Sunday, November 28, 2010

How was your Thanks Giving?

We had a wonderful Thanks Giving. But it was more than just the national holiday in our house, it was also Jack's birthday!

We had LOTS of food, and invited over a couple that Jeff's family knew when they were stationed here in the 70's. That couple retired from the Army and stayed here.

On the table, was.....

Herbed Stuffing
Corn Casserole
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Casserole
Smashed Potatoes
Giblet Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpernickel Bread
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Pie
and Ice Cream Dessert

My camera was sitting out on the tripod, so Jack took lots of pictures.

Carving the Turkey.

Another Jack up and putting away food. Don't you love these kind of pictures?

How was your Thanks Giving? Did you have company? Did you try any new recipes or stick with the favorites?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

School's Closed on Account of.... Rain?

Well, here in Alaska, we are seeing something unusual. Rain in late November. Many people would think that was perfectly fine. But we saw our first snow in late September, and haven't seen grass, nor above freezing temperatures in weeks.

And yesterday morning it began to sprinkle.

Drizzly little bits of water falling on below-freezing ground equals VERY dangerous roads. Especially when many of the roads are never plowed, and you had about a foot of snow land on it a few days prior. What was a 3 inch layer of packed snow on a road swiftly becomes a 2 inch layer of ICE.

There is an article today, that it is the first time in over 30 years that the Fairbanks area has called a full day of no school due to weather. And not because of a blizzard like you might expect in Alaska....but rain. You can see that --> HERE.

So I braved the roads today, because the roads are mostly just really slushy, and I HAD to go to the store and get some groceries to begin my Thanksgiving preps.

When I came home, I decided to take advantage of the warm weather...a balmy 35 degrees, and move some of those huge piles of snow, so that the next snow we got, we could have a place to pile it.

Along the driveway, I packed the snow down in the middle, creating a trough to hold the next snow.

I did the same by the garage.

But take a look at this driveway.

That pretty, shiny blackness is not water, because our driveway slopes.

That is a 1/2 thick (or more) sheet of pure ice.

When I came out of my garage with the shovel, I took ONE STEP and swiftly landed smack on my hip and elbow. It has been years since I fell on ice. Needless to say, it took me about 1.5 milliseconds to go in the house and put these on.

I grew up in Wisconsin, and never wore these until now. I felt like a mountain climber in my driveway, hehe! (Although mine are a brand called "Kahtoola - Microspikes." and not "YakTrax")

But take a look at our road.

Tonight it is only getting down to 31 degrees, but tomorrow night the low will be 22, and a high Thursday of 10 degrees with a low that night of 2 degrees. On top of that, the rain is to continue, and turn into snow, continuing through the weekend. That standing water is going to be NASTY.

On the upside, I now have a naked snow man in my front yard, because for the first time, we can really pack the snow!

Cooking 101 - What is Leavening?

I touched on this in a previous post, but I thought it was worthwhile to go a little more into detail about this thing called "Leavening."

When cooking a "bread" type of food (basic breads, quick breads, cookies, cakes, pancakes, waffles, etc.) there are three main components. The flour that gives it structure, the liquids that pull it together, and the leavening agents that provide the air.

These are the most common sources of leaven: Yeast, Baking Powder, and Baking Soda.

First, yeast.

Yeast is a very small, single-celled fungus. There are several kinds of yeast out there. Fresh yeast which comes in refrigerated blocks (compressed or cake.) Then there is dry yeast. Dry comes as "Active Dry Yeast" and as a "Rapid Rise" or "Instant" dry yeast. Active Dry yeast must be dissolved in water prior to using, and takes longer for your breads to rise. Rapid Rise or Instant Yeast rise much faster (sometimes half that of Active Dry) and can be mixed right in with the rest of the ingredients, without prior dissolving.

When you bake with yeast, you essentially "wake up" the dormant yeast, and create an environment for that yeast to live and grow in. It requires liquid, and warmth and food. When working with yeast, it is important to make sure that your environment is warm, but not hot or cold. Cold yeast will not grow, and a too hot environment will kill the yeast. When you wake up the yeast, it begins to grow. As it grows, it produces gasses, which create the air in your bread.

Some people find yeast to be very intimidating. I think it is simply because it does take a little more work, and people envision all sorts of problems. It does take a little practice to master, and even a seasoned baker sometimes has a "flop" of a batch of bread. It happens to the best. But once you get the hang of it, the possibilities are endless. There is nothing like fresh bread right out of the oven!

Yeast should be kept in a cold, dry, air-tight place. I use the above kind of yeast, but it is a large package. A container of yeast generally does not last a long time after opening, often only two weeks. I have a dark brown yeast jar from some yeast I bought a long time ago. When I open the large pack of yeast, I fill the jar, and then use my vacuum-sealer to seal the back shut again. I store them both in the refrigerator. As I empty the jar, I just re-fill it from the pack, and re-vacuum seal it. This keeps both portions of the yeast fresh, and keeps it from going to waste.

The next leavening agent is baking soda.

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.

Baking soda works by reacting with the liquids and the acid in a food to create carbon dioxide. Baking soda reacts immediately with these ingredients, and must be baked immediately after mixing. If you let a food sit a while, the reaction will have ended and the bubbles it created may dissipate, leaving you with a very flat bread. This is why pre-heating your oven is very important in baking. The oven should be at the right temperature, waiting for you to put your goods in as soon as they are ready.

Next is Baking Powder.

Baking Powder is a combination of baking soda, two acids, and some cornstarch. The cornstarch keeps the acids from reacting to the baking soda in the container. Most baking powder is what is called "Double Acting." This means that the leaven agent reacts when it hits the liquid, creating air bubbles, and then it reacts again when it is exposed to the heat of cooking. So it "acts" twice.

Many brands of baking powder are out there, and many of them actually contain aluminum. I'm not going to go into a health lesson here, but I don't find consuming aluminum to be a healthy thing, so I always read the label.

Finally, if you have a recipe that calls for baking powder, and you have run out, here is an easy substitute if you ever find yourself in a pinch.

1 teaspoon of baking powder can be substituted with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.

So then: 1/2 tsp baking powder = 1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/8 tsp cream of tartar

In the next lesson, we will go into breads, starting with a "quick bread" recipe.

The Carnival of Homeschooling: Our Great Nation

Welcome to Week 256 of the "Carnival of Homeschooling!" This issue, I thought it would be fitting to have a theme of "Our Great Nation."

This is a week of remembering the many blessings we have, and giving Thanks to our Creator for every one of them, great and small.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, here are a few blogs about that very topic.

Barbara Frank has a survival plan for a Simple Homeschool Thanksgiving.

Jen is thankful for her Two Korean Girls - which demonstrates the blessing of our nation being a "melting pot."

At "Sage Parnassus," you can see one of their favorite books for reading aloud at Thanksgiving time. The Pumpkin Pie Procession

This year, we had the opportunity to drive nearly 5,000 miles from one end of the country to the other. We said "goodbye" to the sandhills of North Carolina....
The sun setting on Smith Lake, Fort Bragg, NC - our last evening in North Carolina.

...and the next morning began our long drive west and north. We visited family in several states along the way, and then saw many states we had never laid eyes on before. In addition to new places, we saw many amazing, interesting and unique things. Many of these highlighted the creativity and imagination of Our Great Nation.

Some of the "things" we saw on our trip were man-made.

The Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois.

Hundreds of wind turbines throughout the midwest and beyond.

A museum dedicated to the "Mystery Meat" of SPAM in Minnesota.

A Museum dedicated to Corn in South Dakota.

A larger-than life sculpture of four presidents.

Great sources of energy.

These blog posts also demonstrate the creativity, imagination, uniqueness and perseverance of homeschoolers.

How about creating a Cranberry Playdough to inspire imagination? That's what what Maureen did at "Homeschool Mo."

Or how about creative ways to teach math with "And the Baby Is . . ." at "Let's Play Math."

At "Home Spun Juggling," we see how music can be used as a great teaching tool for many subjects with a Musical Learning Playlist.

Miss Nirvana creatively teaches a cooking lesson by creating art with spices The Spice of Life.

Sharon shows us how teaching sometimes means stepping back and letting them explore on their own with Simple homeschool science.

Susan Ryan shares how Homeschoolers go out on the town into museums to learn and socialize at: Out on the Town.

At "Our Domestic Church," we see the fruits of pushing through when our lives bring us challenges in Our CLEP adventure hits another snag

At "Why Homeschool," Janine shares her joy of her daughter passing their state's High School Proficiency Examination in Passed the CHSPE

And Jamie also shares that being dedicated doesn't mean every day is fun, but that you push through the tough times anyways with My Dirty Little Secret

At the "Five J's" we see the value of music in homeschools with Should Parents force their Children to tkae Piano Lesson?

Sometimes our creativity means going back to the basics. Remember chalkboards? Mrs. White at the "Legacy of Home" shares how this classic teaching tool can still be used today with Chalkboard math for Teenagers

(We utilize whiteboards in our home in a similar manner)

But we would have to say that our favorite sights were not made by the hands of man. The Father and Creator of all, will forever be the greatest sculptor and painter with a scale and creativity that could never be matched.

Three weeks later, our trip ended in the 49th State of Alaska...

...where God's paintbrush at times, seems to have worked overtime.

The greatness of our nation does not stop with its natural beauty nor the creativity and inventiveness that it inspires. One of the greatest attributes our our nation is our freedoms. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Thought, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Religion and so much more. Just like the physical blessings we have in this nation, these blessings of freedoms should be exercised, protected, and never, ever taken for granted.

These posts demonstrate our right to exercise our freedoms, and remembering our priorities and values.

Janice Campbell discusses the impact we have on our children's lives, and not just with homeschooling, but everything else as well with Making Time for Things that Matter: Where’s the Impact?.

Lisa at "Spring Meadows Academy" discusses the importance of knowing what your goals and achievements are with homeschooling in Overachievers?

Rose at "Learning at Home" compares a traditional classroom to the heirarchy of the barnyard with Socialization on the Farm

At "No Beaten Path," we see our freedom to make the choices to educate our children in the way the suits our family best with Home Education - What do you do all day?

And our "educational" choices don't end with the school books, as "Six at Home" shares with Kill your T.V.! And your Video Game System Too!! (Or Take Back Your Child)

Denise writes an open letter to her homeschool co-op blogging students about copyright and plagiarism at Warning: Don't Copy! posted at Blogging 2 Learn.

And last but not least, Linda at "Parent at the Helm," shows us the importance of being educated about the educational system. It only helps us make better choices about the education of our children at The Public Schooling Revolt Continues

Thank you to all of you creative homeschooling bloggers for your submissions! I pray you have a very blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving!

Carnival of Homeschooling

All submissions for the Carnival of Homeschooling were reviewed with the Carnival expectations in mind. Any submissions that did not relate to HOMESCHOOLING, were not included.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sight-Seeing around Fairbanks

After our little visit in North Pole, we headed to downtown Fairbanks to take a few pictures.

A monument commemorating the stop in Fairbanks on the air route from Siberia to the States.

Does anyone remember the movie "Balto?"

This is a time capsule in the park.

After downtown, we headed to that little neighborhood park that we visit quite often.

I'm standing on the Chena River here....but I didn't walk far because as you can see, it is not quite all the way frozen yet. Someone was "brave" and had already driven snow machines down the river. If I can see wet stuff, I'm not walking out there yet.

Already at 2:30, the sky was taking on some color.

And one last photo....this is where my hubby works.