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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holiday? What Holiday?

I KNEW that Halloween was coming up. On Saturday, I spoke with my Mom about what time her town was hosting trick-or-treat. I thought of it right before going to bed that night. But did I remember it on Sunday??? NOPE!

After church I decided to take my daughter out for "girl time." We shopped for new clothes for the kids to wear to their Aunt Sarah's wedding, and then my princess asked if she could get new shoes to match her dress. "Sure" I said, enjoying my special time with her, and we climbed back into the car to go to the mall, where I know I can find her favorite soft ballet slippers.

Out in the parking lot I noticed lots of cars and thought to myself "Wow, the Christmas season really starts early. What a pain." But we slowly made our way up and down the aisles until we found a parking spot (VERY far from the entrance).

Then, on our LONG walk through the parking lot she noticed a group of kids in their costumes and pointed them out. "Look Mommy! They are all dressed up!" I smiled at the kids and reminded my daughter that she sometimes likes to go shopping dressed like a flower girl. (Notice - none of this was making ANY connections for me)

After we walked through the doors to the Mall, my daughter pulled on my sweater and sadly whispered "Mommy, ALL of the kids are dressed up." I looked around, and TA-DA she was right - tiny princesses and pirates were everywhere. Not only were they all there, riding on the carousel and running though the halls, but they were all lining up in front of the stores and holding out bags with expectant looks on their faces.

"OH . . . UM . . . Sweetheart, would you like to go to get a new costume at the Disney store?"

Phew! I went from "bad-forgetful-mommy" to "amazing-generous-mommy" in 10 seconds flat.

I enjoyed spending the rest of the afternoon with "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast. We trick-or-treated at the stores in the Mall as we shopped for her shoes, and then stopped by her Nana's house (where we should have been from the beginning). She had fun showing off her new costume and got that great "thrilled kid" look in her eyes when her Grandpa dumped at least 3 pounds of lollipops into her bag.

Thank goodness those costumes were on sale!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Educational WebSites

My youngest sister has asked for references to some of the educational sites that I use for my kids. Rather than enter all of the info into a e-mail, I thought it might be easier for her to access it here.   Plus, this way, when my computer decides to quit on me (as all computers eventually do) I'll be able to find my favorite places again.

This is IN NO WAY an exhaustive list - there are tons of resources out there.  These are just the bookmarked sites that I visit most often.

Enjoy browsing!

Unit Studies (this is my favorite teaching method - one topic for 1-6 weeks)
Currclick - you will have to register, but it doesn't cost anything

Handwriting for Kids - customizable worksheets in several sizes
Donna Young - planning forms and maps

SchoolExpress - lots of fun pictures, more than just black & white numbers



Virtual Human Body Tour - the link to the tour is within the lesson plan

Family Fun Magazine - use the search bar on the top right
Strings in the Mountains - story of Mozart

Lesson Plans (Scope & Sequence)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

2008 Photo Review


Click HERE for the full slide show.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Little Boy Is A Star

My kids love to sing. All the time. Loudly!

Yesterday morning we were jolted awake (at 4:30AM) yet again, by the sound of our little girl entertaining herself with her favorite song:
Little Boy is a Star.
Neigh, Neigh, Neigh, Neigh, Neigh, Neigh.
Now, just to clarify, Little Boy is a horse that she got to ride two years ago when we visited Charmingfare Farm. She has not seen him since, but his gentle nature made such an impression on her that she has immortalized him in song.

To sing this song correctly you need to make sure that your voice is loud enough to carry to the next county. And repeat it . . . at least a few dozen times.

Now, this is not to say that my kids don't sing "normal" songs. I will regularly receive enthusiastic serenades in the car when the two of them collaborate on their own versions of "The Ants go Marching One by One," "Great is thy Faithfulness," or "The Star Spangled Banner." These songs they will sing once or twice (with hilarious changes in the words), and with gusto, but NOTHING like the Little Boy song.

So, for any of you who haven't heard it yet, click on the title of this post above or HERE to listen to today's entry of my little girl's first and favorite composition- and for the full effect, plug it into your ipod and set it to repeat for the next few hours. It will stick in your head permanently - taking up the space that you originally intended to use to remember the grocery list or your own phone number.

No wonder I feel like my brain is swiss cheese!

Friday, October 10, 2008

First Ultrasound for Baby #3

1st photos of Baby!

We were told that the due date is expected to be April 17th which means that I am currently 13 weeks along. Baby is approx. 3 inches long crown to rump, and weighs less than an ounce (about the size of a lemon).

We were able to see and hear the tiny heartbeat and watch baby move it's arms around. As it slowly wiggled we could see clearly that this is a Real Baby, not that we didn't already know it, but seeing your child before you can even feel it is a powerful experience. Ultrasounds truly are amazing! They remind me of just how powerful and generous our God is to give my family such a tiny and wonderful gift.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I love my freezer!

I really do! The freezer is one of the greatest inventions - it allows me to cook when I want and skip it when I don't. While talking with my Mom & sister this week I realized just how much of a weirdo I am in the way that I cook, but it works for me, so for those of you who have asked questions, here are my helpful (and not-so-helpful) hints.

There are TONS of freezer menus out there, and most come out okay, but they are all just so random! My favorite recipes come from here:
SavingDinner.com  because they not only give you the recipe, but also a shopping guide for everything! Who wants to spend an entire afternoon writing out a grocery list - not me. I just grab one of these (I have the 1st 4 Mega Menus) photocopy the shopping list, add my own needs, and take off!. Later, when I get home, I follow the "quick prep" steps, and chop all the veggies etc.

I usually wait until the next day to do my assembly (simply because the kids need my attention) but within an hour or two I have 20 meals in the freezer (they will keep us fed for well over a month when you figure in all of the nights out, instant inspiration for something "different" and what not), my kitchen is clean, and dinner for that night is simmering in my crock-pot. LOVE IT!

Okay here is what I've learned about freezing - your main enemies are air and water so . . .
  • Make sure that you double bag everything, even if you think you will be using it soon and squeeze out as much air as you possibly can. 
  • Throw your food back into the fridge for at least an hour before tossing it in the freezer - it will freeze better (faster = less ice) after it has been chilled. 
  • Make sure your meat is dry - really dry, before freezing. I often place it in the fridge uncovered for an hour or so - the fridge naturally dries food out, so it is good to go right into your baggies and then the freezer after that. (Don't worry about meat you are bagging with "wet" marinade - it contains salt which changes the point at which it freezes.  Usually marinades won't cause freezer burn.)
  • Cut meat into smaller portions so that it freezes quickly - a large cut of meat will lose a lot of it's natural juices and most of it's tenderness if frozen whole. 
  • Fruits freeze best if you can spread them thinly on a cookie sheet & allow them to freeze individually before re-packaging into baggies. For juicy fruits like peaches, make sure to add citrus juice (for color) and sugar (for texture).
  • Veggies are a pain, and aren't worth the effort - just buy them frozen from the store (they freeze them instantly after picking, actually giving you FRESHER results). To do it at home requires blanching, which I just can't be bothered to do. The exceptions to this are onions, carrots, peppers, etc (stew vegetables), which you intend to allow to cook with your meat, just toss them in with the meat so that everything is ready when you need it. 
  • Sometimes it is worth it to freeze things that don't require freezing - for example, I often pre-measure my flour salt and shortening to make crust and store it with the filling ingredients for my mom's Pork Pie. Now, Flour & salt certainly don't need to be frozen, but it makes my assembly go much faster when I don't have to pull out a recipe at all.
  • Write the cooking steps directly on the bag as often as possible - usually they are simple "toss in crock-pot for 8 hours" or "cook at 350 for 30 min." Why force yourself to pull out a cookbook if you don't need to?
That's it - a few hours of prep for a month of easy dinners. Just thaw your meal in the fridge for 24 hours or under running cold water for 1 hour - cook & eat.

Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cabinet Doors


ver the past week my sweet husband has spent all of his "spare" time installing doors on our kitchen cabinets. It is AMAZING what a difference they make to the appearance of our entire house!

Did you know that kitchen cabinets didn't exist before 1903? That is the year that "the hoosier" (a unit with a stove, a pull-out counter top, storage area for bread, and drawers for vegetables, cans or other condiments) was introduced. I have seen these in antique shops for years, and always thought of them as quaint - but never realized that this was almost the ONLY storage most people had in their kitchen during that time. Other food was stored in the basement or cold cellar.

There would be separate cupboards in the house for storing dishes and silverware, but these were very different from what we are accostomed to. They were built as separate pieces of furniture (think china cabinet or pie safe) and were often placed in the dining area.

As technology advanced during the 20th century homeowners began to collect "new" things like blenders, mixers, and a large assortment of what my Memere called "kitchen gadgets." Because of the amount of stuff they had collected, kitchen cabinets became necessary to store all of these new treasures - and were often built by the homeowner or contractor on the spot (This was often not a good thing - there is a big difference between built-to-fit plywood boxes and true custom carpentry). Here is the result as it looked in our house:

Not so pretty right? Well, with a lot of hard work (and living without since last November - yup 11 months) here are our new cabinets!

We still have painting, window trim, and tile work to do, but I am SO in love with these Tiger Maple cabinets that the other details don't really seem to matter!

Thanks Nate, Jon, Mike, and all the other guys who helped out on this enormous project!

Oh, and Nate here is the other photo that you requested for your Dad - Hi Bill!