Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Holiday Greetings!

We've made it to the end of 2009--what a year it has been!

We finally moved out of our 789-square-foot condo and into a rental house over double that size with a yard, garage, and a second bathroom! Although we were sad to leave our Central Park Ward church family, we have made many new friends in our new Centerville Ward. Being that we moved only 1/4 mile away, we are fortunate to be able to continue to mingle with our old friends and neighbors as well as the new!

Abe, still gainfully employed with Checkpoint in Redwood City, uses statistics to conduct research while he continues to work toward his second master's degree. In the last year, he has transferred from the Statistics Department at Cal State East Bay to an online data-mining program at Central Connecticut State University. He hopes to finish his degree in late 2010. Abe takes full advantage of our local public library and their wide assortment of audiobooks, maximizing his commute time with enriching audio entertainment. Abe now diligently serves as our church ward clerk, attending important meetings while keeping copious notes, tallies, and tracking action items for the ongoings of the Centerville Ward.

Janine completed her Master's of Library and Information Science degree at San Jose State University in May, and is currently moonlighting as a substitute Youth Services Librarian at Menlo Park Library. Additionally, her photography business continues to provide a source of inspiration and creative outlet. Along with homeschooling our three children, Janine volunteers at the Fremont Main branch of the Alameda County Library doing storytimes & bookclubs and at the Bayside 4-H Club as a project leader for Visual Arts & Crafts. She also enjoys her church calling serving as the Bears leader for the Centerville Cub Scout pack. Healthwise, Janine has been experimenting with raw diet recipes, walks to Curves three days per week, does yoga, and hikes with her family to keep fit and flexible.

Natalie, 7 years old, has enjoyed taking classes at Teach-Me-Art, going on fieldtrips, and taking advantage of the flexibility that homeschooling affords to pursue her personal interests. In addition to developing her skills in reading, writing, and math, Natalie has learned so much in 4-H. This year she is in the Primaries, Cooking, Beading & Jewelry, and Visual Arts & Crafts projects. She has decorated jars, blended smoothies, whisked pudding pies, beaded bracelets & necklaces, assembled button wreaths, and recycled crayons. Her favorite project so far has been learning how to make earrings--in fact, in the near future, Natalie may have the nerve to get her ears pierced so she can actually wear some of the earrings she has made! In her spare time, Natalie enjoys reading Harry Potter, Time Warp Trio, Junie B. Jones, Magic Treehouse, and the Boxcar Children books.

Max, 5 years old, loves Legos! We usually have to pry him away from the "Lego Pit" long enough to complete a few math and writing lessons before he's back to building. That being said, as a Kindergartner this year, Max loves to read, and he reads at second grade level--books about Star Wars Clone Wars, Transformers, and Pokemon are his favorites; however, he can be found reading everything from encyclopedias and picture dictionaries to graphic novels, picture books, and chapter books. Max also excels musically--he can't help whistling all day long! He delights in singing and moving to classical music and looks forward to weekly piano lessons with Aunt Krissy. In 4-H, Max is in the Primaries, Visual Arts & Crafts, and Cooking projects. Recently, Max helped measure and mix homemade granola--his favorite breakfast food! When it comes to physical activity, "active" is an understatement. Max loves to climb, do push-ups, jump, flip, and do his signature "hyena" move. Ask him to show you sometime...

Madeline, 3 years old (going on 13), is our feisty one! Mature for her age, Madeline has been ready to move on from the church nursery to Sunbeams for about a year. Tagging along with her older siblings, Madeline finds herself participating and successfully completing many projects that would typically suit older children. Although she can't become a 4-H primary member until she is 5, she is often invited by project leaders to join in on the fun because of her maturity and ability. Madeline has been learning her letter sounds in preparation for reading. She has her own books, workbooks, and computer so that she can also do "school" while Natalie and Max are hard at work. Madeline makes a great little assistant in the kitchen--she loves to measure, mix, and pull ingredients out of the refrigerator for any recipe you have in mind. An artist at heart, Madeline is a natural at drawing, painting, stickering, taping, sculpting, and stamping. She sings, she dances, she "reads," she loves playing with her dogs & cat. She is Madeline. She is amazing!

Despite our hectic lives, we always have time for friends and family...give us a call, find us on Facebook, or send us an e-mail, and let the fun begin!

Love,

Abe, Janine, Natalie, Max, & Madeline
Rosie (dog), Sammy (dog), & Friday (cat)



Try our low-resolution movie with music.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

RAW Desserts: Pumpkin Cheesecake
















Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Instead of pumpkin pie, we'll be following our feast with a dairy and sugar-free, Raw Pumpkin Cheesecake!

Equipment:

Blender (a good one)
Cheesecake pan or pie pan



Crust:
2C raw organic pecans
12 raw organic dates
1/4 tsp salt



Filling:
3 C raw organic cashews
3/4 C organic agave
1 can organic pumpkin
2/3 C extra-virgin, organic coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
2T pumpkin pie spice
1/2-3/4 C light coconut milk

Directions:
1. Combine the crust ingredients (pecans, dates, and salt) in your blender and blend until well-chopped.
2. Press into pan.
3. Blend filling ingredients (cashews, agave, pumpkin, coconut oil, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, coconut milk) in blender until smooth.
4. Pour into crust and cover.
5. Allow cheesecake to set in the freezer.
6. Thaw in the fridge. Enjoy!




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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sleeping Beauty...and the Beast?

I know, I know...I have my fairy tales mixed up...
My littlest princess, Sleeping Beauty Madeline, selects the most peculiar places to take naps. Today, we found her asleep, again, out in the garage. The garage? Yes, that's right...the garage! Now, I surely don't think of taking a nap in the garage, but Madeline seeks a different type of comfort when she is tired...she was curled up with our black Labrador Retriever, Rosie (the Beast), in the dog crate. Madeline seems to have established a strange habit for catching some zzzs while using her favorite canine as a pillow. I will have to try to catch her on film in the future...

Fortunately, the time we found her asleep in the clean laundry basket, we did take a picture!



RAW Smoothies: Cranberry-Orange Julius




















A great way to start off the day with this raw Cranberry-Orange Julius. This particular smoothie is one of my kids' favorites!

Equipment
:

blender (a good one)

Ingredients:
2C fresh-squeezed organic orange juice
1 ripe banana
1 can light coconut milk
2T dried cranberries
1 12 oz bag of frozen papaya chunks

Directions:
1. Blend all ingredients using the smoothie setting on your blender until smooth enough to drink through a straw.
2. Enjoy!

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Friday, November 6, 2009

RAW Desserts: Chocolate Mousse Pie




















This has to be one of the best raw desserts for chocolate-lovers. This RAW Chocolate Mousse Pie is dairy-free, sugar-free, and melts in your mouth!

Equipment:

blender (a good one)
pie pan

Crust:
2C organic raw walnuts
12 soft dates
1/4 tsp sea salt

Filling:
3 (med to large)-4 (small) ripe raw avocados
1/4C organic cocoa powder
1/4C organic agave
2T vanilla
1/4C light coconut milk
1T coconut oil

Directions:
1. Combine the crust ingredients (walnuts, dates, and salt) in your blender and blend until well-chopped.
2. Press into pan.
3. Blend filling ingredients (avocados, agave, cocoa powder, vanilla, coconut milk, coconut oil) in blender until smooth.
4. Pour into crust and cover.
5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy!


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GLUTEN-FREE Cooking: Pumpkin Pancakes














My kids request these pancakes at least twice a week...they love to start the day off with a short stack of cinnamon and nutmeg flavored Pumpkin Pancakes drizzled with maple syrup!

Equipment:

Griddle or frying pan
Mixing bowl
Hand mixer or spoon
1/3C scooper

Ingredients:
1 18oz package Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Pancake & Waffle Mix (purple bag)
1 can organic pumpkin
1 can light coconut milk
4 eggs
2T pumpkin pie spice
1 can canola oil spray to coat your griddle

100% pure maple syrup

Directions:
1. Preheat your griddle or pan to 350 degrees and spray lightly with canola oil.
2. Mix all of the ingredients (pancake mix, pumpkin, coconut milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice) by hand or use your mixer.
2. Scoop 1/3C of the batter at a time onto your griddle or pan to make each pancake.

3. Cook the pancakes for 4 minutes on each side.

4. Serve immediately and top with maple syrup!




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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finances a little tight? Consider using charter school voucher funds!



While trying to keep afloat in the stagnant waters of our economy, I've been looking for ways to make every penny count--even in home education!

For the past several years, we have enrolled at Connecting Waters Charter School, which serves Alameda, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties to maximize our educational investment. I've also noted that under the same IEM umbrella there is another, Ocean Grove Charter School that serves Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties (see http://www.ieminc.org/links_to_charters.html).

Connecting Waters (http://www.connectingwaters.org/) provides at least $1800 per year of voucher funds per student. These funds can be redeemed for curriculum, educational products/supplies, computers/peripherals, and enrichment classes from a list of approved vendors. Even better, if your student(s) are already taking classes in Lego robotics, art, music, science, martial arts, horseback riding, etc. from a venue that has a business license, they can be added to the vendor list so that the classes come at no cost to you!

Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Being that the charter schools receive funding from the State of California, they must answer to standards and testing. So, even though you still get to select your own curriculum or even take an unschooling approach, your children will be tested annually and must meet with a credentialed Education Specialist every 20 school days to verify attendance and provide work samples. Seems like a small price to pay if finances are tight and you still want to provide the best for your kids...

Just wanted to let you know about this option--it works for us and may be a blessing to other Bay Area home educators as well!

Happy Homeschooling,

Janine

Check it out: http://www.connectingwaters.org/

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fieldtrip to the Oakland Zoo

by Natalie

Today we went to the Oakland Zoo. My favorite animals were two little orange frogs. They were playing leap frog! They were also very tiny. Here are the rest of the animals we saw: camel, rabbits, tortoise, alligator, squirrel monkey, meerkat, lemur, flamingo, warthog, macaw, lion, hyena, green monkey, elephant, zebra, otter, sun bear, giraffe, gazelle, chimpanzee, baboon, and tiger. I love the Oakland Zoo!




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Monday, October 12, 2009

RAW Desserts: Lemon Cheesecake














Make your own delicious, guilt-free, dairy and sugar-free, Raw Lemon Cheesecake!

Equipment:

Blender (a good one)
Cheesecake pan or pie pan

Crust:
2C raw organic pecans
12 raw organic dates
1/4 tsp salt

Filling:
3 C raw organic cashews
3/4 C organic agave
1/2 C lemon juice
2/3 C extra-virgin, organic coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4-1/2 C water





















Directions
:

1. Combine the crust ingredients (pecans, dates, and salt) in your blender and blend until well-chopped.

2. Press into pan.

3. Blend filling ingredients (cashews, agave, lemon juice, coconut oil, vanilla, water) in blender until smooth.

4. Pour into crust and cover.

5. Allow cheesecake to set in the freezer.

6. Thaw in the fridge. Enjoy!

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

God and Dog by Wendy J. Francisco

A friend of mine sent me this animated song--the simple tune and honest words cut right to my heart. For those of you who are doglovers, check it out!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Natural Science Adventures for Homeschoolers: Too Many Legs!

Today we made our way out to Sunol Regional Wilderness to attend the first of four monthly sessions in a fall series of Natural Science Adventures for Homeschoolers. Today's topic was "Too Many Legs!" a spider exploration.

First we went around the room introducing ourselves and mentioning tidbits of information on spiders, while dispelling rumors and admitting fears.

Next, our naturalist, Katie Colbert, introduced us to two of the visitor center residents, tarantulas, Harry and Harriett. The two tarantulas were allowed to walk around in the people circle we had formed.

In preparation for passing Harry around to the braver souls, Katie collected Harriet in her hands and slowly walked over to her box. When she bent down to place the spider in the box, Harriet was gone! Startled, Katie asked us if we had seen her crawl away. As we had not seen her drop to the ground, we guessed that the spider must be crawling around on Katie. Katie turned around a few times...no spider. It was then that we assumed the worst... Could it be inside her shirt?

It turned out that in only a few short seconds, Harriet had managed to crawl into Katie's button-down uniform shirt! The kids were shocked and amazed when she came crawling out, back into Katie's hands!

After everyone calmed down, it was time to pass Harry around the circle. Those who were brave enough to allow him to crawl across their hands were afforded the opportunity! Natalie, Madeline, and I took the challenge! Max watched.



Following all of the spider excitement, we went down to the dry creek bed to look for spiders of our own. On our spider hunt, we used acrylic bug boxes with magnifier lids for observation purposes. The kids enjoyed looking underneath rocks for the speedy little creatures, and we found many Wolf Spiders hiding in the cracks and crevices.

As our adventure came to an end, we released our captive pets and spent the remaining time using spray bottles to mist the webs along the trail that took us back to the visitor's center.

Before we left, Katie made sure to show us two Black Widow Spiders so that the kids and parents would be better able to identify the common and highly poisonous California species.

For me, it was interesting to see how my children's personalities are manifested in their reactions to potentially fearful things. Madeline, is no doubt, the most fearless of my three kids when it comes to taking action. Natalie has a willing and cooperative, yet timid soul. Max steers clear of discomfort, but loves to read all about it in books!

Can't wait until our next class in October!
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Caesar's Seizures

Natalie has been studying Ancient Rome this school year, so I checked out the award-winning Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, from the library. I was busy at the computer when Abe came in from watching the movie with the kids in the living room and told me that Natalie had just said the funniest thing.

Natalie had asked Abe, "Why do they keep putting that stick in his mouth?"

Abe said, "Apparently, Julius Caesar had seizures, so they put a stick in his mouth so he wouldn't bite his tongue.

Natalie replied, "Oh, so that's why they called him Seizure!"

I love my kids...they make me laugh!
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend...

This evening we bid farewell to an old friend of ours from church, Georgene Moffitt, as she prepares for her move to Wisconsin. The girls and I made some "ants-on-a-log" snacks to share and went to an open house for Georgene at Lynda Chapman's house.

Georgene has been like a grandmother to us in Fremont. Over the years we have enjoyed spending Friday night dinners with her at Lynn's, hearing of her latest and greatest travels, musical performance, or Jack Russell Terrier adventure!

We are continually amazed at her energy, good health, and fitness as she commits many hours to her church calling, orchestra rehearsals, and women's book group.

After deciding to move closer to family, Georgene bought a beautiful home on an acre lot in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It took Georgene only 4 days to sell her lovely home in Fremont and she has been packing ever since. Brodie, her JRT, is looking forward to riding underneath her seat on the plane and, as Georgene has shared, he practices sleeping in his travel crate every night!

We will truly miss Georgene and her valiant spirit as she presses onward to Wisconsin--we love you, Georgene!
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Handprint Spiders!

Today we made some festive t-shirts and treat bags with a spider theme. As we have been learning about spiders on our fieldtrips, I thought it would be fun to incorporate our newfound knowledge into a craft project for the kids. Nothing like spiders to help get us into the Halloween spirit!

Last week, Michaels was having a special on t-shirts--5 shirts for $10--so I picked up the shirts, neon-orange fabric paint, eyeballs, fabric glue, and 3 treat-sized black bags.

We used a foam paintbrush to coat their palms and four fingers, leaving their thumbs unpainted and then stamped each hand to make the spiders. When the paint was dry, we added eyeballs. Max gave his spiders 8 eyeballs each; our other spiders sported multiple eyes as well.

The kids had a blast getting their hands painted orange and making spider prints all over the shirts...and they can't wait to wear them!
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fieldtrip to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, CA


Today we went on a fieldtrip to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, CA with other homeschoolers from the San Francisco Bay Area. Our East Bay Regional Park District naturalist, Tara Turtle, facilitated our awesome Bay Discovery adventure!

First, Tara used a felt board to introduce us to the bay creatures we might see and discussed the food chain--the kids learned that the ecosystem of the bay is dependent on several basics--sunshine, water, air, and soil.
We discovered that the bay is a home to leopard sharks, fish, barnacles, crabs, plankton, worms, sea lettuce, eel grass, clams, snails, snowy egrets, terns, moon jellyfish, and many other creatures.
Then, we were able to view previously collected specimens (a crab and clam) from the estuary, in magnifier viewing containers.
Next, the kids paired up and received a plastic bucket and viewing container to share with their partner on our specimen-hunting expedition.
We headed out to the rocks, mud, sand, and water to find snails, barnacles, worms, jellyfish, and crabs.
We even found a small dead octopus, which Miss Turtle said do not typically inhabit the bay!
On the way back, we collected trash from the beach area and deposited it in the trash receptacle at the park.
On our trip, were able to discover the wild animals and plants who call the San Francisco Bay Estuary home through hands on activities, guided discovery and exploration along the shoreline. We also discussed how this habitat is connected to our lives and our role in protecting and caring for this important space. Thanks EBRPD!