Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My new Reader

I never thought I'd say this, but I think Jude is officially a Reader.

No, not just a kid who can read.  Sure, that was long fought and hard won.  I was so excited when he finally could put sounds to letters, and letters into words.  But now, he reads all the time.

I tell him that we're going to start school work soon, and he disappears. I find him in the corner of the school room, reading.

When it's time to come back upstairs for lunch, his first question is, "Can I read?"

One night, he told me he couldn't sleep. I said, "Take a book to bed."  Around midnight, I went upstairs and found this.

It took some coaxing to convince him to put the book down and go to sleep.  I noticed there was a stack of books beside him in bed, stuffed under the blanket.  He admitted he "snuck a bunch up instead of just one."  I finally made him turn the light out because I couldn't stay awake any longer!  There was a very tired reader the next morning!

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Math Mammoth Blue Series (Homeschool Crew Review)

We've been through several different Math curricula, and finally seem to have settled on one that works for Jude and Damien.  I like it's philosophy and approach to learning, but it doesn't necessarily present topics is as timely a manner as they might need.  I'm happy we had the opportunity to review the Blue Series from Math Mammoth and begin filling in these gaps using the U.S. Money, Measuring 1, and Clock worktext units.  They are available as both PDF downloads, which we received, and pre-printed booklets.  The PDFs can be printed multiple times for use in an individual family. I appreciate this because it meant both Jude and Damien could work with these.

Note: Math Mammoth is a Common-Core aligned program.  Honestly, I have mixed feelings on the philosophy of it, but I do periodically refer back to the standards to make sure that the boys have met expectations.  I like these single-topic programs because they do help me see where any gaps may be, especially since we use a task-level, not grade-level program for our usual Math lessons.

After I had downloaded the PDFs, I started printing.  We were planning to work on the programs from start to finish, but I appreciated the detailed Table of Contents and Introduction.  If I was looking for a small unit geared to a specific grade, I could use these to avoid printing the entire book at one time. During the review period, we completed the Money unit, and have gotten about a third of the way through Measuring 1. These are for students in grades 1 through 3.  Jude's math learning is a bit uneven, and I know there are some gaps to fill in, so I wasn't concerned with him being above (a fifth-ish grade level).  Damien is just starting second grade (we work year round in our homeschool), so he's middle-ish of the intended age bracket.


While we had three programs to choose from, I decided that the most immediately useful one for us would be the unit on Money.  I printed this in its entirety for each student. When we first were chosen, Damien had zero experience with money, and Jude had a decent grasp on bills and the idea of counting coins, but still struggled with identifying coins accurately.   The program begins with identifying and counting coins and then segues into computing purchases and change.  We generally worked on one lesson each day and completed the 18-lesson worktext in about a month.  For this book, I would highly recommend printing in full color, because it makes it easier to identify the coins in the book.

Jude needed help at first identifying coins.  By the end, though, he was a pro, even successfully counting in half dollars.  I feel like by now he's got a good handle on counting money, especially being able to identify nickels and dimes -- forever his nemesis.  Pennies are a different color, and quarters are large -- plus they have his two favorite presidents on the front.  They've always been easier for him, but nickels and dimes have been a struggle.  By now, I can plunk a fistful of change in front of him and say, "Hey, can you count this for me!" and he's accurate.

Damien (second-ish) was faster to catch on, but he is younger. He struggled with some of the need to "think quickly and change gears" that comes with counting money, and then with the vocabulary of money -- total, change, etc.  There were some areas where Jude was able to work faster because he was older and had more practice in an area.  A child needs to be able to skip count by 5s (nickels) and 10s (dimes) at the very beginning, and the lessons quickly add in skip-counting with quarters and half dollars.  At first, Damien was slow, and instead of counting 25-50-75, etc., he would have to add quarters in the margin.  With enough practice, he was able to memorize how to "count by quarters" and pick up speed, but it was a little slower going at the start.

 The coins are a good size and easy to identify.  Our only real complaint is the coins only showed one face; for the nickel it was the "tails" side. While most nickels do have Monticello on the back, Damien found several nickels in the "laundry change" bucket that had depictions from the Lewis and Clark expedition.  He was completely clueless on what these coins were.  I appreciate the quarters all had George Washington on the front -- even though the Mint has issued State and Presidential Quarters series, George has been a constant.  Since there are different backs, I would have liked to see at least some nickels with the "heads" side of Jefferson.   (Also, I'd like to see images of FDR on the front of a dime - only the tails side was shown in illustrations, so when given a handful of dimes to count, he had to turn all of them over so he could identify them.)

The Introduction page of the worktext does sub-divide by grades; counting coins is a first-grade expectation, while the lessons beyond are appropriate for second and third-grade students.  If I were using this as a supplement to regular lessons, I would consider printing out just the topics that I was reviewing/introducing that were for my child's particular grade level. Truthfully, I'm not sure where on a "traditional" trajectory skip-counting comes in, but to be successful, skip counting and the ability to "change skips" (i.e., counting 10-20-30-35-40-41-42) is a must.  As we went further into the book, we also discovered that knowing how to borrow and double-borrow in subtraction were also required.  Damien caught onto these pretty quickly, and there are plenty of opportunities to practice this skill.  We appreciated the nice-sized squares for helping to accurately align columns.

And just to show there's always "one of those kids" -- who usually is mine -- who is extra literal.  This task required him to choose three things from the cafeteria, and he has such severe food allergies that he can only safely eat about ten foods, none of which were pictured.  He looked at them, then looked at me and said, "I can't do this problem because I can't have three things.  I can only have water, and I'm not that thirsty."  We finally settled on picking something for him and then choosing items for Mom and Dad. He decided on coffee and an apple, since he didn't think those were "our kinds" of bread or pizza, and there was no ingredient label on the soup.  Smart allergy kid!

Measuring 1

Again, this book is for students in grades 1 through 3.  The introduction again breaks the lessons by grade level.  Note: it does say that the lessons for this book come from the Math Mammoth Light Blue Series full curriculum, so if you're a Math Mammoth family needing extra practice with new problems, this might not be a good fit.  We're about a third of the way through this one, and enjoying it.  It is very hands on.

It begins by using objects to measure items, not a ruler.  It isn't concerned about precision measurement, but rather the relationship of "How big is this compared to that?"  At first, we started with measuring length with shoes.  Matthew got roped into this one -- or at least coerced to hand over his sneakers since we needed "big shoes" and "little shoes" (supplied by Damien).

Then we used paper clips to measure.  The directions said to measure small items, then something "more than four paper clips long." Jude was surprised that Slimer was four (large) paperclips big!  He borrowed Matthew's government textbook and found it was six paper clips long.  Whew.

The program it moves on to discussing volume -- small cups vs. larger, and their relationships to larger containers.  We used one of my favorite coffee cups.

Two boys and a pot of water are only for those who have dry socks waiting in the wings!

A post shared by mama2lmcjd (@mama2lmcjd) on

We've begun working farther into the program, measuring lines and shapes.  For the most part, a 6" ruler is sufficient, but there are some places where a 12" ruler is needed.  Since the boys are working at the same time, there is always a panicked search for the big ruler...and it's usually in the other brother's hand.  I spend most of that time passing it back and forth -- on my agenda is a second 12" ruler.   There is also some fraction work, adding halves.  Jude is working on fractions in his regular math program, so it's easy for him.  Damien has skipped over that part, for now.  It includes lessons in both English and Metric measurements.  I don't expect these will be too difficult for them because they are used to working in both.  While we may measure most things in inches and pounds, kids and tube feedings in our house are measured in centimeters and kilograms and milliliters, because that's how the hospital does it.


We haven't had an opportunity to work with this one yet.  I'm thinking we will probably wait until after Easter, if not until summer.  Again, this divides into grade level expectations, but also notes that the student can go from start to finish without too much trouble.  It begins with reading time to the half hour (grade 1), to the closest five minutes (grade 2), and to the exact minute (grade 3).

Overall, I'm very pleased with these programs from Math Mammoth and would recommend them.  I'm actually looking into purchasing the Division 1 and 2 worktexts for Jude. He has the concepts of division down well but could use some practice in mechanics (lining up columns, turning word problems into number problems, etc.) I also think it would be appropriate for review or additional practice for a public/private school student. I'm definitely going to be checking out the other Crew reviews of Math Mammoth's Blue series, and hope you will too.

Affordable Quality Math {Math Mammoth Reviews}

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Clock Project

Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using them helps fund more craft supplies! Thanks for your support. 

Can I just say I hate school projects? I love crafting, when there's no pressure.  I even like doing projects that are built into homeschool curriculum, where we have the luxury of working on them at a leisurely pace.  But there's nothing like a kid saying "I have a school project that's due this week, and I haven't started it! I don't know what to do!" Lucky for Celia that I usually happen to have random craft items around the house.  One time, it was construction paper and pom poms, another time it was a shoebox and glitter glue.   Thanks to the blog, I've even had internet memberships like Graphic Stock and Picmonkey that have saved a project or two.  Last Monday, she said, "Don't forget I have that Spanish clock project due Thursday."

Don't forget?? Did you even tell me in the first place?  I vaguely remember her saying this year's big project was the "Clock Project," but I don't remember anything about it actually being assigned.  I mean, I'm big on kids doing their own project with as little help as possible (mine always need some sort of guidance/focusing - stupid ADHD), but since she has neither a car nor an Amazon account, there needs to be at least some degree of parental involvement -- at least in the supply procurement phase.   Luke did the "Clock Project" a few years ago, and it was a two-weekend process.

He figured a clock has 12 hours, and a year has 12 months. He looked up 12 holidays - one for each month - held in various Spanish-speaking countries around the world. It was a great project, but a lot of planning and work. It involved planning, a trip to both a hardware store and the craft store, and lots of hours cutting and gluing and waiting for things to dry.  And suddenly, she needed something in three days?

I sent her back to the internet to come up with an idea...any idea.  I wasn't taking her to the craft store without a plan.  At first, she wanted to take her project from last year, learning to play Malagueña by Sarasate, and run with that.  She couldn't come up with anything that interested her, so I started googling.  I found that one of Sarasate's piece was called Zapateado, which was meant to emulate the rhythms of flamenco dancing.  I suggested something with that, and she was off to the races.  She decided to dress one of her dolls as a flamenco dancer, and discuss different styles of Spanish dancing.  Now we just needed to come up with a costume.

I think I've mentioned a few times how much I love Pinterest.  We started looking for patterns for doll dresses -- something that could be made easily but still had the flavor of the flamenco.  We actually found a pattern, and I dug through my box of fabrics to find material to make both a dress and a mantilla.  We found some coordinating fabric, but it wasn't really doing it for us.  Celia kept searching, and found a doll skirt made out of a sock.  EUREKA!!  If we pulled the sock up higher, it could be a dress bodice.

Another search, and we found a perfect dress to emulate.


I dug back through the fabric bin, and found a remnant of bright red material -- if memory serves, it's cast off from a pirate costume from when one of the big boys were preschoolers. (Ok, so I may have a slight tendency toward pack-rat-ism, but it totally paid off, so it's all good, right?) Celia ran off in search of a black sock and a doll.  At this point, I was willing to sacrifice a pair to avoid a trip out, but she managed to find one in the "Can't Find My Mate" bin, so it was all good.

We cut off the toe of the sock and shimmied American Girl of the Year Saige into it.  (Saige was the chosen one because she had the longest hair of all of Celia's dolls.) It was a little short, but we only needed a bodice, so worked. We started wrapping the red fabric around the doll, pinning and tucking. The first plan was to figure out how long the layers needed to be, unwrap the doll, and sew a skirt. However, once we were done, we decided not to mess with it -- it looked good the way it was.  We added a few more pins for security, and moved on to the most important part of any dress - accessories!

To complete the project, it needed to include a clock with moveable hands, and the words ¿Qué hora es?  We headed back to search for inspiration.  Celia discovered that the Sevillanas, another Spanish folk dance style, used castanets. Aha!  While a doll-sized castanet wouldn't hold a clock that could be seen more than twelve inches away, a construction paper-sized one could be.  She took some poetic (choreographic?) license, and made a set of large castanets, and attached the clock to them.

A ladies' fan also appeared to be a common accessory.  While we couldn't find any reference to it being traditional to a specific dance, it became necessary for our bailarina, if only to hold the required labeling.  Dad got in on the action here. Not trusting Mom with power tools (probably wise considering the damage I can do with a hand-held screwdriver),  he patiently drilled holes in craft sticks while Celia printed and colored this template onto card stock.  (No, it's not traditionally Spanish, but it had the right spirit and size.)  Some tape and some clear hair elastics, and Celia's dancer was nearly ready.

You can see in the picture above that Saige is a hot mess.  Celia combed her hair out, and braided and rolled it into a side chignon.  We secured it with a pair of Lilla Rose U-Pins.  To keep some of the gypsy flavor of the flamenco, Saige's earrings were swapped for a pair of gold hoops.  Finally, the pictures of dancers we found showed the ladies wearing either matching or black heels. Despite a wardrobe that I thought could rival a Kardashian, black shoes apparently weren't among the racks of her dolls' armoire.  At the last minute, Celia found some gold sandals that actually coordinated nicely with the fan, earrings, and hair pins. Perfect!

¿Qué hora es?  It's time for a nap!  (And to tidy up the fabric bin for the next ransacking!)

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Home School in the Woods: Ancient Greece (A Homeschool Review Crew Review)

Jude's favorite subject has been American history.  Before he could read well, he used to love watching a particular animated history video series, and it was wonderful to see him develop a love of learning history.   Damien has had a lot of exposure to American history over the past few summers. I have always enjoyed history, and have come to see it from a new perspective since I began homeschooling.  The roots of the American story can be found all the way back in the lives of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, and when we were given the opportunity to work with HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece from Home School in the Woods, I thought it would be a great opportunity to delve into the past and study this ancient civilization.

Home School in the Woods combines hands-on activities with narrative text and therefore suits multiple learning styles.  The program is both Mac and PC compatible, and available in both CD and digital download formats (we received the digital version).  The program's core combines text reading, and notebooking/lapbooking elements, creative writing, dramatized audio recordings, and recipes based on traditional foods to create a unique program.   The base program contains 25 lessons, called "stops," that can be completed in as little as one day (I'd recommend this only for older students) or over the course of three to five days (we averaged about 30 minutes, three times a week).  It also includes an extensive list of supplemental resources (related books, videos, etc.) that can be added to the program. The Ancient Greece program is intended for students in grades 3 through 8, but it could easily be a quarter or semester program for a high schooler (see below). that you know about the program, I'll answer the question of "How did it work for your family?"

The short answer: It didn't, because the things that make it sound so great actually made it really, really overwhelming for Jude and Damien.

The long answer:

First, the printing.  We have used programs from Home School in the Woods in the past, and I admit that we didn't follow printing directions precisely.  There is a lot of single page printing, paper switching, etc. involved, and it's tedious.  When Luke worked on their Time Travelers series, I handed him the CDs and said "Go to town!" and he did.  He tended to print things out all at once, and then just adjust along the way.  I decided I was going to follow the printing directions exactly.

Unless you happen to have reams of cardstock on hand (we ultimately used one ream of brightly colored and one of a natural/cream color), binders, file folders, etc. this project can get pricey fast.  The program itself retails for $33.95 (download), but supplies can quickly double the cost.  It's also nearly 300 pages of printing, per student.  I initially planned to have Jude (grade 4) work on this, but of course, Damien (grade 2) decided he wanted to be in on the action as well.  That's a lot of paper and ink.  (For two students, we would have used even more if we had printed everything at once, rather than a few lessons at a time.  If we had completed the entire project, it would have taken us into a second ream of each, so don't count on two students sharing a single package).  It's also a lot of "print one page, switch papers, print the next, switch again."  Setting up the boys' binders took an afternoon of focused effort on printing, cutting/hole punching, laminating, assembling...

I'm not opposed to investing time in a program, but after two hours of just printing and sorting, I was going cross-eyed.  This is definitely not a grab-and-go curriculum.  There is incredible attention to organization and detail (a pro for the program) that consumed more time than was practical for our family.  Even I was saying, "Are we done yet?"

Second, the text was really hard for the boys.  I decided that I didn't mind Damien hanging out/following along with us -- I figured he'd learn what he could absorb, but it wasn't a big deal if he only got half of what he was presented with. I expected it to be too much for him.  Jude is reading close to grade level, so I felt being the "low middle" of the grade level, Jude would be challenged but not overpowered.  However, as much as he was excited to learn about the Ancient Greeks, he really struggled when it was time to learn.  The program is designed for students as young as 3rd grade, but he'd have to be an extremely advanced 3rd grader for this to be successful.   Using an online text leveler, I found the text averaged above an 8th-grade reading level -- well beyond his 4th to 5th-grade reading level.

 The lessons became more of a cut-and-paste "busy project" than learning about who and where you were adding to the maps and timeline.   I spent so much time saying, "Slow down, read that first!" and re-reading passages when it was clear what I had said sailed right over their heads.  I think it had so much information that it was too much to retain.  The strength of the text is a reason why I think this program could be used with older students.  This passage is written beyond a grammar school level.  (At a lesson a day, the 25 stops would take about five weeks, or just shy of a single quarter term.  With the addition of a literature component (biographies, Greek myths, etc.),  it would easily fill a semester with an in-depth study.  Home School in the Woods is also planning an Ancient Rome program, with an anticipated release date in 2018.  These, combined with their Middle Ages/Renaissance programs, could create a credit worthy World History program.)

Finally, this was a really difficult program for me to wrap my head around.  While the files for each section were well organized -- one folder for the binder/lapbook PDFs, one for the text, one with the audio stories, etc. -- it didn't have a whole lot of "flow" to it.

There was a Master Itinerary, but each day, I felt like I was always searching for the right page, the right file.  While the directions have you print out the entire timeline and pages to fill it in at the beginning, every day was a hunt for "What page? What pocket is it in?"  There were a few pages that were half cut apart and inadvertently got swept into the recycle bin with all of the cutaway scraps.  Completing that lesson meant stopping, finding the correct page, and then printing yet again.

Each day had a notebook activity and a lapbook activity.  It seemed like we spent ten minutes learning and forty cutting and gluing.  We've enjoyed lapbooking in the past, but they were very simple books - a bit of paper folding, fill it in, and glue it down.  We had no choice but to cut/paste pre-printed information - there simply wasn't enough space to copy.

I felt like a broken record, repeating, "Slow down, read that first!"  Not copying also kept them from making that read-and-written connection.

Although it did not work for us, I do feel this there is good quality in the content of this program. It just was "too much program" for our family.  This was a lot more intricate and fussy than our past lap books, and the reading content too packed.  I've learned that the KISS principle -- Keep It Simple, Silly -- definitely applies when you're working with short attention spans, limited fine motor skills, and trying to juggle multiple students simultaneously.   HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Greece is a program that I think would be better suited to older students who have more patience.

To learn more about the programs that the Crew reviewed (Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, The Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation), check out Home School in the Woods on social media, or click the banner below:


HISTORY Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study Reviews

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, February 13, 2017

It's finally the first day of spring (training)!

Our family will mark the year with four seasons, but we follow a slightly different calendar.  We celebrate Spring Training, Baseball, World Series, and Waiting for Spring Training.  Last spring, when I told Luke had to write a research paper on any American pop culture topic.  After touring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Graceland, I thought he'd choose music styles.  Nope -- he chose Baseball.

And what is a Coast-to-Coast tour of America without a ball game?  It took us a few batters to remember that while we were still rooting for the team in red and white, they were the Cardinals.  (Celia let out a few "Let's go, Phillies!!" out of habit.)

We couldn't wait for "Waiting for Spring Training" to be over to celebrate baseball.  We toured Yankee Stadium over Thanksgiving Weekend to get our baseball fix.

It was cold, but we were content. We could wait a little longer for the Phillies.

Today is the first day of Spring Training -- it's Pitchers and Catchers Day! It's not quite the traditional  "Charge Theme," but Jude chose a pretty good piano piece to practice today: Baseball Days.

Damien's ready to root for the home team, too.  Even if I'm being a meanie and making him do his math first.  Math is important -- how else are you going to be able to figure out a pitcher's ERA, or how many more home runs until your favorite player is the all-time leader?

 Happy Spring (Training) to our friends!  Go Phillies!

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

If you give a kid a math problem...

Food allergies take over your life. We're currently working on a new review -- a unit on Money from Math Mammoth.  As we started, I felt Damien was far enough in his usual curriculum (Math U See Beta) to tackle it, but today I discovered he was a little short on subtraction skills when he realized he couldn't subtract five from one, but knew that 55 was less than 71.  Today's crash course: borrowing.

This problem needed only "single" borrowing.  When Jude was learning to borrow, I tried to explain it sixteen ways to Sunday until I finally hit on something concrete that was important to him -- food.  I went with that example first this time and explained borrowing by saying "I asked you to give me five cookies, but you only have one.  You need to borrow some from somebody else so you can give me five.  You can go to Jude and say, 'Hey, do you have any extra cookies I can borrow?'  Here, the five borrows from the seven..."  Damien got it right away.

A page later, he was trying to subtract 78 cents from a dollar - or 100 cents.  He couldn't borrow from the tens place, because that had a zero.  Back to the cookie analogy: Damien needed to give me cookies, but had none. He tries to borrow from Jude, but HE has none. Jude has to borrow from Matthew, then give Damien some of what was borrowed.  I could only laugh at Damien's response: "I kinda get it, but you can't eat his kind, you're allergic. Shouldn't Jude to borrow from Dad since you have the same allergies? "

Point, Damien.

He then pointed out he didn't have any cookies to lend me to start with -- could we make his kind of cookies?  Well played, kid.   We searched and found a recipe from Blissful Basil that looked re-workable.  The lesson of the day?  If you give a kid a math problem, he's probably going to want a cookie to go with it.

Oatmeal Sunbutter Cookies

1 cup Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract*
1 cup oat flour**
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut milk + 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice***

Ingredient notes:

*Since vanilla extract isn't on our safe list, we used 2 tsp. of 896 Aged Gold Rum.  It's aged in oak barrels, so it gives it a vanilla undertone, extracts alcohol-soluble flavors, and adds moisture.

**If you don't have oat flour in your pantry, pulse 1 cup quick-cook oats in a blender or food processor until flour-y.

***Either option tastes fine, but do not omit unless you are planning to eat them all immediately.  The dough needs to be slightly acidic so that the sunflower seed butter doesn't react with any unused backing soda, or else the cookies may turn green if kept overnight.  They're perfectly safe to eat, but it can be a little disconcerting.


Preheat oven to 350*F.

Cream together the sunflower seed butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy - about 3-4 minutes with a stand or hand mixer.

Add in vanilla extract and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, and salt.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar mix. Mix on low until combined, then add milk.  Continue mixing until the liquid has been absorbed.

Portion dough onto cookie sheets in about 1 tablespoon drops.  (We used a small (#40) ice cream disher.) If you use a spoon, roll the dough into balls.

Slightly flatten the tops with a fork, if desired, to get the traditional "criss-cross" pattern like on a peanut butter cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned.

Somebody wanted to make sure none of the cookies got "borrowed" before he had a chance to eat them.

Cool on cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes so the structure can set.  (If you move them too quickly, they will fall apart.) Transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool.

Store lightly covered (if you have any that aren't eaten!).

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Strawberry Marshmallow Poppers

Before Jude started adventuring, I had a "family" blog.  It was back when Facebook was for just college students, and a blog was a good way to simultaneously update lots of family members about the kids, without worrying who I forgot to tell a story to and who I was boring with the ninth rendition of the same story.   As I read back over some old postings, I saw these treats.  Of course, Celia was reading over my shoulder, so now she wants me to make them again.  I'm so grateful for how far we've come -- when I first shared this post, she only had two safe foods, and now she's up to ten! This is one of her latest creations -- bacon sandwiched between oatmeal banana pancakes slathered with sunflower seed butter.  We've been calling it the "Allergic Elvis."

I think one of most wearing parts of being the parent of a food-allergic kid (POFAK, for short), is constantly feeling like I'm in the kitchen.  There are a lot of great ready-to-eat options out there if you're only dealing with one or two allergens.  For example, Luke can't have peanuts, Neal can't eat anything with gluten,  and I can't have shellfish or wheat.  They're common allergies, and while they may cross things off the list to eat, trust me, the padding on my rear end isn't suffering any!! As we go through the family, the product list gets smaller; avoiding milk AND soy AND nuts knocks a lot of things out for Jude and Matthew.  And then we get to Celia and Damien, whose "can have" list fits on the back of a business card.  We've slowly added a few pre-packaged foods, but for the most part, if we want to eat, somebody has to be in the kitchen.  Needing to work around food allergies is a major reason why I am insisting that the kids take cooking courses as they get older.  Not just "learn to cook a recipe," but learn the science of cooking so they can take apart and rebuild recipes, and technique to skillfully change up a dish's presentation.  Sometimes the difference between "This again???" and "Wow, that looks interesting!" is cutting a sweet potato into matchstick julienne instead of cubes.

With food allergies, sometimes the hard part is making feeling "normal," and having food that doesn't LOOK like it's "allergy food."  Many of us joke that it's like spinning gold out of straw...or sometimes, spinning gold out of thin air!  Parties can be hard for food-allergic kids.  They want treats, too!  For Celia's birthdays, we've had cakes made out of cotton candy, and even a marshmallow molded into an Olaf. Back when we only had two foods to work with, I was making a fruit tray with dip for a Christmas party, and she wanted to know if I could make strawberries with "her kind" of dip.


So me and my buddy Google got down to business. Most marshmallow fluff recipes call for eggs. They are something she has "normal" allergies to -- they can trigger anaphylaxis and kill her.  Not gonna work.  Searching for "Vegan Marshmallow Fluff" (inherently egg free) got lots of ideas, but all containing foods she can't have, especially soy.  That "only" triggers GI bleeding...yeah, I think we'll skip that too.  I was starting to give up hope.  One last search and I was going to have to tell her that she might have to choose one or the other.   I entered "Egg Free Marshmallow Fluff recipe" and found this.  It wasn't "fluff" -- it was a whoopie pie filling.  But it was a workable recipe.  Cue the choir of Christmas angels!

I started subbing foods in my head as I read the ingredient list.  Gelatin -- Pork-based gelatin (Knox brand) is safe for us.  Water, check.  Maple syrup...not safe, but we can use Lyle's Golden Syrup instead.  Vanilla isn't a safe flavoring, but plain rum is, as is Crystal Diamond Kosher salt.  We could make this work.  (Or destroy the kitchen trying.)

Faux Fluff:

1 envelope gelatin
1/4 cup water

Mix together and microwave for 30 seconds.  Pour to mixer bowl.  Add:

1/2 c. golden syrup
1/2 tsp rum
1/4 tsp salt

Start mixing.  Mix on high speed for 10-12 minutes to create the marshmallow.

After 2-3 minutes, you can see the sugar turning fluffy.

By golly...after 12 minutes, we have a soft marshmallow-type thing going.  This may work after all!  (The difference between this and "regular" marshmallows is stopping while the marshmallow is still warm and soft -- think the difference between soft and firm peaks with either whipping cream or egg whites.)

Celia came wandering in at this point.  She decided it needed inspection by a "Quality Control" officer.  She deemed it "perfect."

Ok, now for the real test. Everybody's seen the whipped cream-and-strawberry Santas making the rounds on Pinterest.  Could I make THOSE happen??  I scooped some of our wannabe fluff into a zip-top bag, snipped the corner, and started filling cored strawberries.  (Cut the green/tops off a strawberry, slice of a little bottom so they stand up, and core out a little of the berry to stuff with fluff.  If you're making Santas, use the lopped-off point for your hat.  If you're not, put them in a bowl and snack.)

Verdict: they sort of are possible.  I think if I was filling them and serving immediately, yes the Santa-hat-option would work.  But the few test ones I made started to have the tops slip-siding after an hour in the fridge -- I think between from the marshmallow setting in the cold and the sugar in the fluff, it was almost macerating the berries from the inside,  I didn't think they'd hold overnight.  In the end, I made filled strawberries, they just didn't have caps on them.  Celia was good with that, and they held up fine as "Strawberry Poppers".

She decided she wanted to fill a couple.

 And decorate the sides. The more marshmallow, the merrier!

And eat them on the spot, of course.

See that face stuffed full of a special treat?  Yeah, it's worth the work.  Rumpelstiltskin ain't got NOTHING on a POFAK.

©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover