2021-22 School Year–Week Five

I realized this morning that we’re already a quarter of the way though our countdown to the 100th day of school, and that’s really hard to believe!

Ladybug got to have fun with her compass in geometry this week when she bisected angles. She read about pyramids in history…not just the Great Pyramids with which everyone is familiar, but the different styles that led up to them. She practiced writing both sides of an argument. In science she wrapped up the second chapter by learning about hydrolysis. We made four new recipes from The Little Women Cookbook (maple-cornmeal drop biscuits, New England fish chowder, black raspberry jelly cake with lemon cream, and “Indian meal” griddle cakes), plus a variation on the cheese and jam turnovers we made previously.

Chickadee reviewed rounding numbers to different place values before adding them in math. She learned about baleen whales in science. She started diagramming adverbs. I introduced a new poem for her to memorize. We moved farther east to Asia in geography, where she learned about Saudi Arabia and we made hummus, as well as China, which featured a delicious Chinese cucumber salad:

I’m starting to hope for a fun, outdoors field trip for fall…I just need it to cool off a bit more first!

2021-22 School Year–Week Four

Another busy week is complete!

Ladybug identified different types of angles in geometry, so nothing too difficult there. She learned a bit about the pH scale in biology, and we did a fun experiment with water, vinegar, antacids, baking powder, and baking soda. She read about Gilgamesh in history. In writing, she worked on adding to sentences to make them more interesting. We continued reading Little Women, and we got to the part where Beth gets sick for the first time (we discussed putting the book in the freezer). We tried a lot of new recipes from The Little Women Cookbook…a dinner of apple orchard chicken, Hannah’s pounded potatoes, Jo’s much-improved asparagus and Amy’s lemonade (again), with “lemon cheese” tartlets for dessert, and another dinner of Hannah’s cottage pie, which is the best shepherd’s-style pie I’ve ever had!

Chickadee practiced word problems in math, including identifying if she had not enough or too much information in them. She finished memorizing “The Land of Nod,” and ahead of schedule, too! We read about dolphins, porpoises, and killer and beluga whales in science. Our geography study took us to Europe, where we learned about The Netherlands and she helped me make Dutch egg and cheese for dinner one night, and Germany…we made a Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) for the first time!

I’m looking forward to more adventures in school and cooking next week!

2021-22 School Year–Week Three

We had a fun week of school! On Monday, we got to visit a sunflower field, something I’ve been wanting to do for months, but hadn’t gotten around to. It was a beautiful morning, and seeing that many bright and cheerful flowers was a really nice way to start the week!

Ladybug worked on measuring and drawing angles in geometry. She learned a little about the periodic table and chemical formulas in biology. We discussed ancient forms of writing in history. We read one of my favorite chapters in Little Women…Camp Laurence. I love the part where they play “rigamarole!” We also made two recipes from The Little Women Cookbook this week…Amy’s lemonade, which had the added flavors of orange and clove (so tasty!), and Amy’s “Christmas Day” muffins, which really did taste like Christmas thanks to orange, cranberry, and cinnamon. I’m a little disturbed that three of the four recipes we’ve tried are attributed to Amy, but the next bunch of recipes on the schedule represent a more wide variety of characters, which is good.

Chickadee reviewed Roman numerals in math, as well as adding and subtracting fractions. We started reading about whales in science. She reviewed verbs in grammar. In our study of geography, we traveled to Africa, where we visited Egypt and made a simplified version of palace bread, and Kenya, where the featured recipe was tapioca pudding with pineapple. I especially loved the pudding!

I haven’t decided if we’re having school on Monday or not, but at the very least, we’re looking forward to not having to get up early!

2021-22 School Year–Week Two

I was right…this week was weird, too! Turkey and Bunny started college, and getting used to their comings and goings is going to take some work. It’s definitely quieter in the house while they’re gone, which is also weird!

Despite the weirdness, we had a productive week. Ladybug had another geometry test and her first biology test (she was thrilled). We also got out the microscope for the first time, which was fun. She read about Islam in her study of comparative religions. She also continued her independent study of astronomy. We discussed the unification of ancient Egypt under Narmer. We added a little fun to grammar with the use of Mad Libs. We continued to read Little Women, and made two recipes from The Little Women Cookbook: Cheese and jam turnovers (or “muffs” if you’ve read the book), and Amy’s frothy French drinking chocolate.

Chickadee finished the first section of her Bible storybook on the beginning of the world through Noah. She had her first math test. She reviewed pronouns in grammar, and also began memorizing her first poem of the year, “The Land of Nod.” We wrapped up the first chapter in her science text…next week, she’ll start learning about specific aquatic creatures. Our study of geography took us to Mexico and Brazil. I’m trying to add in some hands-on activities in the way of crafts and cooking for that class, so we made Mexican tissue paper flowers and brigadeiro, a type of Brazilian truffles or bon bons.

And tonight we even got to see a rainbow, which fit perfectly with Chickadee’s story about Noah and the flood today!

Maybe next week, things will finally feel a little less weird, now that everyone has had a chance to get used to how different things are around here this year!

Summer School 2021

It seemed like the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics would never get here, and now they’ve already come and gone. Here’s a look back at our Japan-themed summer school.

We visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical several times over the summer. The large-scale art installation was the perfect field trip to coincide with Tokyo 2020 (and was also postponed from last summer).

We also visited the Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis at Francis Field, home of the 1904 Summer Games:

I made a few fun treats for the Olympics…Olympics torches (white chocolate covered pretzels) and Team USA CHEERios treats.

We did a lot of cooking and tried a lot of Japanese foods. I worked really hard to find things we hadn’t had before, and used a variety of cooking methods and unfamiliar ingredients. We tried:

  • Spicy Ramen/Udon
  • Pork Gyoza
  • Coffee Jelly
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Matcha Mochi Cake
  • Vegetable Tempura
  • Potato Korokke
  • Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake
  • Kani Cream Korokke
  • Chicken Katsu Sandwich
  • Matcha Green Tea Cookies
  • Oyakodon

We were supposed to go out to a Japanese restaurant this summer, but COVID-19, so we got a party platter of sushi instead:

I’ve been holding on to the Lego Architecture Tokyo skyline since last year, and we finally got to build it!

Our American Girl dolls got into the Olympic spirit:

In between watching as much of the Olympics as we could, we also did some more traditional school work. We learned about Japanese history and culture, as well as the history of the Olympics. We read a lot of books…some I read out loud, and some were book basket choices. We also watched a selection of Olympic documentaries:

  • FirstLondon 2012
  • The Everlasting FlameBeijing 2008
  • Atlanta’s Olympic GloryAtlanta 1996
  • 16 Days of GloryLos Angeles 1984
  • Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory
  • Seoul 1988

And we also did several crafts, including origami, paper lanterns, Koinobori (Japanese carp windsocks), pipe cleaner and tissue paper cherry blossom branches, and medals (of course!):

I’ve been holding on to Ticket to Ride: Japan since last year, and we finally had a chance to play! I really enjoyed the new game mechanics introduced in this edition, and it was fun to get to know the geography of the area a little bit better.

We updated our medal chart every evening…here’s a look at the final results…we were very excited that the US won the gold medal race and had the most medals overall!

And, better late than never, our Family Olympics, which was delayed due to heat. We only had four events this year (frisbee throw, broad jump, soccer kicks, and a running race), thanks to time constraints and a lack of basketball hoops on the backboards we normally use. Technically, Turkey came in first, but since we participate as a family, we all won gold!

This summer school was a long time coming. I think we all still have mixed feelings about the fact that the Olympics were held at this time, but we had to just accept that that was out of our control, and embrace the Olympics as we usually do. It’s always hard to say goodbye when they extinguish the flame, but the Winter Olympics are less than six months away, and we only have to wait three more years for Paris 2024!

A Japanese Feast for the Opening Ceremonies

It seemed at times like today would never come, but finally, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have begun! Whether or not they should be held no longer matters, because they’ve gone ahead, and as long as they Olympics are going on, I’m doing all of the things I meant to do last summer, starting with a special dinner for the Opening Ceremonies.

We started with homemade pork gyoza and rayu. I’ve made the gyoza before, but making the rayu from scratch was a new experience!

The main course was spicy ramen/udon with ajitsuke tamago (ramen eggs). The broth was made with dashi, kimchi, soy sauce, leeks, garlic, miso, gochujang, and shiitake mushrooms. It was served over spicy chicken and bacon, and topped with nori, bean sprouts, and green onions.

For dessert, I made coffee jelly:

We waited a long time to have this meal, but I think it was worth the wait!

Tasty Tuesday–Burns Night Supper

Yesterday was one of my favorite lesser-known holidays…Burns Night! While we don’t celebrate the famed Scottish poet every year, it is always a day we look forward to it when we do celebrate it. Since you can’t really get haggis in America (and I’m not sure I could get everyone here to try it even if you could!), our Burns Night Supper is always cock-a-leekie pie according to the recipe used by The Scottish Arms restaurant in St. Louis, as it appeared in Sauce magazine. I was feeling a little extra fancy this year, so I used cookie cutters to give the puff pastry a wintry twist:

Our traditional Burns Night dessert is always sticky toffee pudding, made according to the Schlafly recipe…with apologizes to Robert Burns, I think this is the “Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin’-race!” The cake is so popular, I’ve also made it for birthdays in the past!

What fun and unusual holidays do you like to celebrate?

Tasty Tuesday–Basic Fried Rice

I’m no expert on Chinese food, but I do know what kind of fried rice I like, and I’ve been trying to replicate my favorite fried rice for almost two decades now. I’m not claiming it’s authentic, but it is tasty, and it reminds me of the restaurant I used to like to eat at before it closed!

  • 3-4 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 5 green onions, chopped, white and green parts separated
  • 1/2 cup julienne carrots
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)

Heat a large heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over high heat. When hot add 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the diced onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until onion is fragrant Add the garlic, ginger, white part of green onions, and carrots and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl.

Return the pan to the heat and add 1 Tbsp. of oil. Add the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Scramble eggs until almost set, then add to vegetables in bowl. Break the eggs up with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Return the pan to the heat and add 1 Tbsp. oil. Add the rice to the pan and use a spoon to break up any clumps. Season with salt and pepper and stir-fry the rice to coat evenly with oil, adding an additional Tbsp. of oil if necessary. Stop stirring, and then let the rice cook undisturbed until its gets slightly crispy, about 2 minutes. Stir the rice again, breaking up any new clumps. Add the remaining green onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Transfer to the bowl. Stir all the ingredients together with the rice, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve.

Tasty Tuesday–Grocery Shopping Habits

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my grocery shopping habits, how they’ve changed over the years, and how they’ve influenced how I cook.

When Ryan and I were first married, our number one priority in buying groceries was sticking to a (small) budget. And really, that continued to be the driving force behind how I planned meals and wrote my shopping list for at least a decade. I shopped sale ads and clipped coupons. I was shopping at our local grocery store chain for the most part during that time, because Walmart Supercenters weren’t a thing in St. Louis back then, but if I could have shopped there, I would have. I did whatever I could to spend as little money as possible.

In recent years, while I still have a grocery budget (who doesn’t?!?), it is bigger, and I have more flexibility in what I can buy and where I shop. I do the bulk of our grocery buying at Walmart (now that we have Walmarts with groceries), because it’s both convenient and helps me save money. But I’ve added in some stores that I visit at least semi-regularly, which has really changed how I cook.

One store that you would have thought I would have shopped at during my more budget-conscious days was Aldi. Apparently, that would have made too much sense. I have to confess, I used to be a snob about Aldi. I thought that they sold items of lower quality. But a few years ago, when a new store opened in our area, I decided to give it a try, and I was pleasantly surprised! Now, it’s my go-to store for cuts of meat that I either can’t easily find other places (lamb, I’m looking at you!), or can’t afford at other stores (like the standing rib roast we had at Christmas and the tenderloin I prepared for Ryan’s birthday).

The other store that we’ve been visiting regularly for the last few years is the Asian market. Actually, “Asian” really doesn’t begin to cover it, because they carry other ethnic food items, as well. But we’ve encountered so many new items, some we’d never even heard of before, and that has really broadened our culinary experiences. Now one of our favorite things to do is just wander through the store for a while, looking for new things to try!

Here’s an example of some of the meals we’ve enjoyed in the last week, all influenced by my current grocery shopping habits. There’s gyros (which I’ve made before, but only after Easter with the lamb leftovers we sometimes have, because that was the one time of year I knew I’d be able to find lamb pre-Aldi!) made with lamb from Aldi and served on pita bread from a local bakery that Pan-Asia stocks. A new recipe of Moroccan lamb tagine (again made with Aldi lamb) appears in the center, prepared with some spices with which I don’t usually cook. And finally, beef shawarma, again served on pita bread from Pan-Asia, and also prepared with a marinade and topped with tahini I found the last time we wandered through the store.

I’m so glad I was both able to branch out and try new stores, and that I was finally able to let go of some (wildly incorrect) preconceived notions about where I shop…we’ve definitely benefited from both!