Welcome to the first edition of Russell Ramblings - my weekly homeschool update from Russell Homestead.
Before I tell you about our week of homeschooling, let me briefly introduce the little Russells. (Read more about me here.)
The first day of school was kicked off with pancakes in the shape of their grades.
We began our year with a unit study on the letter U and learning about "us" and our five senses. We use My Father's World (MFW) as our core curriculum. (Read our 2016-2017 curriculum picks here.) Since MFW is set up to use a family approach in the older years, we are adjusting their kindergarten and grade 1 curriculum (which are not set up do multiple ages) to use with both AJ and CJ. We are doing the kindergarten curriculum with both of them, with JJ tagging along where he is interested. However, for AJ's math and language arts, we are using the first grade curriculum.
Each day of the unit we learned about a different sense. We did activities such as reaching into a bag using our sense of touch and guessing what was in there, looking at a variety of objects and guessing which one was removed when our eyes were closed, and identifying sounds with our eyes closed. The boys were fascinated to learn there is a hammer, anvil, and stirrup in our ears. I found myself learning new things about the eye as we read books off of MFW's recommended book list. (MFW provides a list of living books you can get from your local library or purchase that complements their curriculum. We have found this to be a fantastic resource!) We studied how the pupil is like a hole through which light enters. It shrinks to restrict light and grows to allow more light.
One resource we are planning to use this year is nature journals. One aspect of MFW that I appreciate is their focus on getting kids outside. We did two entries in their journals this week. First, we went outside with our nature journals and found 3 things we could smell. Below are three of their picks - tomatoes, zinnias, and a shrub.
On another day, we took our nature journals outside looking for things we could feel and describing them - a hard rock, a smooth leaf, and a bumpy apple tree trunk.
In language arts, CJ focused on the short u sound and learning to blend sounds with a blend ladder. AJ focused on learning the digraphs sh, ch, and th.
In math, AJ worked on learning shapes.
The boys also had their first science lesson with Daddy this week using Exploration Education's Elementary physical science kit. While building a model car, they learned the definition of science, force, and matter.
All in all, it was a wonderful start to the school year. It feels good to fall back into a routine after carefree summer days!
This post is linked to the weekly wrap up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
As my blog has added followers over time, I’ve realized that perhaps my about page on my website isn’t quite enough for those who’ve never met me to understand the voice behind this blog. So, if you want to get to know me a bit better, read on!
The most important thing to know about me is that I am believer in Jesus Christ. I believe the entire Bible is the Word of God. I believe the words upon the pages are Truth and apply to my life today.
Next in importance, is that I love my family. I am a wife to my one and only. I believe marriage is for one man and one woman for life. We were married in 2005, and we are more in love today than we were then.
I am a mom to 4 (soon to be 5) children. My children go by made up initials on my blog. AJ (a boy) is the oldest, followed by CJ (a boy), followed by JJ (a boy), and MJ (a girl). Our tribe is close together in age – AJ & CJ are 14 months apart and the rest of the crew average 20 months apart. There are few dull moments around here, lots of messy ones, some stressful moments, and plenty of joyful moments.
I am a former classroom teacher and current homeschool mom. I graduated from Millersville University with my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. After teaching three years at a private Mennonite school, AJ came into this world. I gave up my teaching position to be a mom, and now I’m rediscovering my love of teaching through homeschooling. (Something I thought I would never do, by the way.)
I am an animal lover. We have miniature schnauzers, Nubian goats, and layer chickens. Some people refer to our place as a “farm.” In my mind, growing up in a rural farming community, calling us even a farmette is a stretch, but we do have plenty of critters around here.
I am a gardener. In my garden you will find green beans, tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, lettuce, and weeds. I enjoy freezing and canning the fruits of my garden. I also buy food I don’t grow in large amounts while in season – such as sweet corn, peaches, pears, and cherries – to can or freeze for the winter. We also have apple trees, an asparagus patch, a strawberry patch, and a raspberry patch.
I used to be a scrapbooker. I have many gorgeous scrapbooks from years gone by. However, I look at my photos now and become sad about how they are simply stored in files on my laptop. Maybe someday I will take up that hobby again, but for now I’m up to my elbows in diapers, sippee cups, dishes, and dirt.
I am by nature a do-it-yourself person. My mom says it started when potty training. Once I had the idea of potty training, I firmly told my mom, in regards to wiping, that “I can do it MYSELF!” This nature applies to many areas of my life, gets me in trouble in some areas and helps out in other areas. I like the satisfaction of having my own milk to drink from my goats and washing my own diapers to save money. We call ourselves a “homestead” because we like the spirit of doing it by yourself with what you have on hand that goes along with homesteading. However, you won’t find a family living off-the-grid, wild and free here at Russell Homestead. We’re average folks who like doing things ourselves, while enjoying modern conveniences.
It may surprise you that I’m not an online person. I still stubbornly refuse to join Facebook or Pinterest. (Though Pinterest is bound to get me sooner or later with homeschooling activities.) I created our website to give our puppy families a glimpse into how their puppies were being raised. I’ve chosen to grow our website to include our dairy goats and homeschooling, but I’m still not a believer in sharing personal details for the online world to view. That being said, I strive to be honest and open, but you won’t find my deepest struggles and failures on my blog. Please know they are there, and I am a person just like you. I have my good days and bad days. If you want to know about me, we will need to sit down with a cup of coffee and chat. That being said, you can get a really good idea of who I am by reading my blog. My vision for my blog is to give you a glimpse into our lives while providing encouraging and informative content. I truly appreciate you as a reader! Thanks for stopping by!
Many years ago in the hot days of summer, a friend of mine handed me a zucchini from her garden wondering if I could use it. I accepted the gift, knowing vaguely what it was and having not a clue what to do with it. Relieved (I’m guessing) at someone taking the zucchini off her hands, she quickly whipped out her favorite recipe for me. I still have the recipe, and we ate the dish several times already this summer. You see, after that zucchini, I decided I want to grow my own the next summer. And then I realized just why there is truly a national Sneak Someone Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day on August 8! Zucchini can come in great abundance all at once.
Zucchini is one of my favorite things to grow in the garden because it is low maintenance, high yield, easy to pick, and versatile to cook and bake with! A bonus is that they are so fun for children because they grow so quickly. From one day to the next, you can see the change. Add to that the fun of hunting for them beneath the large green foliage among the bright orange bud flowers, and you have a perfect food for young hands to pick. Since I’ve discovered a great way to use up my surplus, I’m not usually looking to sneak it onto my neighbors’ porch. Over the years, I’ve tried to find recipes that use it as part of the meal other than dessert. Zucchini is popular in baked goods, and we certainly enjoy it that way, but I don’t feel like it is truly a benefit to grow just to whip batch after batch of zucchini bread.
Just in case your neighbor sneaks some on your porch on August 8, I will share with you some delightful ways to use this oblong green garden gem. (Note: The last one is the way I use up a surplus of zucchini all at once.)
First, I’ll begin with the original recipe that got our family hooked on zucchini.
Please note that, even though not stated, in all the recipes the zucchini is simply washed and not peeled prior to preparing it.
Zucchini Skillet Supper (from the More with Less Cookbook)
Saute in a skillet with 1-2 Tablespoons of butter or oil:
4 cups zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups of spaghetti sauce (or chopped fresh tomatoes with a bit of tomato juice)
¾ cup canned mushrooms, drained (optional)
Salt, pepper, oregano, seasoned salt, etc. to taste
1lb of ground beef/vension/turkey, browned (you can also try cubed cooked chicken or ham)
Simmer just until heated through. Serve with lots of parmesan cheese.
-Eat over rice or noodles
-Use fresh sliced mushrooms and saute with zucchini
-Add shredded cheese & melt
We enjoy this recipe over rice. It is one of those recipes that tastes different each time depending on what ingredients I have on hand and what mood I’m in.
Zucchini Casserole (from the Weavertown School Family Cookbook, page 168)
3 cups zucchini, grated
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup oil
½ cup grated cheese
1 cup Bisquick*
1 small onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased casserole dish and cover. Bake at 325-350 for 1 hour until it tests done in the middle.
I loved this recipe from the first time I made it. It has grown on my hubby so much that it is now his top-requested zucchini recipe this summer. However, my kiddoes aren’t as excited about it, but they eat it.
*I make my own Bisquick using this simple recipe:
6 cups of flour
3 tablespoons of baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup of cold butter
Mix the dry ingredients and cut in butter. (There will be butter lumps in this Bisquick and that’s okay.)
For the Zucchini casserole recipe above, simply use a cup of this mixture in place of the cup of Bisquick.
If you want to make pancakes with this mixture, use this recipe:
2 cups of homemade Bisquick mix
1 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons baking powder
I learned this one from my sister-in-law.
Dip into milk and then finely crushed cracker crumbs.
Fry in butter on a skillet until crumbs begin to brown.
This recipe is great for complementing a light summer meal in the heat. We like to have this as a side when we have corn on the cob or open-faced tomato sandwiches.
Zucchini Tomato Soup (from the Weavertown School Family Cookbook, page 72)
½ cup onion, diced
¼ cup water
18oz tomato juice (or 2 ½ cups fresh tomatoes, chopped)
½ cup butter
2 cups zucchini, grated
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
2-3 tablespoons of flour
In a kettle, melt butter. Add onions and saute lightly. Add water, tomato juice/tomatoes, zucchini, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. In another kettle, heat milk to warm and whisk in flour. Pour milk and flour mixture into first kettle. Add cheese, if preferred.
I enjoy this recipe. It is so fresh tasting if you use fresh tomatoes, but this isn’t a family favorite around here. My kids like it best when I serve it with rice.
Zucchini Squares (from the Weavertown School Family Cookbook, page 262)
¾ cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup coconut (optional)
¾ cup nuts (optional)
1 ½ cups 10X sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Beat the butter and sugar. Add the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the icing ingredients). Pat into a 9x13 cake pan. Bake at 350 until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Beat the icing ingredients together and spread on the cake while still warm. Cut into squares when cool.
Zucchini Nut Bread (from the White Oak Church of the Brethren Cookbook, page 52)
2 cups sugar (I do a little less)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups of zucchini, grated
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
Beat eggs. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Mix until thick. Stir in zucchini. Sift dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Fold in nuts. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 for 1 hour or until done.
¼ cup butter
¼ cup shortening
½ cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour milk*
2 ½ cups flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups zucchini, shredded
1 cup chocolate chips
Cream first 4 ingredients. Add egg, vanilla, and milk. Add dry ingredients. Add zucchini. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan or 10x15 pan. Sprinkle tops with chocolate chips. Bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes.
*To make sour milk, I put ½ tablespoon of vinegar in a half cup measuring cup. Then level it off with milk. Let set five minutes. Put into recipe.
This recipe was shared with me by my sister-in-law. It is called a cake recipe, but I like to bake it in a 10X15 pan and cut back the flour and up the chocolate chips for a more brownie-like result.
Zucchini Dill Pickles
Lastly, here’s my go-to recipe when my kitchen counter is overflowing with zucchini – I make zucchini dill pickles. This idea came to me a few summers ago when I thought about how similar a zucchini and a cucumber were. When used fresh, they are different in taste and texture, but what about when pickled, I mused?
First, let me say that our family loves dill pickles. While I’m not typically a pre-packaged gal, I do like Mrs. Wages Dill Pickle mix. I had used it successfully with cucumbers when the pickling zucchini idea came to me. I called the Mrs. Wages customer service department to find out if they had any recommendations on using their dill pickle mix for cucumbers with zucchini. The lady told me she can’t recommend it because she has no idea the quality of the result. My concern wasn’t so much the quality as the safety of it. She didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be safe, but, again, wasn’t going to go on record as recommending it. So, I tried it, and the results were fabulous!! They taste the same as the cucumber dills with a texture slightly of their own.
I still don’t know the exact ins and outs of whether it is safe to use Mrs. Wages dill pickle mix on zucchini, but I can say I’ve used it successfully several times. Simply follow all the directions on the package and substitute zucchini for the cucumbers.
May God bless you with some zucchini from your garden or your neighbor next week so you can try out some of these recipes! If not, find your nearest roadside produce stand or stop by your local grocery store and pick up some zucchini. Thanks for stopping by my blog!
Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
Independent Field Representative