Survival Class with the Boys

Jarrett and I never thought we would homeschool our children. I had big plans to be room mother and bring cupcakes up to their classrooms every Friday. But it never happened (at least not yet). Homeschooling is just something that has evolved, for many different reasons, into our lives. One of the things that is important to us is that the boys (and soon to be girl!) will know and live life skills including survival and outdoor ones on a daily basis.

I have taught the boys how to can strawberry jelly, make bread from scratch, make and use our own sourdough, sew basic stitches, and grow and tend to plants, herbs, and vegetables.

My learning list for them and myself in the future is long, especially now that they are older. I want to learn and teach them to make candles, sew more complicated items, kill and skin their own meat (including fish), forage for food (we have a class coming up for this!), take art classes from a real artist, and many other things that I am so excited about!!

Some things I will read up on and learn myself, some things we will find someone else to teach us. (I have shot and killed a squirrel before, but not skinned it-totally farming that teaching lesson out!)

I wanted to find a wilderness survival expert to teach the boys a class on how to build a fire, what to pack when you go hiking in case you get lost, and how to make a shelter using nature. I was beyond excited when I found Bruce who lives and teaches classes in the next town over. He has weekend courses, but they are aimed at older children and adults, so I asked him to do a private class for our family tailored to the boys’ ages.

Just to add in, this is my favorite book on letting kids be free in nature and teaching them basic wilderness skills. Its a really fun read and has some great ideas.

So anyways, after weeks of looking forward to this, I was unable to go:( I had just gotten out of the hospital and not feeling well at all, so the boys and Jarrett had a guy’s day and went surviving without me. They had such a great time!

Bruce showing the boys what they should bring on a hike or camping-its amazing what comes out of that little bag!

Bruce’s sons also came. One reason I asked Bruce to do this class was because he had sons. I thought he would know a little about holding 2 active boys’ attentions for a couple hours:)

going through different items for making a fire

Conner calls this moss “beard papa”-hehe

This was such cool and special day for the boys (and Jarrett!)-thank you so much Bruce!

Bruce’s Wilderness Survival School 

This is not the first time the boys have made fire. When we lived on Maui, we built a few fires with flint and an “almost” fire rubbing sticks (we got it smoking:).

and look who was chilling near by….

Trek:)

on another day-our attempt to make a bow-drill (it did not go so well:)

while the boys made fire, Trek and I enjoyed the sunset (do you recognize this shot? its from the set that I used to make Jarrett’s book cover:)

that was such a happy day, I remember every part of it. It was nice to use a picture for the book from a timeless, happy moment before we knew

And now, I give you Peyton making fire!

26 weeks

We are 26 weeks along in this journey growing this little girl! It has been so much fun and so exciting. I feel the best I have yet-I love the 2nd and 3rd trimesters-the 1st one is always the hardest for me with all the sickness. Thankfully that is all over and I am feeling great.

I love when I get to this point in a pregnancy when if, for some awful reason, the baby was born now, she would survive. Even though there is no reason for that chance, it always makes me breathe a little easier. 

This is the only pregnancy picture I could find from the last 2 weeks-haha. Me and Conner were being silly, so this is all I have! (we were trying out my new camera lenses-yeah they came in!)

The boys helped me further set up her baby corner in our bedroom yesterday. We took out all the cloth diapers and folded her cleaned clothes. There is a lot of blue and greens in her wardrobe right now-haha! I know I will get more pink, but I had fun going through Peyton, Conner, and Trek’s old clothes picking out some that were not too boyish, at least nothing that a matching head band would not fix:)

And while we are on the subject of babies-I have some wonderful news to share for some amazing friends! I think most of you know the Laffoons, Wylder’s family. He also had NPA like Trek did and passed away shortly after Trek. Well, Wylder just became a big brother!! You can go check him and all his cuteness out here.

Now that I am feeling so good, we have been getting out a lot more. We have met with the homeschool group a few times now and we have been having a lot of fun.

We met at the beach last week to do some ocean and marine biology learning-it was a little cold, but of course none of the children minded.

Conner collecting sea shells

Peyton found a fish jaw bone

one of the moms brought a big seine net and caught some fish for the children to look at and then release

We also have been having fun learning at home. The boys are at such a fun age (I say that about every age:). They listen so well, and they are learning things I can teach without having to research or re-learn myself. Its been fun for all of us.

brain dissecting day! It was only a jello mold, but Conner could barely get through this activity because he was so grossed out! (little does he know I am going to order owl pellets next-hehe:)

We found a new park last week, it was really fun, and made me even more excited for this spring when we can finally get out again in shorts.

the boys, as usual, made friends with everyone there

One of my friends posted this on facebook, and I knew the boys would love it (they totally did). A box of $1 glow bracelets in the bath, with the lights off of course.

Bamboo grafting success! We had a bamboo stalk that was a little long, so I trimmed the bottom off. I was curious if the top stalk would die without all the roots and if the bottom would regrow leaves. It took over 3 months, but they are both still alive and regrowing roots and new stalks.

I have been having the boys help me keep track of our grocery total as we shop. It has been so much fun-they write out the item and the price and keep a running total for me. It takes a loooong time to grocery shop, but it is so cute to see their little handwriting:)

Our name list for the baby is getting a little shorter. We are pretty sure we have a name (at least two that would fit and we like), but I am not 100% yet. If I ever get to certainty I will share, but I have a feeling we might have to meet her first and then decide. I really like both names and I still feel like there may be another one out there we still have not found.

I also got to photograph my first wedding this week!!! I will share that and some other photo shoots soon.

I hope you are all doing wonderful too and have an amazing week!

Sending you lots of love, Chelsea

homemade bread recipe

I had a lot of questions about this recipe and people asking for it, so here it is!

Enjoy! Maybe you can make it today, since it seems winter is here again with full fury for all of us!!! We were in shorts yesterday with the windows open, then last night, a big gust of wind blew all the things off my window seals, so I closed them. 2 hours later when I went out-it was FREEZING!! Great baking weather:)

I have been making this recipe for 10 years now-I put my tips in, but you can do it your own way too!

Homemade Bread

2 packages of active dry yeast (1/4 ounce each)

2 cups of warm water (110-115 degrees)

1/2 cup of sugar

1 Tablespoon of salt (I use sea salt)

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup of vegetable oil (I use olive oil and up it to 1/3 cup of oil. It makes

it more moist and the olive oil gives it a better flavor)

6 1/2-7 cups of flour, divided

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water (tip #1). Add sugar, salt, eggs, oil, and 3 cups of flour; beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until smooth (tip #2). Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn on to heavily floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (tip #3). Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. (I heavily coat the bowl and dough in olive oil with my hands). Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Divide in half and shape into 2 loaves. Place in two greased (more olive oil for me:) 9 in. x 5 in. x 3 in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until double, about 1 hour. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown (tip #4). Remove from pans; cool on wire racks. Enjoy!!! (let cool a few minutes before you slice it)

-Tip #1-Some of you said that you always ‘kill’ your yeast. I used to do that all the time too! If your yeast is too cold, it won’t activate, if its too hot-it will die. Both will result in flat bread you have to throw away:( This is what I do, and I have not killed any yeast since. I turn my faucet on to “hot”. I have my measuring cup in one hand and put my finger under the running water with the other. I wait for the water to go from cold, to warm, to warmer, to right when it starts to get hot and put my cup underneath it. It needs to be on the hot side, but not too hot to touch.

-Tip #2-If you have a Kitchen Aide mixer, this recipe will be a lot less messy for you! I put on my whisk attachment for this part and add only 1 cup of flour, until all the ingredients are mixed. Then I add my dough hook, and slowly add the rest of the flour and let it knead it for me!

-Tip #3- I usually end up using a little more flour than the recipe calls for since my dough tends to get sticky long before the kneading time is up.

-Tip #4-I have made this bread in many different ovens and it has never been perfectly done by 25-30 min. It usually starts to brown long before the time is up, but if you pulled it out, it would be very doughy inside. Around the time it starts to brown (maybe around 20 min), I open the oven and loosely put a piece of foil on top of the 2 loaves, curving the foil around the sides a little so it will stay on, but not burning myself! I have then cooked it for up to 35-40 min. depending on the oven.

This recipe is from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking by Taste of Homes, 1998 edition. This is my favorite cookbook, I use it all the time for dinner ideas and baking recipes. If you want one, there are a lot on ebay, and you can find one for under $10 with shipping.

Happy Baking!!!

if you are a visual person, you can use the photos from the last post to help you along

homemade bread and butter

I remember the first time I made homemade bread. I was about 11 years old and we were spending a summer week at my Maw Maw’s cabin. I remember smelling the yeast after it had activated and thinking it smelled awful (I now love the smell), and the bread did not turn out perfect, but I was amazed at the possibilities of baking. The simplicity, the magic of going from nothing to something, and then of course the taste-the best part.

I have been baking breads and desserts ever since (I truly missed it on our 18 months of travel). I have not got a KitchenAide mixer yet, I always get the big one, 6 qts, and they seem to have gone even more up in price since the last one I bought-$450!!!

So for now I am happy just hand mixing, and not baking quite as much. (the KitchenAide really lends itself to more baking because it so tidy and efficient!).

The boys bake with me most of the time time. They love the usual things like picking out measuring cups and spoons and of course being the test tasters of batter, and in the case of bread, beating (not so much kneading) the batter. So on a springy day last week, we opened up the windows, put some beachy music on Pandora, and spent a few hours making homemade bread. And while homemade bread is delightful with any toppings or spreads (or all alone), nothing can match when you pair it with homemade butter. So before we got started we ran to the market for some heavy whipping cream to add to our creation list for the day.

I have tried many bread recipes, and finally settled on this one. I have tweaked it a little over the years and it turns our perfect every single time.

favorite recipe (and cook book) and our jar of whipping cream getting warmed for butter making

our yeast getting bubbly and activated

Peyton was so proud he caught the flour being poured out mid-air

the baby about to get her first taste of homemade bread:)

this is the part the KitchenAide mixer does for you for 6-8 minutes! But thankfully I had 4 extra little hands and arms to help out

from this

to this

rising in the warm sun for 2 hours

That was the hard part of the bread making, the next few hours are just full of soft dough and delicious smells, followed by eating! While we waited for our bread to rise, we got started on our butter. Homemade butter is a SUPER fun project. We have done it a few times before-the taste is divine, and the process completely simple and amazing.

All you have to have it Heavy Whipping Cream and a jar. Leave the whipping cream out a couple hours to room temperature, pour into a jar, and shake for 15 minutes. And then you will have butter!!! It’s hard to believe, but that’s all it takes.

I found this butter kit at Marshall’s that had been marked down a million times. It was only $3, but that was really all it was worth since it just has a few spices, a spatula, and the plastic jar it came in. But I thought it was cute and fun, so I picked it up. It was fun to use the different spices on bowls of butter. You were supposed to use the jar for the butter shaking, but I prefer glass, so I just used a mason jar. You could use anything though that will not leak with vigorous shaking.

thankfully Jarrett was home on this day because shaking a jar for 15 minutes is really hard! I could go for about 60 seconds, the boys about 20 seconds and Jarrett for 4 minutes. Definitely enlist some muscle for this butter making:)

getting thicker! (only fill your jar 1/2 way with cream-it will double in size before it shrinks down to butter)

butter and buttermilk!

you pour the butter milk off into another jar-you can now use it to cook with or drink it

after the buttermilk has been poured off, you then add some cold water to the butter and massage the rest of the liquid off and dump that liquid down the drain-then you are left with beautiful golden butter

flavor experimenting (cinnamon sugar was our favorite on the bread)

perfect timing-the bread has now risen!

Conner’s favorite part-the punch down

now to the pans for the 2nd rise

and 2 hours later….

YUM!

the best part-it was all totally worth it

23 weeks and sunshine

Good morning everyone!!

I hope you are all doing well, we are doing amazing over here in Texas. The sun has been shining the past few days and we have been in shorts and tank tops-just how we like it.

My computer has been collecting dust the past 2 weeks under the coffee table! I feel almost 100% after all the kidney stone drama, and we have been enjoying having family in town the past week too. My grandparents celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary on the island, and we had family in town to help them celebrate. It was so much fun and I was so proud of them for still being so in love after 52 years together!!! It was and is so beautiful.

The baby is growing great and is kicking hard enough we can see her kicks from the outside now. I on the other hand get more forgetful the more she grows-ha! I totally missed my ultra sound the other day and have misplaced and lost enough things to make Jarrett almost as crazy as I am. It happens every pregnancy though, so he is used to it and for the most part it goes away after the baby is born:) 

23 weeks

I have so many things to update on from the past few days, and a lot of pictures to go through. I broke BOTH my camera lenses in the past month (these kind of things happen when I am pregnant too), so my fancy camera is not working at the moment. I have been using my phone and I used my mom’s camera when she was in town, so its been harder for me to get my photos organized-hopefully soon though because we had so much fun!

Valentines day breakfast

Valentines day is one of my favorite holidays. I always make cinnamon rolls (either homemade or canned-this year was canned), and have candy and a gift for the boys and Jarrett. As with all holidays we only got to celebrate Valentines Day once with Trek. We were in Nicaragua, so we went to the restaurant at a fancy resort to celebrate all our little loves.

Trek relaxing on his first Valentines Day

We talk about Trek multiple times a day and yesterday Conner asked me to play freeze tag with him. He then said that he was inviting Trek to play too even though he was invisible:) I love that he was such a big part of their lives and still is. We miss him more than I could ever put into words.

Valentines Day 2014

This year we took the boys to the Aquarium restaurant for Valentines Day, it was very special.

We also have been busy rearranging our beach house. I have been hitting up garage sales the past few weekends for more storage items. I then come back with a van load of shelves and odds and ends and the rearranging starts all over again. Its almost finished. I am trying to carve out closet space, a changing table area, and a dresser place for the new baby in our room, give the boys more room to play in their bedroom, make the homeschool space more functional and finish our guest bedroom downstairs so my parents have a place to stay when the baby is born in June. 

The boys room is pretty much finished. They LOVE it. I wanted to go with a more pottery-barn-like room, but after taking them shopping the boy spirit took over and they now have this awesome super hero room! Skylanders for Conner, Mario Brothers for Peyton, and Ninja Turtle curtains-hehe:) We got their bunk bed from Ikea for $150 and their red end tables for only $10 from there. They have a lot more area to play now with a bunk bed (even though they both sleep in the top-its really sweet).

The boys and I have been having a blast homeschooling the past week. It’s so amazing to watch them learn and grow and to get to be a part of it. After we are finished with homeschool we always feel closer and they are even sweeter than when we started! It has been a really fun journey so far, and I cannot wait to see where it goes.

I am trying to get Peyton all finished up with 2nd grade and Conner 1st grade before their little sister comes. I would love to have the whole summer to just spend at the beach and love on a little baby with no school on our minds.

We also have some fun outings (a foraging class!) and homeschool groups coming up. I still need to update you all about the survival class they took-it was really cool!

I will try to get to all of that in the next few days, but I also feel like I will be online less than normal in the coming months. When I homeschool the boys, I sit down with them the entire time, I found it goes so much better when I am there 100% with no distractions. And then I have a lot of little girl dresses to sew and more head bands to make! 

I made some this past week to match her new dresses:)

The little girl dresses kill me!!! Seriously, I say at least once a day-”I am so glad you are a girl!” toward my womb. It has been sooo much fun and I still cannot believe it. My mom took me shopping for some girl clothes and that made it feel a little more real. That and when I cleaned out my dryer lint after washing her clothes there was GLITTER in it!!! haha, I got a good laugh from that.

So anyways, that is a small update from around here. If you want to sign up on the right hand side of the blog (toward the top) for emails, that might be easier in the next couple months since I won’t be here everyday. (It will just send you an email when I make a post). I am not sure when I will update, but I am thinking maybe like 5-6 times a month?

I hope you are all doing wonderful and it starts to warm up in your hometown-I think we are all over winter at this point! Easter is coming up (and so it Trek and Conner’s birthdays!). Easter is my favorite holiday, so I am excited for that, and Conner has been planning his birthday since the last year:)

Sending you all lots of love!!!

Chelsea