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!

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!  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What's for dinner? - Chimichangas, Yellow Rice and Re-fried beans!

Tonight's dinner was another dish from one of our favorite cuisines...Mexican!  We eat a lot of Mexican foods whether it be at home or out at a restaurant.  We recently tried a different Mexican restaurant here in town.  I decided to stray from my usual taco salad and try some chimichangas.  They were excellent! They were not the usual ground beef or chicken filled chimichinga, rather they were beef tip filled (tiny steak bites).  

Before we left, I talked to the waiter at the restaurant and asked how they get their chimichangas to stay together when they fry them. When I tried to make them in the past, the most difficult part was getting the tortilla to stay shut. He said that they actually have a basket that goes around the tortilla that holds it together.  Great!  Back to square one because I do not have that wonderful basket!

Anyway, we tried making chimichangas again tonight. We ended up with our own little Mexican restaurant. JJ had his typical cheese enchiladas, rice, and beans while Jason, Savannah, and I had chimichangas, yellow rice, beans and salad topping consisting of lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and homemade guacamole.  Mmmm!

Here is how we did it:

Homemade Chimichangas

Chicken, Beef tips, or ground beef seasoned Mexican style
Tortillas (homemade or large store bought)
Mexican blend cheese
Oil for frying
White melted cheese 
Shredded Lettuce
Diced Tomato
Sour Cream

While the oil is heating, stuff your tortillas with a couple of spoons full of meat mixture and about 1 Tbsp. of cheese.  Tightly roll the tortilla tucking in the ends (early in the rolling process) so that the stuffing does not fall out during the frying.  Take a toothpick and use it to close the side.  After all the tortillas are stuffed, then comes the difficult part.
Since I do not have the fry basket, I used 2 tongs to hold the tortilla shut. It is necessary to hold the tortilla shut for a while even though you closed it with a toothpick because it will expand and open up in the frying process. The toothpick only holds the middle so make sure your tongs are toward the ends.
Allow the chimichanga to fry until it is a light golden brown­­­­ turning it throughout the frying process.  Remove it from the oil and allow it to drian on a paper towel.

Chicken Chimichanga Filling
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into small pieces
½ packet of Sazon Seasoning from Goya
Green pepper, finely chopped
Yellow Pepper, finely chopped
Onion, finely chopped
½ tsp. olive oil
Chili Powder
Garlic Salt

Sauté the peppers and onions in olive oil for 2-3 minutes in a cast iron skillet.  Sprinkle the mixture with chili powder, garlic salt, and cumin (just enough to add flavor).  Add the chicken pieces and about 2 tablespoons of water (to keep the chicken moist).  Sprinkle the sazon over the top of the meat, pepper, and onion mixture.  Allow it to fry for about 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked.  Do not overcook the meat or it will be dry.  Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then stuff the tortilla shells.

JJ requested that I make yellow rice instead of our traditional mexican (red) rice.  He wanted his meal JUST LIKE the one at the restaurant, and this particular restaurant happens to serve yellow rice!  I did a quick search online and found this recipe at ehow.com.  Here is the link to the exact recipe.

Mexican Yellow Rice

 1 c. rice
 2 c. water
 1 tsp. crushed garlic
 1 tsp. olive oil
 1/2 tsp. Sazon seasoning by Goya
 1/2 tsp. turmeric  (I used ginger.)
 1/2 tsp. salt

Add the oil to a sauce pan that is set on medium heat. Add the garlic, sazon, and tumeric (or ginger in my case) to the oil as it is heating. Brown the garlic slightly and then reduce the heat. Add the water and bring it to a boil.  Once the water is at a full boil, add the rice to pot, stir, and return it to a boil. When the rice and water has returned to a boil, turn the heat down to low and allow it to finish cooking. It is important to keep an eye on the rice and stir it occasionally.  If the water boils out and your rice is not completely cooked, add a little bit of water (about 1/4 cup at a time) to keep it from sticking and to give it more time to cook. The recipe says to allow it to cook for 25 minutes, but I typically only let long grain rice cook for 18-20 minutes.  I just check it and see if it is cooked all the way through and soft.

As mentioned above, I used ginger instead of turmeric.  I had Savannah do a bit of research to find out exactly what turmeric was, and she found it to be an Asian plant that is in the ginger family.  That was good enough for me!  I replace the required turmeric with just a dash of ginger (I didn't want to over do it!).  It worked.  The rice was great!

With everything done, it was time to put the plates together...chimichanga smothered with melted white cheese, refried beans with a bit of shredded cheese sprinkled on top, yellow rice, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole. Here are a few tips:
  1. Do not over fry the chimichanga.  They will be extra crunchy if you do. (speaking from experience)
  2. When you are draining the chimichanga, turn it on it's end to allow some of the extra oil that made its way inside to drain out.  
  3. You can also add a bit of fire to the meat stuffing by putting in some hot chilies or sprinkling it with red pepper. 
  4. If you do not have time to make refried beans from scratch, you can use a can of pinto beans.  Heat 1 tsp. of bacon grease in an iron skillet.  Pour in the whole can of pinto beans (juice and all) and use a potato masher to mash up the beans while they are "re-frying." Lightly sprinkle the beans with chili powder.  Add water to the mix if they are getting too dry and sticking to the skillet.  Savannah actually made the beans tonight. Using the canned pintos turned out much better than the "pre-smashed" variety of canned refried beans.