Monday, April 21, 2014

Buttered Coffee

A “new” health fad involves drinking high end coffee flavored with equally high end butter.  The theory behind the fad is that both coffee and butter, through, different mechanisms, act as appetite suppressants, while the caffeine in the coffee acts as an energy booster.  The theory has merit, but the notion of buttered coffee sounds strange.

Indeed, it is exotic.  In Ethiopia, coffee is sometimes served with spiced ghee.  The fellow who sells the coffee and butter for this weight loss scheme was inspired by the Tibetan practice of flavoring tea with yak butter.  I’ve also heard of buttered coffee being served in the American South and Midwest.

Intrigued by the concept, I tried it.  And I liked it!  Remember that butter and cream have much in common; so using butter instead of cream produces a similar flavor.  It tastes like a latte.  The only difficulty is that the butter will re-solidify when the coffee gets cold, so drink it while it’s hot!

Here’s what I do:  To one cup of coffee I added between one and two teaspoons of butter (unsalted, but salted tastes fine, too), along with any sweetener or flavoring, and stir ubtil thoroughly melted and combined.  For an Ethiopian touch, add one of these spices: fenugreek, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, or nutmeg.  And Somalis sometimes flavor buttered coffee with garlic, cardamom and cloves.

And now you know how to make your morning coffee a homeschool research project!

This post has been linked to Thrifty Thursday, Anything Goes, The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, Works for Me Wednesday, Babies and BeyondGrowing Home Tuesday, MYHSM, and Busy Monday.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A New Year

This last week marks the beginning of the new year in the liturgical calendar for my family.  It also marks the beginning of our school year

The Bat (L) and Eel (R) Riding the Miniature Train in Alamogordo, NM

Since the rhythm of our religious calendar is so different from the rhythm of the secular calendar--from having its beginning in spring to being lunar instead of solar--it can be difficult to see it as a cycle rather than as a series of unpredictable holidays scattered through the secular year.  In order to teach my children our religious calendar, I decided to peg our school calendar to the liturgical year.  This way, the beginning of the school year is linked to something relevant to their lives, and comes just after a holiday.  The beginning of the "traditional" school year, on the other hand, comes just before several holidays, making it terribly inconvenient.

Last year, the Bat and I started doing kindergarten.  But we didn't get as far as I'd hoped.  What with five moves spanning three states and six localities in the last twelve months (not to mention the birth of the Elephant about a month before we started school), last year was far too eventful to settle into any kind of school routine.  And coping with stress and disruption is not conducive to academic learning.

Still, in the de facto unschooling environment that the Bat has experienced this last year, he has made considerable progress.  He is starting to read and write.  He can count and understands addition.  He is memorizing addition tables.  He knows the alphabet, numbers, and several words in ASL.  We've discussed many scientific topics that have come up along the way, too.  And he enjoys documentaries about space, construction, and engineering.  He has learned enough in many topics to know what questions to ask.  He is learning about the days of the week and the months of the year (on both calendars), and he is learning about the rhythm of our week.  He is learning about reading clocks.  He has learned about the solar system.  He is learning about our faith, and he asks questions on that topic frequently. He is actively learning about his place in the family structure and in society.

Most importantly, though, he is learning to focus.  He no longer objects to my reading aloud, and has started to enjoy it.  He is learning to help me with housekeeping in a more dedicated way (his new chore this year is to rinse the dishes I wash).  He is learning that there are things I expect on a continual basis, rather than a momentary one (being good, for example), and that means he needs to keep track of what I tell him and what he does for more than a few minutes or seconds at a time.  This in particular is developing as he learns about the calendar (liturgical or otherwise), since it requires a concept of time.

The result, though, is that last year was Kindergarten Part One, and we are now onto Kindergarten Part Two.  Let's see if we can form some kind of routine (that would be up to me) and build on the Bat's ability to focus (that would be up to him).  The nice thing is that repeating kindergarten in the homeschooling context allows me to do what no school can: acknowledge that there was no failure on the part of the student.  Academically, last year was a huge success for the Bat, now it's time to build on what we have started.

This year, the Eel will also begin doing "Preschool." That means he will begin learning in a more structured manner and will have assigned tasks at the same time as the Bat.  He already knows a lot of what the Bat has learned simply by being present.  Now it is time to harness and guide that energy, to teach him to be a student.

This post has been linked to Thrifty Thursday, Anything Goes, The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, Works for Me Wednesday, Babies and Beyond, Growing Home Tuesday, MYHSM, and Busy Monday.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Liebster Award

Lisa at Maggie's Milk tagged me for the Liebster Award.  Sounds like fun, so I'm passing it on!

The Liebster Award is like a chain letter for small bloggers.  There are a few variations on the rules floating around the blogosphere, but the point is to help drive traffic to small blogs that you enjoy.  I'm so glad that I came up on Lisa's short list!  I've enjoyed reading her blog, and I'm happy to learn that she enjoys mine!

Here are the rules that Lisa posted:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger
  2. Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
  3. List 11 random facts about yourself
  4. List some bloggers with fewer than 200 followers that you really feel deserve a little blogging love! I'm going with fewer than 1000 followers (per the rules listed by Wording Well), because I don't follow that many blogs.
  5. Let all of the bloggers know you have nominated them.  You cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you!
  6. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you have nominated to answer.
And here are Lisa's questions:
1. What is your favorite sandwich?
The veggie sandwich I used to make in Israel: hummus and mustard on the bread, with avocado, tomato, lettuce, and cucumber in between. (I need to start eating those again!)
2. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in the rest of 2014?
One thing?  If we're talking about reasonable goals, I'll say "teaching the Bat to read."  He has a good start, and seems to be learning to read very organically, so I don't think that goal is a stretch.  If we're talking about difficult goals, then financial stability would be wonderful :)
3.  What scent most makes you think of your childhood?
The smell of the coastal redwood forest.
4. Where is your preferred locale--Rural, Suburban, Urban, Other?
Rural, definitely.
5. What was your favorite blog post to write so far?
Why we no longer have a couch.
6. Are there any TV shows you can't miss?  If yes, which one(s)?
7. Why did you give your blog the title you did?
I came up with a few possibilities that described the subject matter.  Trial and Error Home Ec was the only one with an available URL on Blogger.
8. What genre of books do you most prefer?
Nonfiction.  I especially enjoy history and science.
9. Where is your dream vacation happening? 
Someday, I would love to visit Greenland.  DH and I also once plotted out a road trip that would include the Washington Scablands, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and northern Minnesota.
10.  Who most inspires you?
My children.  They remind me to live life on the blurry side.
11. When do you prefer to write?
When the children are occupied.
Now for 11 random things about me:
  1. I'm a homeschool graduate.
  2. My baccalaureate degree is in psychology.
  3. My baccalaureate degree is my greatest regret.  I wish I hadn't finished college.
  4. I used to play and teach the Celtic harp professionally.
  5. I love music theory.
  6. I knit and crochet.
  7. I enjoy cross-stitch and hand sewing when I'm stressed.
  8. I am a Karaite Jew.
  9. I have this dream project of doing a cross-stitch picture to represent every place dh and I have lived, and then to use the framed pictures as a picture collage in our home.
  10. I only wear long skirts/dresses.
  11. I started wearing skirts for completely secular reasons.
Five Small Blogs:
  1. Domestic Felicity, written by an Orthodox Jewish woman who lives in rural Israel.  Interesting and thought-provoking, although we often disagree.
  2. Joy-Focused Learning, a lovely homeschool blog.
  3. Mom's Frugal.  I love this blog.  It has tons of information that has been useful to me!
  4. Spits and Wiggles.  Again, this blogger and I often disagree, but her writing is a lot of fun!
  5. Mom's the Word.  I enjoy the sense of humor her, and this blogger hosts Make Your Home Sing Monday. 
Eleven questions for my nominees (including some of the one's Lisa asked me):
  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What is your favorite post that you've written?
  3. Toilet paper:  Over or Under?
  4. Do you have (are had by) any pets?  If so, what kind, and who cares for them?
  5. How do you make sure the dishes get done?
  6. Why does your blog have the title it has?
  7. What inspires you?
  8. What is your favorite book?
  9. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2013?
  10. What's your favorite dinner on busy days?
  11. What's your favorite season?

Masa Dumplings

Masa (tortilla mix) is both inexpensive and versatile.  I use the tortilla instructions on the bag to make pizza crust.  It makes a wonderful hot cereal that is an incredibly inexpensive alternative to products like Cream of Wheat and Malto-Meal.  I can make corn bread with it.  I especially love that, since I use it in lieu of other products, that one five-pound bag saves me a lot of pantry space that would otherwise be taken up by multiple products, each with their own packaging.

Naturally, I'm always looking for more ways to use this product.  Before we moved, I used up my last bag of flour, but my almost-full bag of masa came with us to our new home, and I haven't really had a reason to buy more flour yet (no oven).  When I made chicken soup the other night, I really wanted dumplings to make our soup dinner a bit more filling, so I adapted a dumpling recipe for masa.  I then replicated my recipe the following night to beef up the leftovers.  Here's what I did:

Masa Harina Dumplings

1c masa harina
1tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/4c oil
1/2c water (approximately)

  • Combine all dry ingredients.
  • Add in egg and oil, and mix thoroughly (I think this part is best done with the fingers).
  • Add in water a little at a time until you have a dough that holds together when formed into a ball.
  • Roll into balls, about 2T at a time, and cook in soup broth for about 15 minutes.
  • Note: Do not leave out the egg.  The dumpling will dissolve in the broth without it!
This post has been linked to Thrifty Thursday, Anything Goes, The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, Works for Me Wednesday, Welcome Home Wednesday, Growing Home Tuesday, MYHSM, and Busy Monday.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Having moved so many times over the last few years, my family and I are getting the hang of this process.  As with anything, practice makes perfect, and becoming accustomed to it really helps to mitigate the stress and overwhelm.

Organ Mtns, New Mexico, just east of Las Cruces, and near our new home

Here are a couple of tips that I thought I'd share this time around:
  • Before you pack, clear and designate some space in your home to be a "staging area."  Anything that you don't need on a regular basis, and especially anything that doesn't need extra packing can go there--out of season clothes, home decorations, papers and books you won't need before your move, etc.  Not only does this make ferrying these things to the moving truck or trailer much easier, but it allows you to focus on packing other things with less overwhelm, to get a better handle on how much you actually need to move, and clear out closets and such sooner so that you are less likely to leave something behind.
  • Minimize the stuff you are moving.  This is more a way of life than a moving tip, but clutter really makes the moving process difficult, time consuming, and expensive.
  • Use containers you have on hand instead of boxes as much as possible.  All our clothes went into suitcases.  All our dishes were wrapped in towels and packed in laundry hampers.  Framed pictures can be wrapped neatly in bath towels.
  • Rather than buying an ice chest, we put food for the journey and some ice in our mini-fridge, and kept that easily accessible (along with utensils and a cutting board) in the trailer.
  • Bring with you enough food to fix a simple dinner for your first night in your new home.  A few items to make a simple lunch are also handy.  For our most recent move, I brought with us the ingredients for Idiot Tuna for our first dinner, along with saltines, fruit, and the ingredients for egg salad as a quick lunch.
  • On the road, follow big rigs if you have to take a detour.  They know where they are going and they have access to information from truckers ahead of them.
Above all, drive safely.  Accidents can happen even when no one is being a negligent driver.  We arrived at the scene of this Arizona tragedy about half an hour after it happened.  The road can be a dangerous place, especially when managing an unfamiliar vehicle or hauling a load.

This post has been linked to Thrifty Thursday, Anything Goes, The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, Works for Me Wednesday, Welcome Home Wednesday, Growing Home Tuesday, MYHSM, and Busy Monday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Banana Peel Tea

Here's some lighter fare, as my family and I move on to our next chapter this week.  DH found his next job in the Land of Enchantment, so we are packing our bags and heading east to New Mexico!

As promised, I've been experimenting with banana peel tea, and I've found a brew that I really like.

Dried or toasted banana peels steeped in hot water just yields banana-flavored water.  It isn't satisfying like tea is satisfying.  But it does have potential.

First, how do you prepare banana peels?
  1. Chop them small
  2. Spread them in a single layer across a cookie sheet
  3. Dry them in the oven on the top rack at 200F until they are brittle and slide around on the sheet.  They will turn black.
  4. Once cool, store them in an airtight container.  I use a resealable bag.
Now that you have dried banana peels, what do you do with them?

I like to combine them in equal quantity with black tea (as a replacement for half the black tea, not as an addition), and brew just like regular tea.  Once the tea is the desired strength, I add a generous dose of milk or cream.  A little vanilla extract is nice, too.  The result is a banana-flavored black tea that is very smooth and rich.

Picture from Wikipedia, and not of banana peel tea--although you can't really tell by looking.

Although I haven't tried it, I could also imagine adding dried peel to coffee grounds in the coffee pot.  And I've read that you can add a lovely banana flavor to any recipe involving dairy products by putting some peel in the milk/cream/what-have-you and heating it to steaming before making the recipe or into water that will be used for boiling rice.

This post has been linked to Thrifty Thursday, Anything Goes, The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, Works for Me Wednesday, Welcome Home Wednesday, Growing Home Tuesday, MYHSM, and Busy Monday.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to Remove Crayon from a Wall


The Bat (5) drew his first human figure the other day--a life-sized portrait of the Eel.  It was adorable.  It was also on a closet door.

We've been around this block before, but I really didn't have the heart to be hard on him.  The picture was charming.  And he was inspired by a cartoon in which some of the characters painted a mural.  We talked about it.  I crossed that cartoon off my mental "ok to watch" list.


Then I googled instructions for removing crayon from walls.  It was really easy, and the Bat was able to help clean up his mess.
  1. Dampen a cloth.
  2. Pour about a tablespoon of baking soda in a small bowl.
  3. Dip a little bit of the cloth into the baking soda.
  4. Gently scrub the marked wall (try someplace inconspicuous first, not all wall paints are durable).
  5. Wipe the baking soda residue off the wall with a different damp cloth
Not only was I able to remove the crayon, but I was also able to remove most of the scuff marks on the walls around our home.

This post has been linked to Thrifty Thursday, Anything Goes, Frugal Friday, The Mommy Club, Hip Homeschool Hop, Works for Me Wednesday, Welcome Home Wednesday, Growing Home Tuesday, MYHSM, and Busy Monday.