Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Salt Dough and creations

The kids love working with play-doh. Today I made them salt dough so that they can paint and keep what they created.

It is made from 1 cup of salt, 1 cup warm water and two cups of flour. Combine the water and salt and allow to sit to let the salt dissolve. It doesn't completely dissolve but give it a minute or two. Add the flour and stir. We made ours in the Kitchen Aid mixer and mixed it until it was soft and no longer sticky. Keep covered until it is being used or it drys our quite quickly.

Work on a cookie sheet so that the sculptures don't have to be moved after they are created.

Big projects need crumpled up aluminum foil inside of them. These baked at 200 degrees for about four hours. Then the painting begins! Spark is painting a rainbow snowman.
All of their finished work. Dancer is going to make a heart mobile that is why there are so many hearts.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our reward

Eight plus inches of snow gracefully fell from the sky today making it necessary for us to spend the afternoon shoveling. This beautiful sunset was our reward.

Jesse Tree Day 17 - Birth of Jesus

The birth of Jesus. The kids each designed their own stars to remind them to seek Jesus like the wise men did. We also remember that Herod tried to stand in the way of the wise men finding Jesus and worshiping him and at times in our own lives we have road blocks that are trying to keep us from Jesus.
This ends our study of the Jesse Tree. Many other stories could have been used and perhaps we will take the journey again next Christmas with other, just as important, people of the bible.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter reading in the midwest

I think the snow's lettin' up

What does a market gardener do during the long winter months in the frozen snow-belt? Look through seed catalogs, of course! Scanning the new and old garden offerings, planning the next seasons garden, dreaming of the coming bounty...

The imagined garden, of course, has tiny weeds, perfect weather and timely rain, the gardener has endless time and energy, there are no pests, wind or hail. Harvest time's cornucopia overflows with natures bounty. I suppose if our memory was better we'd chuck the catalogs and dread planting time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Go ahead, throw rotten tomatoes

This week it wasn't tomatoes but apples that we got. It is not unusual for us to come home and find bags of rotten veggies on our front steps, or to be somewhere and someone to say "I have something for you" and it is a bag of over ripe produce. We just smile and say "thanks!" The goats were elated over a big bag of apples, quite a treat in the middle of winter. It was a nice enough day that the ducks came out of their lean-to from the back of barn. When it is really cold they just sit back there out of the wind and snow waiting for room service to deliver. Their pool has a heater in it like the kind that go in bird baths only bigger, but it has been too cold for it to keep the top few inches from freezing. Spark poured some hot water in the pool while the ducks waited in the wings - ha! get it "in the wings." I do have a funny once in a while. Anyway, they waddled over to get a much anticipated drink and to swim a bit. They slipped around on the ice like penguins and all ended up in the middle on top of each other. The water wasn't deep enough for them to dip their heads under and get a decent bath in but they did spend a lot of time preening after getting out.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jesse Tree Day 16 - Micah

Micah. Micah was a prophet who foretold where Jesus was going to be born. In Micah 5:2 he writes "But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Micah wrote this about 700 years before Jesus was born!
To mark this important message we made slices of bread because Bethlehem means "house of bread" and Jesus is the "bread of life". The kids bread turned out to be quite a humble slice of bread. It's simpleness summarizes much of how the book of Micah tells us to live our lives, to act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
After cutting out a slice of bread from card stock we mixed paint. We had no brown paint so we mixed orange and blue. With a dark brown they painted the "crust" on the bread. For the middle they added more orange to make a lighter brown for the inside (whole wheat of course!). When they are dry we will put a string on them and place them on the tree.

Winter stalactites

Spark here writing about winter stalactites. AKA, although not as exciting, the common icicle. It is not easy to find winter stalactites, you must have a high deck and lots of snow and a little hot day. The next day you might find some winter stalactites under your deck. I found these today when I was outside playing. They are so cool, I ran right in the house and yelled for Mom and Dancer to get the camera and come quick. Well, I guess they wouldn't have melted it's cold out again, but it sounded more dramatic and yelling got them moving pretty fast to see what was happening.
Here is Dancer under the deck with the stalactites.
This is me holding one of them, sometimes I like to pretend they are swords. A couple of them were hollow at the ends, I don't know how that happened.
The winter stalactites can get bumpy, those are my favorite ones. I held myself back and didn't knock them all down, they are still there.
This is Vidalia. She likes when it is warmer outside. She doesn't hang at the door trying to get in every time it opens.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What a Thrill!!

We had so much excitement today!!! We drove 55 mph!!!! Big deal you say. It has been about three weeks since the roads were good enough to go that fast. Our top speed has been about 40 mph and on the township roads you are risking your life by going any faster than 25 mph. Tonight though the temps have started to plunge again and the roads are icy. The Dad saw a four car pile up on the road on his way to work. That was the road that, just hours before, we reached the break neck speed of 55 mph. There was a mist that fell all day and fog. Visibility was about a quarter to half of a mile. This is our house, mostly it just shows one of our garages from this angle, notice the clear but wet roads. Again, that is our place on the left. This is how the roads have looked the past weeks, snow packed and slippery. It seems snow has fallen almost every day in some amount. Temperatures have been sub zero, or just above, which makes it too cold for salt on the roads to work and the road crews have been very conservative with the sand.

Jesse Tree Day 15 - Jonah

Christmas is done but our Jesse Tree is not, so we keep plugging away at it. Thankfully God's word knows no season! Tonight was the story of Jonah. Oh Jonah, you can run but you can't hide. Jonah was to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent or God would be destroying them. Did Jonah listen? NO. To get his attention God made him miserable with a strong storm at sea, thrown over the side of the ship by his ship mates, and then being swallowed by a large fish. Jonah did come to his senses and go to Nineveh to get the people to repent where God showed his greatness with mercy and forgiveness.

We chose to make fish to remind us to listen to God when he talks to us or he will keep nudging us in the right direction, usually by making us miserable. Not by being swallowed in to the stomach of a fish, but in other, individual ways that let us know He is calling us to act. We also want to remember that God wants to forgive sinners and have them change their ways instead of punishing them.

Making the fish was a lot of fun. First, cut a fish shape out of a piece of tag board. We used mosaic papers cut in half to make the scales. Spark glued his on in rows and Dancer made groups of color coordinated papers and glued them on in groups of four. Trim the sides of the fish so that no scales are sticking out over the edge and it is sleek for swimming through the water. Draw on the fins, tail, and a face. Spark drew glasses on his and three rows of teeth. Dancers is a happy fish complete with an eye lash. Dancer's fish, on top, is Groovy Guppy and Spark's, on the bottom, is Funky Fish. These are quite large but the fish that swallowed Jonah was a really big one!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Hibiscus

The hibiscus has bloomed only twice since bringing it in this fall, once on Thanksgiving Day and now on Christmas. Does it know when it is a holiday?

Penguins Dance Off

This is Spark writing. Penguins are my favorite animal. From Santa Claus I got a penguin tube full of all these cool penguins. So later Mom and I were making the penguins dance. Here are the dances they did. The Hokey Pokey. They are putting their right wing in.
Line dancing to the Macarena
Conga Line
The Virgina Reel
They wouldn't do the Chicken Dance, they think it is ridiculous.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

T-Minus 2 Hours....

T-Minus 2 Hours...

Only 2 more hours until Christmas. The shopping and wrapping are done, the kids are in bed. The animals are asleep in the barn. There are snacks on the table waiting for Santa and his reindeer. The Christmas hibiscus is ready to open.

The Mom's parents came over today for lunch and to exchange gifts. We went to church for a Christmas Eve musical program. It is looking very christmas-like outside, everything is snowy white and frosty. Here in the frozen northland it will look like Christmas until at least mid-March, but this week it looks great. The kids are trying hard to fall asllep, especially since the NORAD Santa tracker says he is already in Wilmington Delaware.

Here's wishing you all a happy and holy Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jesse Tree Day 14 - Esther

The story of Esther. Esther was able to save her people, the Jews, by being in the position as the kings wife. A position she really wasn't planning on having and starting wheels in motion that she had no idea she could have control of. God can be using us when we don't even see that he is. To mark this story the kids made the star of David. The kids made these by simply making two triangles out of six sticks and attaching them to each other. The triangles should be intertwined but we were not able to make that work with the unbending sticks we used so we just stacked them on top of each other.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chirstmas foods from around the world - Denmark

This afternoon we celebrated Christmas with Dad's side of the family. Both Dad and Grandma are nurses so seldom do we celebrate Christmas with them on the actual day because inevitably one of them is scheduled to work. The tradition for us with them is to have the round Danish pancake called Aebleskiver. Aebleskiver require a special pan to make them. The pan has deep divots in it to give the Aebleskiver their round shape. We have these with grape jelly and sausages.

Aebleskiver - Denmark

Makes about 30

2 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups buttermilk
lard for frying

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they can hold a stiff peak. Set aside.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, sugar, egg yolks, melted butter and buttermilk at one time and stir until blended. Gently fold in the egg whites last.
Put about 1tablespoon of lard in the bottom of each aebleskiver pan cup and heat until hot. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each cup. As soon as they get bubbly around the edge, turn them quickly with a cake tester. When done roll in white sugar.

Batter in the Aebleskiver pan

Turn with a cake tester, or other pointed instrument, they flip right over.

Roll in sugar as soon as they are taken out of the pan.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's over, we have separated

My beloved and I are officially separated. It was a hard decision but one that had to be made. These hard economic times were what drove the wedge between us. No longer do I get up in the morning and first thing reach for his smoothness to fill my hand. I don't hear his relief as I open his top. My days are void of much of the pleasure I use to find in them, my evenings shallow and lonely. We no longer ride together in the car. Him sitting next to me just waiting for me to reach over and grab him every now and then drinking in all he had to offer. The first few days he was gone his absence made me so tired, to get over his not being part of my life anymore I would just nap the afternoons away. His charm that use to make me so alert was replaced by horrible headaches that constantly reminded me how great he had been. Oh, how I still miss him. We have meet in restaurants and snack bars a couple of times. Once, when he couldn't be there, I even had a tryst with his mortal enemy, whose name I can't print here but who's initials are D.P. I felt like a flea on a dog's belly but I couldn't help myself,- I needed to be reminded of him. I saw him at the store the other day. I unashamedly ran to him, I just had to reach out and run my fingers over him, I didn't care who saw us. Perhaps time will fill the hurt I feel over this separation of ours. But for now, goodbye my beloved, I love you, I miss you, and I hope that some way, some how we can find a way to be together again.

My beloved

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jesse Tree Day 13 - King David

Day 13 was King David. King David was a man who was a great follower of God and he wasn't afraid to show it. He sang loudly and danced delightfully in public to praise God and didn't care who thought he was displaying unseemly behavior.
The kids made crowns to remind us that when praising God it is for a party of one, God, not to worry what those around you think of how you are praising God. Dancer has a beautiful t-shirt that says "Praise God with Dancing" to remind us the rest of the year. Our example was to look at the crowd at a football game. People don't mind looking strange or crazy to support their favorite team, even going so far as to painting their bodies, wearing wigs, etc. Why would we need to be self conscience praising God?
To make the crown we used a flexible but stiff piece of cardboard, a pop case was perfect for this. Cut it out in a crown shape and stapled it in a circle, these are about the size of a half dollar. Then they covered it with tacky glue and sprinkled with gold glitter.
They used red and green glitter glue, we love that stuff, to make emeralds and rubies. Super easy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jesse Tree Day 12 - Ruth and Naomi

The story of Ruth. In the beautiful story of Ruth, we focused on the gleaning of the grain that was left, by law, on the edge of the fields and how Ruth was so loving towards Naomi. The kids tied wheat (broom corn in our case) in a bundle with a ribbon. They took a big pile of the broom corn and cut their own amount off of it. I thought it was interesting that Spark took a little bundle and Dancer made a really big bundle. I would have thought it the other way around. The symbol of the wheat will mean for us generousity, thinking of others, being kind and loving, and that family is very important. These are not hung on the tree but rather tucked in the branches.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ding Dang it's cold and snowy outside

How cold is it? Can you say double digits subzero over night. And lets not even talk wind chill. Going out to do chores and it felt like your eyeballs could freeze. It was too cold for Nikki our dog. She spent the better part of the day wrapped up in an afghan sleeping on the chair with only the tinest bit of her nose sticking out. She needed her winter coat on to go outside. It is amazing how fast that dog can find the perfect place to piddle when it is cold out. Snow has been falling since Sunday. We were able to stay home on Sunday and Monday but today we had to venture out. It took us 45 minutes to get the 15 miles to town and once in town it took us 25 minutes to go 3 miles. This was the traffic for the trip accross town. Here is what it looks like on the road to our house. Notice there are no houses. Lets see, bumper to bumper traffic, or so quiet and peaceful we can hear the snow fall. We will take the bad roads to hear the snow fall.

Jesse Tree Day 11 - Walls of Jericho

The walls of Jericho come tumbling down. The Veggie Tale song goes "Keep walking, but you won't knock down our wall. Keep walking. But she isn't gonna to fall! It's plain to see, your brains are very small. To think walking, will be knocking down our wall. Once that song gets in your head, it is hard to get it back out. Well, the wall does fall thanks to God. To mark this story the kids made little walls of Jericho out of Legos. They decided that the walls would represent humility (it had to be embarrassing walking around out there with people jeering at them and it was probably very dangerous), following God's calling when you don't want to, that God is with us always, and if we trust in him, great things will happen for his glory.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jesse Tree Day 10 - Moses and the ten commandments

Moses and the ten commandments. The kids have been learning about this at Sunday school so we just read in the bible what the ten commandments were. The ornament today is to remind us to keep God's word for our own happiness and to have the fear of God. These were made out of Sculpey clay. After they were baked, a wire was added to join them together and to act as the hanger. They turned out a lot like stone so it was pretty cool.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas foods from around the world - Spain, New Zealand

We made two Christmas foods, Turrón from Spain, and Christmas cheese scones from New Zealand.

Turrón - Spain

Turrón dates back to the Mediterranean region since Roman times. This recipe is super easy to make, the most time consuming part was chopping the almonds. This confection is almost sinfully good.

4 eggs
2 cups finely chopped almonds
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar

Separate the egg yolks and beat until they are stiff and form peaks. Mix in almonds to make a paste. In heavy pan heat the honey until it is runny. Add the sugar and heat until it has melted into the honey. Bring to a boil. Add the egg and almond mixture. Stir continuously over low heat for 10 minutes. Cover a large dish with parchment paper or butter the pan. Pour mixture on pan and spread to a thin layer. Allow to cool and it can be sprinkled with cinnamon if so desired. Let sit for 12 hours and break into small pieces.

Egg whites beat to stiff peaks.

The almond and egg white mixture.

By the end of the boiling period the mixture is very thick. Keep stirring to prevent burning.

Quickly get it out of the pot and onto parchment paper.

Spread to a thin layer.

Christmas Cheese Scones - New Zealand

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper
3 oz. grated cheese
milk to mix a fairly firm dough - about 3/4 cup

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Cut in the butter. Add cheese and milk, mix just enough to incorporate. Roll to 1/2 inch thick. Cut round and place on greased cookie sheet. Brush tops with milk and sprinkle on a bit of grated cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack under cloth. Cutting out the scones. This makes quite a big batch. In our haste, we forgot to put the cheese on at the beginning of the baking process and added it at the end to just melt on the top of the scones. These were so good we ate them right off the cooling rack and never did have them with a meal.