Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tag, I'm it

Lisa tagged me. I'm supposed to share six non-important things/habits/quirks about myself. There are a bunch of other rules, but we all know homeschoolers are really bad about following rules, so I'm not even going to bother listing them.

Here are my quirks (which I like to think of as just 6 more reasons to love me):

1. I hate feet on my pillow. If you want to get my goat, stick your feet on my pillow. Nothing bugs me more.

2. Except maybe crumbs. I hate crumbs. They gross me out. They are the by-product of a perfectly good food. I especially hate cereal crumbs floating around in the milk. Blech.

3. In college I turned a girl in for cheating on an exam in our statistics class. Ironically it was two accounting majors who talked me into it (at the time I would never have dreamed of going into accounting). In retrospect, they were right. It was the right thing to do. The professor allowed the girl to drop the class rather than take it further.

4. My college degree is something called "Community Health" with a minor in health education. You see why I went back to school for that accounting degree. Even people in the healthcare community don't know what the heck a Community Health major is qualified to do. But the classes were really cool.

5. I have a brown belt in tae kwon do. My dad used to run a karate studio. I'm not sure how much of it the old body could still do, but I would certainly try if the need to protect Violet ever came up. I haven't actually practiced a kick in probably 20 years.

6. I once co-led a two day canoe trip. I worked at a church camp the summer after my freshman year of college. That's when I got my lifesaving certification. It thrills me that Violet lists canoeing as one of her favorite things from camp.

If anyone else wants to play, I'd love to read about your quirks too!

Cookie money

Ami.Mental asked what happens to the girl portion of the money earned from Violet's cookie sales, since she's a Juliette. In our Council, the Juliettes (individually registered girls) are treated very well. From what I've heard in Juliette yahoo groups, our Council is one of the very best in the country. Violet will receive "J-Bucks" in $5 increments for the cookies sold. She gets it at the same rate as the troops do, 50c per box.

J-Bucks can be spent in the Girl Scout shop on girl clothing and uniforms, toys and hair accessories, books and patches and official insignia. For shop sales the main requirement is that it be stuff for the girl. I can't take her bucks in on my own and get myself a cool Girl Scout sweatshirt that says Volunteer all over it. But she can buy herself a cool t-shirt or a Groovy Girl wearing a uniform and sash.

They can also be spent for the girl portion of registration for day camp, resident camp or any Council sponsored program. Again, we can't use them for my fees to attend Mom and Me camp with her next summer. And we can use them for the $10 national registration dues. I think the older girls can apply to have some of them used for expenses towards their Gold or Silver award, but I'm not positive.

Violet's plan is to spend most of her J-Bucks on resident camp, but get another groovy girl too. We don't make her buy her own badges or uniform or pay her dues with them. The J-Bucks do expire after about 3 years and of course if you lose them, so sorry but that's the way the Thin Mint crumbles. (I do hold onto Violet's for her.)

Our Council is joining with 3 other area councils beginning next fall as part of the national realignment program. I'm hoping these rules don't change. We are the largest of the 4 councils that will be joining together and in the last year or so our council has really upped their Juliette program and outreach. They seem to really believe that their individually registered girls are an important part of the program. They've just unveiled a new webpage just for Juliettes at the Annual meeting last weekend. And they even do a Just for Juliettes event or two each year.

She won't receive her paper J-Bucks for a couple of months, but it should be in plenty of time for the final camp payment.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dreaming of a year off

It hit me last night, I deserve a break. I had always sort of planned at the back of my mind that when Violet goes off to college, I'd go back to work full time. Now I'm dreaming of a way to save enough money between now and then to not have to right away.

Straight out of high school I went to college. From there I started working full time. While working full time I went back to school at night. Then it was full time graduate school and at least one part-time job. Out of grad school I went to work full time. For a public accounting firm. The job included travel and 60 hour work weeks.

I did that until 2 days before Violet was born. I was supposed to be taking 3 weeks off, but she had other plans (she still owes me those 3 weeks and I intend to collect them). When she was 6 months old I went back to work part time. I've been working steadily since then. I average 15 hours a week but I have had weeks up to 40 plus hours.

She was home full time until she was 4 and went to preschool 2 afternoons a week. I used that time to work. By the middle of that year we'd decided to homeschool and I began doing some kindergarten work with her because she seemed ready and interested. We've been homeschooling ever since while continuing to work.

And now I'm exhausted. Don't get me wrong, I love homeschooling. I enjoy my volunteer activities. And I like my job well enough and definitely like my paycheck. But I deserve a break after I successfully send her off to college.

I know we'll need extra money for college. We are investing in a college tuition program. That will be paid off when she's 14. So my diabolical plan is to keep setting aside that monthly payment that we will have been used to coming out of checking account every month for 10 years, into a separate college fund. Surely that will be enough extra along with my part-time work, to not have to go back full-time right away. Won't it? Please?

This is what happens when you don't get enough sleep.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Final Cookie Count

Violet is done selling cookies (the sale officially ends tomorrow) and her final sales total is 201 boxes! You will remember her goal was 150. She got up to 197 boxes (my office ordered a lot, we'll be shlepping cookies around there for a while). Mr. Incredible said he could eat a couple more boxes of peanut butter sandwiches. I called Super Grandma (who had said to let her know if Violet was close to a new level at the end) and she said that Pop Pop (Maddie's name for her grandfathers) was good for 2 more boxes as well. We would have done the extra one, but Grandma had offered so many times I thought I'd better ask. She seemed to really enjoy picking out flavors for Pop Pop to eat (Grandma gave up cookies when her waist line and cholesterol both became bigger than she was comfortable with).

So Violet will get a patch, a label maker (not quite sure what that is), a key chain, a stuffed dog and a t-shirt. Plus she's earned about 100 "J-Bucks" which are like gift certificates that can be spent in the Girl Scout shop, for program fees, or (and this one is Violet's plan) to go to Girl Scout resident camp.

Her next project is to design a thank you card that Mr. Incredible will print out for all her customers. Then of course we have to deliver and collect all the money from the sale. I do believe she's earned those prizes and the J-Bucks. It has been a lot of work.

Speaking of work, if you don't see me much the next week or so it is because of work. My one year-end client has requested we come out next week, about a month earlier than we planned. So I am going to be busy pretending that I still know how to do accounting work. But I'll be back.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Loving Amazon Prime!

About a year ago Mr. Incredible signed us up for Amazon Prime shipping. I think he had an offer to get it free or half price or something for a limited time. We have fallen in love with it and recently renewed for a year. It costs $79 for a year, but for us it is worth.

We can both use it in our own names and accounts (so those secret birthday gifts stay secret) and get free two-day shipping on many items. Mostly things not shipped by Amazon don't qualify. We used to use their free shipping on orders over $25 a lot, but we were finding ourselves buying stuff we didn't need just to qualify for the free shipping. $5 here and $10 adds up. And with their regular free shipping they take FOREVER to ship your items.

So with Amazon Prime we get two-day shipping free on any size order. I just ordered a book on gardening for Violet to use as a text later this Spring. (I'm going all Charlotte Mason-y lately and using living books as texts. Sure, they aren't the ones she used, but hey, who's to say she wouldn't use these if she were alive and teaching now?) It was $10, I just ordered it, didn't go searching for another $15 of stuff that I might want to get free shipping. If we could order everything we need with it, we would!

This past Christmas season we discovered a great feature of having an Amazon Prime account: free gift shipping! We have a lot of out of state nieces and nephews, plus a few friends, and we can order their gift and in two days it arrives. Sometimes we splurge for the gift wrap options. Other times I opt for more gift and hope they don't mind the brown cardboard "gift wrap". What it has saved us in postage alone has to have paid for the account! We even used it to ship gifts within the area to people we weren't likely to see, but were still obligated to buy for (you'll have to talk to Mr. Incredible about that one for an explanation, I had crossed them off the gift list, he put them back on.)

I'm sure this option doesn't make sense for most families, but for us, it has been great!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Physics of the falling pear

Violet has been working her way through a physics kit learning all about Newton's laws. I've been pretty good at being able to help her. Then today we came to an experiment where you were supposed to drop an apple or a pear on a sharp knife from different heights to see how far into the fruit the knife goes. Has to do with velocity and acceleration. I said we needed to wait for Mr. Incredible before we used a sharp knife.

In many ways around here I am the responsible grownup. I make sure the bills are paid on time. I see to it that we are saving enough for real estate taxes. I remind everyone when it is bedtime. But sharp knives? I'm not allowed to use them.



Here they are measuring the depth of the knife after a short drop. I made Violet wear her safety goggles. I think they are cute.



Here they are dropping it from a distance. Sorry it is blurry. And sorry for the mess in my kitchen. I was cooking a lot today and didn't tidy up. (Like I ever tidy up, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)





The aftermath. Hmm, want to guess Violet's real name?




Reviewing the results with the book and eating the science materials. (See, untidy counter top too.)

It was a fun experiment and I'm glad we waited for Mr. Incredible. I think he enjoyed helping her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Addicted to cashews



This past Christmas season we bought some cashews. We put them in our stir fry. I snacked on them. I became completely addicted to them. I've been wanting more. I finally got to the cashew supply store today (if they sell anything else I didn't see it) and bought 3 more bags. They have the best price anywhere, $2.99 for one pound of cashew pieces or $4.99 for a pound of whole cashews. I went with the pieces and bought 3 bags.

Funny thing is, I don't even like nuts. You never catch me snacking on peanuts or pecans or any other nut. Just the cashews. Just these cashews. I think they lace them with something.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hoopla!

I first saw this at Kentucky Woman's. Then it was at Simply April's. And now I've seen it at Home*School*Home.

I figured it was time for me to get in on the action. As you might have guessed my birth certificate doesn't read "Freakmom" or even "Helen Parr", so I'm using my very own initial to try to think of something in each category.

1. Famous Singer: Jackson Browne
2. Four Letter Word: jazz
3. Street: Jefferson
4. Color: jade
5. Gifts/Present: jewelry (yeah, right)
6. Vehicle: Jalopy
7. Things in a Souvenir Shop: joke books
8. Boy Name: James
9. Girl Name: Jackie
10. Movie title: Juno
11. Drink: java or Jell-O shots
12. Occupation: Juggler
13. Celebrity: Jane Goodall (does she count?)
14. Magazine: Jack and Jill
15. City: Jacksonville, FL
16. Sport: Javelin throw
17. Fruit: Jamaican mango
18. Reason for Being Late to work: Just didn't want to go
19. Something you throw away: junk
20. Something you shout: Just leave me alone! (shouted at the people in the mall who try to stop you to sell you hand lotion or a cell phone)

Anyone else want to try?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Science update

I've calmed down over the science issue. As you know from reading a few days ago my science program went out of business before I bought my curriculum for Spring semester. I thought about trying to e-mail and see if I could still order some of it. Or looking for it used. But I got a little mad that there was no warning whatsoever that the business would be closing. There is even a Yahoo group that the author herself posts to. There was no post saying, "its been great, but I can't do it any more, I'm closing up shop." It was just gone.

I started researching and looking around for other curriculum. Problem is I want a strictly secular program and there are so few to choose from. So I decided it could do it myself. Finding experiments is easy, there are tons of cool books to choose from. But I wanted Violet to get more explanation. She's done so much science in her short academic career but still craves more. We discussed with her what types of science topics she'd like to study when she finishes with physics in a few weeks. She chose chemistry.

I hit the library book shelves to see if I could find anything that would be good. I brought a few home and Mr. Incredible and I looked through them. We found one we both really liked and I ordered it today from Amazon: Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun!

It has lessons about the periodic table and fun experiments. It looks like the right level for her. Interesting, fun and still something new for her to learn. I'll report back in a few weeks about how it works out!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cookie sale update

I'm sure you are all sitting out there on pins and needles wondering how Violet is doing on her sales. We added up her total boxes sold and after one week she's at 97 boxes! Looking very good to meet that 150 box goal. The sale goes for 3 weeks and the orders slow down after the first few days. I don't know how many orders she has from my office, but last year she sold about 40 boxes there. There are still a few more regular customers to ask.

She did a great job ringing doorbells and asking people. She took her form with to a homeschool event and sold to the other two families there. (It wasn't a well attended event, but that's just as well. A lot of the girls in our group are Scouts and I wouldn't have wanted her competing or stealing customers. And the two delivers we'll have to make will be easy.)

So far only 1 box ordered may be difficult to deliver and collect on, that was a family down the street I don't know. But it is only 1 box, so I can eat it if they claim they don't remember ordering. I know some leaders who tell their girls to get the money up front, but you aren't supposed to. If it was a large order and someone we don't know, I'd ask for payment up front.

I will keep you all posted on her progress!

Friday, January 11, 2008

I was strong!

By the time I left the meeting last night someone else had taken the bookkeeper position. She took all my paperwork and the files and was off to register for the official training class. I promised her and the committee that I would not abandon them if they had questions, etc.

But I'm free! My reign as daycamp bookkeeper is over. Yippee!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Must not drink Kool-Aid

Think strong thoughts for me tonight. I have to go to a Service Unit meeting where they are going to try to talk me into being Day Camp Bookkeeper again this year. I've been saying since last July that I would not be returning. I'm sticking to my guns.

My official reason is that since last summer I've taken on the job of registrar and spring registration overlaps with the daycamp bookkeeper's busiest time. I can't do both jobs at once. I could barely do the bookkeeping job last year along with homeschooling and working.

My less official reason is that it is too much work and Violet absolutely hated daycamp. We are going to resident camp this year. And the rest of the committee (save 2 really good friends) wigged out on all the after camp work leaving us to do what should have been done by the entire group.

I didn't think they'd get a committee together again, but they have. And they talked the chair into coming back. They have a new director on board who will be fabulous (she's one of the 2 who didn't wig). I think they have also reduced daycamp down to 3 days from 5. But they need to find themselves a bookkeeper. I have all my paperwork organized in a folder for them along with a CD I put all my spreadsheets and other electronic files on (I burned my first CD today!) Someone is going to take it from me tonight. (Or else I know where they live, it will be on someone's porch when they get home from work tomorrow night.)

IF they can't get anyone, they may be able to talk me into throwing together a preliminary budget for them. But that's it. I'm not taking all the registrations and handling all the expenses this year. And I'm not going to all the committee meetings.

Please send strong vibes. I think I'll need them. I'm taking my own bottle of water and not letting it out of my sight.

Thinking science

Sorry about my interrupted post yesterday. I couldn't believe that they just suddenly closed their doors like that! I may go looking for some used copies. There are 4 volumes, I own one. A local homeschool friend has another volume. I'm sure I can borrow it from her. That would only leave two. It will at least give me plenty of science to get through third grade, then I can decide if I want to search for the other two volumes, or just do something else. I think I can pull my own materials together just as well as My World Science does, and I can gear it more towards Violet's interests.

Still thinking a while.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Still going smoothly

This is scary. Three days into the new semester and things are still going smoothly. We've yet to have a tear from either Violet or me. We've done spelling and grammar every day. Our only math has been board games. That might make a difference. I'm going with the theory that creative learning right brained thinkers like Violet do better learning math from games and practical hands on activities than from workbooks.

We've been doing a lot of science. Have I mentioned that is Violet's favorite subject. We are starting in with physics. We'll be getting into the "Motions and Forces" unit from My World Science soon. But we've started with some biographical material on Galileo and Newton. And a physics kit called Newton's Wizard that we picked up a year or two ago at a gift shop. Today we watched the DVD Galileo: On the Shoulders of Giants. It was pretty good.

ACK! Stop the presses. I can't go on with my blog entry. I just went to My World Science to get the link to post in my entry and THEY WENT OUT OF BUSINESS LAST WEEK!!! I was going to order the other 3 books from them. Now what? I have to go search around and see if I can find anyone else selling them. I'll be back later. In a nutshell, school is going good. See you later.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tired

Whew, what a week already. We've had 2 days of school and they have gone really well. I guess Violet was a bit bored. We haven't done too hard of stuff, but it hasn't been all fluff either. Then today we went to homeschool bounce at Pump It Up, that was fun. Violet sold 12 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to the families there. I got jazzed up and sent in my money to go see David Albert when he is in town later this month.

Yesterday work was busy. It always is on Mondays. I work most of my weekly hours on the weekend so I send everything in to be reviewed and it comes back with changes or ready for me to finalize on Mondays. And usually along with it are requests to duplicate it for another client or something like that.

Yesterday was also really busy because on Sunday night at our Service Team meeting for Girl Scouts I agreed to contact all the individually registered girls in our service unit to see if they had the information on selling cookies if they were interested. And I decided since I was doing that, and I'm on the service team, and I have an individually registered girl, I might as well bite the bullet and just go ahead and become the IRG coordinator for our area.

I've been thinking about this for quite some time. It is a need that really should be filled and I am the perfect candidate for it. I do have an ulterior motive, Mr. Incredible and I would like for her to hook up with a couple of other girls her age to get together with once in a while and do a service project together or something. I can scope out the other girls this way.

Anyway, I am coordinating the cookie sales for any of the girls who want to participate, usually it is just 3 or 4 and that's what it sounds like it will be this year based on my inquiries so far. And I'm going to send out occasional e-mails to any of the girls who'd like to know what's going on. It shouldn't be too bad. I think yesterday's round of phone calls and messages will be the worst of it.

Tomorrow we stay home. Hang out. Do some school. Mop that kitchen floor before someone sticks to it permanently.

Hope you are all having a good week!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The cookie sale starts tomorrow

And Violet is ready! She's got her order forms filled out. (I snagged extra forms from the cookie chair so one is on its way to my office, one will go to Mr. Incredible's office). She's made posters for our offices as well. She's got her sales plan, head north on our street where we don't think any other Girl Scouts live. Her best friend Red lives across the street and is a Brownie too, but she wasn't planning on doing any door to door sales. And she's got 25 door hangers filled out to leave for families who aren't home to be able to place their order directly with Council and she still gets credit for the sales. That is new this year. I'm not sure how many sales she'll get like that if any, but she figures she won't get any if she doesn't hang them out.

Her goal is 150 boxes so she can earn the Build-a-Bear dog stuffed animal. Like she needs another stuffed toy. But she's right, it is cute. And she'll earn "Cookie Dough" she can spend on summer camp as well. She'll never hit her goal if she doesn't try. Guess I'll be tromping up and down the street with her tomorrow looking for those sales!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Soup recipes

Veggie broth can be used in any soup recipe that calls for beef broth. Sometimes it can substitute for chicken broth in soup, but not always. For example it would be great in vegetable soup, but probably not in chicken chowder.

Here are two recipes I use veggie broth in:

Minestrone Soup

1 quart water or vegetable stock
2 cans plum tomatoes, chopped with juice saved
1 small can tomato sauce
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, shredded
1 cup green beans (I use frozen)
1 cup peas (frozen too)
½ cup garbanzo beans (I usually just throw the whole can in because I can never think of what to do with the rest of it)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 small can sliced black olives
1 garlic cove, minced
2 T Italian herbs (I forgot to include this the first time I made this soup and liked it, so I never included it)
salt and pepper to taste
approx. 1 cup small pasta
grated parmesan cheese

Combine in a large pot water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, & veggies. Simmer 30 to 45 minutes. Add black olives, garlic, herbs and spices. Continue to simmer 25-30 minutes. Add pasta and cook about 10-15 minutes until pasta is soft. Garnish with Parmesan cheese (if desired).


Turkey and Bean Soup

Cook the following in a crock pot on high for 4-5 hours:

1 lb. ground turkey, browned and drained
1/2 c chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 T Italian seasoning
1 bag (16 oz) Frozen Fiesta Blend Vegetables (broccoli, carrots, white beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, Italian style green beans & red peppers) or something similar
1 can (15 oz) chopped tomatoes (undrained)
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) red beans (drained and rinsed)
2-1/2 cups veggie broth

Serve over cooked pasta or alone.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

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Vegetable Broth

I've been wanting to try making my own vegetable broth to use in soups for a long time. Making homemade soup is my specialty. I make my own chicken broth all the time. I love to cook turkeys just so I can make turkey broth. I've never tackled veggie broth though (and since Mr. Incredible doesn't eat red meat, it is the perfect substitute for beef broth in any recipe).

Yesterday I took out my stock pot and filled it to the top with 16 cups of water, some broccoli stems, cauliflower stems, red leaf lettuce that was on the verge of too old, green beans that had been in my freezer too long, a cut up green apple, a cut up onion, some cut carrot and the inside stalks of celery (with leaves) that we wouldn't have eaten. I also tossed in some dried parsley, thyme and rosemary.

It looked like this when I put it on the stove:



It came to a boil and I reduced the heat and let it cook for several hours. I had to keep shoeing Mr. Incredible away because he wanted to pour himself a bowl and eat it. (From now on, I'll just feed him scraps!) After a few hours I removed the inside strainer with all the veggies. The mushy veggies looked like this (I set the strainer inside a large bowl to drip into until they cooled enough to compost):



Mr. Incredible snagged a cooked carrot and said it was terrific. The broth was a really nice dark golden color:



After it cooled down I poured the veggie broth into containers to freeze. I did strain out some extra herbs that were at the bottom. I got between 10 and 11 cups of broth. That should be 3 pots of soup. And the cost was practically nothing since most of the veggies I used were likely to be composted rather than eaten!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

More Snow!



This is a view of my back deck taken this afternoon. I'm not sure if the screen door will open right now, but it isn't like we're going to sit out at the table right now!



This is our garden from earlier today too. You can almost see the raised beds and the table in the back corner and the fencing to keep the bunnies out of the veggies.

We got another 5 inches of snow between yesterday and today. They weren't predicting any accumulation. We've had an unusually heavy amount of snowfall this winter so far. It isn't uncommon for us to have had no snow stick to the ground by this time of year. Of course, we are expecting 40s and rain this weekend. But while it is warm, I'll have Violet go out (with adult supervision, of course) and hit the neighborhood with her Girl Scout cookie sales.

Good thing Santa brought those snowshoes. They are coming in handy!