Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vegetable prints

We had bubble and squeak for supper and the cabbage looked so pretty that out came the paint and Spark was making vegetable prints with the cabbage core. Dad got out the potatoes and started carving letters on them and Spark stamped his name. Here he is just doing the T while waiting for the rest of them to be carved.

Monday, February 23, 2009

One man's trash is my treasure

I got this fabulous group of shells and the two bonus fish from a friend who was getting rid of them. I have quite a few shells that my parents picked up on their honeymoon in the Florida Keys over 50 years ago. A few of those I keep on the bathroom counter as a reminder of my parents so I won't add any of these to that grouping. I am sure though that we will find something to do with them, a craft, a 4-H project, or just set them out - maybe in a plant.
The shells were glued on this board along with the two fish and lavender aquarium gravel. They were glued on there with an obscene amount of hot glue. The Dad was able to take a towel and break them loose quite easily. He needed the towel because although beautiful, they can be quite sharp.Dancer has made it her quest to get the glue off of all the shells. She is using a little screw driver and prying it off. She has only stabbed herself once ........ so far. It is making me nervous but I am trying to take a hands off approach and let her do it.

One thing interesting we noticed about the the ones that look like this is that no matter what size they are, they all have the same number of swirls. They also don't all swirl the same direction but structurally look like a mirror image of each other.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Baking Snickerdoodles is dangerous work

Spark got this new helmet yesterday and wore it most of the day today. Here he and Grandma were making snickerdoodle cookies. Nothing happened during the baking that would warrant a helmet, the cookies were baked without incident. However, a few hours later he was running up the stairs, without his helmet on, tripped and hit his teeth on the top step which is wood. He had three that were bleeding but not loose. We thought perhaps he should start wearing a football helmet with a mouth guard!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

We are the Champions!!!

Dancer's team took first place at the basketball tournament today. They won all three of their games. 23 -10, 14 - 8, 25 -18. Very exciting for them, it was their home tournament and their last day of the season.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just Thursday 3

We were off to town for an orthodontist appointment. Dancer got new bands that are all one piece and tonight she is in pain. It will be tapioca for a few days until the pain goes away. She did pick out green and white as her band colors hoping they will be good luck for her basketball team's tournament this weekend. The team colors, obviously, are white and green. We made a stop at the library for the kids to use the computers. At home we have dial up internet from the dark ages. It is hard to play games, we don't even try to see anything that has a video with it and many pages either don't load or take too long to load. They like to play Webkinz and go to each others virtual houses. In an hour at the library, they can do what takes about three hours on our home computer. Grocery shopping was another errand. I hate shopping and only do with it is absolutely necessary. It is so depressing shopping when you come out with over $100 of groceries and you have about four bags. With coupons we saved about $22 and got a $6 off coupon for next time! Doesn't take much to get us excited! Dancer got in a little reading. She reads in almost every spare minute she has, usually reading about 3 - 4 books a week outside of what she reads for school. She brings books with when we go in the car unless we are listening to one on tape. She watches t.v. and reads at the same time. Sometimes I will find her at night with a book under the covers long after I thought she was asleep. Pretty much any time she can fit in reading a page or two she has a book in her hand.
Grandma is staying with us for the weekend and she brought a couple pair of sunglasses. Here is Spark being goofy in one of the pair.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Easy Pinto Bean Soup

We went to Grandma and Grandpa's house today and got back home late. For supper we made this soup which doesn't take any longer to make than it takes to open a few cans, dump them in a pot and slice up a sausage. Start with two quarts of chicken broth in a big pot. I made this from the soup base that comes in a jar.

Add: a couple cups of pinto beans. This can be canned or from dry. I usually have cooked ones from dry beans in the freezer so that I can use them without having to plan way ahead.
1 can 15.5 oz. kidney beans
1 can 10 oz.RO*TEL diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 can 28 oz. diced tomatoes
1 smoked sausage sliced into bite size pieces

That is it! Let it simmer for a bit and serve with toast.

Where did your chicken nugget come from?

Let me start this by saying that I live in smack dab in the middle of farm country. All my neighbors know how to clean a chicken, raise animals either for meat or milk, and our life style is very much the norm. Actually, we are more soft hearted than the majority of our neighbors when it comes to our animals. We had the vet out to put one of our goats to sleep and locals thought we were a bit off our rockers.

I was sitting at dance tonight waiting for the kids during their classes, this takes up two hours of my life every week. The mom next to me finds me fascinating, not because she thinks I am a super cool mom, but because I live on a little farm. She wants to talk about our animals every week and what we do with them. I think she is trying to see if I am really telling the truth and not just making this stuff up and if she asks me over and over maybe I will slip up and she will just up and yell "I knew it, that is not really how a farm works!"

She usually starts with the goats. "What are the goats up to" she will ask. Then she follows every week with "what do you do with them?" Well, we milk them. And what do we do with the milk she usually inquires with raised eyebrows. We drink it, make cheese, yogurt, and soap. Tonight she wants to know how can you drink milk that isn't processed? Pasteurized you mean? Yes, she says, you know to make it drinkable. I told her we drink it raw because pasteurizing goat milk gives it that goaty taste, to us anyway it does. Her eyebrows dip down in the middle towards her nose and she gives me the "what you talking about Willis?" look. I guess she thought that if it wasn't processed it was impossible to swallow it? Next, was the cheese. How do you make cheese? Seriously, you can make cheese?! Well, you put it in a pot, add some rennet, heat it up and it turns into cheese. She let that one go with a skeptical look and moved on to the rabbits.

The rabbits, the cute, cuddly, adorable, little rabbits. Now, there are some cute rabbits and others act like they are on terminal PMS 24/7. She finds it almost impossible to believe that we have a herd and that we eat them. I try to explain to her that yes, we do have rabbits that we would never be able to cull or eat. Those are the ones that we breed and have become like pets. Here is the dark side of rabbits that she couldn't believe a cute bunny would ever do. They are not always attached to their babies. The mother will eat them, push them out of the nest, abandon them and just not feed them. They will fight with each other, rip hair out, chew on each other and even kill each other. Now not all of them do this, most are very happy to live in one hutch and be best friends. We have had a few though that are truly antisocial and sadistic. Well, she had an uncle that raised rabbits and ate them so she supposes that this whole rabbit thing must be possible. It would make her cry though she adds.

We move on to the chickens. Do we really kill them? Yes, by the time the roosters are big enough we are more than ready to cull them. We don't eat our hens, they are egg layers. I tell her about how they will fight with each other like the illegal cock fights you hear about. I tell her about the large spurs they have on their legs, how long and sharp they are. I hate those roosters fighting all the time so I run out in the yard with a leaf rake and separate them. Actually, I have gotten quite good at it, now there is something for my resume. Do you cut their heads off she wants to know. Yeessss, there is no other way to do it. She is totally shocked. I asked her how she thinks they get chicken nuggets. Well, they don't kill the chicken she says! I think she may be a bit too far removed from where her food comes from.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cool forest animal diorama

It's me, Spark. This is a project I made today. It is a craft from Martha Stewart Crafts called Pipe Cleaner Forest Kit. I took a pipe cleaner and wrapped it around a pen to make the bodies. Then I took two short pipe cleaners and bended them to make the legs. I stuck the legs into a hole in between the noodle shaped body. Then I made a circle and twisted another pipe cleaner up just a small bit and wrapped the extra around the neck. Stick the noodle shaped body into the stick and stick the tail in. There will be a little more room and you can just stick it in. The ears are a little pipe cleaner bent in half with the same size of each side. Then stick them in the swirl of the head and then there is a forest animal. I got a box big enough for the background to fit in. I painted blue paint on four parts of the box, three sides and the top for sky. I painted the last part green for the forest floor. After the painted dried, I put glue on the bottom of the trees and stuck it to the green bottom of the box. I put glue on all the feet of the animals and stuck them in the scene. Tomorrow I will write a little bit about each animal to put with the diorama. I made this for 4-H to put in the fair. I will be proud to bring it to the fair and tell the judge about it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's a girl!!!

This weekend is especially festive for our family as not only do we have the "holiday of love", we get to celebrate a birthday. The Mom's birthday was celebrated on Friday. We had special soup, of course, the parents came to visit, we went to the closest large town for a dinner out.

We enjoyed as chocolate cream cheese cake and gifts were opened.
It is sometimes said "the box is more fun than the toy that came in it". That may have been the case with some wrapping paper from one of the gifts. Spark wore the paper as a hat for a portion of the birthday celebration. It was a unique look, sort of festive chef meets Egyptian priest meets Kwanza headgear.

One of our family traditions is that after the birthday honoree blows out the candles they are re-lit and the kids get to blow them out again. Notice how short the candles are.

This was our second birthday for the year, next up is the Dad in May

I heart pizza

One of our family traditions is having homemade pizza, usually Saturday evenings. The pizza is fun to make, even though it takes some work. Making sure the water is the right temperature for the yeast, kneading the dough and waiting for it to rise. The fun part of the project is picking out toppings, tossing the pie in the air and assembling the pizza.

Here is a link to a good pizza crust recipe; Jays Signature Pizza Crust

Since today is Valentines Day we decided to make one of the pizzas in a heart shape. Spark is putting the sauce on the pizza.

The finished pie.

This batch of dough made two pizzas and the scraps from making the heart became a single serving thin crust cheese pizza for Spark. Making the homemade pizza cuts down on the cost quite a bit, although the toppings still cost a lot. The heart shape turned out so good we may need to have a shamrock pizza for St Patricks Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just Thursday - 2

Spark, with his fine young elephant Jeffery watching, finished up the year end review in his math book. Monday he will start the new grade level!
The mailman rang the doorbell with a nice surprise - a box of Valentine gifts from Grandma. What a better way to start the day than to get mail that isn't a bill and then it be a gift as well. She sent jammies, shirts and sweatpants. Thanks Grandma! Dancer made Valentine's for her team on Saturday. She cut hearts out of orange paper, drew lines on them to make them look like basketballs and the taped them to a pencil. She was a bit disappointed in the pencils. Last week we bought pens for Spark to make valentines with (he cut out hearts, put a sticker on the heart and taped them to pens) for 4-H and a few other friends. This week we went to the same display, saw the pattern on the pencils, thought they were pens and didn't look any further at the package. Teach us not to assume things always stay the same. Dancer had an extra basketball practice today so Spark and I took her up the school and then went back and got her. It doesn't seem like such a big chore anymore when it is still light out at 5:30. Some how when we had to go out in the dark it seemed a much more daunting and cold task. Two trips to town is over 30 miles so we are only home about an hour in between but there isn't even a grocery store in the town the school is in so we have no where to go but home. In the summer we could go on the bike trail, but in the winter it is a snowmobile trail and not conducive to anything else. While Dancer was at basketball practice, Spark and I got a few chores done. We collected eggs, filled rabbit water bottles, gave hay to everyone and water to the chickens. On the way into the house the cat, Kacheekers, was winding around us and telling us he was out of food. He was happy to have his dish refilled. Yes, it is a sand toy. We have found them to be the sturdiest in our cold weather. A lot of plastic dishes just crack if they get bumped around a bit in the cold. If you are old enough, remember the plastic vinyl book bags before backpacks became popular for school. Every year I think I broke at least three of them because they were cold and I knocked them on something.

Took the never ending pile of laundry down a few inches today by doing a couple of loads. I try to do one load a day but it still seems to get away from me if I don't have a couple of days a week when I do more than one. Who is wearing all these clothes when it seems the kids are in lounge pants and t-shirts most of the time? This is just part of one of the loads.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Roman Mosaics

The Romans, during the time of Julius Caesar, instead of using carpets they mosaic designs to cover their floors. They made these out of little rocks and clay pieces pressed into cement or plaster. My brother and I made mosaics today using beans, rice and pasta. First get a piece of cardboard and then get glue and whatever you are going to use to make your mosaics out of. Then draw a design out on your cardboard. Mine is the one of the car on the road and Spark's is a giant fish swimming in the ocean. Next put lots of glue where you are going to start putting on your mosaic supplies. Put on the beans and everything. And then voila! you have a mosaic design like the Romans.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Garlic Bread Crisps

The economy of today has many people talking about to be more frugal, to stretch that dollar. Many of these tips I find humorous and even bizarre. I recently saw a bit on a national TV morning show telling how you can still get a great price on your trip to Cancun (even though you can't pay the monthly bills and are worried about making the mortgage payment). As an aside, let me mention that people beginning to spend more money may not help our economy as much as the economies of the east coast of Mexico, or mainland China.

Our family eats a lot of soup, and many different kinds of soup. We like to have garlic crisps ("fancy a crisp?") with our soup, and these cost $2.99 a dozen. Today we made some at home. The French bread was $.59 at a large grocery chain's day old rack. We used 1/3 lb. of butter at $2.09 the pound. The project took 40 minutes and made 5 dozen garlic breads.

When Spark saw Dancer slicing the bread he said "Why is she cutting the bread with a chain saw?"

Slicing the bread, using an electric carving knife allows for thinner slices.
Add garlic powder to softened butter and mix well.

Put in oven on "low broil" to brown one side, flip over, butter and brown the second side. These crisps will keep a long time in the cupboard or indefinitely in the freezer.
Store brand garlic crisps $2.99/12, or $.25 each. Home made crsips $1.88/60, or $.03 each.

ABC Blessings of Homeschooling

Abundant time together

Backyard studyhall

Cooking good food from scratch

Delight in learning

Endless hours of parent/child time

Field trips with friends

God as our superintendent
Home together all the time

Intimate chats on the big comfy couch
Jesus helps write our curriculum
Keepers of our home
Learning lessons WE think are important

Mornings that aren't hurried

Nikki our homeschool dog

Opportunity to learn at our pace
Place to be ourselves
Quick, flippy baby goats, bunnies, ducks, and chickens in our backyard
Sleeping in and being well rested
Teachers who love us unconditionally
Unembarrassed kisses from kids
Visiting grandparents during the week
Weekly trips to the library
Xtra time for hobbies
Years to develop our talents
Zaniness all day long

Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine 4-H party

Made Valentine bags
Filled them with treats!
The kids also had snacks and a demontration on ice fishing (yes, in our neck of the woods ice fishing and valentines go together).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Easy to Knit Dishcloths

These dishcloths are fun to make and are a good way to work on increasing your knitting speed. Each of one can be completed in a night or two. They are all made with cotton yard (I use Peaches and Cream but there are other brands) and if taken good care of will last for many years.

This one is the easiest to make. Cast on 32 stitches, knit 72 rows and bind off. Can't get any easier than that! This is a good first project for kids. It doesn't take as long as a scarf and they have a usable product right away.

This is my favorite pattern to knit. It gives the cloth a bit of a design and the pattern is so easy you don't have to pay close attention to what you are doing - which is great for a really intense movie or t.v. show.
Cast on 32 stitches, knit the first row.
In the second row knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, purl 4 to the end. Do this for 4 rows and then switch to purl 4, knit 4 to the end of the row and continue for 4 rows and switch back to knit 4, purl 4. Continue this pattern for 40 to 44 rows (how ever big you want your cloth).
Knit the last row.
Bind off.
To make this zigzag pattern in the cloth, start casting on right where the color changes in the yarn.
Cast on 32 stitches.
Knit the first row.
Row 2: knit 2, then knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, to the end knitting the last two stitches.
Row 3: knit 2, then purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, to the end knitting the last two stitches.
Repeat row 2 and 3 until it is the desired size.
Knit the last row.
Bind off.
This one is quite a bit larger than the others but uses almost the entire ball of yarn so you don't have the left over yard to hang on to and keep thinking that you will do something with it some day. I know I am never going to use some of those little balls of yarn in my knitting basket but I can't bring myself to just throw them away.
Cast on 4 stitches.
Row 1 - 3: increase in the first stitch and then knit to the end of the row. By the end of row 3 there should be 7 stitches on your needle.
Row 4: knit 2, increase in the 3rd stitch (4 stitches on the right needle) yarn over and knit to the end of the row. There should be 9 stitches on your needle.
Row 5: Knit 3, yarn over and knit to the end of the row.
Repeat row 5 until there are 60 stiches on the needle. The cloth is now half done.
Begin decreasing. Knit 2, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together and knit to the end of the row.
Continue decreasing until there are 8 stitches on the needle.
Decrease to 4 stitches by knitting 2 stitches together for the entire row.
Bind off.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The importance of key chains

If the keys are taken out of the ignition of our truck they don't go back in without a lot of manipulation. Because of this we don't take the keys out but leave them in and just lock the door. Dad goes to work and grabs his keys, the ones with one of these oh so attractive key tags. Those dirty, gray plastic things are the tags they put your keys on when you bring it into the repair shop. The ones most people would take off, throw away and put their keys on a cute key chain when they get the car back. Not frugal Dad, he just uses those plastic tags. But notice how both sets look alike. Dad goes to work and grabs what he thinks are his truck keys but instead he grabs the van keys. He gets in the truck, drives to work, locks the truck with the ignition keys in it and goes into the hospital. I get ready for bed that night and find a set of keys on the bed and wonder what they for because Dad has his with him. Next morning the phone rings and Dad says "send Spark out to open the front door". He had no house keys either, explains the keys I found the night before. Luck was with him though, three people he worked with live out our way so he are was able to get a ride home. But now his truck is at the hospital that is 30 minutes away. So we have to run in there to pick up the truck which equals an extra trip to town, 2 gallons of gas (about $4 dollars). Since we are in town let's go out to eat ($22). Now the fugal, dirty, plastic, unattractive, repair shop key tag cost us $26! You can bet we will be taking those tags off as soon as we get home from having the vehicle fixed from now on!

Friday, February 6, 2009

"I'll have two of the chicken dinners--NOT"

We were out to eat tonight at popular national restaurant chain when I heard this interesting exchange. All of this was loud enough to hear as we were departing the place.

A young lady working at the counter began quickly walking away from her till towards the back of the restaurant and exclaimed, "I had the chicken dinner special and my stomach hurts super bad, I feel like I'm going to puke!!"

A male working at the next cash register turned and told her (loudly, since she was already around the corner) "There's a huge bottle of generic TUMS over by the sink. try that."

So, lets recap, your workers are going to puke from eating the chicken special AND you have a HUGE bottle of generic tums at the ready? What a ringing endorsement from the workers and sort of takes the shine off the "Free meals during you shift" perk.

Well, our meals were good--and so far no puke! I guess it didn't make the chicken feel very good either.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just Thursday

A few things that happened here today.
We had some company stop by. The ducks came charging up to the door and we half expect them to ring the doorbell.
Played with the goats. This how big our baby goat Desdemona has gotten in the last week.
Trekked out to the garden. In some spots the snow is about three feet deep. Not problem if it is hard enough to walk on top but when your foot plunges through the hard crust it is cold in your boot, which hopefully stays on your foot when it is pulled out.
Dug for snow peas. Actually, they are digging a cave in one of the big drifts in the garden.
Found some garden tools that got left out last fall. We have some work to do on those.
Bored the cat. He was following us around and then we must have not been exciting enough for him because he meowed and left.
Sat on the deck and soaked up some sun.
Drew some pictures and savored chocolate ice cream.
Worked the calories from the ice cream off on the treadmill
and the trampoline.