October 2013

Kitchen Shortcuts

October 31, 2013

by Margaret Cabaniss

atomic_clock

I can’t be the only one who has tumbled down the YouTube rabbit hole once or…er, many times. Recently I found myself sucked into the vortex thanks to a whole slew of kitchen shortcut videos, and I just could not get enough. Each one was a perfect 60-second morsel, and before I knew it I had learned the fastest way to chill wine, sear a pork chop, and peel a mango.

Ok, so maybe it’s not the most earth-shattering stuff I’ve ever learned on the internet — but I do love any tip that help me cook smarter, not harder. A couple summers ago, I shared my trick for almost completely hands-off chicken breasts on the stovetop, and today I thought I’d share links to a few recent finds that will soon be getting a test spin in my own kitchen:

Cook Pasta. Mind. Blown. Trying this immediately. (More here on the science behind the magic.)

Skin Chickpeas. This one seems pointless, until you discover that skinless chickpeas give you restaurant-style, velvety smooth hummus that you just can’t get otherwise. I love Deb’s recipe at Smitten Kitchen, but I am not crazy about peeling each of those jokers by hand.

Peel Garlic. This one has made the rounds on Facebook a ton, probably because it seems more like magic than cooking. Disclaimer: The one time I tried this, it failed miserably. Anyone else had any luck?

Make Foamed Milk. How I froth milk for at-home chai lattes. Perfect every time.

Cake Pan Liners. Skip the elaborate tracing and folding and cutting and bust out your chef’s knife instead.

Perfect Cake Decorations. I could have used this tip when making a certain someone’s moon birthday cake. Definitely one of those forehead-slapping moments.

Open a Beer. This is true wilderness survival stuff right here. Also not to be missed: How to open a beer with a pen, how to open a beer with a carabiner, and how to open a beer with another beer.

Chill Wine. Because I couldn’t leave you hanging.

You might have noticed that most of these videos come from CHOW or the America’s Test Kitchen — and this is just the tip of the iceberg; check out their YouTube channels (at the links) to see more. And if that hasn’t utterly destroyed your productivity for the day, ATK has also dedicated an entire section of their website to Curious Shortcuts for your perusal. Excuse me while I go waste some time learn something new.

Any favorite kitchen tips, tricks, or shortcuts of your own? Share them in the comments!

Image: via Pinterest

PS — My vote for most pointless “shortcut” ever. What’s yours?

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Halloween Candy Management

October 30, 2013

Basket of Halloween Candy

With Halloween right around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to manage the candy problem. I’m both a proud candy snob and a little fanatical about keeping junk food out of the house, so Halloween is not my favorite. But it’s the first one for my girls, and they’re pretty excited about the whole darn thing, so I’m trying to figure out a balanced approach that will work for all of us.

I was all set to tolerate one evening of bad candy overload until the girls received gift bags at a birthday party we attended this past weekend — and it was full of candy bars. And, I mean, the kind of candy bars they’d never be allowed to eat. (They already love artisanal dark chocolate and natural cacao, so why ruin a good thing?) But I would have been the mean mom if I hadn’t allowed them to take those gift bags home and enjoy a few samples…so I did. But argh: All week they’ve been nagging me to have just one more of those candy bars.

Anyway, our plan for our first family Halloween is to make the trick-or-treating short and sweet. We’ll take the girls around to some neighbors’ and friends’ houses nearby, and when we get back, we’ll let them pick their top 8-10 favorite things and the rest will go into a “donation” pile. Then, I’ll let them choose one or two of their treats each day until they’re gone. I figure it will be gone in a week or so, and then I can then reevaluate the plan for next year.

My mom used to take a slightly different approach. She didn’t allow much candy in the house, either, and for many years we were on a macrobiotic diet, which meant dried fruit was about as sweet and junky as it got. But on Halloween, we’d visit 15 houses or so (we lived in the country, so it still took us an hour by car), and then she’d let us go to town on our goodies. Inevitably, we’d all make ourselves sick, she’d suffer through it, and all would be okay for another year.

How you manage Halloween candy at your house? Do you forgo trick-or-treating altogether? Cull the candy? I’d love to know!

Image: Eric Cortina on Pinterest

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by Kathleen O’Beirne

Zebra

The British essayist G. K. Chesterton once said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.”  I sometimes wonder if Chesterton wasn’t perhaps an extrovert, because this is exactly the kind of thinking that lands me in too many activities.

I don’t know if over-scheduling is necessarily a problem unique to the extrovert, but I often blame my tendency to put too much on my plate on my extroverted, sanguine side. Sanguines traditionally get pegged as both sociable and impulsive — and that, my friends, is a recipe for one crazy calendar and one burnt-out mama.

This fall, I began working part-time as a teacher for the first time in seven years. I also found myself trying to homeschool one child, send the other kids to two different schools, advise students at yet another school, host a monthly book club, take a class on the weekends, volunteer at church, and keep some semblance of order in my house. New moms needed meals, my kids needed rides to music lessons and birthday parties, library books needed returning, and bills needed paying.

B&W Girls Playing

By the first week of September, my head was spinning. I can’t remember whether it was the third Back to School Night or the sweltering heat from the 500 hotdogs I volunteered to grill at the parish picnic, but somewhere in the chaos I had a come-to-Jesus moment: I realized I had ignored all the things I normally consider before taking on a new obligation. As a result, I felt like one of those sheets of phyllo dough — you know, the ones stretched so thin they might break at any moment.

I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself smacking your forehead because you just hastily agreed to host one of those Stella and Dot parties during the first week of school while your spouse is out of town (I wish I were making up this example), but I thought I’d share my hard-learned lessons just in case:

Embrace the power of “maybe.” Often I say yes when asked to make a commitment in order to avoid saying that uncomfortable word “no.” When I tell someone “maybe” or “let me think about it,” I give myself time to consider the matter fully and avoid rash decisions.

Kathleen's Daughter

For every new obligation, there must be either a delegation or an elimination. New commitments will always eat into the time and energy given to other activities, and as the old adage goes, “Something’s gotta give.” When I take on a new task, I try to either remove another commitment or delegate it to other family members or outside resources. When I went to work part-time, I knew the bathrooms would turn into Petri dishes for new and interesting types of bacteria if I didn’t rework our current cleaning system. I decided to budget for a cleaning service twice a month and put my kids to work in between those beloved visits from the cleaning fairies. On another front, my daughter wanted to try piano this year, so we dropped soccer. Making cuts can be brutal but freeing!

Drop the junk. Sometimes I really want to take on a new and noble cause or some fun activity, but I feel too overloaded. I find it helpful to look at my day and make sure I’m giving my time to things I find truly enjoyable or necessary. Is Facebook and blog reading (except SlowMama, of course) keeping me from opening a new Etsy business or meeting my neighbor down the street?  Whenever I take an honest look at my how I spend my day, I’m always amazed at the random time-sucks that routinely clog my schedule.

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.  I know there are many worthwhile ways to spend my time, but I try to remind myself that I cannot do it all.

What do you do to streamline an ever-expanding schedule?

Image: Kathleen O’Beirne. Kathleen is a wife, mother, teacher, and extrovert writing from Arlington, VA.

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Vintage Typewriter Numbers

Now that I have school-age children, I find myself more interested than ever in issues related to education, and I was fascinated by this argument by mathematician Gary Rubinstein on changing the way we teach math.

Rubinstein thinks the way to reform math is not to add more complex subjects or enforce the Common Core standards; instead, he’d like to see a reduction in the number of required math topics and an expansion of the topics taught, so they’re covered in more depth. After the 8th grade level, he says, math should be an elective.

This makes sense to me. By high school, most students’ aptitudes and interests are apparent. If it’s clear you’re heading toward an English or history major in college, or maybe interested in a trade school, why should you be worrying about calculus?

Rubinstein’s post certainly brought back memories…

Growing up, math was my nemesis. I was pretty much an A student — except in math. Everything was fine until I hit 7th grade, and then I began to struggle and lost all confidence in my math ability. Throughout junior high school, I was convinced I couldn’t do math, and my parents and teachers had conversations about the mental block I seemed to have. With my mother’s emotional support and counsel, I went into 10th grade determined to approach math with a different attitude. That, along with some fantastic teachers, started landing me solid B’s — and even a few A’s in geometry and trigonometry. Still, I was relieved to leave math behind me when I went to university. (Well, almost: Statistics was a requirement for my degree, and I managed it by taking it as an intensive course and getting some tutoring.)

I know I’m not the only one who has this kind of history with math — and for all that struggle, I barely remember anything I learned past elementary school. Which, apparently, is typical. According to Rubinstein:

Two hundred years ago, students who finished high school learned about as much mathematical content as modern fifth graders learn today.  And over the past two hundred years, topics were gradually added to the curriculum until the textbooks have become giant bloated monstrosities.  And though the modern high schooler “learns” Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry, Statistics, and maybe even Precalculus and Calculus, the average adult still only remembers about as much as the adults from two hundred years ago did, or about what the average fifth grader is supposed to have learned.

Is this true for you? I’d love to hear what you think of Rubenstein’s proposal. Should we rethink how math is taught?

Image via Pinterest

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Pull Up a Chair

October 25, 2013

corn_cob

I think a seasonal drink is in order before we start our Friday happy hour chat — and since nothing’s better than a tart, crunchy apple right now, this apple cider rum punch (from Versus from My Kitchen, via HuffPost) looks perfect. Grab one!

So, I was all geared up and ready to encourage another woman on Wednesday (after issuing the challenge to build each other up), and then I became the woman who really needed the encouragement…

I’d already had a frustrating morning and was running behind schedule when I drove to a large mall (a place I try hard to avoid) and walked the 48 miles from the parking lot to GapKids (with two daughters in tow who lately prefer skipping and hopping to walking) to find pajamas for a friend’s little boy. Of course, the only size they were completely out of was his, and after waiting in line to ask a clerk if they had any in the back (and more waiting to discover that they did not), I headed to another large children’s store, where there were no pajamas in stock at all.

I finally scored at store number three, but moments before I got the counter, an unhappy woman pulled up in front of me and set three to four large bags of kids’ clothes down — all for return. It didn’t help that she couldn’t find any of the credit cards she needed to show the clerk…and after finally completing all her returns, she threw down another pile of things she now wanted to buy with coupons — which she also couldn’t find.

By now, my kids were beyond antsy and had almost knocked down a display case. When the clerk asked the woman if it would be okay if she took another customer while the hunt for the coupons was on, the woman responded that it was not okay, because she was in a hurry to get to an appointment. Hmm.

I had thought about encouraging that woman, but it wouldn’t have been genuine. And I wanted to encourage the store clerk, who was being very patient, but I had to leave before paying for the pajamas, since I didn’t have another 30 minutes to hang out in that cramped store with two five-year-olds bouncing off the walls.

This whole episode was just a small part of what I later decreed to be “A DAY,” so I kind of got lost in my grumpiness for the rest of it. It was a big fail on the encouragement front — but I’m determined to be on the lookout for more opportunities to encourage others in my everyday life. By the way, if you took my challenge, how did you do?

Here’s my high and low of the week…

Low: Pajama-shopping frustrations aside, my daughters seem to be going through a period of regression lately. It’s much milder than it used to be, but I can still be surprised by it. In addition — and maybe it’s all part of the regression — they’ve been non-stop mommy magnets. All week I had a hard time accomplishing the most basic tasks without having one of them hanging on my body, calling me incessantly from 10 feet away, or demanding my complete attention for everything. It’s been tiring.

High: After the feedback and suggestions I received in response to the homeschooling woes I shared last Friday, I eased up a bit this week and was far less frustrated. I kept some structure by doing “school” in the mornings after breakfast, but I offered them choices and let them work on what they were most interested in. It worked much better! For example, yesterday they really wanted to do sheets from their workbooks, and they ended up happily spending well over an hour on them. Thank you, wise homeschooling readers!

Alright: Please tell me I’m not the only one who had A DAY this week. Grab yourself a drink (I know I need one…) and tell me all about it! I hope you have a slow and happy weekend, and I’ll see you back here in Monday.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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by Margaret Cabaniss

How to Make Vegetable Stock

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that canned stock is kinda crap. That’s not to say I never use it, but I always feel a bit disappointed in myself when I do. Homemade stock is far tastier and healthier than the store-bought variety (for a real scare, try checking out the sodium content in one of those cans next time) — and yet, for all that, it’s dead simple to make. There’s really no comparing the two, and with just a little advanced planning, you can keep a ready supply of it on hand.

Chicken stock is the classic, of course, but vegetable stock is a nice alternative when you need a vegetarian option, or when you simply don’t have a chicken carcass on hand but still want to amp up the flavor of homemade soups, grains, or sauces.

First, a quick word on the “stock vs. broth” debate: While the word “stock” may have at one time meant a liquid cooked with bones, today it’s commonly applied to any liquid used as a building-block ingredient in something else (think of stocking your pantry), while “broth” is anything ready to serve as is. You’ll see both words used to describe what we’re talking about today, and for our purposes, they’re pretty much interchangeable.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Pick Your Vegetables

Just about any vegetable is fair game when you’re making stock, but for me, a solid base always includes the mirepoix standards: onions, carrots, and celery. Use roughly equal amounts of your veggies to make sure you end up with a balanced broth.

Beyond that, different groups of vegetables will add different characteristics: garlic, shallots, and leeks add great flavor; mushrooms add some depth; potatoes will add body; and herbs like parsley, thyme, and bay leaves round everything out with some nice herbal flavors. While you can add more adventurous veggies like tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, etc., they tend to be more assertive and will change both the color and flavor of your stock — so proceed with caution.

An easy way to build up your stock base is to save your vegetable trimmings throughout the week — mushroom stems, carrot peels, leek tops, etc. — and store them in the fridge; when you have a good amount saved up, throw them in your stock pot! If your vegetables are getting past their prime, chop them up and store them in the freezer for later — but don’t wait until they’re too sad-looking: Limp veggies make for limp stock.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Sauté for More Flavor

While you can simply throw your veggies in a pot with some water and get going, I like to start by giving them a quick sauté to help develop their flavors. If you have the time, let them sweat for up to 30 minutes — or roast them in the oven first. But even just a few minutes of browning will do wonders for your stock.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Simmer, Don’t Boil

Once your vegetables are sautéed and ready, add water to cover them by an inch or so and turn up the heat. You want to bring the liquid almost to a boil, but not quite; you lose too much stock by boiling it, and the resulting liquid will be cloudier. Once you see bubbles appearing around the edges of your pot, turn the heat down to low so it simmers gently (sending up an occasional bubble), partially cover your pot, and let it sit for one hour.

You really don’t need more time than that: While bone stocks benefit from a long simmer time — up to 8 hours or more — vegetables will give up their flavors within an hour; after that, they just start breaking down and muddying your stock. (Don’t worry if you end up going a little longer or shorter; your stock will still turn out fine.)

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Strain and Store

(So, yes — I realize the bag reads “chicken stock,” and we’re talking about vegetable stock. I have no idea how that happened. But learn from my mistakes, kids: Double-check your labels.)

Once the stock is done simmering, remove the larger vegetables with a slotted spoon and then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer. (For an even clearer broth, you can line your strainer with a coffee filter.) Taste and adjust your seasonings as necessary — soy sauce, vinegar, and white wine all add some nice complexity — but remember that you’ll be adding the stock to other recipes later, so it’s best to keep a light hand here; you can always add more salt and other flavorings later.

Vegetable stock can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days, or in the freezer for a few months; after that, it’ll start absorbing off flavors. I like to use quart-sized bags in the freezer, laying them flat so they take up less space. You can also freeze stock in smaller amounts in muffin trays, then pop the pucks into freezer bags for when you just need a bit of stock in your recipe. Be sure to label your bags with the contents and date — and again, be sure to label your bags correctly, unlike me. (Sigh.)

And that’s it! With a little advanced planning, you can have lovely homemade stock at the ready all winter long.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Basic Vegetable Stock
I find this mix of veggies gives me the best flavor with the fewest ingredients, but feel free to make substitutions or additions based on what you have on hand. Suggested variations are below.

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 5-10 mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 10 stems parsley
  • 1 T peppercorns
  • 1/2 c white wine

1. Rinse and roughly chop the celery, carrots, onions, and mushrooms (no need to peel). Heat the vegetable oil in a stock pot over medium/medium-high heat, then add the vegetables, garlic, and salt. Let the vegetables brown for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Cover the vegetables with water by about an inch (4-6 cups) and add the parsley, peppercorns, and white wine. Return to medium-high heat until the liquid is just about at a boil, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot, and let the stock simmer gently for one hour.

3. After an hour, remove the vegetables and strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Let cool, then store in the fridge or freezer.

Other variations to try: roasted parsnips, turnips, and potatoes; leeks, scallions, or shallots; dried seaweed (for a briny flavor); dried mushrooms; herbs like thyme, dill, bay leaves, or lemongrass; whole spices (in very small amounts) like juniper berries or cloves; a splash of vinegar or soy sauce (a couple teaspoons per quart of stock is plenty)

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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Be a Cheerleader

October 23, 2013

Daisies

When’s the last time you heard a story about a woman feeling judged by another woman? Probably pretty recently — and no wonder, because most of us have found ourselves on one end of that equation or another at some point. Plenty of ink has been spilled on the “mean girls” phenomenon and “the queen bee syndrome,” and everyone seems to be in agreement that competition and cattiness among women is as old as the hills and isn’t going away anytime soon.

However, there are also a lot of women out there — including me — who want to be part of a different kind of sisterhood. A couple weeks ago, Tamara Reese posted a piece on Kveller called “Tell a Friend: You Are a Good Mama,” and this part stood out to me:

It’s not about what we are doing: bottle feeding, breastfeeding, baking a cake, buying one from Costco — it’s that all of these things are done with love and intention. How we love and care for our children is a matter of individuality, but the whys are more similar than we think. If we as parents spent less time being critical and defensive and more time lifting each other up, the journey would be a little easier on all of us.

So true — and I think the way to make that happen is summed up in two words in that passage: love and intention. If we made a conscious decision to say things to help women feel more encouraged, noticed, and appreciated, it would be a small pebble with a big ripple. Because you and I know how great it is to have someone — a friend, family member, stranger — affirm what we’re trying so hard to be and to do, especially on those days when we want to throw in the towel. We all need cheerleaders.

So I’ve got a challenge for all of us: Every day for the next week, say one encouraging thing to another woman. Maybe it’s “You’re a good mama,” like Reese suggests, or “You’re doing a great job.” Or even “I really admire the way you…” Whatever. Keep it simple; keep it genuine. See if it doesn’t make a difference in someone else’s day — and in your own.

Has someone ever made a small, unexpected gesture that had a huge impact on you?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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What’s Your Color IQ?

October 22, 2013

Colorful Crayons

I’m a sucker for any interesting-sounding quiz or test that promises to help me discover something new about myself. (We are endlessly fascinating to ourselves, aren’t we? Or is that just me?) A few weeks ago, I came across a short Apartment Therapy article that began like this:

It is generally believed that around 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men may have some degree of color blindness. When you consider the importance color plays in the products we buy, our aesthetic tastes, and the design decisions we make when we decorate, it’s quite intriguing to consider that many of us may not perceive colors in the same way.

This doesn’t really surprise me; I’ve often wondered if I see greens and blues the way others do. I have some friends — mostly men — who possess some degree of color-blindness, while I have a couple of artist friends who seem particularly gifted when it comes to identifying and selecting colors.

Anyway, the people behind the popular Pantone color system developed an interesting online tool for measuring our ability to see color accurately — and of course I couldn’t resist. I took the test, then checked and rechecked my selections until everything looked perfect. I ended up with a score of 26 (0 being “perfect color acuity” and 99 being “low color acuity”), and guess which color range brought me down? The greens and blues! I’m not sure if I should be bummed about that or not, since greens and blues have always been my favorites and I’ve clearly not been seeing them properly. Then again, maybe what I see is just as lovely?

If you’re curious about your color IQ, take the test (it takes about 10-15 minutes), then let me know how you score. I’m especially interested to know if there are color ranges you end up being stronger or weaker in, like me.

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Vegetarian Dishes

I could live on green salads pretty much every day — if you just threw in a little dark chocolate, a slice of homemade bread with raw cheese on occasion, and some fresh seafood here and there… I do enjoy red meats and poultry, but I feel best when my diet is mostly plant-based.

Meanwhile, I live with a trio of meat-lovers. My husband — who tried years ago to be a vegetarian and made himself ill in the process — feels better on a high-protein/meat-based diet. Our daughters seem to take after him — one in particular: Stick a homemade beef stew in front of S, and she’ll eat all the chunks of meat out of it and leave everything else.

While meat will remain a staple around here (ours comes straight from the farmer when available, and I try to only do organic and grass-fed at the grocery store), good meat is expensive, and I see no reason to have it on the table every night. So I’ve been wanting to build a repertoire of vegetarian and vegan meals I can turn to that will satisfy my carnivorous crew.

Sadly, I’m running into some trouble. My husband and daughters don’t like cheese, apart from a little bit on pizza. They do not like squashes of any kind. They are bored by the steamed broccoli I cook a million times a week; when they eat a few bites of something else green, I consider it a minor miracle. I’m certain there has to be some mouth-watering meatless dishes out there…but where to find them is the question.

Recently, I checked out a recommended vegetarian cookbook from the library and chose two recipes that sounded promising: a curried eggplant and chickpea dish, and sauteed bok choy and soba noodles. Even though no one in my house likes eggplant, I had two in the fridge that needed to be used, and I figured cutting them into small cubes and dousing them in some powerful spices might fool everyone.

As it turned out, the eggplant wasn’t the problem: The recipes themselves were mediocre. B ate the curry, but he wasn’t nuts about it. H ate everything but the bok choy; S refused both dishes. I wasn’t thrilled with either of them. The cookbook has since gone back to the library.

Meanwhile, I’ve created a Pinterest board to start pinning recipes that look deserving. They don’t have to be main courses; I’ll settle for side dishes. But I’m looking for restaurant-quality recipes here, no ho-hum stuff — dishes that won’t bring sighs and whines and won’t make me feel like I just wasted two hours of my life.

So, friends, I’m coming to you: Hit me with the best vegetarian recipes you’ve got. (Raw is fine; vegan is fine, too, though I’m averse to margarine and some of the substitutions used in vegan dishes.) Hoping that, between us all, we can round up some inspiring dishes!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Pull Up a Chair

October 18, 2013

Pumpkin Faces

After Margaret’s pumpkin roundup yesterday, I had pumpkin on the brain — and then I spotted this pumpkin pie martini at We Are Not Martha, and I think my list of gotta-try pumpkin goodies is just about complete.

Honestly, I wish I had an extra month this fall to find time for all the yummy stuff I’d like to make. Then again, it doesn’t help that I’m pretty much off sugar right now — something I commit to every fall around this time (except for special holidays) and started even earlier this year, since I’ve been fighting viruses on and off for a while.

Speaking of seasonal stuff, do you have any special goals or action items on your list this fall? I have a few: First, culling my wardrobe. Whenever I switch out my seasonal clothes, I edit my closet and think about what I most need for the new season. My wish list is always bigger than my budget, but it helps to know what I’m missing. This year, that extends to my daughters’ closet: We’ve got clothes people donated to them sitting in the basement, and once I go through them, I’ll know what the girls still need. These two are growing so fast I can hardly keep up!

Two other things on my list for fall: Establishing a habit of weekly meal planning (I don’t know why this constantly eludes me), and getting prepared for the holidays well in advance. We’ll see how I do with that one.

Since I’m already sipping that pumpkin pie martini (and I hope you are, too), I’ll move right along to my high and low of the week:

Low: Some frustrating moments wondering if I’m going to survive this homeschooling adventure. I get impatient when my girls are throwing their heads down on the table sighing with consternation that I have dared to ask them to repeat something after me or complete a task. Or when we’re reviewing a lesson they did easily two days ago and now have no idea what I’m talking about. Is it just their age? The fact that they’ve only been home a year and are still catching up? My own incompetence? A combo? Am I expecting too much? Too little? Are we all more suited to the “unschooling” approach? I know the girls are learning just as much — and probably more — than they would in any regular kindergarten program, but when the buck stops here, it’s not always easy to measure success.

High: One of the awesome thing about home-based education? You can do cool things in the middle of the day. On Wednesday, I took the girls to the Maryland Science Center for a 3D IMAX movie about the migration of the monarch butterfly. It was great — I learned a lot myself — and adorable to watch S and H trying to keep those giant glasses on their little noses and reach their hands out to catch the butterflies floating in front of their faces.

Bonus question: I really am curious about whether you have particular things on your fall to-do list. Anything you do every year at this time? Or are there things particular to this year that you’re champing at the bit to get to?

Sure hope you have a lovely and slow weekend. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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