Monday, August 29, 2011

Crochet Autumn Leaves

I saw these leaves and haven't been able to stop making them since.  They are super simple once you make one.  Now I am down to about five minutes per leaf and that includes weaving in the ends.

Leaf Pattern
Round 1:
Ch 4, 11 dc in 4th ch from hook, join with a sl st to top of beginning ch—12 dc.
Round 2: Ch 6, sl st in 3rd ch from hook (picot made), dc in first st, 2 dc in each of next 2 sts, (dc, ch 5, sc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 3 chs to form stem, dc) in next st, 2 dc in each of next 2 sts, (dc, picot, dc ) in next st; (sc, hdc) in next st, (dc, picot, sc) in next st, (hdc, dc, tr, picot, tr, dc, hdc) in next st, (sc, picot, dc) in next st, (hdc, sc) in last st, join with a sl st to 3rd ch of round.
Fasten off and weave in the ends.

A picture play by play of how to make the second round can be found here at

Don't Worry

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:34

Last week when I posted that we had nothing much on the calendar I didn't mean for problems to come our way because we hadn't anything better to do.  Last Wednesday morning I had sharp stomach pains, enough that after four hours I headed into the doctor.  The doctor wanted a CT scan and since it was late he sent me to the ER.  While there they thought I was having gall bladder problems.  One ultra sound later I was cleared from gall bladder woes.  Next was the CT scan to see if it was an appendix.  No problems with the appendix but, there is always a but, I have ovarian cysts and a kidney stone. 

Next day a follow up with my doctor, I didn't see my doctor the day before, which I hate, but when in pain you go to who has an opening.  The scan showed a 6 cm cyst so we decided I would have an ultra sound and see a ob/gyn.  I thought my ob/gyn days were over but now I am right back there sitting among the ladies with the protruding bellies although this time I am not one of them.  I had the ultra sound the next day and went home for the weekend to wait to see the doctor.

Over the weekend I surprisingly wasn't worried about this.  I kept saying the verse above and praying for God to give the doctor wisdom to know exactly what needed to be done in my case.  I thought it is what it is and no worrying is going to change that.  Not that didn't think about most of the time but it didn't consume me like things can sometimes.  Dancer on the other hand was so upset she had trouble eating.  We talked a lot about this this weekend and by this morning she said that she was feeling okay with whatever happened.

At my appointment today I found out that I actually have two cysts instead of one big one.  The doctor felt sure that they were only simple cysts and that I should have another ultra sound in a couple of months. Trusting his judgement that is what I will do -- and not worry. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Finally Eggs!

Chickens are "suppose" to start laying eggs when they are about five months old.  Ours didn't.  They have taken so long that I was on the verge of thinking we had the only non laying chickens on the face of the earth.  They are so over due to have laid an egg that I thought I might have to have the crock pot conversation with them.  But today, ah today, Spark went out to do chores and came back with three hard shelled beauties. 

Finally girls, it's about time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Inch

Dancer got up the other morning and Dad said to her that he thought she looked taller.  She quickly got out the ruler and stood with her back to the wall where we have their heights marked to see if this was true.  At 5' 2 1/2" she is much shorter than she would like to be but hasn't grown for over a year.  Sure enough, when we put the ruler on the top of her head and made sure it was level she had indeed grown an inch.  Good thing too, because when Spark had his turn he was just a smidgen under her old height.  Your brother, who is four years younger than you, should not be taller especially when you are sensitive about these things. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fantasy Football Draft Cake

Spark wanted to bring something special for the snack table at the fantasy football draft he and Dad were going to.  He settled on a football cake, which we made at the last minute, which shows in the frosting job.  The cake came out of the oven at 4:50 and they had to leave at 5:30.  After the cake came out of the oven I cut it in a football shape and popped it in the fridge while making the frosting so at least the surface would be cool enough to frost. 

The frosting is Creamy Vanilla Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
About 2 tablespoons milk

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix with the hand mixer until it is a spreadable consistency. 

I scooped out a little bit while it was still white for the laces on the ball.  The hard part was making the frosting football brown.  We got out the colors and it said to use two drops of red to every one drop of green and yellow. 

It did make it pretty in the bowl.  I started with twice that amount and mixed it up.  It looked like pale skin.  With the urging of the kids I kept adding more and more and more colors.  It was still the color of puce and never did get very dark.  The solution was to get out the unsweetened chocolate and keep dumping it in until we got a semi dark color which was quickly starting to look like chocolate frosting.  The clock was ticking so I smeared it on the cake, Dancer put the white frosting in a sandwich bag to be able to pipe it on the cake,  I drew on the laces, snapped a quick picture, threw some saran wrap on the top and the boys were out the door with instructions not to smash the top or chip the plate.  Hope it is good. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summerland 4-H Fun Day

Our 4-H group had a day out at a local little amusement park to celebrate all our hard work from the last few years.

Dancer and Spark both started out on the go-karts.
This was Spark's favorite car.  His first time around was a little iffy but after that he really got the hang of the gas, break and steering all at the same time.

Spark enjoyed the bumper boats. 

He went down the water slide several times.  Just about to the bottom....

A quick recovery because the next kids is only a few turns of the slide away.

Moved out of the way with his mat and ran up the stairs again.  It was a long way to the top, probably about six stories high.

There was a snack pot luck which had such good food it was more like a lunch.

He got in a couple of games of putt-putt golf.

Why no more pictures of Dancer?  Because she only went on the go-karts.

As soon as her turn was done she ran back in the go-kart line with her friend.  I think about nine of the kids that were with our group, everyone could bring friends, rode the go-karts the whole time.  I took advantage of her driving excitement today and when we got home she mowed the lawn on the rider.  When she got done she said she wondered how fast she could mow the lawn if the mower went as fast as a go-kart.  Should I be worried when she gets her driver's license?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homeschool Rally

Last night was the fall rally for our homeschool group.  I went to a break out session about how to get your kids to love learning.  The speaker had a lot of good ideas but she had 11 kids, bingo just isn't the same with two kids. 

After the speakers, you could choose from two different ones, there was a huge book sale and sub groups had tables to promote their programs.  There was a lot of energy in the room and moms were snapping up fun, and some not so fun, looking curriculum and talking about how they are excited to get a head start on school and start next week.  I don't think the regular schools around here even start until September 7th. 

We did sign Spark up for soccer and order him a t-shirt.  Our group has a large group of families that play soccer on Saturday mornings until the snow flies.  We haven't taken part in it since Dancer was in kindergarten because, one she was more interested in looking for four leaf clovers on the soccer field and two, we have been utilizing the YMCA program.  This year the YMCA, which only wants to be called the Y now, shortened each of their sessions by two weeks and upped the price by 30 percent.  Hmm, soccer for free or the new Y program, pretty much a no brainer there.   Dancer didn't want to play so we didn't sign her up.  On the way home I mentioned that I talked to one of her friends mom and her friend is playing soccer so now she wants to play.  Go figure.

There was also a table to sign up if we were interested in Irish dance.  If they get enough interest a performing arts place is going to try and find a teacher to come up from the cities.  While Irish dance isn't a passion for Dancer at least she would be dancing again and it wouldn't include jazz or ballet.  She suffers through the jazz and ballet parts of class to be able to tap dance which is her passion.

Other than those two things I walked around and talked with lots of people I haven't seen for a while and felt like a great big fraud, which I did admit to a few good friends last night.  See, I am just not feeling any back to school excitement.  I feel like I need a summer vacation from summer vacation.  The calendar, which has been full almost every day since the beginning of summer, only has nine things on it between now and September 7th so maybe, just maybe, we will be more in the mood for school.  If not, we aren't going to do more than the math that we do all summer.  Sometimes I enjoy being counter cultural just because I can.  When people try to talk me into things I tell them, "Your peer pressure has no effect on me."  Well, I tell friends that, to others I give the unsnarky polite "no," a word I have learned to use and not feel guilty about.

So it will probably be state parks, bike trails, unbusy tourist attraction field trips - here we come!  October is still up in the air too.   

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Her Maiden Voyage

All summer Dad has been watching Craig's List for a canoe and there haven't been any to be found.  Lately though there are just scads of them and we able to buy one.

Dancer and I took her on her maiden voyage and came back dry.

Spark, our self professed non canoer, and Dad went out next.

As an aside, Spark's first canoe ride was his 6th birthday.  We were up in northern Minnesota at an environmental learning center.  One of the classes we took was about voyagers and about 20 of us were in this huge canoe.  It was so big we sat, I think, four people across.  There was ice we were trying to go through so the people who were paddling would ram the canoe up on the ice, chop at it with the paddles, we would fall through and they would start all over again until we could get through this ice patch.  Spark started to panic and yell, "We are all going to die" over and over and over.  Not only was he yelling at the top of his lungs but there were cliffs on each side of the lake that his voice was echoing off of.  Since we were in absolutely no danger what so ever, and a lot of the people we were with we had just met a couple of days prior, I was frantically trying to get him to stop yelling.  No go.  We got to where we were going, did our voyager activities and Spark refused to get back into the canoe.  Dad, being the fabulous dad that he is, walked all the way back around the lake with Spark so he wouldn't have to get in the canoe.

They came back not only dry but smiling as well.

Dancer did a little fishing and, although she only caught one little, tiny hors d'oveur sized fish, she did catch a good sized salad.

Downed Fence

We have had a fence that was down at the end of the corral and have put off fixing it because the goats hadn't realized yet that it was down.  That is until yesterday when I looked out and saw that Lola discovered the spot and that she could get out.   Her mother was baaing and baaing, because although she could get out, she couldn't figure out how to get back in.  The kids ran out and put her back in the corral only to look out a little bit later and see her out again.  All the goats went back into the barn at this point and we decided to fix it after dinner. 

When we went down to look at the fence the goats came out with us, they are sort of like dogs and follow us around.  As we stood surveying the fence, Lola came scampering down and jumped up on the fence post where she was getting out and turned around as if to say, "This is how you get out!"  We shooed her down and she ran around for a few moments and then jumped back up there again and did the same thing as if we didn't understand her the first time.  She seemed so proud of herself.  We burst her bubble by fixing the fence.  She looked at it for a while, realized that she wasn't getting out any more and went back to her goat business. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Flower Park

We went to town yesterday for homeschool park days and on the way home stopped to find a cache in this beautiful flower park.  I use to take the kids here when they were little and we lived near by but it has been a few, maybe more than a few, years since we had been here.

There were Dr. Seuss trees.

Spark looked around at all the flowers and foliage and declared, "There has never been a goat loose in here."

There are at least 10 acres that look like this including a huge rose garden with fountains. 

Hoards of geese dropping their little bombs everywhere. 

As we left, there was reminder that summer is on it's way out. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Super Good Oatmeal Cookies

A handful of these and a glass of milk = happy kids.

Another recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookie Cook Book, dubbed by my mother to be "super good."

Super Good Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1/4 cup chopped walnuts - optional

Stir together first 6 ingredients.  Add shortening, egg, and vanilla; beat well.  Stir in oats and nuts.  Drop by small teaspoon onto cookie sheet.  I used my yeast spoon which is 2 1/4 teaspoons.  Can also be rolled into balls and smashed with a glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Chocolate Chip Bars

Dancer and I were downstairs the other day going through our many book shelves to get rid of some books.  We need to get rid of a few book cases that were damaged when we had water in the basement and because we have so many books that the kids are too old for and won't read anymore.

As we were purging the shelves I came across this cook book, the Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookie Cook Book.  It is the cook book I baked from when I was a kid.  The date in it is 1975 and I remember selling them for a fund raiser, based on the date I would guess that it was for girl scouts.  It smells a bit like it is from 1975, hopefully if we have it out and use it will loose some of it's I'm from 1975 smell.  Grandpa Bob and Grandma Shirley were coming to visit today and I always like to send a little package of baked goods home with them since they don't bake anymore.  I looked through the book and picked out these chocolate chip bars that were marked "very good" in my childhood handwriting and another oatmeal cookie that my mother had marked "super good."

Chocolate Chip Bars

Cream 1/2 cup softened butter and 3/4 cup packed brown sugar.  Add 1 egg, 1 Tbsp. milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla; beat well.  Stir together  1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/8 tsp. each baking soda and salt.  Add to creamed mixture; beat well.  Stir in one 6-ounce package chocolate chips.  Spread in greased 9X9 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool; cut into bars.

Spark tried one of these before we packaged them up and verified that they are "very good."

Zippy Deviled Eggs

We love deviled eggs but I just don't make them very often.  I will have to work on changing that.  Actually I hate peeling them.  It seems to take forever and then they are all eaten in about seven nanoseconds.  Today I made these and I don't even know if I had let go of the plate before they were all gone.  I took the picture before I brought them over to the table so I knew by the time had the camera in hand there would still be some left to take a picture of.

Here is how I make them.  Boil the eggs the day before so they can sit in the fridge overnight and get thoroughly chilled.  Stand at the sink for a good long while and peel them.  I could ask for help but if I do my helper usually eats a couple therefore cutting down on the number of deviled eggs that even get made.  Cut them in half length wise and pop out the yolks into a bowl.  Mash the yolks until they are a paste like consistency.  Add a spoonful of mayo and some mustard.

Here is the mustard I like to use, it gives them a little zip compared to plain yellow mustard.  That is all I put in them, nothing fancy.  Use a baby spoon, these come in handy even after the kids are big, to put a bit of the mixture in each egg.  Have a couple before you set them out so you get to have at least a taste.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Geocaching Bike Ride

A whole slew of new caches came up this week that were on a old Soo railroad line that is now a bike trail.  We loaded up our bikes and went out to find them.

The post in the middle is an old telegraph line with lines sagging almost down to the ground.  People climb up these and get the glass insulator off an sell them.  On this one the insulator was broken so it was still there it would have been gone years ago.

Spark was a long way down the bank to find this cache it wasn't even at this beacon.  It was close though so he didn't climb all the way down for nothing although when he couldn't find it Dad and I made the trek down as well. 

Clouds and corn fields, is there anything more beautiful?  Well, yes there is, but they rank right up there.

Humphrey with a cache.  He is one of our geocaching mascots, we haul about four of them around with us every time we go.

We rode over this long bridge that is right in front of a dam.  Wish we had brought with a better camera than just a little point and shoot but how much "stuff" do we really want to carry.  Not much.

Dad and

Mom on the bridge.  The kids had already rode on but since we stopped to take a picture of the water we did a little photo session as well since we rarely take our pictures and tons of the kids.  Don't want them to try and have to remember what we looked like.

Ahhh, it was good to get back to the truck and get a drink.  Love the color in this picture, it makes her look like she has an angelic glow.

And we had low carb trail mix - a can of mixed nuts with a couple handfuls of bacon thrown in.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Real Reason We Homeschool

Here it is, the real reason that we homeschool: I don't like to get up in the morning.  There I typed it for all the world to read.

That is not really the real reason, but after this week it sure ranks right up there in the top five.  This week Dancer was a day camp counselor at three day camps.  Each one started at 9:00 a.m. and the closest one was 20 minutes away.  Today she had a 4-H fun day that started at 11:00 a.m. and was over an hour away after we swung by to pick up a friend.  Now I know that for lots of people, including some homeschoolers, that this not early, but in our world it might as well have been the butt crack of dawn.

I even said to Dad that when women say they work because it makes them a better mother it doesn't apply to me.  I also do not want the "extras" that an extra income would bring in if it meant our family was on this early schedule on a regular basis.  We are just not morning people.  Probably why Dad works nights and why Dancer has commented before that when she gets a job she wants to work nights.

Here is 10:15 p.m. and Dancer has just started beading a necklace and Spark is just winding down to where he wants to talk.  Once he goes to bed, and he goes to bed early for our house, usually by 11:30, Dancer will want to talk or play a game.  I would miss all that if we were early to bed early to risers and these are some of my favorite moments of the day.     

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spark is Ten (10) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

I was filling out some paperwork for Spark and for his age I wrote down that he was nine years old.  He looks at it and says, "MOM, I AM 10!"  Then he went on to inform me that in 80 days he will be 11 years old.  Really?  Is time getting away from me or is it wishful thinking on my part?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Wissmann Family Concert

We were so blessed that this family, web site here, came to a play a concert close to our house.   They play Christian/hymn music in a blue grass fashion. 

A couple of years ago when we went to Branson, MO we loved all the shows we saw.  When I saw on their poster that they were regulars in Branson during the Christmas season the kids and I decided to go even though Dad had to work.  It was so much more than we were expecting.  The turn out was also much bigger than we had expected.  We had been to this church before to hear missionaries speak, I love to hear them tell about their mission fields, and usually there is a scant handful of people there.  This time we had to park in the ditch and we were there 20 minutes early.  People who came later had to park across the road.

The concert was fabulous even for those of us who are not normally blue grass music lovers.  They had a fun bantor with the audience and even had us join in the singing a few times.  It has been a couple of days since we have gone and the kids are still talking about it.    

Monday, August 8, 2011

Finally Our First Bike Ride

Here we are starting the second week of August and we are just going for our first bike ride of the year.  This spring was busy with other things and we never got the bikes out, not to mention it was unseasonably cold and rainy.  July was hot, at least for us northerners it was hot.   Anything in the upper 80's or 90's with humidity is hot to us. Today was nice, it was in the mid seventies so we road about four or five miles.

The town nearest to us has one of those bike trails that use to be the railroad tracks.  There are miles and miles of paved trail that are nice and flat with traffic only in the spots where roads cross the trail for safe biking.  There is a tower that over looks the park by the trail and Spark climbed up there and snapped a photo.  Dancer and I stayed down below and guzzled water from the drinking fountain.

African Violet From a Cutting

Dancer did this as a 4-H project in the area of indoor gardening. It is really simple to made a new plant from a one leaf of an African Violet although it takes lots of patience because the reward is weeks away from the initial planting.

To do this, cut the best looking leaf from the plant leaving some stem.  Pick a leaf that isn't too old or too young.  Cut the stem into a V on the bottom.  Dip the end of the stem in water, rain water is best.  Plant the leaf in a pot and put the pot on a saucer.  Once a week, she chose Wednesdays, fill the saucer with water, don't water it from the top.  Some things she saw about doing this said to put the pot in a plastic bag to make a little hot house for it.   Fearing mold or fungal growth, she skipped this step.  She only got one leaf so if that happened the whole project would have been for not.

In about two to four months the leaf will set up a good root system and should produce a baby plant next to the stem.  We are excited now to see how long it is going to take to get a whole violet and the ultimate reward, flowers.

Summer Goodness

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And Dinner

A friend asked us to join her geocaching this afternoon but we had already made plans to have Grandma Pat come for a visit.  As far as the kids are concerned she doesn't come often enough or stay long enough.  We were also looking forward to Grandma coming because she said that she was going to bring dinner with.  I love anyone who brings dinner.  Since I plan most of our meals there is something exciting about not knowing what dinner will be. 

Once she got in the door, and got settled a bit, the kids brought out Apples to Apples.  It has become a ritual that when she comes we play that game.  The only reason we don't play it the second she gets in the door is because I try to hold them back so she can at least set her purse down.  Dad won today which is a big show of him boasting.  Every time he wins a card he yells "SCORE!" and snatches the card.  His reasons why his card should be picked every round is entertaining in itself.

After the game we had the dinner Grandma brought.  Today was mixed fruit with Cool Whip and Chicken and Greek salads.  She even plans for our low carb diet, but as a treat for the kids brought them a loaf of Herb Focaccia bread.

After dinner we sat around and chatted for a while and then, as usual, she left too soon.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

4-H Lake Party

Our annual summer lake party was this afternoon.  First we ate and then had the meeting so we don't have to meet on Monday night.  The kids in our club have such a good time together.

They divided up for games.  This one they were tied together in teams and raced each other around a course of chairs and trees.

They picked the littlest one up so they could run faster. 

Kick the can. 

They tossed a raw egg back and forth in teams of two.  The games all tied so everyone got prizes.

Swimming, lots of swimming.  Spark and another boy took out the paddle boat and tipped it over.  The girls had to go out in kayaks and tow them back in.

At about 5:00 I finally got Spark to crawl out of the lake so we could get to church on time.  I had hoped to leave about 4:00 but they were having such a good time I waited until we could still be on time if we hurried.

Group shot of everyone there, a few families were missing.