Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gutter Shelves for our Homeschool Room

I decided to try a new system for organizing the books for the kids this year. Since I'm schooling three now, plus I have a toddler, I was kind of freaking out for a few weeks, er months about the upcoming school year. Adding another child to the mix means of course, more resources and definitely figuring out how to organize those books, Cds, magazines, etc.  I saw quite a few photos out there about gutter shelves. I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I am SO incredibly pleased with the look of them, with the small amount of space they take up for what they actually do and with how practical they really are.
We bought two vinyl rain gutters and 4 pairs of the end pieces. It was about $20 for the gutters, total and about $4 per pair of ends. My husband did go back to the store and get the brackets. If you don't use the brackets, the gutters will look misshapen and warped. The brackets actually support the gutter and cause it to be straight throughout the length of it.

My husband pre-drilled holes and fastened the gutters into the studs with screws and I'm glad he did. I ended up putting a lot of books on them and I don't think they would have been supported had he not.

Since we put the brackets on after securing the shelves to the wall, we had to cut the long flap on the back of the brackets so they would slide from the side and into the center of the gutter. If you decide to use the bracket prior to, you could fasten the shelves to the wall with the bracket. We used the bracket simply as reinforcement. Luckily, my husband figured out how to manipulate the bracket (cutting off the long flap) to make it work. Phew.

Have a look to see how we are using ours. I have designated one shelf per child. Our shared resources are on the regular bookshelf. Since we use, our family studies the same core subjects and therefore shares many resources. More to come about the rest of the room.

 You can see the brackets about halfway across. We split the 10 ft gutter in half by sawing it with a simple hacksaw. Then, sanded the edges. Some other blogs say to glue on the end caps, but we didn't do that since the ones we purchased were a snap-fit that had foam that created a good seal. 
 You can fit at least 3 books from front to back. 

Friday, August 3, 2012


This great pesto recipe is from a good friend, Carol who said she got it from the Moosewood Cookbook.
When I made it I wasn't sure if by 3 cups of basil, it meant jam-packed cups or loosely packed. So, I played it by ear and used 6 loosely packed cups. I like how mine came out. Carol had served her pesto over a spread out block of cream cheese to be used as a cracker dip. Ay May Zing!
I put about half of mine in a ziploc and froze it for another time. With it being BASIL season, I feel like this recipe is going to be a staple for me! You can put pesto over pasta, veggies, potatoes, chicken, etc.

This photo was taken after the fact. Grrrr. I hadn't thought to photograph it until we had almost demolished the bowl. It doesn't look like the most appetizing thing, but it is very savory!


3 c. cleaned basil leaves(no stems)
5 large cloves of garlic( or to taste)
3/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. butter, melted
salt to taste

Place all above ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse or blend till creamy to your desired consistency.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Learning to cook via CSA

A few years ago at a summer picnic, I had heard friends discussing a book about the importance of eating locally, supporting farmers, eating what's in season and I dismissed it rather ignorantly. I can't remember why, but I was just never interested in nature and I'm sure it went right over my head. Years later, I am just now beginning to understand what they were talking about through reading up on nutrition, watching some eye opening documentaries and learning from many knowledgeable friends. This year on the very first day it was open, we joined a local farm's CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program. Never mind the planning ahead, even months ahead as some of those crazies do. I didn't even know what CSA meant at the time and I didn't really know what I was getting into. But, since I'm not the greatest planner executor, I failed once again to plant my beloved, yet only imagined raised garden bed.
I've always loved my picture perfect store bought vegetables and usually bought the same ones week after week. My regular choices were mushrooms (yes, I know, not actually a vegetable), peppers, squash, zucchini (vegetable and fruit) and an onion. Sometimes, I'd go crazy and get some spinach. We always had carrots as well as apples and bananas. I thought I was doing great, my kids and the hubby and I would eat "fresh" vegetables nearly every night for dinner. I'd heard talk about eating local, supporting local farmers and eating in season. I used to think, "what's the big deal?" I feel very differently about that now and a little more educated about the whole theory and I am so happy we did get into the 15-week program with a local farm. At just $25 per week, I am getting a great variety of in season items. I'm learning a lot about cooking with authentically fresh vegetables. The farm includes a newsletter each week offering preparation, storage and cooking tips and recipes. The first week I was embarrassingly puzzled with these little freaky round cabbage-like contortions they like to call spell kholrabi. I have yet to really know how is the proper pronunciation, but who cares, I've learned what it is and I found a really wonderful way to cook with it. Well, before I burned the second batch of it and nearly cried because did anyone realize how darn long it took me to cut that sucker open and carefully slice it? A bouquet of flowers and a few boxes of freezer bags later, my husband made it all seem OK. Yes, I'm being dramatic. I didn't really almost cry, but I did complain a little. So, I left thinly sliced veggies in a 450 degree oven for probably four or ten minutes too long, big deal. My thoughtful husband actually did bring home some flowers for me that night. He's a good one.
I'm trying to keep him and the rest of the family healthy. My kids often tease me about everything under the sun growing on trees if I call it organic and my twelve year old laughs when I quote something from an article I just read. "Sugar causes cancer, Mom," he mocks, but in a sweet, still respectful manner. I know, it must get annoying to hear your mother constantly rattle facts justifying why you are now only eating a few slices of [very expensive] chicken, but three sides of veggies. But, I'm really trying honor my family with the knowledge I have and once you have this information before you, how can you not take action?

Here is last week's CSA basket. I was so happy because I recognized everything in it! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Today my Gram would have been 100 years old. I always thought we would have celebrated with her, but, sadly, she passed a few years ago. My Gram was one tough bird, a little rough around the edges, but if you spent enough time with her she was tender hearted. She pinched her pennies and justified an early afternoon drink by calling it a cocktail. She always quoted a doctor or an article to give you some sort of advice, always wore a skirt, loved lemon meringue pie and used a handheld, weaved fan to cool herself off. When I wore a ponytail or chewed gum, she'd tell me I looked like a peasant (now I find it funny) and she taught my then two-year-old Dylan to politely shake her hand and say, "how do you do?" in a voice that made you think she grew up at The Breakers (she kind of did.) She also remembered every single birthday of every family member. 
If you're blessed enough to still have a grandparent with you, give them some extra love today. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


 I have used a different organization system this year for homeschooling. In the past, I have used workboxes, which I highly praise and recommend. I may use them again. But, this past year, I organized all of the older boys' schoolwork in 3 inch binders. I got the idea off of the My Father's World K yahoo group. Some moms were doing this for the Kindergarteners. I adjusted the concept to work with the multi-cycle level for MFW.

I bought enough two-pocket plastic folders 

They do have pockets on the front and the back. So, you could use one folder for two weeks of school. I wasn't sure how it would work, so I used one per week. Yes, it was initially costly, but it was worth it for me. 
All of the organizing was done up front. Having a infant to toddler and a new K student, I knew organization would be rough. This hasn't worked perfectly, but when it didn't it was more my fault for not double checking progress as often as I should. My biggest issue every year is that I lose steam. So, it is better for me to have a system like this in place where the organization is done way ahead of time. My boys know that by the end of the week, the folder should be empty. It is a great encouragement for me to look now, and see 28 weeks of folders, empty. It is a great accomplishment for us after a few rough years. 

Next year, I will put a schedule in the front of each boy's weekly folder. Since MFW allows you to copy for your own family use, this is probably what I will do. Also, all coompleted worksheets and schoolwork is filed into a one inch, three ring binder.

Attached are some folders to help show what all the fuss is about. As I mentioned, it is work up front, I spent an afternoon putting it all together. Then, went through all worksheets including language and decided how many they should do per week. Since I know how it works, I'll try to add in more subjects for next year. It was a learning curve this year.*Another thing I plan to do to help is to gather all supplies needed for art and science projects into one bin, so that it is all ready for the year or perhaps just months ahead of time. MFW suggested this to me and I think it is a wonderful idea!

The weekly folders

 An enclosed, velcro-close packet for holding extras
 Worksheets fit in the folder, with the half divider, you can thumb through the worksheets when needed.

 Our timeline which is in notebook form

Happy Organizing!