Monday, April 13, 2015

Comfort for Sore Throats

I've had a theory for a while about making something with orange peels to help when a cold goes through the house.  Unfortunately,  I finally found an opportunity to try it out as we all did battle with a head cold last week.

I have no idea if this actually helped our recoveries, but it sure was soothing.  It combines four ingredients with known medicinal properties, all of which are common place.  While I haven't used it yet, ginger would be an excellent addition to the recipe.

Cold Treatment Concentrate

1/2 cinnamon stick
4 or 5 whole cloves

  • Put the peels, cinnamon, and cloves in a pot, and cover with at least 3 cups of water.
  • Bring to a boil, and allow to simmer until the cinnamon stick starts to be willing to uncurl.
  • Bring it back up to a boil, and reduce to about 1.5 cups of liquid. 
  • Remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  • Strain, and pour liquid into ice cube trays.  Freeze.  Once frozen, I stored the cubes in a sandwich bag in my freezer door.

To use, put one cube of concentrate into a tea cup, cover with boiling water, and add honey to taste.

This post has been linked to Hearts to Home, Thrifty ThursdayHHHWFMWBusy Monday and MYHSM.

Monday, April 6, 2015


For the last few weeks, I've experimented with letting the Bat and the Eel earn an allowance.  Thus far, it has been an effective tool in managing both of them and has helped to keep me organized.

It all started with the Bat (6), who needs to start learning about money.  He also desperately wants to be able to buy things on his own.  I've caught him stealing change out of my wallet on a couple occasions when he wanted to buy things from vending machines and I had already said no.  Taking "no" for an answer is a continuing issue for us and a matter of learning to control impulses. He's working on it. Discipline combined with explanations that the money was mine (not ours), that it was intended for other things that were more important, and that stealing is wrong, however, weren't making sense to him.  They were too abstract.

I finally decided to let him earn his own money.   With money being perpetually tight, I was hesitant about it at first.  I couldn't spare much or be depended on to have the right money on me on a regular basis.  I also wanted to make sure that the Bat could earn money quickly enough to see the value in his efforts.  After considering the price of matchbox cars, lollypops, Tootsie Rolls, and other childish priorities, I settled on an allowance of two pennies per day.

The Bat and I have discussed the value of his money.  He saves it in an old peanut butter jar, and knows that a full week's pay will buy a lollypop or a couple candies at the gas station or a discarded book or magazine at the library.  He also knows that he can save up to buy toys, and his current goal is a Dollar Tree toy.  I encourage him to save coins he finds on the ground, too.

The Bat earns his pennies by completing his schoolwork and chores and generally behaving himself.  In this way, I can reward good behavior and punish misbehavior, but the fact that his pennies aren't connected to specific tasks means that the Bat doesn't lose out when I am disorganized or if we take a day off of schoolwork.

I pay him for a completed day on the following morning.  Going to bed without fuss is part of earning his pennies, so paying out as part of our bedtime routine would be counter productive.   Generally speaking, the prospect of losing a penny (not earning one of the day's pennies) has been an effective way to pull the Bat into line when he misbehaves.  For the last few weeks, the threat of reduced remuneration has mostly replaced the need for corporal punishment.

Of course, the Bat can't have an allowance if the Eel is going to be left out.  The Eel can earn one penny per day. Being younger, he has fewer chores and less schoolwork, so his potential earnings are lower. His allowance has been an effective disciplinary tool as well.  While the Eel rarely requires redirection, he takes most forms of discipline as a personal rejection.  Attaching his behavior to a monetary goal has really helped him accept correction in a more thoughtful manner.

In the future, we may switch to a more formal chore/allowance system, but right now, this system is working for us. I've seen a marked improvement in both my older sons' behavior, and it has made my life less stressful without adding a lot of complexity to my day.

This post has been linked to Thrifty ThursdayHHHWFMWBusy Monday, and MYHSM.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Pumpkin Apple Coffee Cake

Using the pumpkin muffin recipe I shared last week, I decided to try turning the recipe into coffee cake.  It turned out beautifully, so I'm sharing the recipe.  You can find more on cooking with pumpkins in this post.

Pumpkin Apple Coffee Cake

4c flour
2 c pumpkin puree
2 tsp salt
6 tsp baking powder
2/3 c sugar
1/2c oil
2.5 c water
2 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp vanilla
1 apple, chopped


1 C flour
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 c oil

  • Combine all cake ingredients thoroughly.  
  • Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. 
  • Combine all streusel ingredients, adding more flour if necessary.  
  • Crumble streusel over cake batter.  
  • Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until a clean knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. 
This post has been linked to Thrifty ThursdayHearts for HomeWFMW, HHHBusy Monday and MYHSM.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dollar Store Homeschooling

Approaching the end of the Bat's school year, I am evaluating what has worked for us this year, what I want to do differently with him next year, and how I would tweak what worked with him to work with the Eel.  I'm also very much aware of all of the stress a lot of homeschool moms face choosing from among expensive curricula.

In the early years especially, it doesn't make a lot of sense to shell out huge sums for a curriculum.  If you are teaching material you already know, then the most important resource your child needs is access to your own knowledge and experience. When it comes to learning to read, write, and do basic arithmetic, what kids mostly need are effective practice materials.  The how-to can mostly come from mom and dad.

Expensive curricula aren't really an option for my family, and the craziness we have experienced over the last few years demands flexibility in schedule and approach.  I need to minimize the space that school demands, and I also need something that reinforces skills and introduces concepts without too much of a time commitment.  The Bat simply does not sit still, and his attention span is limited.  With other children to parent and dh being away most of the time, I don't have the time to commit to intensive schooling for several hours every day.  In order to meet these requirements, I compiled all the relevant materials I already owned, scouted useful websites, and made a list of what blanks needed to be filled.

Without reliable Internet access, I did not want to depend on printable materials for worksheets.  Instead, I sought out inexpensive workbooks for learning to read, write, and add.  It turns out that the teacher's section at Dollar Tree has perfectly good workbooks for a wide variety of grade levels and in various basic topics, along with paper with wide lines for early writers.  We went through a few pads of that paper this year. 

I invested in the First Words booklet, which has the child explore and write a few vocabulary words for each letter and several supplementary pages  in the back (including worksheets, puzzles, and coloring pages).  This set up meshed beautifully with our "letter of the week" system, covered most of the sounds made by each letter, and created a fun supplement for our use of the McGuffey curriculum.

In addition to First Words, I bought the booklet on addition, which covers everything from 0+1 to 20+20.  It does not provide instructions on how to add, beyond starting with horizontal problems and visual manipulatives and progressing through sheets of vertical problems and short word problems.  It also has supplementary material in the back, including several coloring sheets.  The Bat has worked through a few pages every week, and while he still has room for improvement, he understands the process of what he is doing.  Since the book isn't married to any particular technique, I've had the freedom to teach the Bat the Harry Lorayne's approach to addition without contradicting the Bat's workbook.  My only complaints with this book are that I found an error on page 1 and the word problems are in the middle of the book.  I delayed working through the word problems until the Bat could read them himself.

In a couple weeks, the Bat will begin working through phonics, spelling, and subtraction workbooks, all from the same series as the other two.  I'm looking forward to using all three.  And since I insisted that the Bat only write on photocopies of the worksheets, the Eel will begin using the First Words and Addition books later in the coming school year.

Because I already had the McGuffey readers from my own childhood (they're available free online in electronic form, too), my total investment for reading, writing, and addition curricula was less than ten dollars, even after you figure in writing paper, pens, and crayons (Don't buy Dollar Tree crayons.  They don't work well, and good crayons can be had at Walmart for half the price.).  What we do with our alphabetical subject of the week could easily be accomplished online or at the library, thus covering an introduction to science.  And the ASL curriculum that we weren't nearly consistent enough in using is free at Our Hebrew workbook was leftover from dh's childhood, but would not be expensive to replicate--especially if we were working on a more commonly taught language.  Our music curriculum is based on my own knowledge and materials I already had, but would also be easy to replicate through free printouts from the internet.

We also read through and discussed The History of Counting, which I bought with an Amazon gift card I got for free through Swagbucks.  It's an excellent discussion of what numbers are and do and a good introduction to the history of mathematics--a subject I believe is important to include in math education.

Dollar Tree has been a wonderful educational resource for us for a few years now.  We've found good board books, jigsaw puzzles, and books of word puzzles there since the Bat was about 2.  Now they are providing us with good, basic curriculum materials for a fraction of what comparable materials cost in book stores, office supply stores, or school supply catalogues. The investment in these materials has already paid for itself in the Bat, and my ability to reuse them will double their return in the Eel.

This post has been linked to Thrifty ThursdayThe Mommy ClubHHHWFMW, Busy Monday, and MYHSM.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pumpkin Muffins

Every Friday I do my baking for the week, including some baked good for breakfast on Saturday.  This last Friday, I felt like trying a new recipe, so I pulled out Auguste Gay's New Presentation of Cooking, which has a baking section I've been meaning to look at for a while. In short order I found a simple recipe for pumpkin muffins.  Since I stock up on pumpkin puree every fall, I'm always on the lookout for new pumpkin recipes.

The following is a slight variation on Gay's recipe.  The muffins came out soft and moist, with a subtle, but tasty, flavor.  I will definitely be making these again and playing with the recipe.  The recipe is also simple and frugal enough to be a good one for teaching children to bake and follow recipes.

Pumpkin Muffins

2c flour
1 c pumpkin puree
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c oil
1 1/4 c water
Optional: 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and vanilla

  • Combine all ingredients thoroughly.  
  • Ladle into greased muffin tins. 
  • Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes or until the muffins begin to brown on top.
This post has been linked to Thrifty ThursdayThe Mommy ClubWFMWHHHMYHSM, and Busy Monday.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pregnancy Update

As I near the end of the first trimester, I realise that I have been more quiet about this pregnancy than about the prior ones.  The first trimester was uneventful, with almost no morning sickness.  I have been greatful to feel the baby move over the last several weeks and to notice my belly starting to grow, but those have been the main indicators of continuing pregnancy.  There simply isn't much to tell.

I've also felt very quiet about it.  In the wake of prior losses, the most recent of which endangered my life, I find myself protective of this one.  It is mine, and I'm not eager to share it with anyone.  This is personal and intimate in ways that my other pregnancies have not been.

At amost 22 weeks, I'm alittle more than halfway to my due date, and I've learned that this pregnancy is different in one, very unexected way:

I'm carrying a girl!

While I've hoped to have a daughter eventually, it's been a very abstract wish.  Now that wish is a reality, and I'm a little overwhelmed thinking about what that means for me as a parent.  There's no getting around the fact that girls and boys are different, and most of my experience with children,younger ones especially, at this point has been with boys.  So, while I'm excited and pleased at the prospect of raising a girl, the joy carries with it some of the same nervousness I experienced when pregnant with my first child.

It also drives home a shift in my family's life.  Over the last two years, we have experienced changes that have led us to give up or reevaluate almost everything we had assumed or owned.  Then, as I mentioned above, my loss last summer almost involved the loss of my life.  Immediately after, we embarked on a very new, very different chapter in our lives.  Welcoming a daughter after three sons seems like a fitting part of that shift and of my new life.

This post has been linked to M2M Monday and WFMW..

Friday, March 6, 2015

Frugal Storage for Kids' Clothes

Having moved frequently over the last few years, I've learned that it pays to streamline what you take with.  Moving is much less expensive and much easier to do when you buy furnishings inexpensively and simply replace them when you move to a new place.  Besides, not being tied to one's furniture gives one more flexibility in the spaces one inhabits and how one does so.

One way that I have tried to be flexible is in how I store my children's clothes--not the ones that are waiting for the next child to fit, but the ones currently in rotation.  When space is limited, a chest of drawers may not be a viable option.  Coat hangers in closets are certainly cost-effective, but I don't think they are very practical (they stretch out knitwear and are simply difficult for small children to handle).

The difficulty is that clothes must be stored.  Storage can't wait for ideal circumstances or unlimited budgets.  Here are some low-cost options that have served me well at various times and in various places:
  1. My personal favorite is the television entertainment center.  These can be had free or nearly free on Craigslist, especially during garage sale season.  The shelves and compartments are good sizes for storing folded clothes and baskets with undergarments. Units with large spaces for a television can also hold a compression rod for hanging coats or dress clothes. They usually fit quite nicely in closets. The downsides of this idea are the space requirement and the need for patience and diligence in finding a suitable unit.
  2. Second hand chest of drawers.  This is the most obvious option and the easiest to use, but it poses the same challenges as option 1.  It also poses the difficulty of being more expensive in the world of resale.
  3. Bookshelf.  Same idea as 1 and 2.  Clothes store best on a bookshelf in baskets or cubbies.  I have also used a small, three-shelf wire rack from Walmart for this.
  4. In the absence of actual furniture, dollar store baskets are a good option--one each for tops, bottoms, and undergarments.  This option has a relatively large footprint on the floor, but it is very cost effective and good for training children to put their clothes away.  Baskets are also good, because they organize clothes while you wait for a suitable piece of furniture to present itself.  The baskets then translate into organized shelves.  They can also line up neatly under beds.
  5. Hanging shelves.  This is what I am currently using.  I purchased a 6-shelf unit at Walmart for $10, and it holds clothes for my three boys.  I have a Dollar Tree basket underneath for undergarments.  
  6. Nightstands.  When closet space is limited, but room space is not, one two- or three-drawer nightstand per child is a good option.  Night stands, like entertainment centers, may be had very inexpensively second hand.  Currently, I use a three-drawer nightstand to store my boys' pajamas.
  7. For smaller quantities of clothing or temporary storage, suitcases work just fine, and they slide very nicely under beds.

If you are thinking about clothing storage, take a look at what space is available and in what shapes.  Make sure that you don't have more clothing than your kids need, both to increase your number of options and to make it easier for your children to keep neat what they have.  Consider your needs carefully, and then keep an eye out for items that could fill the need and fit the space.  Your best solution might not look like what you expect.

This pst has been linked to WFMW,  Busy Monday and M2M Monday.