Saturday, October 13, 2012

If Cheescake and Apple Pie Had A Baby...

This was originally written last October, and it was saved as a draft. No idea what I was planning to add, but here it is. 

Last  night, our pastor's family invited us over for dinner. While it was a little bit louder than we're used to since they have five little boys ranging from eight to a couple of months younger than our daughter, we had a good time. When his wife texted me to see if we could come I asked if we could bring anything, she said if I wanted I could do dessert which I readily agreed to. She had mentioned they had apple cider, so I set about looking for a dessert that would go well with cider and used ingredients I already had on hand. Apples are a good fit with cheese and I had a package of cream cheese in the fridge, I decided some form of cheesecake would be good. While searching for desserts that go well with cider, I also was reminded that apples are good with caramel. So I thought that would be good, caramel apple cheesecake. I asked Mr. Google, and discovered that I wasn't the first to have the idea. One recipe was an easy Paula Deen recipe, but it called for canned apple pie filling which didn't use the last of the Granny Smith apples I had and would have required a trip to the store. Plus since I've been trying to cook from scratch as much as possible, canned pie filling is generally out. The comments to that recipe led me to a completely from scratch version that sounded great, but it needed to chill for at least 12 hours which I didn't have time for. So I kept looking. Then I found this recipe. The only missing ingredient was caramel sauce, and it only needed to chill for two hours. It looked fairly easy, and so I decided to make it.

My husband's car needs looking at, so we've been down to one car for the past week or so. He needed the car at work, so I found a recipe for homemade caramel sauce. I mixed that up yesterday morning, and then put it into the fridge to chill. Personally I think it tasted better than the bottled sauces you can get, and it stayed true to my goal of making as much as possible from scratch. The bars themselves went together fairly easily. I mixed up the crust with my fingers since I don't have a pastry cutter, and then pressed it into my pan. I only have an 8x8 square pan, so it came out a little thicker and needed to bake a few minutes longer than the recipe called for. I mixed the cheesecake filling in my mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth, and chopped the apples and mixed with pumpkin pie spice and sugar. In a third bowl, I combined all the streusel ingredients and mixed with my fingers since I hadn't managed to get a pastry cutter since putting the crust in the oven. (As an aside, I should possibly look into getting one, but taking off my rings and doing it with my fingers seems to work well so maybe not.) After pulling the crust out of the oven, I layered it with cheesecake filling, then apples, and then streusel . Put it in the oven and set the time. Our daughter fell asleep right after putting it in the oven, so I had a little bit of a toddler free break to catch up on some knitting since starting a week from this Saturday I've got three baby showers in a row for friends and family. Like the crust alone the extra thickness required a few extra minutes in the oven, but otherwise didn't seem to cause any issues. I got the caramel sauce out of the fridge and drizzled it across the top. I tried to do a pretty design, but it poured a little quicker than I was expecting in one corner. It sank into the streusel for the most part, so I think to get a decorative design you'd probably need to wait until it was completely cool. Let it cool on the stove for half and hour, and then put it into the fridge until right before it was time to leave.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Preschool at Home Plans

As I've mentioned before, my husband is Active Duty United States Air Force. While we don't move nearly as often as people think military families do, we do move more often than your average family. We've lived in Alabama for a little over three and a half years, and while we have no idea when or where we do know that we're almost definitely moving somewhere within the next year. While I (still) haven't finished my degree in large part do to getting married, moving cross-country, and becoming a parent; I majored in elementary education. Since I've been to schools in three different states, as part of my course work I have to deal with the state standards from three different states. Generally speaking, the standards for any particular grade are the same across state lines. There are differences. For example, most states have students study state history in fourth grade. Which is wonderful unless you move your child cross-country midway through fourth grade. In Alabama, students study United States history in both fifth and sixth grade. In North Carolina, they study American history in fifth grade only so that they can have another year of state history in eighth grade. Even within states there can be continuity issues. My parents divorced when I was in the seventh grade, and we moved back to my parents hometown. The school I had been attending had an eight period day with all academic classes lasting one period for a full year. The school I transferred to within the same state also had an eight period day, but academic classes lasted for two periods and electives lasted for one. Math and Language Arts were taught the entire year, but Science and Social Studies were only taught for a semester. I was able to pick whether I wanted to take Science or Social Studies, but it meant that I never finished seventh grade science. And despite using the exact same textbooks for Social Studies, my old class had been further along in the book so I spent a couple of week repeating old material.

I share all of that because I have a lot of worries about educational continuity for our daughter knowing that before my husband retires, we will probably move at least 3 more times. I also know that we aren't guaranteed to have a place to live immediately upon arriving at a new duty station. When we moved from Arizona, pre-baby, to our current duty station, we broke the lease on our apartment and headed east with no new address. We were authorized to stay in the Base Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF) for a month, so we knew we wouldn't be homeless until we were able to find a place to live. We got lucky and arrived on a Saturday, looked at apartments on Monday, signed a lease on Tuesday, and got the keys on Wednesday. If we had had school age children at the time, we  probably could have gotten them enrolled on Tuesday amid setting up electricity and cable. Between driving cross-country and finding a new home, they probably would have only missed a week of school. But not everyone is that lucky. Good friends of ours PCS'ed (moved in military speak) to Hawaii under similar circumstances. They had planned to live on the economy, but were unable to find a place that met their standards in their budget. They ended up applying to live in Base Housing, and they ended up staying in the TLF for about two months. They don't have children yet, but two months without a definite address could mean two months without a school. If you knew you were going to be living on Base for sure, the school assigned to the Base  might be able to work with you, but not necessarily. I don't want our daughter, or any theoretical future children, to be in that position.

As of right now, my husband is not pro-homeschooling. He and I both attended public schools K-12, and he worries about our daughter ending up as weird and unsocialized. While one of my aunts homeschooled her two children who have grown up into generally normal well-rounded adults. Both of her kids are married, and her daughter has two children that she's planning to homeschool as well. They live in Pennsylvania, so my husband doesn't really know them at all, and the only homeschoolers he knows are a family at the church he attended as a teenager whose parents apparently locked them in the house except for church. Not knowing the family in question I can't speak as to how accurate his description of them is, but I know that even if it was true I wouldn't let that happen to our children. He has also said that he pays taxes for the public schools and he doesn't want his money to go to waste, and that public school was good enough for us. He has however agreed to homeschooling for two situations. One, he's willing to support it if he gets orders to Alaska because of their public school programs that provide money to homeschooling families. (I'm not trying to start a debate about whether students participating in programs like the ones in Alaska are real homeschoolers.) And two, after learning about how much preschools can cost he's open to me homeschooling for preschool. He agrees that I'm capable of doing the same types of things academically at home that our daughter would get at a formal school, and save our money for things like dance lessons that we think she would really enjoy that we both agree that with my two left feet just isn't something I'm capable of. (I did make an A in Modern Dance 1 which I took for my PE credit in college, but it was graded mostly on effort and participation. I'd of probably failed if it had been graded on actual skill. I have also tried Zumba at home with a DVD since I've heard several people say it's a lot of fun. After tripping and falling over three times, I finally just gave up.) Since he's open to preschool at home, I'm running with it. I've been praying for God to soften his heart on the issue, and I'm hoping that if things go well he'll be open to us continuing once our daughter is school aged.

Right now, our daughter is nineteen months old, so we have a little ways to go before she's ready for kindergarten. But I also think that she's getting to a point where she's ready to add in a little more structured learning to her day. While I've looked at quite a lot of curriculum from the just let them play until age five to the very structured and expensive programs, I haven't really started before now to actually put anything into practice. Until now that is. To start with, I'm going to be using the Letter of the Week Preparatory Curriculum. The curriculum is available online for free, and it's rounded out with some art supplies and library books. I wouldn't mind if the preparatory curriculum included Bible lessons, but since we read a story from her Bible as part of her bedtime routine, for now I don't think it's a huge drawback that it's not included. I probably won't use Letter of the Week all the way through, but for now I think it's a good start. I'm thinking that fifteen to thirty minutes a day should be enough to get started with, and because of her age I'll probably go through the Preparatory Curriculum twice before moving on. I want to work on getting stuff together for the learning poster  and getting the first few weeks of materials together before we jump in, so since I'm heading to North Carolina the first week of November for a baby shower and to see family, we'll probably start around the middle of next month. And since socialization is supposedly homeschool kryptonite, we'll be continuing with our once a week playgroup through our church that meets at parks, homes, local museums, and the zoo.

I have some work to do to get ready, but to be honest I'm very excited. In a month or so even if it is only preschool, I'll be able to say that I'm officially (if not legally) say I'm a homeschool mom. And who knows, maybe for the '18/'19 school year I'll be able to tell people, "no, she's not at Whoville Elementary, we're homeschooling."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sermon on the Mount Month

This isn't a blog that I usually read, though when I have time I'm planning on going back and reading through more of the posts since it looks really interesting, but my cousin posted a link to the challenge on Facebook yesterday and I was intrigued. After reading through the post, I decided to join up, so the plan is to read The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) every day during the month of October. So starting today, I'll be reading those three chapters over and over until Halloween, thirty days from today. This is one of Christ's most famous teachings that is still relevant to today. I'm going to do my best to keep y'all (assuming there actually is a y'all that is reading this blog and not just me) posted on my progress.