Saturday, July 14, 2012

Favorite Free Homeschool Sites

As a homeschooler I am always looking for online resources... preferably FREE ones!  Here are a few of my favorites:

Currclick- It is filled with all kinds of FREE and low-priced materials.  We have used it for everything from handwriting sheets to studies on planets.  I visit this site at least once a week for materials.

Teachers Pay Teachers offers a huge variety of FREE and low-priced materials, as the name says by teachers for teachers. 

Notebooking Fairy - for those of you (us) that like to use or make notebooks (or lapbooks) or looking for a fun quick printable, this is a great site!

New Beginnings offers support and resources to new (and seasoned) homeschoolers  

Dynamic 2 Moms has great lapbook materials as well as a FREE customized calendar - one of my favorite sites! - has it all; activities, worksheets and more

Home Spelling Words is my new *favorite* website!  They will give you spelling lists according to grade, the student can take a practice test, play games that review their specific list and then can take a test.  You can run reports to see how they are doing. I simply LOVE it!  Did I mention it is all FREE!!!  No reason to purchase any spelling book for us this year!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Cups

In an attempt to find an alternative to The Pampered Chef's chicken broccoli braid I came up with... "The Cup"!  Here's how I made it:

In a bowl I combined:
2 Cups grilled chicken cut into bite size cubes
1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used white, but yellow would be great too)
2(ish) Cups of broccoli chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/2 Cup mayonnaise  

1/2 Cup shredded cheddar for topping
2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls (I used the garlic butter and it was amazing!)

I sprayed a large muffin (the monster muffin size) tin with non-stick spray (not sure if I needed it, but it was worth the little effort to avoid anything sticking) and then arranged the crescent rolls in each "cup".  I tried to do it all "neat and fancy", but I ended up just piecing it together and I think it looked fine!

 See... I just smooshed them in.

Then fill almost to the top.  

Top with reserved cheese....

 Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.....

Super simple, quick (under 25 minutes), great way to use up leftovers, didn't take a lot of dishes and *delicious*!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Dream Jar

My youngest daughter (5) has been having a hard time going to sleep.  UGH!  As a stay-at-home mom bedtime is something I look forward to after a long day and the last thing I want to do is end the day on a bad note.  She was getting up saying "I can't sleep", "I'm lonely", "I'm bored" all within the first five minutes of putting her down.  (Of course my favorite was when she said "dad puts me to bed sloppy" and explained that he didn't do all the hugs and kisses and quick stories and whatever else to make bedtime last a few minutes longer.)  

She is a great story teller so one night I decided to give her three things to think about to help her fall asleep.  I think it was something like "puppies, rainbows and fairies"; she was thrilled!  We've been doing this for a few nights and I am sort of hoping that her "sloppy father" (tehe!) can help with bedtime again and perhaps a sitter (gasp).  So I came up with a "Dream Jar"!  I would find a jar and put some ideas for her to think or "dream" about.

Attempt One: 
 Glitter!!!  Kind of like "pixie dust" filled with papers.  So, I gathered some tools - an old clean jar, glitter (purple of course) and some spray adhesive.  

Oh the fun!!

Oh the mess!
I should mention that my husband *hates* glitter, Easter grass and packing peanuts.  Typically they aren't aloud in the house, but I had a glitter stash in case of such an emergency - shhhh.
I quickly realized that I couldn't touch the jar without being coated with the stuff.  Then I thought of what her bedroom would look like... and how this would "effect my marriage".  I then spent the next 20 minutes or so trying to wash the glitter off the jar, the table, the floor, my hands - it wasn't pretty! - Attempt One = Fail!
Attempt Two:
I needed a new jar.  The one I used was still covered with glue and I was running out of time.  I used to scrapbook (okay, only for a year and only for my first child) and have some (TONS) of stickers left over.  I spelled out the word "dream", added some stars, hearts, and boarder stickers (in an attempt to hide our buddy "Mr. Peanut").
I took an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of purple paper and wrote down girlie words like "fairy", "balloons", "flowers" and "ballerina" in pretty script - 10 down and 2 across then cut the paper into strips and curled them around a pencil.  
I love this!!  She loves it!  After our story and prayers she picked out three strips of paper and I read them (did I mention that there was no reason for me to write the words in pretty script because she can't read - duh!).  She was thrilled!  There were tons of hugs and thank you's.  
Attempt Two = Success!!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cilantro Lime Chicken and Salad

I was looking for something light and refreshing to grill and found this recipe that called for cilantro and lime and chicken - Perfect!  I tweaked it a bit and here is what we came up with:

Wanna try it?  Here's how I made it:

In a bowl combine:
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
zest and juice of 2 limes
4 cloves garlic, minced

Cut 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts into strips and add marinade and a 1/2 cup cilantro cut up. 
 (If I was just making this for adults I would add some red pepper flakes - about 1 Tbs. too)

Let hang out for about 30 minutes.  This gave me time to contemplate sides... so I made some rice and a salad with a cilantro lime dressing.  
The salad dressing blew us all away!  It made a lot and I can't wait to try the leftover on some grilled shrimp.

Cilantro Lime Dressing (care of Simple Food Healthy Life):
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chobani 0% plain yogurt
1 tbsp lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tsp sea salt

I combined it in the blender and then found that I needed to add another handful of cilantro (my bunch was small).  Wow!  It was amazing!

To make the salad I just used iceberg lettuce and added about 1/3 cup of chopped peanuts and 1 cup of slivered sugar snap peas for some crunch.  My kids went nuts over the salad!  There were clean plates all around, which is not a daily occurrence. 

Back to the chicken... 
We (I say "we", because my husband actually did it) used metal skewers and threaded the chicken.  He grilled it for about 10 minutes (until it was cooked through).  To "guild the lily" I added some chopped peanuts for an added crunch.  If I had more time, (gasp) I would have pressed the cooked chicken into some chopped peanuts, but throwing a handful over the top also fit the bill.

Super tender, delicious, the kids asked if we could have it every day!  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

 I found this *awesome* recipe on pinterest recently.  (Here is the original post.) These were delicious!

First you make this amazing peanut butter mixture:

1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp butter, room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Small pretzels, chocolate for dipping. 

Mix well until dough forms.  I used a small scoop to get the peanut butter mixture onto the pretzels and then smushed another pretzel on top.  

 Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or so until it firms up a bit.
Then dip in chocolate... you'll notice I don't have any pictures... let's just say they were amazing and there wasn't time :)

So, in a panic about a week later I was looking for some more of these delicious bites and wasn't in the mood to make the mess or find all the ingredients.  Honestly I just wanted a few pretzels and then for the temptation to be gone.  
Enter the "speedy peanut butter pretzel bites"

1 spoon peanut butter
1 spoon chocolate frosting

 Was it as amazing as the original?  No.  
Was it delicious?  Yes.
Was it easy?  Yes.
Did it get rid of my craving?  Yes.
Will I do it again?  Yes!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sidewalk Chalk Paint!

This is one of the simplest recipes for sidewalk chalk paint and we *love* it!  

Equal parts water and cornstarch and some food coloring (we used neon) - check it out:

We used 1 cup water, 1 cup corn starch and...
20 drops of food coloring....
until well combined.
Wow!!  Check out all these awesome colors!
We used sponge brushes and the kids went nuts!

 It is so easy to paint with!  It brushed on as easy as water and covered the surfaces really well.

 Notice that we didn't actually do this in our driveway... I was terrified that it would stain so we did it at the dead end next to our house.

Go Morgan go!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Map Gift Bag

We have friends that are going on a l-o-n-g road trip and I wanted to put together a "travel bag" for them.  Basically a gift bag full of treats, books, games, ear plugs... that sort of thing.  I found the cutest bag idea here made out of newspaper.  That got me to thinking... what about a bag made out of a MAP for their road trip!?  So... here it is:

Here's how I made it... Again, I got the idea from here... and she does a great job of explaining how to do things.  I had to make a few adjustments... I doubled the size and I also only had one map so I wasn't able to add card stock to the bag to strengthen it... but it seems sturdy just the same.

First I measured out my map.  Mine was 31" wide and 16.5" tall.
I made a 4" fold for what would be the bottom.
 And a 1.5" fold for what would end up being the "top" of the bag.
 It's kind of hard to see... but I sectioned it off into a 9" piece, a 6" piece, a 9" piece, a 6" piece and a 1" piece.  I marked these off (if you look hard you can see my black pen marks) and then folded them on the lines (toward the "inside" or where the original folds are).
 I folded the map into what looks like a rectangle, taking the extra one inch and gluing it on the inside of one of the corners.  (Trust me, this makes a ton more sense when it is in your hands, basically, just glue the 1" flap so it makes a cylinder.)
 Then undo the bottom cuff so you can fold it like you would if you were wrapping a gift.  
(This is one of those times that pictures are worth a thousand words!)

 Add glue (I used a glue stick) to the bottom flaps to secure.
 I was so excited that it actually looked like a bag that I folded the gussets in and the bottom up... as if for storage.
 Ta da!
 I was too lazy to go downstairs to find cord for a handle, but I did have this thin jute(ish) stuff up here.  It was too thin.  So I took three 24" pieces and braided them, punched holes in the bag (reinforced them with tape) and threaded the handle through.

 I can't wait to fill it!!!

I am so excited to try this with other materials!  Old wrapping paper, newspaper... wow!  

If you try to make one, please let me know how it turns out, and/or what different materials you think would make a good bag.