Valkyrie’s Log – Blending, Baking, Confucius and confused Cultures

Milk and Whisk

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Cultured.

Today should have been a day of long walks and cupcake baking. But instead was all culture killing and Zhou dynasty quizzing. Our Saturday had consisted of Kombucha bottling and Banana Bread baking, banana bread so good that we totally ruined our appetites for dinner and ended up going for a very pleasant guilt induced evening walk for nearly an hour. Guilt for putting ice-cream in our lunch time smoothies (1 apple (peeled), 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/4 vanilla ice-cream, splash of milk and 2 ice cubes) that were supposed to be paired with salad but somehow the salad became unnecessary😅 Also mild guilt for the accidental dinner of L’s freshly baked banana bread, only mild as it was almond flour banana bread with relatively low sugar content (comparatively speaking).

So today started out as a “back on track” healthy active day. We had tuna salad for lunch and only the smallest square of banana bread 🤤 Then I was going to make yogurt and L was going to knock out the rest of her Social Studies from the previous week. But boy oh boy do the social studies of the Phoenician culture and the Shang & Zhou dynasty’s know how to swallow a day whole! Mid lecture, having pasteurised the milk to 180ºF, while clarifying the tactics behind the Mandate of Heaven and the influence of Confucius… I dumped my thermophilic culture into a piping hot half gallon of milk. Yogurt makers of the world will be simultaneously gasping in shock and groaning in sympathy. I put the whole pot in the fridge in a vain hope that if I cooled the milk down to the required 110ºF fast enough and scraped the meagre amount of leftover starter yogurt into the pot, things would somehow magically be saved… tune in again tomorrow to hear the most likely inevitable plight of our latest batch of Instant Pot yogurt (I’m going to give it the night in the hope that those few mighty cultures will take a leaf out of their Viking host’s book and conquer the whole darn pot!).

Grateful for:

  1. Banana Bread and Skype

Valkyrie’s Log – How to teach your homeschool student to enjoy exercise

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Working it out.

We became the proud owners of an FTX Inspire home gym a couple of weeks ago and now that it is all set up, we’ve made ourselves a fitness plan. I told my husband I wanted to work out a little every day, I find it much easier to pop down to the gym in the evening and knock out a 20 minute work out than to commit to an hour 3 times a week. These workouts will supplement our morning dog walks of 40 mins minimum and keep us in good shape for twice weekly hikes!

I love a good table so here is what I made for my daughter L and I (M for Mom). Explanation of exercises is below. We can fill in the sheet as both a record of (hopefully) our improvements in strength, and as a record of L’s Physical Education.

Upper Body 3×10

1. Pull Ups 3 x 10 or 4 x 5
2. Inclined seated press  3 x 10
3. Negative Push ups 3 x 10
4. Standing Shoulder row 3 x 10 each side
5. Rotator Cuff Pull out (elbow in) 3×10 each side
6. Bent Row 3 x 10 (3-5kg)
7. Tricep extensions with rope. Elbows tucked
8. Tricep dips on bench
9. Bicep curl elbow tucked
10. Hanging knee lifts

1. Squats x25
2. Push ups x10 (Knees down if needed)
3. Straight arm pull down (v low weight) x25
4. Lying leg lifts x15
5. Crunchies x25
6. Russian Twist x25
7. Jumping Jacks x20
8. Burpees x10
9. Mountain Climbers x20

Lower Body 3×10

1. Side Leg Out (handle on ankle) 
2. Goblet Squats
3. Reverse Lunges
4. Calf Raises (stand on toes)
5. Hanging Knee lifts
6. Hands through reverse squats (rope through legs, back to machine, heavy weight)
7. Glute Bridges 
8. Back Extensions 

The quantities for Upper and Lower body work are a target for us to work towards as we build our fitness over the next couple of weeks. The cardio numbers were higher originally but my husband decided it was best to start low and build up rather than to have numbers that felt wildly unachievable.

To begin with we will focus on form and familiarisation with the machine. Yesterday I did 10 of each Upper Body exercise just to get the hang of it, some 10’s were enough, others were easy. L will use no weights, working mostly to her own body weight and building up strength befitting her build, for her using the machine is more about novelty rather than necessity, no baby body building here! I will work my way up to weights that make the numbers achievable but still challenging and then I’ll work to build up the numbers.

The most important factor is to enjoy working out together, focus on form & fun, quantity (repetitions) and quantity (weight) come second.

Grateful for:

  1. A healthy family who enjoy staying fit and strong.
  2. The convenience of a home gym

Valkyrie’s Log – How to avoid a Pizza Coma

Cauliflower Pizza Base

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Cooking.

October in Colorado is not like October anywhere I have every been. We are in the middle of an Indian Summer. Whether this is a normal occurrence or an anomaly will remain to be seen, but with temperatures of 28ºC/82ºF during the day, I am not complaining! So sunny, dry and warm are the days that we hardly notice that night temps are around 3ºC/37ºF! In fact we open the windows in the morning to let the cool in before the thermometer rockets to the sky!

Today was Day 2 of Time4Learning Supervision. Our daughter set to work, knocking out her entire 25 left over Mathematics modules in one day. Some sets she flew through independently, some required a little explanation… some a little more. But she did it. Unfortunately she had lost two days to one subject so was not finished in time for a movie, but we did take time for pizza and a work out before bed.

Pizza and work-out may not seem to go hand in hand, but when you have cauliflower pizza, the post dinner coma is a thing of the past. Now I’m not going to pretend to be any kind of foodie blogger, so here is a link to the recipe I used. I’ll just say, the first attempt I made cauliflower puree instead of cauliflower rice. Then I used frozen cauliflower rice but didn’t thaw and squeeze it. This time I thawed it, squeezed a LOT of liquid out of it and I think it would have been perfect had I had the right amount of Parmesan and not used grated cheese as a substitute. It tasted great but had a more rubbery texture than it would have. So there are my tips, here is the recipe. Bon appetite!

Grateful for:

  1. The weather! When you have the sun everyday, it becomes easy to take for granted! Talking to friend back in Ireland has reminded me to appreciate it!

Valkyrie’s Log – When your homeschooler gets stuck in Math

Category World School

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Brain Dead.

Thursdays are a very World School centric day of our week. I have set my daughter up with a schedule and she knows the minimum time she needs to spend on each subject. We also signed up for Time4Learning, an online curriculum that, for her grade, covers Maths, Language Arts, Social Studies and Science. I have created an Activity Plan for her so she can recap Mathematics Grade 4 (my lack of confidence in what she had absorbed while in mainstream school made me keen to start her on a grade below and move on to Grade 5 after Christmas) as well as working on Grade 5 for the other 3 subjects. The good thing about the plans is that she knows how much she has to do and when it needs to be complete. She has the freedom to do more some days than others, her target is to be finished by Friday Evening. Friday Night is Move Night. If she isn’t finished by Friday… there is no movie night. It seems harsh and a little counter intuitive to what I had hoped for with world school. But until she becomes more intrinsically motivated, some extrinsic motivation is required. There have been many distractions of late (packing up out, quarantine in Mexico, cross america road trip , hopefully with some “normality” there will come some more focus.

This week I discovered that she had somehow not completed her previous week of social studies, how this happened and how I missed it is beyond me, but here we are. This does not make up a huge portion of working week, so she was able to catch up pretty quickly. But this does mean that she’s had a couple of movie night that should not have been! This makes me all the more determined that this week I will have to make sure she is clear on the consequences of not completing her week’s work. It just so happens that this week her maths, which does take up a heftier portion of her work, has kicked things up a gear with long division!

She attempted to tackle it on Monday morning, it did not go well. We were both sad and unsettled from the sudden recall of her Dad back to work. So it has been looming over her and she was in no hurry to tackle it!

Thursday mornings are also Game School. Where she meets up with 2 other girls her age to play teacher guided board games utilising Language Arts, Mathematics and STEM. I had given her the option of skipping it to give her more time to catch up on her work, but as her only current social outlet that doesn’t involve Skype, she was willing to risk Movie Night to go.

Deciding that it was going to take a little supervision to make sure she didn’t get overwhelmed, I sat down with her after Game School and we started working her Mathematics modules together. I am usually hesitant to get too involved with the Mathematics. I learned different methods in school (while being world schooled myself and then back into mainstream school in Gibraltar and Iceland in the 90’s) and it is definitely her Dad’s forte not mine! But I got my notebook out and decided I would learn the current method at the same time as helping her get a handle of it.

Page of long division sums

7 hours later, 3 modules out of 28 completed. THREE! I am glad I was working with her because if I had been focussed on my own work I would not have believed that she could have taken so long while working properly! It was also important as I have discovered that she doesn’t always read everything that is presented to her, or doesn’t clarify or go back over things she doesn’t fully understand, rather relying on her ability to pass quizzes… even if she has to do them several times. This means that when she gets stuck I can say “Did you read all the instructions?”, “Did you write out the key points?” and “Watch the instructions video again” if she is still stuck, then I’m happy to stop what I’m doing as she really is actually stuck.

So a period of closer supervision is required, making sure she is clear on each stage before moving on. Hopefully this will be a temporary measure, and she will get into the habit of reading everything she is being presented and take more self satisfaction with knowing the answers and acing the quizzes first time.

When I get frustrated with her I try to remember that my experience of world schooling included a very clever, very helpful brother and a fully engaged mother. My daughter has a playful dog and a mom who is still working, albeit part time. It is understandable that her journey is a little different.

Grateful for:

  1. The ability to dedicate 7 hours to helping my daughter conquer long division.
  2. Access to an online curriculum that challenges her.
  3. The opportunity to improve MY mental maths! Mathematics is something that fascinates me, hopefully my interest will inspire her to have some intrinsic curiosity for the subject.

Valkyrie’s Log – Getting our Kombucha to Fizz

Healthy tea kombucha with lemon and cinnamon. Recipe for homemade Kombucha

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Fermenting.

Disclaimer, this post is almost entirely Kombucha geeking out, if you have no interest, feel free to skip on to tomorrows post.

On a day where not a lot happened, I got to enjoy the fruits of previous weeks work. As my daughter worked hard to catch up on some work she overlooked from last week, I sipped away at our first batch of Kombucha (there is some debate in our house about the pronunciation of Kombucha, I pronounce it with a “cha” and my husband pronounces it with a “ka”, how do YOU say it? The pleasant fizzy tingle from a successful (eventually!) 2nd ferment was a lovely little uplift on a day that was neither great nor bad.

Having made it once before, I had chosen to do a Green Tea Kombucha, it had worked out great previously and even our then 7 year old had loved it. I had hoped to have it ready before my husband left, but it only decided to achieve it’s light fizz immediately after he departed. He has never enjoyed Kombucha although he admits that his previous attempts never achieved a fizz and it sounds like it was over fermented to a vinegar like state. He is not one to let taste get in the way of healthy food consumption and we regularly witness him drinking what look like strawberry milk shakes over Skype that are in fact beets, cucumbers, celery and whatever vegetable they have left at work that most would throw away. So having in the past forced down something closer to apple cider vinegar than Kombucha, I was excited to show him how delicious it could really be.

The temperature in our apartment was fluctuating pretty widely through September. With no air conditioning and Colorado’s infamous sunny days, the afternoons were in the high 80’s and nights down to below 70ºF (from 26ºC to below 21ºC for those like me to whom Fahrenheit is illogical gobbledygook) . This made keeping our Kombucha at a stable temperature pretty tricky. We put it down in the gym where, although cooler than the ideal fermenting temperature, it was at least more stable. Averaging out at 72ºF and not going below 70 as far as we knew (although we weren’t checking it at night). I tried bringing it up to the apartment and wrapping it in a sweater to help maintain a stable warmer temp. But that didn’t help. Eventually it started to get less sweet and as it was over 10 days I went ahead and bottled it up. Then I bottled it up again after forgetting that I was supposed to stir it first! Don’t forget your stir!

I stored them in a cupboard and checked a different bottle every few days. I had read that I should put it in the fridge each time to cool before testing. But I think that may have actually been counter productive. When there was still no sign of a fizz after nearly 2 weeks, I took to google. I found what I was looking for here. The only possible answer on the list was No.9… I needed to add more sugar. Also after all the tests it could be that there was a little too much air space left in the bottles at this stage. As I brought out my 5 bottles (I had gifted one bottle to our friend and neighbour, I have yet to ask if he waited long enough for it to fizz of if he just drank it flat) to add a little honey to, low and behold I detected a hint of fizz! I went ahead and added a little honey to 4 of the bottles and decanted most of the 5th bottle into the other 4 to reduce the air space. We polished of the 5th bottle with great pleasure and the remaining 4 went down to the gym which is much warmer these days as outside temperatures have dropped enough to activate the heating.

After a couple of days we cracked open one of the bottles and voila! delicious Kombucha. There are now 2 bottles left and my next batch, my first ever Black Tea Kombucha, looks ready to be bottled (small bubbles appearing on the surface)!

Grateful for:

  1. End of ‘radio silence’ morning Skype chat with my love
  2. Delicious healthy homemade Kombucha
  3. Card games with a friend to end the day

Valkyrie’s Log – Hiking up Red Mountain

Location: Red Mountain, Manitou Springs, Colorado.
Status: 6,798ft above sea level.

As my husband flies through the sky, heading east to hot dusty lands, the impending lack of communication drives a desire to throw the Tuesday schedule out of the window and head out for a hike. After a good amount of Skype conversation yesterday, I knew I would feel the radio silence today all the more, we may have spent more of our relationship apart than together, but other than travel days, we video chat everyday. My little worldschooler started work as soon as she woke up (6:30am!) and finished up before lunch, so the rest of the day was ours to do as we pleased.

We were originally heading for Helen Hunt Falls, we had driven past it on the return from a family picnic beside Bear Creak so I knew roughly where I was heading… but then I heard from one of those lovely new friends asking if we wanted to go on a hike up Red Mountain. The coincidence of her suggesting a hike on the day we’d just decided was going to be a hike day, was just too good! Red Mountain it would be!

They picked us up after lunch and after driving through the adorable Manitou Springs we parked below the infamous Manitou Incline. I have heard a lot about this hike, just under a mile in length, the 2,744 steps take you up nearly 2000 feet until you are at 8,590 feet above sea level. My husband felt the pain when he, while in the best shape of his life, struggled to make it up as quickly as he’d like due to not allowing time to readjust to the altitude after just arriving back from close to sea level life.

His dad called when we got home and shared a story of doing the incline with his son, my crazy husband would run up to the top and back down to his dad, like an impatient puppy by the sounds of it, as his dad made slower progress up the mountain. Until his patience wore thin and he goaded his dad by telling him there was a lady hot on his heels and if he didn’t pick up the pace, he was going to be overtaken!

The view from over the valley, half way up Red Mountain, made the Incline look intimidating enough. My very obvious heavy breathing on this albeit steep, yet much easier hike up the Intemann Trail made it clear that I am not quite yet ready for the Incline… but training has begun!

The Intemann Trail starts as a wide gravel road and then reduces to a rocky loose gravel path with many switchbacks. There is merciful tree coverage, Colorado in October is like Colorado in July except the nights are cooler! The loose ground adds a sand dune like quality to the hike in places and there were a few times I accidentally sent small landslides down on my hiking buddy. She took my relatively unapologetic shouts of “Eat My Dust!” with great patience and a sense of humour. Our daughters, my 9 year old and her 14 year old, where happily chatting and making it look easy up ahead. Although thankfully mine voted for regular shade breaks on the way up and there were no complaints from me! My breath always came back to me pretty easily on these breaks despite our chatting… but I also found my breath leaving me again pretty quickly each time we resumed! Although the altitude is undoubtedly partly to blame, life has been pretty sedentary over the past couple of months so I can’t confidently blame it exclusively.

The view from the top was spectacular, a few very precipitous parts of the final ascent where only seen out of the corner of my eye as I find a fear of heights is greatly eased if you pretend the death drop isn’t there. My advice is don’t look down. Or to the right. Eyes to the left and keep moving!

The way down was wonderful in that I didn’t get out of breath… but those soft gravelly sections would be easier to ski than they are to walk. My hiking buddy’s advice to “Just jog down it, don’t even try walking slowly, you’ll just start to slide” didn’t seem like sound logic but turned out to be the best method! So we jog/walked all the way down whooping if we slid and being grateful for the tree roots and rocky outcrops for some much needed traction.

A well deserved cold drink was just what the doctor ordered and all agreed that we were looking forward to the next hike!

Grateful for:

  1. New friends
  2. Health and (improving) Fitness
  3. Nature
  4. Excellent trainers

Operation Skidaddle

The story of how an Icelandic girl managed to break the bonds of “normality” in Ireland to become a digital nomad world schooling adventurer.


Valkyrie’s Log – What to do when your husband deploys

The Mountains are Calling

Location: Colorado, USA.
Status: Floundering.

As we find ourselves in strange new lands, our native guide, captain of our ship and rock of our family departed for 3 month work rotation in lands far away, it is time to Valkyrie Up! and take the helm.

The temptation to linger in the doldrums caused by the huge hole left in our apartment by is fairly strong. But I have the ability to steer our ship into sunny, happy currents and, right now, just enough inclination to do so.

The day started with an attempt to “Keep calm and carry on… as normal” which failed fairly obviously as the remaining skeleton crew started snipping at each other, losing their tempers and all patience jumped overboard.

We indulged in a mid morning dark chocolate treat to signify acceptance that trying to carry on as normal wasn’t working and to admit that everything isn’t ok and we are allowed to feel sad.

But! Onwards and Upwards!

Our missions, over this next 3 months, are as follows:-

  1. Keep a daily log
  2. Teach Mia the Yoga dog to be calmer on walks
  3. Adhere as closely as possible to a healthy daily structure
Mia’s version of Supta Parivrtta Garudasana/Eagle Twist

So yes, my husband has gone back to work. Yes, we are displaced in a new country with no family and only a few (albeit absolutely lovely) brand new friends nearby. But we are Valkyries. So we will conquer this new land, discover its treasures and sail (metaphorically) it’s fair winds and unfamiliar seas (mountains) until we love it as much, if not more, than the native who brought us here loves it.

Read more about how we ended up in Colorado here.

Grateful for:

  1. A husband I love being with so much
  2. Dark chocolate with salt