Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Independent Star Wars Film

Spark has been busy working on making stop action films where he sets up his Star Wars Lego people, and some other pieces, and slowly plays out a story and takes pictures.  Then he puts all the pictures together into a film and has the picture change every half second so they look like they are moving.  He also sets the scene to music, otherwise it is a silent film.  The movement is the same principal as a cartoon.  It takes even a few hundred pictures just to make a couple minute movie.  He is pretty much a one man operation unless he can get Dancer or I to help him move the pieces around, which we do when there is a lot of movement in each picture or if someone needs to be airborne.

Set Director

Producer and writer

Happy Cameraman

A few scenes from the movie

If you know the Stars Wars movie this should look familiar.

Jonathan (an extra in the Star Wars film) slaying a bounty hunter.

A bomb squad trooper riding down on the ceiling to defeat Jonathan and Harry (another extra).

Fighting the Sith and Sith Padawan - lots of fighting these movies, guess that is a boy thing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Homer Simpson

This picture is to prove that we got this puzzle done.  We got this from Dad's brother for Christmas as a family gift.   It was tough, it has 1000 pieces but about 3000 little pictures that make up Homer.  We had it up for almost two weeks before it was finish Friday night/Saturday morning 2:15 in the morning.   The ironic thing about putting all this time into this hard puzzle is that we don't even watch the Simpsons, I'm not even sure if it is on t.v. anymore.  I found out as we were doing it that the kids don't even know the character names, Dancer kept calling Bart "that boy." We kept it up over the weekend to admire it and I took it apart this morning and promptly put it in the donate box.  Once was enough.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pecan Crescent Cookies

Another recipe from our new "Taste of Home Baking Book."  This melt in your mouth, delicious, buttery cookie is from Grace Yaskovic.  Although this recipe calls for pecans we didn't have any on hand so they are a plain butter cookie yet still worthy of five stars.

Pecan Crescent Cookies

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
powdered sugar

In mixing bowl cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the flour.  At first this will be like a fine flour that won't stick together.  Keep mixing them and it will transform into a nice, soft dough that will be easy to shape into the crescent shapes.  Bake at 325 degrees until they become very light brown around 22-25 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes and roll in powdered sugar.

Alton Brown Hot Chocolate

Perhaps the best homemade hot chocolate recipe in the world.


2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Hot water, or as we like it, milk

We can go months without using cayenne pepper and here we have used twice this week.   

Put everything in the mixer, of course except the water or milk, and mix it up good.

Fill you mug half full of the mixture and add water.  If you use milk it tastes good with filling your mug 1/3 of the way with the mixture.  And whipped cream, top it with whipped cream.

When the whipped cream melts into the hot chocolate it tastes like French silk pie, yummy.

Supposedly this will last indefinitely, but really what will happen is you will wonder where it went so fast.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Quiche Lorraine Recipe

We have moved on to France in history and tried our hand at some French cuisine.  Quiche Lorraine comes from the northeastern part of the country.  It started out being from Germany, then France, then Germany and now back to France.  If they leave the boarders alone it should stay in France.  The word quiche however comes from the German word kuchen which means cake.  Some quiches date back as far as the 1500's but Quiche Lorraine is thought to be from about 19th century.  True French think that it should only be made with cream, even stiff cream that is not liquid, and certainly not milk.  When it was first made it would have had a bread base not a pie crust.  The dish would have been very economical considering that the ingredient would have been local, all of them probably even produced at their homes.  One thing we read said that if you put onions in it it is no longer Quiche Lorraine but Quiche Alsatian.  We put onions in ours but we are still calling it Quiche Lorraine.
I had never made or eaten a quiche before.  I grew up in the era when blender pies where all the rage.  All the ingredients, along with I think Bisquick, was put in the blender, poured in a pie pan and then baked.  Also I think the popular book in the 1980's, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche," perhaps put a damper on the popularity of the dish for many years.  The kids loved this, Dancer even asked for the left overs for dinner instead of what we were having.  We have another pie crust so I wouldn't be surprised they want another one for lunch tomorrow.

Quiche Lorraine
9 inch single crust pie
12 slices bacon fried and cut in large pieces
1 cup shredded cheese
1/3 cup minced onion
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cream - we used one cup cream, one cup milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sprinkle bacon, cheese and onion into pie shell.
Whisk together eggs, cream, salt, sugar and cayenne pepper.

When the kids put the cayenne pepper in the bowl it exploded over the surface of the liquid, pretty cool so they took a picture. 

Pour egg mixture into pie pan over bacon etc.
Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes for until knife inserted one inch from edge comes out clean.  Let sit for 10 minutes before eating.  The kids wanted to eat this so bad they set the timer for 10 minutes to make sure we didn't let it sit ten minutes and one second. 

Here it is, beautiful and ready to eat.                

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nothing But Blue Skies Do I See

After more than a week of really cold weather we had a beautiful, beautiful day today.  The warm temps produced perfect snowball/snowman snow so when Spark wanted to go out and play in the snow I couldn't say no. After I went in Dancer got the camera and took these pictures.

The huge snowballs we rolled.  We wanted to get them bigger but by the time we made them I was out of steam, maybe tomorrow we can add to them.

Looks like summer clouds.

I love this willow tree that is out by the road.  The power company hates it and always wants to cut it down or give it a major trim.  Every time they come by with their chain saws we go out their with the measuring tape and tell them to stay within the 10 feet of the power line or whatever the distance is.  They send us a post card with the law on it before they come so we know that they know how much they can cut.  A funny thing about them wanting to cut this tree is that the other year when we had bad storms a tree that was probably about 50 feet from the line, which they pay no attention too, toppled and took out a line.  This tree trimming is something they started about five years ago and it is very unpopular throughout the county.

The gate that keeps nothing in.  When we moved here there was a large part of our property that had electric fence around it.  Since electric fence won't keep in goats, they will do the limbo if necessary to get out of a fence, we haven't keep it up or the grass from growing up to it.  This part we have taken down for various reasons over the  years and now just the gate remains.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Homemade Peanut Butter

We make a lot of food from scratch, however, peanut butter is not one of them, that's even a little far for me.  We bought peanuts the other day and mistakenly we got these heart healthy low salt roasted peanuts instead of the yummy salted ones.  They were awful and I give credit to anyone who can eat those and say they enjoy them. 

We could have baked with them but it was a 34 ounce container and well, that would be a lot of baking.  They would go stale or rancid before we got them all used. 

Instead we made them into peanut butter.  It is a very simple process, we put them in the food processor and whirled them around until they were ground into fine pieces.  I didn't have a recipe so we added a couple pinches of salt and part of a scoop of sugar.  We slowly drizzled oil into the mixture until it turned into a peanut butter substance. 

We weren't able to get it really smooth but I sort of liked the coarser texture.  I thought I would put it in the refrigerator and we would eat it on something but after everyone had a couple spoonfuls it was all gone.  From that you can conclude how good it was.  Dancer has since made two more batches, and today she actually got some on an apple, and thinks we should always make our own.  It is not very economical so these will be our only batches but it was good while it lasted.

It's Never Too Cold To Grill

It really wasn't all that cold, about 15 degrees.  If Dad only grilled when it was nice out some years we would grill all of about five months out of the year.  Besides, for those of us who are inside prepping the side dishes it isn't all that cold :o) 

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Gold Crown

I got a gold crown put on a my tooth today.  The worst thing about the whole experience was wearing the temporary crown for two weeks, I had nothing but trouble with it.  Anyway there are three reasons I got a gold crown instead of a porcelain one.

#3 - Gold is antimicrobial.
#2 - Dad said to get a gold one.  Now when my husband wants to buy me something gold I'm smart enough to jump at the chance, even if it is where no one can see it, I know it's there.  Who knows when it something gold will come my way again.  Truth be told I would rather have new windows or something else more useful than gold jewelry.
#1 - When I was looking at the pamphlet they sent home with me I said that they make crowns out of porcelain so they look like your teeth and Spark says, "You mean like a toilet?"  That pretty much sealed the deal right there.

Homemade Pickled Eggs

Back in September, when we went on a Heritage Day field trip, there was a couple selling pickled eggs.  Now when ever I have seen them in the store I have turned my nose up at them assuming they would be gross and rubbery.   However, while we were there we got caught up in the moment and bought one to share between us.  It was so good we had to go back and get another one, if they hadn't been so expensive for an egg we would have bought a lot more of them. 

We asked how they made them and they gladly shared that they are as simple as putting hard boiled eggs in pickle juice in the refrigerator for no less than two weeks. 

In September our new chickens weren't laying and the old ones were only giving a few a week so we just got around to making these after Christmas.  The brine we chose was one of the few pickles that doesn't have food coloring in them.  Not sure why a pickle needs to be colored but to our frustration most are which makes them off limits to Dancer.   

A pickled egg ready to be eaten.  It is greenish yellow from the juice on the outside but the inside, while it still tasted pickled, was pure white.  These turned out as good as we remembered them from Heritage Days and not a bit rubbery.   We have another batch going, this time in a horseradish brine.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

4-H Jr. Leaders' Dance

Last night we travel out in the howling winds and cold to go to the 4-H Jr. Leaders' dance.  I was a  chaperon which was really fun.  Someone said to me good luck with chaperoning the dance but I wasn't worried, all the teens in the Jr. Leader program are great kids and, just as I suspected, there wasn't an ounce of trouble.

Dancer and her good friend, they do a lot together in and out of 4-H.  There were four kids that went from our club.

Part way through the night they took down some of the decorations and started playing what we call "bop it balloon."  This was the only other picture I got of the front of Dancer.  I took lots of pictures for the county scrapbook but in every single other one that Dancer was in I got her back.
The dance was for 7th grade and up and since Spark doesn't fit that criteria he and Dad went to the nearest town.  They enjoyed supper at Pizza Hut, of which they were able to save one slice and a couple cheese sticks for Dancer and I.  I guess the smell was just too strong in the car for Spark to resist the other piece of pizza on the way to pick us up.  They also went to Walmart and check out all the things that Spark is interested in that we never, in his opinion, take enough time to peruse (i.e. Legos, Star Wars and the fish).

The next day we talked to grandma and she asked what Dancer wore to the dance.  We told her sweatpants, nice ones, and a sweatshirt.  She was surprised until we reminded her these are farm kids and none of them wear fancy duds.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

John Calvin and John Huss Lap Books

In the ten years that we have homeschooled we have only done one other lap book.  I chose these two, the lay out was the same for both, because we are studying the reformation period and I wanted a way to help the people stick in Spark's head better than us just reading about them.  These didn't provide a plethora of information but enough that when he hears their names he will know what they are famous for.  I found them with a link from this link.   We did the first one together and Spark did the second one on his own.  Not having any file folder he glued them onto card stock.  These are the only two we will do because all of them for this time period are about the same and I think any more would just turn into busy work.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Swiss Chocolate Fondue

We have moved into Switzerland in our history study.  One can't really study any aspect of Switzerland with out consuming a little chocolate.  This is so good only make it if you have control in chocolate situations.  We made half a batch and it made enough for three of us and we had left overs.  The left overs were only to prove to ourselves that we could control ourselves around chocolate.  By the time diner was done we had finished it off.

Swiss Chocolate Fondue

6 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 milk
1/2 peanut butter

Melt all together in double boiler.  This is our makeshift double boiler.  I just take a pot, boil water in it and put another bowl over the top.   You have a double boiler and don't have to give up any cupboard space to store it for the six times every decade that you use it.

Dip in fruit, marshmallows, cake, donuts, cookies, nuts - actually, besides maybe sardines, anything would be good dipped in this delicious decadence.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not Your Everyday Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

A couple tablespoons of orange zest give these an unexpected oomph.

Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups oatmeal
2/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup raisins

Mix as usual.  Drop by spoonful on baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  To make them chewy take them out closer to the 12 minute mark.

Reason #114 To Homeschool

Dancer stayed over at a friends house last night.  She called at 1:30 a.m. to tell us they had just finished watching a movie and to say good night (see why we love her so much, well we would love her just as much if she didn't call but it does warm my heart that she wants a good night/I love you at her age).  Yes, we are usually still up at that time, remember Dad works nights and so we have a shifted schedule.

This morning I was suppose to pick her up at 11:00.  At 10:45 the mom, who understands teenagers as she has three of them, calls and says that I may want to wait to come because the girls are still sleeping.  The joy for homeschoolers to have this schedule on a week day.  When I got there around 12:30 they were sitting at the table in their jammies eating pancakes and drinking orange juice about five and half hours after they would have otherwise been on the bus going to school.  Ah, the life of a teen aged homeschooler. 

Tomorrow will be reason #115 to homeschool.  We are suppose to have wind chill temperatures of  -40 below.  The kids will not be waiting for or getting on a freezing cold bus before the first light of day.  Instead we will be tuck in the house, maybe even eating pancakes and drinking orange juice at 12:30.

Poor Kitties

Tonight we had our first sub zero temperatures of the winter.  Both of our cats are outside cates but Vidallia, our old lady cat, was on the deck just crying and crying to get in.   She sounded so pathetic that I let her in for the evening.  She will have to go out tonight because she has no indoor manners, meaning scratches the furniture and  jumps on the counters to see if we may have left a snack out.  Cats on the coutner just gross me out so she can't be in overnight.  After she had been in for an hour she started venturing out to see what was going on, must have thought she was safely in the house or we would have thrown her back out already.

Kacheekers, who snuck in when we opened the door, wasn't as trusting of his good fortune, the closest he came to us was to hang out on the basement stairs.   Smart kittie because all good things have to come to an end.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Someone's Not Pulling Their Weight

We got this cute little Barbie egg the other day.  Well, I guess it would be about the size of an ostrich egg for Barbie but small none the less.  If these were the size of chicken eggs the 15 to 20 egg omelet would become the norm.  I am also guessing we aren't going to find a yolk in it.

Once in a while we will get one of these long torpedo shaped eggs.  It is just odd that after months of "normal" eggs we got two odd ones.  Truth be told, if I was a chicken these are the eggs I would want to be laying day after day, if you know what I mean. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reupholstering A Footstool

Over the years, the fabric on our footstool has gotten thinner and thinner.  This fall it wore through and the hole is ever expanding.  Not a pretty sight but it is expensive to get furniture reupholstered, we have already had this one done once, so we opted for the next best thing and that was to redo the stool ourselves.

The first step was to take the top off, remove the backing and take off the old fabric.  There were over 90 well secured staples in here, hence it was the hardest part of the project needing Dad's brute strength to free them.
We got a remnant at the fabric store for $3.53 and used half making the cost of the fabric for this project just $1.77.  Our chair was professionally done over 10 years ago so matching the fabric wasn't an option anymore.  Spark was the one who found the fabric and I must say, I like it better than the fabric that was on there, although now it doesn't match the chair but, oh well.

Lay the old piece out on top of the new and cut around it leaving plenty of extra fabric.  We could see from the old piece that they must cut a piece of fabric, upholster the stool and then cut off the excess as it was uneven.  Makes sense in the long run, no chance that you cut the fabric too small.

This is the point where you put on your safety goggles.

Using the staple gun, while I held the fabric tight, Dancer put in a line of staples in the middle of each side.

For the corners we folded the corner straight in, then one side over and the other.  Before putting in any staples here we would turn it over to make sure it was creaseless on the sides.  Load up the back with staples every few centimeters.  Dancer put in about 120 staples which Dad figured was about 48 cents worth.  When it comes time to redo the stool again we reconsider if that many staples were necessary or not.

Staple the backing back on.  This was a little fuzzy on the side that was the outside before.  We refolded it and the now front, former backside, looked brand new meaning the cost was zero.

Screw it back onto the stool and

Voila!!!  Recovered for $2.25.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy 15th Birthday Dancer

Our sweet Dancer is 15 years old.  Part of me can't really remember our life with her not in it and another parts says "15 already?" 

Her birthday celebration turned in to a three day affair.  On Thursday we went into town and bought her birthday cake and ice cream while running other errands.  None of us had had lunch before leaving home so we stopped and had supper at Five Guys.  The conversation turned super silly and we laughed and laughed and laughed while the few other the patrons looked at us wondering what could possibly be so funny.  I bet they wished they were sitting at our table. 

Her  cake was chocolate cake with fudge frosting.  She wanted to eat it that night even though her birthday was still two days away.  We lit it on fire and dug into it figuring it wasn't going to get any fresher sitting on the counter.  It was the riches cake we may have ever eaten.  Even the kids said they couldn't finish their's because it was too rich, how often does that happen.  Thankfully we got vanilla ice cream to go with it, it toned down the richness. 

Friday we had her open her main birthday gift, a Kindle Fire.  I took pictures of her excitedly opening it and there was no card in the camera.  That happens to us so often. The reason we had her open it early was so that we could go into town to get it registered and then download a few things on it.  If we hadn't she would have opened it on her birthday and it wouldn't have done anything, not exactly a fun gift.  We met Grandma Pat at Pizza Ranch, Dancer's birthday eating place of choice.  After eating we headed to McDonald's to use their WiFi and topped off our meal with pop and chocolate shakes.  Again no pictures to capture the moments because Spark brought his little camera with, with no card in it.  We will learn to check that before taking pictures at some point but we seem to be slow to catch on.  We also swung by Kohl's and got her tennis shoes.  The shoes weren't really a birthday gift, she was wearning a pair that should have been replaced months ago.  Plus I had a 30% off coupon which is the only time we buy new shoes so she would have gotten them birthday or not.

Finally we are up to her actual birthday and she opened her minor gifts (she needed something to open on the actual birthday).

Spark gave her a Justin Bieber poster and we gave her a warrenty card for her Kindle, gum and her all time favorite, a bottle of Dr. Pepper.

She spent the rest of the day playing Angry Birds and telling her brother no she wasn't done playing yet.  We had church in the evening and Dancer was on nursery duty so that was another reason we ate out to celebrate the night before.  We made a quick trip by the grocery store to pick up a movie (Rio) from the Red Box and a few snacks.  We got home and Dad, Spark and I did the chores (you don't have to do chores on your birthday at our house), we watched the movie and called the birthday complete.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Scent Of A Woman

Dancer and I were meandering around Macy's this afternoon while waiting for Dad and Spark to do a little birthday shopping at a different store at the mall.  We got by the perfume section and Dancer was all excited to check out the Justin Bieber perfume "Someday."  She sprayed a couple of hearts with the perfume, tried some of the hand lotion which has glitter in it, and got a little sample vial.

We get back in the car and Dancer said that she could still smell the lotion on her hands.  Spark pipes in with, "I think if you want to attract men you should smell more like Fleet Farm."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Do You Really Pay At The Store?

Our tuna for lunch made for a spontaneous consumer education project.

After draining two cans of tuna we poured the water back into one of the cans.  We found out that the tuna can contained about half of it's volume in water.  We saw that the water didn't come all the way to the top but then the can isn't completely full as it does make a sloshing before opening it indicating open can space.  Assuming that amount two times would be about the amount we are missing after pour two cans of water into one, we decided it was close enough to say that a can of tuna is half water added the fact that getting all the water out of the tuna isn't possible with our draining method.

Our tuna was the in the 5 ounce can so there would be 2.5 ounces of tuna in each can.  That alone made us wonder by itself how that could be two servings.  For this we figured that it would take 6.4 can of tuna to make one pound of just the tuna.  We can buy tuna for about 63 cents a can.  That would make tuna cost about $2.02 a pound.  That doesn't sound too expensive, actually quite inexpensive for a protein considering other options. 

However, on my counter I also have tuna water that cost $2.02 per pound as well.  Not that it goes to waste, the cats love it although normally I wouldn't spend that much to give them a little treat.  Actually, I would never spend that much to give them a treat but that is neither here nor there for our purposes. 

Would I spend that much for other fluids?  For example, a gallon is about 8 pounds, would I buy milk if it was $16.13 a gallon?  Umm, that is a capital N-O.  How about $8.08 for a 2 liter bottle of soda?  Again no.  The only thing that maybe comes close, and we do buy, is cream (which does come to about $1.94 per pound depending on where we are shopping) but, I don't feed it to the cat and it is actually a food and not just dirty colored water that if I didn't have a cat would dump down the drain.

On the other hand the tuna juice is a bargain compared to contact lens lubricating and re-wetting drops that come in at a whopping $446.72 per gallon!  And you thought gas was expensive.

Homemade Granola Bars

These are going to be great for those morning when we don't have any milk in the house for cereal, which seems to be about every other day.  I swear, someone must break in to our house at night and drink all the milk.

Granola Bars

2 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup nuts - I threw in a handful of almonds
1 cup Rice Krispies - used Cocoa Krispies because regular Rice Krispies have color added
1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries (any dried fruit would work) - these are a favorite here so went pretty heavy on them
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt - just realized now as I am typing this that we skipped the salt so probably will next time too since they taste so good without it.

Mix together well all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, they aren't going to mix at all once the honey/peanut butter mixture is on them.

Heat the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla in a sauce pan over medium heat until the mixture is quite runny, the runnier the better, but not boiling.

Pour the peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and toss and toss and toss until it is all coated.  This is where having a big bowl and the mixture runny comes in handy.  Press into a 8X8 pan greased pan.  Chill until firm.  Keep the kids away from them because they aren't going to want to wait until they are hard and they will be digging in the pan.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Goat Treat Launcher

This is how to be a lazy goat herder and still give your goats treats from the comfort of your deck.

Only two things necessary - a Wrist Rocket sling shot and a bowl of peanuts or other treats such as Valentine Sweethearts which our goats love, love, love.  Good thing it is almost Valentine's Day again as we are almost out from last year.

Grab onto a treat

Pull back

And let it fly!

The goats have really good hearing, they listen for them to drop and then run around to find them.  We have been doing this for a couple days now and when we come out on the deck they all line up right away now to get ready for the treats to start falling like manna from heaven.