Late to the Party, Tip #1: Bread

Okay, so I have made a few recent “discoveries” lately, for lack of a better word. I’m sure that most of you have these figured out by now, so I feel a little silly sharing them here, but my goal in sharing these is to help other people who are late to the party, so to speak. Even if it makes me look a little dull, lol.

Tip #1. Knead your bread for the recommended time.

I always thought, “10 minutes? No, that can’t be right! Who would stand there and knead for 10 minutes?!?” So, I never did.

My bread-baking always failed, and I never could figure out why. Was my yeast bad, was the water temperature wrong, was the air temp too high or low for rising dough, did I cook it too long or not long enough? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. I just needed to knead. I can’t believe I’m admitting this to you.

The first time I tried it the right way (last week), I succeeded! And I was back in the kitchen 2 days later doing it again, so I must not have minded the kneading process all that much. As a matter of fact, it worked muscles in my arms and abs that I could feel the next day, and that made me pretty happy with myself. If it weren’t for the calories involved, I think I would be baking some once a week! (But if I have bread in the house, I can’t NOT eat it… But wait – does kneading it negate some of those calories???)

ANYWAY, to get through the boredom of such a repetitive action for minutes on end, I borrowed my husband’s headphones and listened to a Matt D’Avella podcast. And guess what? I didn’t get bored after all! Magic!

Instead of uploading a beautiful stock image with you all, I am uploading the actual product of my kneading activities.

Okay, that’s all my pride will allow me to share for one day. But I’ve got more, and some are quite recent! I’ll humiliate myself again some other time. Hope to see you then. I guess…

My Best Tip for Writing Research Papers

This tip is for the actual writing process, which can sometimes be the most overwhelming part. I mean, you’ve checked out all your books, you’ve printed online articles, you’ve taken notes, and you’ve arranged everything into chronological order. You’ve discovered a ton of new things, and it was almost even fun. But now, the dreaded day has arrived. You must actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write the darn thing!

How to begin?

Here’s an activity that will warm you up and teach you how to write your paper without stress. I have all of my research paper students do this in our very first class together. I’ve named it Memory Writing, and I hope you find it useful!

Read a fairly-short, informative article at least three times over the course of one or two days. You can choose an article from a book, a magazine, or the internet. Later, put the article completely away and write about the topic in your own words, based on memory.

If there is a name, date, or some other detail that you can’t remember while writing, just leave a blank space. After you are finished, you can go back and insert facts like names and dates.

Write without stopping and without fretting too much over grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. These things can be corrected once you have something written. Sometimes, just getting started is the hard part, and that’s what this exercise will help you conquer.

Now take your research and apply this technique to it. You’ll find that writing from your head is much easier than writing from notes! You won’t have to worry about the drudgery of changing each note card into your own sentence or rearranging someone else’s words into your own. Just write down what you know, and fill in the blanks later. Happy writing!

A New Era of Health and Happiness

Strangely enough, I have entered an era in my life where my happiness seems directly related to something that I am purchasing on a regular basis. Now we all know that happiness can’t be purchased. But health? Health is largely dependent on the food we eat.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

In the last couple months, I have been using Instacart religiously. I have been waiting for it to come to our area for quite some time now. You see, I had all of these hopes and dreams of what my life would be like – how it would improve – if only I had access to Instacart.

Usually, the fantasy versions of our lives never quite match up with reality. The grass is always greener and all of that. However, I was actually right this time.

Here’s how Instacart has benefited our lives (and no, they aren’t sponsoring me or anything like that – life really has improved, and I’m wanting to share the reasons with you, in case you want to try it out for yourself.)

  1. We are healthier. The minimum order in my area is $35, so I order fresh food two times a week. This is twice the frequency that I used to do my shopping, so we eat a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables. I only order 3 or 4 days worth at any given time, and we make sure to eat it all up before I place another order (or plan the next day’s meals around what’s left). Therefore, I’ve barely thrown any food away since using this service.
  2. We are happier. Health = happiness in a lot of ways. When we eat better, we feel better. Our minds are sharper, we don’t need as much sleep, we don’t have as many sugar cravings (because we’re meeting our nutritional needs), we feel better about ourselves because we aren’t as wasteful as we once were, and we look forward to each and every meal because we aren’t eating out of boxes as often. Oh, and the kitchen usually smells like a restaurant. Happiness! 🙂
  3. We are spending quality time together. It’s been way more fun to cook together lately. There really is something to be said about using fresh ingredients – it just seems…right…somehow – authentic. (I once read that when boxed cakes first came out, they contained powdered eggs, etc. All a person had to do was add water and bake. However, after a while, companies caught onto the fact that people like to be more involved in their food – we want to feel like we are actually responsible for what’s on the table. We want to be able to say, “I baked a cake!” Not, “I added water.”)
  4. We are more adventurous. We’ve been trying a lot of ethnic dishes – at least one or two new ones each week. Turns out, it’s a whole lot easier to rely on someone else to find the more obscure items in a store. I think that’s what had been preventing a lot of experimentation in my kitchen.
  5. We are more productive. I can get my shopping done at 6am, at the very beginning of my day. The Instacart shopper is the one that has to wait for ALDI to open, by which time I’m usually already teaching. Also, I don’t have the excuse of procrastinating until the weather warms up or until I have other things marked off my to-do list. I can shop first and just forget about it until the delivery person shows up at my front door.
  6. We are coming out ahead financially. On the surface, the extra costs of Instacart service (driver tip, price differences, and either delivery fees or yearly membership) seem extravagant. However, I really do believe we are spending less money on food nowadays. Maybe that requires some explanation:
    1. We almost never eat out anymore because I plan out my meals in advance. And because we’re incorporating so many fresh meats and vegetables into our meals, we can’t really skip a meal that I’ve planned without worrying about food going bad. (Last time my parents invited us to dinner, I took what I had been planning to make, and cooked it at their house. We had a feast because they made food too!)
    2. We are also eating our leftovers for lunch the next day, every day. That way, I can have an empty fridge before I begin cooking the next meal. Since we are so careful to do this on a daily basis, almost nothing goes bad.
    3. Since our health is improving, we’ll also see a reduced cost of doctor’s visits and medicine in the future. In fact, we have already had better luck staving off sore throats and the common cold.
    4. And last, but definitely not least – no more impulse purchases. This is the one benefit that I had been looking forward to all along – the one I needed in my life. I had actually hired my sister to shop for me a few times for that reason alone – which worked out until she got too busy. She wasn’t going to see a box of cookies and put them in the cart thinking, “Amy would really want these!” Guess what! My Instacart shoppers don’t do that either! If I wanted to, I could totally plan out my weekly calories in advance too, and have a better chance of sticking with it.

Okay, so that’s just a run-down of the benefits that I’m seeing. Does anyone have anything to add? Have you tried Instacart or Walmart Pickup? What do you think?

Already Breaking My Rule

Okay, even though I said yesterday that I didn’t want to post everything to two different blogs all the time, I’m just too excited about today’s post to keep it in one place.

Our little studio is beginning to offer workshop and classroom space to local teachers and experts. We’re hoping that 2020 will be full of guest speakers, community classes, etc. Well, we already have an engagement planned for January, and I couldn’t be more psyched!

To see what we have planned, check out my blog post at Crescenza Studio. (Hint: it’s a seminar for homeschooling high school and college prep.)

The Direction of this Blog vs My New Website

Hey, everyone! I posted yesterday about my new website. As you can probably tell, I’m super psyched about it, but I wanted to be upfront with you about how that might change things around here.

First of all, I haven’t been posting anywhere regularly (not even Facebook). I’ve just come back from a Facebook purge of sorts, and now I’m all set with new goals, a new outlook, and a new Facebook page to go along with it. (And it’s not even 2020 yet!)

I’d like to start blogging here again, and if the past couple days are any indication, I probably will. This will be my space to post about my beliefs, my life, homeschooling and second-generation homeschooling, and anything else I consider to be generally inspirational. I’ll also keep this blog up-to-date if I upload a new book to Amazon.com. So if you enjoy reading about those kinds of things, stick with me here at WordPress. If there are any other topics you’d like to see here, let me know that as well.

My business website, however, will collect all of my local events (workshops and classes), curricula that I’ve written, thoughts about productivity, writing, mathematics, teaching, brainstorming, and music – all of which are relevant to my business. (I’m a  musician, author, music teacher, language arts & math tutor, and entrepreneur. I also have a small venue that other local teachers can use for workshops and classes.) If you’re interested in reading my methods or thoughts about those kinds of topics, and especially if you’d like to get in on local classes (Franklin County, MO), follow me over at Crescenza Studio.

I’ll most likely talk about some of those things here from time to time, but I don’t want to feel obligated to update this blog every time we have a new event at the studio.

My New Website!

I have been teaching music lessons since 1995, and for the last few years, I’ve been teaching writing classes as well.

For the longest time, I have wanted to give my studio a name, but have never been able to settle on anything that wasn’t already taken.

Last April, I came up with Crescenza Studio! I hope you all don’t think it’s too cheezy. 😉

So it’s the name of a kind of cheese, which is I guess why no other music studio uses the name, but I really love it. In Italian, it simply means “growth.”

Because we teach so many disciplines in our studio, and because it’s so close to the musical term, crescendo, I thought it was perfect!

And I don’t mind that it’s a cheese, because that just means that the other studios out there won’t want the name. So when people search “Crescenza Studio,” they’ll land firmly on our website. 🙂

Click here to see some of the exciting classes and workshops we’ve got planned for 2020!

And this just in: A few moments ago, in the middle of writing this post, I had a conversation with Kim Quon, one of the regional directors for FHE (Families for Home Education). On January 23rd, from 6:30-8:30, Kim is coming to Crescenza Studio to talk about college prep for homeschooled high-schoolers. I’m so excited to have our first guest in Crescenza’s classroom!

Let me know if you can make it!

Productivity Prep: a Form of Procrastination?

We spend a lot of time thinking about being productive. We have lists and notebooks and apps where we keep our goals and ideas. We follow YouTube channels and subscribe to blogs and perform Google searches, all in the hopes of finding that one thing that might inspire us or motivate us to be more productive.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Lately, I’ve had the sneaking suspicion that I’m using all of these things as a form of procrastination, all while tricking myself into believing that every minute of my organization and research is a form of productivity in and of itself. And, if used in moderation, I guess it would be.

However, I think I spend more time preparing to be productive than I do producing anything. If I spend 90% of my time in preparation, but only 10% in creation, am I actually doing myself any favors?

So my goal for the rest of this month is this: instead of binging on productivity podcasts or spending countless hours optimizing Notion, I’m going to resist the urge and pick up something to do instead. God knows, I won’t have to look very far to get started. I’ll just start with an item on an already-existing list, and dive right in.

First stop: Text the 5 people I’d like to have as guest teachers in my studio.

I have three questions for you:

  1. Do you think you spend too much time in the stages leading up to productivity?
  2. What’s first on your list of things to tackle today?
  3. Do you have any tips for keeping your nose to the grindstone?