Picking Your Fish

I love to eat fish, and all but one of my kids love fish, too. My favorite fish is orange roughy. A few months ago, I was talking to a friend and mentioned that I was making orange roughy for dinner. She told me that orange roughy are overfished and close to being on the endangered list.

I knew of a couple other varieties of fish that I don’t buy because of those kinds of issues, and I was starting to feel overwhelmed – how am I supposed to remember what’s okay to buy and what isn’t while I’m in the grocery store?

I started googling and found this site: Seafood Watch

Not only do they have a searchable index of fish, so you can see if your favorite seafood is sustainable, but they also have a free printable little guide that will fit in your purse, wallet, or coupon organizer. It lists “Best Choices”, “Good Alternatives”, and fish to “Avoid”, as well as a quick explanation of why your fish choices matter. I keep one in my purse, and one next to the desk where I do my menu planning each week.

There is an added benefit that most (but certainly not all) of the sustainable fish are a lot less expensive than the ones on the “avoid” list.

Linked to: Works for Me Wednesday – go check it out for a HUGE selection of  tips from lots of bloggers!

Brown Sugar Shortbread Recipe

Here’s another recipe that I put in the food gifts for Christmas. I also brought some of this shortbread to our homeschool group’s Christmas party. It is so tasty and rich that everyone thought I’d put a lot of work into the shortbread, but… well, you’ll see.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (only use real butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I used dark brown sugar, but you could use either)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Heat the oven to 300° and get out a baking sheet. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in the flour.  Let it mix until cohesive and smooth, and the pat out into an 11×8″ rectangle on your baking sheet (the dough should be just a little less than 1/2″ thick).

Use a fork to dock the dough all over. Use a pizza wheel to score the dough, first across in straight lines about an inch apart, and then at an angle 2″ apart to make skewed rectangles.

Bake at 300° for about 25 minutes, or until the edges just barely start to get golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately go over your score marks with the pizza wheel, this time cutting all the way through and gently nudging the pieces apart.

Let cool for five minutes, and then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.

These are ridiculously tasty for how easy they are. If you want to get really fancy, you could dip them half into melted chocolate.

This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Check them out for oodles of tasty recipes!

Helping Haiti

I was looking for a legitimate way to donate to the efforts in Haiti – I didn’t want my donation to go to more administrative than actual help. I found this site – CharityNavigator.com and I’m impressed. They break it down so you know how much of your donation goes to fundraising and administrative costs. I thought it was really nifty, so I thought  it was important enough for me to make a quick post from my vacation.

I’ll be back at home on Monday, and I’ve got some fun things to share next week!

Best intentions

Between illness and holidays and more illness, I’ve kind of really dropped the ball here. I do plan on picking it back up after the new year – I’ve got so many things I want to talk about. In the meantime, I’ll still post, but very sporadically.

On the health front, I finally saw a specialist a couple of weeks ago, and got a preliminary diagnosis, and got referred to another specialist. Then I got a phone call with some other findings from the lab tests, so I’ve got two diagnoses, with possibly more to come  in January. I’ve got some medications now, but it hasn’t been enough time to see if they’ll help – either that, or they don’t help. We’ll see…

I’ve also been busy crafting and making Christmas presents. I don’t dare post them here, since my family reads this, but I’ll be sure to post about them after Christmas.

I am also making a folder on Evernote for all the amazingly cool gift ideas I’m seeing as I surf around. People are doing some really neat things out there!

I will be back in a day or two with some stuff I can post about without spoiling the surprise for any of my family and friends.

Index cards

My mother has always used index cards for all sorts of notes. She always has a little bundle clipped together with a binder clip in her purse, and she’ll whip it out to record how much she spent on lunch, or to note something she wants to mention to my uncle next time she speaks with him. Her grocery lists are kept on index cards, and a running to-do list, as well. She’ll even tape an index card to her front door to remind herself to grab something as she leaves the house. She’s had a Palm for years now that she uses, but still those index cards are her go-to organizational tool.  Kind of like a Hipster PDA before they were hip. Or something like that.

About a year ago, I started carrying around some index cards, and as much as I fear the whole “you’re becoming your mother” thing, I do find that they are perfect for on-the-go note taking. I end up using them in all the ways my mom does, but I also find that they work for notes left on someone’s door, quickie bookmarks (beats using grocery receipts), or impromptu flash cards when the kids  or I need to memorize something.

Making (just a little) room in my purse to carry a small packet of index cards is something that I’ve found makes my life just a little easier.

Haunted Gingerbread Houses

We rarely have time, with all the activities in December, to make gingerbread houses. They are such fun, though! Last year, as January rolled around and we’d missed out again, we decided that this year, we’d make gingerbread haunted houses for Halloween. I figured we’d end up doing the graham cracker house thing, but I was surprised (and grateful) to find haunted gingerbread house kits at the store! (Okay, they were haunted chocolate houses…)  They were a little pricey, but with time and health issues last week, they worked out just fine.

Snow day – seizing the moment

We’re getting hit by a lovely snowstorm here. It started snowing in the wee hours yesterday, and isn’t supposed to let up until tonight. We’re getting a good amount of accumulation.

We’re measuring the snow every three hours (during the day – I’m not THAT dedicated) and recording it. Tomorrow, we’ll make a graph of the snowfall. It has felt very steady, and it will be interesting to see if it really has been, or if it has fallen in waves.

We’ll have some fun, and learn and paractice real-life application of math concepts,  working with patterns, choosing which graph is appropriate and then making the graphs, along with whatever else just happens naturally.

This post is linked to Thirsty Thursday at FiveJ’s. You won’t regret it if you go read the articles linked on today’s carnival and on previous weeks. Neat, neat ideas.

Free Math Curriculum

This is one of the most amazing things on the internet, at least to me: A completely free, math curriculum. This page has math curriculum from first grade all the way to high school. There are printable worksheets, full lesson plans, and even online interactive curriculum. And the whole thing is free.

It makes it really simple for me to email math assignments to my kids. My kids don’t respond well to a “mommy lectures us” form of teaching, so this way they can learn independently, asking me for help when needed.

We do supplement with lots of real-life math (cooking, writing checks, balancing a checkbook, measuring things in the house when necessary, etc.), but we do that with everything.

I love this math program! (The one drawback, or potential drawback, anyway – you might have to explain the “funny” spellings to your kids, since the site is British.)

This post linked to: Thirsty Thursday at Five J’s.

Learning in the Car

A year and a half ago, we moved to the opposite side of town from where we’d lived for years (the reasons are kind of pointless now). Now it takes 45 minutes to drive to my mother’s house, and at least that to drive to field trips with our old homeschool group. My kids would object to even the most fun field trips, because the drive was so boring for them.

Then a few months ago, I bought a CD set of an audiobook of the history of the United States and we started listening to that in the car. The kids started hoping it was a longer drive to go places, so they could hear the CD! “Mommy, can we listen to history, please?”

I got a subscription to Audible.com, and when we were done with the history CD, we all agreed on the new topic and I downloaded an audiobook about mythology to my Zune and we listen to that in the car.

Not only does it make the drives less boring and make that time educational, it also sparks really interesting discussions. Frequently, we’ll end up pausing the book so we can talk about what was just said. Since we’re all listening together, instead of all reading separately, it gives us the opportunity for some great conversations.

Recently, I found out that a lot of public libraries will let you “check out” audiobooks not only as CDs or tapes at the actual library building, but you can download the checked out audiobook for free over the ‘net. You can search Overdrive to find books in your area.