Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Letter Fun Brainteasters

Hazel: "Mom, I have a brownie for you." 

Me: "You do, oh, good."

Hazel: "Here it is."

So our children's librarian did this joke to Hazel and me. Since Hazel was the one interested in the brownie, she went over to get it and she got a construction paper letter E. Of course then there was no stopping her. She wanted to do the joke to everyone (and to me about 100 times). She brought the brown E with her to school and did it to everyone she saw. She took it to church...well you get the picture. Luckily she thought the joke was really funny and was not upset about not getting an actual brownie.

Hazel's Sparkly H
We were at the library for the Thursday craft. The craft that week was to make the first letter of your name with some meaning. The example they gave was a C out of clouds or an H out of hearts (which one of the librarians made). Hazel wanted to make a sparkly H, so she did. Then she decorated the sheet and added her name. Next she wanted to make an A out of hearts.

Hazel's Heart A

Since I was just sitting there, I decided to make one. I made a colorful C first.

Then the children's librarians and I were talking about all the different things you could do, and I came up with this one. Can you figure it out?

We kept joking and talking and next I came up with:
Then I drilled the librarians. One was very good at getting them all.

One librarian is named Paige and we talked about making her a P made out of book pages or at least paper cut to look like pages. I don't know if they ever did though. This was all part of their Brain Building Week. They had some math activities and engineering activities on other days. Plus they gave the kids stickers and/or hats.
For some more letter fun we found Kathy Ross Crafts: Letter Shapes book. I haven't shown it to Hazel yet, but am guessing we may be trying to make some.

You can also check out some of the puzzles over at Math Is Fun like The Letter H Puzzle.

Now for our answers: I see and the letter L. Do you have any good letter puzzles or ideas to make these letters?

Earth Day 2014

Congratulations to Sara G. for winning the Dearfoams Slippers!

Today is International Earth Day. It is the day we try to remember to be good to Earth and take care of our planet. We do not do anything too special to celebrate the day, however we do try to be green. This year we are meeting friends for an Earth Day celebration where the kids make crafts and things. That is tomorrow however. Hazel has been asking to learn more about being green. I added a book to her wishlist and my parents bought it for her for Easter. It is What Does It Mean To Be Green? by Rana DiOrio.

We enjoyed reading it and seeing some of the things like giving clothes you have outgrown to others (Hazel hates when I do this), composting, feeding the birds, recycling, growing your own garden or buying local produce, etc.

On this note Hazel also helped my father clean out his compost bin (well it was my grandfather's) that he did not want anymore, so we could bring it home. Steve set it up for us yesterday and also helped get my garden ready for us to do some planting. We planted some seeds to get them started indoors. We used our recycled food containers. Our strawberry containers were the best since they were big and had holes already.

We also filled our bird feeders and have been blessed by many birds coming to get fed.

We also leave some wool and yarn scraps out in a suet feeder for the birds nest building supplies.

Those are the main ways we are being green besides of course recycling as much as we can. Oh, and yesterday it was finally warm enough to hang out a load of laundry. I love using my clothesline! What do you do for Earth Day?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Around the World in 12 Dishes: Portugal

This month we are exploring Portugal for Around the World in 12 Dishes. I wrote an introduction to Portugal there, so I am going to get into how we explored the country. As always we took some books out of the library. Our favorites for Hazel getting understanding are:
  • Portugal by Kari Schuetz - an easy to understand overview of the country and culture

  • A New Life in an Old Village by Hélène Tremblay - one family's story about life in a Portugal village

  • The Little Horse of Seven Colors and Other Portuguese Folk Tales Retold by Patricia Tracy Lowe - folk tales with a few illustrations

I also spoke to a friend who is Portuguese American. She suggested making caldo verde and Portuguese sweet bread. Of course her memories of her grandmother making them did not include an actual recipe--more of take this and that and a little of this, so I looked for some recipes. For the caldo verde (green soup) we found a recipe in Jean Anderson's The Food of Portugal. Now I knew this was taking a chance since both Steve and Hazel do not like kale. There is discussion on line whether the greens should be kale or collard greens. Since I like kale better and have had the soup in a restaurant in an area with large Portuguese American population and it said kale and potato soup, I went for kale. Sometimes Steve will eat it in things, so I figured why not. I dragged a sick Hazel out to the store and of course everyone was shopping for Easter that morning. Ugh! So much for a quick trip. An employee in the meat department helped me pick out sausage since I don't like it usually. Hazel thought it was too bland, but did not tell me this until a few days later. She just didn't eat it. I thought it could use more salt (and I do not usually cook with salt at all and never add it) and did not like the sausage and Steve just didn't like it.

Green Soup or Caldo Verde
1 large yellow onion
1 large garlic clove
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 large Eastern potatoes
2 quarts cold water
6 ounces chourico, chorizo, pepperoni
2 1/2 teaspoons salt (do not cut this down!! I did and it was a mistake)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound collards or kale

Finely chop the onion, garlic, potatoes and  kale. Thinly slice the sausage. Saute the onion in the garlic in 3 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy saucepan for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and saute stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes until they begin to color. Add water and cover the pot. Boil gently over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are mushy.

Meanwhile fry the sausage in a heavy skillet over low heat for 10 to 12 minutes until most of the fat is out. Drain well and reserve.

When the potatoes are mushy, remove pan from heat and with a potato masher, mash potatoes in pan with soup mixture. Add the sausage, salt and pepper and return to heat. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add the greens and simmer uncovered 5 minutes until greens are tender and the color of jade. Mix in remaining tablespoon of oil and taste the soup to see if it needs more salt or pepper (I did not do this and it was a mistake).

For the Portuguese Sweet Bread, I decided to try a recipe on-line instead of the one in the book. I found many recipes on-line and many of them were the same and had lard--since I didn't have lard, I looked for a recipe without it and found this one on Cooking with Elise: Massa Sovada Traditional Portuguese Sweet Bread. I cut the recipe in half and we tried to make it with Easter eggs instead of brown eggs. I definitely did not add enough flour for the recipe. As a result our eggs slid out of the bread and we had issues.

Massa Sovada or Portuguese Sweet Bread (adapted from Cooking With Elise)
5 cups of flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of active dry yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature (take out at least 2 hours ahead)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon salt (just a pinch if you use salted butter)
1 1/8 cup sugar
zest of half lemon (I used more an it was very lemony)
egg wash (one egg and a splash of milk)
3 Easter eggs or brown eggs

In bowl dissolve your yeast in 1/2 cup of water with the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Allow your yeast to proof.

Beat the eggs until they are light and fluffy. Add your yeast mixture and just enough flour to make a batter (1 cup at most). Cover with a dish cloth until bubbles form (we added too much flour and did not really get bubbles). Meanwhile melt the butter over low heat. Add the canola oil. When all the butter is melted add the milk, salt and lemon zest.

When batter has formed bubbles add the sugar and butter mixture. Add the remaining flour one cup at a time mixing well each time. This is a sticky dough. When it becomes difficult to stir (if you are not using a mixer) add the remaining flour by kneading it in until the dough is smooth and not too sticky. (Since we used our mixer, we let the mixer do the kneading and our dough was too sticky. I should have added more flour.)

Cover your dough with waxed paper and a towel. Let rise until it doubles in size (about an hour).

Shape loaves of bread into the size you want and place them in buttered loaf pans. (Our dough was so sticky, it could not be shaped, so I put it into a buttered loaf pan). If baking with eggs add them now. Cover with buttered wax paper and a towel and let rise until it doubles in size (we did not have room for it to rise to double its size). Brush the loaf with the egg wash (we call this painting).

Bake for an hour at 275 degrees.

Now when I took ours out after an hour, it was obvious it needed to be baked more. I put it in and two of the eggs slid out. Since our dough was too liquidy it took some of the color off the eggs. I would use the brown eggs if I repeated this.

However Hazel and I loved the bread. Steve did not. I ran out of white flour and used some whole wheat, so I think it is a bit browner than usual as well.

We also found some music on the following CD's.

For those homeschooling, looking at Portugal is a great time to look at the Age of Discovery and look at the explorers. There are many from Portugal.

Also available are the Portugal Placemat and Passport Pages. And of course check out all the posts shared for new recipes and ideas of looking at Portugal. Around the World in 12 Dishes is hosted by 

Adventures In Mommydom, Afterschool for Smarty Pants, All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, Maroc Mama, Glittering Muffins, Kid World Citizen, Mermaids' Makings, The Mommy Talks and The Usual Mayhem

Feel free to share any Portuguese recipe, craft or post you have as well. Next month we will be visiting Croatia.