Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Everyone wants in the house

When it is warm out we can go days without seeing the cats.  They are working cats that keep down the vermin population and they eat what they catch.  When the temperatures start to dip it is a whole other story with them.  They start begging at the doors and trying to sneak in when we open the doors. 

This is Vidalia watching us through the window.  Usually, she sits on the deck to look in at us with pleading eyes, but this day she got up on the post of the deck that is right by the slider door.

Here I think she is probably disdainly thinking, "Why does that dog get to be in the house?"

Now we have reached a whole new level of things trying to get in the house.  We came home the other day to find the chickens, Paige, Speckly, and Wooton, sitting at the front door.  I don't think they really want in but it was funny to find them there.  They are always on the  porch eating the cat food, which we need to some how stop because cat food is expensive to feed chickens.  They also leave poo all over when they are up there which is nasty.  The other chickens went in the barn for the winter but these three won't stay in there.   

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Raggles' Rescue

Dad's brother is a cook at bar/restaurant place.  They had a problem with cats, way to many cats, hanging out in their dumpsters.  It made me think of that book "Millions of Cats."  The owner made the decision to get rid of them.  There was one cat that was friendly and would come up to Dad's brother to get tidbits and be petted. 

Grandma called and asked if we would save this cat by taking it in.  One more pet our house really doesn't matter so I said to bring it over.  They caught him in a live trap with the alluring aroma of tuna.

Spark was out of his mind with excitement about this cat.  He made list of names.  Looked at pet lists of names on the Internet.  We voted on names.  Spark made more lists of names.  We finally all agreed on the name Raggles. 

Grandma brought Raggles over and we got him in a rabbit hutch.  He lived in the rabbit hutch for a few weeks until he wasn't scared out of his wits and hiss when we would come out to feed him.  We got him into a cat carrier and took him to the vet for a rabies shot.  Even if he ran away, I don't want a rabid cat anywhere around our house.  We get to the vet and she reaches in to the carrier, pulls him out, he purrs like crazy, lets her check him over, give him a shot and treat some ear mites.  Encouraged by his behavior at the vet, we got home and let him out in the garage.  He was gone like a shot behind some boxes.  We kept him the garage for another week or so and finally got him to come out by only leaving food down for him if we were in the garage.  He got pretty friendly this way.  Finally, we left the garage door open and let him come out.  He was still timid for a few days but has become less skittish every day.  He has since made his home in the hay stack or the barn. 

A couple of days ago we could hear him meow in the other garage but couldn't figure out where he was.  The next day we hear him meowing again and took a better look around for him.  He had some how crawled up into the eaves of the garage and was stuck there.  One of our other cats, Vidalia, doesn't like him one bit so she probably chased him and that is how he got up there in the first place.  We thought we could lure him down with food.   

Dancer got out the ladder and climbed up to offer him a can of cat food to see if that would get him to come out.

He was so hungry he snagged his nail on the rim of the can, held it there and ate out of the can.

After he had had a little, we thought he would follow the smell of the food down.  Nope, he still didn't move.  Dancer tried to get him out, he reached out to her but he was still stuck in there. 

Finally, he managed to get himself out and on top of the open garage door.  We put the cat food on the top of the car thinking he would jump down to eat it.  He just couldn't make himself jump the two or so feet to the car.

He back tracked and went over the rafters to the middle of the garage.

He got on top of the garage door opener and still couldn't make himself jump onto the car.  All the while we are waving the can of cat food around to intensify the smell so he would jump.

Dad saved the day by thinking of putting a box on the top of the car for him to climb down on and he was brave enough to get down.  He is like a cat afraid of heights.  I didn't know there was a cat out there afraid of heights.  I wonder if we had started chanting "JUMP, JUMP, JUMP" if that would have gotten him to jump.

Dancer scooped him up off the car and brought him down the ladder.  He was still scared as you can see him hanging on for dear life on the ladder.

Safe on the ground, Raggles finished his can of food.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Play-doh Neopets

Grundo, Chia, Aisha, and Chia - by Spark

Dehydrated Onions

This will be a Christmas gift for our parents this year.  We made these for them last year and they both came back and asked if we had anymore.  While they can be used in cooking we use them crunched on top of salad and as a sort of potato chip.  Dancer will just eat them straight of the bag for a snack but a handful is also good along side a sandwich. 

I have two dehydrators and it took about two days to dry 22 pounds of onions.  I do not run my dehydrators when we are gone, or at night, so that is strictly day time hours for drying  time.  I buy them in bulk from our organic food co-op so the price is very reasonable.  The prep for these is very simple, just peel and slice the onions thin.  This batch of onions had us crying like babies so we often needed to stop and wipe our eyes.  Not only the person cutting the onions was crying, anyone in the room was crying, that is how strong they were.

Next, we lay them out on the drying trays, put the dehydrator together and turn it on.  The last step is just to take them off the trays and into plastic sealable bags.  For some reason when they dry they manage to get themselves wrapped around the slots in the trays so this is actually the hardest part of the whole process. 

The 22 pounds of onions ended up being a huge mixing bowl full, enough for each of our parents to get a big bag.  I wanted to have a picture on here of how they look after but blogger just wasn't cooperating.

Giving Thanks Challenge - Leftovers

When I talked to my dad about bringing ham for Thanksgiving, he asked if he should get a big one or a little one.  A big one, I told him, I want leftovers.

I love the time after holidays when the fridge is stuffed with the leftovers because, for a few days afterwards, the cooking is so easy.  We all just open the fridge and take out what we want.  It is like a vacation!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Marshmallow Gun how to

 Making a marshmallow gun is a fun easy project. We saw these at a craft fair for $12.00.  We made two of them for about $3.00 each.  This  gun shoots mini marshmallows and is made from 1/2" PVC pipe.  You can buy the supplies at any hardware store.  Buy an eight or 10 foot section of 1/2" PVC pipe, at least three "T" connectors and at least three caps for each gun.

The PVC pipe can be cut with a hack saw.  In this picture you can see a Dremmel Tool with a cut off wheel, we used it because it cuts faster. 

We made a 7" piece, a 5" piece and five 5" pieces.  The pieces just slide together and you can arrange them how you want to make a general gun shape.  The pieces aren't glued together, that way you can take it apart to store the gun, rearrange it's look and can get into it if a marshmallow gets stuck.

 Load a marshmallow into the back of the gun and blow hard.

The marshmallows go pretty far, it's amazingly accurate and the soft little sugar puffs sting pretty good.  If your kids have poor aim, and/or poor judgement, use some eye protection.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Decoration by Spark

I called my dad a couple of weeks ago and asked if they want to come for Thanksgiving.  Without missing a beat he said yes and that they would bring a ham.  Then he asked if we had any cranberries and sweet potatoes.  Sounds like he was waiting for an invitation and knew exactly what he wanted!  The trip from their house to ours is usually about an hour.  Today, with horrible roads, it took them and hour and 45 minutes.  Thankfully they made it here and back.

Every vegetable and side dish we had was orange.  We had carrot casserole and yams.  Since we already had two orange veggies Dad threw a squash in the oven for one more.  Then Grandma Pat came with an orange salad and pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin pie can technically be orange.

All the food was so good.  Glad we had leftovers!

This is what happens when you work all night and have company all day.  You are fast asleep on the couch with the dog by 4:15 p.m.  We watched a movie, played Wii Sports Resort, played a game at the table and Dad never stirred.  He did wake up about 8:00 and made us pizza.  We know winter has officially arrived when Dad starts making homemade pizza.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pizza Nachos

We were watching 19 Kids and Counting the other night, which we have to watch late because it is on the first time during Biggest Looser.  On the show the Duggars had taken a trip to Washington D.C. and were eating at a pizza place.  It looked so good, and they were all going on about how yummy it was, that Dancer, Spark and I got a hankering for pizza.  Not having any pizza in the house, we were forced to be creative to get our pizza fix.  Spark suggested we take toast, put on sauce and cheese and put it in the microwave until the cheese melted.  No good, we thought, the bread will get soggy.  Next idea though was winner.  We made up Pizza Nachos. 

Dancer lined a plate with one layer of tortilla chips and sprinkled cheese on top of them.  She melted the cheese in the microwave like regular nachos.  When the cheese was melted she drizzled left over spaghetti sauce over the top of them.  Oh were they good!  They are going to become a staple late night snack food at our house.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Choices, choices, choices.

We make hundreds of them every day.  Possibly even thousands.  The thing is most of them are tiny, like what socks to wear, which pen to use, how many gallons of milk to buy at the store and so on.  These choices really don't have much of an impact on our lives. 

Other choices do impact our life.  Some of these choices are ones that a mom can't fix.  My goal is to have the kids making good choices here at home so that when they don't have the parent safety net they continue to make good choices.

Our dear little Spark is not a good choice maker.  Put a good ole serving of stubbornness on top of that and you can have disaster.  He will make himself miserable just to avoid doing something.  He reminds me of  a little kid who is always testing, testing, testing to find out where the boundaries are.  We have several things that we battle about but the following are the two biggest.

He is behind in math.  To motivate him to catch up we told him that he will not be playing any video games.  None.  Not even on the weekends.  This was back in September.  Do you think he will even try to catch up on his math?  No, we are going in the other direction.  He has make the choice almost every day to sit for two hours with his book and get one page done.  One page for him can mean ten problems.  Two hours!  I can not image being so stubborn that I would want to sit for two hours just to prove the point that I wasn't going to do it. Then when he decides to do it, he is done in five minutes.

Today we had a go round with his room.  It is bad, we can hardly get the door open and there is no way anyone can walk in there with stepping on stuff.  I have been telling him for the last few weeks, okay months, that he needs to clean his room or I am going in there with garbage bags and clean it all out.  When we cleaned it this summer it took us three full days to sort everything out and get back in order and I am not doing that again.  He made the choice to not only not clean his room but, in the last week or so, has dumped everything on the floor.    Out came the trash bags and it was all packed up.  Everything on the floor and what was stacked on his dresser went into the bags.  He howled, promising to pick it up.   It all went out to the garage.  He lost a lot of beloved Webkins, Legos, clothes, shoes, and lot of other good stuff. 

The next part is where I struggle as a parent.  I want to teach him that his actions, or lack of actions since he gets into trouble much more often for what he doesn't do compared  to what he does do, have consequences.  At the same time I am sad he doesn't get to play video games, partly because I like to play them with him.  I am also sad because now most of his possessions are gone. 

In the past I have shown him mercy so that he will hopefully learn to be merciful to others.  It only taught him that I don't follow through on what I say.  Not exactly what I was going for.   At age 10, and heading into the teen years, this type of mentality is not going be productive for either of us to come out on the other side of 18 and still be standing.

We have stood firm on the video game playing, but what to do about the tennis shoes, clothes, snow pants and so on.  He has offered to buy them back but I told him I don't want money, I want his room clean so he can find his things when he needs them and because a messy room gets dirty and invites unwelcome guests such as bugs or mold from wet towels.  I also don't want him to get the idea that he can buy his way out of a problem.  You can buy your way out of traffic tickets but it isn't a good idea to get them in the first place. 

What to do, what to do?  I hope someday we look back and laugh at this when he is a contributing member of society.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Come to your senses man!!!"

We are studying human body systems in science.  We did this fun experiment about how the senses work together.  We used these jelly beans to see how the senses of sight and taste work together. 

When you eat these gourmet jelly beans there is a guide on back that tells you what each flavor is.  Look at the chart, try the bean and yeah, it tastes like that.  We had Dancer and Spark try to guess the flavors with a blindfold on. 

They could usually tell if the jelly bean was fruit flavored but not what fruit.  They thought quite a few were coffee flavored, one was cappuccino but other ones they pegged as coffee included s'more, chocolate, Dr Pepper and root beer.  No one had any idea what the banana flavored bean was, actually they both thought it was hideous. 

The second time, without the blindfold, the guesses were a lot closer, but still not that accurate.  Try guessing what flavor are before looking at the guide, it's not as easy as you think.  

It was fun and interesting.  So if your looking for a project for these long, cold winter nights, take the jelly bean test.    

Glazed, Like a Donut

That is what the whole world looks like from our house.  There is about a 1/10th of a inch of ice on everything, making everything shiny and slippery.  When I had the dog out for her walk, even the grass was slippery.  We haven't bought any salt yet so I put table salt on the deck steps so we could get out to the backyard for the dog and the barn chores.    In the front of the house we had some sand left from Spark's Nile River diorama that I sprinkled on the driveway and the front steps.  Usually I would not be a fan of dumping sand outside our front door to get tracked in but it was almost impossible to walk.  Spark was out sliding around on the driveway and I told him to put a bike helmet on in case he fell.   Even the chickens were slipping around when they came up to eat the cat's food.  A chicken trying to keep their balance is pretty funny.

Usually the weather doesn't affect us very much, we just stay home.  However, Dad's uncle unexpectedly died this last week and we were planning on going to the wake yesterday.  They live over two hours from us though so we were unable to go.  Reports in the cities were over 400 accidents just yesterday morning so we didn't dare venture out.  Things were being cancelled around here and very few cars went by.  When Dad came home from work it took him over an hour so the two hour trip, if we had stayed out of the ditch, probably would have been about four hours one way. 

Today we are expecting more freezing drizzle and snow.  Come on winter - bring it on!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Giving Thanks Challenge - Freezing Temperatures

There are only two reason that I am thankful for freezing temperatures.

1.  All the outside bugs are dead.
2.  My freezer and refrigerator space is expanded.

Our temps are below freezing for at least four months out of the year.  During this time I can take advantage of sales I wouldn't be able to the rest of the year because there isn't enough room in the freezer.  For example, we just bought ten frozen Banquet dinners for $8.00.  I do like these for times when one of us needs to eat at a different time from everyone else or to send to work with Dad.  I can also buy milk when it is on sale because I can just leave it in the garage and bring it in as we need it. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

How to Overwinter Geraniums

Geraniums are one of my favorite flowers for the summer season.  I like to plant three or four of them in large pots.  I put the pots out in the full sun, water the and feed them a lot.  Geraniums are annuals and are inexpensive at nurseries in the spring.  A really cool thing about this flower is that you can keep them over the winter and have bigger more robust plants in the spring.  The easiest way is just to bring the pots indoor, my pots are way too big.  Here is another way:

Three large pots of geraniums have been in the garage for about three weeks.  the plants look a little rough as they have been ignored.  Geraniums can handle frost but not really hard freezes.  Did you know?  Geraniums will bloom continuously if you deadhead thoroughly. 

Dig out the individual plants and shake off as much dirt as possible.

Trim off the tops of the plants 3" to 4" above the base of the stem. 

You can see the 4" pieces of stem above the roots.  The roots are thick and full of water, like a succulent plant.  This stored water allows the plant to be stored.

Store the trimmed plants upside down in a bag or box, store in a cool dark place.  Check the plants every month.  Soak the roots in room temperature water for an hour or two each month if the stems are getting shriveled.  The plants need to be stored at temps above freezing, 45 to 55 degrees is best.

The plans can also be stored with out trimming, hang the entire plant upside down in a cool dark place.  A good place is from floor joist in a basement or crawl space.  I don't use this method as I don't want dirty plants hanging in my basement.

You can replant them in March, in appropriate sized pots with potting soil.  They will be ready in  the spring when it's warm enough to set them out.  Pinch off long, fast growing shoots to make the plant bushier with more blooms.

Body Systems: Digestion, Stomach Model

Dancer is studying body systems in science, right now it's the digestive system.  Today we are making a simple model of a stomach.

A gallon zipper topped freezer bag is the stomach, the food colors are chemicals and enzymes, the banana and crackers are food that was eaten, three tablespoons of water, the saliva, of course.

The crackers are partially crushed, to emulate chewing,

 and the banana is sliced, again to show chewing.   This processing before the stomach represents the mechanical digestion that occurs in the mouth with chewing.

In goes the spit.

The enzymes and chemicals.

The kids squeezed the bag for 30 seconds each.  The squeezing action is like that of the muscles in the stomach, this is mechanical digestion as well.

The aftermath aka partially digested food.  This material would exit the stomach and into the small intestine where additional enzymes and chemicals are added.  Here the chemical digestion and absorption occur.

Later, in the large intestine, undigestable and the non digested food remains are stored and water is recycled back to the body.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I have a maid!

Dancer and I were having a little chat/pep talk last night and some how this story came to mind. 

When Dancer was about three years old she was suppose to pick up toys or some other little task.  Apparently, she thought that she was way over worked and way under paid because she came out of her bedroom, stood before Dad and I who were sitting in the living room, and with her hands on her hips loudly declared that we only had her so that she would be the maid.  I remember Dad and I laughing, which turned into laughing at her and not with her, because I remember her getting even madder.  She could pitch quite the fit back then.

Talking with her now she was laughing, it just took a few years for her to join us on how funny that was.  I told her to think of three year olds she knows now and how they can't even reach the sink or run a vacuum decently.  Certainly not maid material. 

Move ahead ten years and it still would have been way cheaper, and much easier, to hire a maid compared to raising our own.  I think she got the message that her chores are to teach her how to run her own house someday and be responsible.  Even with all the chores my kids "think" they do, I could still use a maid.   For the record, everything usually expected of them can easily be done in less than 20 minutes a day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving Thanks Challenge - Never hitting anything with the car

My dad thinks I am crazy and paranoid, but animals wait in the ditch to jump in front of the car when I am driving.  At least once a week something will run in front of me and several times a week I see animals in the ditch.  Birds even swoop at the car like kamikaze pilots.

Deer are the ones that try to get me the most.  Once I even drove through a herd of deer.  That was sort of surreal to be surrounded by deer while going down the highway.  Amazingly, I didn't hit a one, it was like the parting of the red sea.  I have had a skunk run down the middle of the road right in front of the car.  Don't really want to hurry those little guys, if they want to run down the middle of the road you let them.   The alternative stinks! lol.   I have had to wait for entire turkey families to take their sweet time crossing the road and raccoons to finish their dinner of worms before they would move on.  I even have to wait for the chickens to get off the driveway before I can get the car in the garage.  They have no fear of me at all, they must know if they don't hurry I will wait.  Honking doesn't help.  Cats, same thing, have to wait for them to get out of the way.  They even come running when we get home and run in front of the car.

To stack the odds in my favor of not hitting anything, the kids are now experts at watching the ditches as we drive along.  Several times their attentiveness has saved us from calling the insurance company. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Giving Thanks Challenge - The Library

Oh, the library.  What would we ever do without the library.  Our lives would sure be different.

We are truly blessed that we have access to a huge library system.  There are, I would guess, 15 to 20 branches through out the state so almost anywhere we go we can slip into the library to check out and return books. 

A service we use a lot is ordering books.  The whole library catalog is on line and I can order books at home so I don't have to go through the shelves to find them.  When we get to the library they are all waiting for us to pick up neatly rubber banded together.  They will also ship them to any branch.  This is great because the books I want maybe scattered in several different branches and they ship them all to one place.    If the library doesn't have it their system we inter library loan it, which I can also do at home.  If we can't find it there we can put in request for them to buy an item and usually they do.  We do like to peruse the shelves pleasure reading, but for the books we use for school I order them.  The kids also order a lot of movies this way. 

I am sure over a years time that we check out thousands of dollars of materials.  We do pay late fees but if we watched the due dates closer we wouldn't have any as we can renew materials from home.   The library also saves us from buying books other than the ones we use for curriculum.  I may be one of the few homeschoolers that doesn't like to buy books. I think they start to smell over the years and just clog the house up with clutter.  We do buy some books, ones that we will want for the long haul or that we will absolutely need longer than three weeks, the length of time we can have a book out if someone else has put in a request for it.   If we do buy a book that I know no one is going to ever read again, I donate somewhere when we are done with it.

Our library has a lot of other great benefits but you get the idea that we love, love, our library.   

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Turkey Bread Centerpiece Recipe

We found this fun turkey bread recipe at the Wheat Foods Council and thought we would give it a try because he was just so darn cute. 

To make him we used whole wheat frozen bread dough that we get from a local bakery.  They sell five loaves of bread dough for $3.59, a price we really can't match at home.  Check out the Wheat Foods Council page if you want to make a dough from scratch.  

The first step of the turkey is roll out a six inch circle and lay it on a greased pan.  We used a baking stone.

Take ten small ball of dough and roll with the rolling pin in oblong shapes.  With a knife cut the edges to make them look like feathers.

 For the turkey head and neck, roll an 18 inch long rope and fold it in half.   Make an indentation in the top of the turkey body.  Lay the bottom of the rope in the indentation and the top will be over the feathers.  To make the head, curve the dough like a shepard's crook.

 Cut out a diamond shape for the beak and lay it on top of the crook part of the head.

 Flatten two raisins for eyes.

                         Take a small ball of flattened dough for the foot and cut a few toes in it.

 Let him rise for an hour or two.  Cover him with a towel so he doesn't get a hard crust on top while he is rising.

Bake him at 350 degrees until he sounds hollow when you tap on his tummy.  If the feathers, or other parts are starting to get too brown, cover them with aluminum foil like you would a pie crust edge.  He looks quite handsome doesn't he?  Supposedly you can let him sit on the counter for a few days and he will get hard for a center piece. 


We had left over dough so we made a bear with a bow tie.   We used raisins for his eyes, nose, and buttons.
He was cute all baked up.  Not so cute though that we had trouble eating him!