French Macaron, Tries #1 and #2

I’ve been watching too much Great British Bake Off. Again. LOL. I just love it and I binge watched a bunch on the 4th of July. As a result I’m challenging myself to learn some cool baking skills this month.
Like this… A Spanische Windtorte

It was BEAUTIFUL, but no more delicious than a pavlova and about 10 times the work/time. I filled it with fresh whipped cream, cherries, strawberries, and fresh lemon curd. It was insane. (I used the linked recipe and cut the sugar by 25%.)
Today I tackled the French Macaron. I’ve never made them before so I watched a couple you tube videos and read up on Pinterest. I used the recipe from THIS video.

Well, I learned A LOT in the first batch.

1. Bake one tray at a time. Or this will happen:

2. Use more food coloring (to avoid cookies that are weak in color) and cook them a little longer.

3. I get what they mean about consistency of the batter more now. It’s such a weird thing – get lots of air in… then stir it out.

Batch #2 went better than #1. I rested the piped cookies longer, so I got nice feet. I used the convection setting, so they cooked faster. That’s nice, except I overcooked them. Ooops. 

I used the same filing for both – a French Buttercream (from the linked video). I followed the directions except instead of 3 1/2 T milk I used lemon juice. It was basically lemon curd and it was fabulous. Tart, bright…perfect with the cookies.

No filter!!

So I’ll keep practicing. The macarons very nice, fun, and a just little impressive. LOL! And, for those when I need a go to recipe, they’re gluten free. I like that they aren’t too sweet, and are tasty!! What’s not to love??


Our Curriculum (or Curriculums, or Curricula) for 2017-2018

First off, I had to type “2018”. SERIOUSLY!?? What is THAT? I still think it’s like 1997.

Anyway, it’s that special time of year when I actually get organized for the upcoming school year. When my kids were little I used to do this in February. It’s July now. I am finally taking this seriously. School here starts 1 August. Ugh. Let’s hope Amazon and UPS are on the ball this month!

Here are the goods…

Big, Junior (Yes, “Junior” is as unsettling as typing “2018”…).

Math – Pre-calculus

Yes, this is kind of a repeat of Advanced Math last year but we want a SUPER firm foundation heading into Calculus. And, maybe more importantly, this will be Dual Enrolled ON a 4 year college campus, so we wanted to give her some room to breathe as she starts out.

Science – Astronomy with Lab

Dual Enrolled. Great “ratemyprofessor” ratings and a super interest area, so this should be awesome!

History / English / Bible  – Notgrass Exploring America

I know this isn’t the “most rigorous” curriculum out there, but it’s interesting, it gets it done, it’ll be manageable her DE schedule, and we’ll be supplementing with a lot of “life”. Big would like to staff TeenPact this spring, and be a Congressional page, and we’re planning a visit to DC… I am not a believer that EVERY class has to be super hard, and super challenging, and stretching. Some are just really interesting and fun. History and lit are those subjects this year.

German – German 2

This year we’re switching German providers, mostly for scheduling reasons. Big will take German 2 with OSU and we’re excited to see how that works out.

Elective – AP Computer Science Principles

I read about this through The Well Trained Mind, and it looks fascinating. Both kids will take this one, and hopefully take the AP test in the spring. It’s super affordable ($150) and has great reviews from kids who’ve take it.


Little, Freshman 

Math – Finish Saxon Algebra 2, start Saxon Advanced Math, and test prep in the spring for the ACT.

Science – Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemisty

We’ll be doing the book work at home, and Little will be taking a co-op lab at a local college once a week. We’ll do Bio next year (as I cannot miss a FREE, fabulous, lab option!).

History / English / Bible – My Father’s World Ancient History

I am looking forward to this one! I love that the schedule is done, and the progress will be very self directed. Little will handle this really well. I am super looking forward to a more organized Bible plan than in year’s past.

Spanish – Duolingo

So, Little thinks he’s taking Swahili, or Hawaiian, or Korean. NOT. I’ve learned my lesson. He’s taking Spanish. I can help. I can facilitate. No more wacky languages here until they Dual Enroll! He’ll figure this out 1 August. LOL!

Elective – AP Computer Science Principles

Same as Big. I think he’ll really like this one!


OTHER “ELECTIVES” – Hopefully, even with our crazy schedule, we’ll spend Tuesday mornings working with Habitat for Humanity locally, and Thursday mornings at Community Bible Study. I forsee a CRAZY full fall, but we can handle anything for a semester (I think!).

PrepScholar – Our Review

{OK, for all the records, this is our review. We paid for the program. My student did the program. And we have not received ANY compensation for this review. It’s just us. Writing a review. So there you have it. }

I cannot BELIEVE that Big is getting old enough for high stakes testing – like the ACT, but she is. This year she will be a Junior and Little will be a Freshman. Nuts. Really. Last year I had Big take the ACT. Mostly we did it for annual testing, and since she was finishing up the first half of Advanced Math it seemed like a great time to take it for math retention. Before taking it she did about 6 weeks of very light Kaplan online test prep, (we’ll review that program later).  Since she has her heart set on some VERY top tier engineering schools she really wanted to improve last year’s score.  We made a deal this summer that she could a) test prep – like for REAL, or b) get a summer job. Since test prep and math are much more “fun” to her than bagging groceries or waiting tables – she chose option a.

I did some online research about different test prep companies and in the end we went with PrepScholar. The things Big liked about it (since I wasn’t using it, I didn’t pick), were that it was asynchronous. This is great for a self motivated kid – who doesn’t need a class time and instructor to keep them on track – but it’s not great for all kids. She also liked that it was NOT video based. She’s not a huge fan of videos (“they can be super boring and go too slow”) so she liked being able to go at her own pace. And, she liked the guarantee, (if you COMPLETE the program and don’t raise your ACT +4 points to a max of 34, then you get your money [$397?] back).

So here are the brass tacks (and the improvement between the two tests after Prep Scholar):

Math: +5

Reading: +4

Science: +1

English: +7

Composite: +4

I would say that’s a HUGE success and well worth the time/money that was invested. I am NOT a huge fan of high stakes testing, but if you have to do it you might as well do your best. As we approach college applications, I also see where a great ACT score can back up all of our homeschool grades and give us some “street cred” with colleges.  I think testing is like any  other skill, and good practice is a good thing. As a parent I feel like PrepScholar did a great job and I would recommend them highly. I will say, any program will only be as successful as the student that is working through it, so if your student won’t put in the work (Big estimates it took about 50-60 hours to “complete” the program), then don’t expect to qualify for the guarantee.  I think it would still be worthwhile, but not as much as a kid who wants to do well and really applies themselves. In total disclosure, Big actually went through the program twice. She finished it a couple weeks before the test, so she ran through it a second time. The time invested on the second run was about 20-30 hours, (and she doesn’t really feel like the second run did anything other than to keep the information fresh).


Since I didn’t use the program, and Big did, I had her write a review for all of you parents (and students) who want a “how did it work” review. Here is Big’s user review:


You start by taking a  diagnostic and then telling PrepScholar when you are going to take the test. This allows them to schedule their lessons so you can complete them all in the time allowed. Each week you start by putting in when you are planning to study for the following week. You can opt into text reminders here if you want. When you finish the week, PrepScholar automatically sends an e-mail to you and your parent telling you to “commit to these study times this week!” The e-mail is not personalized, so you can put in that you’re planning to study from 1:00 am to 3:00 am and there will be no response. [Mom comment: Big did this and it was pretty funny! In the throes of heavy ACT prep, any laugh is welcomed! LOL!] At the end of every week there is an auto generated email that asks you if you met your goals. Honestly, the emails weren’t super helpful. On your dashboard there is a meter that tracks how much time you’ve done compared to 10 hours. It claims that it’s your goal time inputted earlier, but no matter what you input, the meter only ever shows 10 hours as the goal.


PrepScholar schedules 10 lessons a week, although I usually managed to do more. Each lesson comprised of a reading section with practice questions followed by a timed “quiz” on the topic. Based on the diagnostic, the website assigns you levels for each skill. Depending on how well you do on the quiz, you can go up in levels. The three levels are basic, advanced, and mastery. There are different lessons for basic and advanced, and once you get to mastery they stop assigning lessons for that skill. [Mom comment:  I think to “complete” the program you have to master all of the assigned skills – but that’s worth looking in to if you decide to use the program.]

Every so often they give you full length, official practice tests. These are taken from the ACT Official Prep guide*, which is included in the course. Then you transfer your answers onto the computer and they are automatically graded. I wasn’t a huge fan of this method, because there were no bubbles filled in and what with that and the transferring to the computer I wasn’t sure if the timing was accurate. You could do a practice essay as well, and they will grade it for you as part of the test. Once you master all 54 skills the course is over and you have the 4 point or your money back guarantee. This took me about 50-60 hours the first time and 20-30 hours the second time. They will open the course back up for you if you ask them to. There are also 9 additional strategy lessons that don’t have any quizzes.


While free and not technically part of the PrepScholar program, I felt it necessary to include a little spiel about their blog. It has lots of information and advice about the ACT, SAT, and even the PSAT. There is lots of information about different colleges as well. The one thing I will mention is that a lot of information repeats, and some of their articles are basically the same content-wise.


So that’s it. Overall I would recommend it. It was a great course that really helped me cover all my bases, and I think it did a lot in helping me prepare for the ACT.

*The Official ACT Prep Guide comes with bonus online content. There are some practice questions and college preparation advice. If you don’t know much about college, applying for college, and the like, then it’s worth a read.

There you have it. One last thing I will mention, is that while PrepScholar will grade three essays (as part of the practice tests), I don’t think the program is great for the essay portion of the test. We had them grade the essays, but if you REALLY need work on the essay then this won’t help much. The program is really about raising composite scores – and for that – it’s a great program. I’m glad we invested in PrepScholar this year!

Weeks In Review – 3/24/17

I know I haven’t done a Week in Review in a couple of weeks, so much for my resolution of awesome consistency, eh? LOL! Such is life. Hopefully I can cover two weeks without annoying my 2 readers!

This Week In …

… School:


It’s been a busy and somewhat productive couple of weeks. Last week we rocked 4 days of school. I’ll freely admit, one of those days was some serious car schooling. My Brother-In-Law needed us to go test drive a car about 70 minutes away, so that took up the majority of Thursday. We did get a lot done in the car and at home before we left for the day.  Friday the local schools were out, so Little’s scout troop had a trip starting at noon, and Big had her initial meeting with her Student Adviser over at the Dual Enrollment college, so the day was a wash. We are all definitely seeing the light at the end of the semester’s tunnel.

This week we pulled off 3 solid days and one lighter day. Thankfully, the kids have worked so far ahead and have been very diligent before and since the move, so we’re having no problem with days off and easier days. Big and I took one day off and went to meet some friends at Berry College for an official visit (Little worked hard at home with DH), and another day we met an old friend in Atlanta for lunch. It was an old grad school friend I haven’t seen in about 10 years, so it was a welcome reunion.



… Life School:


Cooking nights for the kids are continuing. They’re actually enjoying it (usually!). Little had a fiasco of a giant sandwich / lime pie night, but otherwise things have gone smoothly. Big made some delicious cheeseburger soup one week, and KILLED IT on PI DAY with excellent individual chicken pot pies.


So, we bought a little, old, very fun sailboat a few weeks ago off of Craigslist. It’s been SO SO SO MUCH fun teaching the kids to sail. Both DH and I grew up sailing little boats, and I was even a competitive sailor in college, so it’s such a blessing to get to pass this on! Thankfully DH is a STUD and can repair anything because The Boat leaks. Kind of a lot. LOL! So he’ll add more patches and we’ll get her lake-worthy for the summer.  Seriously, this is the best thing.



… Other Stuff:


We had some minor sadness here last weekend. We were supposed to have friends stay with us for a few days and do some fun stuff and college visits. Sadly, one of the visiting kids got sick so they had to head home early. It made for some gloom and disappointment here, but our friend recovered quickly, the sickness didn’t spread, we got to meet up for lunch and the college visit anyway,  and we’ll get to see them again soon.
Recipe of the week – BREAD MACHINE NAAN. I am NEVER buying naan again. Ever.


Free cone day at Dairy Queen. Score!!! I took the boys before scouts, and indulged with them, and then let the girls run in after Beauty and the Beast (which I really, really liked!).


… The Move:


I think I hit a wall this week. I’ve realized that we’re met some people, and everyone is very “friendly”, but we don’t really have any “friends”. I know it’ll be a while. It takes time to connect and let down your guard. I know. But I think that maybe spending a night with some great, real life friends made me realize we’re  [I’m]  in a pretty lonely spot. We are inviting people over for meals (which is hard, but good), and even attended a social event with people from church (including dinner after), but it just feels weird… forced… awkward. I really miss being around people who know me and accept me for me.


Friday nights at the fire place continue. We love this. It’s a great time of connecting and grounding our weekend. Love it.


We’ve discovered Bruster’s. Yum. Serious yum.


… On the Horizon –

We’re joining a church! Well, DH and I are joining. LOL! The kids are learning more about the denomination and we’ve decided to let them decide for themselves if they want to join and when. Of course they’re attending with us, and had a ton of input in our decision to join there (as a family, even if they decide “officially” to join later), and are very happy with the decision to call it HOME.  It’s scary and awesome having older kids who are learning to make adult decisions for themselves. I am thrilled to be finding a HOME for our family to learn, serve, and grow.


Fun days ahead. I’ll update as I can!!



+ Sickness was contained and recovered from quickly.

+ DE class swap. This is big. So thankful.

+ Fun college visit with friends. Berry is STUNNING.

+ A church HOME. A new start. A new family.



If you’re inclined to join us in prayer we’d HUGELY appreciate it!!!

+ House sale. Gods timing is perfect and it will sell when it sells, but we covet your prayers.

+ Safe travel. Fun times ahead. We’d love your prayers for safety!


How about you?? How was YOUR week?

Homeschool Coffee Break
The Homeschool Post








Working for Me Wednesday – Homeschooling High School

Math. I’ve talked a lot about it here on Fried Clams, but this week Big and I decided something was really working for us and I wanted to share.

We use Saxon Math from Algebra 1/2 and up. Love it. We use it with the Art Reed dvds and Big is currently on lesson 107-ish of the Advanced Math book. Starting in Advanced Math we do a half lesson a day. The lessons just start to take a LONG time, and the material is THICK so we ration it a little. So, we used to do the video and odd problems on Day 1, and then the next day we’d finish with the even problems. But, with this system the video days were always pretty long, with of the videos running 8 minutes, but some 20+.

While this may seem blatantly obvious, we decided that on video days we’d only do problems 1-10. Then, the next day we’d do 11-30. Now it seems like both days are a totally great deal. Mentally, we’re psyched for either day – “YAY! Video and only 10 problems!”, or “Sweet, no video and only 20 problems!”.  It’s funny how such a simple change has made our math time so much easier!!

What’s working for you this Wednesday?!

Homemaking LInkup




Field Trip – Dismals Canyon, AL

WARNING – This post was written a while ago (maybe a year or so?) and never published. The prices listed may have changed. [OK… I looked it up, and it’s now $12/adult, $8.75 for kids, with the $1 add on for picnicking on their back deck.]

A friend and I decided recently that we needed a road trip. The weather’s been beautiful and she needed a break, so we packed the kids up, loaded the car, and headed to Dismals Canyon.

Dismals Canyon is a privately owned property with camping, hiking, a grill, and a gift shop area. The admission rate was $10 for ages 12 and up, and $6.75 for ages 11 and under. Those are for self guided tours (hiking and a map).

Since we arrived in a day when the grill was opened, picnicking was “prohibited”. As a conservation minded person, I get the desire to limit trash and I agree that people can be slobs and disregard their personal clean up, but banning picnics and posting that all my bags could be searched was really off-putting to me.  If you arrive when the chill is closed you can picnic – for $1/person… to eat the food you brought…on their deck… Hmmm.  I wasn’t impressed.


Overall the site was really, really beautiful. The day we went the weather was (as you can see!) perfect. We did about a 1.5 mile hike which was perfect for us. It left us a lot of time for exploring, relaxing, and hanging out and talking.


I took a ton of pictures!!



It really was a great break from our normal homeschool routine. I think I would go back again, but I might consider a different location with a more liberal picnic policy if I had a large group.


Are there any good day trips near you that you’d recommend?

Week in Review : 3/10/17

I know I haven’t done a Week in Review in FOR_EV_ER, but I’m hoping to get back on track. The kids and I LOVE reading them from years past, and get a huge laugh over all the stuff we’ve forgotten about. I also just got a SWEET new laptop – all my own – complete with a non USB mouse (because for some reason in our house the mouse and the little sensor thing can NEVER stay together…grrr…). I am thrilled and hope to blog more consistently!!

This Week In …

… School:

We’ve actually been pretty productive this week. Despite the move we’re pretty much on or ahead of schedule. Apparently having no friends and a limited social calendar make for lots of productive homeschool days!

The kids are also catching on that “done” means “DONE!”, so anything scheduled to be completed this year that gets done early means more free time for them. Hence, Big has completed her assigned Literature and is making HUGE strides on History. Little is working hard on wrapping up Aero and decided today he’d pick up the pace in math (we’ve been doing 1/2 lesson a day and he’s committing to a full lesson) to wrap it up in half the time. [Now, I wouldn’t do this for anything that they’re not excelling in, but so far, it’s not been a problem with retention or skills.] I think he’s on track with history, too.

The classes that will drag on for a while are the online classes (Big – German, Little – English), Advanced Math and Chemistry. BJU DLO Chem is just HARD and doing more than a lesson a day is just too much. The same holds true for Advanced Math. And, online classes require you to stay at their pace, so those will wrap up when they wrap up.

Guitar lessons are going great. Big sounds really good. Wow, this is so much easier to listen to than beginner violin or even piano!

Not actually school, but kind of school, is news that Big was accepted into the Dual Enrollment program at the local college. It’s a 4 year liberal arts college, so I think its pretty cool!! She’ll start there this summer. I’ll blog a lot more about what she’ll be taking, schedules, why we’re going that route and more in another post. The college is about 35 minutes away so today we may go down, walk around (we haven’t done that yet!) and buy a t-shirt. Big times here. I’m so excited for her and the adventures God has for her!

… Life School:

I’ll keep the details brief on this one, but we’ve recently had a shift in chores here. Little (a 14 year old DUDE) will now manage all of his laundry. While he’s skilled and has done laundry before, he’ll be flying solo. (And perhaps, a budding entrepreneur, he was theorizing he could make some cash in college doing other dude’s laundry… which I think is actually a great idea!! LOL!!). For fun we went to Publix and I am not joking, smelled EVERY detergent. He picked out a nice cold water, stain fighting, not-to-smelly Gain. We’ll see how this goes! LOL!

We’ve also instituted kid’s cooking nights here. I won’t say that the [honestly made in jest] comment about “woman’s work” started it, but for two weeks the kids have each had a night to cook. This week Little (the Tuesday Chef) made pizza and invented a chocolate pizza based on a book he read recently. It was DELICIOUS.

… Other Stuff:

Friday night we attended a TINY HOUSE festival. We’re all over the tiny house deal and think it’s a great junior/senior homeschool project. It was a blast looking at all the houses, seeing what we liked/didn’t like, and checking out different builders. There were some super helpful people and lots were eager to answer Big’s questions. I really, really hope we can execute this project!!

This week was the state AAU TKD tournament. The kids learned a lot. I learned a lot. I am grateful the injuries weren’t worse. Really. I hate Olympic sparring. I am grateful that Little already had his braces installed. Really.

We’re made great progress on finding a home church. We visited 8 (yes, EIGHT) in the local area. Some were OK, some were terrible for our family, and like each one of us, none were perfect. We have found a place where we’re all happy about it’s biblical stance, peer group for the kids, and opportunities to serve both in the church and the community. I am THRILLED the search is over. It was so hard. We’ve already attending the “so you want to join our church” class (which was 4 weeks long!), and I am ready to get plugged in. To show how eager we are… we’ll be hosting a home group this weekend. Yikes!!

I haven’t, but will blog about this, but my Community Bible Study class is just about the greatest thing since air, iced coffee, and puppies. It’s amazing. If you have one near you – please try it out.

Seriously – the BEST COFFEE CAKE EVER. Add chopped pecans to the top and filling. Perfect. Moist on day 3. It makes a HUGE amount so I recommend a half recipe.

… The Move:

We’re now three months post move. I was joking with someone yesterday that like babies, I’m now past counting in weeks and made it to months. LOL!

Since we’ve been putting a lot of effort into it, we’re actually meeting some people! I went to lunch at a friend’s house last week, which was such an encouragement. Saturday night we had dinner ( and learned to play dominoes at our soon-to-be neighbor’s house, and then yesterday after bible study I had lunch with a lady from my core group.

Check me out! I am making myself get out of my comfort zone and meet people! It’s not easy, but I have was inspired by Sally Clarkson’s comment in one of her books that she started every group she’s been a part of. That was a huge encouragement for me. The older I get I see that most everyone wants to be a part of a group, but rarely do people feel they are – so I’m trying to work on inclusion, community, and reaching out.

… On the Horizon –

We’re headed to one of my favorite cities, Chattanooga, this weekend for a play. Some of our VERY favorite teens are in a school production so we’re headed up to cheer them on. I am really looking forward to it!

Sunday we host our first home group. I already cooked all the taco meet and we’ll clean some today. I’m nervous but so far really like the people we’ve met!


+ Injuries weren’t worse from the TKD tournament.

+ Fun, busy week.

+ Big’s DE acceptance news!


If you’re inclined to join us in prayer we’d HUGELY appreciate it!!!

+ House sale. This week is Spring Break back in MS, so we’d love to get a reasonable offer, sell the house, and move on with plans to build here. It’s all in God’s timing and we’re calm knowing that!!

How about you?? How was YOUR week?

Homeschool Coffee Break
The Homeschool Post