Monday, May 2, 2016

Zig-Zagy Art

Amber loves to spends hours upon hours creating very structured and patterned drawings. She's not as fond of other styles of art though. Quite often we find her with pencil, sketchbook, and ruler working away at her latest project.

While it relaxes Amber to meticulously work on these drawings, I am of the personality that would be driven bonkers within minutes of beginning these tedious patterns. Amber adores it, and that's all that matters.

She takes great pride in the patterns she devices and care to keep everything looking symmetrical. Apparently, the symmetry is of utmost importance in Amber's mind. My mind is still in awe of Amber's creativeness, since I can't fathom how one devices such patterns.

A work in progress
Still in progress - with music.

One finished project

Another recent project

This is the final week of Blogging Through the Alphabet!  I can't believe I made every single week. Whew!

Please visit our Blogging Through the Alphabet hosts to read more interesting A to Z topics!
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm & Meg @ Adventures with Jude 

Unexpected Homeschool: Positive Thinking

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Yummy Gluten-Free, Low-Fructose Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Even though we now are able to eat wheat in smaller amounts, Amber still needs to be low-fructose to keep her intestines happy. It took many attempts after years of adapting gluten-free recipes to be low-fructose to make this coffee cake turn out as we remembered it.

Gluten-free, low-fructose Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is what Amber requested in days past for every birthday breakfast and every holiday.  It was her absolute favorite breakfast food.  Unfortunately, the ingredients list did not lend itself to a successful conversion with only dextrose as a sweetener.  Then the fateful day happened: Amber tolerated pure maple syrup in small amounts.  It was the opening we needed to add in scores of additional recipes.  Not only can we substitute maple syrup for honey, but we can replace brown sugar with maple sugar.

Unexpected Homeschool: Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe
I usually make a double batch and freeze one coffee cake.
I've tried my hand at making maple sugar at home and it worked like a charm.  However, it was a pain and time consuming.  I found pure maple sugar on Amazon to be priced about the same as purchasing pure maple syrup locally in the quantities needed to result in the same amount of maple sugar.  I no longer make my own, but I can in a pinch.

Amber now even tolerates Better Batter gluten-free flour mix, but I've still included my original gluten-free flour mixture that worked with this coffee cake recipe. The Better Batter does give slightly better results, but when you don't tolerate brown rice flour, that isn't an option.

Unexpected Homeschool: Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe

This recipe is adapted from one that I had on an old recipe card and was subsequently typed up in a binder my mom created for me.  We don't know the original source of the recipe, it's just always been there in our family.

Gluten Free, Low Fructose, Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake


2 cups (280 grams) Gluten Free all purpose flour (I use Better Batter now)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if your flour blend does not contain it)
1 cup Powdered dextrose (but you could use regular cane sugar, if tolerated)
1/2 cup Maple Sugar (or 1/3 cup Pure Maple Syrup) **
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (I've also used unsalted butter, at room temperature)
2 extra large eggs

1/2 cup Maple Sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional. We don't use it)


Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 13x9 pan. 

In a large bowl or bowl of your mixer, place the dry ingredients and whisk together with a handheld whisk.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the remaining wet ingredients.   Beat with either the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, or a handheld electric mixer until smooth.  The batter tends to puff up some.  Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth with a wet spatula.  

In a small bowl combine the topping ingredients and whisk together.   Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter.

Cover and refrigerate overnight for more flavor, or bake immediately.  (I usually bake immediately).

Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until only a few moist crumbs come back on a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan, about 30-40 minutes.

Allow the coffee cake to cool slightly before cutting and serving.

The baked coffee cake also freezes well.  I've been known to mix and bake two at a time, then freeze one for later consumption.

Gluten-free, low-fructose Cinnamon Buttermilk Coffee Cake

*My preferred Gluten free flour mix if you can't tolerate Better Batter:
1 cup = 140 grams
45 grams White Rice Flour
21 grams Sorghum Flour
21 grams Millet Flour
21 grams Potato Starch
21 grams Tapioca Starch
7 grams Potato Flour
4 grams Xanthan Gum

** Most often I save my maple sugar for use in the topping and use maple syrup in the batter.


Please visit our Blogging Through the Alphabet hosts to read more interesting A to Z topics!
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm & Meg @ Adventures with Jude 

Unexpected Homeschool: Positive Thinking

Monday, April 25, 2016

{Review} Heroes of History - John Adams

This school year Amber has been studying early American history, from the Colonial Period to the year 1800. As Classical homeschoolers we rarely use anything that remotely looks like a text book in favor of more detailed and interesting accounts. YWAM Publishing has been one of our favorite sources for quality history biographies, and the timing for our recent review of their Heroes of History - John Adams with the accompanying Digital Unit Study was absolutely perfect.

YWAM Publishing: Heroes of History - John Adams

This biography of John Adams written by Janet and Geoff Benge is part of YWAM Publishing's Heroes of History series that includes engaging biographies of famous individuals from American history, such as: Christopher Columbia, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Daniel Boone, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Orville Wright, Thomas Edison, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Ronald Reagan, and many more.

The book covers John Adams' life from childhood in Massachusetts through his presidency and death on July 4th, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the United States. Stories from his early education and how it led him to become the American patriot we all know set the foundation in this book. Details of his family life and even his friendships with other famous patriots give us a fuller view of the man who helped shape our country.

This biography of John Adams, subtitled Independence Forever, is intended for students ages 10 years old and up. Although the language used makes it accessible for those as young as 10, it by no means diminishes the information or the enjoyment of the stories for older readers. The Digital Unit Study, also available from YWAM Publishing, provides the means to make this book into a full history unit for a wide range of students.

YWAM Publishing: Heroes of History - John Adams

We received the digital unit study for Heroes of History - John Adams as a compressed zip file that expanded to a robust study, compete with an HTML navigation system. Of course, you can access the PDF files in the study through your file system, but the navigation makes it so much easier to follow all the possible options.

The download came with a quick summary biography of John Adams, as well as links to meet the authors and discover bonus material available from YWAM Publishing. However, the heart of the digital download is the unit study, complete with guides for using it in small groups, classrooms or homeschools. The study itself is divided into two separate files: one with the study plans and one with all the printables.

The unit study includes:
  • Questions over every chapter in the book
  • Creative Writing projects
  • Hands-on projects
  • Arts and Crafts ideas
  • Field trip ideas
  • Ideas to integrate the book into other subjects
  • Final project suggestions
  • Additional resources
Amber and I decided to integrate this Heroes of History book on John Adams into our regular history studies. She was able read entirely through the book in just a little over an hour while we were out at her regular weekly medical appointments. However, reading the book was only half of the work we had planned.

YWAM Publishing: Heroes of History - John Adams

Instead of asking Amber to go through and complete every single chapter question in the study guide, I put a copy of the study on both of our iPads to use in a history discussion. I read through the questions and selected a couple from each chapter for us to go over verbally. This method works much better for Amber's learning style. Instead of rushing to answer the questions, she is able to give thoughtful responses and delve into deeper topical discussions.

Finally, I printed out the John Adams Fact Sheet and timeline from the unit study for Amber to complete. Map outlines of Massachusetts, the 13 Colonies, and portions of Europe are also included with the study, but since Amber does extensive map work in her regular history lessons I did not feel these were necessary to complete. However, the maps are a wonderful addition if your student is not already knee deep in maps!

YWAM Publishing: Heroes of History - John Adams

All in all, the Heroes of History - John Adams biography from YWAM Publishing was a perfect addition to our American history studies. I highly recommend it for any middle school student who enjoys learning more about the founders of our country than is readily available in your average textbook.

Connect with YWAM Publishing on social media:
Twitter @YWAMpublishing
The YWAM Publishing Blog

The Review Crew received a varied selection from YWAM Publishing's Heroes of History and Christian Heroes series. Take a look at some of the other great book!

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

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