Sunday, August 20, 2017

Our Semester-Long Study of the United States

This post is the 2nd in my back-to-school series for 2017-18.

Although we usually follow a 4-year-cycle for history and science in our homeschool, last year we decided to do something different. Spurred on by my children's interests, we spent the first half of 2017 exploring the United States through books, pictures, foods, and videos. Rather than focusing on memorization of state names and capitals, I sought to give us all a small sense of the culture in each region of the USA. To make our United States unit study more holistic, I decided to incorporate the following for each region:
  • geography
  • history
  • Native American studies
  • science
  • stories and folk tales
  • chapter books, including books for my own education
  • media to accompany the read-alouds
  • pictures of landscapes and famous sites
  • foods and recipes


Read-Alouds, Not Worksheets

I wanted our unit study to be an enjoyable, shared experience between me and my children. To that end, I purposely avoided basing our unit study upon worksheets, which are often used as busy work, and which my children would come to dread. Instead, I built our unit study around read-alouds.

With read-alouds, I was able to easily introduce my children to new ideas, cultures, and places. Through read-alouds, we were immersed in loving households, in the triumph of overcoming struggles and challenges, and in the wondrous fantasy of folk and fairy tales. Read-alouds also sparked some of our most important discussions, leading to the foundation of good character, integrity, responsibility, and kindness.

Whole USA Books

There were a few books which I read to my children throughout our USA unit study:


Regional USA Books

As we progressed around the USA, I checked out many, many books from the library. We read lots of picture books as well as a few chapter books. I thought it would be fun to learn about some of the animals, history, and landmarks in each region, so we read books about national parks, state mammals, and historical figures in each region. (If you want to know more about what we read, I've put together a comprehensive list of books for our United States unit study here.)


Nurturing Our Own Interests

I purposely incorporated our individual interests into the unit study. For instance, since my daughter is very interested in Native American culture and horses, we read Native American folktales and books about horses for each region of the USA. My son is quite interested in machines and structures, so we read books about bridges and inventors as we progressed around the USA.

Part of what made this unit study so enjoyable for my family was that I included topics of my own interest. I love cooking and developing recipes, so making recipes for each region was a great way for me to fuel my own passion while doing this unit study with my kids. We all enjoyed having meals with foods from each region of the USA.


How We Carried It Out

We spent about 2 weeks studying each region of the USA. I wanted our USA unit study to be unstressed and fun, so my kids and I would thoroughly enjoy it. To that end, I made sure to never make our unit study into a "requirement". Rather, we just enjoyed reading books together, looking at pictures of each region, and watching short videos about the animals in each region.

Introducing Each Region
I began the study of each region by briefly taking time to introduce the region. We referred to our large wall map of the USA to see where the region is located geographically within the USA, and I read a chapter from Hillyer's A Child's Geography of the World. Whenever we were interested in a specific state, we'd look it up in The United States of America: A State-by-State Guide to learn more about it.

I printed out pictures of the landscapes and sites in each region and hung them on the wall. It was quite enjoyable to see the different regions in this way, adorning our walls and shifting as we progressed across the United States.

Digging Into Books and Associated Videos
A few days each week, we read picture books for the region in the morning, generally before or during breakfast. It worked well to read one fiction book (such as a Native American folktale or story book) as well as one non-fiction book (such as a science or history book) at a time. Then we followed up the reading with any associated short videos to accompany the books.

In the evenings, we read more picture books and then the chapter book for each region.

Exploring the Foods

Once or twice a week, I made a meal incorporating regional foods. We enjoyed these meals in an unpressured way, allowing everyone the freedom to fall in love with or reject the new foods. The main objective was just to have an enjoyable regional meal together, to experience a small taste of the regional cuisine. 

Enjoying My Own Regional Books
In addition to reading books aloud to my kids, I made time to read some regional books on my own. These books allowed me to fuel my own interests throughout the unit study. When children see their parents feeling passionate and excited about their own interests, the children are inspired to do the same.

Want to Have Your Own USA Unit Study?

My kids and I had so much fun exploring the USA in this way. I hope this post helps you feel inspired to have your own read-aloud unit study of the USA.

To make it easy for anyone else who wants to have their own United States Unit study, I have created a comprehensive USA unit study. It includes over 250 book recommendations as well as associated videos, landscape pictures, and recipes for each region of the USA. 


Have you had any success with unit studies in your homeschool? If so, what were your favorite features?





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Monday, August 14, 2017

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

As summer marches on, there is an abundance of local zucchini available. Zucchini's mild neutral flavor makes it work equally well in savory dishes such as ratatouille and spaghetti, as well as in sweet dishes such as muffins and cookies.

I've previously blogged a recipe for grain-free zucchini spice muffins, but this summer I wanted something different. This mildly-sweet chocolate chip zucchini muffin recipe was a hit with all of my family. It makes a tasty, healthy breakfast or snack.

Chocolate  Chip Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a muffin tin with paper cups. I like to use If You Care Unbleached Baking Cups, as the muffins do not stick to them!
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat and allow to cool a bit.
  4. In the meantime, combine the rice flour, coconut flour, tapioca starch, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sucanat in a medium bowl. Whisk it all together to combine, making sure to break up any lumps.
  5. Combine the eggs and sour cream in a large bowl. Beat it all together with a fork or whisk.
  6. Shred the zucchini using a box grater, discarding the ends. The zucchini does NOT need to be peeled before it is shredded.
  7. Mix the zucchini and melted butter into the egg/sour cream mixture with a hand mixer or whisk.
  8. Dump the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix just until combined.
  9. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  10. Scoop the muffin batter into the paper muffin cups. I like the convenience of using a 3-Tb scoop for this, but you could just use a large spoon.
  11. Bake the muffins at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned. Another way to tell the muffins are done is to insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin; if the toothpick comes out clean (NOT wet), the muffins are done.
  12. Remove from the oven, cool, and enjoy! 

*Want to know more about why I use white rice flour instead of brown? Check out this article.



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Friday, August 11, 2017

Our Homeschool Curriculum for 2017-18 (with a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old)

This post is the first in my Back-To-School Series for 2017-18. Over the next few weeks, I'll be delving deep into the details of how we study specific subjects in our homeschool (such as reading, writing, and geography), so check back for more homeschooling inspiration.

Although we homeschool year-round, each August we officially start our new school year. It is a fun and exciting time when we dive into our new school supplies and books. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2017-18 school year.

Character Comes First

One of the foundational aspects of our homeschool philosophy is the focus on building good character. I believe that teaching my children to be honest, responsible, kind people is more important than the acquisition of academic knowledge, so I focus quite a bit of my efforts on character development.  Household responsibilities, read-alouds, and relationship development are just some of the ways I focus on character development.  My post about Core Phase delves deep into this subject and gives lots of examples of how I work to develop good character in my children, so check out that post if you want more information about how I purposely focus on character in our homeschool.

Individual Interests

An important part of encouraging my children to love learning is allowing them to pursue their own interests. One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that my children have as much time as desired to follow their passions. I'm supporting my children's current interests as follows.

10-year-old daughter Alina

Alina is now several years into having her own chicken egg business. As she is getting older, she is getting to take part in more aspects of the business, such as planning the long-term goals for her flock, making decisions about managing the health of the flock, and learning about profit margins (or, in this case, learning about how far we are from actually turning a profit). Having her own business has taught her much about raising and caring for animals, handling and saving money, the value of hard work, and long-term commitments.

Besides chickens, Alina's other primary interest for the last few years has been horses. That interest seems to be waning now, so I am waiting to see what will spark her interest next.

7-year-old son Ian

Ian is very interested in cars and machines. I am supporting his interest through:

  • Teaching him how to use the lawn mower (he is SO excited to mow the lawn),
  • Letting him (and helping him) disassemble things that break (old electronics, broken lawn mowers, etc.),
  • Getting him involved in household maintenance (such as showing him how the inside of the toilet works, showing him how plumbing works, letting him help wherever possible such as screwing things in, using the manual staple gun, etc.),
  • Letting him participate in car maintenance (which I haven't done since I was in college over 15 years ago, but I realized this would be a good way to let him get involved so I'm going to start doing my own oil changes and routine maintenance once again),
  • Finding videos that show machines working (such as special tractors for harvesting pumpkins, how cotton is turned into cloth, etc.),
  • Letting him get involved in using the kitchen appliances (mixer, food processor, blender, immersion blender) whenever I need to use them for a recipe,
  • Taking the time to stop and let him observe construction sites, and
  • Checking out books about machines and cars from the library.

One curriculum resource that supports Ian's interest in machines is Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Discovery Kit. Both of my kids love doing the experiments in this kit, and Ian especially loves learning more about how electricity works.


Academic Subjects

I do not push my children academically, but nonetheless I do give them exposure to plenty of academic subjects and pursuits. My kids are not required to do school; nonetheless, they love engaging with our different curriculum options. You can see an overview of our daily homeschool routine here.

Reading

I help set the stage for reading proficiency by reading aloud often. We read chapter books and picture books with beautiful language, engaging storylines, and memorable characters. Through reading aloud, I am able to show my children what a wonderful world is hiding between the pages of books. My children participate in a Read-Aloud Classic Book Club, wherein the children discuss books with their friends once a month. I also make a point of reading on my own frequently; children naturally emulate their parents, so it is important for them to see me engaging in reading and discussing books as part of my own lifelong education.

My 10-year-old daughter is an advanced reader who reads voraciously, so I don't do anything in particular to help her with reading. She does periodically ask to do a "reading lesson" wherein she reads aloud from a McGuffey Reader.

My 7-year-old son is in the early stages of learning to read. Ian likes to plan ahead, so a few months ago he set a goal for himself to do two reading lessons per week, on Wednesday and Friday. With his naturally-structured nature, he makes sure he does his two reading lessons each week, and he usually does them a day early! Currently, his favorite resources for reading lessons are:


Writing

We don't use a formal writing curriculum. Instead, I encourage my children to write in the following ways:

  • I make sure that my children see me writing in my own notebooks on a regular basis. This makes a huge difference in the amount of writing that they choose to do themselves.
  • Since their writing skills lag behind their composition skills, whenever they ask I will write or type poems, stories, or songs for my children.
  • When we do Nature Study, my children have the option to write in their Nature Notebooks.
  • My children have Pen Pals in Nevada and Canada. My children love receiving letters in the mail, so this has been the biggest motivator for them in practicing their writing frequently. 
  • After seeing me write in my commonplace place book over the last several years, my daughter decided to start her own commonplace book. She uses this book as a place to copy down her favorite poems.

Math

I am not using a traditional math curriculum for my children. Rather, they are learning math in the context of everyday life, through games, and through math read-alouds. For more details of how I teach math without a formal curriculum, check out this blog post.

Currently, our favorite resources for math study are:

One new math game for this school year will be Cribbage, which uses cards and a scoring board to see who can first reach 121.


Chronological History, Science, and Math

Last year we took a break from our usual history studies to focus on world and United States geography and culture. This year, we are diving back into our 4-year cycle of history, and will be studying Ancient History.  This school year will be my daughter's second time studying Ancient History, and will be the first time for my son. While planning ahead for this year, I came up with the idea of incorporating math and science into our chronological studies, so I will be using the following books concurrently, reading selections from each in chronological order.

  • Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer - This book tells of ancient history in a story format, interweaving myths and legends in with the history. The audio version of this book offers a great option for turning driving time into learning time. Because we have used this book once before (4 years ago), I know that I prefer to follow a different order for the chapters in the book. Instead of following chronological order as in the book, I prefer to focus on each ancient culture individually. 
  • A Child's History of the World by Virgil Hillyer - I will read this book alongside SOTW, giving different perspectives and details of many of the same events in SOTW. Hillyer's writing style is particularly engaging for my children, as they absolutely loved it when I read them A Child's Geography of the World last year. 
  • The Story of the First Americans: Ancient Times by Suzanne Strauss Art - This book highlights what was going on on the Americas in ancient history, and will be a good addition to round out our history studies. I like that the end of each chapter includes a few ideas for projects that correspond to the text.
  • The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim - I was uber-excited when I found this late-elementary/middle-grades series that tells the story of science in chronological order. This book will allow us to incorporate science alongside with our history studies. This book includes many full-color photographs and looks like it will be an engaging read.
  • Mathematicians Are People, Too by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer - This books tells the stories of mathematicians and their lives. While studying Ancient History, we will get to learn about the mathematicians Thales, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Hypatia.

A few resources that I find useful to complement our history studies are:
  • All Through The Ages: History Through Literature Guide - This excellent book is a great resource for finding picture and chapter books to supplement Story of the World and A Child's History of the World. Whenever either of my children seems particularly engaged in a topic from one of those books, I use All Through the Ages to find more books on the subject at our local library.
  • Rand McNally World Wall Map - This beautiful map adorns one of our living room walls and allows us to easily see the regions we are studying.
  • Replogle Globe - We frequently use our beautiful globe to look at the locations of the places we read about in our history lessons, so history lessons become geography lessons as well.

Hands-On Science

In addition to the chronological science book mentioned above, this year our hands-on science studies will focus on Animal Science, Human Biology, and Nature Study. We'll be using the following science resources:

Beauty and Creativity

I incorporate beauty and creativity into our home school in the following ways:

Circle Time

About twice per month, my children and I have Circle Time, where we sing, dance, and read poetry together. Our poetry book is Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls (which is a great compilation of poems about a wide variety of topics including childhood, the seasons, and family). You can read more about our Circle Time here.

Arts and Crafts

I make sure we have plenty of materials on-hand for arts and crafts. In addition to crafts they come up with, I make time to do painting, simple sewing projects, and holiday decorations with my children. We're using the following resources for arts and crafts:
  • Draw Tip Tuesday - This youtube channel is a great source of inspiration for drawing and painting.
  • Crayola Air Dry Clay - My kids love making creations with this inexpensive clay. It can be painted once dry.
  • Kinetic Sand - Kinetic Sand is kinda like sand, except it sticks to itself, never dries out, and is not very messy. My kids have been playing with our Kinetic Sand for hours each week lately, creating bridges, creatures, and freeform shapes.  
  • Pelikan Watercolors - These are not washable, but they are really vibrant compared to the Crayola watercolors we've used in the past.
  • Low-temperature hot glue gun - My children use the low-temp hot glue gun for making crafts.

Music Appreciation

My children and I are learning about the lives and music of great classical composers. We enjoy listening to the fourteen Music Masters CD's, which tell the story of each composer as well as demonstrate some of their music. The Story of Classical Music is also enjoyed by all. These CDs are a great way for us to make use of driving time, and we are all gaining a greater appreciation for classical music.

My children and I also attend live concerts. These range from classical music concerts to folk music concerts to Christmas concerts. And once a year, in December, we have a small family music recital which the children are welcome to participate in. Through these concerts and performances my children are able to gain first-hand experience with the beauty of music.

Free Play

Play time is hugely important in brain development. Though we do school work throughout the week, I make sure that there is plenty of time for my children to just play every day. Through their play time, they are able to engage their curiosity, develop their creativity, and learn much about how to interact with each other and their environment.



What changes have you made to your homeschool for the coming year?



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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Crispy, Creamy Coleslaw

Crispy and creamy, cool and refreshing: coleslaw is a versatile side dish that I tend to make more often in the summer months. Besides using coleslaw in its typical pairing with barbecued foods, I like to eat coleslaw in a variety of other ways: as a side dish for breakfast eggs and toast, on sandwiches, on toast with liver pate. This recipe for coleslaw makes an ample portion, so there is plenty to use in the following days. Have you ever tried coleslaw on a sandwich with lunch meat? It's fabulous!

Coleslaw
Makes ~6-7 cups of coleslaw
  1. Remove and discard any bruised or dry outer leaves from the cabbage.
  2. Chop the cabbage in half. Reserve one half for another use.
  3. Remove the core and stem from the cabbage.
  4. Chop the cabbage into small bits. Place in a large bowl.
  5. Peel the carrots. Discard the ends. Grate the carrots and place in the bowl with the cabbage.
  6. Remove and discard the ends from the celery stalk. Chop the celery rather finely and add it to the bowl with the other vegetables.
  7. In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir until well-mixed.
  8. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Stir it all together.
  9. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours before serving. This coleslaw recipe is even better the next day. 
  10. Serve and enjoy! Besides using this coleslaw as a side dish for meats, try putting it on a sandwich.




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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Smashed Potato Pancakes (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

When there are lots of leftover Butter Smash Potatoes, this recipe for Smashed Potato Pancakes is a great way to create something new and delicious. Smashed Potato Pancakes are beautifully browned on the outside, with a nice crispiness that gives way to a soft smashed potato interior. They make a versatile side dish that pairs well with meats, veggies, or applesauce, or they can just be topped with some gravy. Yum!

Smashed Potato Pancakes
Serves 5-7
  • 5 cups leftover Butter Smash Potatoes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten, preferably from pastured hens
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour*
  • 1/3 cup packed finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1&1/2 Tb minced green onions, green parts only
  • 2-3 Tb refined coconut oil
  • 1-2 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows


  1. In a large bowl, mix the rice flour and eggs into the potatoes. Then mix in the Parmesan and green onions. I like to use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to mix this all together. 
  2. Use a 3 Tb scoop (or just a large spoon) to make mounds of the potato mixture. I like to use a scoop with a spring release mechanism, as it easily makes the mounds all evenly sized and round.
  3. The smashed potato pancakes will need to be cooked in batches. Heat 1 Tb coconut oil and 1/2 Tb butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. (Or, if you want to spend less time cooking the pancakes, use two skillets for this recipe. I like to use two 10-inch cast-iron skillets for this recipe.)
  4. Smash each potato mound between your palms, until they are about 1/3-inch thick.
  5. Once the oil and butter are shimmery and hot, add the smashed potato pancakes, making sure there is plenty of space around each pancake. A 10-inch cast iron skillet will hold about 5-6 of these pancakes at a time.
  6. Cook the pancakes over medium heat for a few minutes, until the edges are looking nicely browned. 
  7. Flip the pancakes over and cook a few more minutes.
  8. Place the cooked pancakes on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain off any excess grease. 
  9. Add more oil and butter to the skillet if necessary before cooking the next batch.
  10. Once the pancakes are all done, serve and enjoy! These taste fabulous plain, dipped in applesauce, or drizzled in gravy
*If you want to know more about why I use white rice instead of brown, check out this article.























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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ratatouille (nutrient-dense : dairy-free : grain-free)

Ratatouille (pronounced rat-uh-too-ee) is a perfect summertime side dish. French in origin, ratatouille consists of seasonal vegetables including zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes, simmered with olive oil and herbs.  One of my favorite things about ratatouille is that it is just as delicious when served cold as when served warm. I make up a large pot of ratatouille and then eat it as an easy, cool side dish throughout the rest of the week.

Traditionally, ratatouille contains eggplant, but since no one in my family likes eggplant, I make my ratatouille without it.

Ratatouille
Serves 4-6
  • 6 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium white onions, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (red, orange, and/or yellow peppers work well in this dish)
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped 
  • 2 yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp celtic sea salt (or less if your tomatoes are salted)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • one 18-ounce jar of Jovial diced tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 Tb fresh oregano, minced (or substitute 1 tsp dried oregano)
  • 2 Tb red wine vinegar (or substitute 1 Tb balsamic vinegar and 1 Tb apple cider vinegar)
  1. Put the olive oil in a 4-quart, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onions, 1 tsp salt, and bay leaf. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the bell peppers, zucchini, and squash. Keep the peppers separated from the squash since they will be added to the pot at different times.
  3. Stir the bell peppers into the pot and cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mince the garlic.
  5. Add the zucchini and summer squash to the pot, and sprinkle with the other 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir it all together and cook about 3 more minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, mince the oregano.
  7. Stir the garlic into the pot and cook about 2 minutes, just until the garlic is nicely fragrant.
  8. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and oregano to the pot. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low, to maintain a simmer. 
  9. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.
  10. Turn off heat and serve! Fried potatoes make a nice pairing with ratatouille. Leftover ratatouille is fantastic when served cold.





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Friday, June 16, 2017

Hawaiian Chicken Long Rice (grain-free : dairy-free : gluten-free)

Chicken Long Rice is a simple, delicious Hawaiian dish. Chicken thighs are simmered in ginger-and-garlic infused chicken broth, with green onions and bean thread (cellophane) noodles added at the end. My 7-year-old son declared this to be the "best soup he's ever had," and the rest of us really enjoyed it too.

Chicken Long Rice
Recipe adapted from Foodland.com
Serves 5-7
  1. Combine the broth, water, garlic, ginger, salt, and chicken thighs in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam.
  3. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Allow the chicken to cook for 35-40 minutes, until fully cooked.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the green onions, separating the green parts from the white parts. Slice the white parts about 1/4-inch wide, and the green parts about 1/2-inch wide.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool.
  6. Stir the soy sauce, cayenne, and rice vinegar into the broth in the pot. Taste the broth and add more salt as needed.
  7. Add the white parts of the green onions and the noodles to the pot. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  8. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the bones and chewy bits. Discard most of the skin (or set it aside for the dog!). Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces.
  9. Add the chicken and onion greens to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook just long enough to re-warm the chicken. 
  10. Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Affiliate Disclosure - Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Desk Cycle - Easy Physical Activity Booster For Desk Workers

The Desk Cycle is a small stationary bike that fits under most desks. It allows a person to easily incorporate physical activity into times that would normally be sedentary, such as reading a book, watching TV, or while working on the computer.  I received a complimentary Desk Cycle and my family has been testing it out for the last few weeks.

The Desk Cycle has turned out to be useful to all four members of our family, so I'm excited to share our experiences with it. In this post I will focus specifically on the use of the Desk Cycle by my husband and myself while working on a computer. In a separate post, I will share our experiences using the Desk Cycle while homeschooling.

Our Immediate Impressions

The Desk Cycle was well-packed and easy to assemble with the supplied tools. Given that there are so many poorly made products on the market these days, we were surprised by how well-built the desk cycle is. It is sturdy and has rubberized feet that keep it from slipping away while being used, though at higher resistance levels the bike can slide away if it's on a smooth surface. There is a simple solution included with the Desk Cycle, a Velcro strap used to secure the bike to your chair.

The Desk Cycle is amazingly quiet while in-use; we were able to use it unobtrusively while doing a variety of tasks. The Desk Cycle has an attached display unit that shows the speed and distance, along with other information. We have found the display unit to be easily read while the bike is under a desk, however, the display unit can be moved to the desktop using the supplied stand and extension cable.


Fitting the Desk Cycle Under Desks

For reference, we thought it would be useful if we included some measurements of our desks and legs. I am fairly short at 5 feet 1 inch, but my legs are a little long for my height such that petite pants are always too short for me. My inseam (from crotch to floor) is just short of 30 inches. My husband is 5 feet 10.5 inches, and his inseam is 32.5 inches.

At-Home Desk Measurements

  • Height to bottom of keyboard tray - 23.75 inches 
  • Desk height - 28.75 inches 
  • Depth of desk - 23.75 inches without keyboard tray extended; 32 inches with keyboard tray fully extended 
  • Seat height - 20 inches 
Husband's Work Desk Measurements
  • Height to bottom of keyboard tray - 26 inches (it has a support arm in the middle of the tray that extends downward, but doesn't seem to have any effect on using the Desk Cycle since it is in the middle of the tray) 
  • Desk height - 30 inches 
  • Depth of desk - > 5 feet since it is a corner desk Seat ht: 18 inches

How Does the Desk Cycle Work?

The Desk Cycle is quite simple to use. It has a knob that allows the user to easily choose among eight resistance levels. The resistance levels are actually achieved through the use of magnets, with Level 1 being fairly easy and Level 8 requiring quite a bit of effort.  The Desk Cycle fits well under most desks but can also be used while sitting on a couch or chair away from a desk.


My Husband's Experience Using the Desk Cycle at Home and Work

My husband has to be a little careful when using the Desk Cycle at our home desk, as he can bump his knees on the keyboard tray while cycling if he's not paying attention. For him, the Desk Cycle actually fits better under his desk at work than under our desk at home. At work, he is able to easily cycle without hitting his knees on his desk due to a combination of a higher keyboard tray and lower seating position.

The desk cycle is so easy to use while working that my husband has had to be careful to not use it too much, at least until his muscles become accustomed to it. He has been easily cycling about 5-8 miles per day at resistance level 2 on the Desk Cycle and is looking forward to going further once he is ready. His knees, which have always been problematic, were initially a bit sore from using the Desk Cycle, but they are getting into the groove of being able to use the Desk Cycle.

We wondered if the Desk Cycle would be a useful tool to help my husband overcome the disadvantages of his desk job. 40+ hours per week of sitting at his desk for over 11 years have given my husband chronically tight, weak lower back and hip muscles. After just a few weeks of using the Desk Cycle, my husband is able to tell that it is having a positive impact; his lower back and hips are more flexible and feel stronger. Though he has a long way to go, the short-term improvement has been surprising. Combining the Desk Cycle with some yoga stretching has even allowed him to begin doing some light strength training, which was previously hindered by his back and hips.

My Experience Using the Desk Cycle at the Computer Desk

I typically exercise 6-7 days per week with yoga, walking, hiking, gardening, and/or strength training. Nonetheless, I do sit at a desk ~15-20 hours per week. Our at-home desk, where I do most of my blogging and homeopathic consulting, works well for me with the Desk Cycle. I can easily cycle without having to rearrange anything.  

Resistance level 2 or 3 works well for me without breaking much of a sweat or messing up my typing abilities. My posture is actually much better while using the Desk Cycle, as I tend to sit up much straighter while cycling instead of slouching on my chair. Typically, if I am sitting for an extended period of time I will have some stiffness when I stand up, but I've noticed that if I cycle while I'm sitting I feel much less stiff when I stand up. 

Overall Impressions

Overall, my husband and I are very pleased with the Desk Cycle. It is a fabulous tool for helping us increase our physical activity levels and improve our physical health while at a desk. Although my husband and I have substantially different levels of physical health, the Desk Cycle has proven to be effective and enjoyable for both of us. In fact, the only real disadvantage is that testing out the Desk Cycle has made me want to have another one, so that one can remain at my husband's workplace and one can be used at home.


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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hawaiian BBQ Huli Huli Chicken (gluten-free : dairy-free : nutrient-dense)

The last stop on our homeschool "trip" around the USA is Hawaii. In searching around for Hawaiian recipes, I found Huli Huli chicken, which is the Hawaiian version of BBQ chicken. The BBQ sauce is actually quite similar to teriyaki sauce, but with the unlikely addition of ketchup.  I developed this Hawaiian-inspired recipe for Huli Huli Chicken last week, and my family absolutely devoured it. This is a recipe we'll definitely be coming back to again and again.

Huli Huli Chicken

Serves 4-6
  1. At least 8 hours before dinner, prepare the marinade. Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl, stir well, and give a few minutes for all of the dry ingredients to dissolve and become incorporated. 
  2. Stir up the marinade and reserve 1 cup which will be used to make the basting sauce. 
  3. De-bone the chicken thighs. There is a simple tutorial here that shows how to remove the bones. (I save and freeze the chicken thigh bones until I have accumulated enough of them to make a pot of homemade chicken bone broth.)
  4. Cut the de-boned chicken thighs in half. This allows the chicken to have more contact with the marinade and also allows it to cook faster.
  5. Nestle the chicken into the remaining marinade, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. Cover and refrigerate for ~8 hours (and refrigerate the reserved marinade as well).
  6. About 35 minutes before dinnertime, remove the marinating chicken from the refrigerator. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Make sure the oven rack is around the second rack of the oven from the top, not too close to the broiler but also not down in the lower half of the oven.
  8. Put the reserved cup of marinade in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon.
  9. Generously grease a baker's half sheet pan with sunflower oil.
  10. Remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange it on the sheet pan, skin side down. 
  11. Once the oven is preheated, place the chicken pan in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  12. Remove the sheet pan from the oven, baste the chicken with the thickened sauce, and flip the chicken over. Baste the chicken again and place back in the oven.
  13. Set the oven on broil and allow the chicken to cook for 6-8 minutes. The broiler will nicely crisp up the chicken skin, but be sure to watch the chicken CLOSELY to make sure it does not get burned. 
  14. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before serving. If desired, the remaining thickened sauce can be served alongside the chicken.
  15. Serve and enjoy! Nutrient-dense white rice or pineapple coconut rice would make a great side dish for this meal.

Do you have a favorite Hawaiian-inspired recipe?



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Friday, June 2, 2017