Blog Archive

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

knitting and reading

I finally was able to finish the band of my lovely hat!  I have worked a few rounds of the moss stitch pattern, and I really like it.  This is a very quick knit, and if I had an hour to sit down and finish it I could.

Perhaps today will be the day!  We woke up with the lovely national (world wide?!) Time Warner Cable internet outage.  It has been off and on all morning, and I am just crossing my fingers I can finish this post before it goes out again.

As far as my reading goes, I received a new book in the mail last week to review.  Dark Hope by Monica McGurk.  It is a young adult book and first in a series, so I am looking forward to digging into this and seeing how it develops.  Look for a review soon!

What are you knitting and reading this week?  And happy back to school day to all the kids going back today!

Linking up with Ginny, Tami, and Nicole

Monday, August 25, 2014

making ketchup and a recipe

This past weekend I got my annual 100 pounds of tomatoes from a local market for canning.  Usually I make crushed tomatoes and some tomato sauce, it is the best use of the tomatoes, and honestly the fastest.  This year, however, I had a very large request from a very small boy - for ketchup.

Now, I am not a ketchup person.  I don't like it and never have.  For my son, it seems to be another food group.  Most days he requests an egg burrito with ketchup for breakfast, which means we go through an awful lot of the stuff.  And it is not cheap to buy organic ketchup!

I told him I would make it, and make it I did!  I used the recipe for Tomato Ketchup from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

What I didn't realize is that it would take for-ev-er for the ketchup to reduce down.  I think I did realize this in my head, but when you read in the instructions "about 45 minutes" you think it means 45 minutes...not 4 hours!

Without further ado - a ketchup recipe for my son Jack.

3T celery seed
4tsp whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks (broken into pieces)
1 & 1/2tsp whole allspice
3 cups cider vinegar
24lbs tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 cups chopped onions
1tsp cayenne pepper
1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4cup pickling or canning salt

Tie celery seed, cloves, cinnamon, allspice in some cheesecloth, creating a spice bag

Combine vinegar and spice bag, bring to boil, remove from heat and let stand 25 minutes.  Then remove spice bag.

Meanwhile, in a *very* large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes.  Add vinegar and boil gently until mixture starts to thicken - about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer mixture to a sieve placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, and press with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid.  Discard solids.

Return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is about the consistency of store bought ketchup. (My instructions say about 45 minutes, it took at least 3 hours of gentle boiling for mine to reduce.  Just watch it.)

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, bring to boil.  Process 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.  

Do you have a favorite way to preserve tomatoes?  What are you preserving from your garden right now?

Linking up at Homestead Blog Hop and One Project at a Time

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Quotes

Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
~Paul J. Meyer

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Secret Bliss of Calliope Ipswich Feature and a Giveaway!

secret bliss

The Secret Bliss of Calliope Ipswich by Marcia Lynn McClure “Oh! Do link arms with me, Calliope,” Blanche whispered, her brown eyes widening with apprehension. She took Calliope’s arm, tightly linking it with her own. “The old Mulholland house still gives me the willies every time I walk past it. I hate to think on what might have gone on inside. It’s truly terrifyin’!” “Oh, don’t be silly, Blanche,” Calliope said, feigning calm. “Poor Prudence’s lunacy…it’s sad. And besides, her fiendish acts were not committed inside the house. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just…it’s just a sad, empty building.” Calliope Ipswich felt the hypocrite, however, as an uncomfortable shiver of residual dread and unease shuttered down her spine, More than six months had passed since the All Hollow’s Eve when the dangerous state of Prudence Mulholland’s fracturing mind had been revealed to the townsfolk of Meadowlark Lake. And now, each time Calliope thought of poor Prudence and her family, not only did her heart ache for their family’s unhappy lot but a chill of lingering horror rippled through her being. In truth, at times Calliope wondered if it had all been simply a bad dream—a nightmare. But it hadn’t. It really had happened—all of it.

Purchase your copy on


Author Marcia Lynn McClure Marcia Lynn McClure’s intoxicating succession of novels, novellas, and e-books, has established her as one of the most favored and engaging authors of true romance. Her unprecedented forte in weaving captivating stories of western, medieval, regency, and contemporary amour void of brusque intimacy has earned her the title “The Queen of Kissing.” Marcia, who was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has spent her life intrigued with people, history, love, and romance. A wife, mother, grandmother, family historian, poet, and author, Marcia Lynn McClure spins her tales of splendor for the sake of offering respite through the beauty, mirth, and delight of a worthwhile and wonderful story.
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BookBlast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 9/16/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to School with US Cellular

It is amazing how quickly this summer flew by, and now we are in the trenches of “back to school.”  I have to say that I really love this time of year, the weather has cooled down some (not that Maine is known for crazy hot weather, but humidity, yes), and we are ready to get back into a routine after a summer of doing whatever we felt like doing.

This year we started school a month earlier than normal, and I am finding that there are so many ways technology is helping me along this year!

In this day and age, technology is everywhere.  Kids are given laptops to use in middle school, and even some kindergarten classes in my state are giving kids Apple iPads to utilize with their classes.  What a difference from when I was in school.

According to a recent survey by US Cellular, 74% of households have at least one tablet.  Tablets and smartphones are becoming a simple tool which ensures students are staying on top of their schoolwork.  They aren’t just for entertainment!

Did you know that according to a Student Mobile Device survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 87% of students would prefer to have digital textbooks so they don’t have to carry so much in their backpacks?  Yes, I remember those first days of school quite well, coming home with a back ache because I had so many books to carry home with me!

I talked a bit on Tuesday about how we keep track of the kids work for homeschool reporting purposes, and I thought I would expand on that a bit today.  One of the biggest things that I do with my iPhone 5s is take pictures – a lot of pictures.  I’m sure I am not in the minority here.

When I was trying to figure out how to keep track of all of the work my kids do throughout the year, big projects, science experiments, showing that they are doing some sort of physical exercise, the easiest thing I could think of was to take a lot of pictures.  With the option of Instagram and their very cool filters, I know that at the end of the year I will have a ton of beautiful pictures that I can then use to show what my children have done throughout the year.

Pictures aren’t the only way that you can help your kids (homeschooled or otherwise) keep up with school.  There are so many great apps out there to help you keep up with all the paper that seems to come through the house.  One of my favorites is Dropbox.  It is a cloud-based file sharing and storage app, and it is free – we love free!  It is easy for students to save their work and just put it in Dropbox for the teacher to grab.  No paper!  I love that.

picture source

Another app that I just recently learned about is Notability.  It allows users to complete worksheets, sketch ideas, keep a journal, integrate photos and record a lecture, keeping it all in one place. 

The integration of technology into the classroom is incredibly important these days.  Our children are growing up in a completely new world from when we were going to school, and utilizing technology every day is a part of that new world.  I love that US Cellular has such great 4G LTE coverage, which makes keeping up with school on the go (for us homeschoolers) super easy.  When we are at the museum and the kids have more questions than the little plaque has answers, I can bring up my good friend Google and figure out an answer for them!

I’m happy to report that US Cellular is donating $1 million to fund teacher classroom projects through its Calling All Teachers program.  Last year, the company donated $500,000 towards educational materials for improved classroom performance.  US Cellular is working with for the fourth time and encourages teachers to post their projects on the site for potential funding. is a charity website that helps teachers identify funds from corporate and individual donations for classroom projects.

Through US Cellular’s ongoing commitment to the community and education, they have contributed more than $7 million through this and other philanthropic programming.  Starting today K-12 public school teachers can register online at and affiliate as a U.S. Cellular teacher. Then they can start posting their classroom projects for funding consideration. Through U.S. Cellular has funded more than 4,500 classroom projects to date, which included technology tools, art equipment and science experiments. All projects must be submitted by September 21 to be eligible for this year’s funding.  Selected projects will be in announced in October.

While kids have access to all of this technology to help them with school, it is also a good time to remember to have a discussion with your kids about what is acceptable technology usage – especially in a classroom environment.  A great way to start the conversation with your kids is to use the Parent Child Technology Use AgreementWe want our children to be safe while utilizing the best of what technology offers. 

I am a member of the US Cellular Blogger Brigade and was compensated for this post, however, as always, the opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

knitting and reading

I took a bit of a knitting break last week.  It was out of necessity!  I have had some very generous friends give me hand-me-downs for the new baby, and it is A LOT to go through!  I'm not even sure I will be done before our new little one comes in two months.

Needless to say, I am still working on the band around this beautiful hat.  And I am also realizing that I need another skein of this beautiful purple yarn.  I thought I would be able to eek out enough, but maybe my gauge is off.  It will be really pretty once it is finished know...if it gets finished!

As far as reading goes, I just picked up the newish book by Dave Ramsey, Smart Money, Smart Kids.  It is a really great read so far!  I love the ideas that he has in order to teach your kids about money.  There is a lot of really good information in here, and I think I am going to start incorporating that into our homeschool.  It is never too early to learn about money I think, especially with the way the economy is and how expensive everything seems to be.  

What are you knitting and/or reading this week?

Joining in with Ginny, Tami, and Nicole. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reporting for Homeschoolers

It is a nerve wracking process, trying to figure out how to report for homeschooling.  Each state has different laws and requirements.  In Maine we have the option of putting together a portfolio for a Maine certified teacher to assess.  I knew that when I saw that option, I would definitely do that for my kids.  But, how do you stay organized when there is so much work done throughout the year?!

Deciding what is Important
Figuring out what is important enough to keep can be an incredible challenge.  I definitely err on the side of caution and keep a lot of *stuff* I’m not sure needs to be kept.  This is my first year really putting together a portfolio for my oldest, and I want to make sure that I have a lot of examples to choose from when compiling her portfolio.

We use Singapore Math for her math curriculum, this comes with a workbook, I keep the whole workbook.  When I go to put together the portfolio, I will be able to take out a few examples from each unit and include them in the portfolio package.  For handwriting, the same type of deal, we have a workbook that we go through, and you can clearly see that she has made “progress” by how her handwriting improves – these are the easy subjects though.

Science is a difficult one to record.  There are experiments, and nature walks, and worksheets and research, but what do you keep?  How do you record it?

Keeping Track of Difficult Subjects
The answer in my mind was quite simple, pictures.  I think that if we keep track of our nature walks, our science experiments, the art projects and even the yoga that we do for Physical Education, it helps in demonstrating what our homeschool year actually looks like.  Plus, this way, everyone has a pretty scrapbook at the end of the year that shows all that has been done.

The pictures, coupled with my notes from my weekly planningsheets, will help to convey the message of what we have done for the year to the teacher who evaluates my children’s work. 

What else will I include?
There will be a lot of lists I believe.  A list of field trips, a list of books read aloud, also a list of books that my daughter read herself; as well as any extracurricular activities that the kids were involved in. 

I also need to keep track of how many days we *do* school.  There isn’t an hourly requirement, but we do need to show that we have completed 175 days.  It isn’t as difficult as it seems, I make up a calendar, and check off every day that we do some type of school.  It helps that we school year round.

You want to be able to show a well-rounded student.  You want to show that they are engaged in their learning.  I think all of these are important aspects of a good homeschool portfolio.  Will there be changes and additions over the year?  I’m sure there will be, remember this is just our first year compiling a portfolio.

What if I don’t homeschool?
If you don’t homeschool, I’m sure your child comes home with A LOT of papers.  What a great way to keep track of it by putting it into a portfolio for your child as a keepsake.  If you don’t want to keep all the papers (I don’t blame you, there seems to always be so.much.paper), take pictures of your favorite pieces, and involve your child in the decision process.  What do they want to keep?  What was most important to them?

Do you do a portfolio for your child for homeschool evaluations?  What other information would you keep?