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 chronicle of our journey here in Oklahoma. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Internet is fully restored!

After 3 weeks and 2 days, our internet is finally fully restored.  (The original lightening strike was on July 5th and they had another tower hit this past Sunday.) They came this morning and had to reset/adjust our box.   After the lightening strike, they replaced the box on the main tower.  Apparently the new box did not like having to go through the little bit of trees and shrubs that we had in our internet path (our internet is a wireless DSL that runs from tower to tower through a direct signal).  Jason sawed off a bunch of tree limbs (today), took out a cedar tree from across the road (this past week), and the internet guys built an extension arm for the radio transistor (today)!  Now, we are back in business.  Just in time for the school year to begin.

I was beginning to hit a desperation stage.  For the last 2 days, I actually broke down and starting using dial-up.  It was either dial-up or drive to town and go to the library.  When you live as far out of town as we do, you do not have many affordable options for internet.  We pay $29.95 per month for 1 megabyte per second download speed with unlimited access.  (We also had a $199 set up fee for the equipment and have used this service about 1 1/2 years.)  This speed allows us to download just about anything we need to fairly quickly. Our other options are/were $45-80 per month with monthly limits on usage and slower speeds.

Anyway, things are hopefully fully back to normal for a while.  Now begins the yearly school planning!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What's for Dinner? Chipotle Mexican Grill Copycat Steak Burritos

And yet another Mexican style dish!

We recently ate at our local Chipolte Grill and had their humongous steak burrito.  Now, for those of you who have not had the experience of eating at a Chipolte, I have to tell you that in my opinion it is a little pricey for a semi-fast food style restaurant.  It will run you about $8.00 for the steak burrito and an extra $1.80 if you want to add guacamole (The biggest reason I see this as pricey is because I can eat at my favorite local Mexican sit-down restaurant for less.)  On the upside, you get a tone of food.  The burrito is HUGE and stuffed full.  There is a large variety of toppings, and it is delicious!  We had a buy one get one free option the day we went, and Jason and I ate for $12 and had leftovers.

Anyway...this trip then spurred me to try to figure out how to create the Chipolte experience at home for less.  I began by looking for their marinade for the steak.  The following recipe was a pretty close match to the flavor of the Chipolte marinade. (It was not perfect, but it still tasted great so it is a keeper.)


CHIPOLTE'S STEAK MARINADE

  ¾ tsp. Chili Powder
  1 teaspoon black pepper
  2 teaspoons cumin powder
  2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped or 1/2-1  tsp 
     dried oregano
  6 cloves garlic
  1/2 red onion, quartered
  1/4 cup vegetable oil
  4 small steaks or a 1-2 pound roast (6 ounces each)

Add all ingredients except meat in food processor. Blend until smooth.

Spread mixture over the steak and refrigerate at least one hour, up to 24 hours.

After marinating, heat grill to about 400 degrees F, or if cooking
inside, heat small amount of oil in skillet or grill pan over high
heat. Salt meat to taste (optional), and grill lightly, turning only
once, until done. 4 minutes per side for chicken, 8-10 minutes per
side for 3/4" thick steak. Cut the steak in small bite-size cubes and keep warm in skillet. 

Tips:
  1. For time sake, I did not do the "grilling" step which was probably a big difference in my flavor verses the Chipolte style.  I used a tender roast and diced it up (before cooking) and poured the marinade over the top.  I put it in the refrigerator over night, then cooked it fajita style in my iron skillet.  Next time, I will definitely try to grill the whole steak then cut it up for serving to see what the difference is.
  2. Toppings:  Sauted peppers and onions cooked in a separate skillet sprinkled with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, Cilantro and Lime rice (recipe found below), Chipolte style Black Beans (1 can black beans, 1/4 tsp. oregano, 1/4 tsp. lime juice stirred and heated), salsa, sour cream, cheese, Mexican style corn (we actually just used plain can corn and it tasted fine), tomatoes, Pico de gallo, and guacamole.
  3. We make our homemade tortillas for this recipe.  I made them the larger 12-14" tortilla (Chipolte tortillas are really big!). 
  4. You can also prepare this recipe in advance and freeze the meat in the marinade.  Just make sure you take it out of the freezer in time to thaw completely before you need it for your meal!

CHIPOLTE'S BASMATI RICE
1 teaspoon vegetable oil or butter 
  2 tsp. fresh cilantro
2/3 cup white basmati rice or long grain rice
  1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
  1 Lime (juice of one lime)
 
In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted. Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute. Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil. At
boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Catch up! and Look out School...Here we come!

Ahhhh...We are well into our 3rd week of sporadic to no Internet at all.  On the 5th of July, our Internet company took a direct lightening strike to one of their main towers.  We did not have any Internet at all for at least a week.  Then, it came on for a short time and has been very sporadic ever since.  Needless to say, this has put a damper on our summer fun-schooling!  We are trying our hardest to finish the Michelangelo unit, but we need the Internet to do so.  We just have a lot of catch-up over the next week...or whenever we have our Internet!


We will be starting our regular school year on August 9th.  I am excited about getting things going in full swing again.  While it is nice to take a summer break, the routine that our school time schedule gives us definitely has its advantages.  The kids start getting bored toward the end of the summer.  So, we are going to go ahead and start the school year a little earlier than usual and do a 4-day school week for the first month to help transition us back into the school life.  


We have some exciting things planned for this upcoming year.  One of the things that I am most looking forward to is our history curriculum.  I have been looking for a history curriculum that I can use with both of my children so we are studying the same time period at the same time.  I finally decided to try The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer.  It is a 4 volume history curriculum that reads much like a story.  The fist volume that we will begin this year will cover the earliest nomads to the end of the Roman empire.  I only purchased this first volume because I wanted to make sure it is something I like before investing in an entire curriculum.  


There is a separate activity book with lesson plans, maps, ideas, worksheets, etc. as well as a test booklet and an audio CD set of each volume that is available for purchase as well.  [I plan on purchasing the activity book (not the test book) for at least the first volume so that I have an idea what the full curriculum is like.]  I purchased my textbook volume from EBay.  I was able to get the hardback version for $11 plus shipping.  I have found EBay to be  a great place to find used curriculum at great prices.  For those of you who are not comfortable with purchasing on EBay,  another great place to purchase the books is Amazon.com.  I noticed that there is a great discount on this series through them.  


I am really excited about sharing these history lessons with my kids.  Taking the time to make learning fun has been one of the biggest challenges that I have faced in my homeschooling experience.  Coming from an education background (as a former elementary teacher), I have often found myself getting sidetracked with the "required" education instead of taking time to make the learning memorable and enjoyable for my children.  


I was brought up in the traditional, classical school method. The idea of come to school, sit down, get your books, fill out your worksheets, get your grade, etc. was deeply set in my educational philosophy. However, I have found that this is not always the greatest method. In watching my children, I find that this leads to "school dread" and not to a great interest in learning.

Kids are supposed to hate school,right? Especially by 4th or 5th grade!  Well the answer to that is two-fold. Yes, they should and probably do hate being forced to sit down for several hours a day and learn things that have no interest to them so they can fill out a sheet at the end or the lesson so that the teacher knows if they learned it or not! Interesting, eh? Of course, most kids will grow up hating school, and this is how most of us "learned." However, learning does not have to produce dread. That is where my change in philosophy comes in.

I was "schooled" for 13 years and then went to college and received an elementary education degree saying that I could go ahead and "school" the next generation of "learners." That is just what I did! I taught for 4 years before having my daughter and choosing to stay home to raise her. I had every intention of sending her to school as soon as I could so that I could go back to work teaching other kids. Of course, things changed over the course of her first 5 years, and we decided to put my "education" to work teaching my daughter at home.

I set up my home with a school room and had my daughter sitting at a desk at age 4 "learning" all the worksheets I could find. She was actually a very active learner and caught onto things very quickly. There were days that she was tired and did not want to "learn" any more sheets, and we would quit for the day. This method of learning went on for about 5 years, and in the mean time, I had a son who was also forced to endure this style of "learning." (I must admit that throughout this time they both became very good readers and did a good job in school, but that is where it stopped.  They did not enjoy what they were doing!)


I wanted my children to "want to learn." There are so many things that I look back on now that I should have learned in school, but I did not. When I was in school, I memorized facts to get by with a good grade on a test. However, that is all they were...facts. I did not learn anything; I just memorized it for the moment. I did not care about my learning, why? School was a place you were forced to go to, to learn things that did not interest you, so you could graduate and get on with a life that had nothing to do with your earlier learning! That about sums it up! I can't say I hated school because it was a place that I could succeed at, but I can say that my learning was not retention learning but rather a "needed for the moment" learning experience.  I decided that I didn't want to waste the first 18 years of my children's lives with this type of learning. That is why I knew I had to change. 

We began and are still focusing on experiencing our learning and not just memorizing facts. I must say that this is a lot more work on me than just getting a pre-designed textbook/curriculum that tells me what to do day by day. But, I know that my children and I will enjoy our education a lot more when it is seen as having a purpose in our lives. Even after 2 years of this "change" in my teaching philosophy, I still have moments of relapse, but I can quickly see the difference in my children's love of learning.  While they will do whatever I ask and whatever I put before them, I want to do my part in instilling a lasting education that is meaningful and memorable and not just a bunch of worksheets that they fill out and put in the trash.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What's for Dinner? - Homemade Salsa Restaurant Style

One of our greatest things about eating in our favorite local Mexican restaurant is the chips and salsa.  While you can find a variety of flavors and styles of salsa at the grocery store, we have never found the perfect restaurant style flavor.  Even chips can be found in many varieties from yellow corn to white corn, thick to thin depending upon your preference.  (There is a tortilla chip that I found at Wal-Mart that is fairly similar to the restaurant chips that we like.  I can't remember the name but it comes in a paper sack style bag.)  However, no matter how many salsas I have tried, none of them have even been close to the 
flavor/texture/consistency of what you get at the restaurant.  


So, today I am going to share yet another Mexican recipe that we enjoy.  I finally found a recipe that is easy to make and tastes pretty much exactly like the restaurant style salsa.  Here it is!


Mexican Restaurant Style Salsa
Ingredients:
28 oz. can of Crushed Tomatoes
½  teaspoon of salt
¼  teaspoon of Garlic Powder
10+/- Jalapeno peppers (Add more to increase heat)
10 or more leafs of cilantro



Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  Pour into a dish and serve fresh!


Tips:  

  1. The fresher the salsa, the better the taste.  After it sits in the refrigerator, it seems to loose some of it's flavor. 
  2. The last time I made this salsa I skimped on the peppers because I was afraid of getting it too hot for the kiddos.  However, I missed that extra heat that does seem to add more flavor.  
  3. For your tortilla chips, place them on a pan in the toaster oven just before serving in order to warm them up and keep them crisp.  It gives them that fresh restaurant style experience. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Home School - Michelangelo Lapbook Activity

This summer we have been gradually working to complete a large unit on Michelangelo and the Renaissance era.  We are using the lapbook templates and information from homeschoolshare.org.  The link to the lapbook we are working on is http://www.homeschoolshare.com/michelangelos_surprise.php.  (We will be posting pictures of the lapbook when we have completed it, but I wanted to share an activity that we did today.)
Yesterday at work, I was speaking to a lady about cameras.  We began talking about her job as an art teacher, and I mentioned that we are studying art this summer.  She shared with me an idea that she used in her elementary art classroom that the children really enjoyed.
For those of you who do not know, one of the things that Michelangelo is remembered for is his painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling done in fresco paints.  In order to accomplish this, he spent many months/years on scaffolding painting above his head.  Today, we first took the time to read more about the paintings in the Sistine Chapel.  Then, we recreated our own "Sistine" experience.

First, I taped a piece of typing paper under the bottom of 2 chairs.  I gave the kids the markers and told them that they had to lay on their backs and make a picture.  While I realize that using actual paints of some sort would have been more "realistic," I did not think it would be the best for the carpet! I got them started and them let them just work at their own pace until they were tired and had completed their pictures.

Savannah chose to draw her favorite thing...horses.  She did hers "Sistine Chapel" style by drawing one horse on one side of the "ceiling" and a then flip-flopping a  horse on the other side to imitate the two sides of the room.


JJ drew his version of the sunken city Atlantis.  There is a castle and various water creatures like an octopus in his design.
They really had a lot of fun, but they also realized how difficult it was to paint in that position!