Thursday, April 17, 2014

Italian Cooking Experiment

We're studying the Continents this year in Geography/History.
 Presently, we are in Europe.
Last week, we studied Scotland, and had a grand time presenting our research at our local homeschool group's International Fair.
 Here's a pic of Blue and Pink in their Scottish attire. (Just for fun.)
(His kilt is a little short, but hey... it's not like I buy skirts to fit my son, people. We adapted from something Pink had in her closet.)
Okay, anyway.....
THIS week, we are studying Italy.
Today's activity was cooking an Italian food.
Now, I know what you're thinking.....but no, we did NOT make pizza!
We made gnocchi!!
 Definition: In the culinary arts, the word Gnocchi refers to a type of Italian dumplings made from potatoes and flour. The word "gnocchi" means "dumplings" in Italian.
I also wanted the kids to make their own pasta sauce, but we kinda cheated on that part. Rather than begin from whole tomatoes, we cut to the chase and used canned tomatoes.
Along with tomatoes, we added some various spices, and a bit of sugar.
( I've been making my own sauces like this for awhile now, as part of our gluten-free diet. I've got a great homemade BBQ sauce that goes wonderfully over some of Daddy Elephant's grilled ribs, which are awesome!!.....but back to Italy.)
Added the spices.....


Stirred things up.

Then we covered the sauce and simmered it for about two hours.
Meanwhile, we got the potatoes going for the gnocchi. I like to let the short people help with most safe steps of cooking projects, so we used the sink they could easily reach to wash the potatoes.

Mama Elephant did the paring, despite Blue's reassurances that HE could do it for me.
 Um, not this time, kiddo. :)

Then, we boiled!
 I actually made a double recipe of the gnocchi.
 Which turned out nicely, since Daddy Elephant needed something to take to work for lunch break tonight!

Meanwhile, I gathered the other ingredients needed for the gnocchi.
Eggs, salt, and flour.

Time lapse!!
The boiled potatoes go into the fridge to cool before mashing.

Meanwhile, the Elephants watched a few Youtube videos. We watched the history of pizza (while a man made some pizza; shocking.) We watched a how-to video on both spinach gnocchi and potato gnocchi. Which I liked, since the kids were more confident when we got to the 'shaping' part later on. They also watched an episode of Traveling With Kids featuring the country of (you guessed it!) Italy. We talked about what they'd seen and learned over our dinner.

Gnocchi time!
We mashed the potatoes up, added the eggs, then I added the flour.
(I was pulling double duty on mixing and picture taking, so I missed some shots.)
 The finished dough.... I should have let it rest for a few minutes, and I will next time.
 But at this point, we were racing the clock to have dinner with Daddy before he left for evening shift.

Let's roll! Gnocchi gets rolled into dough snakes,

then cut into small pieces,

 and then shaped.
Daddy got into the action for this part!

Roll the gnocchi on the fork tines to make the indentions that 'catch' the pasta sauce.
 Look at that focus on her face!

This was a super fun family activity!! 

Our sauce, plus the sautéed garlic and meat that daddy helped me cook up and add.
Gnocchi goes in.......

It's done when it floats!

Time to say grace and dig in!! 

Pink's first taste...

Pretty plate of hard work and learning! 
 Blue though it was.......
Pink loved it, too!

I've never made gnocchi before today.
Before our Italy study, Gnocchi was just the name of Chef Pasketti's cat on Curious George.
(Yep, I'm a mom!!)
It was a LOT of fun, and it honestly makes me want to try making pasta, next!!
Try making gnocchi at your house!!

  • Two medium boiled potatoes, mashed (equal to 1 cup)
  • salt
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose (GF) flour
  • patience
That last ingredient is needed if kiddos are helping. (LOL) Boil potatoes until tender enough to be pierced with a fork, but still firm. Around 15 minutes. Drain and cool. Mash them, and measure 1 cup of potatoes into a large bowl. Add 2 cups of (GF) all purpose flour. Add 2 eggs, and a good dose of salt. Mix together until a dough forms. I had a bit of trouble with this part, since we use GF flour. I found a third egg plus about 3T of water made the dough perfect. Gather the dough into a ball, and let rest (covered) for about 20 minutes. Divide the dough into 1/4s and roll out into "snakes" about 1/2in thick. Cut the dough into short lengths, about 1/2in long. (Ours were all kinds of sizes, with small hands helping.) Press the gnocchi pieces onto the back of a fork, rolling downward over the tines to create grooves.
Set gnocchi gently into a pan of salted, rapid-boiling water. They are done when they rise; around 3-5 minutes.
Cover with sauce of your choice, and some cheese. (If you get to eat cheese!! lol) *This recipe makes 4 servings. Enjoy!!
Thanks for visiting the herd!

Monday, April 7, 2014

I'm In Love With Somebody With Autism

I don't wake up everyday and think
"Oh, yay, today I get to spend the day with my "Neuro-typical Daughter"
and my "Autistic Son."
I think "Where's the coffee?"
 That was a joke. Sort of.
What I mean is, I don't wake up every morning focusing on the presence of Autism in our lives.
I wake up, and live.
I wake up to two beautiful (crazy) little elephants.
I wake up to adventure.
(This would be Timon and Pumba...ha!)
I wake up to chores to accomplish.
(Nothing says a made bed like your sister showing off her nails, sitting next to your stuffed animals.)
I wake up, and I live.
I wake up to schoolwork.
I wake up to special occasions and holidays.

I wake up to field trips.
I wake up to Cousin Time days.
(Cracks me up how Blue has his own personal space issues, but invades my bubble ALL the time!)
I wake up to projects.
(The Alps.)
I wake up, and I live. 
I wake up, and I love my elephants.
I love them because they are mine.
I love them for their uniqueness, their individuality, their spunk, and their ways of looking at the world.
I don't love Blue Elephant because he has Autism.
But I am in love with a little guy who makes my world come alive, and he happens to have Autism, too.
I'm in love with somebody with Autism.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Through Blue's Eyes

Our conversation with B.E. about his Autism has been a quiet one until recently. Sure, he has attended months worth of therapies since his diagnosis. We called that "Going to see Miss So-and-So" each week. Occasionally, we'd throw around acronyms in front of Blue, but not with any explanation; he never asked for one, either.
With Blue Elephant being diagnosed at the age of 5, we didn't feel he was ready to grasp the concept of Autism, nor did we see much in his demeanor that would indicate he understood the extent of his differences from his peers.
Over the past 6 months or so, that's begun to change and evolve in front of our eyes. Daily life is hard in an Autism household. You're constantly dancing to keep up with the next twist and turn thrown your way. Any given day might hold beauty and laughter, (we strive to make joy a point of practice in our household) and suddenly dissolve into tears or frustrated miscommunication. B.E. has meltdowns when overwhelmed, like any ASD kiddo. He also marches to the beat of his OWN drum, regardless of what the "rest of the group" may or may not be doing.
It was after one such "adventurous" Sunday at church that Mommy and Daddy Elephant decided B.E. was ready to "be informed". We sat him down with a fun little E-Book about a boy with Autism. He scrolled through the pages, reading aloud with clarity....and growing excitement. Almost every sentence was followed with an exclamation of "Hey! I do/like/am that, too!"
The moment that brought tears to my eyes was his completely natural comment of "I guess I must have Autism, too!" 
I wanted to be sure he grasped the idea of what it was and was not.
"It's not something 'wrong' with you, B.E., you do understand that? It's a way of your brain working differently than others around you. You can't tell by looking at you that you have Autism. But, you know that it affects your life everyday. It's part of what makes conversations hard to follow, and why it's hard for you to look people in the eye. It's also part of why you love quoting movies so much!"
He nodded, and smiled.

"Mommy has something kind of like that, too."
"You DO?!"
"Well, I don't have Autism, but I have what is called Meniere's Disease. That means my balance gets off and I can get dizzy very easily. Now, you can't tell that by looking at me on the outside, can you?"
"But you know what? Meniere's affects me every day. It means I have to be careful what I eat and don't eat (which was a great lead in to talk about his GF/CF/SF diet), how much rest I get, and even how I move my body around. It doesn't mean I am 'bad' or 'weird' for having Meniere's, it just makes me different than other people."
I could tell by his face and his bright eyes that he totally 'got' it.
"Do you have any questions about your Autism?"
"Yes. Can I go tell Pink that I have it?!?!"
And off he dashed, excitedly hollering up the stairs to his sister for her to come down and hear about his Autism.
Hearing, understanding, accepting.
 In 10 minutes. 
Society could learn a lot from that little 7 year old.
Since that day, we've had an ongoing conversation about Autism around here. It comes up in everyday life, and we chat about it.
Today, Blue had a writing assignment for schoolwork. He had chosen his little sister, Pink, as the subject of a comparing/contrasting paragraph between she and himself.
There it was, smack in the middle of favorite colors and hair color.
 "Pink doesn't have Autism, but I do."
He knows it makes him different.
 He knows he's a stand-out kiddo.
 He also sees his Autism as a part of who he is, on the same level that being a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy describes him.
It's there, everyday.
We modify life to accommodate it.  
But it doesn't stand in his way at all.
Would that the rest of the world understood that, as well.
 Autism is different, not 'wrong'.
It's what makes some kiddos the unique little individuals they are.
And just look at this little Blue Elephant....
He's as special as they come.
Happy Autism Awareness Month, from our herd to yours!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's That Month Again

It's April. You know, Autism Awareness Month.
Today is April 2nd, the official "day" to celebrate awareness.
 I'm aware, trust me.
 He's our Blue Elephant, and he was diagnosed in the fall of 2012.
 September 11, 2012, to be exact.

(Our family in November of 2013, the day both Blue and Pink were baptized. )
Everyday, we are "aware" of Autism, and how it affects our lives.
Everyday, we continue to be thankful for our boy.
(Being the Statue of Liberty on our "Freedom Day" in homeschool last month.)
Everyday, we see the little things that most people miss.
(The sensory stimulation of cramming his mouth full of food every time he eats because he likes the way it makes his jaw work harder.)
Everyday, we have to get creative to help him navigate life.
(Schooling outside at the park, doing multiplication problems with chalk on the sidewalk.)
Just two examples of little "quirks" our Blue Elephant has.
Oh sure, sometimes B.E. has meltdowns in public, and we have to deal with them. But it's done in the midst of staring eyes or judgmental thoughts.  
I don't think many people understand the root of a meltdown.
There's the not-so-fun-side of Autism that few people few people "get" it. Unless you're living in an Autism family. Then, I know you get it. :)
Autism doesn't keep our boy down, or hold him back.
He's an amazing kid, and just because his road is a tougher one than most, doesn't mean we're discounting him at all.
Far from it.
He's got big dreams, and we've got high hopes.
(Blue Elephant during President's Day...this is his "presidential pose".)
Blue Elephant for president? Who knows..... for this kid, the sky's the limit!!
Happy Autism Awareness (Day) Month
from our herd to yours!