Saturday, May 31, 2008

Homeschool Curriculum Shopping

Yes school is officially over - but now I have begun the task of hunting down all the books we need for the fall.

A good portion of the homeschool books we have purchased over the past few years, I have been able to find used. Used = cheap. There used to be a great homeschool bookstore about a 1/2 hr from our house...they sold new books plus used and I always found a lot of great deals there.

Until they moved to a new location. Actually their first move was not too bad - it was further from home, but they still had a nice selection of used materials. Then after about a year, they moved again. Closer to home - but when we went there today, a very poor selection of used books. Sigh.

I did get some good deals...I spent about $40 on curriculum that had a retail price of approx. $140. So I'm happy about that. But as I said, the selection was poor and I'm still on the hunt for quite a few books.

There is a used curriculum fair that I usually attend in June, but I just realized that it is on the same date as an out-of-town wedding I'll be attending.

I still have a few months left to look but now that I have started hunting - I want to get it all done quickly. I do check out eBay for books, and did find one tonight that I bought, but the problem with eBay is that you pay for shipping, you can't physically look through the book to make sure it's exactly what you want, plus you have other people bidding against you. Also a year or so ago, eBay quit allowing the sale of answer keys.

In case you are wondering, I use Saxon for math and A Beka for all the other subjects. I'm not too crazy about A Beka, but I continue to use it. Some of it is useless and boring. I need to keep reminding myself that I do not have to follow things exactly. I don't even have to give all the tests or reviews or assignments. If the next chapter is on birds and my daughter thinks it's boring - why not move onto something else. Sure kids need to realize that even if something is boring they may still have to do it - but there is plenty of time for that later! Now if my kids didn't know a cardinal from a duck, that would be one thing. But if the kids already know something - why spend time on it over and over.

I do supplement all the subjects with whatever we find at the library or from various other resources. If the children are interested in a subject that we are not currently studying - it's easy enough for us to find information about it on-line or at the library.

My Own Two Feet and Cold Feet

During a random library search this week, I picked up what I thought were two children's biography books.

The first was a picture book biography, suitable I thought for my kids ages 6 & 8. "Cold Feet" story by Cynthia DeFelice. I liked the story because it was about a Scottish man who plays the bagpipes.

I began reading the story to the kids and quickly it appeared rather grim. The bagpiper is wandering around in the forest, in the winter, and his feet are frozen. "Luckily" he stumbles upon a body of a dead man with good shoes. Unfortunately the man's feet are frozen into the shoes - but "luckily" as bagpiper drops the man's feet down - the feet break off from the legs and so he takes the shoes w/the feet still in them and goes along on his merry way. Yikes!

A grouchy farmer lets him spend the night in his barn with his cow and to get back at the grouchy farmer, the bagpiper removes the now thawed feet from the good shoes and puts them on. He puts the thawed feet into his old bedraggled shoes and places one in the cows mouth so the farmer with think the cow ate the bagpiper.

See I said it was all pretty grim. I kept thinking - well something good has to happen this is a true story...maybe he'll meet up with the dead man's family who'll recognize his shoes and they'll have "peace" in knowing what happened to him.

Well I had almost finished reading the book to the kids when I finally realized ummm this is not a child's biography book - it must have been filed incorrectly - b/c next thing a ghost appears wanting his feet back. I skipped the end of the story and we quickly went on to something else.

I know some kids like scary stories like this and I know I did as a kid (minus the ghost part) - but I sure wasn't prepared for this book. And my kids DO NOT like these kind of stories. I guess I need to better review the stories before I begin reading them to the kids.

A much better book (and it really is a biography) is "My Own Two Feet" a memoir by Beverly Cleary. Beverly Cleary is the author of much-loved books such as Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Ralph S. Mouse, The Mouse and the Motorcyle, Henry and the Paper Route etc.

I have enjoyed reading this memoir. The book deals primarily with Beverly's years at college and her work as a children's librarian. Beverly, an only child, grew up around the time of the Depression. Her parents didn't have much money - but they did have enough to partially pay for her college education (supplemented by Beverly working and $ from her grandfather).

It wasn't always easy coming up with the money Beverly needed for college or for a place to live - but she persevered. She had a mature attitude about her future and her education.

I didn't realize until I was almost finished reading "My Own Two Feet", that Beverly also wrote a book about her life prior to college. It sounds interesting - so I have it reserved at the library.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Visit to the Zoo

Golden Pheasant - this photo doesn't do it justice - this is one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen. The bird just kept walking back and forth very quickly and so it was hard to get a good photo.

Yesterday, we visited the zoo for the first time this year.

Since we live within about 1/2 hr of the zoo - we don't feel like we need to go and spend an entire day there...rather we take a 2 or so hour visit. Actually I don't know how folks can spend the entire day there. I saw a middle aged woman appear to be sleeping on one of the park benches. This wasn't a "homeless person" scenario - she looked like a tourist that had had just a bit too much zoofulness.

I wish I had a camera that was a bit more "incognito". Like one of those "spy" cameras they might have used on "Maxwell Smart". I could have filled this blog up with some interesting pictures of the non-animal mammals at the zoo. I would have enough fodder for a years worth of posts for Mrs. Fussypants "Fight the Frump With Fussy".

Anyway, here are some of the "nice" photos I took.

I wish I could have got a better picture of this baby elephant in the water. But the sun was behind him, so what you see is one of the better shots I got of him. There were about 4 or 5 zoo employees watching the elephant and one had a camera. I thought I overheard someone say that it was the first time the baby was going swimming. Have you ever noticed that the mouth on an elephant always seems to have a smiling expression?

Rambutan "Hairy Fruit" - Thailand

Ever since I first saw a picture of these little fellas, I've been wanting to find one to try. I wish I could have found a fresh one - but canned Rambutan will have to do.

Rambutan is a tropical fruit and the name actually means "hairy fruit". The fruit is a reddish color and is covered in little spines. Here is a photo of the fruit - very beautiful.

I liked the taste - it was soft and chewy and reminded me of the flavor of canned mandarin oranges.

Dd took a small bite and said it tasted like lychees and water chestnuts. Well she has never tasted lychees so she must have it confused with some other fruit. She does love water chestnuts and can eat an entire can of them. When I was putting the groceries away yesterday I noticed a can of chestnuts and I know I did not place them in the shopping cart.

Ds thought it tasted kind of like apple juice (which he likes) "but at the same time terrible."

If I think the kids' adverse reactions might affect one another - I try to get them to taste it independently of each other. Otherwise if the girl hears the boy spit it in the trash, she might be more hesitant to try it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Koska - Traditional Floss Halva ...Turkey

Halva is a type of sweet confection found in the Middle East. Most of the confections are quite dense and are sweetened with sugar or honey.

From Wikipedia...."Floss halva is a traditional sweetmeat, prepared in Turkey, made by flossing thin strands of halva into a light confection. Made primarily of wheat flour and sugar, the strands are continuously wrapped into a ball shape and then compressed. The result is a halva with a light consistency, similar to cotton candy."

This box of floss halva contains 12 little "bundles" of compressed floss and cost approx. $3. The texture is very similar to typical floss except it does not melt as easily in your mouth. Whereas it seems candy floss melts as soon as it comes into contact with your mouth, the halva takes a bit more moisture to dissolve and feels heavier. Halva also seems to have thicker strands that remind you of wig hair or yarn.

The little bundles have what appears to be crushed up nuts sprinkled on top.

I thought the flavor was good - sweet and nutty. My daughter did not like it almost instantly. Barely a taste in her mouth and she says "tastes chocolatey and nutty". The boy said "The same. Give me more". So the boy loved it and would have eaten as much as I gave him, and the girl would barely take a bite.

The ingredients are: wheat flour, sugar, vegetable fat, nature-identical aroma (vanillin), acidity regulator (citric acid).

A Good Question

As we were having some tea with our waffles this morning, ds asked how tea was made. I told him it came from leaves that were dried.

He then wanted to know how they knew it was OK to use the leaves b/c of course if they were not OK, they would die.

My answer was that they just saw animals eating it and they didn't die, so they tried it. My explanations are not always the best.

Here is a Wikipedia description on how tea is made/where it comes from. I'm going to print it out and read it to the little fella. Well I guess the kids will have a little lesson on tea today.

It reminded me of one of my old favorite Calvin n' Hobbes comic strips. Calvin is asking his dad how they know the weight load limits on bridges so they can post the signs. His dad replies that they just keep on running heavier and heavier loads over the bridge and when the bridge breaks, they weigh the last truck and re-build the bridge.

I am not big on reading "The Funnies". Sure they were entertaining when I was younger - but now it seems like there are few that really are humorous. At one time I cut out and collected some of my very favorite ones and put them in an album. Over the years I've included some of my favorites in letters I was writing to friends and family - so I don't have many left. And the ones that are left - I'm not sure where they are.

A few I remember:

A man with a large smile, trying on big bunny slippers in a shoe store. Young boy is in his mother's arms crying while mother tries comforting him with, "Now, now son - daddy saw them first."


A boy is pushing on the door and pushing on the door of a school, trying to get the door to open. You see the sign on the door that says "PULL". Then you see the name on the building "Midvale School for the Gifted".


A man is inquiring about something at a desk. The man behind the desk replies "You say you'd like to take a Q.I. test? I think you just did."


There is an uneven "panel" in the sidewalk and you see a lady tripping. Behind the building is someone recording how many people have tripped.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Should I Be Concerned?

I think children left to "their own devices", can be a good thing. It gives them an opportunity to create and learn.

First the boy comes in this afternoon to show me a leaf he burned an "H" into with a magnifying glass. "I did get some little burns on my fingers" he said cheerfully.

Just now he came in very excited with an impish grin on his face. "Do you think my experiment will be successful?" he asks me. "What experiment is that?" I replied. "Oh didn't I tell you - I'm making gunpowder. I found out that gunpowder is mostly made of water and charcoal and so I thought maybe I could make some. But I'm using some already burned up charcoal so it's not as flammable."

Hmmm - maybe I ought to go out and check. Hopefully he knows that the gasoline for the lawn mower is off limits.

...I did go out just to remind him that he is not to touch gasoline or matches. He seemed surprised that I would even THINK he would be messing with that kind of stuff.

The picture above was from the weekend. The fire had been put out the night before and was still smoldering a bit in the morning when ds came across it. He had fun poking around it with a stick...finding bits of charcoal etc. I normally would not let him mess around with a fire pit - but I was right there keeping an eye on him. I have always loved fires, so I don't blame him for being interested.

Peanut Butter Pie - Work's For Me Wednesday

Here is an easy summer time dessert - Peanut Butter Pie.

I am not crazy about peanut butter at all - but this pie is delicious! It's almost like eating peanut butter ice-cream.

Peanut Butter Pie

3 oz cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 c super crunchy peanut butter
1/2 c milk

Whip the above ingredients together with a mixer and then fold in 8 oz thawed Cool Whip. Pour into graham cracker crust and freeze until firm. Allow to thaw for 10 minutes before serving.

I did make a couple of alterations to make it a little less calorie-filled. I used Neufchatel Cheese instead of cream cheese, as it has 1/3 less fat than cream cheese. I also used fat-free Cool Whip. Even with these modifications, this dessert is still pretty decadent - but it's not something you'd have a huge slice of anyway b/c of the sweetness.

I also added some mini peanut butter cups for a "garnish". Have you ever seen these before? I found them at Big Lots for less than $2. Sorry for the sideways photo - for some reason it will not load here the proper way! I tried it two times and it keeps turning!

One way to "portion control" the serving size is to use one of these mini pie crusts. Aren't they cute? I found them last year on sale for $1 a pack and bought about 8 packs. I had some left over pie filling when I made a regular sized pie yesterday, so I made 3 mini pies for the kids and I.

For some reason kids really love miniature things - so this is a fun dessert for them, and because it's so simple to make, they can help just about make it themselves.

Easy desserts work for me! For more Works For Me Wednesday tips, visit Rock's in My Dryer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I've Always Known My Children Were a Bit Odd...

Driving around this morning I mentioned that I bought some more bug spray. "You mean there are ticks around here?" inquired dd in a worried voice. I said yes. My son who experienced his first tick yesterday seemed quite happy.

"I hope I get more ticks!" he said.

I did explain that like mosquitoes, ticks can carry a disease that can make you very sick.

The kids had fun after dad's tick removal because we got out our rarely used children's microscope and they (and I) viewed the tick. Then they took the microscope upstairs and started looking at other things that they found, for about 1/2 an hour.

That is the kind of learning I like to see.

Our Camping Adventure

Our camping adventure just about didn't happen.

We were scheduled to leave at 9:00 AM Thursday morning. Everything was packed up except the car. The kids got up around 6:30 and began watching a video (not normal morning practice). Around 7 I sent them upstairs for breakfast. A few minutes later the boy came down, moaning and groaning. His neck was hurting. Badly. He could barely eat his breakfast. He didn't know how it happened but said that it was fine when he woke up, was watching tv and began his breakfast.


He especially could not bend his neck down to touch his chin to his chest. I gave him some Motrin...put a hot pad on his neck and had him lay down.

By 9:00 AM we knew we could not leave. A 5 plus hour drive while you have a sore neck that causes you to moan with bumps and swerves - is not a good idea. We were all disappointed.

We had the car all packed up by this point - trying to be optimistic (not a strong suit for me). Kids watched a video and we took a nap. Around 11:00 AM we decided to drown our sorrows in DQ Blizzards. The boy was hungry and I wanted to see how he'd do eating something. He was fine driving to and from DQ with nary a moan. He ate a Blizzard PLUS onion rings (his own plus one he stole from his sister).

The Amazing Healing Properties of a DQ Blizzard.

We got home around 12:15 PM and made the decision to go ahead with our original plans. The kids were excited. We dashed around doing some last minute things and were out the door by about 12:30 PM.

Our trip took about 5.5 hours. Lord of the Rings CD kept the kids entertained. I kept stopping it and asking them if they liked it or wanted me to stop it. I thought it was over their heads and was a bit too detailed for me. No - they wanted to keep listening. The boy was anxiously awaiting some "action". A stop at McDonalds for supper, fortified us.

We arrived at camp around 7:00 PM. We set to work right away, setting up our tent in "Poison Ivy Field".

We had a great time and little sleep!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Our School Year is Officially Over!

We actually "do" school year-round...but school is officially finished for the year, when we have obtained the required amount of hours set by our state. 1000 hours...600 hours are "core" subjects and 400 hours are "non-core". As of today we had approx. 1026 hrs. I haven't told the kids yet - I'm sure they will be excited. I'm also sure dd will say that we need to have some sort of party to celebrate.

It doesn't take much for the kids to call for a party. Ds thought we ought to have a party today to celebrate the fact that all four of us had found one tick each.

It will be a relief to this teacher, to NOT have to record any hours for the next few months.

School will officially resume after Labor Day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why This Photo Is Creeping Me Out

Looks like a pleasant enough photo...a nice sturdy tree...some nice spring time greenery. Our tent was situated just to the left of it. We wanted to be near some trees so during the day if we wanted to take a little nap in the tent, it would be nice and cool and shady.

Here is a closer look at the pretty leaves on that tree.

Some pretty green leaves...a touch of red...uh oh. How many leaves are there? Three? Hmmm - "leaves of three let them be."

Here is a close up view of the large ivy climbing up the tree in the first photo...

It sure is hairy and rooty looking - very unusual. Hmmm "Only a dope would swing on a hairy rope." "Hairy vine - no friend of mine."

So why am I creeped out about these photos? Because they appear to be poison ivy. And we camped next to it. And later found some on the ground around the tent where we walked in sandals and bare feet. But the worst part is this.

I used that tree to dry my towels on. There was a low "branch" sticking out and I thought I'd dry my towels like the pioneers and just "hang" them on a branch. I did this for a few days. Towels that we then used to dry ourselves off with after we went swimming or showered.

It wasn't until today that my dh happened to see his towel hanging there and had the wherewithal that I was lacking, and inquired as to what type of vine was growing on the tree.

Now I was hesitant to hang the towels on the tree b/c you know, there are ticks out there! And I was worried that I might hang my towel on a branch covered in ticks and then end up getting covered in ticks. Or at least getting one or two ticks.

Soooooo - now that I am back in civilization and have access to the internet, I have been looking for info. and photos on our friend Ivy.

I am hoping and praying, that my family falls into the category of the 50% or so of folks that are NOT allergic to poison ivy. Only my dh has had it before...and I'm thinking his towels was only on the "branch" today and he did not use it.

So needless to say I am very creeped out!

I showed my dd the tree and said "does this look like poison ivy?" She's only 8 - but she's smarter than me, retains a lot of what she reads and sees and knows a lot of "facts". "No." she said, relieving me for a moment. It has 3 leaves but it doesn't have a red stem (I did find some with red stems later). "But" she continued "I did see some poison ivy over there", and points off to another area she had been wandering around in.

So if you are a poison ivy "expert" - and you don't think this is poison ivy - I'd be glad to hear about it. If you are an expert and have a personal horror story of poison ivy - I DON'T want to hear it. At least not until we are out of the proverbial woods.

I beg to differ with the following information I found:

"For those who are allergic to the plant, its benefits are often overlooked. Poison ivy is an early colonizer, often taking hold in the scars we leave and beginning the slow process of rebuilding the landscape. The plant requires very little nourishment or moisture (less than 10 inches yearly). It is virtually pest free, the roots provide erosion control, and it attracts and sustains wildlife. Though no poison ivy occurs in England, it was imported for its fall color. It was subsequently introduced into Australia and New Zealand where the plants act as a garden backdrop."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm Going Out To Smoke My Pipe...

I won't be back til Sunday night and don't let the witch in!

I'm going to be out of town for the next few days so you won't be seeing any posts from me. Heading on down to Arkansas...never been there before...except maybe in passing through. Not really sure there is much to do in Arkansas.

We're going to a Bible Camp...and we'll be tenting it. Weather forecast is mid-high 80's with a chance of thunderstorms EVERY DAY. Yikes!

The kids are very excited...

I'm reading an interesting book right now by Michael Paul Mason, titled "Head Cases...Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath".

Just stumbled upon it at the library and it looked interesting. The book profiles individuals who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and how the injuries changed the person and their families.

The human brain is so think there is this "thing" inside our heads that controls everything we do, everything we say, everything we think. And that "thing" is "us". It's not very large and yet it contains information and memories from minutes, hours, days and years ago.

And yet - one fall, one head bang, can "erase" everything in that "thing" and we are no longer the same person.

Buckwheat - Russia

The sign on the shelf said "buckwheat" in English. I knew I wanted to buy it and try it.

Growing up I remember my dad making some kind of sweet "porridge" made with buckwheat and ???? - maybe honey??

The directions and everything else on the box except for the email and URL was in Russian (at least I'm assuming it's Russian) - so I had to look elsewhere for information on how to cook the buckwheat.

There is some pictorial directions on the back of the box that look like you put one of the packages directly into boiling water. The box contains 4 packets that have little holes in them. I could have just used that method but I didn't know how long to cook them.

The buckwheat was very easy to prepare. Boil 2 cups of water, drop in 1 cup of buckwheat and some salt. Boil for about 10 min. Let sit and "steam" for 5-10 min. Turned out great. It has a very similar taste and texture to brown rice or cooked barley. I ate some plain with a bit of salt (would be better with a dab of butter too). It tasted best with a bit of diced up onion mixed in.

The girl said "yum" and finished off the sample portion rather quickly. Her brother was rather non-committal with a "kind of good - kind of bad...kind of like black beans" comment. Hmmm did the relationship to black beans come as a result of him seeing the can of black beans on the counter at the time he was doing the taste test??

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cute Running Partner

Running partner around age 1...still cute at age 6.

For the past week or so, my 6 yr old son has been trying to go running when either my dh or I go out.

When he'd hear us up - he'd dash to get dressed...but usually he was too late and the runner would have already left, not knowing someone was wanting to tag along, or the runner had already returned home by the time the fella was awake. Or it was a non-running day. Big disappointment for the little lad. He even tried sleeping in his running clothes so he'd be ready faster in the morning.

But last Wednesday, due to my dh leaving early, I had no one to leave the kids with while I went running. So they went with me. It was drizzling out. The boy was very enthusiastic and excited. One other time our whole family went running. Again the boy was full of energy. Then he ran with his dad once. Then he began to complain of aching legs. His running is on hold for now.

It was encouraging though to see the little guy wanting to do something with mom and dad and even though we slowed down our running some, it was still a lot of running for a 6 yr old. And yet he kept wanting to do it on subsequent days.

When I'm doing stretches - he does too. I sometimes see him doing stretches now even when I'm not doing any.

One morning I was asking my dh, "how do you do that one stretch for your IT band?" and the boy overhearing said, "Oh, I can show you." And sure enough - he showed me pretty accurately.

I hope his enthusiasm for physical activity continues.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beer-Can Chicken

A few years ago, I heard for the first time about "Beer-Can Chicken". It is a method for cooking a whole chicken over the grill and keeping it moist.

The outside and inside of the chicken are seasoned with a "rub" - then using an empty beer can (we have always used a soda can) you fill it almost full with boiling water and then place the cavity of the chicken over top of the can so that the chicken can "stand" on the grill.

The chicken is grilled using the "indirect" method of heat. A pan of water is set in the bottom of the grill and the hot coals are placed on either side of the pan. The pan collects the chicken drippings as well as providing some steamy goodness.

The lid goes back on the grill and the bird cooks for about 1.5 - 2 hrs, depending on it's size. After about an hour - you do need to replenish the coals.

The recipe for the rub I like to use is as follows:

2 T sugar
2 T salt
2 T brown sugar
2 T cumin, ground
2 T chili powder
2 T freshly cracked black pepper
1 T cayenne pepper
4 T paprika

I usually double the recipe. You kind of have to decide for yourself as to how much of the rub you'll put on the chicken. I doubled the recipe and used less than half the mixture on one chicken. Before putting on the rub - slather the chicken in some oil.

The skin on this chicken ends up so crispy and delicious! The kids beg for pieces of the skin to eat while I'm cutting up the chicken. I also indulge when I'm not worried about the calories and the general unhealthiness of it. But even if you peel off the skin - the chicken tastes great!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Today we went out and picked some flowers and plants for the planter in front of our house. In previous years we have not had much success.

Tulips and daffodils grow well but other things we've tried haven't worked out too well.

In the fall we did plant a bunch of mums and I didn't realize they were perennials - so they have come back big and bushy and hopefully will flower nicely in the fall.

Last fall I had (foolishly) told the girl that she could have (or maybe I just said perhaps she could have) - a garden for herself...we were dreaming wildly in the fall/winter. Well when it came to the official planning stages we decided that we'd only do the front garden until we see what works.

We did have a little pot on the front steps and I told her she could pick out some flowers for that and it would be her own little "garden". Small - but maybe the right size for her right now. She choose some marigolds and some cute pansies. I love the color of the pansies because they are purple AND orange! Have never seen a cute little mix like that before. She seemed happy with her little garden.

And of course, after 1.5 hours in the hot sun, a stop at Taco Bell for supper with lots of soda refills - put everyone in a pleasant mood. At least it worked for me!

Quirk Meme

I was tagged by Jennifer, for a meme on 6 quirky things about me. I asked my dh for help since one cannot always recognize the quirky things in himself/herself. His reply was, “the whole package!” Well I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I did come up with a few quirks.

1. Before bed, I always have to check that the little toaster oven in the kitchen, is not on. I check this by touching the top of it. I’m not as concerned about checking my regular oven b/c for one thing it warms the room up so if it’s on I can notice it. Not so with the little oven. My vigilence did pay off. One time I did my usual check and the oven was hot. Problem is it was not on but it was plugged in! We got rid of it.

2. I can only drink certain things out of certain cups or glasses. For instance – milk can be drunk from a glass or a mug, but soda can only be drunk from a glass. Tea is preferable in a tea cup, but I will use a mug (but not one with thick rims) if need be. Water out of a mug would practically cause me to gag!

3. I hate being late. I'd much rather be 1/2 hr early than 10 minutes late. I hate it when other people are perpetually late - I can't understand it.

4. I prefer about 3 pillows when I am sleeping. Two under my head and one on top of my head.

5. I can't read a map very well and I'm terrible with directions - this in part, affects me in regards to #6.

6. I hate driving. Well driving on an interstate. Well primarily the merging portion...I'm always not sure I'm gonna quite make the merge and it will be my last.

OK I've completed the meme except for tagging others...which I'm going to be a poor sport and skip. Kind of like breaking the chain in a chain letter I guess...

Angel Biscuits

A few weeks ago we tried "Angel Biscuits" (A.B.) for the first time, courtesy of my mother-in-law. We all LOVED them and the kids asked if we could make them sometime.

My ma-in-law sent me the recipe and we made them yesterday, with both children helping.

They were a success. Dd ate at least 3 of them at supper time.

They are not made with whole-wheat and they are not low-fat or low-calorie, they're just good.

When I talked about making the A.B., the kids asked if for the FIRST time, I would make them without using any whole-wheat flour in the recipe. I agreed. I'd like to try the recipe with a mix of whole-wheat flour the next time...but it may just be the kind of thing that is best the way they were originally made.

The recipe includes both yeast and baking powder so they are very light and "fluffy". You can make up the dough (more like a batter) the day before and leave them in the fridge until ready to use...and they only take 10 minutes to bake. A great do-ahead recipe for warm biscuits for breakfast.

Angel Biscuits

Mix together:

5 c flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3 T sugar

Cut in 3/4 c shortening (Crisco) until fine.


1 T yeast
1/2 c warm water
Then add: 2 c buttermilk

Add liquid mixture to the dry mixture. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Roll 3/4" thick on heavily floured board (you may need to knead the flour into the dough as it's very sticky). I forgot to count them up - but I'd say it makes at least 20 biscuits.

Bake 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hernia Update

Well yesterday morning I saw the surgeon my doctor recommended, after she detected I had a hernia.

I got in to see Mr. Surgeon on time. He came to talk to me for a few minutes and then had me put on a "gown" in preparing for the exam. He stepped out for "a minute" while I put on the gown. And then I waited and waited and waited. I began to think he had forgotten about me. And there were NO magazines in the room to read. All I had was a brochure on hernias and hernia surgery that I was supposed to read while waiting. It wasn't pleasant reading. I wondered if I was going to have to get dressed and go see what was happening. But before I could do that - he came back in. "A little emergency" detained him, he said.

Mr. Surgeon proceeds with the exam and then breaks the news. "I can't feel a hernia." "Possibly there is the start of a very small hernia and the only way we could see that is if we opened you up - and we are not going to open you up to go looking for a hernia." Great news!

He figured that possibly I have a "sports hernia" which some surgeons question as to whether or not that is a real hernia. His theory is that I have some sort of muscle inflammation and so he's put me on a high dose of an anti-inflammatory for one month, and then a follow up appointment in a month.

So the question of the day is why did my doctor say that she felt a hernia and yet the surgeon couldn't?? I'm willing to trust the surgeon's opinion more. When my doctor originally gave me a referral to the surgeon she said to keep in mind that generally a surgeon is going to lean towards surgery.

I have no restrictions on exercise other than no crunches and at first he said no squats w/weight but then when I said I had no pain during exercise - he said go ahead and do it. I probably won't though now that I've been thinking about it - because I'm scared. Even if I don't have a hernia now - if the squat w/weights is one of the exercises most likely to cause a hernia - why on earth am I doing it?!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I just finished reading “Roxaboxen” to my children again. I’ve read it to them at least two times and it’s one of those books that you just have to read more than once. And a book that is interesting for mom…maybe more so for a mom – as it brings back memories of her own childhood. The author is Alice McLerran and the illustrator is another favorite of mine – Barbara Cooney.

Roxaboxen is based on a true story. A group of neighborhood children who, while living in Yuma, Arizona, built an imaginary play town out of rocks and boxes and spent many hours playing there. It’s just a sweet story of kids being kids and kids being kids without a lot of toy trappings. Back in the good old days when mom wasn’t the one making “playdates” for the kids – the kids were on their own, making their own friends, playing without supervision (shudder!). Back in the days when it still seemed like an OK thing to let your kids roam around throughout the day as long as they were back in time for meals.

Roxaboxen is a real place - the area the children used to play in is now a park named Roxaboxen. Here is some information from their website:

"Roxaboxen is located on the corner of 8th Street and 2nd Avenue in Yuma, Arizona. This unique Park memorializes the beloved and internationally known children's story entitled "Roxaboxen" by author Alice McLerran ... This true story is based on the adventures of the author's mother and fellow Roxaboxenites as they grew up in Yuma in the early part of the last century. These children created the make-believe town of "Roxaboxen" from rocks, boxes, and lots of imagination. Even today, you can find neighborhood children making little rock and box houses with imagination as their only mortar.

The Park has no grass, no swings, but remains much as it was, reflecting the time period of the story. Very simple benches are installed at the park...

The park held its grand opening in June 2000 with descendants of the original Roxaboxenites. The great-granddaughter of "little Jean" was on hand to cut the ribbon (with a little help from her Grandmother Francis and City of Yuma Councilman Frank Irr), and to "return" a rock that her great-grandmother had been saving for over 80 years..."

Kind of makes you want to head on over to Yuma doesn't it?

I had bought this book as a potential gift for someone but after reading it again to the kids, they encouraged me to keep it for them! Sure we can check it out from the library any time, but there are some books that we love so much we just want to have them around.

After reading the story I said to my kids “Do you know where I used to play when I was young?” Obviously I had told the story more than once because instantly my daughter said, “Play in a manhole.” – Well no that was not the place I was thinking of. “Play by the railroad tracks” she guessed again. This time correctly. I’m not sure whether or not my mom was aware of what us girls were up to – but I sure can’t imagine a parent allowing a girl about 8-10 to play on a railroad track near the highschool.

But we did. I don’t know if I played there with my sisters or with my friends. Probably my friends. Even though us girls were only one and two years apart (the older 3) – we had our own group of friends and usually that is who we were found in the company of. Why did we choose the railroad tracks to play? I think there was kind of a ditch next to it and I guess that seemed to work well as a “house”. Also it was out behind the highschool so it was also somewhat secluded, so we could feel more independent being “so far” from our homes.

Playing down in a manhole??? There was a new subdivision being built behind our street. Open fields and deserted areas equaled a fun place to play. Someone found a manhole – don’t know if the cover was off or if we removed it. This time it was with my sisters and some of their friends. They tried to convince me that they or I could call through the tunnel at the bottom and end up on our street. Thankfully no one was stupid enough to try that!

I’m amazed how even though my kids have bedrooms to themselves (something I rarely had growing up with 5 kids in the family) – they still try to figure out some other place inside our small dwelling to find and make a “club house”. They want some private space of their own. But nothing so boring and ordinary as their own bedroom that is actually brightly lit, comfortable, filled with books and toys and has a door. No they want a place like the cubby hole under the basement stairs…dark, damp, easy to bump your head, no furniture – except for empty boxes – and only centipedes, spiders or other creepy crawlies as company.

Did you have your own "Roxaboxen" place growing up? A place away from everyone else where you could play and imagine to your heart's desire?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Need Book on CD Recommendations - For Children

Next week and later this summer, we will probably be taking a couple of lengthy roadtrips. We generally check out some book-on-cd's from our library and I'm needing some recommendations.

I'm interested in stories that are at least 1 hr in length - but the longer the better. Plus something that would work for the kids but not drive the parents crazy.

Here are some of the ones we've listened to in the past:

Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek
Gone Away Lake (one of my most favorite ever kid stories)
Return to Gone Away Lake
Call of the Wild
Tom Sawyer
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Secret Garden

I know our library has thousands of books on cd but I don't have a clue as to what to search for and I'd prefer something someone else has already listened to and can give a hearty recommendation for. Thanks!

French Cran-Apple Pie

I know cranberries are a seasonal item - but in case you do as I do and buy them up around Christmas and Thanksgiving and freeze them so you can enjoy cranberries throughout the year - here is a tasty pie.

I had lost my usual cran-apple recipe so while out searching I came across one with a little alteration...French Cran-Apple Pie. It might replace my old cran-apple recipe because it's just that good!

French CranApple Pie

1 frozen, deep-dish pie crust


4 cups sliced peeled apples (4 medium)
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup firm butter or margarine
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. You may want to place a cookie sheet under the pie as this does tend to bubble over.

In large bowl, stir together apples and cranberries. In small bowl, stir together remaining filling ingredients. Add dry ingredients to fruit; toss to coat. Pour into crust-lined pan.

In small bowl, stir together all topping ingredients except butter and pecans. Using pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie. Place pie on cookie sheet in oven.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until apples are tender and crust and toppings are golden brown. Cover edge of crust with strips of foil after 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

WFMW - Doesn't Necessarily Work For You

My Works For Me Wednesday tip this week is this - what works for me won't necessarily work for you! Do what works for you and your family. Pretty simple huh?

We read books, blogs and discussion boards trying to find the solution to our problem(s). We talk to our friends and family to try and find the solution to our problem(s). We do what "they" say to do - and find, it still doesn't work!

If you try to follow someone else's schedule, plan or routine - it may work or it might not work. Just because something worked for Jane doesn't mean it's gonna work for Julie. We think because Jane is so organized and smart "her way" is the only way. It isn't.

It's OK to gather information and look to others for advice - just don't try to shoehorn Jill's routine into your family life, or it'll just become more stressful. Maybe a portion of what Jill is doing will work for you - so take that part and incorporate it into your life. Try it for awhile and if it doesn't work - try something else.

A few things that work for me that might not work for you are:

Early bedtime for the kids (between 7:00 and 7:30 PM)
Early rise time for everyone (between 6:00 and 6:30 AM)
A daily routine that is basically unstructured except for meal times, bed times and school in the mornings (usually)
Having a frugal lifestyle and all that entails
Keeping our lives from being over scheduled with activities

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more "Works For Me Wednesday" tips.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Favorite Poem

This poem is from an old children's book of poetry. The cover with the book title is missing but upon doing some research, I think it is called "100 Best Poems for Children" by Marjorie Barrows.

The poems in the book are great fun to read - and the kids love them as much as I do. I just love the sound of all the "io's".


Antonio, Antonio
Was tired of living alonio.
He thought he would woo
Miss Lissamy Lu,
Miss Lissamy Lucy Molonio.

Antonio, Antonio,
Rode off on his polo-ponio.
He found the fair maid
In a bowery shade,
A-sitting and knitting alonio.

Antonio, Antonio,
Said, "If you will be my ownio,
I'll love you true,
And I'll buy for you
An icery creamery conio!"

Oh, Nonio, Antonio!
You're far too bleak and bonio!
And all that I wish,
You singular fish,
Is that you will quickly begonio."

Antonio, Antonio,
He uttered a dismal moanio;
Then he ran off and hid
(Or I'm told that he did)
In the Antecatarctical Zonio.
Laura E. Richards

Patra - Spicy Vegetable Rolls ...India

"Patra is a popular vegetarian dish in the state of Gujarat in the West region of India. Its main ingredient is the leaf of the taro plant. Many different ways exist to prepare the dish - it is commonly rolled up with spices and tamarind paste, then sliced and fried. It is possible to buy tins of prepared rolls of Patra." (from Wikipedia)

The Patra I bought, was frozen. The package picture looked somewhat tasty...rolled up leaves with spices dotting the rolls. It didn't take long for us to all decide on whether or not we liked it.

Ds - "It's nasty!"

Dd - "Nasty!"

I thought it was spicy and sweet with a very strong herb like oregano - tasted like I imagine tobacco would taste. But it does look nice.

When I thought of veggie rolls I'm thinking leafy vegetables, maybe some carrot, onion etc. -but this is what it contained: colocasia leaves, chickpea flour, sugar, sesame seeds, salt, coconut, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, palm oil, mustard seeds, coriander leaves, curry leaves, green chili, spices.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lotus Root

Lotus root - is the root of the lotus flower.

"The rhizome are used as a vegetable in soups and stir-fried dishes. Petals, leaves, and rhizome can also all be eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission it is therefore recommended that they are cooked before eating. Chinese people have long known that Lotus roots are a very healthy food and have been using them in this way for many centuries. Recent studies confirm this - Lotus roots were found to be rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, copper, and manganese while very low in saturated fat." (Wikipedia)

When it's sliced, this root vegetable is so beautiful. Kind of white and lacey - reminds me of Honeycomb cereal.

The boy thought it tasted "A smidge like coconut."'s not something I'd eat a lot of...kind of potato-ey."

The girl "Mmmmm - bitter...texture of a carrot - don't like it. Wait - don't throw it away they are OK."

I thought they were very crunchy with little flavor. The package said to begin cooking while frozen - so I fried it up with a little olive oil. The lotus never did get one bit soft.

13 Years and Counting...

13 Years ago, at 2:30 AM - I got engaged.

My beloved and I had returned to his parents' farm, late, from a "date" with his cousins. "Midst the cows mooing and the whip-poor-will whipper willing" (from a journal entry) my beloved proposed, and I accepted.

I first met my future husband when he was 10 and I was 14. My grandfather was an evangelist and was heading to the midwestern USA to hold some meetings. He invited my oldest sister and I to tag along. It was my first visit to a "foreign" land and I was excited.

We stayed with my future husband's cousins for part of our international visit and then with my future husband's family for the rest of the visit. To me, my dh was just a fun, smart kid to talk with...have water gun fights with and to argue over the correct pronunciations of words with.

Throughout the years I made a couple more trips to the USA with my grandfather and then once by myself via the bus (which is a story in itself) when I was about 18 years old. After that visit at 18, I did not see my future dh again until I was about 26. Throughout the years, ever since we met - we corresponded with each other. We were "just friends", obviously, due to the fact that we were just kids when we met. Also - I never considered him as a "love interest" because you see, my plans were to get married when I turned 18, and to have 10 children. Since he was so much younger than me - he wasn't even in the running.

But as the years passed and we both grew up and grew older - the 4 yr difference did not seem so great. I was working and he was in college. Faithfully we wrote about one letter per month to each other.

As my dh was nearing the end of college - one day I received a letter from him like no other. He shared his feelings for me. To say I was happy, excited, thrilled, in a state of disbelief - isn't coming close to describing my reaction.

A few months later he came to visit me in Canada. Then a couple months later (13 yrs ago this week) I flew down to visit him. I attended his college graduation - visited with him and his family for about a week...and most importantly, got engaged. We were engaged in May, married in Canada in September - and a month later I moved to the USA.

My dh jokes that he could have just written "P.S. Will you marry me?" on a postcard, and even though we hadn't seen each other for 8 yrs, I would have said "Yes!". You know, that ain't far from the truth.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to my mother (and to all the mothers reading my blog) - a mother of 5 girls. When I was born, my mother already had a 2 yr old and an 11 month old. Having had only one daughter and one son, and knowing how difficult that can be - I cannot imagine having FIVE daughters - and three so close in age!

The poem is by Robert Louis Stevenson and is not actually written to his mother, but to his nurse. But I love the words...and it totally applies to a mother.

To Alison Cunningham
From Her Boy

FOR the long nights you lay awake
And watched for my unworthy sake:
For your most comfortable hand
That led me through the uneven land:
For all the story-books you read:
For all the pains you comforted:
For all you pitied, all you bore,
In sad and happy days of yore:—
My second Mother, my first Wife,
The angel of my infant life—
From the sick child, now well and old,
Take, nurse, the little book you hold!

And grant it, Heaven, that all who read
May find as dear a nurse at need,
And every child who lists my rhyme,
In the bright, fireside, nursery clime,
May hear it in as kind a voice
As made my childish days rejoice!

Mother's Day Surprise

This is what I found on the kitchen table today - courtesy of a cute, little 8 yr old.

The breakfast consisted of instant oatmeal (my favorite flavor of peaches n cream)...fresh strawberries, a hard-boiled egg (complete with a little dash of salt n pepper), orange juice and a mini chocolate bar.

I would show you the funny card she made me - but that would be showing an unflattering photo of myself. So I'll tell you instead - and you can just imagine that I don't look so unflattering.

My girl took the photo of me at the breakfast table a few weeks ago - she was already scheming of a Mother's Day card. My hair is wrapped up in a towel and I'm in a bath robe.

The photo is on the front of the homemade card and the back is written up to look like an eBay auction.


Mom 5 cents (Buy now 30 cents)
Comes equipped with her own robe and towel (breakfast and table not included).
$3.00 shipping

Don't worry we love you anyway!

Hmmm wonder what method of shipping would only cost $3.00?

Friday, May 9, 2008

I've Been Baking Bread

Both recipes are pretty simple...the first was a combo of white, whole-wheat, and rye flour - the second was the same except I used less wheat and no rye flour.

E.L.M. King

Mother's kneading, kneading dough,
In and out her knuckles go;
Till the sticky, shapeless lump
Grows a pillow, smooth and plump.

Then she cuts it, pops it in
To the neatly buttered tin,
Leaves it rising high and higher,
While she goes to make the fire.

How the glad flames leap and roar,
Through the open oven-door;
Till their hot breath, as they play,
Makes us wink and run away.

When they've burnt to embers red
Mother shovels in the bread;
And that warm, delicious smell
Tells her it is baking well.

When it's golden, just like wheat,
We shall get a crust to eat;
How I wish we could be fed
Every day on new-made bread!

Show and Tell Friday

Well I haven't participated in a Show and Tell Friday down at "There is No Place Like Home", for quite awhile - but I recently acquired something that I wanted to share.

Here it is:

Click on the photo to enlarge it and get a better view.

A little fabric sample that measures about 5.5 inches x 3 inches. Now why would this fabric be noteworthy??

Well it is old - about 160 years old. It is scrap of fabric saved from my husbands' great-great-great grandma's wedding dress!

In case your monitor doesn't show the true colors - it is a deep olive green with two shades of purple flowers with gold colored leaves. How fun to think that this piece of fabric has been saved for so many years!

Now my question is - what can I do with this bit of fabric? I want to preserve this - but not sure how I can do that. I am not terribly crafty - but I thought I could use it in a scrapbooking page along with some information about our ancestor etc. Any ideas?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

These Shoes Were Made for Running....

and that's just what they'll do...

I'm excited about my new running shoes! But I have never paid so much for a pair of shoes in my life. Surely the most I have ever paid for any type of shoe was less than $50 (and that would have been during my spendthrift single years).

I began running a couple of months ago. When I say running I mean jogging but it seems like people just don't say "jogging", so I'm gonna follow suit. Running sounds more ambitious.

I have never been an athlete. Let's just say I was one of those kids in school that was picked last for a team. Or maybe second last if Lesley P. the school semi-midget with spectacles (and one of my best friends at the time), was in the group. I hated P.E. class.

But now that I'm nearing 40 I've decided to become an athlete. I don't plan on running any marathons, but I'd like to get to the place where I could run a marathon (well at least a 1/2 marathon) if I wanted to.

A couple of weeks ago I talked with a running expert. One thing he mentioned was having the one essential piece of equipment - a pair of decent running shoes. I had bought a cheapie pair of running shoes at Wal-Mart for about $20 - but that wasn't good enough. I found out that I am, what's referred to, as an overpronator (my feet roll in when I walk), and therefore needed some "support shoes". Now I know support shoes sound like something large, clunky, and beige that your granny would wear with a pair of hose - but when it comes to running shoes support shoes don't look any different than the regular running shoes (thankfully!)

Well the first store we went to to look for running shoes was a large general shoe store with TONS of different types of shoes, tennis shoes (runners for you Canadians) and running shoes. But the employees didn't seem to have a clue when we asked them questions. We didn't buy anything. Next we hit a store that specifically sells shoes for running - what a difference. The staff totally knew what they were talking about and the customer service was A++. Of course I thought we were only going there to kind of look around and I'd try stuff on on my own - but we get there and are pretty much waited on hand and foot (the foot part literally!). If I had realized what all I'd be going through I could have at the very least, touched up my toe nail polish for crying out loud! Shoes and socks had to be off, various measurements and foot looking at took place. The employee had me put on the running shoes (well actually she put the shoes on me) and do a little jog outside to see how they fit.

My dh and I both bought some running shoes. To be honest, after all the time they put into us, I would have felt a bit bad not buying anything. I know there is no obligation to buy - but it would seem kind of chintzy to have them help us for an hour and then for us to write down the type of shoes that worked best and then go and buy them somewhere else that is cheaper.

Oh I ought to mention the name of the store - Fleet Feet.

Anywhoo I was rather eager to try out my new shoes - so even though it was pouring rain this morning - I still went for my run. At least I got to check the traction on the shoes as I sidestepped many a puddle - and splashed in all the ones too large to avoid. I know it wasn't b/c of the shoes, but I really felt better after that run that I have during all the previous runs.

And after spending that much money on a pair of shoes (which really is essential to avoid injury) - the $5 I spent on a loaf of bread at the bakery next door, seemed like pennies. Not exactly. But I only popped into the store to check out the prices, and when I realized they were beyond what I liked to pay for a loaf and was about to walk out the door, the kids heard an employee say "free samples". We turned back around. It was close to supper time and the kids had a hunger in their bellies. As my daughter said when I mentioned the cost of the bread, "Well we got about 5 pieces of free bread (they loved it!) and you can't really have a bunch of samples and then not buy something." Hmmm I guess she kind of felt how her mom felt at the shoe store :)

I do make a lot of bread myself - but if I had a bakery like this next door - I might have to give up on baking my own. Well except for the cost that is...I guess we could just run over and fill up on "free samples".

One of My Favorite Meals - Pierogies and Kielbasa

Growing up in a Ukrainian/Polish/etc. family, pierogies were consumed quite often. Sometimes my grandma made them, sometimes they were bought at the store. Sometimes I could buy them deep fat fried with a side of sour cream (the best!).

I tried making pierogies myself once - and they were a flop. Thankfully one day in the frozen foods section at the grocery store, I came upon Mrs. T's Pierogies. A dozen costs about $2.79 and they are delicious!

Tonight I whipped up one of my favorite, fast and easy suppers.

red and yellow peppers

Cook the onion and peppers in a small amount of oil, add the kielbasa and cook until the kielbasa begins getting a bit brown. Mix in the pierogies until the pierogies brown a bit. The dish is SO delicious. Don't know if the rest of the family is crazy about it - I know my son loves the pierogies, endures the kielbasa and tries to eat around the peppers and onion. Ditto for my daughter.

Yoki Cheese Bread Mix - Brazil

We all enjoy fresh homemade bread - so we thought some fresh homemade from a mix bread might taste pretty good. Especially when the word cheese is included in the name.

This mix is from Brazil and cost about $2. All that needed to be added to the mix was 1/2 c of water and 2 eggs.

I let my budding baker bake the bread herself. The main ingredient is manioc starch.

Fresh out of the oven the baker declared "I love it so much - not too cheesy". Well after they cooled and she had her 3rd one - she decided she didn't really like them.

The boy said "I hate it". Amazing how he can decide that without even tasting it.

I really enjoyed them fresh from the oven - but my girl was right, after they cooled down they lost some of the great taste. The cheese flavor was pretty mild and that added to the dislike of it...and there was just a sour or "off" taste to it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Two Monkeys in a Tree

This is the little "treehouse" the girl has been working on recently. She has been climbing this tree for quite a few years - it's just the perfect height that it's not too dangerous and is easy enough for her and now for her brother too, to climb.

They decided this morning that the "treehouse" was where lunch needed to be eaten. I was skeptical. I wasn't sure they could rig something up (using no nails) that would be stable enough to hold them both and would be big enough for them to sit on and eat their lunches. I was wrong.

The pail is attached to a string and used to transport things up and down out of the tree.

Robert Louis Stevenson is one of my favorite poets, when it comes to poems dealing with childhood.

Foreign Lands

Up into the cherry tree
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad in foreign lands.

I saw the next door garden lie,
Adorned with flowers, before my eye,
And many pleasant places more
That I had never seen before.

I saw the dimpling river pass
And be the sky's blue looking-glass;
The dusty roads go up and down
With people tramping in to town.

If I could find a higher tree
Farther and farther I should see,
To where the grown-up river slips
Into the sea among the ships,

To where the road on either hand
Lead onward into fairy land,
Where all the children dine at five,
And all the playthings come alive.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Works for Me Wednesday - Doesn't Work for Me Edition

What doesn't work for me? Too bad I haven't kept an ongoing list so I'd have some things at the ready for Rocks In My Dryer's theme this week.

I guess one thing that just doesn't work for me is to have a strict schedule for our homeschooling. One of the benefits of not being in a public or private school is that you don't have to follow the typical Aug-May school year, the Mon-Fri school week, the 9 AM to 3 PM school day, etc. So why would I want to tie myself down to a strict schedule of my own making.

Sure there is a benefit in having a routine and being disciplined, but not to the point of "strangling" creativity and spur-of-the-moment-ness.

When we began homeschooling about 4 or 5 years ago we started without much of a routine b/c my dd was so young. Then as she entered her "formal" school years I tried having a schedule. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

We normally begin school in the morning around 8 AM. But if the morning is beautiful and "calling" to us - we're going to go out.

If it's not a holiday, but we need a holiday - we can make it a holiday.

If we begin reading a book that is fascinating to us all - we can read it for as long as we want.

If we want to take a family vacation and it's the middle of September - we just do it!

So what doesn't work for me? Being tied to a school schedule. Flexibility is the key.

For more ideas of what doesn't work - visit Rock's in My Dryer.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Choliya - Green Bengal Lentils

Well I have had a few Indian frozen foods sitting in my freezer for probably a couple of months and I decided, partly due to a lack of freezer space, that we needed to go ahead and try those foods - so that is what we did.

I have had lentils in soup - not overly impressive, but mixed with spices and everything else - it's pretty edible.

The Choliya looks like frozen green peas. The taste reminds me of a milder green bean eaten raw. They are not sweet like peas and are quite flavorless. This bag of lentils cost about $1.50 and is a product of India.

Ds said it was horrible and dd thought it didn't have enough flavor. We were just eating them plain - cooked in the microwave. Surely mixed into a soup they'd taste fine.

Biker Boy

While I was away on my ladies' retreat a couple of weeks ago, my son learned to ride his bike without his training wheels. A great accomplishment being that he had little desire to learn how to ride in the first place - so we were having to "force" him to practice.

Of course now that he is riding he loves it! I like this picture b/c of the look on concentration on his sweet face.

When I was helping him with his bath soon after he began riding I was shocked to see all the bruises on his body. What on earth happened!! Was it some dread disease that was causing him to bruise all over his body?? Well it was just from all his spills. He continues to have quite a few falls but he usually gets ride back on. Brave chap.

Slag Krema - Croatia

Slag Krema is not a very appetizing name for a dessert but I did like how it tasted.

When I was growing up in Canada, my mom would sometimes make "Cool Whip" or "Whipped Cream" from a little package filled with powder and some milk. I think it was called "Dream Whip". I imagine something similar is sold in the USA, but I have not come across any.

Well at the world food store I found some "Dream Whip" or at least what I figured would be close to it - and not only did I find some, but I found it in chocolate!

All you do is empty the powder into a bowl, add 3/4 c of "previously boiled cold milk" (I did not boil my milk, I figured that advice was for the Croatians) and mix with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes.

The number one ingredient in the mix is sugar and yet the instructions say to add sugar as desired. I did add a small amount of sugar but found it was pretty sweet enough before the sugar.

Both children did not like the slag. "It doesn't taste like chocolate" said the girl. I beg to differ. It's not a milk chocolate flavor - more of what you'd expect if you had added cocoa powder to some cool whip and then added some sugar.

The slag can be served as a "pudding" or it can be used to layer between a cake, which is the method I chose. I really liked it and I would use it again.

The slag comes in three flavors I believe - strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Alfajor - Coconut Candy

In honor of Cinco de Mayo - I decided to take the kids to a Mexican grocery store we had never been to before, and see if there would be something interesting for us to buy.

Well not surprisingly, the kids headed straight to the candy section. They agreed on the coconut candy for $1.29 - rather pricey for two small slabs of candy - but it was Cinco de Mayo, so we bought it.

We all loved it. I mean what's not to love about coconut with sugar added. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and coconutty of course.

It was so beautiful outside that we also spent the morning riding bikes (well the kids not me) and then to the park for a picnic.

For supper I put my "Mexican" blanket on the table (purchased last summer in Albuquerque) for a festive tablecloth, and we ate tortillas. Dessert consisted of a family favorite (at least for the children) - Cinnamon Apple Burritos.

Death of a Computer

I purchased my computer about 5 years ago when I had my booming eBay business. We already had a "family" computer, but my eBay selling required me to have my own computer. It's been a faithful computer, but as of late, had been showing signs of illness.

During the weekend the illness became terminal. My computer expert (a.k.a. husband) thinks there is a chance he can fix it. A part has been ordered and I will anxiously be awaiting its arrival. The part replacement is a long shot - but worth checking out before giving up.

Until then I will be using my hub's computer. A computer that four family members will be vying for time on.

I imagine I'll be on the net a lot less until (if) my computer gets fixed, which is not a bad thing.

If I can get my camera hooked up to this computer - I will be able to continue blogging w/photos...otherwise it will be photoless blogging, which I think is very boring.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Flowers for Mom

What is it about children and gifts of flowers? On May Day my daughter picked me some flowers and then yesterday as we were walking home from shooting some hoops (kids are learning) at a nearby school - the boy picked some flowers and handed them to me.

Why do children pick flowers and present them to their mothers and not to their fathers?

It was rather funny how it happened. We were all walking at a pretty fast pace and the boy might have actually been running/galloping as he is want to do. He spied the flowers, grabbed them and handed them to me in a split second. I wasn't quite sure what to do. The reason being was I wondered if they were technically in someone's yard. It's the portion of the yard right next to the street where it is separated by the sidewalk. I know there is a special name for that portion of the yard yet I cannot remember what it is called.

To make matters more tricky - the occupants of the property were outside in their yard getting into their car. As I said, the flowers appeared to be growing wildly - and since he had already picked them - I took them.

This reminded me of the time when I was probably my son's age (just turned 6) or younger and I did a little flower picking myself. I don't recollect all the details - though I'm sure they are firmly ingrained upon my mother's mind.

One or two other kids in the neighborhood (older than me) and myself decided to pick some flowers. Actually we might have picked all the flowers in the garden. From the neighbor's house. Actually from more than one neighbor's house. I don't think we picked them in order to present them to our mothers - but rather just picked them.

I do remember going with my mom to the neighbor's house to apologize and to make some payment restitution.

Regardless of where the little flowers came from - a handpicked (literally!) gift from your child is precious.