Sunday, November 27, 2011

Menu Monday, and dietary changes

So, I hinted at potential changes coming. Here is what is up. I learned, the Friday before Thanksgiving, that a blood test I had in July had come back showing elevated cholesterol. (No, they didn't contact me about it. It's not elevated much, but I'm still annoyed that they didn't call to let me know. That's a blog entry I'll stew about but will probably not make.) Also, each time I have gone to the doctor this year for any reason, my blood pressure has been elevated. I don't like that.

The notation on my file says, "Exercise and diet. Retest in six months." How helpful is that? Uh, what causes high cholesterol? I've never known. I know my mom, my dad, and my step-dad had issues at various times with high cholestrol, but all I came out of childhood with, information-wise, was avoid red meat; avoid eggs. I had already been doing that (red meat only once a week!), and yet my test came back elevated. In light of the fact that heart disease also runs in my family, I was ready to make radical changes to try to improve my health. I hate meds and don't want to continue down the path I've been going. I already have to struggle to keep track of the different meds for my asthma, my arthritis, my herniated disk pain, and don't want those medications let alone a future that adds meds for cholesterol and heart issues.

So I began researching, and I stumbled across YouTube videos of a Dr. C. Esselstyn and his research on lowering cholesterol levels and making yourself heart attack proof

I am not interested in converting anyone. I am just sharing this to let you know that I am adjusting my diet to follow the Esselstyn plan. You can consider me a test-case. I have been on an animal-free, dairy-free, non-fat diet for just over a week now. I had an appointment with my doctor to get her "Okay" on what I am doing only to learn that she, too, is a vegan. My blood pressure, in just days, had dropped from high (don't remember the numbers) to 116/68 -- the nurse said I had the blood pressure of a teenager. I liked that.

So My menu plan this week is a mixed menu plan. My husband wants to support me, but my family is not willing to go vegan. However, I am not interested in cooking two dinners every night, so our menu plan will be a combination of healthy vegan dishes and "sides" of meats for the omnivores. So here's this week's menu plan. (I'm not prepared to link to the recipes right now. If you want one of them, do a Google search.)

Sunday: Leftovers, and Mayan Bowl

Monday: Mushroom-Barley Soup, pumpkin muffins, salad

Tuesday: Cheeseburgers; tomato-corn-bean salad

Wednesday: Confetti-beans and rice; salad

Thursday: Salmon, yellow Dutch potatoes, spinach

Friday: Sweet Thai Fried Rice

Saturday: Pasta Primavera, salad, bread

The key to my success will be planning significantly ahead and making sure I have what I need in the house and that I know what I am to prepare. I'm already trying to think about next week.

I'll post after I do another blood test late in December and you can see what my Cholesterol changes are. I'll post both before and after numbers at that time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Menu Monday

Well, I'm not putting menu plans down for breakfast and lunch, but I thought I'd post dinner menu plans for anyone who was looking for ideas. I meant to do this Monday, so I'll post it as if I did it Monday anyway.

Roast Chicken, rice, broccoli

Ham Steak, noodles, steamed carrots

Chicken pot pie (chicken left over from Monday, homemade gravy, mixed vegetables, store bought pie crust), salad, rolls

Turkey, stuffing, candied yams, rolls, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, whipped cream, ice cream...

(My son's birthday -- who's idea was that?) Pizza

Turkey Tetrazzini (over spaghetti noodles), leftovers

Turkey wraps

Not sure what these menu plans will look like in the future. Found out Friday that my cholesterol is elevated; my BP has been elevated for two Dr. visits in a row, so am contemplating a plant-based diet, no oil. Google Dr. C. Esseltyn to learn more....

So, we'll see...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Folk Song Study

I just found this link to a video that the Tuttle Family made to correspond to their Folk Song Study. I love it! So I wanted to share it with you as well:

What a great video!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

National Clean Out Your Fridge Day

I just found out that yesterday was National Clean Out Your Fridge Day.

I missed it. I just didn't know. You know what that means, don't you? It means my poor fridge will have to wait until 11/15/12 to get cleaned out now. ::sigh::

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Glass Blowing Shop - Wednesday Field Trip

Well, my week got somewhat derailed, so I am late posting this. Sick kidlet, so mommy goofs off. (ya know... laundry, raking leaves...)

On Wednesday we had the wonderful opportunity to visit a glass blowing artist's factory. My son got to make a glass ornament! His older sister was so jealous... ("I never got to do that!...)

McFadden Art Glass in Baltimore  allowed our homeschool group to come in for a tour and to make glass art projects.  First we were given some information about how one works with glass. Then my son discussed with Mr. McFadden what he wanted to make and what colors. He decided on a Christmas ornament.

First, there is an oven where steel rods are heated. (I didn't write down temperatures, but each oven is real hot... I think one of the ovens was at least 2000 degrees...) The steel has to be heated so that the glass will stick to it, and not harden and shatter immediately.
 The rod is taken from the heating oven to the oven with the molten glass, and is then dipped into the molten glass.
The hot blob of glass gets dipped into the colored glass particles.

The glass blog gets heated again to melt the colors and make it ready to be worked with. I love the way Mr. McFadden lets the kids do as much of it as they can. It's scary, but cool. So, next the rod with the glass blog comes out and gets worked around a bit on the cold steel table.
 The rod begins to get hot, so it gets cooled down in a special water fountain. 

Another member of our group helped out and blew air into the ornament while JD kept the rod turning and worked on shaping the ornament with a tool.

 When the ornament was the right size, the glass was scored so that with a tap it would separate from the glass sticking to the steel rod.

 Then, by touching the hot steel to the top of the ornament, the hot glass can be worked with again to make the glass loop that the ornament will hang from. It is manipulated with tools until it is just perfect.

When it is finally done, it cannot be taken home yet. It is carefully carried to the cooling oven, where it will be cooled slowly over 12 hours so that it doesn't crack and break. Then we will get to take it home.

Vocab Cafe

I was surprised and pleased last month when I learned I had been chosen to review the Vocab Cafe series of books by College Prep Genius.

College Prep Genius is a company whose goal is to prepare students for college. Part of the concept is to prepare them for college testing by expanding their vocabulary.  The Vocab Cafe books are a series of books that deliver SAT vocabulary words incrementally by working them into a short engaging book with a thrilling plot, all the while subtly defining the new words at the bottom of the page as each new word is introduced.  It sounded like a great concept, and I couldn't wait to get a look at them. The books look well made. The covers are attractively laid out. The books range in length from 132 pages to 222 pages. They require absolutely no teacher preparation. The student can benefit just by reading, and glancing at definitions when the words are unfamiliar, but will benefit more by creating 3"x5" cards of new words to become thoroughly familiar with them. Being books, they can be used for all of your students.

In my perusal of the books I did not detect any particular religious leaning. Some fundamental-type families might shy away from the nature of the

Watching this video, I got totally excited about this program and want more, more, more.  Scoring high on SATs is such a racket! It's just one more test that you have to learn how to take. It doesn't actually test the student's knowledge, but rather has ways in which it tries to trick students into selecting the wrong answer. It is supposed to be a test of "logic", but apparently to a large extent it is a test of how well you prepare for it. I want to help my son be prepared for it.

I was intrigued to learn that College Prep Genius was developed by a mom, Jean Burk, who had formerly home schooled. Her son, Josh, had scored very well on the SATs as a result of her helping him prepare for it. Josh Burk is actually the author of this Vocab Cafe book series. Jean Burk has assisted others in preparing their students for college as well, and in addition to her printed materials she gives seminars to help folks know how to prepare.

When the set of books actually arrived, I was busy, and so they sat.  I decided I would surreptitiously leave them out where my son would see them, in the hopes that he would be curious, pick one up, read, and give me an opinion.  Didn't happen. Review due date drew nearer. I knew it was time to just jump into the reading on my own.

I received four titles for my review: (in order in picture above) Operation High School, I.M. for Murder, The $ummer of $aint Nick, and Planet Exile.  These books are currently priced at $38.85 for the set of four.   I decided to start with I.M. for Murder because it appealed to me. I was also thinking Planet Exile might appeal to my son, so I didn't want to be tying that one up in case he decided to pick it up to read while I was reading. These books are really for 8th through 12th grades, anyway, and my son is only 6th, so I didn't want to push it.

So, working my way into the story I found myself unsettled, unhappy, eneasy, ...grumpy.  This idea of working the SAT words into a story was a great idea. It really was. I just don't feel it was done well.

·       The words were pushed into the sentences in ways that did not seem natural, did not flow, and were not used in ways the words were commonly used.

·       The definitions were not ringing true with my memory; the words were not being defined the way I thought they should be based on my own understanding.

So, I didn't want to just get annoyed over this when maybe I was the one who was wrong, so I started looking them up.  I found my impressions to be correct, and the books to be  Here are some examples:

The word "jounce".  This word was used in the following sentence: "He stepped behind the court and threw the tennis ball in the air, jouncing it with his racket."  Now, first of all, someone serving in tennis would tend to "loft" or "lob" the ball into the air and then give the ball a whack.  My brain was twitching with the word "jouncing" being used here.  To my memory a "jounce" was a bump, a jolt, which would cause disheveling, like jouncing a stack of papers.  The definition given in the book was, "to move in an up and down manner".  Now my brain was really twitching. Not only was that not the way I thought the word should be defined, but how does "move in an up and down manner"  describe the serve of a ball when hit with a tennis racket?  I certainly couldn't reconcile a tennis ball being it by a tennis racket as being moved in an up and down manner, but further still didn't like the definition, so I looked it up. I found the definition of "jounce" to be: "to move joltingly or roughly up and down, bounce."  I still don't see the tennis ball being jounced by the racket. I see, maybe, bar bells or weights being used improperly, but can't reconcile the use of this word in this sentence above.

So, word after word I read through the lists and was finding fairly consistently:
·       I don't like the way these SAT words are integrated into these stories, and

·    I don't like the definitions that are given for these SAT words in these books.
 ·    In some instances, the story itself didn't even flow right. Like Will finishes playing tennis with his dad (in Phoenix, AZ, where it is hot), and drives straight to work. He walks into work, tells his supervisor he has he clean clothes in the car, then walks back out to his car to get them. He wouldn't have done that -- he would have walked into work with his work clothes in the first place.  I kept thinking, "Who was your editor?" I could have done a better job.

In addition to the issues with the vocabulary words, their usage, and the definitions given, I have some difficulty (as a homeschooler) with the characters in the stories being kids in classroom settings.  I don't personally  expect my son to see "classroom" time until college. So I would have loved it if the stories had been predominantly in non-school settings. Maybe others will disagree, but I think my son will have difficulty relating to stories of notes being passed in class, and I myself find the teacher's reaction to fall outside the realms of believability...


So, I guess this is sounding like I totally hate these books. In truth, that isn't so. I just wish they were different and wish they could be redone.  Personally I plan to go through these books, pen in hand, and adjust the definitions at the bottoms of the pages to match what I find in my dictionary.  Having these books I can discuss with my son, "Does this sound like a good way to use this word? Can you think of a better sentence to use this word in?"

I would love to see these books revised. I would like the vocabulary to be used more correctly, in a way that flows and does not seem stilted, and in a way where it uses the correct meaning. I would like to see the definitions updated to be more accurate. Those would be my recommendations for these books.

I think College Prep Genius is great. I am totally excited to hook up and buy more of their materials, and to use their materials for all four years of high school (maybe even 8th grade) to help my son prepare for college testing. Oh, wait! Did I hear you just ask, "What other materials?"

College Prep Genius also has the following college preparation materials available for sale at their website:

15 Secrets to Free College

 "Co-op Special": College Prep Genius Textbook + College Prep Genius Workbook;