Friday, December 30, 2011

Free Friday

Do you like to welcome in the new year with a crowd, lots of lights and people? Or, are you more inclined for a quiet, contemplative evening?  Maybe you're asleep when the new year is official.  However you choose to ring in the new year, we wish you and your family a Happy New Year!  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's for Dinner?

Christmas has come and gone. Most likely in a whirlwind of family and wrappings.  Hopefully there were some good eats in there as well!  New Year's Eve is Saturday. Growing up, my mom always served a bunch of appetizers and dips for us to feast on.  I'm taking you for a trip on the way-back machine and sharing her clam dip recipe and my mother-in-law's cheese fondue.  Both are so delicious!

Clam Dip
Judy Bailey

1 box of cream cheese, softened
1 can minced clams
1 can chopped clams
1/4 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T mayonnaise
1 1/2-2 t lemon juice
1/8 t garlic salt
1/8 t celery salt

Combine all ingredients but the clams in a bowl and beat with a mixer until well-blended and smooth.  Drain the clams, reserving some clam juice.  Add the clams and a small amount of juice into the mix and mix by hand.  Taste for seasonings. (I add more Worcestershire, lemon juice and salts but don't measure them.)  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Overnight in the fridge is best, but a few hours will do. Serve with veggies, crackers or bread.

Cheese Fondue
Ginger Newman

1/2 lb. of aged cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. jack cheese (pepperjack is really good)
1 large garlic clove
3/4 c white wine
1/2 t dry mustard
Tabasco (6-7 drops)
Big dash of Worcestershire
1 T cornstarch
3 T sherry or brandy
If you don't have a fondue pot, try a crockpot or keep fondue heated over a low flame on your stove. 

Cut the cheese into small cubes and place in a bowl.  Add the garlic clove (minced or pressed) and the mustard and blend together.  Heat the wine to a bubbling stage and add the cubes of cheese a few at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until all of the cheese is melted.  Blend the cornstarch with some wine and add to the pot. Add the Tabasco, Worcestershire and sherry. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Delicious with bread, small boiled potatoes, veggies, sausage, anything you like.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Magical Moments: Ring in the New Year

Hopefully your weekend was filled with magical moments!  This is the last week of 2011 and in preparation for 2012, here are some fun ideas to help ring in the new year.

Oatmeal canister drums

Individualized party plasticware

Stomping on packing bubbles

Confetti eggs

Have you seen the new SLO Classical Academy website yet?  It looks fabulous! Many thanks to all the helping hands.  Grab a cup of coffee and take time to navigate the site.  We hope you'll find magic, inspiration and reminders about what makes our community and our school so great.  Happy Monday.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Free Friday


It's Friday once again.  Hopefully, this first week of vacation has been full--full of relaxing, reading, and rest.  Or perhaps, you were finishing up holiday preparations (or just starting?).  No matter how you spent your week, celebrate this Friday by being Free by Five.  Step away from electronics and social media to spend face time with those you love.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's for Dinner?

Beef Stew.  It's warm, hearty and speaks of winter.  My favorite version is a mix of two similar recipes from the Joy of Cooking (sorry Julia Child!).  The "Boeuf Bourguignonne" recipe has complexity and depth while the "Basic Recipe" has all of the familiar elements.  Mix them together and it's delicious! 

Beef Stew
Joy of Cooking and Joy, serves 6-8

2 lbs. stew meat
2 c dry red wine
1/4 c olive oil
1 onion, chopped,
1 carrot,  peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove
1 bay leaf
2 T parsley, chopped
1 t fresh thyme
1 t pepper
1/2 t salt
4 oz. bacon, diced
any other additions you'd like: carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, cut into chunks
beef stock, optional

Mix all ingredients but the last three in a large bowl. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour but overnight is best.  Turn the meat occasionally.  When ready to cook, drain the beef and pat dry.  Strain the marinade and reserve separately from the vegetables.

Heat a large pot over medium high heat and brown the bacon.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon leaving the fat in the pot.  If you don't have at least 2 T, add some oil.  Add the beef in batches and brown on all sides being careful not to overcrowd the pot.  

Remove the beef, add the marinated vegetables and cook until lightly browned for about 5 minutes.  Stir in 2 T flour.  Cook, stirring constantly for about 1 minute.  

Add the reserved marinade and then add the beef and bacon back to the pan.  If there isn't enough liquid to almost cover everything, add some beef stock, chicken stock, or wine.  How much to add depends on how much liquid you prefer in your stew.  Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered until the meat is fork tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Once the meat is tender, add the other desired vegetables. Cover and cook until the newly added vegetables are tender, 35-40 minutes.  Skim any fat from the surface.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Add freshly chopped parsley, if desired. If the sauce seems too thin, add a little kneaded butter to thicken (equal parts softened butter and flour mixed well. Use sparingly) Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Magical Moments: Crafting Together

'Tis the season to be gifting friends and neighbors.  Involving your children in the process can go a long way in not only teaching them practical lessons (baking, measuring, hand-eye coordination for the younger ones) but also gives the opportunity to live out some of our character traits: gratitude, kindness, citizenship and respect are the ones that immediately come to mind.  Plus, whether it's for a special occasion or just because, making things together is just plain fun!

May these ideas inspire you as you spend time together as a family.

All photos from links below
Double click to view larger

SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any of the above mentioned sites.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Free Friday

It's Friday!  Our three week vacation is starting.  What are your plans? Perhaps you'll check out some of the books highlighted in yesterday's post, sleep-in, or do some extra baking.  Whatever you find yourself doing, enjoy the extra family time.  Since it is Friday, we'd like to remind you about being Free by Five.  Technology can be a wonderful tool, but let's be wary of overusing it--unplug this weekend and be present in the moments, be they hectic and chaotic, or quiet and serene.

Down Home will be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during our break.  Expect some fun activities and recipes, so stop on by when you get a chance.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What's on Your Night-stand?

SLO Classical Academy took to the streets, er playground, to ask a question: What books are on your night-stand?  

Donna Jacobson, Track B
Radical by David Platt, 
The Flint Heart by Eden Phillpotts (to read with the kids)
Paul by Walter Wangerin
Black by Ted Dekker

Penny Malley, Track B

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (family read-aloud in the big bed)
A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

Edie Overduin, Track A

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 
Reveille in Washington 1861-1865 by Margaret Leech
The Disappearing Spoon by 
Sam Kean
Except for Thee and Me by Jessamyn West
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Jenny Curzan, Track B
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp in rhyme byArthur Ransome
Dinotopia by James Gurney
The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairytales Retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Perhaps you'll find a new vacation read among these titles.  Thank you, ladies!

Our winner for the Kindness drawing is Jenny Bischoff.  Thank you for sharing your character traits pdf, Jenny! Enjoy your Starbucks gift card.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's for Dinner?

Today's recipe is kind of fancy and long but that's because I have an eye on the holidays.  I'm not sure if you have traditional holiday fare, but have you ever done home-made pasta?  It's very delicious and really fun. If that's not exactly your thing, but you'd like more of that home-made flavor, then wonton wrappers are just the thing for you!  Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list or all of the steps.  Trader Joe's and Costco sell already chopped up butternut squash.  If this filling isn't appealing to you, make up your own or try this one. Whatever you find yourself eating, Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage
Giada De Laurentiis, serves 4-6

2 lbs. cubed butternut squash (3 c)
2 T olive oil, plus 2 T
1 1/2 t herbs de Provence or other seasonings
1/2 salt and 1/4 t pepper
2 shallots, chopped (1/2 c)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 c ricotta cheese
4 small amaretti cookies, crushed (I think these are delicious but optional)
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1 package small wonton wrappers

3/4 c butter
2 T fresh torn sage leaves
1/2 c toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries or cherries or a mixture
1/4 t salt and 1/4 t pepper
1/3 c grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a foil-lined baking sheet, mix butternut squash, 2 T olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Bake until soft and golden, 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in small pan and cook shallots and garlic until lightly golden, 3 minutes.  In a food processor, combine the roasted squash, shallot mixture, and the ricotta cheese. Pulse a few times to blend. Add amaretti cookies, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth.  Filling can be made one day ahead.

Lay out 6 wonton skins, keeping remaining skins in wrapper. Place 1 T of squash filling into the middle of each skin.  Using your finger or a pastry brush, dip in water and wet the edges of the wonton skin.  Gently fold wrapper into a triangle, making sure edges are securely closed without air pockets.  Dampen two bottom corners of the longest side of the triangle and gently bring them together forming the tortellini.  Place them on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.  Continue making tortellini until all the filling is used up, drying work surface to keep the wrappers from sticking.  At this point, you can freeze the tortellini on a baking sheet and then transfer to a bag and freeze for up to 6 months.  To cook frozen tortellini, toss into salted boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  For the sauce, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the sage, walnuts, cranberries and let cook until the butter starts to brown, about 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Gently place the tortellini into the boiling water and gently stir. Cook for about 3 minutes or until they begin to float.  Remove tortellini with a slotted spoon to a serving platter. Top with the brown butter sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan and enjoy.

Today is the last day to enter our drawing for a Starbucks gift card. Comment on our Kindness post to enter!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Art of Thank You

Children are many wonderful things, among them, prolific artists.  Do you have piles of artwork, too dear to be parted with?  Repurpose it as a greeting card or a thank you note. With the holiday season here, plan ahead and make thank you notes now so they are all ready for writing.  Make a simple card out of your child's artwork or click here for another fun idea.

Not only does this demonstrate resourcefulness, but it's another way to practice gratitude.  How do you manage all of the accumulated art in your house?

Tomorrow is our Classic Story Hour with Merideth Eades. Invite a friend to the Lewis Library at 9:30!

SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with either of the blogs linked above.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Magical Moment

Today's Magical Moment is from Jenny Bischoff.  Jenny and her husband, Paul, have three kids--Kate (Lower Middle School), Georgia (Primary), and Calvin (Jr. Kindergarten).  This is their sixth year at SLO Classical Academy and Jenny is also the Wednesday NOL (Nice Office Lady).

I was at a friend's house the other day and our kids were playing together while we moms were enjoying a much needed tea break. They were using the program "Garage Band" on her Mac to make up silly songs (a favorite past-time), and called to us to come and hear what they'd done. The recording they made was a hilarious radio broadcast complete with a hip-hop rap song all about the history they had read that day. Whose kids do this? It was great - they thought of it themselves, they had a blast, they got to be creative, and they were doing narration without even realizing it! Yet another reminder of why I love being part of this school. 

Thanks for sharing, Jenny. What a great use of technology to enhance learning. Have you left a comment on our Kindness post?  Leave a comment or suggestion and be entered in a drawing for a $10 Starbucks card.  Contest closes Wednesday.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Free Friday

Our second trimester is under way and we are continuing our exploration of the New World as well as the heavens above. We are also well into the holiday season and all that entails. It can often seem like the above picture, as we buzz about from one activity to the next.  Let's not be bogged down in "busyness" but take time to unplug and recharge, take time to display gratitude and kindness.  

It's Friday, so we'd like to encourage you to be Free by Five and turn off your electronics, step away from social media for a time and be in the moment with your family.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, December 08, 2011


No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. 
~Aesop, "The Lion and the Mouse"

Have you come up with a fun, creative way to display our school's character traits in your home, yet? If not, do not despair; there is still time. Perhaps the "need" to make it look a certain way has paralyzed your process. Don't let it!  Post them on your refrigerator or tape them to the bathroom mirror.  One of the strengths of our program is that we, as parents, have so many opportunities to talk about and deliberately nurture character in our children. Let's not waste the amazing opportunities that come our way!

Last month, we talked about fostering gratitude and this month's character trait is kindness. Let's be intentional about practicing acts of kindness in our homes this month.  Perhaps each member of the family draws another family member's name and performs random acts of kindness for that person throughout the week.  Bake cookies for a lonely neighbor, or pull out the trash cans for the elderly man on your street.  There are so many ways to nurture our children (and ourselves) in this area.

How do you foster kindness in your home?  Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing for a Starbucks gift card.  Or, tell us how you display our character traits in your home.  Drawing closes next Wednesday.

You don't need a Google account to comment; just leave your name in your comment and click "Anonymous" after typing everything. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What's For Dinner?

Today's recipe comes to you from a dear friend of mine.  It's simple, delicious and easily feeds many people.  Use leftover ham if you have it, or check the grocery store for a small slab of ham. I know Trader Joe's sells one.  This Ham and Cheese Puff could be served for any meal, really.  Pop it in the oven first thing and breakfast is ready when your guests awake.  Pair it with a salad for lunch or a light dinner.  

Ham and Cheese Puff
serves 12-15

1 loaf of Italian bread cut into 1-inch cubes or torn into pieces
3 c cubed, fully cooked ham 
3/4 lb. Monterey Jack cheese or Muenster cheese cubed or shredded 
1 med. onion, chopped (can also use dehydrated onion flakes)
8 eggs
3 1/2 c milk
1/4 c prepared mustard

Toss the bread,  ham, cheese and onion flakes.  Put into a greased 9 x 13" baking dish. Mix eggs, milk and mustard in a bowl and pour over bread mixture.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Freezer Paper Stenciling

The winter weather and shorter days lead to more indoor activities.  With the approach of vacation and holidays, it’s always helpful to have new craft activities in your arsenal.  

Have you ever done freezer paper stenciling?  Freezer paper can be found in the regular grocery store next to the aluminum foil, parchment paper and wax paper.  Basically, you draw or just cut out a shape, design or letter (simple silhouettes are the easiest and exacto knives work best) and then iron (shiny side down) your stencil onto your fabric.  Paint over your home-made stencil, allowing the paint to dry before peeling off the freezer paper.  Use fabric paint if it’s a washable item.  If you own a Cricut or a Silhouette, it's also possible to have the machine cut out our stencils. This would be an easy way to personalize pillows, book bags, make holiday/celebration banners, and of course design one-of-a-kind t–shirts.  Or, make your own fabric first by stenciling your own design and then sewing something with the new fabric. So many fun and simple projects can be done using this easy technique!

                          photo by Joy Newman                     {source}

If you were to receive a stenciled item, what would you want?  A pillow, book bag, t-shirt, or...?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Magical Moment

Today's Magical Moment was written by Cozy Faber. Cozy and Jeff Faber have been involved with SLO Classical Academy for 4 years.  They have two daughters, Ava and Sia who are both in the intermediate level on track B.  Cozy is also the Development Director of SLO Classical Academy.

Friday nights are rockin’ in our house these days!  Often we put the kids to bed early and hit the hay ourselves well before the double digits are revealed upon the clock’s face.  This past Friday night however, each of my girls had a friend sleep over.  The plan was pizza, a movie (don’t tell anyone at SLOCA that we own a television!) and then to bed. 
           The “drop-off” of the kids involved a lot of physical activity: touching and tagging, chasing and catching—as if to validate they were actually together.  After the time of acquaintance wore off, the hunger rolled in—furious and immediate.  These four children absolutely needed sustenance in the form of a round disk-like object covered in sauce, cheese, peperoni and olives. We hopped  into the van and the four of them talked and chatted and ran sentences around and over and in between each other. As I started the car, the CD that had been playing during our last trip permeated and intruded upon their cacophony of conversation and the Latin songs began to play!
       You would have thought that those four girls were 16 years old in 1968 when the Beatles stepped onto Ed Sullivan’s stage.  They SCREAMED with laughter, singing the songs they have been learning in class loudly and off-key.  As we exited the car they marched arm in arm belting: “Here comes magistra, Salve! Salve!” The people around us turned and stared—I held my head high and followed behind as we entered Papa John’s, proud that my kids have friends that think singing Latin together is fun and cool and worth doing loudly.  Because anything worth doing is worth doing loudly, right? 

Thanks for sharing, Cozy!  If you are invested in purchasing this fun workbook and CD, Song School Latin is available in the school bookstore.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Free Friday

photo by Joy Newman

It's Friday!  Perhaps it was slow going after a week of vacation, or maybe you hit the ground running on Black Friday and haven't stopped.  Either way, the weekend is here.   The weather has been so beautiful here on the Central Coast. 

Holiday season is in full swing. There have been Santa sightings in SLO and in Arroyo Grande and the SLO Holiday parade is tonight.  Or, maybe a peaceful hike is on your agenda.  However you choose to spend your weekend, try and be Free by Five and free yourself from electronics for awhile. Bask in the joy of real-life relationships and savor your time with family. Happy Weekending!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Dad's Reading Group

Troy is our Associate Director as well as a Lower Middle School teacher on Track A.  He and his wife, Summer, moved here recently with their two daughters, Faith Marie and Grace.  Both girls are in Lower Middle School.

The last Friday of October a group of dads got together to discuss the book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. The book outlines the change in communication, especially through the media, with the advent of the television. It was fascinating listening to other perspectives from dads who are professors to engineers to businessmen. Everyone seemed to approach the changes in communication from a different perspective, but all recognized that we have to be vigilant in our own lives and with our children to engage knowledgeably with various media. It was a refreshing time of conversation over a good book, coffee, and doughnuts.

You are invited to participate in our next two book discussions.
January 27 we will be discussing Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and April 20 we will discuss Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Both books are classic literature worthy of our attention. I hope you will join us.