Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Since the beginning of our homeschool I have come across ALL About Learning Press numerous times but never really took the jump in getting any of their products.

This year however was different. First let me tell you about our spelling adventure. I had tried various things for spelling in the past couple of years but nothing was really standing up for the child with whom I was hoping to improve the spelling skills. So this year, I decided to try out All About Spelling with him and his brother. First, I quickly discovered that it was preferable to start at Level 1 no matter in which grade the child is. The main reason for this is to teach the child the main bases of the program before going to a higher level. So we started to Level 1 and even though it was easy for them to go through it, I could see improvement in their spelling as they would ask me less often how to spell words and even start spelling words out loud just for the fun of it. We have since moved on to the next level and it is still easy for them as we are doing one lesson a day. Eventually, I expect that they will have reached their own level and a lesson might take two days or more to be completed. As I am writing this, I have already invested in Level 3 and 4 for the upcoming year.  Eventually, I am planning to get the last three levels of the All About Spelling program as well.

I had heard and read that the program was demanding on the parent’s part. I would say that indeed it does require a lot of involvement from the parent in order to teach spelling with this program. But having used it and seen the difference it has made in our boys so far I would say that it is so worth it. This program is multi-sensory as it will ask your child to see it, hear it, manipulate the tiles and write it. It has been a delight to use it and now I wonder what I took so long to get it.

All About Learning Press also have a reading program that they have launched a few years ago. Before I go on about the All About Reading program, I would like to tell you a bit about our journey with reading. A few years ago, I was part of the TOS Homeschool Crew and received a program called Rocket Phonics. When I got this product, our second born was just at the age to start learning to read. So I used Rocket Phonics to teach him to read in English because I needed him to be independent for word problems with our math curriculum. At some point in the curriculum we realized that he had not mastered some sounds so we decided it would be preferable to restart from the beginning. The second time he was able to move on with his reading and that was it. Our third son didn’t experience any issues with that reading program when he started to learn to read. When our fourth child was at the same age, I started the same program to learn to read. For some reason, it wasn’t clicking with her. So we restarted once…. Twice…. And three times. The program was definitively not working. She was frustrated, was crying when it was time to practice the reading and would sometimes hyper-ventilate. We realized that this curriculum wasn’t a fit for her. What should we do?

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A friend of mine posted the first level of All About Reading Level 1 for sale on one of the facebook homeschool pages and I jumped on it. All I had to do was to get the student book in order to do the activities with my daughter. Well, thankfully the first few lessons were available on the website and I printed these pages while we waited for our student book to come in. The best part was the free app that All About Learning Press had on the iPad. Our daughter started this Level 1 All About Reading program and quickly enjoyed her reading time. What a difference this program was making in her days! She laughed and rejoiced when a fun activity had to be done. She had more resistance when it was time to practice fluency but with time she got used to it. We would split a lesson in two to four days depending on how much reading was done. Within a few lessons, she had to take the first book associated with the program and read a story in it. She was not too keen in reading a story in a book but in the end she realized that she could do it. Her confidence slowly got built and she completed – on her own will – the first level the day before the conference. She asked me if I would get the third and fourth levels at the conference because she knew we would pursue the second level starting the following week. She really enjoys the activities and the stories in the books. The difference that All About Reading has made for my daughter is huge – like night and day to be honest. She was dreading the reading time before and now she thrives in her reading.

The program is also multi-sensory as it uses the same letter tiles as the spelling program. It contains a teacher book which will guide you in the lesson to be taught, a student book which contains the activities of all lessons as well as the fluency practice sheets. Each fluency practice sheets consists of new words, review words, phrases and sentences to read. As I am preparing the lesson 2 of the new level we had started this week, I saw that there will be harder words to try. I will encourage my daughter to try them if she can. I have learned that taking bites is easier for her in the process of learning to read and one lesson can sometimes be spread on two to four days if needed be. The program also has books in which the child will read stories after learning specific sounds. My daughter really enjoyed the stories found in the three books in level 1 and looks forward to discovering the new adventures in the two books in level 2. Each levels of the All About Reading program has the teacher book, the student books, cards with new words to learn, and books to read.

Here’s one of my highlight in discovering the All About Reading Program this year. Out of the blue a few weeks ago, even though she was still progressing in her level 1 lessons, she took the book Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, sat down next to her dad and read to him. There were still words she had trouble with because she had not learned the sounds of some combined letters but it was a delight to see her being confident in herself and read to her dad. I am very pleased with the result of All About Reading and I know that she will be able to master reading like her brothers have done. Besides she knows that as soon as she masters it, her reward will be to go to the restaurant of her choice with dad and receive her own personal Bible (a tradition in our family). She is so looking forward to be able to read daily in her Bible like her big brothers are doing.

I am grateful for my friend who sold me the first level and for All About Learning Press for their reading program. My daughter has made tremendous progress while learning to read with this program. She is getting more and more confident each day. Her joy in learning to read has replaced the fear she had before.

All I have to say is that if you are a mom who is at your whist end because your child is struggling with their reading and/or spelling. Don’t give up. Maybe the curriculum isn’t a good fit for your child and you should try to see if something else would work. Take the time to investigate the programs at All About Learning Press.

Note:   I have not received any products from All About Learning Press to write this post.   This is our honest experience with their products.   

Thursday, April 16, 2015

b9b1f82d95da4e0c81926217cdd1a35bCupcakes & Mini Cakes – more than 100 recipes for little cakes & cake pops
Published at DK Canada

About the book

With over 100 recipes for little cakes and cake pops, this delicious cookbook is sure to satisfy. The perfect step by step guide to creating delights and indulgent creamy bites, tasty truffles and breakfast brownies, this book covers all the essential techniques - from simply making to decorating cakes for every occasion.

  • Features over 200 full colour photographs
  • Visual recipe choosers group cakes by themes for easy inspiration

My Thoughts

I recently received this fun cookbook from DK Canada.   Turn out that it became really handy when two of my kids had to do something for their leaders.  They decided to work together and make cupcakes for them.   They picked a fun little recipe for their sweet tooth.  

This cookbook is easy to use and contains pictures to allow you to visualize the end result of a recipe.   The table of contents can quickly bring you to the recipe chooser, the techniques, the cupcakes and muffins recipes, the mini cakes and cake pops recipes, the mini bakes and bars recipes and finally the patisserie and tarts recipes.  Each recipe is clearly detailed with the ingredients and the steps to execute it.

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So as I mentioned, my sons had to bless their Awana leaders in a special way.  The year is almost finished and the volunteers are helping the kids to work hard on their books.    Both my boys have done amazing this year each winning at the Awana Quizzing.  Jérémy and his team won the first place for their book while Dominic and his team won second place.

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So to thank their leaders, they decided to make cupcakes.   The recipe that they picked is the Cherry and Coconut Cupcakes.   Here`s the recipe.

Ingredients:

4 oz Maraschino cherries
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup shredded coconut, plus extra for springkling
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a few drops of pink food coloring (optional)

For the icing:
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar. sifted
4 tsp milk
a few drops of pink food coloring
scant shredded coconut
12 Maraschino cherries.

How to make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line the pan with 12 baking cups.  Wash, dry, and quarter the cherries.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, coconut, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the quartered cherries.  Add a few drops of pink food coloring and beat briefly again.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the baking cups and bake for about 15 minutes or until well risen, golden, and the centers spring back when lightly pressed.   Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. For the icing, beat the butter in a bowl.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and milk until soft and fluffy.  Beat in a few drops of pink food coloring.  Pipe or spoon the icing on top of the cupcakes and top each with a sprinkling of shredded coconut and a Maraschino cherry.

This morning, after having done part of the homeschool assignments, they started on the cupcakes. 

Jérémy putting ingredients in the mixer.

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We added the cherries at some point.

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Whatcha doing Dominic?

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Ready to be bake – I love the color of these cupcakes…. wish I could have one because I LOVE Maraschino cherries!

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All baked and smelling yumy!

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Decorating time…

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And here’s the final result – a delicious cupcake that unfortunately mom can’t even taste.   I’m sure their Awana leaders will enjoy them!

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To be honest, they have done everything themselves.  They followed the recipe and knew what to do at each step.   It was very easy to let them do this while I was helping their younger sister with her reading.   I am impressed on how easy it was for them to follow the recipe and that they didn’t have to ask for help at any point in time.

Tonight, they are bringing their cupcakes…..   as for me I am hoping that they will redo the recipe in a near future.  Maybe I should go get some Maraschino cherries to replenish our cupboards because they finished the container that we had.   

Cupcakes & Mini Cakes is available for purchase at your favorite bookstore, even amazon.ca and amazon.com.

  

Disclaimer: Thanks to DK Canada for sending me the above mentioned book for review purposes . I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

imageYan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook
By Yan-Kit So
Published at DK Canada

About the cookbook

Learn to cook traditional Chinese food with this extensive collection of authentic Chinese recipes from Chinese cookery expert Yan-kit So. Dim-sum, dumplings, Cantonese food — you name it — this classic book has every recipe and cooking method you need to prepare delicious, authentic Chinese food.

With thirty years as a favorite in home kitchens everywhere, Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook is a staple for cooking traditional Chinese food. Now this bestselling cookbook is reborn with wonderful photography that makes cooking Chinese food recipes understandable and simple. Even inexperienced cooks can find easy recipes in this complete collection, and more experienced chefs will find plenty to challenge and delight them as well.

Step-by-step instructions, tips and techniques, and complete menu ideas make Yan-Kit's Classic Chinese Cookbook inviting for home cooks of all skill levels: Find a new favorite dim-sum recipe, learn a great technique for dumplings, or polish your proficiency in the art of delicious Cantonese food. Yan-Kit's proficiency and expertise in cooking authentic Chinese food makes her the ideal chef to begin a journey into cooking Chinese food, and a trusted ally in guiding you in more expert Chinese dishes.

My Thoughts

The past three weeks, we have studied China with other families at our Homeschool Coop.   We had fun activities to learn more about the country and what makes it so different than Canada.

The older kids had a project that lasted three weeks – making a salt dough map of the country of China.

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The finalized maps looked like this.

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Meanwhile, the younger kids were doing a variety of activities. They made their Ming Plates.

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They learned to write in Chinese.

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They had fun to do a giant panda craft after learning about the animal.

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And they worked all together in building the Great Wall of China.

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Dominic helped with the fried rice and meal lesson.

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The kids learned to eat with chopsticks.

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And we performed a Dragon Dance.

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These three weeks were amazing and the kids learned quite a bit about China.

To conclude our tour of China, we had decided to do a potluck – each families had to bring a Chinese meal to share.   This cookbook arrived at just the right time and I immediately explored it to determine which meal I would bring.  The table of contents is pretty much self-explaining and will provide quick access the the following sections: Ingredients, Equipment, Techniques, Recipes divided in specific groups like hors d’oeuvres, soups and fire pots, fish and seafood, poultry and eggs, meat, vegetables, rice/noodles/dumplings, and desserts as well as Regional Menus which includes regional Chinese cooking, Northern or Peking menu recipes, Eastern or Shanghai menu recipes, Western or Szechwan menu recipes, Southern or Cantonese menu recipes, as well as a mixed regional menu recipes. 

The book contains plenty of images and step-by-steps instructions which will help you do some of the recipes in the book.

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I have decided to do the Sweet and Sour Pork recipe found at page 130.  This recipe serves 4 to 6 people if you include 2 or 3 other dishes.   Due to the fact that we were numerous at the coop, I doubled the recipe in hopes that we would have enough for everyone.  However, I will admit that I took whole-wheat flour instead of the potato flour, I forgot the egg, and I didn’t have any Worcestershire sauce….  Also, I have not deep-fried the pork due to time constraint.

Ingredients:

1 LB lean pork belly, skinned and trimmed of excess of fat
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons cornstarch
peanut or corn oil for deep-fryingIMG_3708
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut or corn oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 onion, skinned and roughly chopped
1 green pepper, halved, seeded, and diced
4 ounces canned pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved

For the sauce
2 teaspoons potato flour
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons pineapple juice
3 tablespoons rice or wine vinegar
4 to 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

1) Cut the pork into pieces about 1 by 1 1/4 by 3/4 inches.  Put into a bowl.
2) Add the salt and soy sauce and let marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.  Stir in the egg to coat thoroughly.
3) Dredge the pork, piece by piece, with the cornstarch, making sure it is evenly coated.  It is not necessary to use up all the cornstarch.
4) Half fill a wok or deep fryer with oil, heat to a temperature of 350F or until a cube of stale bread browns in 60 seconds.   Add the pork and deep-fry for about 1 minute in 1 or 2 batches; separate the pieces with a pair of chopsticks or a wooden spoon if they stick together.  Drain on paper towels.  This step can be done ahead of time.
5) Prepare the sauce.  In a bowl, dissolve the potato flour in the water and pineapple juice.   Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, soy sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir to blend. (This can be made in advance.)
6) Heat a frying pan or sauce pan (unless you have another wok) until hot.  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and swirl it around.   Add the garlic and onion, stir a few times and then add the green pepper.  Stir-fry for about 2 minutes over medium heat and season with salt, if desired.   Add the pineapple chunks.  Pour in the well-stirred sauce and bring to a boil slowly, stirring constantly.
7) Reheat the oil for deep-frying to a higher temperature, 375F, or until a cube of stale bread browns in 50 seconds.  Add the pork and again deep-fry in one batch for about 2 or 3 minutes, to ensure that the outside is crisp and golden without the pork inside getting dry.  Drain on paper towels and transfer to a warm serving plate.  Reheat the sweet and sour sauce and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  This prevents the sauce from being gluey.  Pour the sweet and sour sauce over the pork.  Serve immediately.

Note:  When reheated, sweet and sour pork will be soggy but it will still taste good.

The meal was delicious and we had a wide variety of plates to choose from.   Everyone made a huge effort to bring something Chinese and authentic.  

This recipe book is packed with wonderful recipes from China and I plan to try out other recipes in the weeks and months to come.  Having a Chinese grocery store near our home is helpful to find the ingredients that wouldn’t be at the normal grocery store for sure.  If you want to expand your repertoire of recipes for your family and friends, consider getting Yan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook.  

Yan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook is available at your favourite bookstore, even amazon.ca and amazon.com.

Disclaimer: Thanks to DK Canada for sending me the above mentioned book for review purposes . I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

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