Neverending Chocolate Cake

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A couple of months ago we started following the Feingold Program to help with food sensitivities, hyperactivity and some other negative behaviors that we were seeing in the little princess.  So far it has made an extremely positive impact on her so we are trying our best to keep to the program.  As I have mentioned previously we are also a semi-homemade kind of family so this can present a challenge when trying to cook up some of our favorite things.  I have been trying out several “Feingold Friendly” baking mixes and this cake turned out to be a major hit!

NEVER-ENDING CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE (Adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor)

1 (18.25 oz) Chocolate cake mix * (I used Dr. Oetker’s Organic Chocolate Cake Mix)
1 (3.9 oz.) pkg. dark fudge instant pudding mix (I used Trader Joe’s Brand)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I use Powdered)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate syrup (I used Trader Joe’s Brand)
1-2 Tablespoons instant coffee crystals
4 eggs
1-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips** (I used Ghirerdelli Brand)

Preheat oven to 325°F. In large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, syrup, coffee crystals, and eggs. Beat on low-speed to blend, then beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Gently stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into greased and floured 12-cup capacity Bundt cake pan.

Bake for 55 minute to 1 hour (mine was about 58 minutes) or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto cooling rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for garnish or drizzle with Chocolate Glaze. (I used Chocolate Glaze)
To make it look extra special, drizzle white over the dark chocolate glaze. It adds just a little extra something to the appearance of the cake.

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirerdelli Brand)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
Combine chocolate and milk in small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until blended and mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat and cook, stirring constantly until thickened.

Place 1/2 cup White Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirerdelli Brand) and 1/2 teaspoon shortening (do not use butter, margarine, spread or oil) in small heavy seal-top plastic bag. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 45 seconds. Squeeze gently. If necessary, microwave an additional 10 to 15 seconds; squeeze until chips are melted. Make small diagonal cut in one bottom corner of bag; squeeze mixture onto cake as directed.

NOTE: The original recipe used “Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate Cake Mix *, and Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Chips.**”


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Chia Herb Garden

Our family is definitely not a DIY family we are much more of a semi-homemade type family.  If I can find a kit or shortcut to accomplish some goals I am all for it.  We wanted to learn about plants and how they grow so we decided to plant a Chia Herb Garden.  This was super easy and we have had fun planting, tending to the herbs and watching the sprouts grow.  Soon we will be able to transplant to larger pots to keep our herb garden growing in our kitchen.

The first thing we had to do was get the pots and growing “sponges” ready.

The next step was to choose which seeds we wanted to plant and sprinkle them on top.  We used the plant markers to remember what we had planted.

Next we gave the seeds plenty of water and covered them with little plastic bags to create a greenhouse effect.  We checked the water every day and made sure they got plenty of sun and eventually the Cilantro and Basil started to sprout.  the Parsley took the longest to sprout which was not what we expected.

It has been about 2 weeks and the sprouts are starting to look pretty good.  We are going out tomorrow to find some new pots to transplant the herbs too.  In hindsight, January is probably not the best month to attempt to start growing herbs, but I think these plants will suffer through.  I can’t wait until we have plenty of fresh herbs for our cooking adventures!


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I’m Posting Every Week in 2011

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.



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It has been awhile

I have not been posting regularly because quite frankly I’m not always sure what to write about.  Things have been going well and we have fallen into a pretty regular pattern for our home schooling days, the morning are fairly structured using mostly computer based curriculum to teach the 3 Rs with afternoons leaning more towards unschooling with lots of hands-on activities, working around the house and going out into the community.  Afternoons are also when we get to work more on our RDI goals.  I think going forward I will focus on blogging about our afternoons and will only touch on the traditional morning schooling if something new or exciting pops up.  So there you have it, a plan for going forward.  We shall see how effective it turns out to be.  🙂



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Review: TeachTown

Autism Awareness Ribbon

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TeachTown – Computer Service for Children with Autism. Engage. Learn. Connect

This is probably my favorite program.   My daughter loves it and I really like that it adapts to her learning to add new concepts, speed up or slow down the pace based upon her understanding of the activities, etc.   I highly recommend this program for any child on the autism spectrum.   TeachTown is developed based upon the concept of discrete trials/ABA and does a really good job of handling prompting and reinforcement in a way that is actually fairly dynamic.  Not only does it teach academic concepts but also other subjects kids on the spectrum often struggle with like facial expressions and generalizing concepts.  The reports generated are very good for helping to understand where the child is progressing and where additional work needs to happen.  The program also offers suggestions for offline activities to supplement the work done on the computer as well as to help generalize concepts which again is typically difficult for kids on the spectrum.  Another great feature is the ability to share the program with teachers, therapists, etc. so they can track progress and make recommendations for changes to the learning path to coincide with classroom and/or therapy goals.  Two thumbs WAY up for TeachTown!

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Our First Disney World Field Trip!


The Spaceship Earth Ride At EPCOT in Walt Disn...

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Things have been a little quiet at Reed Academy because we took a week off to vacation in Orlando.  We had a great time!  We were able to spend the long weekend with extended family and then we spent several days at Disney World.  We really love Disney and are blessed to be able to visit several times a year, this trip we did something different.  This was the first time we added an educational component to our visit.  That’s right we did our first Disney Field Trip to Epcot!  

Disney World is filled with educational opportunities that we will be taking advantage of from now on.   Since Living with the Land is my daughter’s favorite attraction we decided to use that as the starting point for our first field trip.  We took lots of pictures and talked about all the different types of plants and fish we saw.  We also talked about the different types of agriculture being studied by the Disney scientists and learned about the different climates including arid deserts and lush rainforests.  We are going to wrap up all of our discoveries into a lapbook over the next few weeks.  This was a great learning experience and something that can be adjusted to suit all different educational levels. 

We will be returning to Disney in November and in preparation we will be doing a unit study on the country and culture of Japan which we will then explore more in-depth at the Japan Pavillion in Epcot.  We can’t wait to learn again in such a fun environment!  


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Meal Planner Mania

I am really trying to get a better handle on meal planning for so many reasons.  We need to eat more healthy meals, we are trying to really cut down on the amount of overly processed foods we eat, I want to be a bit more frugal with our food budget.  I do ok with meal planning some of the time but I am chronically disorganized and have some picky eaters in my family (I am one of them I admit it, lol) we also like a LOT of variety in what we eat.  I love it when I find a system that I can just use straight away and I have found a couple of meal planning systems that I really like.  I like these because they include the weekly menu, shopping lists and recipes all in one place.    Here are my favorites:

#1 The entire Cooking for the Rushed series from Sandi Richard.  I first saw her tv show Fixing Dinner and tried some of those recipes, from that point I was hooked and now own all of her books.  Her meals range from traditional comfort foods to more exotic ethnic dishes and are quick and easy to prepare.

#2  My Family Meal Planner.  I got the Lite version and have been really happy with most of the recipes.  They are made with fresh healthy ingredients and taste really good.  Also, very quick to put together and includes a crock pot meal each week.  I also have the Kids Meal Planner and I am thinking of getting the lunchbox planner because I do like the system and I do pack lunches for my little one when we go on field trips or when she goes to camp during school breaks.

#3 Modern Menus is a free site that I also add into the rotation when they have a week that appeals to us or just to add some additional variety.

One of the other things I like about my #1 & #2 planners is that they generally use the same type of proteins, sides and helper ingredients so it makes it easy to stock up when things go on sale.  I actually know what to buy and about how much I will need and since I am an avid Grocery Gamer this is a major plus for me.

There are some planners that I tried that just didn’t work for us either because we didn’t care for the food, they took too long to prepare, etc.  Some of our rejects were Saving Dinner which I really wanted to love because I am a Flylady fan but we really just did not like the meals.   Another was E-Mealz, we liked the food with this one but I didn’t like being tied to one store for my shopping.

There are so many other planners and systems out there and I know there are those of you who find this stuff easy to do it yourself, I am always amazed by that ability!  In the meantime I’ll keep on trying things and getting better at it.  At least I am feeding my family better, saving some money and maintaining my sanity.  🙂

If you have a favorite meal planner or system please share it and I will gladly check it out.  I am always looking to broaden my horizons.  Thanks for stopping by!

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What’s in Your Workboxes Wednesday? What Happened?

As some of you have noticed I did not have a workbox update this Wednesday.  Why?  Well several reasons actually not the least of which is the fact that our workboxes this week are exactly the same as they were last week!  They have remained largely untouched because quite frankly my daughter has decided she really does not like working out of the workboxes.   I guess I should say it is not so much that she doesn’t like the workboxes, she just REALLY likes doing her school work on the computer.  Since our main curriculum is computer based I have been letting that be her focus and sort of ignoring the workboxes.    We do still love the system itself but I have modified so that the “number strips” now use icons for her different computer programs and she uses that to independently move through her work.

I am definitely going to have to rethink how/if we consider using the boxes themselves.  I may use them for special projects or unit studies.  We shall see.  Flexibility is key here and we are going with whatever works.  Learning is happening and we are happy.

If you have any ideas or suggestions as to how you are using your workboxes or modified the workbox system to work better for you I would love to hear it!

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Review: Time4Learning


Pros: Complete curriculum, flexible and customizable, includes lesson plans and offline worksheets and activites, very engaging and interacive, makes it fun for kids to learn.  Great reporting tools, forums to share ideas with other parents.
Cons: Can be difficult to keep track of where your child is if they work independently and do not follow the prompted lesson choices, if there is a problem with the site or the internet your lessons can get derailed for the day.

Time4Learning  teaches prek-8th graders math, language arts and more using animated lessons, printable worksheets and interactive activities. This is our main curriculum. My daughter has done very well with this. She is able to work at her own pace and enjoys the teaching style. The familiar characters and lesson structure allow her to focus on the content rather than trying to figure out the instructions for the activities.  We are working on 1st Grade Language Arts and Science but she still has a few Kindergarten Math lessons to complete and Time4Learning makes this very easy for us to manage and it is seamless for her.   Once she finishes her Kindergarten Math I will moe her up to 1st Grade Math with the click of a button, very simple.

Time4Learning has been very helpful for my visual learner.  The animation and songs really help the material sink in and hold her interest much longer than traditional book/worksheet lessons.  She enjoys using this system so much she will ask to do “lessons” throughout the day and on weekends, she doesn’t view it as work but she is learning so much.

The reports are great not just for having a record of what your child has covered in the curriculum but what things may need more reinforcement.  I go through the records and then find the corresponding worksheets and offline activities for areas that she needs to work on a bit more and put those activities into her workboxes so I am able to utilize Time4Learning in so many ways throughout our learning time, and not just on the computer.

Overall we are very pleased with Time4Learning and would recommend it to anybody who is looking for a complete curriculum that is easy to implement and really works to help your student learn.  This is great for home schoolers and really any parent who may want supplemental activities for their public/private schooled child as well.

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What’s In Your Workboxes Wednesday 8/18/2010

Welcome to “What’s in Your Workboxes Wednesday!”  This is a post I plan to update each week for a couple of reasons.  First, updating the blog will motivate me to keep my workboxes fresh and second, I want to share what I am doing as well as learn what others are doing with their workboxes.  If I have and idea and you have and idea we each of have one idea but if we share our ideas now we both have 2!  I don’t know about you but I love to learn from others so I can expand my repertoire and not reinvent the wheel.  Our main curriculum is computer based so I use our workboxes primarily for supplemental work.   If you are using workboxes I would love to know from you What’s in Your Workboxes!

The Little Princess has not been wanting to do her workboxes lately (she much prefers computer work) so this week I am trying a Disney theme to see if I can raiser her interest.  Here is what we have in our workboxes:

Box #1 has a Belle puzzle.  I mentioned before I like to start her day with a puzzle and she REALLY likes this one so hopefully it will get her started on a positive note.

Box #2 has some Disney Princess Letter/Word tracing sheets.  She really needs to work on handwriting and building the fine motor skills and endurance needed to write so these tracing pages are great for helping her with that.

Box #3 is completely new to her.  This is Thinkin’ Science software we got from Hooked on Phonics.  I will be interested to see how she takes to this.  She hasn’t been very interested in science activities yet but this format may encourage her.

Box #4 has Type to Learn Jr. software.  She likes this one ok.  I think she is starting to figure out that she can type things rather than hand write them which is helping her to express herself more through writing but is not helping her motivation to work on handwriting.

Box #5 is a Disney Princess Activity book for the LeapPad.  This one focuses on math and mazes.  She usually loves this book so I think this will be a good “Break in the middle” for her to keep her enthusiasm up.

Box #6 is a Disney Princess stamp activity.  She enjoys it and it helps with her creativity and fine motor skills.

Box #7 is her final box of the day and I like to have her finish with some sort of coloring/drawing activity.  This week you guessed it, we are using Disney coloring pages.

So that’s what we have in our workboxes this week.  Now it’s your turn, what’s in YOUR workboxes?

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