Monday, April 11, 2022

Cook a Holiday Feast without Missing Church

Holiday Feast without Missing Church ( Source)
It's a common scenario: Christian families go to Church to celebrate a Feast Day like Christmas or Pascha, then right after Church, the whole family sits down to enjoy a bountiful feast of holiday delights. 

Celebrating a major feast is a central joy of the Christian life, and for Orthodox Christians, it's an especially important joy - but our services are also quite long. 

So, how does a family both feast AND worship on a Feast Day?

All too often, it has meant one family member - usually Mom, but occasionally Dad - staying home and cooking while everyone else goes to Church.

But, what makes a Feast Day a Feast Day is NOT the food - it's Worship! And a family member staying home to cook is making a huge sacrifice of Spiritual nourishment for the physical enjoyment of others - not a great trade.

With modern conveniences, though, there is no need for anyone to miss Church to cook. I use two Crock Pots/Slow Cookers - one large oval, and one regular size, to make this plan work.

The overview is this: I make the meat in one Crock Pot, the Potatoes in another - both cook during Church. An appetizer tray, like a meat and cheese tray with some dips - is made and put in the fridge to serve as soon as guests arrive. The salads, dips and spreads are made a day or two ahead (Salads are dressed just before serving), Breads are made in the week previous, and frozen. Desserts are made in advance. Simple sides (steamed veggies, simple pasta or rice) are made as guests are enjoying appetizers and drinks. 

Making one make-ahead dish per day in the week before the feast is an easy way to make this come off without a hitch.

If guests are coming who wish to bring a side or dessert - even better : )

 Here's how to make an abundant meal for a Holiday Feast - and still not miss a minute of services!

 With some advance planning, it's really easy. Here's what I do to have dinner ready after Church on a major Feast. It includes several links so you can choose the dishes you like best.


Dump Dinner Leg of Lamb in the Crock Pot
Marinate a day or two in advance, begin cooking 7 hours before serving time. Or, it may be marinated and put in the freezer weeks before the feast day, then thawed the night before, and begin cooking 7 - 8 hours before serving. 

(Pot Roast and Turkey Breast are both easy to make in the Slow Cooker, too, if you'd like an additional, or alternative meat dish)

Potatoes or Starchy Sides

         Start cooking these 3-4 hours before serving time.

Rosemary Potatoes in the Crock Pot

Stuffing, Low fat & Vegan (check out the directions here for prep ahead, and baking after guests arrive, or making in the slow cooker starting 1 1/2 hours before serving)

Sweet & Sour Sweet Potatoes (starts 2 hours before serving, or has microwave option)


Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

Dinner Rolls or Bread
These can be baked and frozen in advance, and then just microwave to barely thaw, then crisp in the oven just before serving. OR  Shape rolls and place on baking pan, and put baking pan in the refrigerator during Church - when you arrive home, bake the rolls while guests are enjoying appetizers and drinks. Choose one of these recipes. They're all no-knead, and easy to prepare

     Crescent Rolls, Easy, No Knead, Vegan  
     Dinner Rolls, Vegan, Soft & Fluffy, No Knead, Refrigerator 
     Vasilopita, Easy, No Knead, Vegan (for a Christmas or New Year Feast)
     No Knead, Vegan, Greek Easter Bread (Tsoureki)  (For an Easter/Pascha Feast)
     Easy, No Knead, Greek Olive Crescents (Eliopites)

Salads can usually be made a day ahead. If it's a green salad - made with lettuce, cucumber, or cabbage, just add the dressing right before serving, to prevent wilting.  


Better than Coleslaw
Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise
Farro Salad, Mediterranean
Fruit Salad
Mediterranean Green Bean & Potato Salad
Orange Beet Salad
Purslane Salad
Refreshing Diced Salad
Super Simple Salad

Veggie Sides
Some veggie sides are best made just before serving - but they usually take less than 10 minutes to microwave or make on stovetop. Just make these as guests are enjoying appetizers and drinks. (any sauces can be made in advance, ready to add when the recipe calls for them)

Brussels Sprouts with Pecans
Cauliflower & Capers
Corn on the Cob, Three Minute
Green Beans Almondine
Sesame Broccoli
Simply Asparagus
Simply Eggplant
Simply Zucchini Saute
Spectacular Brussels Sprouts
Veggies Vinaigrette

Nearly all desserts can be made ahead of time - easy peasy. This is also a course that guests sometimes enjoy bringing with them. Ice Cream or a purchased Pie or Cake can also be a great option.

Brownie Snowball Cookes
Caramel Corn, Mom's 
Cashew Cardamom Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Icing, My Mom's
Cookies, Vegan Cookies from a Regular Cake Mix 
Crispy Rice Cupcakes
Cupcakes, Chocolate & Vanilla
Cutout Cookies  
Fruit Salad
Easy Vanilla Fudge
Easy Cherry Almond Fudge 
Easy Chocolate Fudge
Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
Easy Chocolate Mint Fudge
Easy Maple Walnut Fudge
Gingerbread Crunch Cookies
Make One Mix, Make Ten Different Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Raw (ish) Cookie Assortment
Raspberry Frosting
Russian Teacakes ( Vegan Mexican Wedding Cakes )
Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies
Samali (Greek Semolina Dessert)
Strawberry Celebration Cupcakes
Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Three Minute, Three Bite Brownie for One
Thumbprint Cookies
White Cake, Easy Vegan

Have a great Pascha! Hope this post helps make it possible for you to enjoy BOTH Church AND your Celebratory Feast!

Monday, March 28, 2022

My Favorite Homeschool Materials for High School

High School Must-Haves: Cat & Computer (Source)
It's a well known fact that I'm frugal. I've long been a huge proponent of cheap and free homeschool materials. You really DON'T need to have your family's homeschool spending compete with the budget of the federal government in order to provide your kids with a great home education.

But, there are some materials that are well worth the money. There IS  a place for purchased homeschool materials. As the Bible says, "a laborer is worthy of his hire." When someone creates great teaching materials, it is good to reward them for that.

These are some of our favorites that have been tested and proven. I highly recommend them, and have been thrilled with purchasing them.

These materials are still at the more frugal end of the spectrum, as materials go - mostly in the $10 - $20 per month range (or less!), per subject at the time of this writing.

Although I'm calling this "High School" I don't really use materials that are grade specific, nor do I wait for a certain age to learn certain subjects. I also don't hesitate to use materials that are "too young"if they are beneficial. When your kids are ready to learn these things, it's the "right" time to sign up. 



One Year Adventure Novel 


The One Year Adventure Novel  is a phenomenal package. As the title suggests, it teaches students to write a BOOK in one year - and enjoy doing it. I just can't say enough good things about it. It comes with a textbook, workbook, reading book and parent guide, access to 78 online video lessons that are EXCEPTIONALLY well done and easy to watch. The one BIG thing that persuaded me to get the package was the very active, supervised Forum (ages 13 and up only), on which all of the participants can "hang out" and talk writing. The kids are so nice to each other, and provide amazingly positive peer examples - in contrast to some social media platforms. In these pandemic times, that wholesome social interaction has been priceless. And, they also have an annual workshop each year. Since we started using OYAN, my daughter has begun telling people that writing is one of her favorite subjects (the other being art). Which, as one TV commercial used to say, is "Priceless!"



Olsen's 101 Series includes Chemistry 101, Physics 101, and Biology 101


Wes Olsen's 101 Series includes Chemistry 101, Physics 101, and Biology 101.  These DVD sets are a brilliant, non-intimidating introduction into the Hard Sciences, without the math. They're fun to watch, entertaining, and well-made. My daughter and I looked forward to watching these videos each day, and I have really appreciated how they took these tough subjects and made them approachable and likeable. They give an outstanding foundational understanding of the concepts, allowing the student to later put the mathematics of the sciences into a proper mental context. I especially appreciated the Christian worldview woven throughout, with biographical sketches of many of history's great scientists, including their religious motivation for their work. The videos come with PDF manuals, tests, etc - but we only used the videos (Not because I disliked the PDFs - I never looked at them. I just loved the DVDs!) I learned so much more from the Chemistry videos than I ever did in high school (and I was a good chemistry student). Just a note, the Biology course is much shorter and less comprehensive than the Chemistry and Physics courses by this company.





IXL I started using IXL to provide practice questions for math in early grade school - or maybe even kindergarten. They offered free questions every day, and I would hop to their site, use the free questions, and leave. This year, I finally signed up for IXL's very reasonably priced monthly math plan. And I really regret not doing it earlier! They offer a curated learning path for each child, and the computer checks answers and offer feedback and explanations for every question missed. As my daughter does diagnostic questions, the program offers her work that is EXACTLY at her level - not too easy, or too hard. And it moves her gently through the various levels and types of math. I love not having to grade math, and not having to teach it if I don't want to! Although this is perhaps embarrassing to admit, the fact is that my daughter is now better at math than I am! In the unusual situation in which she does not understand their explanations, she can simply copy and paste the name of the section she's working on into the YouTube search bar, and find a teacher there who explains it brilliantly. But that is seldom necessary. My husband sometimes teaches her math if a lesson is particularly challenging, but most days she is able to proceed alone using these materials. All I do is provide encouragement.




CodeCombat teaches coding by teaching kids to code games. There is a reasonable monthly or annual fee. It's an enjoyable way to learn, and very well presented. I've been very pleased with their tech support, too. This is a secular program, and sometimes has "magical" concepts or terms I'd prefer to be without, but all-in-all it's an excellent platform.

Educational Christian Entertainment


Jonathan Park


Jonathan Park is a SPECTACULAR dramatized audio adventure series. We used the monthly "Unlimited" subscription. It teaches Creation Science and the very good reasons behind it, as well as teaching Christian Worldview, and how to deal with challenges to one's Faith and moral issues.  We've loved this series for years now, and my daughter just finished listening to all 150 episodes. It's made more attractive by the fact that she can listen and do her art at the same time. Occasionally, there's a very minor discrepancy with our Orthodox Christian Faith - but that's almost never a concern. I love this series, and I love the values and life choices it teaches. 

Personal Finance



This was the hands down winner for "I wish I had been taught that in school!" comments. I was really surprised when I taught my daughter this content, and mentioned it to friends, how many well-educated adults I encountered said that to me. It's an oft-overlooked subject, but a very important one. The way I see it - there are two distinct categories of information a person should learn when studying Personal Finance. The first is the practical side - What is compound interest? How do I handle my checking account? How do I look for a job? That sort of question. For a practical introduction to Personal Finance, we really liked Moneytime . It is designed to take up to a year for kids ages 10-14, but we did it much more quickly on an intensive schedule. 


Discovering God's Way of Handling Money: A Financial Study for Teens by Howard and Bev Dayton


The other side of personal finance is values and decision making. In this area, worldview makes a LOT of difference! Discovering God's Way of Handling Money: A Financial Study for Teens by Howard and Bev Dayton was an EXCELLENT resource - I highly recommend it. Since many of the practical activities in the workbook duplicated those activities in the game, we mainly used this book for reading rather than for exercises. It provided wonderful guidance & wisdom for future money decisions.

Hope you enjoy exploring some of these great resources for your family!

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Thinking About Repeating a Year of Math?

Thinking of Repeating a Year in Math? (Source)
When I talk with other Homeschooling Moms about math, I hear one thing over and over again. It goes
something like this: "We're finishing grade x in math, but my kid isn't getting it. She's gotten okay grades all year, but she works super slow, and doesn't remember what we learned two months ago. I don't think we should go to the next grade. I think we're going to have to repeat this one before we can proceed!"

Sound familiar? 

A while back, my daughter was in a similar situation. She COULD do certain math questions, but slowly and painfully. Math was becoming unpleasant. 

There had been a time when she had enjoyed practicing math by playing Prodigy, but now she had tested into a level that was discouraging - so she had quit the playing the game.

Then, a fellow Mom (who is REALLY good at math! Thanks Alli Pait! : ) gave me a great tip that turned things around. 

She told me, "You know - you can override the grade levels in Prodigy, right?"

I did NOT know!

Well, I went home and did it. I went ahead and paid for the premium membership that rewarded her a little extra for her work, and set my daughter back not just one year, but several years in Prodigy.

Every day, I assigned her to play  "easy" math games on Prodigy, doing 30 to 45 questions a day - but at the same time, we kept working at her regular level with regular lessons. She enjoyed it! The game was fun when it was so quick and easy to get lots of right answers. It made brushing up on the few tricky spots easy.

Next thing I knew, she was enjoying speeding through the levels in Prodigy, getting a great review, and gaining the much touted automaticity - and confidence - that is needed to go on to more difficult math skills. She was getting the running start she needed to fly!

But, at the same time, we didn't have to "fail" any books or grades - we could go right ahead with on-level concepts. 

If you have a kid who is getting bogged down in math, give it a try. 

(And, no - this is not a paid endorsement. Just a product I really like!) 

You can sign up for Prodigy here.

Here's how to override grade levels.


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