Nutella Day 8: Oatmeal Nutella Bars

There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles.
Author Unknown

I found this quote today, words of wisdom from some unknown source. I am adding another chocolate find to my 31 Day List of Nutella recipes. I have been making this recipe for years in different formats, I love the Nutella version the best. It’s very rich, you only need a little piece, but look out you may not be able to stop at just one.

The ingredients you’ll need are:
3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups butter
2 eggs
1 cup each brown and white sugar
1 cup Nutella
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Start with the oatmeal,
then add the sugars,

the flour, and baking soda. Mix it all together, then add the eggs and cut in 1 cup of the butter.

The dough will be crumbly.

Grease a 9 x 13″ pan. Pat 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan to make the crust.

Meanwhile dig out your double boiler. Add 1/2 cup of butter,

the sweetened condensed milk,

and 1 cup of Nutella.

On medium heat, stir until everything is melted and gooey and chocolaty. 
Pour the filling over the bottom crust while still hot.
Sprinkle the remainder of the crust over the Nutella filling.
It’s ready for the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
It comes out all golden brown.
Designer Mom

Career Exploration: Youth Apprenticeship

Years ago, I wandered into our local Chamber of Commerce to pick up some brochures on things to do in our area for some visitors we were having. I happened to find a brochure regarding the Youth Apprenticeship Program. It described how high school students can learn a career choice while on the job, and receive both high school and college credit. I knew right then and there that this would be a part of our family’s future. What a great opportunity!

In Wisconsin, the Youth Apprenticeship program is part of the state’s Work Force Development department. They work in collaboration with the US Department of Labor to offer the program in more than 25 states and territories. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they also have specific programs for students with disabilities. More than 950 different occupations are currently offered nationwide. Incredible!

The ultimate question for us was, can a home schooled student be a part of this program? In our state it is decided by each school district. Our Madison area district allows home schooled students, but some of the suburban districts do not. I would encourage you to apply regardless of the local policy. We have friends who applied, were turned down for no other reason other than they were home schooled, appealed, and then were accepted into the program. You just never know, so be persistent.

Interestingly enough, the College Board website (, which administers the SAT, CLEP, AP and PSAT tests, recommends an internship program as one of the best ways to get into college. Job skills and college credit are extremely important, especially for a home schooled student who may not have the traditional academic record a public school student has.

In our city of 233,000 people, only 25 students were registered for this program last year, but there are more than 70 applicants for next year. I can’t believe more people aren’t taking advantage of this program. But, it is definitely growing.

Part of the reason our son entered public school was to learn auto mechanics. We knew this was an area he would probably have to learn from someone else. The Auto Mechanic Technician position is just one of the career choices the Youth Apprenticeship program offers. Here are some of the other options:

Auto Collision
Drafting and Design: Architure, Engineering, Mechanical
Graphic Arts: Printing
Health Services
Hospitality, Lodging, Tourism
Information Technology: Computer Science, Networking
Industrial Equipment
Logistics (Freight Movement)
Production Agriculture: Animals, Soils and Crops

There is a great need for students to enter into these programs, particularly in the automotive field. This is our son in his Honda uniform, I love guys in uniforms, did I mention that? Anyway, there were only a couple of applicants in the automotive area, so he was able to get a job right away. Some of the other students are still awaiting job placement in more popular areas such as Engineering. Due to the slow economy, it would be beneficial to contact your local representative to find out which career areas have the most likely job placement.

So how do you apply for the program? Students fill out an application in March of their sophomore year. Two letters of recommendation are required with submission to the local Chamber of Commerce Coordinator for approval. After acceptance, there will be an informational meeting, and then the applicants are forwarded to local businesses for interviews. This is also a great opportunity to learn interview skills!

Employers will work with the schools to design a work schedule that works for them. Students are required to work 12-15 hours per week, and have specific skill requirements they will learn on the job. Home schooled students have an advantage with flexible schedules. Our son was able to work with the school to re-arrange his class schedule around his work schedule. He works before school until mid-morning, then goes to classes so he can still participate in after school sports. He has taken 2 automotive classes during the last year (some in the evenings) and next year will have a class at our local technical college. When the two year program is over, he will have a certification as an Automotive Technician. Cool, huh?

How much does this program cost? Get this, NOTHING! It’s all funded by universities, schools, businesses and the Department of Work Force Development. We have not had any fees at all. Amazing! However, as a home schooled student, this may vary.

Another fabulous way to learn so many important skills for students. Getting both high school and college credit is such an added bonus. Our son was interviewed for the local paper and this is what he had to say regarding the program:

“Serving as an Automotive Technician has taught me how to get along with other people on the job, and allows me to apply what I have learned in the classroom.” What a great experience!

You can read more about the Youth Apprenticeship programs at the following websites: This is the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Site Lists all the available career options in WI This is general information regarding the program for students with disabilities.

Additional program information can be found through your local Chamber of Commerce, public school district, or on your state’s government website.

Designer Mom

DIY Flower Pens

I have had this little pot of flowers on my desk for a long time. It’s one of my favorite things. My youngest son made it for me some years ago. You see I was having a problem with my pens walking away all the time, later to be found in massive heaps under my children’s beds or beneath the cushions on the couch. But, since I received my pot of pens, I have never lost a pen.

You or your children can easily make these, and you too will never again loose your pens. All you need is a few plastic flowers with stems removed, floral tape, your favorite pens, a small clay pot, and some dried beans.

Line up the base of the plastic flower with the end of the pen, tape with the floral tape. Be sure to cover the entire pen so it looks like a stem to the flower.

Add the beans to the clay pot, and stick the open end of the ball point pen into the beans, they will hold the pen in place so nicely! We used dried pinto beans because that was what we had on hand, but you could also use dried black beans which really look like soil.

We made some of these for my Grandmother at age 101. She loved them, she couldn’t get used to the fact that they were pens. Who knows, after a while everyone may just for get that they are pens and you can just enjoy the flowers.

Designer Mom

Teaching the Gifted: The Auditory Learner

I have learned many things in my years of homeschooling.  Here are my thoughts on teaching an auditory learner, along with a few resources that I have found to be of great value in this process.
Teaching the Gifted: The Auditory Learner|Designers Sweet Spot|

“Is your child gifted?”
The auditory learner
I hate that question. It drives me crazy to read about schools that offer gifted learning programs. Actually I hate labels period. As far as I am concerned, ALL children are gifted. They each just have DIFFERENT gifts. Many times we just don’t understand their gifts. Far too often, their gifts go completely undiscovered and unappreciated. There are many adults who feel they had special gifts as children that were unrecognized. This is so true. After all, IQ tests can’t possibly measure all God’s given talents completely.

Home schooling a gifted child who learns easily may sound like a simple thing. Perfect, in fact. You would think would be an ideal situation. You give them their work, they do it, every body is happy. But is it really this easy? These “gifted” children are often continually bored, may be unsocial, they may already know the answer to every question and can be difficult to teach. They can also be stubborn perfectionists, very athletic, and or very musical. Their talents may lie in only one area and they may also be completely afraid to try new or different things for fear of failure. These children can be very difficult to engage and challenge, much less keeping them busy all day long at home without driving every one else in the house completely crazy. Perhaps this is why we decide to home school them rather than leave them in the public school.

Traditional schools define gifted children as being above average in one or more areas of their development. Oddly enough, many of us THINK we have gifted children, but they really may not be. Sometimes it’s really a kind of parental pride. “Of course my child is gifted, he is MY child!” We all want what is best for our kids, especially when it comes to their education. But some kids just learn faster than others, so we consider them gifted.

Many times “gifted children” are auditory-sequential learners. They learn best by hearing things. Our son amazed us at his ability to listen and follow directions from a very young age. We could explain how to do something once and he could do it and remember it, even as a toddler. (This is very much unlike our dyslexic children who needed constant repetition and discipline to master a task.) Alex was an easy child in this way. I don’t ever remember telling him “don’t touch that!” more than once. It was obvious he was an auditory learner right from the start.

As a thrilled new home schooling Mom-teacher, I diligently bought curriculum after curriculum, and we flew through it all for many years. However, over time it has become apparent to us that just because a child learns easily, does not mean he will always retain what he has learned. Long term memory has become a different issue, one that perhaps isn’t talked about much.

For example, our son had studied mathematical fractions for months and months in grammar school, but when the subject came up again in high school he has had trouble remembering them. Interesting, considering he knew them inside out and backwards several years before. Isn’t this why we revisit subjects until we master them? Yes, it is. However, it is very different for children who have different learning styles.

In contrast, our dyslexic children often struggle to learn a concept for months or years at a time. We try different curriculum, different learning methods, over and over before they finally succeed. We may revisit the same concept year after year with little or no progress, but once they learn it, they never forget it. So who is really easier to teach?

Auditory learners obviously do well with auditory concepts. But believe it or not reading to themselves can be challenging and may not the best way for them to learn. Reading to themselves out loud, however, is a different story. Better yet, have them read to a younger sibling. Listening to fictional books on tape or CD are also great options, but there are others.

Here are just a few of the resources we have used over time:

Audio-books: Fiction are easy to find, but you can also find audio-text books and bibles on tape, CD, or in MP3 formats. Check out library book sales, book stores, and garage sales for great deals.
Kindle Audio Books: Very cost effective to download, but not all Kindle devices have an audio function.
Smart Phone Audio Books: Who knew my Droid could do this? Our entire family listened to Sherlock Holmes on a car trip with the aid of a simple adapter for the car stereo system.
Library Websites: Ours has many audio books available to check out and download to your PC or portable device.
Foreign Language Programs: Great for your auditory learner, they will learn so fast!
Music: Learning an instrument is a must for the student who learns by listening. Also includes visual learning and kinetic movement, what a multi-sensory approach!
Video: A simple choice, the visuals are a bonus!
Paperback Swap: Check out You can exchange audio books, Cd’s and of course regular books for FREE. A great resource!

Here are some of our favorite curriculum’s:
Presidential Rap: Great CD for memorizing the Presidents and information about them.
History Songs by Veritas Press
Latin for Children Audio Cd’s: We used to listen to these while driving around in the car. I don’t think we ever cracked open a work book, they Cd’s were so much fun!
Jim Weiss Cd’s: A master story teller, Jim Weiss has made dozens of classic books into enjoyable Cd’s for children. Great for road trips in the car.
Geography Songs: Loved these, I think our kids learned to sing these long before they could read or even knew where the states were!

There are probably many, many, more out there. Enjoy listening! I love to tell my kids that it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you learn. We all end up in the same place eventually. Comparing abilities or labeling them doesn’t help anyone. We all have unique God given gifts. It may be in math or science, art or music, compassion and integrity, or hope and joy. But in the end, we all end up just the way God intended for us to be, with gifts that He gave us.

Designer Mom

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Penelope Van Princess

Penelope Van Princess was a fable I heard growing up, recently I decided to dig a little deeper.  I was shocked when I read this story and realized it was more than just a fabled tale! 
Penelope Van Princess|Designers Sweet Spot|
One of the best things we have done as home schoolers is to study family history. History is so much more interesting when you have a personal interest in the subject. For years, we have researched and talked about the relatives, many of whom have such facinating character you could write a book about it. What little boy wouldn’t want to learn about Uncle George Baseball, Uncle Herold the Hermit or Great Grandpa Ives and his mysterious connection to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad? Family history is facinating stuff.

My Grandmother used to tell me stories as a girl of an Indian Princess in our family. I was facinated by her tale of the only woman EVER known to have survived a scalping by Indians. My Grandmother always had her mind, even at age 105, and I had no doubt that she knew her family history. But it wasn’t until I recently Googled “Penelope Von Princess” that this tale came to life for me. There is nothing like seeing it printed in front of you on the Internet, and suddenly a family fable has a basis in reality.

It was the year 1622. A baby girl was born in Amsterdam, Holland named Penelope Kent. She grew up, and married a Mr. Van Princen (some versions of the story say his name was Von Princess or Van Princis. Grandma had told me Von Princess and I am sticking with it. She would have never gotten Van and Von confused.), set sail with her husband for the New World in 1642. It was a long, dangerous journey by sea. Many of the passengers on board the ship became ill in their cramped conditions. A storm ship wrecked their vessel off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1643. Although they made it to shore, it was not easy. Mr. Van Princen was already ill, and now injured. The small group of settlers didn’t want to remain on the beach for very long, fearing attack by the Indians. They were eager to be on their way to New Amsterdam (which is now New York City). Penelope could not convince them to stay where they were while her husband recovered, and the group soon left them to fend for themselves on the deserted beach. Somehow Penelope managed to move her husband into the nearby woods, looking for shelter. Shortly afterwards, the Indians did attack them. They killed her wounded husband, brutally slashed and scalped her, leaving her for dead.

Penelope was not dead, however. She was severely wounded, her left arm hacked so that it would never regain it’s usefulness, her scalp fractured, and her abdomen slashed so she actually had to hold her intestines in her body with her one good hand. She regained conciousness and dragged herself inside of an old hollow log for shelter. For the next 7 days she survived solely by eating mushrooms from inside the log. Eventually two Indians came deer hunting, and disovered her. The younger of the two men was eager to finish killing her off, but the older man would not let him. Perhaps he saw what a miracle it was she was still alive. He wrapped her carefully in a blanket, took her back to his wigwam, and nursed her back to health. Penelope ended up living with the Indians for several years before she finially finished her journey to New Amsterdam. (This is probably why the family story claimed she was an Indian Princess). Penelope remained friends with the Indians that had healed her, even after she returned to the colony.

Penelope later met her second husband Richard Stout in New Amsterdam in 1646. A few years after their marriage they moved to Middleton, New Jersey in 1648-1649. Despite her previous maming, Penelope and Richard had a total of 10 children. Penelope lived to be 110 years old, and had 502 total off spring by the time she died in 1732.

Wow, what a story! November is the month all the little kiddies begin to make Pilgrim costumes for the “Harvest Festival” and decorate pinecones to look like turkeys for the Thanksgiving table. It drives me crazy. What really bothers me is that we sugar-coat our heritage for our children. The Mayflower was not the only ship to sail across the sea. Thousands of settlers came her seeking refuge, but ended up suffering incredibly in the process. The bountiful Harvest did not miraculously appear on the Thanksgiving table, and the Indians who shared the feast were not one bit friendly. It amazes me the things these people went though. I would feel like packing it up and heading back where I came from. I can’t imagine inviting your enemies to dinner, sharing your only food, not knowing if they would eat with you, or have your scalp for dessert.

We should teach our children the other side of the Thanksgiving story. True faith, trust and forgiveness are present in this tale. Penelope must have wished she was dead while waiting for 7 days in that log. She must have had tremendous faith. I cannot imagine why she did not go insane from the pain she endured. She certianly would have feared the Indian man who took her and healed her. She wouldn’t have been able to understand his language to know he wasn’t going to harm her. Being moved to the Indian village alone must also been terrifying for her. Perhaps he was trustworthy, but what about the other Indians? He must have been incredibly skilled at healing, for her to bear so many children later in life. Wow, what an amazing true story. Much better than the happy go lucky stories on the seasonal Hallmark cards, don’t you think? This is what true legends are made of.

Enjoy discovering your Heritage this month.

Designer Mom

Update: My father recently discovered this Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper clipping among Grandmother’s things.

Penelope Van Princess Article

I love the verbage:

“Penelope Van Princis (1602-1712) After journeying to America from Amsterdam at the age of 18, was attacked by Indians, who killed her husband, fractured her skull, shoved a spear through her body and left her in the belief she was dead.

She spent 7 days in a hollow tree, survived to live another 92 years, and had 502 descendants when she finally died at the age of 110.”

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