Why We Homeschool

For those of you that don’t know we chose to homeschool Alexis long before she was even born. I had the idea brewing in my head before Jamison and I even met and luckily he agreed with my assessment. There are many reasons, but the main reason was the deteriorating state of our school system’s actual educating processes and the increased amount of violence. I simply wanted to make sure that Alexis got a well rounded education in all subjects, most importantly science and math, which have been watered down to practically nothing in some cases, and was able to do so in a relatively stress and violence free environment on a consistent basis.

When you tell people that you homeschool there are two reactions that you normally elicit, most people think it’s really cool and ask a lot of positive questions or the other reaction you get is where people give you a terse “Oh!” and look at you as if to say “You’re one of THOSE people! Bet you have your kid locked up in the basement unsocialized!” The first group are fun to talk to, the other group I’ve found it best to ignore them and move on. Some people just will not be pleased no matter what you do.

There is a misconception for some that all homeschooled children are kept sheltered, have no friends, don’t participate in any activities outside of the home, etc. This isn’t true in most cases. For instance Alexis is in a local Girl Scout Brownie troop, does various programs with other kids her age in arts, science, physical activities, etc. She attended several day camps during the summer along these lines and she is also very involved with our church’s youth program.

We go out and do activities often. We’re out and about all the time and Alexis is a very social child. She’s never met a stranger and will talk to most anyone, unless they are mean toward her. Around our community people know Alexis and call her by name. She has that type of personality that makes it easy for her to like and be liked by anyone, and she has several very close friends she spends time with, along with acquaintances as well. Last Saturday she did an art class at the local library. This Saturday she will be working on her Science badge with some of her fellow Brownies. She’s quite the little social butterfly!

There are also a lot of collaborative homeschool groups out there if you’re interested. We don’t utilize these groups, because it isn’t our thing, but it is a good resource for those who might not feel comfortable with one subject, and excel at another. While someone in the group is helping the children with math, you might teach another group story writing. Most of these groups are called “Co-ops” and you can usually find one in your community or one nearby. These groups can meet once a week, once a month, etc. It depends on the group itself. Some are religious based, some are not. You can usually find one that fits your needs if you are interested in such things.

A lot of people assume that religion factors into the decision to homeschool and for us that is not the case. I let Alexis get her religious education at church on Sunday and we leave it at that. She knows the basic principles that are important in life and that’s all that matters to me. She knows to treat others as she wants to be treated, she knows to help those who might need help, she knows that she is a very lucky girl and not all children are. She also knows not to make fun of people and not to be mean. She is one of the most empathetic people I have ever met, if you’re sad she’s sad with you, if you’re happy, she’ll be happy as well, if you’re in pain it upsets her and she wants to help you alleviate that pain. She worries about people. She has a huge heart. I have friends that do fit religious education into their homeschool classes and that works for them and that is how it should be…Your program should fit your needs. For us though religion in class isn’t a factor.

This year we’re going further in depth in many branches of science, including chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, botany, marine biology and geology. We are continuing our study of French and Spanish which is a lot of fun. We also are reading kid’s versions of literary classics, along with some of these stories just straight up. We’re doing more indepth story writing, art and music, history, geography, money, time, nutrition, anatomy, critical thinking, note taking skills, etc. Alexis is also learning to type. To round out each day Alexis writes a daily journal entry that tells about her day, something she’d like to do, something she just did, etc.

I also am a firm believer in hands on, on site, learning. If you’re studying sharks, why not go to the aquarium and take a look at an actual shark? Studying George Washington? We’re lucky enough to live near a lot of history surrounding Washington DC, Baltimore and New York isn’t really that far away either. So for Mr. Washington we went to Mount Vernon. What better place to learn about one our founding fathers than his own home? Scientific experiments are easily done at home, or out in nature, or whenever you can observe or touch what you’re studying. Reading about something is great, and it’s part of the overall whole, but seeing it in action is in my opinion an imperative tool as well.

But homeschooling is expensive some argue. I disagree with you there. I will admit I buy a lot of books each year, because we are very much book people, but I find a lot of material for free online too. You would be amazed what is out there. Of course you have to look at these sources with a critical eye to ensure the information they are presenting is indeed true or factual, but it isn’t too hard to distinguish the ones that are what they should be, and those that are not.

This year, though I hated to see it close, Borders going out of business was a rare opportunity for me to afford some of the books I had always wanted to use in our schooling. I also like to give Alexis computer and Wii games that are fun, yet educational. Kids can learn a lot while having fun without even realizing that they are learning, which in some cases is a good thing.

Is homeschooling for everyone? No, it isn’t. In order to homeschool you have to have a lot of patience, a lot of preparation and will power to go the distance. Are there bad days homeschooling? You betcha! But most days are good, or at least that is how it is for us. Alexis is comfortable enough with me, as I am her Mom, to test her boundaries some days, so it’s important to ensure you stick to what needs to be done. Homeschooling also gives you the flexibility to move on when your child is ready to go to the next step and to take a little extra time on certain things that your child might have a bit harder time understanding. Homeschooling is a perfect way for you to allow your child to learn at their own pace.

In short? Homeschooling works for us. Will it work for you? That is up to you to decide.

Originally posted at Daffodil Lane.

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake

Ok let’s get this out of the way…This cake is not a healthy alternative to anything. This is a calorie nightmare, not something you would eat everyday, loaded with sugar, chocolate and butter sort of dessert. In short it’s the kind of dessert that probably makes your mouth water just looking at it! As I said you aren’t going to eat this everyday, you wouldn’t want to eat this everyday. This is a special occasion sort of cake, with plenty of cake to share with many of your closest friends!

One thing I really like about this cake is it doesn’t have to be perfect. Let’s face it, we aren’t Martha Stewart, and quite frankly I wouldn’t want to be. I have enough OCD tendencies without taking things as far as she would. You don’t have to smooth out the buttercream to perfection. The ganache is going to run down the side of the cake. It’ll happen. These are good things. Embrace your messy diva!

This cake has many steps, but trust me it’s worth it! So break out your fork and let’s talk a little chocolate cake!

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake: Layers

What You’ll Need for the Cake:
Three layers of a really good chocolate cake (Note: I used this one, tripled.)

Bake your three layers of cake and let them cool completely.

Once cool make and apply the chocolate buttercream. (See below.)

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake: Butter Cream Layer

What You’ll Need for the Chocolate Buttercream:
2 cups of double chocolate chips
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups of superfine sugar
1 1/2 pounds of butter, softened
1 tablespoon of vanilla

Melt the chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave at 20 second intervals until melted with no lumps. Set aside to cool slightly.

For this next step you’re going to need a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler they are easy to “make”. Simply find a glass bowl that will sit on top of one of your pots and not go all the way down in so that the water does not touch the bowl. Viola…You’ve got a double boiler!

Place egg whites and sugar over medium heat in a double boiler until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off heat and add the melted chocolate stirring to mix thoroughly. Let this mixture sit until cool.

When chocolate/egg white mixture is cool add your butter and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Spread the buttercream in between the layers of your cake and then cover the entire cake in buttercream.

Place the cake in the fridge for at least 2 hours:

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake: Buttercream Layer Setting in the Fridge

I usually leave this stage in the fridge overnight.

Once the buttercream is set you’ll need to make your ganache. (See below.)

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake

What You’ll Need for the Ganache and Top of the Cake:
2 cups of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of butter
4 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
Shaved milk chocolate

In a large saucepan add heavy cream and butter and cook stirring often until the butter melts. Do NOT let this boil.

Once the butter is melted add the chocolate and stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Pour melted chocolate mixture over the top of the cake and then sprinkle the top with the shaved chocolate.

Next place the cake back in the fridge to chill:

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake: In the Fridge

Let it chill at least 2 hours before serving. I also like to let it sit out for at least 30 minutes before serving.

How good does this look?

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake: A Slice

This is a “messy” cake, but it still has a bit of wow factor. It’s the perfect, sometimes, lovely treat!

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake: The Inside

Notes: You can mix up the kinds of chocolate you use. The next time I make this I think I make try to make a white chocolate buttercream and see how that turns out. This takes a little time, so make sure you take that in to account before you make it. I don’t make this often, but it is so worth it when I do!

Murphy’s Law in the Morning

Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and boy this morning was that ever true!

I had an appointment this morning at 8:15 on the other side of the county to get some yearly physical tests run. I set my alarm to go off at 6:30 with that new Joe Jonas song that I equally despise and can’t stop listening to all at the same time. Somehow my iPod came unconnected from the dock during the night and said alarm never rang. I woke up at 7:30, which was actually the time I needed to LEAVE not wake up! Somehow I got up, got dressed, brushed my teeth and hair, put myself together, even threw on a little makeup, and got out the door in 7 minutes. Yay me!

I hate the feeling of running late. I’m an early bird in terms of arriving somewhere. I always have been. The stress of knowing you’re going to be late is something I can’t handle. The stress of knowing I am leaving someone waiting really bothers me. I’m too OCD and I like to do things on my own terms, and my terms so happen to be arriving on time or early if possible. So that feeling of dread settled on my shoulders and pressed down with malicious glee.

I was driving (Very fast!) down the interstate, luckily coming across no cops along the way, listening and singing along to that stupid Joe Jonas song on loop, because apparently I’m a glutton for punishment (Damn catchy tune!), happy with the time I was making, when I had to switch roads. The road that was the next path on my little morning jaunt was a standstill parking lot. Hello Murphy! I’m not pleased to see you and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!

I took the first exit off of this road and immediately called Jamison to find a way across country that would allow me to make it there without having to get back on to the parking lot extraordinaire. I knew of one short cut, but it would make me have to get back on parking lot road and I knew there had to be another path. He found one and luckily I walked in the door at 8:14. I had an overwhelming sense of relief!

After my first appointment I had a second one that I needed to go to, which luckily was two buildings up from the building I was currently in. Unfortunately Murphy decided to come back and sit on my shoulder again because they didn’t call me back until 15 minutes AFTER my appointment was supposed to be, so that crushing feeling of stress moved back on in. Lovely. Murphy was on my last nerve at this point.

Somehow she managed to finish my appointment and I walked in to my next meeting with yet another minute to spare. I heaved another sigh of relief, signed in and sat down to wait for my 9:15 appointment. Murphy being ever the “helpful” little law that it thinks it is came back in terms of them running behind. I wasn’t as overwhelmed by this because I had no where specific to be after that other than running by the store and then returning home to do school, and neither of those expected me to be there at a specific time.

After a few minutes of playing Crazy Quilt Solitaire on my iPod to help me ignore the really bad programming they had on their waiting room TV, I realized that the poor woman next to me was shaking. She was 7 months pregnant and had just taken her blood glucose test. The test wasn’t settling well and she was trying not to throw up. With this one I just wanted to flip Murphy the bird. I mean come on! This poor woman was already miserably pregnant, still having day long nausea from her little bundle of joy and then Murphy comes in and throws her a curve ball. Murphy kindly go home!

I began talking to the lady next to me to distract her a bit. She was a fabulously nice lady, who simply felt like dirt and my heart went out to her. We had a nice little conversation, despite the fact she really just wanted to hurl. It was one of those things I like to call a drive by friendship, because you’ll most likely never meet again, but you are there in the moment, and I hope I helped her in some way, though I know she really felt miserable, but I really do think I helped a bit. A bit is better than nothing. I wish I could have done more for her. She went back right before I did to have her blood work done. I felt joyous for a moment because I wanted to smirk at Murphy and yell “Is that all you’ve got? Come on!”

I was called back several minutes later to do my blood work and I took a sip of water from a bottle in my purse not realizing it was “strictly forbidden” by the facility. I wanted to roll my eyes at the woman, but I simply put the lid back on my bottle and told her I hadn’t realized that was the fact and the incident passed without drama. Murphy rearing his ugly little head again, but I nipped him in the bud. That’ll teach Murphy to mess with me!

Luckily my blood tests went off without a hitch and I made my way out to the parking lot about 2 minutes later. When I got in my car, I saw the poor woman that I had spoken with hunched over in the parking lot trying not to hurl. Her mother was easing her toward the car, and you could see the nausea had definitely not left her. At this point I wanted to run Murphy over with my car. Murphy I have decided should be banned before noon at least, if not all together!

Lesson learned? Murphy sucks and you shouldn’t tempt him once he gets rolling or he’ll only make it worse.

What I really want to say to Murphy? Eff you, you vile monster! Go back to the hole you crawled out of and stay there!

Conversations with Alexis

Scene: Alexis and I are at a restaurant today for lunch after visiting the library. A very tall, very handsome man in his late 40’s/early 50’s comes in and the waitress greets him as if she knows him.

A: Mom is that man famous?

D: *glancing over at the man in question* No. Why do you ask?

A: She’s making a big deal out of him. *wrinkling her nose*

D: I think he’s a regular costumer like us and she just knows him that way, but he’s not famous.

A: Well he’s very tall. He should be!

D: *I grin at her* I’m not sure it works that way.

A: *dismissively* Well it should.

End

Oh my naive little child, how I love you so. Most men from Hollywood are short. Being tall is not the norm, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her.

Cheesy Sour Cream Enchiladas

Cheesy Sour Cream Enchiladas

As I mentioned in my last post we recently had a Tex Mex feast with friends to celebrate Labor Day. One of the dishes that I served was a Cheesy Sour Cream Enchilada dish, along with our other Tex Mex selections.

Now I’m a big fan of enchiladas, when they’re done right of course, and this one really was fabulous! I ended up eating left overs for a week, but I didn’t regret any of those repeat meals! It’s a bit of work to put together, but it really is easy, and if you like these types of dishes then you’ll definitely like this one!

On a side note this was my little piece of heaven yesterday:

Assateague National Seashore: Our Spot

Isn’t it gorgeous? I really love the Assateague National Seashore in Maryland!

Assateague National Seashore Looking Back up Toward Ocean City, Maryland

Lex had a blast playing in the waves:

My little Mermaid

And we had a really nice time despite the fact I had a small migraine and stayed mainly under the umbrella snoozing much of the afternoon while Jamison and Lex played on the beach. Toward the end I started feeling a bit better. A day on the beach, despite the headache is heaven to me! Even if all I did was enjoy the breeze and listen to the waves!

This was taken right before we started to pack up our things and head home:

Me and Miss G

What does any of this have to do with enchiladas? Nothing! But I wanted to share anyway!

Now let’s make some Cheesy Sour Cream Enchiladas!

What You’ll Need:
Burrito sized flour tortillas
4-6 cups of shredded cheese (Note: Colby, Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, pepper jack and Colby jack can be used. Or you can use a mix of any of them.)
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4-6 heaping tablespoons of flour
2 cups of chicken broth (Note: I used homemade, but store bought is fine.)
1 can of chopped green chilies
1 – 6 ounce jar of fire roasted peppers, drained and chopped
1 can of Rotel
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small container of sour cream (Note: 8 to 10 ounces)
More shredded cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray a large, rectangle baking dish with non-stick spray, or brush with olive oil, to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Place a tortilla flat and add a generous amount of cheese down the middle of the tortilla. Since this is your only filling, make sure to add a lot of cheese!

Roll the tortilla around the cheese and place the stuffed cheese tortilla seam down in your dish. Repeat this process until you have filled your dish. You can fit 8-10 tortillas in the dish. The key is to cram them in there together!

Once you are finished filling the dish, set it aside.

In a large skillet heat oil until warm and then add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then add chicken broth. Continue stirring constantly to make your “roux”. I use this word loosely. You don’t want the “roux” to brown, just to thicken.

When “roux” is thickened remove from heat and pour in sour cream, chilies, Rotel, chopped onion and fire roasted peppers until combined. Pour this mixture over the enchiladas in your dish making sure to spread the mixture out evenly.

Top with more cheese and cook in a preheated oven for 35-45 minutes until heated through and the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: You can top these with more sour cream and/or guacamole when servings. Also you could put chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, etc in with the cheese if you wanted meat in your enchiladas.

Cheesy Mexican Rice

Cheesy Mexican Rice

Who can believe it’s already September? The years seem to go faster and faster every year. Alexis started third grade today. How is it possible that she’s even old enough to be in third grade?

But I digress…

On Sunday afternoon we had some friends over for a Tex Mex feast. We had spent the Sundays before Memorial Day and the 4th of July together, so I decided we needed to make it a trifecta with Labor Day and invited them over for an early dinner. The kids played, we talked, we ate, we had fun! That’s what friends are for.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of the recipes from Sunday. You’ll see queso, sour cream enciladas and a fabulous Triple Chocolate Ganache Cake that is so sinful you might just gain five pounds looking at the screen! I’ve also got a roasted vegetable enchilada recipe that I made a month ago or so, along with Cheesy Potato skins and honey butter. You’ll want to stay tuned for the queso and Chocolate Ganache Cake alone, but the other recipes are lovely too!

I love Mexican themed foods. My dishes are most likely labeled more Tex Mex than Mexican, but I use the terms interchangeably depending on my mood. This dish is the very epitome of comfort food…It’s warm, hearty and extremely satisfying. Plus it’s a little spicy, which is always a good thing in my book! It makes the perfect side dish to a Tex Mex/Mexican feast. Try it, you’ll like it!

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of uncooked rice (Note: You can use whatever kind of rice you like. I usually use jasmine or brown rice. I used jasmine this go around)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped (Note: Use what ever color you like.)
1 onion, chopped (Note: Again what ever type you like. I usually use red onion, but this go around I used Vidalia instead.)
3 cups of creamed corn (Note: I used some I had made myself, but you could substitute two cans of creamed corn if you like.)
1 can of Rotel, undrained
1 – 6 ounce can of fired roasted peppers, chopped
1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese, cut in to cubes and softened
1 cup of Colby or cheddar
1 cup of Monterrey Jack
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
More cheddar, Colby and/or Monterrey Jack Cheese for topping

In a large stock pot cook rice according to package directions and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large skillet saute bell pepper and onion in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender.

Once onions and peppers are tender stir in a generous pinch of sea salt, some finely ground black pepper, creamed corn, fired roasted peppers and Rotel and stir until mixed.

Add cream cheese, Colby or Cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese to the vegetable mixture and stir until melted and thoroughly combined throughout the vegetables.

Pour vegetable and cheese mixture in to the stock pot with the cooked rice and stir until combined.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick spray or brush with olive oil. Pour the mixed vegetable mixture into the dish and spread it out to fill the dish. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with shredded Colby, cheddar and/or Monterrey Jack cheese(s) and place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove dish from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cheesy Mexican Rice

Notes: If you can’t find Rotel you could use a small jar of salsa instead, but the Rotel gives it a better over all flavor. This makes great leftovers too!