. We stopped by Costco on the way back home to stock up with paper products so that I'm not having to buy them at a higher price more frequently during the Fall and Winter.

We picked up books that were on hold at the library, and then were welcomed home by the dogs who were overjoyed to see us.

We had a pizza dinner which was easy and something we all like to eat.

=> Sunday -  Take the dogs on a hike and then go to Dairy Queen for a treat for all of us - including the dogs. Movie with popcorn in the evening.

We had hoped to do this. However, we were so tired from the three days at the State Fair plus Sophia had three assignments due for two PSEO courses by midnight on Sunday.

So, Olivia and I spent the morning doing half of her 4-H records; and Sophia and I spent the afternoon working on her assignments for the PSEO courses.

Nothing exciting to photograph...just a lot of time spent typing on the computer. 

=> Monday - Labor Day/First Day of School - take first-day-of-homeschool photos plus look at photos of first-day-of-homeschool from past years. Have a picnic with fresh orangeade, spring rolls, salami sandwich in a tortilla corn on the cob, potato salad, and fresh fruit.

Found a recipe for spring rolls on Allrecipes


2 ounces rice vermicelli
8 rice wrappers (8.5 inch diameter)
8 large cooked shrimp - peeled, deveined and cut in half (I didn't use this)
1 1/3 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 leaves lettuce, chopped
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon finely chopped peanuts


Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Boil rice vermicelli 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.

Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the hot water for 1 second to soften. Lay wrapper flat. In a row across the center, place 2 shrimp halves, a handful of vermicelli, basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, beginning at the end with the lettuce. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, sugar and chili sauce.

In another small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce and peanuts.

Serve rolled spring rolls with the fish sauce and hoisin sauce mixtures.

Note: Tuesday would be our "normal" first day of homeschooling. However, Sophia is having foot surgery so the first week of school for her (and our family) won't be typical.