Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do I need it? Homeschooling Material Issue

This morning I woke up to realize that I hadn't completed a purchase of a book online yesterday that I'd intended to.  Usually, this would make me feel disappointed, but in this case, I was relieved by the possibility.  

Need vs. Want...  I find that it's often a moment by moment question.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting with Autumn trying to explain longitude and latitude.  She wasn't getting it with the Evan Moor book I was using.  I felt at a loss.  I instantly regretted not purchasing a book I'd intended to last spring.  So, I walked over to the computer and quickly ordered the book and workbook.  Then, I sat for a minute and felt the push to not give up.  I pulled the book back out and opened it up again.  I brought over the globe and showed it to her.  I pointed out the line around the middle.  She immediately recognized the equator.  Then, I showed her the latitude and longitude lines.  She said, "Wow!  I never noticed those before."  I explained the degrees, which of course she asked "why are they degrees?"  My answer to that was a bad one, because I only knew they always had been measured that way.  She accepted it, though, for now.  

I went back over to the computer and cancelled the part of my order that I knew I could.  I accepted that I'd have to pay for the second part.  But, I was so relieved to realize this morning that I'd never completed the second part of the order.  It wasn't a need--though I thought it had been.  I didn't need the other books after all.  I just needed to use my brain!  And spend some time with my daughter being patient--finding a hands on way to explain latitude and longitude to her.  

As a side note, my husband explained to me at dinner because it is measured in degrees because each measurement is an angle.  
For latitude, picture a line from the center of the earth to the equator.  Then, draw a second line to a latitude line north of the equator.  The angle those two lines create is the degree of latitude--North or South of the equator.  
For longitude, picture a line from the center of the earth to the prime meridian.  Then, draw a second line to a longitude line East of the prime meridian.  the angle those two lines create is the degree of longitude--East or West of the prime meridian.  

I'm so glad to understand now that I'm 38 years old why they're measured in degrees!  My daughter doesn't understand angles fully yet, but will be this year.  And when she does, then I can explain to her better why latitude and longitude are measured in degrees.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Super Quick Homemade Tomato Soup

As my husband and I were driving earlier this week, I gave him a quick synopsis of why our grocery budget is what it is.  I explained that many items we use have almost doubled in cost over the past 4 years.  This increase has caused me to cut back in a lot of ways.  One part that has been cut is my monthly trips to Trader Joe's.  I love Trader Joe's.  They have great food!  But, the increase in prices has made me rethink what I've been buying there.  Over the past year, we've been trying out less expensive whole bean coffee alternatives and other products at Aldis, Wegmans, and BJs to substitute for the products I purchased monthly at Trader Joe's.  One of my kids favorite foods from Trader Joe's has been their tomato soup.  

I haven't had any in the house for several months, so I thought I'd try my hand at making some.  Mollie Katzen has an extremely basic recipe in one of her kids cookbooks, Salad People.  I used this recipe to get me started and then completely ended up altering it.  

Here's the recipe I came up with:

Quick Tomato Soup
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped and sauteed in a little canola oil    (next time I'm going to add 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced)
2 tsp. sugar 
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup milk

Put all in a blender and puree until smooth.  Heat over med-low heat for 5-10 min.

I thought it tasted especially good with some grated parmesan stirred into it after the soup was served.  If your kids object to parmesan, add it while the soup is on the stove so it can melt in before they see it (maybe 2-3 Tbsp.)

I did make a trip to Trader Joe's this week on Wednesday.  I knew it would likely be my only trip until December.  The nuts drastically have jumped in price (a staple I used to purchase their).  I chose to forego the soup, crackers, nuts, frozen fish, dairy, and cereal.  Instead, I purchased the items that are still a better deal there than other places.

1.  dried uncrystallized ginger--I keep this on hand instead of fresh ginger, which always seemed to go bad on me
2.  sundried tomatoes--they are dried in an airtight package instead of being packed in oil
3.  Kansas City Style BBQ sauce (only available late spring-early fall)
4.  1 bag of Trader Joe's cheetos--for a snack on the way home
5.  A few noodle bowls for emergency food supplies for my husband when I don't have a lunch to send with him to work
6.  2 containers of soup--just for an emergency
7.  2 jars of roasted red peppers--good to have on hand for recipes when I've forgotten to buy a red bell pepper at the store
8.  One package of corn pasta for when friends on gluten-free diets come over.  

no coffee.  no juice.  no nuts.  It's okay.  

As for the coffee...  I had to find a good alternative.  We had been mixing Trader Joe's decaf Columbian ($10 for 13 oz.) and caffeinated Joe Blend ($5 for 13 oz.).  Together our coffee was costing around $9.25 per pound.

So, here are the alternatives I've been trying out.  I regularly brew half caf coffee, so I had to find good decaf and caffeinated coffees that could be mixed.

BJ's carries a decaf Columbian whole bean that is pretty mild.
I like their Costa Rican coffee and my husband likes their Ethiopian.  
All three are pretty good and run about $6/pound.
Eight o-clock Columbian from BJ's is next on my list to try.

I've also been trying out Costco's caffeinated whole bean coffees.  They have a Kirkland house blend that is roasted by Starbucks.  It runs about $6/pound.  Larger Costcos also carry a whole bean decaf roasted by starbucks that is $6.40/lb. (when I bought it this week).  They have several other Costco brand coffees that we're going to be trying over the next few months that are also around $6/lb.  

It's okay.  I'm thankful for the things I bought!  I've also been thankful to find alternatives!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dishwasher wheels... falling off track

We loved the house that we rented for a week for our vaction in Maine last week.  The kitchen was far better equipped than we expected!  Working in that kitchen for a week showed me a lot about what I needed in a kitchen and what I didn't!  

One of the things that came up was the dishwasher, a GE Profile black dishwasher.  I noticed the first day that the bottom rack kept coming off track.  So, I looked closer at it.  I noticed that 2 of the wheels were missing.  Another one broke when I tried to move it to a more stable spot.  The rack was also much more flimsy than ours at home.  We stopped using the dishwasher altogether 2 days before we left because I was afraid of more wheels coming off.

When I came home, I took a look at my dishwasher.  I discovered that 1 of the wheels was missing!  Our lower rack does periodically come off track as I pull it out.  So, I went online and found a replacement wheel on Amazon for $5.  I checked the part number to the Bosch website before I ordered it to make sure I was ordering the right part.  

The wheel arrived yesterday and it fit!  I am excited to have a tray that will be less likely to come off track!  I had a friend over yesterday and mentioned this to her.  She said this was the same problem they had with the dishwasher at the last house they rented.  So, if your lower rack of your dishwasher is coming off track--maybe yours is missing a wheel, too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Free Template for Short State Report

I just got an email from Evan-Moor with a link to this free simple state report.  Here's the link.
I'm not sure how long it will be up, but I thought I'd post it anyhow!  I'm already realized that I often have grand plans so I've already printed it as a back up in case we don't have time to do the longer report I have planned!  This year is off to a busy start!

Local News and Garage Sales

I love to garage sale.  It is my favorite hobby.  It is also the primary reason I've subscribed to our local newspaper for the past 7 years.  But, I realized recently how much the cost of that paper has gone up this year.  The paper used to cost $50/year.  Come this December, that rate will be $80/year.   Coincidentally, I noticed this summer that there haven't been that many garage sales listed in the paper through the summer (my primary reason for buying it).  Instead, people have been choosing to list them on Craigs List, which is free.

So, I went to my mom on Monday morning and asked her if she'd be okay if we cancelled our subscription. I emailed her a site where we can get our local news (here) for Harford County, Maryland.  I also discovered two sites that will search for the garage sales for me!  Here they are:  and

I feel bad for not supporting our local paper, but I realize that I have to accept that times are changing.  I always want to be careful with our budget and save money where I can!