Archive for September, 2011

Freezer Pesto

One thing that grows down here in the hot dry summers, even when the rest of the garden has literally cooked to a crisp, is basil.  And we love it.  It keeps going and going and going…but I’m not complaining.  Just keep picking and making pesto! I don’t actually use a recipe for pesto, I just add this and that until it looks right, but if you don’t cook like this, you might want to try this recipe.  Just keep in mind that it can be modified a LOT and still be delicious!

Here is my method.

1. Pick a bucket full of basil and wash thoroughly.  Then take a picture because it is pretty.  If you are using spinach, you can use an amount equal to the amount of basil.  I find that the spinach doesn’t really change the flavor of the pesto much, but it makes the pesto stay green better in the freezer as well as (obviously) increasing yield.

2. Gather up the rest of your supplies.  You will need:


Nuts of some kind (Pine nuts are too expensive, so I use what I have.  I’ve used walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.  You can also add in some sunflower or pumpkin seeds, though I use them sparingly.)

Fresh Garlic

Fresh Lemons

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Fresh Baby Spinach (optional)

You will also need Parmesan cheese, but not yet

3. Roast Garlic and Toast Nuts

Cook the nuts in a single layer until they just start to get crisp and golden, but be careful because it’s easy to overcook them.


Cut the tops off the garlic, just exposing the top of each clove. Then place in a baking pan and drizzle over the top with EVOO. Roast at 400-450 until golden and the cloves are beginning to pop out of the top.  Pull out of oven and let cool.  Then you should be able to just pop the cloves right out of the paper. Super easy.

4. Start throwing things in the food processor. I fill the bowl with spinach and basil, add some garlic cloves, lemon juice, salt and pepper and then start the machine.  Pour EVOO into the food processor slowly until it all blends up evenly.  When smooth, use a spatula to scrape the pesto into a big bowl.

5. Do this about a million more times.  Keep adding batches to the big bowl. You don’t have to worry that every batch has the same amount of all the ingredients because once everything has gone through the blender, you want to stir it up and taste it.

6. Adjust seasoning. Add whatever you need to taste.  The flavor will be strong because a little bit goes a long way.  So it’s not a big deal if it tastes a little too salty or peppery.

7. Run it all through the food processor again.  This will help make sure that everything is incorporated evenly and will hopefully make it nice and smooth.

8. Fill Jars. Or whatever freezer containers you are using.  I LOVE tiny little four-ounce jelly jars for this.  One tiny jar will actually make a lot of pasta!  We love to add the pesto to other things: instead of mayo on grilled sandwiches, to flavor roasted meat or veggies, etc.

9. Label and Freeze. Make sure to include the date.

10. Use. When you are ready to use, make sure to add Parmesan cheese to taste.  And if you are using it on pasta, reserve the starchy cooking water and add a cup to your pasta when tossing with the pesto and cheese.  So yummy!

Meal Plan Monday 9/26

Well, we’re so busy this week that at best, we are going to be home for dinner one time. The fall schedule is officially out of control.

Breakfasts: smoothies, toast, oatmeal, waffles


Lunch – vegetable soup, baby green salad

Dinner – roasted chicken and veggies, brown rice

Extra – Bake cakes for tomorrow, make salad for tomorrow


Lunch – quiche and salad

Dinner – Soccer award night, order GF pizza, birthday cake/cupcakes


Lunch – egg sandwiches, veggie dippers

Dinner –  CFA event


Lunch – PB&J, veggie dippers

Dinner – birthday dinner


Lunch – leftovers

Dinner – book group dinner

Curriculum 2011-2012: Art

So I’m realizing I know next to nothing about art.  We are going to change that.  And educate Autumn at the same time. 😉

Our core curriculum, Five In A Row, includes lots of art techniques and activities that go along with the children’s books we read, but I wanted to do more with the masters.  So we are adding in an artist or two (or more) that go along with the country we study for each unit of FIAR.

We check out a lot of books from the library but, Mike Venezia’s Getting To Know the World’s Greatest Artists series are by far my favorites for learning about the artists.  Autumn not only understands them completely, but she also reads at least part of each book aloud to me.  Yet, these books are not overly simplified.  I’m learning a lot. So is she. (This author also has a series on composers, another on inventors, and yet another on presidents!)

For activities, we discovered Discovering Great Artists by Mary Anne Kohl and Kim Solga. I’ve gotta tell you, I may be in love with this book.  It’s just so much FUN!  We’re loving every minute of it.  While the Venezia books teach you about the artists, this book teaches about their techniques and is super kid-friendly.  The activities are interesting and relevant, but generally don’t use any materials that you wouldn’t already have on hand.  I’m so happy with this book, that I’m planning of teaching a class based on it for our local homeschool co-op next semester.

Artists are sorted by the time they lived, the type of art they made, what you need for the activities, etc.  The only thing I wish was included is an index of what country each artist is originally from, as that would help with the way we are choosing people to study.  But I guess that’s what the internet is for. 🙂

Speaking of the internet, we’re also using the web for art.  While I would love to be able to see the artist’s works in real life, most of the time that’s just not possible since we live in the middle of nowhere when it comes to museums.  So the internet is extremely helpful to see additional pieces that are not in the books we read. You may want to check out this blog as well: Holly’s Arts and Crafts Corner.

At some point this year, I would like to make a special field trip visit to The High again.  Matt and I loved spending a day there before, and I’m hopeful that after spending so much time learning about them, Autumn will be able to appreciate the works and not be bored.

1st Day

These are pictures from our first day back to school.

Autumn is five.

And we had breakfast out at Waffle House.

AND we got to sit at the counter.

Because that’s what she wanted.

Since we’ve been doing Five In A Row, I find that we are “rowing” books that are not even part of the curriculum.  This summer we read The Wheel on the School and Autumn loved it so much that we decided to use it as a jumping off point for a unit.

We did a reduced amount of school for about half of the summer, and then took the rest off.  Then we started up the first two weeks of school with Hana in the Time of the Tulips to continue our Holland theme.  We also read through about a third of Hans Brinker, but decided to read it again another time when Autumn’s comprehension level is a little higher.

If you are looking for printables, I highly suggest Homeschool Share.  Just about everything in this book came from their free resources.

Lapbook cover with handprint tulips using finger paints.

Geography: Autumn located the Netherlands on several different maps, made a flag, traced Stork migration patterns between Holland and Africa, and learned about the many of the attributes of the country.

We read lots of books about Holland, discussing the role water plays in the country: canals, dykes, dams, windmills, etc.  We also discussed the Dutch people, costumes, traditional industries and foods, and many of the symbols associated with Holland such as tulips, windmills, wooden shoes, etc.

Autumn made handprint tulips for the front of her lapbook.  We also used play-doh to build a model of a Dutch seaside town surrounded by a dyke.

The map skills section of Beginning Geography made a great addition as we learned about directions and the compass rose.  These tied in nicely with Hana in the Time of the Tulips. 🙂



Science: While we are also doing a science class in our weekly home-school co-op, we had a lot of fun doing projects drawn from the books as well.

Storks – This is what the Wheel on the School is all about! We learned a lot about storks and their habitats,  diets, migration, and various myths associated with the birds.

Rosemary – Hana’s mother tells her that rosemary is the “food of memory.”  And we discovered it is actually good for your brain! We studied rosemary: it’s physical attributes, life cycle, and uses.  Then Autumn used a French press to make fresh rosemary tea.

Plants – Since we were talking about rosemary already, I decided to bring in plant life cycles and different types of plants.  The herbs in our garden are doing great right now, so we collected samples and talked about annuals, biennials, and perennials, with samples of each.  Then, using printables from the Giant Science Resource Book, Autumn put together the life cycle of a tomato plant in order.


Fireflies – Did you know that even firefly eggs glow?  Hana’s nurse tells her that fireflies help chase away dark thoughts, so we took the opportunity to study the insects.  We read several books about fireflies and then Autumn completed a mini book on them as well as a lifecycle wheel.


The Heart –  Hana and her father play a game where she listens to his heartbeat at the beginning and end of the book.  We listened to heartbeats and then did several experiments using Blood and Guts.  We tried squeezing tennis balls to find out how hard the heart has to pump.  Made a matchstick and clay pulse meter.  And then did Autumn’s favorite thing from this book – dissected a cow heart! (She has told me she wants to do a brain next.) We then talked about how exercise changes your heart rate and the heart rates of some animals.

Language Arts: While we didn’t make a mini-book for them this time, Autumn learned a TON of new vocabulary words as we worked through the many books we read for this unit.  She also did a little character sketch of Janus, from The Wheel on the School.

Bible/Character: We talked about the concept of dark thoughts, how to get rid of them, and made a dark thoughts shape book.

We also talked about the concept of greed and what the Bible says about it.

Math: While we do a completely separate math curriculum, we did talk a bit about economics and the concept of “bubbles” as it related to the tulip craze in Holland at the time of the Hana book.  Also, about how it is important to store up riches in heaven instead of here on earth.

Art: This was my favorite part of the unit, although very little of it actually fit in the lapbook. 🙂  We went a little wild learning about several famous Dutch artists and techniques and had a great time.  I’m going to do another post on the art resources we are using this year, but here is a link to a great activity book in the meantime.

Delftware – When reading about the culture of Holland, we kept talking about Delftware, so decided to make our own.  We bought porcelain tiles from a home improvement store (I think they were .16 cents each?) and some conditioner and blue porcelain paint from a hobby store.  (I’m sure you could use regular paint, but we wanted the glossy, glass-like effect.) Then Autumn spent an afternoon painting away!  She tried to incorporate some motifs that we noticed in pictures of Delftware, such as windmills, storks, and boats.

Tulips – I am constantly getting garden and bulb catalogs in the mail, so this was a great way to make use of them.  Autumn chose her favorite tulips from the catalogs, cut them out,  and pasted them into a small scrapbook.  Then she used different techniques to draw, paint, or color her interpretations of the photos on the opposite page.

Vermeer – We read a couple books about Vermeer and looked at many pieces of art, noticing how he used light.  We didn’t have an activity to go with this, but both learned a lot!

Rembrandt – We read a book on Rembrant and Autumn watched a video from the library.  One of her favorite activities was making sketches of herself.  Rembrandt used to practice sketching himself with all sorts of different expressions, so she looks in the mirror and did the same. The results are great fun!  Autumn also sketched me with a light directed on to half of my face, with the other half in shadow.  Then I did the same for her.

Van Gogh – We read about Van Gogh as well, and then Autumn did several paintings using thickened tempera paint and popsicle sticks to show how Van Gogh used so much paint on his work.  She also tried mixing colors directly on her canvas.  She had a blast combining colors to make new ones! I’m hoping we will also have time to work on a Starry Night project before we start our next unit on Monday.

Sunset with an orange balloon.

Purple sunset with flower and a house.

Mondrian – We didn’t have much luck finding any child-friendly books about Mondrian, but our art activity book had some information and we found more online.  Autumn designed this page which covers the back of her lapbook. She used black electrical tape (with some help to get straight lines) and markers to make a Mondrian-inspired piece of artwork. I was pleasantly surprised by how she chose to place the grid.  I expected something a little more symmetrical, but she was pretty creative. 🙂

Menu Plan Monday – 9/19

In an attempt to use up a bunch of extra fresh produce hanging around the kitchen, I made several types of soup this last weekend.  We had so much produce and all very ready to be used up: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, butternut squash, yellow squash, onions, carrots, celery, onions, radishes, asparagus, etc.

So those soups will be going with either salad or sandwiches on homemade whole wheat bread for lunches all week.  Hoping this cuts way back on prep time since our week is PACKED!


b – smoothies
l – soup and sandwiches/salad
d – roasted spaghetti squash with marinara and meatballs
b – eggs, veg
l – soup and sandwiches/salad
d – taco tuesday @ local mexican place
b – smoothies
l – soup and sandwiches/salad
d – grilled veggie/sausage skewers, brown rice
b – eggs, veg
l – soup and sandwiches/salad
d – baked chicken and roasted cauliflower with baby chard
b – smoothies
l – soup and sandwiches/salad
d – gluten free bbq pizza with baby greens salad
b – eggs, veg
l – soup and sandwiches/salad
d – asian cabbage rolls
 clean out the fridge and eat all the leftovers. 🙂