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Geography Studies: Iceland

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Iceland was the last European country that we studied before our school year ended right before Christmas.  It is also a regularly forgotten member of the continent.  Sometimes it isn’t even included on maps of Europe while you’re looking for one to print for school.  Even better is the fact that my mother lived there for a while because my grandfather’s job moved them there.

While we did listen to the national anthem online and read books from the library, this study ended a bit differently than our others.  Grandpa lent us his slide projector and boxes of slides from their road trips through Iceland.  We set up a screen made from a white blanket for our slide show.  It was lots of fun to watch the kids try to guess which family member was which, not to mention the great pictures of the Icelandic countryside.

My aunts and uncle insisted that we must try to find pylsurs, Icelandic hot dogs made of pork, beef, and lamb.  However, I never found a place to buy them in the States, and I imagine they’d be expensive anyway.  Another option mentioned in our books was hamburgers, but though it may be a regular option in Iceland, it didn’t seem to be a memorable option for our schooling.  So with that in mind and other unique options such as puffin, walrus, and whale equally unattainable, we decided to go with lamb.

We seared lamb chops in my cast iron skillet with salt and garlic.  Then I served it with salad, rhubarb compote, and Icelandic potato salad.  Rhubarb apparently grows very well in Iceland.

Rhubarb Compote

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup frozen chopped rhubarb (fresh would work)

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add the rhubarb and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes.  Serve warm or chilled.  It also makes a good jam for toast, or warmed as a thick syrup on pancakes.


I used the last of out Hungarian Dill Pickles for the potato salad.  Click on the links below for the recipes for the mayonnaise and sour cream that I use.  I simply substitute vinegar for the lemon juice in all the recipes.  Not everyone in the house can have eggs.  Instead of mixing them in, I sliced them to top the potato salad of a select few in the house.

Icelandic potato salad and Lamb chops with rhubarb compote

Kartoflusalat (Potato Salad)

1 3/4 lbs red potatoes
3 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
2 pears, cored and chopped
1/4 cup chopped pickles
1/4 onion, small diced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup soy-free, vegan sour cream (scroll to the last recipe in the post)
1/2 teaspoon Ruth’s Special Blend Curry Powder
salt, to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender.  Cool and cube the potatoes.  Chop the rest of the ingredients as noted above.

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and chill for at least six hours before serving (At least the original instructions said to chill the dish.  I didn’t plan that far ahead, but our slightly warm potato salad was good!  The leftovers were even better).


Geography Studies: Ireland

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We love our homeschool curriculum, Ages of Grace.  The history, literature, geography, and art all centered around a time period while leaving room to utilize Charlotte Mason’s methods within the boundaries of our timeline.  After studying through the Age of Triumph last year, I realized that I needed more structured geography study than was listed there.  My children weren’t quite ready for detailed map studies, so I began digging back through my stash of fun, but unutilized resources to see what I could find.

This year we are studying Europe.

The plan is simple.  Every two weeks we take a trip to the local library and get books on a specific country.  Slowly we read what we can throughout those two weeks.  By the end Buster will draw the flag of the country, write what he can remember from our readings, then alphabetize the page it in a binder.  He also labels the map at the front of the binder.

In the course of the two weeks we cook a recipe from that country.   What better way to remember a country that to sample it’s cuisine?  I got this The Usborne Children’s World Cookbook from a student long ago.  It gives us ideas and has great pictures, but I don’t know that I would buy it now.  It just doesn’t have enough recipes that are allergy friendly for us.  I spend most of my time searching the internet for ideas instead.  Ireland was one of those countries where the recipe from the book was simple to modify.  The recipe called for a bullion cube and butter, but I made my own broth and used oil instead.  You could do this with beef if you like and other stew veggies would be good additions as well.

We also prepared Irish Oats for breakfast one day.  We don’t often get to eat two recipes from a country, but Irish Oats are generally certified gluten free.  It looked and smelled great.  Sadly, I am the only one sensitive to oats.
If you want a vegan meal for studying Ireland, try this Colcannon recipe.

Irish Stew

1 1/2 lbs of bone in lamb meat (I had lamb chops on hand, but stew meat would be better)
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp oil
water to cover
salt to taste

Cut the bones from the meat and place in a stock pot with 2 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil and add about 2 tsp salt.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least one hour.  This would be a great step for a crock pot, if you let it stew all day.

Chop the meat into bite sized pieces and set aside for later.  Prepare the other ingredients.

About 45 minutes before dinner time, heat the oil over medium in a skillet.  Add the onions.  When they are beginning to turn translucent add the meat and thyme to the pan.

Don’t forget to strain the bones from the pot before the next step.

Once the lamb is browned on all sides add the contents of the skillet to the pot of broth along with the potatoes.  Add hot water to cover and bring back to a boil.

Turn down the heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add salt to taste, then serve in soup bowls.  Cool for five to ten minutes for little mouths.

Here are a few other resources we use for our country studies:

National Anthems – I have a CD, but it’s mostly European countries.  It is out of print, too.  An internet search will give you plenty of options for free.

Wee Sing Around the World – We listen to the song for our country every morning at breakfast.  However, sometimes you just have to get up and dance.  You should see Little Man’s interpretation of Irish Folk Dance to “Wee Fallorie Man.”

Global Art
– We get many of our craft ideas from this book.  The one in the book was all about shamrocks, but a library book suggested making potato stamps, so we combined the two ideas.  Snuggle bunny needed to make two pieces of art.  Buster made his in the shape of a cross in honor of St. Patrick.  Little Man only stuck around long enough for a photo.

Little Man

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