Welcome to Life at the Holman's.

Within this blog, you will find everything from recipes to school ideas to everyday fun stuff and things we have learned along the way. From time to time you will find just a tidbit of our journey here in Oklahoma. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Instant Pot has arrived!

Three days of waiting and my Instant Pot finally arrived yesterday.  After reading a myriad of “directions” and suggestions, I couldn’t wait to cook with it.  I finally opened the box to go through everything and had a moment of slight panic.  There were/are a lot of directions!  I had no idea what I was doing, and while I am fairly proficient at using a pressure cooker, this machine was a different story.  I began reading.

First up, I ran the beginner's water test.  Basically you run your machine through on high pressure for 2 minutes with 2 cups of water in the pan.  It is meant as a practice run.  Next, I had to figure out what to make.  Since I had wanted a rice cooker for so long, I decided I would start with wild rice.  While the Instant Pot manual came with a general rundown of instructions for cooking several types of foods, including rice, the instructions were very vague.  Scouring the internet, my confusion began mounting because there were so many different sets of instruction for making the rice.  The amounts of water and cooking time were all different…for the same kind of rice! 

I just decided to pick one.  Here is what I did:

1.5 cups wild rice
1.5 cups water
Pour the rice and water in the bottom of the Instant Pot insert.  Put the lid on in locking position.  Make sure the valve is on sealing.  Press the “Multigrain” button.  Sit back and wait. 

I must admit I was a bit disappointed in the amount of time it took to complete the cycle.  During the cooking process, it completes a soak for the rice before building up steam and finally releasing the pressure after 35 minutes.  The taste and texture, though, were perfect. 

Now for the good and the bad:

  1.  I was able to set the rice to cook and walk away from it.  This was the best part!  When you make rice on the stove, you have to be close at hand the entire time from bringing the water to boil until it is done. 
  2. This rice did not boil over and did not stick to the pan like stove top rice making tends to do.
  3. It has a warming function so the rice was warm when we were ready to eat.

  1.  It took about 65 minutes to complete.  Normal time would be 30 minutes plus the time to get the water boiling.

So far, I just “like” the Instant Pot.  When I began reading about it, I thought it was a device that would allow me to get foods done more quickly, which was my biggest draw.  Unfortunately, I did not see the time-saving with rice cooking.  The 20 minute pressure build up seemed to take forever.  The convenience of being able to start things and walk away was a plus.  It was a bit stressful and there seems to be so much to learn, but I think with time I will learn to use it more proficiently and will enjoy using it.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ode to the Instant Pot

Mmmm....cooking.  I really like cooking.  The smile on someone's face when you bring them that slice of warm chocolate cake or fresh baked bread is very satisfying.  I love to try new recipes, old recipes, copycat recipes, etc. Cooking brings me such pleasure.  Creating new dishes brings fulfillment. Visiting a kitchen store makes me giddy.  So, here I sit excitedly awaiting my newest kitchen appliance!  The Instant Pot!  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Instant Pot,  it is a multi-function appliance that, according to www.instantpot.com , “...has 7 commonly used kitchen appliances in 1; Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice/Porridge Cooker, Yogurt Maker, Sauté/Searing, Steamer, and Warmer.”  

I first heard about the Instant Pot several months back when my mother-in-law mentioned having purchased one and really liking it.  At first, I could not justify one more gadget.  However, the taco soup she made for us during our recent visit was wonderful, and it got me to thinking that …..if I purchased the instant pot, I could replace my crock pot, eliminate one of my three pressure cookers, and get the rice cooker that I have wanted for 18 years...all in one device! After all, I had been looking for a new crock pot because I wanted to upgrade to a programmable one that I could actually set a temperature on, and it was going to cost $60-80 for the replacement.  As for the pressure cookers, I have three: a 6 quart, a 8 quart, and a huge canning cooker. I  will be able to get rid of the 6 quart, at least. I would be able to eliminate some extra clutter from our kitchen and get my coveted …rice cooker

It is a fairly rare occasion that I will just decide to purchase something for myself.  I love to shop for my husband and kids but seldom have anything that I want badly enough to actually buy for me because I don't like to spend money....translated....I'm cheap!.  A friend had gifted me some money recently.  Sunday, I made the decision to buy the Instant Pot.  I began scouring the internet to figure out what model would best suit our family and what store had the best price. I asked my husband and he was all for it, or at least he was until I inundated him with question after question filling him with far more knowledge about the Instant Pot that I am sure he ever wanted to know.. 

You see, there are several sizes and models to choose from – 3 qt., 5 qt., 6 qt., and 8 qt.  Then there is the LUX, DUO, ULTRA, and Smart Bluetooth.  So much to decide.  I read articles. I contacted my mother-in-law.   I talked to my husband...again. At one point I found myself backing out of it all together and trying to decide if I really wanted one at all.  I hate making decisions, especially when more than one decision will work.

Finally, this article by DadsCookDinner, helped me decide.  Before reading this post, I had all but hit purchase on the 8 quart DUO80. It was when I read his last paragraph that I made my decision. He had purchased the 8 quart but had reverted back to the 6 quart for his family of 5 because of the size. I knew that I did not want an item so big that I dreaded getting it out of the cabinet.  While the 8 quart would have probably been nice at times (and I even second guess myself now!!), I know that for most things the 6 quart will be sufficient. 

After much stress and debate, I hit the purchase on the Instant Pot DUO60 from Kohls.com.  After the discounts and free shipping, it was $89.51.  It is set to arrive tomorrow.  So far, I have joined two Facebook recipe idea groups and started collecting recipes that I would like to try.  There are recipes galore all over the internet.  Looking forward to my new Instant Pot adventure!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's for dinner? - Ozark Apple Pudding

Mmm...mmm...good!  I was online yesterday and found a recipe for Ozark Apple Pudding.  It was on the website TastyKitchen.com. This particular recipe was in the blog tab in the step-by-step recipes.
When we found the recipe, both Savannah and I agreed that it was a must that we try it today. While I would not consider it a pudding as the title would suggest, it is a wonderful apple cake and was so easy to make. There is a step-by-step recipe with pictures here. It smelled wonderful while it was baking and was moist and delicious when it was eaten!

I did a couple of things different.  First off, I used 1 cup of cinnamon flavored apple sauce for one cup of the oil and only used 1/4 cup of oil.  I also left off the nuts...one - we were out of them and two - I am not really crazy about nuts in my cakes, cookies, or breads.

Just a heads up...I also made the coconut granola from the same blog area (here is the recipe).  It turned out alright and would have been much better had I not forgotten it in the oven.  It turned out a little on the brown side but was still pretty good.  The kids enjoyed eating it as cereal with milk on top.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scholastic Website Thanksgiving Webcast and Activities

Last year, we took part in the Scholastic Thanksgiving Webcast as part of our November activities.  We were able to watch a live production of an interview with "Pilgrims," see various buildings and tools that were used during the Pilgrim era, and learn a little about their way of life.

Last week, I received an email announcing that the Thanksgiving activities were available again this year.  One example of an upcoming activity takes place on November 9th at 1 p.m. ET. There is a  "Tour the Wampanoag Homesite" that will be available for viewing online.  The website offers many other interesting activities and is really a fun way of learning a little about the past. For those of you interested in signing up, follow the link here.  This will take you to the sign-up page.

We received our first Pilgrim email today.  It is a letter from a Pilgrim child telling about the journey on the ship to the New World.  This letter has links to a Thanksgiving unit and other audio versions of "letters from Pilgrims." We look forward to following the site a few days at a time up until our Thanksgiving break.  It will be a chance to see what we remember from last year's unit and what new things we can discover.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Annual Trip to the Pear Trees

This morning started out with a round of beautiful fall weather.  The temperature was perfect.  Of course, our Oklahoma fall wind was coming in strong, but it was at least not cold.  We decided to take a nature hike and head to the pear trees.  We had not checked on the pears this year and were wondering just what we would find.  

Last year the pear were abundant (here is the post). However, this year...there was not a single pear to be had.  Out of the 3 trees in the grove, there were no pears in sight.  Now, we have the quest to try and solve the mystery of why.  Could it be the extreme drought? Maybe it was just a "sleeper" year for the trees. I am leaning more toward the drought because there was so much vegetation that was destroyed.  Our area was really hit hard.  

Anyway, we still have some pears from last year in the freezer so we just have to wait until next year to see if the pears return.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Great Website

Some time back I stumbled upon a home school blog called Practical Pages.  It is a great site to find ideas for art ideas, notebooks, lap books, etc.  If you click on the above link, it will take you to the "Sketch Tuesday" for this week. I signed up for her newsletter and the "Sketch Tuesday" posts are my favorite.  She sends out ideas that sparks a creativity to help bolster up our weekly (or at least we are trying to do it weekly) art lesson.

The following pictures are of the Sketch Tuesday ideas that we have completed so far.  For each idea, we first made a list on the board of various items.  Then we started drawing.  We have completed a brown page, a blue page and a green page.
JJ's brown
Brown by Savannah
Notice the "brown" Oklahoma.  This stems from the extreme drought we have been having.

Savannah's green
Now if you notice Missouri is green.  She always said that Missouri was taking all the rain and wouldn't share!

JJ's green
Savannah's Blue Jay

Friday, October 28, 2011

Into Term 2

Well, Term 1 is over, fall break is through, and have almost 2 weeks behind us for Term 2.  It has been a few weeks since my last post because I actually took the time and relaxed (at least more than usual) during this break.  Usually, I am always planning for the next round of lessons, but I decided to just take a break.  I made sure the gist of my plans for the first week were already completed before fall break started. I wanted to take the time to evaluate our progress/feelings about the home school calendar change so far.

First off, as for the idea of having the longer breaks...it is/was wonderful!  I asked the kids how they liked the new 9-week straight terms with longer breaks in between and here are their responses:

Savannah said, "I loved it.  It was much easier.  I needed the break."

JJ's response was "You feel more refreshed and relaxed because you have one big long break."

Jason and I both agree that the year long method of scheduling is a great improvement.  Some of the advantages that I have found so far are:
  1. We can actually finish units and not be interrupted by shortened weeks. When we were trying to follow the regular local school year calendar, it seemed like we had shortened weeks constantly.  The public school gets off for holidays as well as teacher meetings so every time we turned around, we had a day off.  I am not complaining about the days off because believe me I look forward to days off just as much as the kiddos, but it seemed to really disrupt our normal flow of school because the random days off were constant.  
  2. We had something to look forward to....we knew that we would be working really hard for 9 weeks and that the hard work would be rewarded with a relaxing extended break.
  3. We are also able to fit our schedule more along the lines of my husbands job.  As a handyman, it is really hard for Jason to schedule time off in the warmer summer months.  With this schedule we will be planning our winter break as an extended break during one of Jason's less busy times...the holiday season. We will have a full week off at Thanksgiving (instead of the traditional Thursday and Friday),and we will take 3 weeks during the December/New Year time frame.  
  4. Many subjects/lesson ideas are just better taught in a full week session.  Maybe it is just old habit of a traditional 5 day a week lesson plan, but (for example) spelling lessons fit a lot better when you have a full week to complete it.  When it comes to spelling, we have an order of doing things.  We introduce our words on Monday with a "pretest" to see what words they know and what words they need to practice.  We practice the missed words that day.  On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, their spelling book provides an activity for extra practice.  We do another review-practice test on Thursday and have the final test on Friday.  Even as a public school elementary teacher, it was always frustrating to have the week shortened by losing a Monday or a Friday to break.  You end up either shortening the lesson for the spelling unit in order to get it done, or you have to extend the unit into 2 weeks.  Of course, the problem with extending the unit is that there are typically 34-36 units in a spelling book which accounts for the exact number of school weeks in a school year. As for shortening the lessons, if there are words that the kids are having trouble spelling, they need that extra day to practice and prepare before being tested.
I will stop there for now with advantages.  As for disadvantages to our new calendar, the one biggie that I noticed was the "getting back into the swing of things" lag.  I knew that it would be a possibility and was actually expecting it.  While I was excited to get back to work, the kids were thoroughly enjoying their free time.  Part of it is that we had finally had some relief from the extreme heat and drought that was happening here in Oklahoma.  (We actually had rain!) The back to school lag was not bad and would be compared to coming back to school after a 3 day weekend...getting used to getting up earlier and going to bed earlier...those kinds of things.  So, the one idea that we have of trying to combat it is to have the first week a shortened Wednesday to Friday week and add the missing 2 days to the end of the session.  It is a promising proposal because that would give us 2 days at the end that would strictly be for wrapping up the lessons.  I am still working out the logistics of it, but it is a promising possibility for Term 3.  

In a nutshell, I am really pleased with the change so far.  I am sure that as time goes on and new changes and scenarios arise we will be forced to adjust, but that helps make home schooling more interesting and fun!