Thursday, February 23, 2012

Postcard Love

I recently acquired a scanner again (Hooray!) So I was able to scan some of the recent postcards we've received through Postcrossing.

I love when our mailbox is happy and full of cards.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

For Crayon out load Valentine!

Thanks to the wonders of Pinterest, here's what we did for Valentines this year. I found this cute, non candy version of the melted crayon Valentine and just had to try it.There are many versions out there on how to do this, and this is ours.

First, I wanted our cards to be done on hearts. I had some scrapbook paper cardstock and set to cutting out the hearts with a Coluzzle template cutter that I had in my scrapbook supplies.

For some reason, we have a huge box of crayons. I'm not sure where they all came from, but I sorted through and got the kids to working on unwrapping the crayons for melting. About 2/3 of the way through the project, I read that soaking the crayons first makes it easier to unwrap. Yes it does, but it's also slightly messier.

Then I set the kids to breaking the crayons in smaller pieces. I thought this would be easier done with the Ikea plastic knives that we have. Again, I was wrong and it was just easier to break them into bits. 

Our final stash.

I had these Ikea ice cube trays in the shape of hearts. As for ice cube trays, frankly, I hated them and was looking for another way to re-purpose them. No, they probably shouldn't go in the oven, at least not for very long. It only managed to warp slightly at the side. I figured it was safe and the material being similar to the baking materials I'd be okay. 
Melted version - I then stuck them in the freezer for 15 minutes to harden.

I Have to say the hearts came out great. We mixed up our colors, and stayed away from a lot of darker colors, but we do have some blues in there that look darker once melted. I put them in the oven at 250 degrees for 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, the kids signed the back of the hearts and I wrote cute messages on them like "Happy Valentine's Day for Crayon out loud," "Valentine, you melt my heart," and "Valentine, you color my world." Then I added a drop or two of Elmer's glue and set the crayon on to dry over night. The glue was enough to keep them on for a little bit, but could easily be popped off to use the crayon.

This craft was time consuming as I only had 1 tray and 50 Valentines to make between the 2 kids, but I am happy to say it cost me nothing to do and was a fun experiment for the kids in the meantime.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Homemade Bread in 10 minutes

Ok, so it really doesn't take 10 minutes total. But that is the amount of time you are actively working on it. As long as you have 2 hours at home (and who doesn't in the evening when we're chillin' watching TV?)

Homemade bread for us is worth it for many reasons. #1. It costs less - and I buy the good flour. #2 - It's better for us. Bread is not meant to sit on a shelf for who knows how long. We switched to less packaged foods a year or two ago and that is one of the reasons why I know my kids are healthier. #3 - Homemade bread makes the house smell amazing!

Here's how we do it.  

1. The ingredients

1 1/2 c. warm water - I use a hair less in humid conditions
2 TB Oil - Safflower is good for baking
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 c. Flour
2 1/2 tsp yeast

2. The "help."
I use a bread maker to do all the mixing and kneading. I set it on the dough only setting and this is where a big part of the waiting comes in. I put the ingredients in the order above as directed by my machine, set it to dough only and the next step takes an hour and 20 minutes.

3. After the dough is done in the bread machine, I take it out and separate into 2 loaves. I don't let the bread machine cook it because we hate that big square usually harder lump of bread. Even if I put it on the lightest setting, it's still too crusty for me on the outside.
This is the tricky part. I flour up my pans and my hands and I let the dough "fall" into one pan while I pull on it a little to separate it into 2 "pieces" and then pour the rest into the next pan. The dough is sticky so you may need to "flour up" a couple more times. 
After the dough is in each pan, I flip it so it has a nice smoother texture on top.
*Note - I make enough for a 2 pound loaf. If you do a 1 pound, you can skip this step. Alternatively, I've also put the entire 2 pound loaf on a stone and had one big rustic looking loaf too. It's all the same, how it looks is irrelevant to me.

4. Because I've handled the dough now, I let it rest again for another 20 minutes on top of an oven. Turn the oven on to 375 to pre-heat and keep the area warm. See how the additional resting time fills up the pan.

5. Now bake for 20-25 minutes.

And that's it. See how pretty they look? 10 minutes spent measuring ingredients and separating dough and 2 hours later I have warm fresh bread for sandwiches and french toast.

I use the basic french bread recipe, but I think any bread machine recipe could be done in this manner.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Adventures in Substitute Teaching.

I am loving substitute teaching lately. More on that in a moment.

I quit my work at home job recently because I was working more hours than I care to admit. Even though I was at home, I could never leave work at work. We decided it was best for me to quit full time work and focus on being home with the kids again. I took to subbing because, well, let's face it, the schedule is perfect.

What I really love about it is the variety. Every day I work it's a different subject and a different age. I've taught high school band (my favorite,) middle school and high school English (my second favorite,) math, 1st grade, ASD, Media Center.

People have asked if I'm going to become a teacher after this. Frankly, I don't think I would. I am enjoying the variety subbing offers to begin with. Secondly, I don't want to have to teach to the state standards. Our state is not known for it's stellar performance and I don't care to "teach to the test." That being said, if I could teach in a private arena, I would entertain that idea. I like the teaching to learn. Which makes another reason I enjoy subbing. I'm there because I want to be, not because I have to be. If I need a day off to run errands, then I don't pick up a job that day.

The great news about all of this is that we are all happier. My husband comes home to a (mostly) clean house, and dinner prep done. The kids get to do things with their friends, go to the library, and we spend extra time with them reading, doing math and creating art and science projects. The learning from their school continues when we come home and I get to get back in touch with my homeschool side. I still love the school they are in, but I love to be a part of what they are learning as well. Truly, I think right now we've found the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Color Purple

One of my favorite things this year are the increased amounts of simple flower beds that really add some dramatic color.