July 1, 2015

Grandma's No-Fail, Super Easy, Always Delicious Cobbler Recipe

Summertime means berries. Strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, marionberries, blackberries, raspberries...you name them, and they are ripe and ready for picking during the summer. Some of the best berries are the ones you find growing wild and if you are fortunate to live where they do, you can enjoy planning berry hunting trips. Here in Kentucky, we have wild blackberries growing all over the place--even here on our farm. As I was growing up, I grew to love all sorts of berries, because my Grandma had blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and gooseberries on her property. LOTS of them. So our family was definitely a "berry" happy one!

When we get berries, I like to prepare them the same way my mom did when I was growing up--either freeze them whole, or make them immediately into a sweet, juicy cobbler. Everyone in my family back home knows how to make cobblers thanks to always having berries around--even the dads and uncles! And we all learned the same no-fail, super easy, and always delicious recipe passed down from the Cobbler Queen...Grandma herself.
Grandma's No-Fail, Super Easy, Always Delicious Cobbler Recipe

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Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

Do you want to know why I prefer cobblers over pies? Because they are EASY and ANYONE can make them. There isn't any dough involved. Just fruit and a simple crust. Another reason I love cobblers, is because you can turn pretty much ANY fruit into a cobbler. But my favorite cobblers are made from peaches, apples, or berries. When I say anyone can make them...I mean it. My boys help me make them all the time and if I gave Little Britches the recipe, I am confident he could make it without any help at all from me. It's THAT easy.

So let's get started...

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease your pan.
My cobblers are typically either a square pan, or a 9 x 13 pan. You will need double the ingredients for the larger pan. You can really make them in any size you want, I just happen to like squares and rectangles. LOL. Once you figure out your pan, go ahead and grease it (sides and bottom). You can use butter, oil, or my favorite--coconut oil.

Step 2: Prepare your fruit.
Fresh picked wild blackberries!
As I said, you can use about any fruit you want, but I have found that the best fruit, is the kind that makes a good syrup on it's own as it cooks. This is why I like berries and peaches most of all. You can use fresh OR frozen. Or you can mix fresh AND frozen. You can even used canned (I love home canned peaches in this recipe). I regularly use frozen berries. And have fun mixing them! My dad has this awesome cobbler he calls the "Blue Goose". He mixed blueberries and gooseberries for a fabulous sweet/tart treat. I like doing three berry cobblers myself with blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. If I am making an apple or peach version, I will sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves over the fruit once it's in the pan for an extra flavor boost.
This is about how much I use in a square baking pan. I would say 4 cups.
For a standard square or round pan, I use about 3-4 cups of fruit, double that for a 9 x 13. Obviously this is going to vary depending on the type of fruit you are going to use. If it's berries you might need more, but if it's apples or peaches, you might want less. I like to have about 1"-2" of fruit in my pan before I add the topping, so I am eyeballing it a lot. Make sure your fruit is washed, sliced, and ready to go--then just pour it into your greased pan, spreading it around so it goes from edge to edge.
My favorite: Triple Berry!
Step 3: Prepare your crust.
One of the reasons this is an easy recipe is because of the measurements of the crust ingredients--just remember the number 1:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg

If you were making a 9 x 13, you could have it doubled, making it:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

Now I will add, that my mom chooses NOT to double for a 9 x 13 and just has a light thinner crust over it. I prefer the crust to cover my fruit, so I always double it--or at least add on another half. You can see how easy it is to increase the size of this recipe, and how easy it is to remember!
Baby Britches loves helping me make the crust
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, stirring to get it into a crumby texture. It will not all mix up, but the majority of it will.
Texture you are going for
Step 4: Sprinkle your crust over the fruit.
Sprinkling the crust over the berries
Now it's easy--simply sprinkle your crust mixture over the fruit in your pan. I like to cover as much of the fruit as possible. Some people like to just make an "island" of sorts with the crust in the middle of the pan. There is no right or wrong way with this recipe. It will still taste delicious.
It's okay if your fruit shows, just cover most of it.
Step 5: Drizzle the top of the crust with butter or oil.

You can either melt butter (about 2-5 Tblsp depending on the size of your cobbler) to drizzle, or spray it with olive oil, OR my preference, drizzle it with coconut oil. Coconut oil just adds the best flavor with desserts. I use it all the time. It's also super good for you.

Ready for the oven!
Step 6: Bake it for 30-45 minutes.
If your oven is preheated, then it's time to pop this beauty into the oven and let the magic happen. You want to cook your cobbler until your fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Apples sometimes take longer to bake to get soft enough, but rarely do I ever cook it longer than 40 minutes.
Cobbler Recipe
A perfectly golden crust with bubbling juices
Step 7: Enjoy!
Once it is done, enjoy admiring the bubbling juices of your delectable fruit and savor the sweet aroma. Then dive in! It is a crime in our house to serve it without a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And the best part is you can spoon up some of those juices and pour it on top of your ice cream for a top to bottom treat! The cobbler crust gives it a nice little crunch, and the way the hot fruit melts the ice cream--yummy!
Grandma's Cobbler Recipe
It doesn't get much better than this!
If you are ready to print the recipe and try it yourself, you can find my recipe here:
Grandma's No-Fail, Super Easy, and Always Delicious Cobbler Recipe

I hope that you will enjoy trying out this incredible recipe. It's so easy and so good! My mom tried this recipe out at a summer camp one year on a grand scale. She made a couple MASSIVE pans of it and those campers fell on it like ravenous wolves, were rapturous in their praise of it's deliciousness, and it became a camp tradition every year after. So give it a try for your family! The more you make it, the more comfortable you will be playing around with different fruits for it, and I know you will be finding a family favorite before too long!

If you were going to make a cobbler, what fruit would you be inclined to try first?

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June 29, 2015

A Rain Forest Unit Study and Lapbook w/Tropical Parrot Craft

Exploring the rain forest is an adventure I'd love to do. In like a bubble. Because there are a lot of things there that can hurt or eat me (LOL). Instead, I choose to explore the rain forest through books. I was able to share my love of the rain forest with the boys using this month's Poppins Book Nook theme: Forest and Woods. We did a unit study using the book The Great Kapok Tree as our primary resource and had fun creating a lapbook to share our new knowledge.
Rain Forest Unit Study with Lapbook and Tropical Parrot Craft

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Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

I had so much fun pulling together the materials for our study this month. Since we are out on summer break, we are only doing light schooling, which means that a unit study on rain forests worked perfectly! I will share with you the books we read, the lapbook we created, the craft we made, and then the printable I designed that all revolve around this topic. I hope you get inspired!

Our Books

by Lynne Cherry

One day, a man exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forest’s residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how "all living things depend on one another" . . . and it works.

This book is so beautiful and lush with the fabulous illustrations. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be our spine for our unit study. The book sets up an introduction to the rain forest brilliantly by talking about the different layers, the locations of rain forests, and then sharing several different animal species living in the rain forest through the plot of the book. The boys loved the story right from the start and eagerly examined every page to see what they could find hiding in the paintings. 

We came back to this book several times over the course of our study, to review what we had learned and see how it applied to the book. 

Afternoon on the Amazon (Magic Tree House #6)
Mary Pope Osbourne

Vampire bats and killer ants?

That's what Jack and Annie are about to run into when the Magic Tree House whisks them away to the Amazon River. It's not long before they get hopelessly lost. Will they be able to find their way back to the tree house? Or are Jack and Annie stuck forever in the rain forest?

After we had spent a day learning about the rain forest, I read Afternoon on the Amazon out loud while the boys ate their lunch. We paused several times to talk about what was going on in the book and how it related to things we had learned. There were several tie ins that even Baby Britches was able to volunteer information. This was actually their first experience with a Magic Tree House book, and I think they really enjoyed it and will be interested in reading another one.

by Jean Craighead George

Doomsday — It is dawn, and young Tepui makes his way through the rain forest. He treasures his tropical homeland and all of its wildlife, from the giant Coco de Mono tree to the tribe of playful monkeys to the colorful treetop birds. But today is doomsday for Tepui's beloved rain forest. Eleven bulldozers and four trucks will soon arrive to level the forest. Tepui is desperate to stop them, and there's just one way he can do it. He must discover a butterfly no one has ever seen -- by the end of the day.

This was a great book to read pieces of for the boys. It fit perfectly with talking about the problem with destroying the rain forest and to give a broader picture about what the rain forest is like to someone living in it. We might read the whole book later, but for now, I just wanted pieces to give them an idea on the reasons for taking care of the forest.

Jungle (Eyewitness Books)
by Theresa Greenaway

Discover life in the tropical rain forest--from the exotic birds in the tree tops to the millions of insects on the forest floor

Jungle is a great book to share even more information about the world of the tropical rain forest. We all loved the brilliant photos of the creatures making the rain forest their home and the extra tidbits of information. This book helped us learn more about the rain forest layers, seed dispersal, hidden dangers, the homes animals and insects make, medicines and other products that comes from the rain forest, as well as famous explorers. I love the Eyewitness Books series because they really help expand whatever you are studying, especially when it relates to things in nature. The boys continue to look through this book because they just love all the photos.

Animals of the Rain Forest
by Windows On Nature

Full of fascinating animal facts and stunning illustrations, this charming introduction to the wildlife of the rain forests will amaze and delight every young reader.

This is one of the books that I went through with Baby Britches. He loved all the animals and enjoyed having me read about them. Though not available on Amazon, we found this book at the library and I hope you can too, because it is a good one. The window cutout is a very cute way to present the animals.

There are so many other books about the rain forest that would be great for unit study, but these were the ones I found at our library that worked perfectly for what I wanted.

Our Activities

Our primary activity over the course of our study was to have each boy make a lapbook. I love lapbooks, but it had been awhile since I had the boys make one. We all had a great time putting them together and they will be able to pull the out to look out over and over again. Here are some photos of our lapbook sessions:

Locating South America, Brazil and the Amazon River

Baby Britches working on coloring his frogs for this frog match

Adding in the real life photos

Matching the types of lines in his booklet with the lines he sees on the trees in the forest
Rain Forest Lapbook
Complete lapbooks
You can see that I kept some of their things the same, and others different. It worked very well and with all the materials out there it was easy to pick what worked for each boy.

Our materials for completing the lapbooks:
*Magic School Bus: In the Rain Forest episode

Our Tropical Parrot Craft

Since Baby Britches favorite animal from our unit study was the toucan, I decided that we would do a parrot craft to finish off our week. I used the pretty parrot template from I Heart Crafty Things for the bird body, beak and feet. I added the streamers for wings and tail like was suggested on this parrot craft by Ramblings of a Crazy Woman, to make our fun and colorful parrots.
Tropical Parrot Craft by Farm Fresh Adventures

*Template from I Heart Crafty Things for body, feet, and beak
*Colored construction paper or cardstock
*Colorful crepe streamers
*Googly Eyes
*Glue, Scissors, Tape

1. Print the template on paper and trace onto construction paper, or print template on colored cardstock. 

2. Cut out the body, beak and feet (x2). Attach to the beak and feet to the body.

3. Trim at least 2 colors of streamers about 8" long for wings and at least 12" for tail. 

4. With Scissors, make slit for the wing streamers and for the tail streamers. Put each set of streamers together and pinch end and then pull it through the appropriate slit about 1". Tape down.

5. Glue on googly eye. 

Baby Britches wanted TWO sets of wings, so I just attached some completely on the back of his bird. Little Britches wanted to give the bird a very long tail, so we did streamers about 3 feet long for his birds tail.

Enter the Woods with The Gruffalo Bundle Giveaway! 
Get ready for some fun in the woods with this month’s Gruffalo Bundle Giveaway! The Gruffalo is a fun children’s book set in the woods and has a very funny, yet easy to follow story. This month the Poppins Book Nook group has partnered with NCircleEntertainment to offer readers a chance to win a brand new copy of The Gruffalo storybook, The Gruffalo DVD, and the Gruffalo’s Child DVD. This month’s lucky winner will enjoy all this woods themed family storybook and DVD fun with their family compliments of NCircle Entertainment and the Poppins Book Nook co-hosts.

Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company NCircle Entertainment in connection with Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. 

By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the PromoSimple terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom's disclosures found here {http://enchantedhomeschoolingmom.org/disclosures/}.  Just enter the PromoSimple below to win:

I hope can take a moment and check out some of the posts from my Poppins Book Nook co-hosts to see what they did for their Forest and Woods books.

Do you have a post relating to literature set in the forest or woods? We would love to check it out!
An InLinkz Link-up

We had so much fun learning about the rain forest and it was great to get back into a unit study again! Later this week, I will be sharing links to the new rain forest themed printables that I made for the boys, that I think you will enjoy. I hope you will check out some of my previous Poppins Book Nook posts for storybook and activity ideas, and then tune in next month when we dive into exploring famous composers!
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June 23, 2015

SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers {Product Review}

If you are like me, you like being able to give your child a bit of freedom to watch educational videos online, but you also know that there are very few places where you can feel 100% safe with what they have access too. When I learned about SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers from SmartKidz Media, I was very interested to do a review on the company since they claimed to be a family friendly, kid friendly, ad free site. Would they offer a safe place for my boys to explore and enjoy videos online?
SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers~ Product Review

Product Summary

SmartKidz Media is a producer and distributor of excellent educational videos, flash-animated ebooks, interactive study guides, music, and many other fabulous media resources. They offer all of these in a media library geared for parents and students in a homeschool environment. SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers, offers video-streaming and even Cloud friendly to make their website on the cutting-edge of technology. Homeschoolers are offered a full range of curriculum complimenting video topics from fine arts, to the animal kingdom, to history, to physical education and much more! 
Because this is all through a website, it can be accessed and streamed on any internet friendly device 24/7!  This also means that you don't have to worry about downloading the things you want to see--it will be there whenever you want it, without using up any of your computer or devices memory!
Did you know that SmartKidz also offers their digital media library on your TV with a Roku streaming media player? It also can be shown on any Google TV enabled Smart TVs. These are great options for maximizing your subscription to this product!
SmartKidz Media Library can be used on any computer or mobile device as long as you have access to the internet, but the eBooks require your devices to also run Flash Version 10.2 or higher to work properly. For iPad and iPhone users, the company is working on creating a free app to allow access to the eBooks and once the app is completed, users of these devices will simply need to download the app for it to work.

The subscription to SmartKids Media Library comes with a 14 day free trial where you can see for yourself what all is offered by this company. A subscription to the site is $10/month or $99/year and comes with UNLIMITED viewing. And unlike many other video sites, there will be no ads, no links, no popups. It's a family friendly website.
Our family was given a year subscription to SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers. We used the product on two laptops (Chrome browser), and a Kindle Fire HD.

How Did We Use This Product?

Once I was given the log-in information (which is self explanatory and easy to set up), I just started looking around to get a feel for what there was to offer my family. I can easily access it on my Kindle Fire HD or my computers (I have Windows XP on one and Windows 8 on the other using Chrome for both browsers).
The library is set up into 10 different categories for you to browse:

*World of Discovery
The largest category containing videos on everything from animals and wildlife, to action sports, to Documentaries and Culture, to Health and Fitness, to History, to Science, to Lifestyle and Cuisine, and more! And every section of this category has at least 5 videos and each video is at least 15 minutes long--some are up to an hour! It's a treasure trove of videos and they have more in the works!
One of the Documentaries & Culture collections
*Music & Fine Arts
This category contains a collection of CD's put into a form where you can simply play them from your device. Introduce your children to the classical music masters, enjoy music for relaxation, jazz & blues or cultural selections.
Example playlist from the Jazz & Blues Collection
*Mighty eBook Collection
Here is a category full of eBooks that your child will love and enjoy. They are separated by age and topic--from story songs, to Aesops Fables, to Mother Goose, to fun mini science books, to just fun eBooks! Every book is read aloud automatically with the words highlighted making it very easy for your child to follow along.
Boys Watching/Listening to their Favorite eBook from the Collection
*Baby Signs Program
This category introduces the Baby Signing program! With these videos you can learn how to teach your baby simple signing--and your whole family will be able to learn too! There is even a whole section that is a Video signs dictionary--and a topic all on potty training!
*My Animal Family
This category is full of videos teaching your student all about family values and respect for animals. The series follows 5 animal families (lion, chimpanzee, elephant, dolphin and polar bear), and teaches your student about what life is like for a youngster within the species. Narrated by kids, your student will enjoy learning more about the families of these special animals!
*Quick Find Study Guides
This is a very interesting category. It is full of study guides to sort of crash course teach your child relating to a different subjects or topics--from spelling rules, to punctuation, to the 50 states, the presidents, the constitution, science, math, accounting, foreign language and more!
Here is a study guide for the 50 States...you click on a state and you see all this information
*Learning Special Needs
Do you have a child with special needs? SmartKidz Media Library has a section perfect for you! It was designed for children and individuals with disabilities and various other special needs. The themed books and lesson materials were created by special needs educators and therapists to give special needs children what they need to better understand themselves and the world they live in.
*Living Skills Program
This category is still in the "coming soon" stage, but will be a place where your student can enjoy learning little songs to help them learn how to take responsibility for themselves, their relationships with others, and their responsibility in the world around them.
*Ready, Set, Sing
Does your child love music? Then this category is for them! It contains over 200 sing-along-songs guaranteed to bring fun to your child's day!
One of the Karaoke Videos
Watching one of the Karaoke Videos

*Fun Zone
Last but none the least, the fun zone is a place where your child can enjoy fun educational games and puzzles! New content is being added here regularly!
So where did I start? Well I let each boy pick what they wanted to do and both headed to the eBooks to start. This soon became their favorite category and they have watched every single eBook SEVERAL times. 
Another category they like is the World of Discovery. Little Britches especially likes the nature videos and has been enjoying checking each one out. I enjoy the history and cuisine videos and am working my way through them myself. Both boys have enjoyed learning more about animals in the My Animal Family category, though Baby Britches prefers it over Little Britches. I think the elephant family is his favorite.
We've spent some time exploring each of the categories, but didn't spend a lot of time in the Fine Arts &Music, Baby Signs or Special Needs categories. They are great categories, but not areas that my family needs right now. 
Baby Britches loves to sing though, so he has recently been enjoying the Ready, Set Sing category where he can hear favorite songs and watch the little videos that go with them. Another thing he likes is the Fun Zone. Especially the puzzles and hide and seek games.
Playing the mouse and cups hide and seek
Everything is easy to navigate and clearly marked, making it very user friendly--even for my youngest (age 4).

What Were Our Thoughts On This Product?

Both boys love being able to have the freedom to explore the site and I am 100% comfortable with them doing it. I have previewed videos from most all the sections and find them to be mostly appropriate for what our family watches.

There are a few cons I will mention about the videos:

On the Animal Soap Operas, the phrase Oh My God is used and maybe a couple other euphemisms that our family does not use nor approve of. Because of that I did make the decision NOT to allow the boys to watch these. But there are only 3 videos (I think) and it doesn't take away from the site at all.

In learning about the cultures of the world, there are videos of tribal nations. This means there is some nudity that comes up--but it's done as part of learning about the culture. Our family is okay with this because it's just how people live; however, we will watch it together so we can discuss it when it comes up. But some families might not want their children seeing this without warning.
There is mention of the evolutionary theory in the nature videos. The company is a worldview program, so there will not be mention of God or Christianity in the lessons in general. We are used to this in most of the nature documentaries out there, so while I prefer it not to be there, it's not anything we haven't already spoken about. 

*Old School Video Style
I say this because some of the videos are early 90's in graphics and quality--predominately in the eBooks or the Ready, Set, Sing videos. While it isn't a big deal, it would be nice to bring the videos up to date as the company continues moving forward.
I did not like the apparel of the people doing the exercise for kids. The girls and woman were wearing two piece exercise outfits that showed off their midriffs and really just wasn't necessary. It would have been much better with them wearing just shorts and tank tops or t-shirts. Because this is not a "cultural" thing like the tribal nudity complete linked to their culture, I prefer it to be covered up.
In summary, though there were still a few things I had issues with, overall I felt that it was a good program and one that we will continue to use over the next year. I can see how some of the areas would be easy to work in with current things you are studying, or could be used for writing reports. I liked that the website streamed perfectly on my Kindle, which meant that Baby Britches would be able to watch videos right along us while we worked on other things.
Watching the videos on the Kindle Fire HD

Would I Recommend This Product?

Hmm. If you are needing a media library to draw from to help you expand what you are working on with homeschooling, and need it all in one place with unlimited access, then yes. If you are looking for a place where your child can safely navigate and explore learning videos without worrying about content, adds, links, pop-ups, ect. then yes. 
Would I have purchased a subscription to this product? No. Because of what it is created for--for homeschoolers to have one place to find a plethora of educational videos without seeking them out-- while very great, it's not something that I particularly need. It's an extra. I have access to a lot of videos and I rarely let my children have screen time without my watching eye. So I don't "need" a site like this. And I don't have the funds to really pay for an extra like this--without it having a major role in our homeschool, which it wouldn't.
BUT--since we do have it, I do enjoy being able to let my boys explore the site, knowing that all the videos are going to be appropriate and without all the things that cause issues as I mentioned above. I only ask that they tell me what they are going to watch so I can make sure it's something I've previewed first.

Want To Know More?

I reviewed the full year subscription to SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers from SmartKidz Media. You know what we think about it, but why not check out what the rest of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thinks--and enjoy seeing some more of the videos offered by the site.
SmartKidz Media Review
If you want to learn more about SmartKidz Media, make sure you connect with them on these social media outlets:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/smartkidzhomeschool
Twitter: https://twitter.com/smartkidzmedia
I was happy to find out that this website provided some great videos and read aloud books for the boys to enjoy without the junk ads and constant external link access other websites have (like YouTube). I also was glad that I can let them work through the videos without having to regularly worry about what they are watching. I look forward to continuing to let them use SmartKidz Media over the upcoming months--especially on road trips!
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