Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A year without french fries

Last year, about this time, I heard someone say that they went the whole year without eating a cookie. I was really impressed and thought, what could I do that with? I picked french fries because they are probably the least nutritional thing I eat and I love them. The soggy ones, the ones that no one else in the family likes so they always gladly handed theirs to me. I like crispy fries, but I love the soggy ones.

At first it was hard, I felt deprived watching other people eating french fries. It put me in a bad mood eating with french fry eaters. This is dumb I thought, this self imposed french fry ban. So I ate some. I felt horrible. It isn't a sin to eat french fries I know, but I felt horrible. It doesn't matter to anyone else, my family might even be happy I am back to eating fries, but I felt horrible. I had let myself down, it is bad enough if someone lets you down, but I had done it to myself. No fry has made it past my lips since.

As the year has gone on it has actually become easy to avoid the fries. Since I have a pretty heavy hand in where we go out to eat we don't go to fast food burger places very often. Burger places have a lot of other options for sides now at no extra cost so it isn't like I am deprived. I have noticed that Dad and the kids don't order fries very often anymore either. Monkey see, monkey do? Maybe. Hopefully. I would love to report that we don't even eat fast food but we do, we switched to tacos.

Now I have to decide, do I or don't I eat them this next year? I am thinking probably not.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The appointment has been made

Nikki, the dog, is going under the knife a.k.a being spayed. She also has two baby teeth that never fell out so when she is put under is the perfect time to have those pulled. A two for one. Dad called and got her the appointment, she goes in next Tuesday morning by 9:00 a.m. Nothing to eat after 8:00 p.m. on Monday. That is the part she is going to hate, the girl likes her snacks.

I am already getting nervous about this. The kids and I decided that Spark and Dad will take her to the vet and Dancer and I will go and get her the next day. I had to take a cat once that got hit by a car and have it put to sleep so I think it only fair that he takes the dog for her "procedure." Besides, I would cry.

Nikki is 2 1/2 years old and we have been saying since we got her as a little pup that we were going to get her spayed. We could just never bring ourselves to do it. She was a replacement dog for our last dog, Irene Beans, who got hit by a truck, so we are more than a little protective of her. Dogs in heat are not endearing though and she doesn't have any love interests, now or in her foreseeable future, so the time has come. Poor thing, she has no idea what she is in for.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Recycle magazines into paper straws for crafts

Using a magazine, cut the page right up the middle so that each side is an equal half. If you have lots of magazines, where you could never use them all in a month of projects, don't bother to cut the half closest to the binding out and trim it. If you don't have lot of magazines, then by all means, take advantage of that other half.
Start in one corner and roll the page up into a straw. Put a little dab of glue on the end to keep it together.
Make lots and lots and lots of these straws, the more the better. When you get a big pile of them you are ready to start a project.

Here the straws were glued around a tin canister from a food gift pack making it double recycling. The lid is a simply tiny pieces of paper glued atop and flattened straw around the edge. They can be put on picture frames, mirrors, garbage cans, glasses or anything with a flat surface. The straws can also be flattened and rolled into circles and glued together or flattened and stacked on each other or made into other shapes like bowls or boxes. Cut them into different lengths for even more options of how to use them in some useful manner. Got any ideas yet?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Basket weaving 101

Dancer got materials for Christmas to make a basket. We thought it would relatively easy and we would soon be holding a perfectly square little berry basket. Ha! That was so not the case and it took us a better part of the afternoon. Actually for our first try it turned out really well as I am assuming this is an art like everything else. I went around the house looking at all the baskets we have and I now have a new appreciation for them. If we made another one, we would know what we were doing and it would I hope be easier.
Here is our basket making adventure.

Dancer started out by soaking the wood for a good hour to make it nice and pliable. It is amazing how flexible it is for wood.

Using ten wide strips of wood Dancer made the bottom of the basket like this. So far so good, this seemed easy. Bend the side up being careful not to have them crack in two. She did that with no breakage. The middle slat is split and the first reed is started in between these two pieces.

Next was to start weaving the thin, long strips in and out of the side she just made. This is were it started to get difficult. The first two rounds were really hard to get them going and keep it square and the slats straight up and down. After the third lap around the basket it got much easier. You can see how hard she had to concentrate with her tongue sticking out. Every few rows the basket needs to be 'footed' where you make the bottom square and flat and the sides are straight.
Once the sides were as tall as they were going to be, the top has to be prepped for the edging. Any piece that is on the outside of the last row weaving has to be folded under and slipped under a row on the inside of the basket. To do this we used a popsicle stick to pry the inside slat out a little bit to get the top on in. Not as easy as it sounds. The the slats are on the inside of the last row are just cut off even with the top of the basket. This seemed a little scary to me after all the work we had just done getting these slats to stand up and the reeds woven in and out of them to go and snip them off with the scissor.

The top edging came next. Wider slats are wrapped around the inside and outsides of the basket. Then a thin strip is wrapped around and around these two pieces and the top of the basket. We had to get out a needle nosed pliers for this. Lastly, all the ends are tucked in and the basket is done! This was definitely a two person job for us beginners.

The finished product! Now all it has to dry. We were pretty impressed with ourselves.

Candle lit dinner

Sparks thought on candle lit dinner:

"Good, now I don't have to use my manners because no one can see me eating."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scarf with pockets

We went into town today to do a little after Christmas bargain shopping. We got some wrapping paper. I told Spark we should get some because if he behaves himself and gets presents next year I will want to be ready. I got an exasperated "Mom" for that remark. Sometimes the kids just don't get my humor.

As we walked through the mall we stopped at a gift shop that has all kinds brick-a-brac and oddities in it. They had these scarves with pockets for $16.00. You read that right - $16.00. Dancer wanted to get one to give to her dance big sister at the next performance. While it was super cute, I wasn't going to spend that kind of money on about a half a yard of fabric, especially since we have a basement full of polar fleece.

We came home and whipped up two of these in a matter of minutes. Dancer is keeping the one she is wearing and giving the one Spark is modeling to her big sister with a candy bar in each pocket.

Here is the dimensions we used for these:

Scarf length is 60" long and 10" inches wide

Pockets are 10" wide by 9" tall

I cut the scarf and pockets out with the rotary cutter to get smooth edges. Across the top of the pocket are stitched two rows of stretch stitch to give it a little strength. Dancer pinned them on the bottoms of each end of the scarves, being careful to pin them both on the same side of the fabric, 2 1/2 inches from the ends. It is stitched on with two rows of straight stitching and at the top of each side we put about a quarter of an inch of very, very close together zigzag so it doesn't rip out when hands are repeatedly in and out of the pockets. Once the pocket was on, Dancer embellished it by cutting some fringe on each end. This was her own idea, the expensive store scarf was plain on the bottoms.

Celebrating Christmas

We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve afternoon because Dad was suppose to work the entire holiday. We were fortunate that he was on call both nights and never got called in.

The presents around the tree.

The favorite gifts were a Taylor Swift CD for Dancer. She was so shocked to get this, it is not something we would normally buy for her. Our kids can sing the lyrics to lots of songs from the 70's and know the difference between Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Burl Ives but not a lot of current music. She has already played this CD so much I am amazed she hasn't worn the music right off it. She even sings the songs when it isn't on.

Dad got a memory foam pillow. Dancer and I both have one and he always thought they were dumb until he finally tried sleeping on one. One time is all it took and he was hooked. Whenever he sleeps during the day he nabs one of ours but now he has his very own.

Spark got a Play Station 2. We made him wait in the car when we went into the pawn shop last week so he knew he was getting something good. Well, at least he knew someone was, he can't keep a secret to save his life so he doesn't get to much information on the inside scoop of gift giving. He actually let out a yell when he saw it in the box.

Finally, my favorite was a cinnamon candle, I have a candle burning almost every day. I also loved a new green comforter for Nikki and I to snuggle under while watching t.v.

This morning we woke up to this.

Santa did make it through the snow and left a few presents under the tree.
Spark has his Webkinz all lined up looking at them. He had about two hours to check them out before anyone else had even rolled over this morning.

The rest of the day was spent playing games, making crafts the kids got, eating lots of good food and shoveling. I love that the day has no expectations, we can play games all day or just sit and relax without thinking we need to get some school in or that the carpet is calling out to be vacuumed. It was a wonderful, wonderful day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The snow, snow, snow

The snow, snow, snow, came down, down, down

as swirling, twirling snowflakes.

Till the walk was gone under the snow and covered up the barn.

For dad he was shoveling, with all his scooping might

And so in perspiration a shovel of snow took flight.


I hurt my knee!

He threw the snow and a path did form.

And the snow, snow, snow came down, down, down so Dad kept on a shoveling.

And the dog she stood atop the stair, waiting to go out

And the snow, snow, snow came down, down, down and the drifts piled up-up-upper.

With rosy cheeks and sweaty brow, a reddened nose kept sniffling.

The shovel flew, the wind still blew and the snow just kept on drifting.

And the snow twirled and swirled in a snow globe of a world.

Snow, snow, snow came down, down, down
when the snow, snow, snow fell down, down, down.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Second Christmas Celebration

This afternoon we were planning on celebrating Christmas with Dad's mom and dad but the day didn't start out so well. Spark complained of a sore throat last night so we gave him something for it and off he went to bed. This morning he got up, had breakfast and went back to bed. He slept for a few more hours, laid in bed for a few more hours and finally made a bed on the couch to be by us. It was 3:00 p.m. before he even wanted the t.v. on. Not a good sign when a kid doesn't even want to watch t.v. Grandma and Grandpa were due to arrive about 4:30 so at 4:00 he got himself up and now has been up ever since. It is painfully obvious though that he feels like dirt. May another good night of sleep have him feeling better in the morning.

Grandma and Grandpa did come and we had a wonderful time. Our tradition with them is to have Aebleskiver and sausages. You can read more about how we make aebleskvier here from our last years post.

Spark was beside himself to open the gifts but we did get him and Dancer to sit down for a moment in front of the tree and snap a picture. Grandma, as always, brings tons of presents.

Dancer got some socks and bracelets that came in these plastic orbs. For the life of her she could not get them open. Here she is before she got frustrated and recruited Dad to try his hand at breaking into the ball. He had a hard time too and we all had a good laugh over these super sealed socks and bracelets!
We have lots of snow forecasted here for at least the next five days. It started in tonight snowing and blowing so Grandma and Grandpa didn't stay too late before they headed back into town. We wanted to get a picture of them, Dad and the kids but with the excitement over the weather we didn't think of it until they were already gone. Darn!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rhythmic breathing will not defeat him!

Up until August of this year, Spark was like a cat in the water. He had not even put his head under water. All of that has changed now and he has been taking swimming lessons. After his first class, polliwog, the teachers moved him up two levels.

The level he had this last session, guppy, gave him a challenge and that challenge was rhythmic breathing. He will have to take the class over until he can successfully master this skill. In the summer this wouldn't be such a big deal because we could go to the beach and practice. However, when you live in the land where all the lakes freeze so thick you can drive a truck on the ice, practicing isn't an option.

Enter Grandma and Grandpa here for Christmas who are staying a week at a hotel with a pool. This changes everything. Tonight we went into town so that Spark could get a little time in perfecting his rhythmic breathing skills. He did make great strides and it was easy to see improvement in just one night. Hopefully this extra practice will translate into him passing the class when he takes it again in January.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's a big night

The excitement has been building all day. Spark is having his first ever sleep over. Dancer's book club is having a slumber party tonight at another members house who just happens to have a brother that is a friend of Sparks. So basically we just swapped a kid for the night.

Spark has been besides himself with anticipation. He had the menu all planned, his favorite meal of spaghetti hotdish and ice cream for a night time snack. He also had lots of video games, board games and sledding on the agenda. So far so good, only one accident and our new slushy ice pack took care of that. They are going to each sleep on a couch downstairs so hopefully they will get a little sleep in and not stay up half the night.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Homemade Sports Icy Gel Packs

Dancer found this in a book called "Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things." It is a way to make those nice sport injury gel packs with having the pay the big prices for them.

Take freezer bag and put in it 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol. Put the bag in the freezer for three hours and you have a slushy ice pack. The water will freeze but the alcohol will keep it from freezing solid. Ours was in the freezer overnight, it was firm, but broke apart easily. By being slushy, it fits over whatever you are trying to ice instead of being a rock hard block. Be sure to wrap the pack in a thin towel when using it so you don't get frost bite on the area you are icing.

Being a headache sufferer, I am going to make some smaller ones and sew a soft cover for them. Now I use those hard packs that go in coolers wrapped in a wet washcloth, it never stays where I want it to or only a part of the pack touches when the pain is.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Deck the Dog with new Duds

It came to our attention that Nikki's clothes were getting rather ragged and well worn. Dressing her up is not a vanity thing for her, she has very short hair, and a bald belly, so she really needs to wear clothes in the winter, especially at night when she is in her kennel. A couple years ago when we made her some outfits we had a really nice pattern, but of course it is no where to be found now. When we were in town we stopped and got a new pattern for her, Simplicity 2755. This pattern doesn't sew up quite as neatly as it could. Dancer and I sewed the two outfits out of fleece and we had to make a few adjustments to the way it went together. When we sew it again we will make a few alterations on fitting. I think part of the problem is that dog breeds come in so many different shapes - long legs, short legs, thin bodies, husky bodies, and so on that it is hard to have one pattern fit all those different shapes.

We think she is very stylish now. Here she is modeling her new outfits. The top picture is a mouse/castle print that just happened to have the word "Princess" perfectly centered across the front after we sewed it up. The second is a star pattern that makes her feel like the diva she thinks she is.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let the baking begin!!

A big box of Christmas cookies was one of the gifts we gave to my parents for Christmas since they don't bake anymore. Baking is so easy now that Dancer is able to do all the mixing on her own. All I do is bake them and be her assistant.

These are from the top KrumKake, below them to the left are Cran-Crazy cookies, to the right is Peanut Butter star cookies and the bottom is Honey Basil cookies.

We also whipped up a batch of Maple Date cookies. All these were new recipes to us this year and every one of them were keepers we will make again.

Maple Date Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. maple extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla, and maple extract. Blend well. Stir in dry ingredients. Stir in dates and walnuts. Drop by teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 350 degrees for 9 to 12 minutes.

Honey Basil Cookies

1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, honey, basil, orange peel and vanilla. Mix in flour.

Shape into 1 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Flatten with glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Cran-Crazy Cookies

3/4 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/3 C whole wheat flour - if you don't have it just use white
1 1/2 C walnuts
1 1/2 C dried cranberries

Cream butter and sugar. Add brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat well. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Mix in flour.

Drop by rounded teaspoon on two inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 350 for 8 to 10 minutes.

Peanut Butter Star Cookies

1 C butter
1 C peanut butter
1 C white sugar
1 C brown sugar

2 eggs
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 C flour

Mix well. Roll into balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 to 13 minutes. Remove from oven and top with a chocolate star, chocolate kisses work as well. Don't stack these until the chocolate is hardened which takes a while or the chocolate will stick to the cookie on top of it.


5 Tbsp. melted butter
2/3 C milk
2/3 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C flour

Melt the butter but do not over heat. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs and with mixer blend until the mixture is light yellow in color. Add milk and flour and mix until smooth. The batter should be thin and slowly flow off of a spoon. These have to be made on a KrumKake iron, either electric or one that goes on the stove top. We fill these with whipped cream for a super scrumptious treat.

The first Christmas celebration

Dad works both Christmas Eve and Christmas so we are getting together with family early. Grandma and Grandpa came today for a very informal celebration. We had summer sausage and cream cheese on crackers, grapes and Sun Chips. After exchanging a few gifts they left to get home before dark. Right before they left Dad snapped a picture to remember their visit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas Picture

The Christmas picture is done. And it ended up being easy this year despite it's late coming. We put off taking a picture because November was so mild and we wanted it taken in the snow. Then the snow came but the temperatures were way to cold, it is hard to smile in below zero wind chills. It was looking like we were going to just have the kids sit in front of the tree but finally every thing fell into place.

Dad took a couple hay bales and set them up where there was a bit of a view in the back. Nikki got her pretty pink coat on and Eeyore came out of the barn. This was probably the hardest part because he hates the snow and coldness of winter so he had to be drug over the snow to where the kids were sitting. Once he saw Dancer was waiting for him he ran right over to be by her (she bottle fed him since day one and he thinks she is his mom). The kids sat down, as an added bonus the cat jumped up and walked back and forth. We snapped about 20 pictures and got one good one. We were working with children and animals so we were quite please that four out of five of them were looking.

Off to Walmart to print them out. No waiting at the picture kiosk, that is amazing in and of it's self. They had envelopes that fit the pictures, another amazing event.

Brought them home, addressed the envelopes, stuffed them, took turns licking the envelopes horrid tasting flaps, stuck the stamps on and now they are in mailbox waiting to be whisked off to all our friends and relatives just waiting to see pictures of our kids. Actually, I don't know if people like the pictures or not. Except for one lady, who is not our card list anymore, who told me that she just throws the pictures away because why would she want a picture of someone else's kids. I love to get the picture cards. I keep the ones from year to year in our Christmas boxes and compare how the kids have changed over the years.

This years fabulous picture is as shown above in our heading.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

The sour cream in these cookies makes them a soft, rich sugar cookie. Dancer had a hard time waiting 24 hours to start cutting them out. I had sort of forgotten about them and thought we would roll them when we got the chance, but she announced, "only an hour and 42 minutes until we can do the cookies!" She was really watching the time! My kids are growing up, when we decorated the cookies, they were very careful with the sprinkles and tried to make them look nice. None of the piling a mountain of sprinkles on each cookie and no big mess to clean up at the end. Not that I am complaining, just a little pang of sadness that those messy days of baking are over at our house.
Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 C. shortening with part butter
2 eggs
Beat these three ingredients together until creamed.
Sift and add to the creamed mixture:
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
3 C. flour
Add 1 C. sour cream and mix well.
Refrigerate for 24 hours before baking.
Roll out and cut with your favorite cookie cutters. If the dough is too soft to work with knead in more flour.
Bake 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Craft bag

I made this for a Christmas gift this year. The pattern in Simplicity 5151. Grandma is always crocheting and she totes her projects around in a plastic grocery bag. It isn't a large as I would have liked but it will work for a smaller project, or the start of a project. Her most common projects are lap robes and prayer shawls that won't fit in it when she gets about half way done.

This is a crochet hook and scissor holder. This is two pieces of fabric sewn together with a piece of interfacing in the middle. The bottom is folder up the height of a standard crochet hook. Sew several little "pockets" for hooks and then on the other side leave a larger space with a "V" sewn in the bottom to hold a scissor. The top is folded down and pressed to create the flap. For a knitting needle caddy just make it longer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peanut Butter Frito Brittle Recipe

Simple, simple, simple.

1 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup peanut butter

Bring to a boil. Put one large family size bag of Fritos in a big bowl. Pour melted mixture over the top. Stir to coat. Lay out on waxed paper. Break into pieces when hard.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mary Kay give away

Last week we won a fabulous book give away over at Four Squares blog. Where by the way she is having another great book give away so head over there and check it out. We were so excited to get the package in the mail today that we decided to have a give away of our own and pass the joy along to someone else.

Our give away will consist of three Mary Kay products. A bronze highlighting powder, just thing for pale winter skin, a black water proof mascara so everyone can see your eyes between your scarf and hat, and an extra emollient night cream, perfect for dry winter skin.

To enter, all you have to do is tell us you were here by leaving a comment before the stroke of midnight on Tuesday.

Wednesday we will put everyones name in a hat and draw one name out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Half way to the finish line

On around November third or fourth, Spark and I decided to challenge ourselves with a walking goal. We wanted it to be challenging but not too hard. We chose 300 miles in three months thinking that between the two of us we would only have to walk about three miles most days. We have tried this type of thing before as a family and have never succeeded. Spark wanted to try again and so he and I decided to do it just the two of us. I think he thought it would be cool to do something just the two of us.

We started out and we half heartedly walked a few miles. One night a few days into our challenge he was talking with me and said "Do you really think we are going to get 300 miles done?" From the tone of his voice I knew right then and there that I needed to role model how to start and finish a goal. I told him we sure were and for incentive we could put a ticker on our blog.

He and I went to the computer and found a free ticker and he choose the grass and snail for the graphic to show our progress. When he chose the snail I thought I would feel like a snail trying to get all these miles walked so it was an appropriate icon. On the top of the ticker you could write what was being measured. I went to type in Spark and Mom walking by Feb. 1st. The 1st. didn't fit on the amount of space that they allowed for the heading. Good, I thought, it only says February so it could really take us to the end of February and we would still be in the boundaries of the now modified heading. I was looking for any loop hole at the time.

We set up the ticker and put in our miles. Our first entry, which was a couple of days worth of walking, was something like four miles. Our ticker said 4 miles done, 296 miles to go and we were already a good six days into our challenge. I saw us down by the tread mill the last week of February trying to get in 20 miles a day between the two of us so we would meet this goal.

Instead we decided to step our efforts up a notch. I started walking two miles a day even though I would have rather had my teeth cleaned than walk that extra mile every day. But then, even though I still hated that extra mile, I felt like I had really accomplished something when I was done. Pretty soon it wasn't so hard and felt like my legs weren't going to fall off at the end of two miles. November was very mild temperature wise and so most of my miles were done outside, Spark would walk half outside and half inside on the tread mill.

A couple of weeks ago I decided that two miles wasn't really challenging me anymore and bumped it up to three miles with Spark following suit. Around this time the weather took a turn right into the heart of winter so I am unable to walk outside anymore. I don't enjoy walking on the tread mill like I do walking outside so my goal is to get those miles done as quickly as possible. I started out at 3 mph but now I can comfortably walk 3.5 mph and get done in just a little over 50 minutes. Sometimes I walk it in three different sessions. I will look at the clock and think "In just 17 minutes I can have one of those miles done." This doesn't seem so daunting to me and I it seems easier for me to fit it in with everything else if I do it in one or two smaller time periods than taking almost a whole hour out of the day at one time to get it done.

The ticker has really been a great motivator for us. It is exciting to walk and then enter the amount into the computer and see our goal getting ever smaller. We are now at the half way mark, 150 miles, and we are a little bit ahead of schedule. At the rate we are going we should be done around the middle of January! We are already talking about what we will do then. A 5K run seems to be the next thing on Spark's mind. Dancer ran a few 5K's in the fall of 2008 and got some t-shirts. I think he thinks it would be pretty cool to be sprouting one of those t-shirts around town. I think it would pretty cool too.

Laundry or shopping...hmmm

What to do, what to do. I went to the drawer after a shower this morning and found that my stack of unders was depleted. In frantic desperation I dug through all the other drawers in the dresser clinging to the hope that at least one pair was put in the wrong drawer. Nope, I really am that far behind on the laundry. Now I have to decide, do I do a load of laundry or go shopping because obviously I don't own enough pairs if I can't even go a over week without doing laundry.

Upon further exploration, in the way back of a drawer, under a pair of jammies I don't wear any more, was a pair of maternity unders. What they were doing there I don't know. It has been over nine years since I was last pregnant and we have moved since then, but today I am just thankful they were there. By the way, maternity underwear don't fit the non-pregnant, well at least not comfortably, unless you are desperate not to go naked under your clothes.

So now I have to decide, shopping or laundry, laundry or shopping. Shopping wins! But I do have a load of whites in the dryer already.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Calligraphy and gold leafing

There is a bible, the St. John's Bible, that is being written by hand. The person leading this endeavor is Donald Jackson, the scribe to the Queen of England. The university near us gave a class to our homeschool group about the bible and then the kids were able to practice making ink, writing in calligraphy, using gold leaf and embellishing letters.

Once we had listened to an interesting lecture about the bible and then saw some of the pages, we got to work practicing how it is done.

First was to make the ink. In these little stone trays they put a few drops of water. Next they took the Japanese ink bar, which is made out of soot, and rubbed in the water until it felt slimy. We had our little point and shoot camera with so the pictures aren't as good as we would have liked but I didn't want to lug the regular camera with.

Anyway, once the ink is ready, they dipped a quill into it and started writing. With practice you are suppose to get ten characters per dip.
After they were done they cleaned the quills with pipe cleaners. Spark surprised me with his calligraphy writing skills since he is not a fan of writing to begin with. He may have hidden talent here.

We didn't know this, but for a quill to work as a writing instrument it needs to be completely dry. To get it dry, the writer sticks it in hot sand until the tip is clear. This drying makes it very hard and then it is easy to write with. Of course they need to fashion the end into a blunt tip.
The gold leafing was done on velum. Not actual animal skin velum like they used for the bible but craft store velum. The velum had a red "O" painted on it already. When it was blown on, the humidity and heat from their breath made the "O" sticky.

Then they laid down a piece of gold leaf and rubbed it

They brushed the velum with a paint brush to get the excess gold off the paper. They then learned how to dress them up like the first letter of a sentence in a book. They tacked them on the black boards and put a hanger on back so that it can be hung and admired.

Dancer's finished project. It is much more impressive in real life when the gold shimmers and it doesn't look so flat. Only the "O" is gold leafed, the rest was done with silver and gold pens.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Genetic traits of the thumb

Quick, fold your hands. Did you put your left thumb on top or the right thumb on top. Now ask the rest of your family and see what they did. Which ever one you put on top is because of a genetic trait you inherited. Try to fold your hands with the other thumb on top and it just doesn't feel right.

Everyone at our house puts their left thumb on top.........

except me, I put the right one on top. The kids got many other wonderful traits from me, just not this one, Dad can take full responsibility for it.

Another trait is if the top of your thumb can bend back more than 60 degrees. None of us here have that trait. Do you?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Keeping Chivalry Alive

Our reading lately has been focused on English Knights. Knights, when they weren't fighting, were a horrible lot. They harassed peasants, ruined property, ransacked monasteries and churches, stole from people and killed their animals. A lot like Vikings those scoundrel knights were. To combat this behavior, the church told the knights that they were also to defend the church, protect the weak, assist in upholding the law of the land, and have good manners. One of those manners was when they were eating they should spit under the table instead of on it. The main thing they were to do was to protect women and be chivalrous. There was a little system in place to ensure that they did what they were suppose to be doing. When knights were going to enter a tournament, they would grab their coat of arms and parade, on their horses, in front of all the ladies. If a lady saw the coat of arms of a knight who had been less than chivalrous to her he would be pulled from the tournament and not allowed to compete. The coat of arms also acted as a name tag during a battle because their fellow knights would know who was who from glancing at their coat of arms and determine if they were friend or foe. The kids both made a coat of arms with the criteria being that if we looked at it we would quickly be able to see who they were.

Spark's coat of arms. You will know me by my coat of arms by knowing a little about the symbol I put on it. As you can see, in the middle is a rabbit. It could either be Scott or Creamy because they are both brown and I didn't color in the inside so it could be both of the rabbits. The colors I chose are because they are the main colors and they bright so that they show up well. The yellow I did with a highlighter so it would be really bright and you could notice all the other colors by it.

Dancer's coat of arms. This is my coat of arms and you will be able to tell that it is me even if I was wearing full armor because it has all the things I like on it. On the top left is a basketball. I like to play basketball and I really miss not being on a team this year. I am glad my brother is playing so I still get to go to games. On the top middle is a lawn mower. I love to mow lawn, I do some of my best singing when I am on the mower going around and around the yard. Next to that on the top right is a pair of tap shoes. I love to dance and tap is my favorite style of dance. I would be happy if I got to tap dance every single day of the year. Underneath the tap shoes is Ballina my favorite chicken. She the runt of the barnyard flock. She likes to be held, petted and fed rabbit food out of my hand. I know she is a chicken but she still likes rabbit food. To the left of Ballina is a book and Nikki. I put a book big in the middle because I love to read so much. I put Nikki by the book because I didn't have much room to put her on the coat of arms without her being sideways and she is usually by me when I read. Lower left is roller skates. Lower right is Eeyore my goat. I put him on there because my life just wouldn't be my life without Eeyore. He is so cute and I play with him every day. Even though he is getting quite big he still likes to climb from the milking stand onto my lap to sit and nuzzle.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Have a good day!!!

With this breakfast staring up at you, how can you not? Unless it reminds you a bit of Jack on The Nightmare Before Christmas. No one else saw the resemblance to Jack, except me, but they did agree that it had a bit of a blank zombie look to it. Dad made these two hard shelled beauties this morning and when he took them out of the pan the yolks were looking up at him so he added a nose and a smile!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recycled Christmas card ornaments

These orb like ornaments are virtually free except for a little bit of glue. We spent part of the afternoon and evening creating them. Dancer and Dad are still going strong with no signs of slowing down. They have moved on to making them in different sizes. One that will be about the side of a basketball is in the works right now. Dancer is also a buzz about all the different materials she could make them out of. The ones shown here, our first attempts, are about size of a baseball. The ornament on the bottom is a double decker with two middle parts. These have been around probably since the beginning of time, but if you haven't seem them before or need a refresher course, here is how it is done.

Using the fronts of old Christmas cards, cut out circles. We used the cup from children's suspension medication, like liquid Tylenol, for the pattern. Each ornament needs 20 circles or 30 for a double decker. Each circle needs to have it's edges folded so that there is triangle in the middle of it and three tabs around the outsides. The piece on the left shows the triangle and on the right is how the circles will look when they are ready to be put together. The more precise the triangles are folded the better all the pieces will fit together. You could draw a little pattern or just eyeball the folds. Once the pieces are all cut out and folded the construction can begin. Tacky Glue works extremely well for this project because it sticks so fast, which makes it easy to get the pieces together with out a lot of holding on your part.

The top and the bottom of the ornament. Both the top and bottom require five pieces. Glue them together by their tabs in a domed circle. On the top piece, thread a length of yard, who's end is tied in a knot, and string it through the middle. There will probably be a bit of a hole where the five pieces come together. If not put the string in place before gluing the last pieces together. Here is a top view and an underside view. While these are drying move on to the middle piece.

The middle of the ornament. Lay out ten of the pieces in a straight line and glue together as shown on the bottom of the picture. Form this strip into a circle and glue. If you want a double decker ornament make two middle pieces and glue them one on top of the other. Now glue on the top and the bottom to the tabs on this circle.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Frosted Maple Walnut Cookies

We needed to make a couple dozen cookies for a dinner theater that is being hosted this weekend at our church. Dancer was looking through one of those little cookbooks that are by the grocery store check outs that happened to make it to the top of our cookbook stack and found this cookie among it's pages. The book was from 1998 so I don't know where it has been hiding all these years.

Frosted Maple Walnut Cookies

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter softened
1 - 2 tsps. maple flavoring
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour - or use another cup of white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
a dash of salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

4 cups powdered sugar
3 - 4 tbsp. milk - we need more than this but it will depend on the humidity
2 tbsp. butter softened
2 tsp. maple flavoring

Cream sugar and butter. Add maple flavor and eggs, beat well. Mix in rest of ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoons on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 7 -9 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool a couple minutes on the cookie sheet or you will have oval instead of round cookies.

Combine all frosting ingredients and beat until smooth. We needed to use the hand mixer to be able to get it smooth, a spoon just didn't cut it. Frost cookies when cool.

These cookies were so good we had to give a big plate of them away or we would have sat and eaten all of them in a matter of a few days.

We also made these tasty little morsels. I got the idea from here: Keeping It Simple

I looked at it quickly and then today at the store I thought I would remember the ingredients but that wasn't the case. She used chocolate Kisses and I bought Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Which ever form of chocoalte you use here is how to make them. These are so easy they don't take any longer than five minutes. First take mini pretzels, I used the square ones, and lay them out on a cookie sheet and put a peanut butter cup on top of it. Pop these in the oven for a minute or two until they are melty but not melted. I put them in at 350 degrees because that is what I had the pork ribs we had for dinner baking at. Pull the pan out of the oven and quick push a M&M into the center of them. Let them cool and then hide them from your kids and husband or they will quickly be gone.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Girls are from Venus...

Girls are from Venus, Boys are from Mars or so it seems.

The big white board has been up in the living room for school and the kids spend some of their free time drawing pictures, playing hangman etc. This day Dancer had drawn a cute duck on her side of the board and Spark made a robot on his side.

After a few minutes, Spark's robot had army tanks accompanying it. Yes, they had fired on the duck. A classic example of an arms race soon developed.

The picture above shows the robot had added a helicopter, assorted bombs and appears to be taking a duckling hostage. You can now see Dancer's "cute little duck" has machine guns mounted on it's wings, a torpedo launching tail, guided rockets under it's chin, and a Viking companion with a flamethrower. A later, even more gruesome look, would show Dancer's hideous three headed, forked tongued worm had burrowed under the robot. Oh, and look, our little angel's duck has grown fangs!!

With a nine year old boy in the house virtually any activity can become very competitive and even an epic battle.