Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Knitted Friendship Afghan

Last February (2009) I bought this yarn with money I got for my birthday. I had hoped to have the afghan done within a year but it took me a few extra weeks. Not that this is such a big project, I just don't have a lot of time to sit and work on it. The majority of it was knitted while waiting for Dancer in her dance class and also while waiting for Spark at swimming lessons and gym class.
This is a very easy project, perfect for the begining knitter if they want a larger project than a scarf. The afghan is called a friendship afghan because it could be knit by seven people and then sewn together. Nice for a group to give a gift to someone. It uses seven colors that are knit into seven panels. Each panel is seven squares long. The afghan I saw was for a baby but I made it bigger for us. For each row cast on 32 stiches and garder stitch back and forth until it is square, for my guage that was 60 rows. At the end of the first square switch to the next color and so on. For the next panel start with the color yarn that you finished the last square with and do another seven squares each time advancing all the colors up one spot. Sew the seven panels together and the afghan is done.

Easter Tree

We aren't ones to decorate for all the holidays. I like all the decorations I just never feel inclined to put them up in our house. I do enjoy an Easter tree, maybe because it is a little blip of color when the earth is still so brown.
This year we made ours out of Pussy Willows, any kind of a branch would work just as well. I like the representation the blooms coming out like Christ from the grave. Dad went down to the swamp and cut a few branches for us.

Next step was to make the decorations. On the very top of a plastic egg, put a dolp of glue using a glue gun. Use a strand of ribbon to form a loop and attach to the top of the egg. You want the ribbons to be one the eggs securely if you are leaving your tree outside as we are going to.

Fill a large pot, we used a planter, with soil or sand. Attractively arrange branches in the soil and push way to the bottom so the branches don't tip over. Water the soil so that the pussy willows will pop out in the next few days. Hang the eggs all over the branches. So festive!

What other uses??!!

I asked Spark to bring some towels down to the basement bathroom, he was hesitant at first, claiming that he didn't think there was room on the shelf. I assured him there was. He returned from downstairs after a while and announced it was taken care of.
I went down for a shower later in the day and saw his sign:
This bathroom only has a shower and a toilet in it. What other uses is the nine year old boy mind contemplating? I shudder to think. I had to ask and was told "like if the toilet is overflowing or the water heater explodes or something. There is a mop in the laundry room ya know". Whew. Glad we cleared that up.
Thanks Spark.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A creek runs through it

Our yard that is. On the side our house is on, most of the way down to the creek is swampy and marshy most of the year from springs. The only ones who love it are the ducks, they get down there and flop around in the shallow water. There is one spot near the road where we can walk down to the edge of the creek. Of course, on the other side of the creek it is nice right up the bank and there are spots where you could actually sit and stick your feet in. Up until this week we went to the other side about once a year and just walked through it. It is all woods and brush, not very friendly place to hang out since it is only disturbed that one time per year. Spark, however, wanted to put a bridge over the creek so he can get over there and do a little exploring. The bridge is an extra pallet we had, while not meant for heavy traffic, it will work perfectly for us if we watch our footsteps while using it. He found shells, which was sort of surprising since it runs through miles upon miles of farm land. Other years we have seen small schools of minnows who also seem a long way from home.

Spark brought with his sword, just in case....I am not sure just in case what. Between the two of them where it is hard to see him the cat, Kacheekers, is wrapping around their legs. He follows us around when we are outside like a dog would do. He is strange cat who doesn't do many cat like things.

You are so lucky...flip side

Often when people, especially kids, come over or hear about our little farm they say we are so lucky. They would love to have goats or chickens etc. While there are a lot of things that are really, really fun about the way we live, and I wouldn't trade it for a simpler life, there is a major down side. In the picture above you can see one of them. Animal houses (pens) that need to be cleaned. Cleaning means digging out load after load of poo and gross bedding. The pile up top is what we got out just two pens, about 25 cart loads. And since we have no mechanical way to clean the pens until we come across a heap of money, every scoop came out with a pitch fork powered by us. In the winter it is not possible to clean anything because it is all frozen so the muck just keeps getting higher and higher. The pen on the bottom is the new, clean birthing suite for the baby goats we are expecting any minute now. Even though the snow here has been melted for a few weeks and we have temps in the high 60's part of this pen was still frozen. The white on the floor is barn lime to absorb moisture which has now been swept up and it is full of beautiful, golden, sweet smelling straw. Cleaning pens is just one of the not so fun jobs. Other yucky things are doing chores when it is dark and below zero (actually any temp below freezing is miserable). Carrying water because it is too cold to have the outside water hooked up. In the summer when then mosquitoes and flies are thick enough to form a cloud. When we are sick or get home late and chores are still waiting for us. They can't be put off until the next day no matter what. Not being able to leave overnight with out first finding someone reliable to come in and take care of things. Staying up to the wee hours of the morning, or setting an alarm for every few hours, to take care of a sick or birthing animal. Butchering or when one of the animals die. Death is just a given on a farm but that doesn't mean we don't feel sadder than sad and streams of tears have not fallen. Tonight we are sad about a chicken, Speckly, that died this afternoon, she was almost five years old. She is going to the great beyond in a Nike shoe box coffin with a goodbye note written on the inside.

And that is a glimpse at the flip side of our lucky life :o)

Rabbit and Rice soup turned Chinese

I seem unable to make a normal family size amount of soup. The other day I made rabbit and rice soup and it was very good. The next day we had rabbit and rice soup leftovers, and it was very good. After two meals there was still another meal of soup which now seemed boring. It was time, as they would say on Monty Pythons Flying Circus, "and now for something completely different."
To combat this boringness, I put the rest of the soup in a frying pan and simmered off the little bit of broth that was still in it, rice usually absorbs most of the broth when it is in the fridge. In another bowl I scrambled up a few eggs. When the broth was mostly gone I poured the eggs into the soup and cooked the eggs. It turned out like a cross between Egg Foo Young and very thick, kicked up, egg drop soup. Whatever it was we all loved it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It smells soooo good

Our hay pile is dwindling quickly and we had to get a few emergency bales to get us through the rest of the winter until our regular guy delivers some later this spring. Nothing around here is even growing yet so it will be awhile. Eeyore thought it smelled so good he couldn't even wait until we could get it unload before going over and having himself a nibble or two.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Strike Anywhere

Strike Anywhere, If only I could!!!

In the picture above, you can see a "strike anywhere" match on the right, the one on the left is the "strike on box" variety. When I was a kid we usually had the Ohio Blue Tip brand, that's the one on the left, on the right is an off brand I got at a convenience store in a small town. I snapped them up as soon as I saw them.

I imagine everyone has heard about the rise of the drug "meth" in our country, especially in rural areas. It is easy to think that "meth doesn't affect me". It is possible that some people in my area are involved in making/selling meth. No friends of ours are, as far as I know.

I can tell you some ways the war on drugs affects me with regard to meth. The phosphorous containing tip of the strike anywhere match is used in making meth. Stores are discouraged from selling these making them a rare commodity (that's why I bought them right away). Lye is used to manufacture meth and homemade soap. To get lye to make soap I need to travel 18 miles to store that still sells it, again stores are discouraged from doing so. If you stop at grocery, or convenience store to buy cold medicine that contains indgredients used in meth, you will find they are all behind the counter or in a locked cabinet in accordance with our state's laws.

These are small inconveniences I will admit, but that's why it gives me joy to strike my match anywhere.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Money is money - it all spends the same

While Dancer was at her dance class tonight Dad, Spark and I stopped by a new video game store. He man there gave Spark a t-shirt with the store name on it and told him to wear it every where he goes. Spark will be a loyal customer now, he put the t-shirt on over the shirt he was wearing while we were at the store he was so excited about this shirt.

He is looking over all the games and find one that he wants. He went out to the car to get his money and comes back in with a jelly jar of change and a napkin (we use cloth napkins so it was sturdy) full of coins tied up with a pink pipe cleaner. He dumps the change out and I untie the napkin, which only has dimes in it, and start to count it out on the counter. This did not embarrass Spark at all, he just went on like it was the most normal thing in the world to pay for purchases with jars and napkins full of change. The guy comes over and says he will help us count it because I can see he is thinking that this could be an all night affair and they closed in an hour. I think Spark had a total of eight quarters and the rest was dimes, nickels and pennies. Spark did have the exact change for the sale though! I asked the guy if he has many sales like this and we were his first one but he won't be surprised if he has more. I guess it would be better to get a napkin full of change than a bounced check.

Walking challenge - we can still make it!

When we started our walking challenge we thought that 400 miles for the four of us in two months, April 1st was the target date, would easily be doable. Then the treadmill broke and our challenge hit a snow bank so to speak. Yesterday it was finally nice enough to take a walk outside so we added a few miles to our total. Looking at our numbers we figured out that we can still make our goal of 400 miles. We have 341 miles to go meaning that together we need to only walk 48.5 miles per day or 12.1 each. Just don't see that happening.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Camera

We got the call last night about our camera, it was not able to be fixed and we should come in and get a new one. We had sort of expected, from looking on the internet, that this would be the case since that was the tale that everyone else had to tell.

I tell you they are a lot more helpful when they are selling the warranty than when they are honoring it. It was a huge deal that we had all the paper work, which we did in a neat little bundle. This seemed to bother then them, especially when they said, "do you have the original receipt?" and we did, still looking as crisp as the day we got it.

Next was to get the replacement camera from a bored, nineteen year old in the customer service who acted like she was doing us this huge favor by replacing our broken under extended warranty we bought with the camera. Then I asked her if the three years left on the warranty transferred to the new camera with the same paperwork. Nope, that warranty was done because we had already used it. So it wasn't a four year warranty it was a one time warranty? Yup if they can't fix the broken one, but we can buy a new one with this camera. Well I had better, I told her, they obviously don't work very well and I just spent a $175 dollars on this camera by using the warranty, plus now the cost of the new warranty. Now we knew why all the reports we read said that they don't fix them every often.

We had more trouble with the warranty than this but these are the highlights. Grrrr. Anyway we have a new camera that is exactly like our old one after two weeks without one at all, and for this I should be so grateful that it was replaced. I would have been much happier with the old one that had worked and not broken at all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Girl in a Cage book club questions

Book club was at our house today. Dancer chose "Girl in a Cage" by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris. We had read it last year but it is so good that she pulled it out again to share with friends. Here are the questions we discussed.

1. This book flip flops between her past and her present time. Do you like that style of writing? Pros? Cons? Why might the authors have chosen that style for this book?

2. Isabel comes to crown Robert Bruce because that would have been the job of her family? She is married to a n enemy of Scotland. Should she have been true? She was married off for some land, is she obligated to be loyal to her husband's family?

3. Do you remember any reference to other people being in cages in the book?

- safe in the cage of her father's arms

-Isabel in a cage of marriage

-Longshanks in a cage of his own rotting flesh

-Longshanks - a cage of asking and having to fight not being able to die peacefully in his own bed

-Robert Bruce - Scotland was, according to Longshanks, not his kingdom but a cage. Scotland is surrounded by water on three sides and Longshanks on the 4th.

4. What cages do we live in? Do they protect us or restrict us?

5. Compare Longshanks to Robert Bruce. Who was worse? Better?

6. Compare Elizabeth and Isabel.

7. Marjorie thought Isabel was fabulous. Was she? How was Isabel dangerous? Was Isabel dangerous?

8. Why do you think Longshanks comes to see Marjorie so often? Does she fight back against him? Is it effective?

9. Day 3. When she is waiting for the peasants to come and see her she says "Well, let them come. I shall ignore them. They are low, common and English, not worthy of my attention. Dear Lord let me ignore them. Or let one of them speak to me."

-It can't be both ways. What are the costs of both? Which would you want?

10. Page 134. Acts of Charity - there were 7. One was feeding the poor and one to give drink to the thirsty. At day 15 Longshanks decides to starve her. On day 20 the monks come to feed her and give her drink. Was this too long for action? If it had not rained or snowed during this time she would have died before they came.

11. Marjorie said once to a monk, "Can someone order you to break God's commands?" "Can even King Edward order you to go against God's will?" At what point should we step in to help someone?

12. Who are the heros in this book? Brother Quintus, Elizabeth, The Abbot, The kids from town - Enid and her brothers?

13. Marjorie says she will die serving Scotland but Longshanks will die serving only himself. Is there any difference between their deaths?

14. Was Robert Bruce serving Scotland or himself? What price was he willing to pay for the throne?

15. Three girls come by to see if she is really a princess. She sings the song

Come pretty girl, tell me true

Am I as thin and dirty as you?

Am I.

She says "Put a princess in a cage, I think, and in mere days she is like a peasant: dirty, hungry, horrible. Put a peasant on a throne....but my mind will not go there.

What was she realizing in this passage and song?

16. What are some lessons Marjorie learned from her stepmother?

These questions took us about an hour and a half to go through. Then we had pecan pie and blackberry cobbler for a snack. I had hoped to make baked oatmeal to represent the gruel she was given in the cage but didn't have enough butter so that was nixed. Dancer and I decided that the pie and cobbler would tie into the story with the last huge meal they were served at a castle they stayed at before their capture.

Monday, March 22, 2010

You asked

Often when Dancer wants to tell me something she will start with a question.

For example, she will ask, "Do you know what is gross?"
Sounds like a question so I start answering. "A kid who eats boogers, stepping in dog poo barefoot, the smell of food that gets left in the car in the summer?"
"Yes, but I am just going to tell you."
"Why did you ask then?"

Next time, "Do you know what is crazy?"
" Your brother, that I can't get anyone to pick up after themselves, that a pack of hot dogs and pack of buns don't come with the same number of product in each one?"
"Yes, but I am just going to tell you."
"Why did you ask then?"

And so this song and dance has gone on between us for the last year or so.

Now she will say "You know what I hate? Don't say anything I will just tell you!"

I guess she doesn't want my opinion anymore ;o)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Awsome Brownie Recipe

6 Tbsp. cocoa
1/4 C butter
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 C. flour - no, that isn't a typo it is 1/3 cup flour
2 eggs

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs. Stir in cocoa and flour. This is the order we mix them in but you do it in any order you want. Put in greased 8x8 pan. Bake 350 degrees for 25 minutes. These are dense and chewy - a heavenly chocolately treat. Try them, you will be glad you did.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dead DS

Spark is sitting and playing a game on his DS in the living room as we are trying to motivate him to go and empty his part of the dishwasher. He gets up, with his DS in his hand and heads into the kitchen to get his job done. I am out on the deck throwing old popcorn off to the chicken when I hear this horrible scream. I come running in and here he has, on his way into the kitchen, dropped his DS into the dogs full water bowl. What are the chances, the bowl is tiny compared to the size of the room. We wiped it off with a rag, dried the keys with the hair dryer, laid it on a towel to drain and watched as the screens went blank.

He has spent the afternoon scouring the internet for solutions on what to do with it now. One place said that Game Stop will buy them and have them fixed - not true. He called them and as he was hanging up the phone he said "They pay zero dollars and zero cents for broken game systems." I wasn't surprised but didn't want to dash is hopes in case it really was true. Anyone out there have any suggestions? If he gets a new one it will be because he bought it with his own money so he is desperate to find a way to make it work.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blogging with my hands tied

Have you ever know someone that you swear wouldn't be able to talk if you tied their hands down because they make so many gestures? Well, that is me blogging without pictures. We have been busy and have lots we want to tell but without the camera to take pictures, it just doesn't seem the same and I don't know what to write. I know lots of people blog without ever putting a picture up, my hat is off to them. Since our blog is more of a diary I hope the kids will enjoy looking back on, I don't often write posts that are opinion pieces because that isn't want I want them to remember of our wonderful days together. I could write post after post of opinions without pictures but, well since that isn't what we are going for here I feel writers block without pictures. Good news is our camera has reached it's destination where it will be fixed. Bad news is it took a week, yes a week, to get there. I don't have a lot of hope in seeing it for a few weeks. See, that could be a wonderful opinion post there but it wouldn't be positive so I will just let it go.

So without pictures here is what we have been up to:
  • Dancer has been sick. So sick one day that she didn't even want the t.v. on. You know a kid is sick when they don't want to watch t.v.
  • We have been making maple syrup. The sap is running faster than we can cook it down. That is a good problem but it makes me feel like I am behind which in turn makes me a wee bit tense. Today we were cooking in front of the garage with the propane cooker. It is colder today so with the steam rolling off the top of the pot and hitting the cold air it looked like we were cooking up some witches brew. The syrup this year is beautiful. A creamy, light, golden color and oh so sweet.
  • Spark has been cruising through his math lessons. Yeah!
  • It is hard to do math or any other subject when the weather is so nice. A few time we have even been outside without a coat on. Another yeah!
  • Dancer had dance pictures taken. She loves it, me on the other hand, well, she loves it. The girls wear their hair in a pony tail for their tap dance and in a bun for lyrical and jazz. We get there and I put her hair up in the bun with about 35 bobby pins, along with all but one other mother, and they decide to do the tap pictures first. Out comes the bun with the 35 bobby pins, take the tap pictures, and put the bun back in with the 35 bobby pins minutes after I just took it out. They also wear false eye lashes. Perhaps if you wear them every day they are easy to get on. When you don't they are about as easy to get on someone else who wildly blinking as it would be to knit behind your back while riding a roller coaster. She was beautiful and I am sure the pictures will be beautiful as well.
  • I don't know if I have ever talked about our little goat Eeyore on here, he's is the one on the picture at the top. He is either diabetic or has epilepsy. We give him candy a few times every day and he does really well. When we don't he foams at the mouth and just lays a heap or walks around in circles in a daze like he can't see. We give him a syringe full of sugar water or syrup and he usually turns around quickly and is back to his normal self. Yesterday, when Dad went out to do chores in the morning, Eeyore was having one of his episodes and Dad had to work harder than usual to get him back to normal. Then last night he had another episode and he again didn't come out of quickly. In fact, he started grinding his teeth, fell over and started shaking. He did this twice. This is Dancer's goat so she is out in the barn crying and laying with him in his stall. The rest of us are out there trying to comfort her and figure out what to do to rally this goat back from heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Spark came out and prayed and Eeyore started to come back around. Sometimes I think that kid has a direct hot line to God because often when he prays his prayers are answered quickly. By 2 a.m. we felt confident enough to leave him alone and went in the house to bed. Actually Dad and I didn't think he was going to make it through the night but he did. After a sluggish day he seems pretty good tonight. It is amazing how much time and energy we have put into this goat but Dancer loves him so we do.
  • Spark has a huge farm set and the kids set it up in the living room. It has been really fun to listen to them play. Dancer is the producer (goat and cow milk, cheese and ice cream) and Spark buys her products at wholesale prices and sells them retail. They have price lists and everything and are figuring out their profits. They are quite the entrepreneurs!

Those are the highlights. We have no commitments tomorrow and are so looking forward to a day of whatever we want. It will probably be cleaning the barn but at least it is our choice!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

States Project

Today was the day the kids showed their states project with a bunch of other homeschoolers. Dancer did Arkansas, which she had a post about, and Spark did Idaho. As obscure as Idaho seems for our area of the USA there was another child who also chose it.

The meeting place was a church in the neighborhood by the university in town. No parking because it is so expensive to park on campus that commuters park blocks and blocks away from the school and walk. We went early with the hope of getting one of the five spots that the church has - we did yippee! The roads it seems are changed every year on which ones are one ways and which aren't. Most of the one ways I figured out when I was already half way down them, didn't cause any accidents thankfully.

There were about 20 kids who participated. They were each suppose to make a poster about any state they wanted. A few duplicates and then Alaska had three for some reason. Some of the posters were really well put together and had a lot research done on them. The kids each gave a little speech about their posters and it was clear who had really gotten into the projects and enjoyed them and who did one just to get it done. Over all it was fun afternoon, not something we would take part in very often but a nice change from our usual activities.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Last year Spark was carrying around a stick he found in the bonfire wood pile. I told him "Wow, look at your Shillelagh." He replied, of course, "A shill what?" I describe what a Shillelagh was, important I thought since he is part Irish. He carried his shillelagh around all summer, wackin' at weeds and trees (it was too short for a walking stick). His shillelagh is lost at the moment, at least until all the snow melts. For St. Patrick's day we are making a new shillelagh.

The shillelagh is an ancient Celtic tool and weapon. It is made from a piece of hardwood that has a large knot at the end, or more often, one cut where it joins a larger branch. This device is often seen in Irish legend, lore and pictures. It can be seen in the modern day too. The Boston Celtics logo features a leprechaun leaning on his shillelagh and the winner of the annual USC Trojan vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game take home a jewel encrusted shillelagh. I'll provide more info on making your own when our camera is back from the perpetual repair shop.

No use crying over spilt syrup

Collecting sap, cooking syrup and putting it in jars seems to be a constant here since the Maple sap started to flow. Last night I got a batch done, filtered it and poured it into a jar on top of the stove. As I went to set down the pot, my little finger bumped against the jar and 1/2 a quart of syrup ran over the stove, down the side, onto the counter, down the front of the cabinet, all over the floor and under the stove. It is amazing how much ground a 1/2 quart of syrup can cover. I just felt ill, that is a few gallons of sap and hours of cooking. Not to mention all the scrubbing it took to get all the stickiness clean up.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rubber Stamping

I had a baby shower when Dancer was a baby and one of the women gave me a stamped card. I don't remember what the gift was she gave me but I remember that card. That one card lead to a stamping obsession, I even took stamps on vacation, and hundreds of dollars later I had bins and bins of stamps and accessories.

Along came Spark four years later and my stamping days were over. Eventually the bins got move into the basement and forgotten. I sort of thought as the kids got older that I would have more time but it is the other way around.

Yesterday we met a friend for lunch. A friend who doesn't have any kids. A friend who has a "stamping room." A friend who gave us a huge stack of cute paper. A friend who told us about all the cards she has been making.

Today I thought enough is enough, I am pulling those stamps back out. I brought them up to the kitchen table where Dancer took one look at them, sat down and got to work. We have been stamping all afternoon and evening. Spark even made a couple cards. We may not be having school or eating at the table any more but everyone we know will be getting a card from us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dance Competition #1

Up at 4:45 to be ready to leave at 5:30 in the AM. We are so not morning people but we persevered.

Dancer's team did great, they won three golds, three first place trophies and placed 4th and 5th over all. They dance so beautifully that one of their dances made me cry. We are super proud of them, there are a lot of talented kids out there and the competition was steep.

Her team was done dancing by 9:30, we waited for awards at noon and we done about 12:30. With so much of the day left we were able to meet a high school friend for lunch, do some shopping and meeting Grandma for dinner on the way home.

Sixteen hours makes for a long day and we are all ready to fall into bed. Spark got a little bit of head start on us, he feel asleep in the car.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dichotomous Key

Today's homeschool project was making a dichotomous key for the goats out in the barn. A dichotomus key is a common and useful tool in science used to help identify different species. It is often used in biology to classify animals and plants, it can be used in other disciplines as well. The key offers 2 choices for an observable characteristic, following throught the questions asked in the key leads one to the correct individual. Here is the dichotomous key for the goats in our barn.

1. A. White color, go to question 2 (Q2)
B. Brown, go to Q8

2. A. Male--Klaus
B. Female got to Q 3

3. A. has a beard, go to Q4
B. No beard--Desdemona

4. A. Horns go to Q5
B. No horns, got to Q6

5. A. Spotted--Calliopi
B. Light brown on back--Veronica

6. A. Roman nose-Maggie
B. Flat or dished nose, got to Q7

7. A. Has a scur* --Elizabeth
B. No scur--Millie

8. A. Male--Eeyore
B. Female-- Veronica

* a scur is a horn remnant (after dehorning), it's short brittle and usually curved.

This a fun and educational project you can do with any kids. You don't need to identify an animal or plant either. Write up you own questions to decribe cars, or things in you house like clothes or food in the fridge.

Money Motivates

Spark is obsessed with video games. He has tons of them as the picture above shows. The problem is he is never happy with the ones he has and forever wants new ones when we go to the store. Which ever game he is looking at at the time is the one that he has wanted forever and his life just will not be complete without it. I want him to learn to be content with what he does have and not always looking forward to the next thing. I know he is young to figure that out but he will be happier in the long run so we don't indulge him too often unless he really, really deserves an extra prize when we go to the store. Another problem is that he wants the more expensive games that are between the 35 and 50 dollar mark. My idea of an extra prize is the $20 ones. Once they cost more than that they are birthday or Christmas size gifts not a "I have been toeing the line for the last few weeks" gift.

This leaves Spark to spend his own money on games if he wants to buy them. Problem here is, this is a boy who can not stand to have a dollar in his pocket. As my dad would say "If your right handed you should keep your money in your left pocket." He is slowly learning that you can only spend money once and then it is gone so he should be saving up his pennies not spending them first chance he gets. He will get there I am sure but it causes some frustrated moments for him now. To his credit, he is a very generous little fellow. If he sees something he thinks someone else would like he buys it for them. He even gave money once to another boy he didn't even know at the skating rink because the boy didn't have any money to buy a treat.

To help him along in his game quest, Dad told him he could do some extra jobs around here to make some extra money. This morning he said if he picked up all the cans that have not been taken very good care of all winter in the garage he would pay him a little bit. First this morning Spark was out there with a garbage bag picking those cans up so fast that he was a blur. This is the same boy who needs a fire lit under him just to get his dirty clothes down stairs.

Error 99

Error 99. That is what our camera has been telling us when we take a picture. We get the error message, have to turn it off, take out the battery, snap the battery back in, turn the camera back on and then it is good for a picture or two.

What does Error 99, in bright red print none the less, mean? It means the camera can't figure out what is wrong with itself. Really? Wow, cameras have come a long way baby.

We took it in last night and it is so ill it needs to take a trip to Connecticut for two to three weeks. In that time Dancer has two dance competitions and baby goats due to be born, not the mention all the other goings on. If a picture says a 1000 words will I have to use a 1000 words to make a picture?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

They don't make 'em like that anymore

I had a local heating and cooling contractor out to check out the furnace this week. He has been here a few times and this time, because he had just had shoulder surgery, he brought a helper. After they had completed the tune up, cleaned the burner, changed the filter (we have an oil furnace) and cleaned up the area, I stopped down to see how it was going. One of the gentlemen mentioned that he remembered installing our water heater when he first started in the business and was working for someone else.

We checked the serial number and the unit was manufactured in 1983. I mentioned that we had never had any trouble with it but it was getting older. The heating and cooling guys leaned back and reminisced how this company used to make really good water heaters and how long some of the older appliances would last and last, and how now most of their stuff is crap. Here it is, for your amazement and awe, the object of their admiration and accolades. Take a deep breath...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alphabet Hunt or how we try to liven up our days

The kids have been working really hard at school and we are making great progress. The problem is we have become boring. The kids haven't said that but I have become bored so I assume they would enjoy a little bit of change as well.

We cut back our usual lessons and did a couple other things this afternoon. We did some logic puzzles, a treat to my kids not a school subject, watched the movie "Where the Red Fern Grows", which followed the book reasonably well for a book made into a movie and played Alphabet Hunt.

Alphabet Hunt is a simple game that can be played anywhere. Just write the letters A through Z on a piece of paper and then find things that start with that letter. To make it harder you can do it only in one room, outside, in a waiting room, in a foreign language if you are that versed, using the letter for the end of the word, only using three syllable words, etc.

The kids did it all over the house, here is their list.
A - apple B - book C - cup D - dog E - eraser F - fridge G - glasses H - house plant I - ice pack J - jar K - knitting needle L - lamp M - mom N - nails O - oven P - plate Q - Q-tips R - remote for the t.v. S - stereo T - toothbrush U - undies V - vase W - wii X - x-ray block Y - yarn Z - zipper

For some reason then could not find any thing for the letter I. I told them to get out the dictionary and look through the words until they came to one that they knew was something in our house.

They worked together and the whole thing took no more than five minutes plus it made a nice break in our day. Maybe Spark and I will try a harder version when he and I are waiting for Dancer sometime.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

$2,000 By Cracky Bars

For my birthday my mother-in-law gave me the Pillsbury 4th Grand National recipe and baking contest cook book. It is a little paperback that cost 25 cents back in 1953. This recipe is the second place winner in the Junior contest. It was made by Miss Yvonne M. Whyte of New Bedford, Mass. There is a picture of her holding up her $2,000 check. That would have been enough to buy a pretty nice car in 1953.

This isn't a very sweet cookie bar as we were expecting but they are good with a big glass of milk.
$2,000 By Cracky Bars
Sift together :
1 3/4 cup flour - Pillsbury of course
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. soda
Blend together:
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar, creaming well
Add 2 eggs; beat well
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla. Add alternately with dry ingredients to creamed mixture.
Place 1/3 of the batter in a second bowl. Add 1 square (1 oz.) melted chocolate and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts. Spread in two well greased 8x8 pans or one 9x13 pan.
Arrange 9 double graham crackers over batter in pan.
Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips to the remaining batter. Drop by spoonfuls over graham crackers and spread to cover.
Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Corned Beef Hash

By Dad

When I was a kid one of my favorite breakfasts was corned beef hash. I bought a can to let my kids try it and they didn't care for it at all. A few days later while making lunch I noticed a can of corned beef in the cupboard. I knew there were left over hash browns in the fridge so I made some corned beef hash for myself and the kids loved it. They have been asking for some, but "homemade". I took the time to make some on Saturday, here's the recipe:

Slice some cooked corned beef, then chop it either by hand or in the food processor. Depends how big you like you pieces of meat. I prefer them very small so I slice the roast as thin as possible and then pulse in the food processor.

I bought these hash browns because I have never liked making them from scratch. I really like hash browns but making them is so irritating to me that I can barely enjoy them. The frozen ones cook more predictably as well. I bought these larger southern, or country, style hash browns because they have onions and peppers already in the mix, the shredded hash browns work great too. Cook the potato portion of your hash first so they are browned to you liking, then add the meat. If you add the meat right away it will get crunchy or burn while you try to brown the potatoes.

Make some eggs, sunny side up or over easy, when the hash is almost done. That way they are both hot at the same time. I like the eggs to have runny yokes when I mix it all together on my plate. If you don't like runny yokes or your foods mixed together have a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch and look away.

Serve the eggs on top of the hash, poke the yokes, cut up the whites mix it all up and enjoy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

"What did you do with my vivid dream cotton ball?!!"

We use a lot of essential oils for all kinds of things before we reach for a oral medication. One thing I use them for is sleeping. Without the help of a sleep aid I have a very hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, and falling back asleep when I wake up at night. I use to take Benadryl or Nyquil almost every night so that I would at least have a shot a falling asleep in a reasonable amount of time. Now I use Tranquil, an essential oil blend from Young Living Oils, and I don't usually have any trouble falling asleep. (I don't sell Young Living Oils I buy them from someone else so I am not trying to get any sales here) I also put Lavender oil on a tissue or cotton facial pad and put it on my bedside table, sort of as an insurance policy for the other oil which I use on my forehead and wrists. Lavender is an oil that promotes relaxing. During the course of doing this for several weeks I noticed that I had much more vivid dreams. Things like seeing the names of books that were on bookshelves when that wouldn't have anything to do with what the dream was actually about.

When Spark sleeps he likes to have what he calls "that vivid dream stuff" on a cotton pad and he puts it by his pillow. This morning he gets up irritated saying that he had foggy dreams and he can't find his vivid dream cotton ball! He was certain that one of us, during the night, crept into where he was sleeping and stole it. I am sure it is in or under his bed somewhere but I will be sure that he has a new one tonight.


We haven't done anything fun, except for our usual fun activities, for a long time so we thought we were over due for something out of the ordinary.

Yesterday, when we went to town for Dancer's dance class, we only dropped books off at the library but didn't have time to go in and look around. The kids expect to have a huge supply of new books every week so this was a big deal to them that they missed a library day. So this afternoon we told them that we would take them to the library one town over from us. What we really planned was to go up the road a ways to a Super Walmart. Yes, sadly a trip to that store is a big deal to us. Well, it is to them anyway. I am not much of a shopper and so I don't do anymore of it than I have to. I like to run in and run out whereas they like to look around.

So we get in the car, library bag at the ready. We get into town where we would normally turn to go to the library and I said to Dad "you missed the turn." Sounding surprised he said "We can just get off at the exit and go that way." The kids didn't say anything. We get onto the freeway and when we get to the exit he drives right by. Again we go through the missed the turn dialog. We will go to the next exit and take the frontage road back. We missed the next exit too. Now Spark is getting excited because how can you miss the turn three times?! At the next exit we decide we will get off. Dad was driving too fast and missed the exit. Next exit we didn't take because we just weren't sure where the frontage road might be. Now even Dancer is getting a little excited because of course we know where the frontage road is. Well, now we might as well go to the town we were planning on taking them to. They don't know this and think we are just going daft and can't find our way around.

When we got there we saw a car with license plates from Texas. Dancer commented that they were a long way from home. Without missing a beat and dead serious Spark says "maybe they forgot to turn too."

That town does have a library branch in it so they did get to go to the library this week. It is the coolest library in the system too. It is an old historic building and they have it set up so cozy with actual furniture. The library we usually go to is trying to be ultra modern and the furniture, while it looks cool, couldn't be more uncomfortable.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


After suffering with dial up internet service for years we thought we should try out a new service from This coarse piece of string actually runs through meadow and wood, over hill, over dale 17 miles to the nearest large town where a similar can sits next to a server...

No, we are still on dial up. If there was such a service like this it, like any faster service, wouldn't be available in my area. Having slow internet has allowed us to develop some ways to pass the time waiting for uploads and down loads.

Things to do while waiting for a picture to download onto the blog:

Tuck point all the loose bricks in Great Wall of China.

Copy War and Peace onto parchment with a goose quill using non-dominant hand.

Take down the pyramids at Giza, carefully numbering each massive stone block, ship them back to the states and reassemble in front of the brother-in-laws drive way for a kickin' April Fools Day prank.

Clean hardwater and soap scum off about a half square foot of shower door glass.

I guess you get the idea. Hmmm, maybe I can talk to the bank about a 2nd mortgage to pay for satellite internet. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Apple Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping.

We made a coffee cake, not something we normally do. Not something we even do rarely. Not because I don't like coffee cake, I do, I like it very much, I just never have a reason to make it.

My mother made coffee cakes. Her coffee cakes were usually made out of Bisquick, that was the hot thing then to make coffee cake, self crusting pies where the ingredients were all whirled up in the blender and some how the crust part sank to the bottom with out having to make a separate crust and drop biscuits out of Bisquick. She had a reason to make coffee cakes, she had coffee parties. Coffee parties were where the neighbor ladies would dress up and go to someones house for coffee and visit for a good hour. This was back in the day when moms didn't work and we all went to school. I don't even think there was homeschooling back then. Yes, I know people where homeschooling in the 80's but my childhood started quite a while before then. If there was any one who homeschool they didn't live in our area. In our school gum chewing could get you in trouble, teachers could still whack you with a ruler, we didn't learn about evolution, Christmas and Easter break was called just that Christmas and Easter break, and gasp, we prayed in school. And this was at the public school not a private one. So our mothers where home making coffee cakes and chatting it up with the neighbors. This is probably the biggest factor in why our neighborhood was so close knit, the people had personal relationships with each other, not like now where we wave as they go by on the road and call it good.

I don't have coffee parties. Most of my friends don't work, not full time anyway, but they are all busy homeschooling their kids. All the rest of the women I know go to work everyday. Facebook is as close as I come to frequently connecting with friends and that is very segmented and blurbish. I should have a party, I wonder if anyone would have time to come. Hmmm.

If they do here is the recipe for our coffee cake. I don't use Bisquick so this is the real deal.
Apple Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping
1 1/2 cup flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted shortening
1 1/2 cups chopped apple.
Mix dry ingredients. In separate bowl beat egg, add milk and melted shortening. Pour all at once into dry ingredients; then add apples and mix well. Put in well greased 8x8 pan.
Streusel topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. soft butter
Blend first three ingredients. Work in butter to make it crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until both cake and apples are done.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Organic Produce

Our family tries to eat organic when possible. This can be a little challenging in our northern climate. Most supermarkets have a large organic section but the food is expensive and often does not look that great. We belong to a group that buys organic produce from a regional wholesaler every three weeks.

The food gets delivered by a tractor trailer to a friends house. There is a lot of work involved in sorting and weighing the produce, a few families pitch in. The food we get is great as it costs less than the supermarket and it is super fresh. The produce always looks great and it lasts a long time in storage, often several weeks longer than stuff from the store.

The temperatures here are finally above freezing for a few hours in the afternoon so we should have some of our garden bounty in a few months.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Signs of spring are starting to show up

The ducks are loving the puddles that are cropping up everywhere. They make such a mess of the yard and ruin the grass. Know that if you ever want to have ducks that you will never have a nice yard or garden again.

Little Rabbit went out but then realized puddles aren't his thing and came back in. He doesn't play well with other rabbits so he got booted out of his cage. Sounds like he is the lucky one to be out and jumping around but it make him very vulnerable to danger or worse, an untimely death.


The chickens really don't like to get their feet wet. They haven't been out of the barn since November. They stick their heads out the door and then quickly retreat. They remind me of the ground hog, but instead of checking for spring once during the winter they check every day.

The sky is a brilliant, bright, warm looking blue.

This is the part you can't see in the top picture, acres and acres of snow waiting to melt.
When Eeyore is out he loves to be in the middle of whatever is going on. Here his intentions are to help the kids with their snow rolling but he was standing in the way of progress and Dancer had to lead him out of the way.

All the snow came off the top of the barn roof in one huge pile. Until that melts we won't be getting the gate closed.

It's going to be a while before we can get the garden going. This one has at least three feet of snow in it.

The chores are much easier and more enjoyable when it is warm out. Dad doesn't even have a hat on.

The kids tried to make a snowman. The snow is perfect because it is so sticky but the balls where too heavy to lift.

The bird bath is making a come back. The cat uses this for it's drinking bowl more often than not. In the winter the cats and chickens drink out of the goat waters or eat snow. I think the cat has to humble himself to drink out of the goat's pail so this is an ego booster for him.

The drive way is finally starting to show some cement. We don't shovel it much in the winter, just the side where we back the car out. The other side the kids sled on and the guy who plows our snow usually takes a pass at it so it isn't as deep as the yard.

The icicles are growing at an alarming rate. When it is nice during the day and cools off quick in the afternoon they can grow a couple of feet in an hour. This one is about four feet long.

There are branches down all over the yard. Once spring does finally arrive we are going to have lots of work to do.