Friday, December 26, 2008

What's Under the Christmas Tree?

Yesterday morning was a big day for kids around the US and possibly the world. The anticipation for what Santa will bring can cause kids sleepless nights (so they claim), anxiety (did we put the milk and cookies out? Did you hear something? Was that a bell ringing? I sure hope I was good this past year), and pure excitement. We tried to play down the whole Santa thing this year and play up the real reason we're celebrating-Jesus's birth. But, even with that being said, looking forward to the wonder or the fulfillment of wishes, hopes and dreams makes this the season of Hope. Even big kids hope that something will happen differently at Christmas time. I think we're geared for expectation and hope. But many people are lost not really knowing what they're supposed to be expecting or hoping for.
This year at Macy's they did a Miracle on 34th Street type of card writing to Santa. For each card written to Santa, Macy's donated $1 to the Make a Wish Foundation (I think this is correct). Anyway, our little daughter was so excited to write her letter. She wrote her "Dear Santa" asking for a couple of items. Then to add to it, I asked for something special, something that our dear daughter prays for regularly.
On Christmas morning our precious girlie came downstairs, took one look under the tree, and then surprised me. I thought she'd ask, "I wonder if Santa brought the present I asked for?", but instead she said, "I wonder if Santa brought what you (meaning me) asked for? I wonder if he brought the little baby girl from Africa for you. Maybe she's under the tree."
How precious is that!! No, we didn't have a little baby girl from Africa under our tree, but that would be quite awesome if we did. But we do have a seed of hope planted in our little girl's heart that hopes for new beginnings, compassion for others and a heart for sharing our family's love with others.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

White Christmas

This is the first white Christmas I remember having in a long time or even ever. The snow has been dumping, but the forecast looks like it'll warm up and our snowing days may be gone for awhile. My sweetheart trudged across the snow on the deck and measured 18 inches of snow. WOW!! I see the sun peeking through now, so if we're going to go out we better do it before it's gone and we miss out on the opportunity. Off to gather the kids...

Christmas Eve- A New Tradition

It's been snowing...It's still snowing! My sweetheart just went out and measured. We now have 18 inches of snow on our deck.
Because of the weather conditions our church decided to cancel the Christmas Eve services. Our pastor had mentioned the possibility of this last weekend and instructed us to gather with the ones we love, read The Christmas Story found in Luke 2 and sing Silent Night together.
So yesterday was a unique and memorable Christmas Eve for us. We (the 5 of us in the family) gathered yesterday afternoon and began watching It's A Wonderful Life. It's my sweetheart's favorite movie and a classic at that. We stopped the movie around dinnertime and ate a very non-traditional dinner. We had rib eye steak, lamb steak, pasta, and a salad.
Following dinner we cleaned up and then finished decorating the sugar cookies we made earlier. I must admit DH is quite the cookie decorating artist. His cookies were BEAUTIFUL! I didn't frost any. DH and the kids created while I snapped photos.
After cookie decorating we gathered in the living room while my sweetheart read the account of the birth of Jesus found in Luke 2. Everyone in the family was given a taper candle. Each person lit the next person's candle beginning with dad to mom, mom to oldest son, etc. It was a precious moment as we all stood together with lights dimmed and candles lit singing "Silent Night."
After our candle lighting ceremony we moved our celebration to the "piano room" where the kids played Christmas carols and we all sang along. The boys played "Away in a Manger" and "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." Our daughter finished off with her rendition of "Mary Had A Little Lamb." Everyone had a contribution.
Upon returning to the living room the kids opened three gifts each. They are now fitted with new pj's, slippers and long underwear. I would say they are a cozy bunch!
We finished off the evening with the remaining portion of It's A Wonderful Life. It truly is a wonderful life! I love the message of the story and as we sat around together, like good 'ole George Bailey, I was SO THANKFUL for the perfect way this Christmas has turned out.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'd Hate to be a Postman or a UPS Driver This Week

We didn't have mail delivery yesterday. The roads leading to our house are a mess of packed snow, ice and more packed snow and ice. Once you get to the state maintained road you're fine, but there's about a 2 mile stretch of misery.
It's about 9pm and the doorbell just rang. I went to the door and saw in the distance the poor UPS man trudging back to his van. In normal winter weather I've seen the UPS trucks chain up and they seem to get around fairly well. But the fact that our normal UPS deliveries occur around 4-5pm I knew this poor Man In Brown was not having a good day. I shouted out, "I was wondering how you guys were doing." He turned around and in a frustrated voice said, "Not Good."
As I shut the door I wish I had something prepared for him to wish him a Merry Christmas despite the miserable conditions.
Tomorrow I'll be more prepared! I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of a NEW COMPUTER and some type of delivery company may need to come to our home. I'm also waiting for the missing Christmas cards I ordered. So if you haven't gotten a card from us yet, you know why.
I've been reminded to take a moment to thank the delivery people who do so much for us on a daily basis. I've heard people who haven't had garbage pick-up because it's not safe for the trucks to travel the roads. I bet they're missing their garbage men right about now.
Thank those special people in your world.

Christmas Baking- Sparkling Cranberry Muffins

A dear friend made us a special collection of Christmas treats. In the box of goodies were the cutest mini-muffins. After eating one or two muffins our dear daughter exclaimed, "Mom, you have GOT to get this recipe!" So after returning home I promptly emailed my friend and asked for the recipe. She confessed it was a Williams Sonoma package mix, but if you have to go with a package, Williams Sonoma is a FAB pick.

But my curiosity was still piqued. I wanted to find a mini-muffin recipe I could make and use the cranberries I still had in the fridge. I found a great, kid-pleasing recipe in the Land O' Lakes Classic Cookies, Baking and More cookbook. These muffins were such a hit they barely had time to cool down before the kids and sweet hub ate most of them.

This cookbook was given to me by a fellow teacher as a wedding gift. Giving cookbooks is a great gift idea!

Sparkling Cranberry Muffins

The butter and sugar coating is what make these homemade muffins special.

1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup orange juice
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup butter melted
1/4 cup sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In small bowl combine cranberries and 2 tablespoons sugar; set aside. In large bowl stir together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in orange juice and egg just until moistened. Fold in cranberry-sugar mixture. Spoon batter into greased 12-cup muffin pan (I used a mini-muffin pan). Bake 20-25 minutes (a bit less if using mini-muffin pan) or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Dip top of each muffin in 1/4 cup melted butter, then in 1/4 cup sugar. Serve warm.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Comfort Food- Cream of Chicken Soup

Stranded at home. Laundry is done. House rearranged. No mail. Still cooking up a storm. The weather condition is keeping us at home and when I'm at home without something pressing to do- I cook.

Today I made Sparkling Cranberry Muffins, Cranberry Coffee Cake and Cream of Chicken Soup, and I'm not talking Campbell's. I'll post the cranberry recipes later, but I wanted to get the soup on first. You may be at home cold and this will warm you up in a jiff.

I got this recipe from The Cozy Home Cookbook by Gooseberry Patch. I like to use Costco rotisserie chickens for soup. They are so well-flavored and add that special something to soups. Even if we eat the chicken I usually boil the carcass for broth. So good!

Cream of Chicken Soup

4-5 pound chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken from Costco)
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup orzo pasta, cooked (the orzo is like little dumplings in the soup-yum!)
1 cup cake flour (I used regular flour)
1 1/2 cup cold water
2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Place chicken in a stockpot, cover with water and boil until chicken juices run clear when pierced (not necessary if you use Costco rotisserie chicken, just cook until meat easily falls off bones). Remove meat from bone and return to stockpot. Add celery, carrots and onion to broth. Bring to a simmer and add orzo to broth; bring to a boil. Blend (cake) flour and cold water, stir until smooth and add to the broth when it boils. Add milk and simmer until soup thickens, stirring often. Add salt, pepper, parsley and garlic powder.
Enjoy with a rustic baguette or other crusty bread.

Comfort Food- Beef Stew

We're enjoying many varieties of comfort food that warm the heart and fill the tummy on these cold winter days. The other day I made a VERY easy version of Beef Stew. It's made in a crock pot. So all you need to do is cut up the beef and the vegetables, layer them, and let the crock pot do its thing.

Beef Stew

2 1/2-3 pounds stew meat (I cut up a roast in cubes. I added a bit more since my man likes his protein)
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt (I ended up putting in about another 1/2-1 teaspoon of salt, add to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups beef broth (I did 1 cup beef broth, 1 cup red wine)
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon oregano
4-6 cups cubed, peeled potatoes
3 cups carrot chunks
2 onions, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups peas, frozen
1 cup corn kernels

Place meat in a crock pot. Sprinkle with flour and stir. Add all other ingredients except peas and corn. Add these the last hour of cooking. Cook on low 8-9 hours. Enjoy!

The Gift- Get It?

This time of year as we're waiting in expectancy to celebrate the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ I often wonder why so many people through the generations and today haven't made the connection that the Christ child is the Son of God, promised through the Old Testament, born to a virgin, crucified on the cross to save us from our sin, rose from the dead on the third day and now sits at the right hand of God awaiting his Bride.
In our humanness that seems like a lot to believe. But to the Christian this is the foundation of our faith.
Our pastor preached on Luke 2:25-32 this weekend. We focused on Simeon. I don't remember too many sermons on Simeon, but hearing about him puts some pieces of my puzzle together.
Simeon waited on the Lord. I personally don't excel in the art of waiting. I pray for patience and God gives me more opportunities to wait. Waiting just doesn't come naturally for many of us. We want life to fall into place rapidly. We want answers quickly. We want God to act on our time frame rather than seeing that He has a time frame that was figured out before there was time. Isn't that something?
It's been recommended that I take a moment each day and sit and do "nothing". That sounds like waiting to me. I've already established that waiting doesn't come naturally, but it's in those quiet moments of doing nothing where I may find my opportunity to wait on the Lord. I can imagine there are many things I miss through my busyness. I'm such a work in progress. I checked Webster for the definition of "wait" and found, "to stay in place or remain in readiness or in anticipation." Waiting may not be doing nothing, but preparing or remaining ready in anticipation for something. That's interesting! I like that.
In waiting we realize our timing is not God's timing. We want people to "Get It" on our time. We sense the urgency of salvation for our friends and/or family, but God's timing is perfect. There's a quote I've heard often that is, "You never know God is all you need, until He's all you got." God's people will "Get It" when they realize there's no where else to turn.
Israel waited for over 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. I'm sure something was happening, but there's nothing recorded in the Bible. I bet many people began to lose hope. Without hope what do we have?
The second thing that stuck out to me was that the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. He was moved by the Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit who moves people. Isn't that awesome! For many people that may lift a huge burden. It's our responsibility as Christians to glorify God. We reflect His Glory. The Holy Spirit moves the heart of man to make the commitment to follow Christ. The Bible reads in Luke 2:28-32 that Simeon found salvation in the revelation of Jesus Messiah. It was revealed to Simeon. I looked up the definition of revelation. Webster defines it as, "something disclosed, especially when it comes as a great surprise." Wow! A great surprise! What could be more surprising than God incarnate coming to earth taking on human form as a baby!
I think of the countless doctors who at the delivery of a baby say, "Surprise, it's a boy!" or "Surprise it's a girl!" Imagine God saying, "Surprise, it's a boy, and he's my son!" What a gift we have been given! It's the gift of a perfect baby who grew to become our perfect Savior. And his gift of salvation is nothing we have earned but freely given for you and me this Christmas.
I hope you expect something great this Christmas. I hope you don't miss what this Christmas is all about. It's about you waiting and receiving the greatest gift ever given.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Romance Cookies

My mom just shared with me that this recipe came from her childhood best friend's mom. My mom had them when she was young and fell in love with the buttery coconut flavor. They are YUMMY!

I think it's interesting that they're called "Romance" cookies. It's funny how many of the recipes we make have something to do with love, romance, all those good feelings associated with a great creation. If you need a little "Romance" in your life this would be a safe place to start, but remember don't eat too many or you'll need to make some serious New Year's Resolutions.

Romance Cookies

1 cup butter (do not substitute margarine, ONLY BUTTER)
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour

Mix above ingredients until crumbly and press into 9X13 glass baking dish. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, while crust is baking mix together:
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 beaten eggs
4 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded coconut
2 cups chopped walnuts

When crust is done pour coconut mixture over and spread out evenly. Place back in oven and bake for additional 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Christmas Baking-Tried and True Favorites

Every year we bake Christmas cookies. My family tends to go a bit overboard in the baking department, but baking is one of the things that we love about the holidays.

There are many recipes that have been passed through our family and go back a couple generations. I'm sure the stories behind the recipes are wonderful. I've heard a couple of and will try to include them as I post.

Beware: These recipes are not Jillian Michaels approved! They are more Paula Deen approved-lots of fat, butter, sugar, YUMMY!

These are two of my favorite celebrity people. I would love to be Paula Deen in a Jillian Michaels body. Too bad things don't work like that.

I hope you enjoy!

Ahhh...A Warm Morning Welcome

After a long day of waiting for a repairman to return our call we finally made a connection with the second company we called. We heard the first company had over 140 calls and we were number 40-and we called at 7:30am. I can't imagine what happened to the 100 people after us. I'm sure they're shivering.
It was so great to wake up to a warm house. You don't know what you appreciate until you don't have it (which has caused me great thought about what I'm truly thankful for).
I'm sure you're all just wringing your hands wondering what was wrong with our furnace. It turns out the air intake was clogged. With what you ask? Snow! Who would have thought?
There's supposed to be another round of snow coming and hopefully it will blow the right direction, which would be not in the air intake.
To a warm cozy house!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Wonderland

We're Running Out of Time...

So today we planned to brave the cold and ice outside and head toward the mall to do some Christmas shopping. Notice I didn't say finish up Christmas shopping. This year I've put off the shopping to the very last minute. I'm not usually like this, but with home schooling and having the kiddos with me most of the time, it's hard to slip the gifts in the cart when they are looking with big inquisitive eyes.
I have a dear neighbor who has volunteered to have the kids over while we are out. Thank the Lord for neighbors!
But the snag in the day is our furnace issue...
If you read the earlier post you know in addition to the urgency of finishing up the shopping we have the urgency of providing heat to our home. A space heater doesn't heat 3700 square feet up very well. We've called the on-call heating company and are anxiously awaiting a return call. Our house has warmed up 1 degree in the last hour. We may go for the layered look today like our friends in China who live in heat-challenged housing.
Let's hope this is the extent of our challenges for the day. DH has had his fill for the week already with traveling, having the flu while away, missing his flight home because of weather and now the furnace.
We'll keep you posted on the furnace...

Brrrr... It's Cold In Here!

My sweetheart returned home from southern California yesterday. He came home to MANY inches of snow and our own Winter Wonderland. It really is beautiful.
Home life when he was gone went very smoothly. The kids and I baked cookies, played in the snow, watched movies, cleaned out the house and just enjoyed being home. There were no troubling matters to speak of.
But then we woke up today...Normally in the morning the house is a little cold because we turn down the heat a bit in the middle of the night. But today was like Artic chill. I threw on my trusty fleece and ran downstairs to check the thermostat. I looked in amazement, or maybe panic, as I saw it read 51 degrees! No wonder we were so cold. DH thought it was because he wasn't acclimated to our area, but we're pretty sure there's something much more serious going on.
After examining the furnace in the frigid garage we know there's something not right with it. We've called the furnace repair man and we're trying to heat the house with some space heaters and our gas fireplace.
I'm grateful this happened today and not yesterday. My sweetheart is here to take care of things.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How Many Kings?

If you have your sound on and are checking this blog in December you'll hear How Many Kings by Downhere from the Bethlehem Skyline cd. I've been playing it quite a bit and my kids are starting to say, "Not number 1 again!" (it's the first song, #1, on the cd).
I listen to it while we're driving around town with tears streaming down my face. I'm so humbled by the lyrics! The other day I made it through the song without crying and my oldest son exclaimed, "Mom, you did it. You made it through the song without crying!"
This Christmas season if you think about what God did for us and what Jesus did for us- it's HUGE! My prayer is that you'll be able to reflect on this miracle birth, incredible incarnation, and wonderful Savior gift that we've been given.
I know I'm having a Christmas season filled with gratitude and humility!

How Many Kings

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we've projected
A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl
Just a child
Is this who we've waited for? 'cause...

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their son's for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have, whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he will suffer
Now, do you believe?
Is this who we've waited for?

All for me, all for you
All for me, all for you

Christmas Cookies with a Finnish Flair

It's Christmas cookie baking season. I love making our traditional family favorites, but I also love trying some new cookies that may become future family faves.
I came across this recipe for Ruiskakut (Rye Cookies) in the 2007 edition of Christmas Baking. It is a publication of Better Homes and Gardens.
The simple, easy to make, recipe calls for rye flour and I happened to have some in the pantry so thought we'd give it a try. I couldn't imagine a recipe with rye flour and only 4 other ingredients could produce a yummy cookie, but I was pleasantly surprised.
"In Finland, where rye grows better than wheat, rye flour is used in baking appetizing sweets as well as breads." pg. 32 Christmas Baking 2007
When my husband was growing up he had an exchange student from Finland. My mother-in-law still stays in contact with their former exchange student. I hope she tries this recipe and reports to them the results of her Finnish creations. Happy baking!
Ruiskakut (Rye Cookies)
Prep: 25 min.
Bake: 8 minutes per batch (in my oven we had to bake a little longer)
Oven: 350 degrees F

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups rye flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons cold water
blue and white decorating sugars (we had red and green on hand so we used them instead)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar and beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally.
2. Beat in the rye flour and all-purpose flour with an electric mixer on low speed until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the water, tossing mixture with a fork until a moist dough forms. Gently knead the dough until a ball forms.
3. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2-3 inch scalloped round cookie cutter, rerolling scraps as necessary. Place cutouts on and ungreased cookie sheet.
4. To make wreath shapes, cut out the centers with a 2-inch scalloped round cutter; remove centers and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with decorating sugars.
5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are firm and edges begin to brown. Carefully transfer to a wire rack and cool. Makes about 48 cookies.
To Bake Ahead: Prepare as directed. Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wrapping Up The First Quarter- Projects

This was the yard our service class worked on. The yard wasn't very big, but it was extremely overgrown. The morning glory vines, black berry vines, spreading, prickly holly branches and weeds were taking over. The precious woman who owns the house has degenerative vision disease and at the time we went there her vision was failing pretty bad.
We were so excited to be able to bless her and give some life back to her yard.
The kids tore out vines that had taken over her fence, shed, walkways, and were hiding the nice plants that were trying to survive. We turned dirt, reshaped flower beds and then hauled away a couple truck loads of debris.
Approximately halfway through our work time, our recipient came out and shared with us that the one thing she can still do with her failing vision is knit. Although her vision is failing her sense of touch is still great so she can feel the stitches and create knit projects. She wanted to know how many people/kids were helping in the yard. We counted up and she let us know she was going to pay her blessing forward. What a great principle to live by! She was so filled by her blessing she plans to knit the number of hats for the number of people who helped and then she'll give them to us so we can deliver them to the homeless or less fortunate.
This was a reminder to me that we all have something to give to bless others.
For us it was giving three hours of our time- that's not very much, but many hands make light work. In those three hours we were able to transform her yard. In turn, she's going to bless many who may experience cold temperatures this winter. Who knows, maybe someone who receives a hat will decide to pay that gift forward. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we ALL practiced a little selfless giving?
Now Go Give somehow someway. I can guarantee you, your giving will bless you greater than the one receiving.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wrapping up the First Quarter

We've been wrapping up many first quarter activities and classes. Our home school co-op is now on Christmas break. I'm happy to report the service class I taught ended very well.
I was concerned and feeling a bit defeated two weeks prior to the break. This last quarter the kids did some great service projects. We put together gifts for children in the hospital (a gift bag with a hand made card and a beanie baby), we cleaned up, cut back, and revitalized the yard of a lady who is losing her sight, we wrote letters to a friend serving in China and a soldier serving in Iraq, we made meals in jars for widows (or moms who could use an easy meal), we had guest speakers who coordinate medical services for children with serious health needs, we had a guest speaker who shared with us the need of children and poor in southeast Asia, and as our culminating project we raised OVER 1000 pounds of food for a local food bank. (Note there were only 11 kids in our class and 20 families in our co-op).
When we set the goal of 1000 pounds it didn't seem like too much, but as we were gathering I started to feel defeated. We only had 2-3 weeks to gather the food. And in addition I heard comments like, "Wow, 1000 pounds, that's a lot of food. It's hard to raise that much food, even for a big group, but you have a small group." For a minute I started to believe it was going to be too much. But the night I was feeling down, one of the kids called me because he was SO excited! Along with his brother and sister, he had collected 200 pounds in a day. Amazing!
The following day I read them the story of the Little Red Hen. Hard work gets the job done and these kids were working hard. I was so proud of them. During this quarter I saw them giving, serving and donating time, money, or talent.
I'm happy to report the night of our end of quarter event the kids had raised 987 pounds of food. We made a good effort and were only 13 pounds from our goal. Then one family arrived late and handed me a bag of food they wanted to donate. We weighed the food and...this is such a God thing...their bag weighed 13.8 pounds! We met and exceeded our goal!
What a great lesson of faith for the kids and for me. The Bible tells us we only need to have faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains.
"He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20-21

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Lesson from Vera

Vera. Even the name conjures up thoughts of a Vera-type girlie you may have known. The Vera books are written by Vera Rosenberry and it's my guess her life inspired the life of this little girl we've grown to love. Vera's become a favorite around here.

Today we read how Vera lost her tricycle and then her dad refurbished her sister's broken down bike and Vera learned to ride. Rebuilding bikes must be a theme for us this week. Our middle son just finished reading a story in his reading book about a boy whose dad refurbished a broken down bike because they couldn't afford a new one, so they worked hard together and created "Lightning" the speedy slick "new" bike.

These days, it's hard to imagine someone working on a broken down bike, sanding it down, repainting it, reassembling it and then gifting it as a new bike. But not too many years ago that's how we did things.

I remember my dad rebuilding a bike for my brother. He took it apart, sanded it down and painted it a beautiful candy-apple red color. It was super shiny and a lot of love and care went in to giving it a new life.

In our current consumer society we've lost some of these fun aspects of making due, or reusing what we already have.

In our family we laugh about how we used to wear our jeans until the were so faded they'd just about lost all the denim look. So, because times were tight, my mom would go buy a package of RIT dye and we'd wash our jeans in blue dye and lo' and behold...we had blue jeans again.

Or darning socks. I recently had a friend chastise me for darning the holes in my boys' socks because my time darning was wasted considering how cheap we could purchase new socks at Target. Maybe so, but sewing up the holes just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Hmm...

With the recent economic changes, maybe it would be prudent to reuse or repair some old items. I'm not ready to go buy the RIT dye, but cut-backs are probably in order.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Well, 52% of America Has Spoken

I woke up kind of numb.
Here we are...Day 1 of a "Yes We Can," "Change" and "Hope" for America new frontier. The media on broadcast television seem drunk with enthusiasm. They can barely stand themselves. Tears for the new president and the new direction of the country are run again and again. Questions like, "Do we have a new 'Camelot?'" are the main topics of discussion.
I had prepared myself for this possibility, but the fact that it is here is sobering.
I dragged myself downstairs at 6:15 am and reluctantly opened up my bible study. It was an "I know I should," more than an enthusiastic "I can't wait." Just like God promises, he met me where I'm at.
I'm doing a study called, Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed by Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore and Kay Arthur. I'm on Day 2 of Week 1. David is anointed by God. When Samuel was instructed to find David, God told him in 1 Samuel 16:7 "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart."
How many people looked at Barack Obama's heart? How many looked at his character? How many looked at his outward appearance?
The study brought about many other fabulous points. David wanted God's presence to be central to his every day life and wanted this God-consciousness to be the center of the life of Israel. Our prayer should be Exodus 33:15 "Lord, if Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from this place."
God continued to work through our morning. The kids and I are reading Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler. We're on Day 2 of Yahweh Shammah- The Lord is There. Once again God provided perfect timing. If you don't have the book, it is fabulous!
The verse for today was Isaiah 43:2,
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
She continues,
"Praise: That he is always with us.
Offer thanks: For God's presence in the midst of trouble.
Confess: Any tendency to conclude that you are alone in your struggles.
Ask God: To protect you and your loved ones."
The rest of the days devotion recounts the life of Genelle Guzman-McMillan. She was the last survivor pulled from the rubble of the North Tower collapse following the September 11th attacks. She recollects how she was buried amidst tons of debris and how someone named Paul held her hand and comforted her while rescue workers tried to pull her out. He stayed by her and reassured her until she was safe. After the rescue she learned that there was not a man named Paul involved in her rescue. God had been there with her and kept her completely calm. She remembers, "God was there when I needed him. He made sure I was found."
Like Genelle, today I feel like God is There. He knows how I feel and how so many other people in this country feel right now. He is holding our hands and comforting us. He will stand with us today and in our tomorrows. He is our Yahweh Shammah!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

Election Day. It's finally here. This has been one LONG race and the constant coverage has been interesting to say the least. There were times when I thought, really, "Is that relevant?" or other times when there was little reporting of a fact that I thought, "REALLY, That IS relevant!" Today we'll see how America votes.
The kids and I are reading a book about the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution. They wanted to worship God freely separate from the State Church of England. Men had been hanged and threatened for such ideas. In fear of such treatment, friends and relatives argued with the early Separatists to abandon their beliefs. When William Bradford heard such pleading he replied calmly, "To keep a good conscience and walk in such Way as God had prescribed in his Word, is a thing which I must prefer before you all, and above life itself. Wherefore, since it is for a good Cause that I am likely to suffer the disasters which you lay before me, you have no cause to be either angry with me, or sorry for me. Yea, I am not only willng to part with everything that is dear to me in this world for this Cause but I am thankful that God hath given me heart so to do; and will accept me so to suffer for him."
This is the heart that our Country was founded on.
Many have departed from this ideal, but my heart stands strong. God has given me a heart to Stand for God, My Country, My Family.
After the failing of the Speedwell Dorothy Bradford was discouraged. William placed his arm around her shoulder and quoted the words of Master Brewster, "It is not with us as with other men whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish themselves home again."
Our country faces a pivotal decision today. Despite what many may think it is not just the economy that is at stake. We've become a people who live for momentary pleasure, but somehow fail to look longterm at the consequences of our decisions. We live in a "Me" centered society. God's standard has been thrown out the window and our measure of right or wrong is relative to what our neighbor is doing. We compare ourselves with the world and have removed the standard to which Jesus died for.
Sad indeed.
Life is in the balance. The life of the unborn, the old, the disabled.
Traditional marriage is in the balance.
One or two Supreme Court seats are in the balance.
If we look at this election and look at what God values our decision should clearly evident. There are no gray areas.
I have read many messages that call us to fast and pray for this election. I pray that people will go to the voting booth and at the last minute will be convicted to vote for the more conservative candidate. (I just heard a lady on TV say she did just this...Praise God!)
I am not discouraged. The Bible tells us that God places kings in power and he removes them. Sometimes his people need to be challenged and he will place the necessary ruler over them. God's people have lived in prosperity and they have lived in oppression. Either way we still know who sits on the Throne!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Crazy for a Cleaning Product

I'm a gal who can get a little crazy for a new discovered cleaning product. The last one I was really excited about was the product line by Method, but this weekend I found a new FABULOUS addition to my cleaning arsenal.
I should first explain that we are "County Folk." We don't live in the city and so we have our own well. As many county folk can tell you when you have your own well there are a number of staining issues you may end up dealing with.
Before we moved in our house the water was on, but the filtration was not set up yet and we ended up with dark nasty stains in our sinks and a ring in our toilets. I've tried a number of heavy duty products but hate using the chemicals. I would say I lean a little toward the "green" side when it comes to chemicals. I have precious little ones and who knows what these chemicals will do to their little bodies in the long run. In addition we're on a septic system and I don't want to send something out there that will kill the good little bugs that are doing their hard work decomposing our waste.
Consequently, being the cleany that I usually am, it's a little embarrassing when we have company over. I don't want them to think lack of flushing or cleaning has caused these terrible stains.
So, this weekend while wandering the cleaning product aisles at Wal Mart I picked up a little Bathroomstone by Earthstone. I almost didn't buy it because it was a whole $3, but it piqued my interest. It is made for "heavy duty cleaning and scrubbing." It has no harmful chemicals and is completely safe. The packaging reads, "It easily cleans even the toughest hard water, soap scum, and mildew on porcelain or tile and grout."
I brought the little stone home and took it to our guest bath. I gently applied the stone in a gentle circular motion as instructed and in stains quickly disappeared!! I couldn't believe it. For four years I've battled these awful menaces and in just seconds they were gone!
So, here's my endorsement for the Bathroomstone by Earthstone. I think I'll check out their website and see what other goodies I might find
Happy Cleaning!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hittin' the Big Stage

Like many Americans we've practiced our own fiscal responsibility here at home. I've sold various unused items in the hopes of saving some extra $$ for vacations or other special items (maybe a new computer mine crashes). The kids sometimes tremble telling each other, "You better put that away, or mom will sell it!"

We've sold educational curriculum, plants, household items, etc. It's been a really great adventure so far.

Recently I listed a precious rocking horse. It is really special, but it was no longer being used for anything other than a step-stool when cleaning out the fish tank (that will be going too) or a clothes rack.

If I was a better display person, I would have found a great way to display it, but lately I've felt like less is more.

I was contacted by a gal at a local dance studio inquiring about the availability of the horse. I replied that it was still available. I met her at the dance studio for her to look at it. She LOVED it!! Not just liked it, but really loved it! She showed it to other employees and they loved it too. I don't know that the little horse has received so much love in the past few years. Even I saw it through different eyes as they raved over it. It really was a cutie little horse with great potential that was just hidden in our home.

The dance studio has very big plans for this rocking wonder. He will appear in The Nutcracker and The Velveteen Rabbit. He is Hittin' the Big Stage. We talked about going to his performances. We're so proud of our little star! Who would have thought? I guess he has his own "real" Velveteen Rabbit story that he can share- from wooden step stool to star of the stage...

Love Letters

I recently began reading I Love You, Ronnie. It's a compilation of letters Ronald Reagan wrote to Nancy Reagan. It's amazing to think he wrote her gushy notes throughout their many years together even into the White House and beyond.

As I read the book, I thought back to the many love letters my sweetheart wrote me while we were dating. I still have all but a few of the letters stashed away in a safe place. Like Nancy, I seem to be a saver. I try to organize and purge and am convinced the FlyLady is a necessity in the lives of most American families, but I hold on dearly to these special letters. I don't pull them out to read, but just knowing they are there is important since they represent the early days of our relationship.

So, in reading the book and thinking about my own stashed away letters I thought, "I wonder why I don't get letters anymore?" Well, no sooner thought (and I must add, my sweetheart knew nothing of my reading Nancy's book) I got mail.

My sweetheart had been down at his mom's house visiting and caring for her while she was in the hospital (she's recovering from surgery removing cancer from her pancreas). And while he was there I guess he decided to recussitate his love letter writing activities.

So, totally unsuspecting I receive a precious card with words of encouragement written inside. I can't tell you how this made my day!! It's not just little kids who love to check the mail and actually GET mail!

He returned home and I said, "Guess what? I got mail!" He smiled coyly. And then, guess what? I got mail again the next day too!! I love it!!

It doesn't take too much effort to make a girlie happy and I can assure you this girlie is a Smilin'!

Thank you my sweet!

Volcano Pie- An Ice Cream Treat

Here is the recipe for Volcano Pie...

Fudge Sauce:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Over low heat or in a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter. Add boiling water, stir well, and add sugar and corn syrup. Bring to boil, cover, and continue boiling for three minutes. Uncover, reduce heat and cook for two more minutes. Do not stir. Take off heat and add vanilla.

Ice Cream Pie
1 prepared chocolate-cookie or graham-cracker pie crust
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup chocolate chips
Let ice cream soften a bit. Combine ice cream and peanut butter. Mix in chocolate chips (raisins or peanuts are also great). Pile ice cream into prepared crust and mold into your favorite volcano shape. Freeze until ice cream has re hardened (4 hours or more). Remove from freezer and scoop out a "crater" in the top of your volcano. Pour fudge sauce into the "crater" and let "lava" flow down the slopes of your volcano. Dust with cocoa and powdered sugar forced through a mesh strainer. Decorate with raisins, chocolate malted-milk balls, or whatever you like.
This recipe was gathered from Kids Discover Volcanoes.

Book Club- The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck

This year I decided it would be a great idea for our kids to be part of a Book Club. So we started one.

We are currently reading The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck. It is a moving story of two young boys in Japan. They are great friends and experience the fun and adventure of boyhood together. They've heard of the Big Wave (tsunami) yet no one expects what a big wave could actually do to change their lives. Jiya, one of the boys, experiences the pain of loss after his village and family is lost following the big wave. He also comes to learn about true bravery and comes to understand how wonderful life can be.

I found a study guide for the book that we are following and each meeting I supplement the learning with a science experiment and usually a little treat.

So far we've done two sections of the book. For our first meeting we discussed tsunamis, tectonic plates and earthquakes. We did a science activity where we simulated an underwater quake and saw how the ripple of the water would be created. We also focused on the geography of Japan and the surrounding region.

Did you know a tsunami (translated "great harbor wave" in Japanese) can produce waves that rise up to 100 feet or higher? Or that a tsunami wave on the open ocean can travel up to 500 mph? Or that an earthquake off the coast of Chile caused a tsunami that traveled 10,000 miles in just 22 hours to Japan where it hit with such force that 150 people were killed.

One week following our lesson we enjoyed Volcano Pie. It was a yummy ice cream pie. I found the recipe in Kids Discover Volcanoes. I will post the recipe for you to enjoy.

We've discussed melting points as associated with the inner earth so we could have a better understanding of magma. We learned about other melting points of water, chocolate, sugar, and even the filiment in a lightbulb that has a melting point that exceeds 6000 degrees! Wow!

This past week we watched a DVD about earthquakes. The awesome wonder of the earth is so amazing!! After the DVD we enjoyed a little Volcano Punch- Yum! Cool, Refreshing, Bubbly, and Tropical!

The boys are making "Lap Books" to record the vocabulary, geography, experiments and other important facts surrounding our study.

I'm not sure who is learning or the kids. I love soaking in this information. I find myself wondering, maybe when I grow up I should be a geologist, or a scientist, or just maybe I'll be who I am, a mom enjoying the learning.

Uncle Bubba Comes to Visit

We enjoyed a recent visit with Uncle Bubba and his wife. Uncle Bubba is my youngest brother. He was able to come to the kids' soccer games to spread his humor on the fields. He's one of the funniest people I know and kept us in stitches when we were growing up. He's still super funny and his "one liners" are hilarious.

He made many culinary requests that we enthusiastically made for him at a family bar-b-que. As I mentioned in an earlier post, some of the food choices of our family may not be common favorites, but we love them. So my mom cooked up some squid in a tomato sauce, I fried up chicken gizzards and squid. We also had wonderful bar-b-qued london broil, salads, and more.

This family get-together was a first in almost 3 years. Three years is much too long to wait to have loved ones spend time enjoying each other. I hope we are able to gather again really soon!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Big Semi-Anniversary Day!

A few days ago after reviewing posts I realized there's someone very special to me that I don't post much about. This blog has been mostly about the kids, homeschooling and food. Although he's not often centerstage on the blog he's centerstage here at home. And today marks a very special day for us.

Today my husband and I celebrate 20 years as a couple. We've been married nearly 16 years, and dated about 4 years prior to marriage.

As I reflect back on 20 years, my first thought is amazement realizing 20 years has actually gone by so quickly. I know that sounds so cliche, but it's actually true. I also thought back to where we were when we first met. We met in college on my second day on campus. He was two years younger than me and it seemed like a decade at the time. Being the self-concious person that I am, I didn't want to hold his hand in public because I felt like the age difference was too obvious. I don't think anyone would even notice now...he has MANY more gray hairs than me and maybe even a few more wrinkles.

We've really grown up together and grown in our relationship and friendship. He knows me better than anyone. I love spending time with him and love seeing him with our kids. Although I didn't really have a clue 20 years ago, I'm grateful that God knew what He was doing. He picked a great man for me and I'm looking forward to the next 20, and the next 20 and the next 20.

So to my sweetheart, if you're reading this...the last 20 years has been Fabulouso! You're my best friend! I Love You!

P.S. Thanks for the great breakfast. The pancakes with blueberry syrup were great!

Cooking Up A Storm-Baked Crunchy Chicken Bites

I'm not sure if it's the cooling weather and the desire for some inside comfort food, but we're cooking up a storm this week. Our oldest has enthusiastically tried some new recipes and we're enjoying his creations.
We have a fabulous math book called The Math Chef by Joan D'Amico & Karen Eich Drummond. Once a week the kids usually make one of the many recipes. This week we focused on metric conversions and made a recipe called Baked Crunchy Chicken Bites (or Chicken Nuggets to us). Occasionally I change up the recipe a bit and this is highlighted.
Note: 2T=30 ml
10 minutes to prepare plus 10-12 minutes to cook
cookie sheet
2 1-gallon resealable plastic bags
medium bowl
wire whip
small bowl
rolling pin
cutting board
paring knife
oven mitts
vegetable oil cooking spray
1/4 c. flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg
2 Tablespoons 2% milk= ? ml of milk
2 dozen snack crackers (we used Saltine Crackers and used more than 2 dozen)
4 boneless chicken breast halves
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray the cookie sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.
3. Place the flour, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in one of the plastic bags. Seal the bag and shake it to mix the ingredients well. Set it aside.
4. In the medium bowl, whisk the egg and milk together.
5. Put the crackers in the second plastic bag and seal the bag or close with a tie. Crush the crackers by rolling the rolling pin over the bag until the crackers are crumbly. Put the crushed crackers in the small bowl.
6. On the cutting board, use the paring knife to cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, about 1 inch by 1 inch.
7. Put the chicken pieces into the first plastic bag with the flour mixture. Seal the bag or close with a tie, and shake to mix. Wehn all the pieces are dusted with flour, remove the chicken from the bag.
8. Dip the chicken pieces two-by-two into the egg mixture and then into the cracker crumbs.
9. Place the chicken pieces in a single layer on the sprayed cookie sheet.
10. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (we baked for longer) or until golden brown. Remove cookie sheet from oven using oven mitts.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fast and Easy Dinner Idea-BBQ Chicken Pizza

With the abundance of zucchini we've had I've spent extra time online looking for creative ways to use this summer vegetable. I found a quick and easy recipe on Martha Stewart Everyday for BBQ Chicken Pizza. Ususally I'm not one to take short-cuts, and do make just about everything from scratch, but with this recipe I was able to make a couple of changes makinig this an even easier quick-to-the-table dinner creation.

Instead of making my own pizza dough, I bought pre-made pizza dough and instead of cooking chicken and adding bbq sauce I bought an 18 oz. container of BBQ Shredded Chicken All White Meat w/Barbeque Sauce (fully cooked) at Trader Joe's.

Here's Martha's Recipe:

Serves 4
Olive oil, for baking sheet
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 pound store-bought frozen pizza dough, thawed (Trader Joe's has a great pre-made pizza dough available for just over $1)
1/2 cooked chicken, (about 1 1/4 pounds), shredded (about 2 cups) (Try Trader Joe's BBQ Shredded Chicken w/bbq sauce-if using then omit next ingredient)
1/2 cup store-bought barbecue sauce
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a large baking sheet; set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin and your hands to roll and stretch dough to a 15-by-10-inch oval (if dough becomes too elastic to work with, let rest a few minutes). Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, combine chicken and barbecue sauce. Leaving a 1-inch border, scatter chicken mixture evenly over dough; sprinkle with cheese, then zucchini and onion. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake until crust is golden and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

This was a yummy pizza liked by all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Your Light

Last night I looked out the window and saw such a beautiful sight. The full moon was rising over the mountain and the majesty of creation was breathtaking.

In the past I've tried to take pictures of the moon with my basic digital camera, but they've never turned out. I thought I'd give it another try.

I was so pleased the photo was more than just a circle of light in darkness. To accompany the photo, I started to think about what I'd write in the post. I figured the beauty of the photo would speak for itself and was just going to post the picture.

Then, while driving home tonight from a meeting at church, listening to TobyMac's, In the Light, I knew what God wanted me to see in the photo.

The moon by itself is not a brilliant shining jewel in the sky. It is a reflection of the sun, and it's the sun that illuminates it and gives the beauty.

That's what I want my life to be. My desire is that as the moon reflects the sun's light so might I reflect the Son's light. I want to shine the light of Jesus and reflect Him in all I do.

Matthew 5:14-16 reads, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

As Christians, many times we shine at church and within our Christian circles, but how much more can we glorify God if we let our light shine in the world to the people who don't yet know Him.

It is my desire that our family walk with a servant's heart. May God use every day to Shine through us so that He might be Glorified!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Invasion of the Fruit Fly

I should learn my lesson! In an earlier post about mice, I SHOULD have learned my lesson. But, NO! Once again, my "I'm sure glad I don't have THAT problem..." thoughts are bringing to FRUIT-ion a big problem in our home. Fruit Flies!

Off and on, we have a fruit fly here and there, but nothing major. Over the last couple of days we've become the fruit fly's best and greatest hang out. I think the word got out that we were having a birthday party last weekend with lots of great, fresh food and that we have an yummy compost bucket filled with fruit and vegetable waste. The annoying little buggers have pulled up in their station wagons filled with family and are making a home to spend their 10 day lifetime in pure bliss.

While they're having a frenzy of a good time, I'm going NUTS! Being the germ-phobe, anti-bug (in the home) person that I am, I'm having a hard time with this. I think they're mulitplying faster than I can vacuum them up. Last night I saw them perched on my kitchen window, so I pulled out the vacuum and sucked them up. No sooner did I do this, their relatives saw the vacancy and moved right in.

Then I decided to do some research on how to get rid of them and they decided to check out the computer too. I was batting them away between clicking on various links. I did find a great link with many helpful tips. Looks like I'll be cleaning the house from top to bottom today! If you're having the same problem check out

Hopefully the problem will be in check in the next couple of days. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Little Things in Life

Isn't it just like God to remind you that he's thinking of you when you're a bit down or feeling a bit frazzled? Today was one of those days for me.

My sweetheart has been gone for almost two weeks helping his mom out while she's gone through surgery for pancreatic cancer and transitioning to life at home. We felt it best for the kids and me to stay home and continue with our daily routine.
We did very well the first week, but day-by-day we're realizing we really miss having dad around. We miss his company and conversation. I'm sure the kids miss him for all the fun things like wrestling and playing soccer. And although I'm a great multi-tasker and do get a lot done in a given day, I'm still falling a bit behind on outdoor chores, like lawn-mowing. (Now honey, don't think I only like you because the chores you do).
Yesterday, I was trying to finish the mowing of our 2.5 acres and ran out of gas. I was away from the house, but thought I'd walk to the garage, grab the gas can, fill up the mower and continue. I made it to the garage only to find all three of the 5-gallon gas cans empty. It was almost the straw that broke the camels back, but a kind neighbor lent me enough gas to at least put the mower away for the night.
On a normal day, I'm all about mowing and enjoying that time outside, but for some reason the loneliness combined with the unfinished task almost brought me to tears. I know I sound like a big "weenie" but at the moment... I'm sure another hormonal person may understand what I'm saying, it was all I could do to call a neighbor and ask for help.
Shortly thereafter I had to go off to Bible study. It was the first night of this new study. I was encouraged. We're studying Fingerprints of God by Jennifer Rothschild. I know He has his hand on my day to day occurrences and cares about what is going on. The gals in my group prayed and I felt uplifted.

This morning, after my quiet time, I came to my computer and checked my email and found a great note of encouragement from a friend. I then glanced to my right and found that overnight my gardenia had not one new bloom, but three. I really don't believe in coincidences, so seeing those beautiful blooms and smelling their incredible fragrance reminded me that in my loneliness He is there. He is ever present and ever caring! And I think He knew more than anything, I treasure and enjoy His handiwork in the beautiful white gardenias He brought me this morning. I will smile today knowing all is well, and who knows...maybe the lawn might even get mowed.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Quinoa- How Do You Pronounce It?

Quinoa, pronounced "Keen-wah"is a grain that contains more protein than most other grains. It has a nutty texture and makes a great salad.
I've recently discovered new recipes at The recipes have a fabulous mix of ingredients that may be new to some or new ways of using age old ingredients.
Last night we bbq'd beautiful t-bones on the grill (thank you George). We served them alongside gyoza and for a salad we made Apple Quinoa Salad with Curry Dressing. Our oldest son is our official "Chopper" and our middle boy is our "Mixer." I love having the helping hands. And together we get more done in less time- Wonderful!

Apple Quinoa Salad with Curry Dressing

Crisp apple, chewy quinoa and toasted almonds give this nutty and sweet curried salad a full flavor and hearty texture.
1/4 cup raw whole almonds
1 cup organic bulk quinoa
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped organic shallot
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried currants or dried cherries
1 organic apple, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Toast almonds until fragrant in a 375ยบ F oven, for about seven minutes.
Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve and drain. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa, return to boil, stir, cover and reduce heat. Simmer until quinoa is tender but still chewy, about 15 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork and let cool.
For the dressing, whisk together honey, shallot, curry powder, salt and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with pepper. Whisking constantly, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream and whisk until emulsified. Add quinoa, currants, apple and nuts and toss well.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Did I Mention...I'm Looking Forward to Getting to Know This Gal Better

Wanna Be Farmer

Yesterday we were driving home and noticed a sign for a "Farmer's Market" at our local Grange Hall. Hmm... I thought, maybe we could sell some of our overabundance of vegetables at the "Farmer's Market."

I know I'm not exactly a farmer, but I'd like to be- sort of. I proudly wear my "FARM CHICK" shirt and listen to country music when I'm tromping around our 2.5 acres hauling composted material and trailing my wagon. Yeah, I'm a home school, new generation, momma of three, compostin', recyclin', growin' food for fun type of farmer. I thought that qualified us for the "Farmer's Market."

So I called the number for the local grange and then called the contact person for the event. I was told to just show up and set up our goods.

I got up at 6:15 to harvest. The fog was thick and the air crisp. It was a beautiful morning, quiet, the kids were asleep and I was on my own. I picked a variety of cucumbers, lettuce, kale, tomatillos, leeks, mint, tarragon, rosemary, oregano, and zucchini. I then cleaned the veggies, loaded them in the car, loaded some plant starts we've been selling, loaded the table, grabbed the basket of fresh baked cookies and the bottle cap necklaces the kids made last fall, and then lastly told the kids to get ready.

We headed out at 9:10. We arrived at the Grange to find only one other "Farmer" there. Actually he wasn't a farmer. He works for an organic farm and is employed to do the selling thing. He had really nice beans, berries and other veggies. He even had a tent. We had our mini-van, tail gate open, table set up and four kids (my three and a friend). At moments the kids would be helping or quietly hanging out. At other times they'd be arguing, yelling at each other, or swinging from the roof of the vehicle. Aren't we quite the farmers?

Luckily some kind folk bought some of our goods. We sold cucumbers, a couple necklaces, cookies and some leeks. We spent 1/2 of our income buying the kids the nice breakfast being served at the Grange Hall.

For all our (my) efforts we made a whopping $22. I know it's not great, but it was a fun experience. And more importantly it was family time together-screaming and all.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Back on the Fields

Soccer season has just started up and today was the first game(s) of the season. This is our first year having all three kids play. And...Dad is coaching all three kids' teams. Wow! What a committed soccer dad!
Yesterday our little girlie had her first practice. Her dad is still out of town so there was another fill-in coach covering. We showed up at least 15 minutes late for the 30 minute practice. I felt like the loser mom of the coach's daughter. Our little "Princess" did not like the way the shin guards felt on her legs and feet. Then she did not like the way the socks fit. They have seams! And then even worse came the shoes. She did not like the way the shoes fit with the shin guards and then the socks. We had to discuss why each pad was where it was on the shin guards.
It went a little like, "This pad protects your ankle bone. This pad protects the bone on the other side of your foot. I know it's uncomfortable, but you need to have them there so in the event you get kicked, BUT you won't get kicked. No, you won't get hurt out there. I'm sure. It'll be fun. Yes."
By the time we got out to practice she was ready.
I'm happy to report she had a great time! Soccer practice was a success.
So Today the BIG GAME... She loved it! And I loved being the mom of a little 5-year old pee-wee who kept yelling, "Hi, Mom!" And then occasionally run to the side line to give me a big kiss and a hug. Only the little ones. Bless them!
She scored two goals. She even got a little sweaty. She was proud and had a great time!
When we were walking back to the car she asked when her next game was. She said, "Mom, I'm all about two things with soccer- fun and scoring goals!" Yeah girlie! A few steps later she said, "Mom, I'm pretty sweaty. I think I need to get some doe-der-ant." A lady overheard her and started laughing. Isn't it fun listening to the littles?
The boys had great games too, but they're already used to the soccer routine. Neither one of them has ever complained to me about shin guards. Now that I think about it, they probably thought the shin guards were like cool warrior armor or something...and who wouldn't want that?

Kids on The High Wire

The Making of Mirette On The High Wire

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Best School Day I've Ever Had!

We're finishing up the first week of our home schooling year. It's been a very good week and the kids have worked really hard.
My main goal this year was to have more FUN! We're good at working on the reading, writing and arithmetic, but when it comes to not worrying about the "have to's" I don't think I've been as unstructured as I'd like.
So today after Bible, I told the kids, "We're not doing the bookwork today." You should have seen their faces.
Instead of hitting the books we read Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. It's a Caldecott Medal winner and the kids loved it. It was actually the second time we read it this week.
Like Mirette we tried walking on our own High Wire. We talked about what we had to do with our bodies to keep our balance like put our arms out and bend our knees slightly.
I then had the kids lay on white paper and we traced their "high wire" moves. They had a great time picking out what their "people" would wear, what color eyes they'd have, how dark their skin would be and how their hair would be styled. Our oldest child said his boy looked good bald, but we decided to add hair anyway. Our middle boy painted his boy's clothing to match his favorite clothing picks. He usually wears two shirts each day-one long sleeve covered with a short sleeve. His boy looks exactly the same. And our girlie is all about pink. So no surprise her girl is a Pinkie too.
Toward the end of the painting, our middle son exclaimed, "THIS IS THE BEST HOME SCHOOL DAY I'VE EVER HAD!!!"
Now, that's what I'm looking for! I want our homeschool experiences to be the best they've ever had. Learning should be fun!
In case you're interested, we found this activity in a book called Art Activities from Award-Winning Picture Books from the Teaching and Learning Company. It is written by Judy Hierstein and designed to be used with preK-3rd grade kids.
We'll post our finished products when they are dry and on the "High Wire."

I'm Ready for the Yard Sign!!

WOW!! What a political week we've had!! A week ago I never heard of Sarah Palin and now...I'd like to have coffee with her! She's my kind of gal- God-fearing, pro-life, wife, mom, strong, confident, pro-family, well-spoken, hard-working, dedicated, humorous, forgiving, determined...
Needless to say, I was extremely impressed with her speech at the Republican National Convention! The upcoming weeks and debates will be quite interesting. This is going to be an exciting race to watch.
And John McCain...what a Hero! I can't even imagine what he's been through as a prisoner of war and yet he never blamed his country for sending him there, but became more dedicated to the service of his country. I loved at the end of his speech when he called (disgruntled) Americans to do something to make the country a better place rather than complain. Serve, Serve, Serve!! That's the key to life. Take the focus off yourself and serve others. It truly makes for a better life!!

Monday, September 01, 2008

My Junk, Someone Else's Treasure

This was a great summer for cleaning out and "decluttering." I have much more I want to do, but we're going in the right direction.
My dad mentioned to me in June that he was going to have a garage sale. Oh, A GARAGE SALE! The wheels started turning. I had some unwanted belongings I could donate to the sale. I thought this would be a great opportunity to get rid of things clogging up the closets and hopefully make some extra $$ for school books this year.
I imagine my poor dad thought of all the work that he would put in trying to load all that "stuff" into his truck and secure it. Luckily he's master of the bungy cord! Then once he got it home he'd have to unload it, price it, and then wait for other people to decide if my junk was their treasure. But all I can say is, "Bless him."
With much help from a friend they were able to sell SO MUCH!! I was in shock when he told me how much sold! AWESOME!! New curriculum for the kiddos! Yeah!!
Thanks so much for all the help you gave us and when we're schooling we'll thank you for making it all so much more affordable!
Wanna do another garage sale?? Just kidding!

Putting the Labor in Labor Day Weekend

Isn't Labor Day Weekend a great opportunity to work so hard you feel like you'll collapse at any moment? I think that's what our family thinks LABOR day is for. This weekend was wonderful and full of completed projects. We are actually the type of people who lay in bed at night and say "It was a good day" if we completed many projects and worked ALL day.
I had many things on my "To Do" list and with school starting up this week I really wanted to get busy checking off the list.
To Do:
Pick beans outside
Pick all beets
Pick all the carrots
Pick cucumbers and zucchini
Clean up house
Clean bathrooms (little sweethearts have had a touch of a bug and let's just say in the middle of the night aim into the toilets hasn't been completely accurate)
Get miscellaneous (oops, forgot a couple things) items for school ordered and purchased
Start little project for Dear Husband (hope you're surprised)!
Can beans, beets, and blueberry jam (My mom was given many pounds of blueberries for FREE Yeah!)
Help out with the Sunday school program for one service
That's not very much... or is it??
Well as previously mentioned, our three little precious kiddos took turns on each day of the weekend throwing up. I really appreciate that they were so considerate knowing that if they were all throwing up at the same time, it would be very overwhelming. So they took turns.
Huge blessing...My mom decided to come up this weekend to help out. It really lifted the load.
So we canned 12 pints of blueberry jam, 4 pints of blueberry syrup, 13 pints of pickled beets with onions, 7 pints of lemon spiced bean pickles, and we even made some chocolate chip cookies.
Other than that we also completed the other items on the list. DH I hope you like the surprise! It'll be in a later post.
So as I lay in bed before I doze off, I'll think on this Labor Day Weekend. It definitely was a GOOD weekend!