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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gluten Free Coffee Chip Banana Muffins

Not too sweet, not too chocolate-y, just the right amount of banana flavor with just a hint of coffee all in a "no one could tell" gluten free dairy free muffin!

Gluten Free
Chocolate Chip Coffee Banana Muffins

1 c shortening (I use spectrum organic shortening)
1 cup sugar (organic cane sugar)
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1 TBSP vanilla
2 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum (King Arthur makes a good one if you don't have your own)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 TBSP baking soda
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (dairy free)

Preheat oven to 350

Grease muffin cups online with muffin cup liners.  I like to just grease it because
I feel like the muffins fall apart when you peel the liners off.

Blend shortening and sugar.  Then add egg, bananas, coffee and vanilla and mix in low until smooth and combined.

In seperate bowl combine dry ingredients and then add to the liquid banana mixture, store to combined.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins.  I fill to the top with a big scoop.  

For regular size muffins bake 15-17 minutes or until golden-brown on top

For mini muffins bake for 12-15 minutes until golden-brown on top.

Remove from oven and let set for a minute or 2 then transfer to wire cooling rack.  


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gluten Free Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with "Cream Cheese" Frosting

OK, so after some trial and error, I finally was able to convert my favorite pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting recipe to a point that I'm happy to share it!  I have no idea the source of my original recipe, I got it from a company event with Ehow when I was writing a lot of articles with them back in the day and they brought some of the writers out to California and when we went to San Fransisco we went to a fun cooking place and happened to make these cupcakes as part of the event.  They were so delicious!!! I had a printed out copy on paper but no source on it.  I made them once more When I got home and soon after that we went Gluten Free and Dairy Free.  I had tried making these a couple times since but I didn't know how to replace the cream cheese so that was a bummer and whenever I made them gluten free they turned out very flat dense and overly oily and moist.  I tweaked little things here and there and my family always liked them but they still weren't right....til now!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with "Cream Cheese" Frosting
Gluten and Dairy Free!

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil *
1 can pumpkin purée (14.5 oz)
6 eggs
2 cups gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum**
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 pumpkin spice
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350
Prepare 24 regular size or do some regular size and some mini cupcake size.  I often don't have cupcake liners on hand and forget to buy them so I just quickly grease the muffin tins and don't have any problem getting them out.

Mix the sugar, oil, pumpkin purée and eggs and whip it well.  I find my gluten free baked hoods cone out much fluffier if I best the eggs really good.  

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl and then slowly add to the wet ingredients on low speed.  Turn the mixer up a to medium until it is all combined.

Divide into prepared muffin tins.  For regular size cupcakes bake from 15-20 minutes til golden on top and a toothpick cones out ckean.  For the mini cupcakes it is around 12-15 minutes.  

Meanwhile, prepare the dairy free cream cheese frosting 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup earth balance butter alternative or shortening
8 oz of cream cheese alternative such as Tofutti or Go Veggie Cream Cheese Alternative
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of sea salt 

Beat the butter alternative and cream cheese alternative until well blended.  Add the vanilla and salt. Add the powdered sugar.  You could pipe it on the cupcakes but I just spread a thin layer on the tops of the cupcakes, they don't need a lot.  I actually cut the recipe in half because we don't need this much and we leave a few without frosting too.

*i use coconut, avocado or peanut oil in baking
**I make a blend of rice flour, tapioca flour and rice starch that has xanthan gum already in the mix.  (Silvania Nardone's blend) but King Arthur is another good gf flour mix.  If you have a mix without the xanthan gum in it just add 2 tsp.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

CC Week 9 cycle 1

This week we enjoyed week 9 of our CC studies!  And of you haven't seen my other posts, we use CC as a launching pad for other studies as well as incorporating the recommended things to cover for each year from Ambleside Online in our own arts based hands on eclectic style keep that in kind if things seem random or not part of Classical Conversations. I just like to document and share some of the things we do each week.


While studying East Asia Geography we opened up to those countries in our MAPS book and took done time to study all the images and facts about each.  When we came across Mongolian Throat singing, we had to YouTube it and found a great little video of a Mongol Man Throat Singing while playing the  Morin Khuur....(here's a small corner of the Mongolia page in the MAPS book).  The video had a beautiful landscape in the background and the sound was strangely enchanting.  The kids loved it.  

Here's the link to the YouTube video, I can't seem to embed videos when blogging from my phone.

We also watched this video we picked up at the library 

Which was great because after reading the book The Warlord's Puzzle this week my kids kept wanting to know what a munk is and it just added a little more info to the peg they set in their little minds about Buddhism from week 7's history sentence.  


We had a lot of fun with this book this week playing with Tangrams and just enjoying the story and the artwork.  I kept finding the kids studying the pages of this book at some point everyday this week.  And they didn't tire of playing with their Tangrams either. The book is good for math, history and geography which is why I saved it for this week as we head across Eastern Asia as it takes place in China, where Tangrams supposedly originated.  

We also continued to have fun with the game Animal Crossing from the book Family Math. 

We also did some worksheets from Math Mammoth on line symmetry and some other geometry activities to go along with our work with Tangrams.  

Other math we did included the big Brain Quest Grade 3 book, math war, math facts app, starfall etc.

this weeks science was some parts of a plant: root, stem, leaf, which was easy enough to remember we didn't expound in it that much as we have spent plenty of time pulling up weeds and examine them from the roots up.  We could have drawn a diagram in our nature notebooks, we probably still will but we just didn't yet.

We cover this in out memory work but other than being silly with our frog puppet, we just do the memorization and act silly usually and try to make up some actions that help remember the English Granmer words. 

Because Confucius was the topic of week 9s History Sentance and that Toaism emphasizes harmony with nature, we turned to the section on Confusianism in my Art History Text and saw images of beautiful landscapes so we did watercolor paintings of Imaginary   landscapes.

We read a book about Ancient China and learned about archeology and artifacts.  This also led into some science discussion on Ozygen and Carbon Dioxide and plants which tied in nicely to our current study of plants for science.

We watched a narrated version of a The Emperors New Clothes on YouTube.

We also started listening to Story of The World this week.  I ordered the CDs and the kids listen with drawing paper so they can take notes and it draw what they find interesting or important.  We listened to the first couple chapters taking us from the Nomads snd The Fertile Cresent up to Egypt.  It was a good review of things they have already touched on but with the addition of Egypt because CC didn't cover ancient Egypt, it went from the fertile Cresent to Greece and Rome and then onto Asia.  I REALLY wanted to read Tirzah to my daughter after a friend who is doing Heart of Dakota mentioned how much they loved that book several times.  Ambleside Online year 3 says to cover Exodus and we started CC this year with the Ten Commandments so I was so happy how I could tie it all in together and I really enjoyed the details given in Story of The World.  Its so enjoyable to listen to and so easy to just pop in and get cozy and relax together with some notebooking supplies!  My daughter liked hearing the perspective of a Nomad girl and drew a picture depicting part of her story with a couple notes.  I also had my Art History text handy because it is a beautiful resource to have on hand for history!  Just flip open to that time period and it has the best google needed!  My son immediately wanted to draw this gold Pharroah mask as we listened to the part about mummification and Pharoahs while looking at the images in that section of my book. I gave him some tracing paper and let him trace it while listening. I'm just excited about this addition because when I actually looked into SOTW I thought it would complement CC cycle 1 and our other studies reall well and just nicely round things out.  I mean, from a Charlotte Mason perspective I think this is the perfect thing to listen to during afternoon quiet time/tea time once a week or so.  I originally thought we would use it in the car but I'm dependent on the DVD player at this phase with my toddler so I don't go deaf from his screaming!!!

At night I started reading Tirzah with my daughter and we couldn't put it down!  My husband got home from the airport late and we had been snuggled up reading longer than we was past 11 pm!


We chose our main devotion to be from the Big Book of 5 Minute a Devotions which is animal themed and we learned about sloths and being patient.  Later in the week I had woken up early with a migraine and the baby was up.  After I got him back to sleep I just decided to stay up and try to get rid of the headache before it got to the unbearable point.  Since I was up so early, once my head was feeling better I started reading in proverbs and came across this verse 

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Prov 17:14

I told my kids about it later over breakfast for a devotion, first remembering the Wild Kratts Episode where the dam gets broken and it was so hard to build the dam back up once all that water had gushed out and it took so much work to rebuild it and not have new leaks keep springing, spewing out more water...they are big Wild Kratt fans so they knew this episode well.  Then I told them that proverb I had come across and we talked about it and how when we start a fight, it's like breaking the dam and then instead of water rushing out, yucky feelings and ugliness rushes out and it's hard to fix things once we let all our anger out, and then it just keep getting harder not to have little fights all the time because there are leaks in our "dam" that make us more quick to anger and then we just get stuck in all that continual cycle of patching the dam and springing new leaks.  It was good because the kids are wonderful playmates but it is a needed skill to learn about choosing your battles and they have been bickering more and more over what seems to me like nothing.  (Cabin fever probably with the weather!) They got it quickly and after that, when little petty disputes started to break out I would remind them "is this worth breaking the dam over?" And before I knew it they were talking about it on their own and my 5 year old even later said he was going to say something to his sister but then stopped because it wasn't something to break the dam over.  Thank you Lord for your simple wisdom!!!

We also read The Hundred Dresses this week which was great as we've been talking a lot about kindness in our devotion/character development.  

Charlotte Mason/Unschool

Moving away from the Classical/Charlotte Mason side of things here is the more Charlotte Mason/Unschool parts of our week 

The kids often enjoy working and tinkering on their clubhouse.  It is a framed out bathroom in the unfinishee basement.  They have laid tile they found in the surplus from when the house was built.  We told the previous owner not to worry about cleaning out the basement...made things easier for her and it was like little treasures for us.  This week they started decorating it for the upcoming holidays.  They were bailing the Christmas ornaments to the wood frame using a wooden branch piece I cut when making a set of blocks out if different size tree slices.

They made a coat hook

Anyways it's just a fun space where they spend a lot if time planning, tinkering, rearranging and imagining.
My daughter has an old school desk on the next area over with all kinds if old printed business paperwork and she has a stack and goes through with a pen and calculator acting like a stressed out contractor.  Lol.  

The yucky Gray skies and rain parted for a little bit this week allowing us to enjoy NATURE!!!! good!  

My kids pointed out how fresh the air was in the woods and were reminded of our conversation about Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide, and how trees take in the CO2 and give us back fresh air!!! (aka oxygen).  See you really do learn by living and learning can happen anytime anywhere!  It doesn't stop when you leave the classroom/schoolroom.  It doesn't always have to be done within the pages of a workbook. :)

And we are still getting a few tomatoes but the season is pretty much done the kids check on them for us.

My daughter is taking a ukulele class but my son I'm just going with a gentle approach with him and let him take the lead with how much or how fast he wants to learn.  He was a little intimidated by trying to play at first but now he remembers how to play a c note and is getting more comfortable just experimenting with it.  Here they are learning how to tune their ukuleles with a SNARK.  

And my daughter put on my old prom dress on while she sang along with The Celtic Women....yes mostly inside these week due to weather and having colds!

They've become a good team at making gluten free muffin mixes, refilling the cat food, making beds, unloading the dishwasher, sweeping up their crumbs, packing their lunch before their enrichment class day, etc.

And other things that kept them busy this week are Lincoln Logs, poetry, making their own story books, writing cards to grandparents, reading Pollyanna together ( my daughter reading it to her brother), helping me sand down a headboard with a power sander, playing checkers together everyday, sidewalk chalk, trampoline, gymnastics, soccer and of course Halloween excitement.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Weeks 7 and 8

These last two weeks have flown by and I didn't get to post about our week last week and just playing catch up.  It has been fun, productive, great weather and this beautiful fall is passing too quickly.  I'm just going to post photos and add any info that I remember it think of as I post. It's not all just classical conversations because as I've said before we do enjoy the CC memory work but then use it as inspiration for units I guess you could say in our Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorffy way of living, incorporating it in a fun gentle handson way that is working for us.

First things first, my 5 year old son woke up one morning, came into my room and immediately started asking for specific materials he needed to build an invention.  It's a time machine.
And he said you just need a good imagination and you really can go anywhere you want do his invention basically works! I love this kid!  

Nothing beats some rainy fall days like making banana bread with the kids! 

My little guy is always building or creating something....this is just a glimpse at something he does daily with either these or other building toys.  He actually built a roman /Greek style library with these wooden blocks after studying Greece and Rome but little brother knocked it down of course!  Just another example of how learning extends beyond our little "lessons" and into playtime.

I'm a little too conservative to frame this for my house that my best friend shared on Instagram but it would be a great motto for our "Crockett University" here... (sorry if it offends!  But I can't help but laugh!) ...that basically sums it up well! Lol

Some autumn poetry/copywork/watercolor

Lots of soccer going on with both kids playing this season!! We are loving our time outdoors! It's a busy schedule in the evenings but with the pace we have at home and our schedule it really is more like a nice little activity for our evenings...
I've been taking advantage of the time at soccer practices to get my son riding his bike with no training wheels while getting some exercise myself following him with the baby jogger.  I used a YouTube video to learn how to remove the pedals from his bike and convert it to a balance bike and so he enjoyed gliding along easily on the paths at the park and then after 2 weeks of that he said he was ready for the pedals so my hubby out them back in and he just took off with no problems!  So taking his little bike to the park to ride with his pedals was even more exciting!  At first I was worried when I found out my daughter would have 2 practices a week but really it has been such a blessing with that time at the park focused on the two boys and getting B to be a bike rider!  He had pretty much given up and stuck with the scooter until we had this intentional time to work on it.  

We are getting excited for Halloween...and this is the first year I haven't made any costumes and I don't even care!  Lol I've always enjoyed making at least one costume but it actually was a nice relief my daughter simply wanted a black cat accessory kit to wear with black pants and shirt and this boy wanted to be iron man.  The costume was $15 at would probably cost me that much it more in supplies to make something and even though I LOVE DIY...I am at a point where I am busy enough just raising my kiddos that it has to be a diy that is either quick or worthwhile and a big money saver or exciting but simple transformation...when they were younger and I only had 2 and I wasn't focused on homeschool and other stuff I would diy anything I could but they don't all nap anymore either!  And I am slowly being trained by Chstlotte Mason myself as I learn so much from teaching my kids and constant research and reading on educational philosophy and such...and as our family grows and matures it's harder to get away with being sloppy and disorganized and staying on top of household I'm trying to do a better job at that as well and it's hard to add without letting some things go.  I don't know why I had this ideal but earlier in in our family life I imagined having everything in our home handmade, DIY and upcycled...well I have really had to just let go and realize I'm not superwoman.  I can't be Ana White, Martha Stewart, Pioneer Woman, and the Queen of Pinterest...I just need to be intentional with my time so I can give my best to my husband and kids and even then I fall short and then in too know I can always be a better daughter, sister, friend...etc.  so buying this stinkin $15 costume may not seem like a big deal but it was a little bit of a moment for me it's OK I didn't do any extra special creative effort or have to spend a fortune!  Wahoo! No last minute hobby lobby run or last minute stitching or glue gun adjustments's your costume sweetie!  Although I do still love making stuff!  I'd rather make a mess creating than cleaning anyday in all honesty.

We are continuing our practice of choosing to be happy, being kind, focusing on whatever is.... excellent or praiseworthy...I picked up this chalkboard at hobby lobby for around $5, made a simple bunting with some craft paper we had and picked up a bistro marker to write on it and hung it up in the playroom/schoolroom.  I saw a similar looking chalkboard somewhere on my IG feed but couldn't find it again but I tried to copy what I remembered.

See here he is always building or making something.  He loves these geometric pattern blocks and continues to come up with new awesome designs. He could do this all day...seriously!

We've been enjoying the cool fall weather  and collecting all that fall has to offer around our house.  This nature table spread came from a walk down our driveway (we live in the woods so there is a lot of interesting wild plants and weeds to pick from.). The moss and praying mantis were among the favorites this day.

Doing more hands on Living Math activities like this game called Dicey Body Parts from The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas.  The kids loved it and wanted to do more to see what other creatures they could make!

Learning About India during weeks 7&8 we picked up some books about India, Hibduism, Ghandi etc from the library and after learning about it my daughter had a little fashion show experimenting with Indian Fasion.
A couple of our library books that complimented this week well:

And here is a video of the India Geography we put to the tune of Arabian Nights from Aladdin with dramatic actions lol

We ended week 8 with our nature study if horses.  The kids watched Young a Black Stallion in the car on our way to this Equine Therapy Place that made a great field trip.  The kids learned about horse care and grooming and had the chance to groom the horses and walk them as you see my son doing below.  Some of the girls braided the horses manes which was so cute.  
When we got home B ask me to teach him to draw a horse to record his experience.  I used a step by step method to demonstrate and he follows along drawing his own picture by himself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wrapping Up Ancient Greece and Rome

Today is our CC day but I had a few more activities related to Ancient Greece and Rome that I didn't want to skip so we did some of those today before introducing our new memory work for week 7.  I can't help but blend the weeks together and carry over into the next because there is so much you can do!  For example, we studied Greece and had a Greek dinner while we were starting to learn about Rome.  After learning about the olive tree and Athens and Greek Olive Oil, at the grocery store we walked past the olive oil section and noticed the Pompeiian brand and then we stopped, I covered the "an" at the end and had my daughter read it...then the light bulb went off..."Pompeii!!!  That's where those statues from the volcano are we saw in the DVD about Rome!!!"  So then we talked about how Olive trees and olive oil also comes from Italy.  Another thing the Greeks and Romans had in common.
(The DVD I'm referring to is this one from the library by Slessinger). Ancient Civilizations for Children: Ancient Rome [VHS]
 We also watched the one made about Greece I mentioned last week and one about Map Skills, my kids are loving these!  We watch them with our big MAPS book across our lap and reference the points in the video with the illustrations, landmarks or cities in the map page.
Maps & Globes (Map Skills For Children)

The kids watched the map DVD while I was in the shower and when I came out they were almost finished making their own maps, I thought it was so cute!

Over the weekend we ended up making a huge map on the driveway with sidewalk chalk for them to ride bikes and scooters on.  A big road with different landmarks and destinations along the way.  My 5 yo son decided to draw Mt.Vesuvious on the map and next thing I know I look over and thought my daughter had fallen off her scooter and asked if she was OK, her reply was that she was one of the statue people in Pompeii that the volcano got.  I love how what we learn or read about during our time together gets translated into their playtime!

We started reading the Magic Tree House Vacation under the Volcano book last night and will finish tonight. We stopped right when Jack looks at the sundial and realized its noon because of where the shadow is pointing and now tonight we shall find out how they escape the eruption of Mt.Vesuvius!  So after reading that, this morning I decided to teach them about sundials and Roman numerals.  We did some simple fractions to properly space out the numbers on our clocks, first dividing it in half and making the 12 and 6 and then dividing it into quarters and adding the 3 and 9.  Then they were able to easily place the rest of the numbers.
After checking the sundials throughout the day and finding the time matching up roughly to the actual time, the kids were convinced it was magic! I said "not magic, it's science and they figured it out Alllllllll the way back in ancient times!"

For some spelling/reading practice for the kids we've been doing these little picture crafts together...focusing on a certain blend or sound and then listing words that have the same thing and then my son copies the easier words and my daughter writes to more advanced words then we put it together.  I had the kids highlight the "un" in each word.  We used this as an extension on calendar time since the weather is sunny and also went along well with the sundial project!  It's good for my early reader to understand phonics and it's good for my daughter who reads great but forgets these things when it cones to spelling. I'm consolidating his read and her spelling with activities like this.  We hang them up to have for future reference.

 The Magic Treehouse books are the icing on the cake when we finish learning about a certain time period as Mary Pope Osborne dose a great job tying it all together and my kids hang off the edge of their seat with full attention.  My daughter told me this morning how much she loves the Magic Treehouse Books because she feels like she's in the story and there with them and like they are talking to her!  

For bible/character/art journaling/copywork in one today we used our big book of five minute devotions.  Then we talked about examples how we could apply that verse in our daily life and the kids copied it into paper and drew pictures of kittens and other things we should be gentle with to remind us if how we all need to be treated gently. And of course being siblings they got more practice and reminders of this verse throughout the day ;)
My daughter drew all the pets we've had, things she's had to treat gently and care for.

We then talked about in the ancient world, they had coins and stamped them with images of their leaders and rulers, like how today our coins have presidents on them.  We looked at some ancient coins in my Art History text and then I told them to find a toy they wanted to use as the "leader" in their pretend world to make our own coins.  Then we made a Roman Numeral to stamp on the back. This was a lesson in coining money but also in sculpture and how to make a mold to cast art or other images.  We used a glue gun to make a rubber mold.  I made a pile of hot glue and then we pressed the toys face into the hot glue and let it set til the glue hardened.  My kids thought we just destroyed the toys!

Carefully peel the rubber glue mold off the toy.  This was fun because I knew my kids would think it didn't work.  They looked at the rubber mold and said "it looks like nothing!" And then I brought out some play dough and said "go ahead, stamp your coin..." They were suspicious but when they pulled up the mold and saw the face on the front if their play dough coin, they were sold!!! More magic tricks!!! Lol!

Then we made a Roman numeral X with a tiny amount of play dough to make the coin worth 10 cents (that's what the kids chose).  We covered it with hot glue and let it set.  When done we carefully removed to tin foil and play dough that was stuck to it and then I showed the kids how to stamp both sides at the same time, the way they stamped both sides of coins long ago and today!  If you do one side at a time it ruins the side that's already done!

Play dough x covered in hot glue that has dried.
Peeling off our tin foil and cleaning it out.

Place a small ball of play dough on the rubber mold (or as refered to in the ancient method where they used a hammer and anvil-the obverse die.)

Place the other mold on top (aka the reverse die.)

Press together - in olden times this part was done with a hammer as they were pressing actual metal between two anvils that had the images on them.

Carefully peel away both molds and check out your coin!  The ancient coins weren't perfect circles either so we didn't worry about ours being perfectly round.  You could always embellish the edge of the coin with some of your play dough toys and just experiment and have fun.  Now that the molds are made you can make as many coins as you like!
They can play around with coining money with their rubber molds and if they want they can try using the crayola air dry clay that we can spray paint gold once it dries.  I'm not going to force them to do that but if they keep having fun practicing with play dough and want to use the Air dry clay we certainly will.  

Next we just layed around on the floor reading and learning and discussing this book from the library which really explored Ancient Rome really well!  My kids started out pretending to put their time travel helmets on and zoom around the room before parking next to me on the floor to explore the pages.
 We took a break midway and used our play silks to make makeshift togas. They really weren't big enough but it was fun and didn't require pulling folded sheets out of the closet that I would have to refold...lazy? Meh!  They got the point! Lol!

I let them try and figure it out themselves ;)

Add to this day some one on one time each to work on some math and writing, soccer practice and playtime at the park...then working to recreate our sidewalk chalk map that the rain mostly washed away, dinner, daddy finishing the Vacation Under the Volcano Book and that was a wrap!!!!

So tomorrow we will get to our new CC memory work!  Today was full and great and I love being my own boss!