Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ending 2011 in a Good Place

As this year draws to a close, it's easy to see how far we've come.  This time last year we were homeless and a bit unsure about what the future had in store for us.  We had complete confidence that whatever came, it was going to be good.  Now it's easy to see the good.  Some of it was a little bit harder to trudge through.

We are now a farm family.  Several times we had friends and family visit us for the first time and express surprise at the fact that we are living on a real farm.  It's not just a house with a shed in back or a house with a big yard.  It is a farm.  We have chickens and a cow.  We are farmers.  I'm not sure I consider us real farmers yet.  We live in a community with real farmers.  We know what they look like.  We know how hard they work.  We aren't there yet but we hope to be, someday.

On the whole the farm has been more than we dreamed. We are a stronger family, physically and emotionally. We have learned about life and death, planting and harvesting, sowing and reaping.  I know more about chickens than I ever thought possible.   The kids have spent countless hours outside exploring the property.  We've learned that eating our own eggs and chickens taste better not just because we know where they came from but because we are the ones that put in the time and effort to get them on the table.  We have definitely become more responsible for ourselves and for others.   We are more connected with the world, right through the land all around us.


As we continue to grow and thrive, I pray that our first priority continues to be to glorify God.  I am so thankful that we are ending 2011 in such a good place.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Worth the Trip: Cambridge, OH

Since my in-laws visit in early November I have been trying to get to the Dickens Victorian Village in Cambridge, OH.  Yesterday, we finally made it there and I think it's safe to say that the experience was just another great part of our Christmas celebration.  I think it's also a unanimous decision that we'll include a trip to Cambridge in our Christmas traditions.


I'd originally thought that the Dickens Victorian Village was a live experience but on further investigation I realized that the display was made up of statues situated down Wheeling Avenue in Cambridge.  On some weekends before and after Christmas there were a variety of special activities scheduled.  Because of the weather we decided to visit Cambridge on a sunny day rather than waiting for the weekend.  We may have missed the Peddler Village but the beautiful weather made the sacrifice worthwhile.


We parked our car at one end of Wheeling Avenue and walked to see all 80 of the displays.  We were also able to spend some time in the shops in Cambridge.  A highlight of the trip was Ye Ole Curiosity Shoppe and Dickens Welcome Center.   Ye Ole Curiosity Shoppe had a variety of gift items for sale as well as an extensive variety of period clothing available for dress-up.  We all had a great time dressing in the period clothes and having our pictures taken. 

After we'd seen all the Dickens scenes we enjoyed dinner at a nearby restaurant then returned to downtown Cambridge to enjoy the light show at the Guernsey County Courthouse.  This event was nothing short of magical.  We got our hot cocoa and enjoyed the first part of the show on a park bench.  After the night became too chilly we moved to the car and watched the rest of the show from our van.  No one was anxious to go home.


On the way to Cambridge I'd given my family a speech which can be summarized as a "sometimes you just have to suck it up and do things with people that you might not necessarily be excited about because you love the people" speech.  It may be that the speech was still fresh in their minds and they were just humoring me but I prefer to believe that everyone enjoyed Cambridge as much as I did.  I've already added it to our activities for next Christmas.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thanks Be to God for His Indescribable Gift!

This verse is found in 2 Cor 9:15.  It was the verse that our minister used for his meditation this morning.  It was a message that spoke to my heart.  H12 even complimented our minister and let him know how much she enjoyed the message.

We received many gifts today.  The gift of a good night's sleep. The gift of a warm, safe house. The gift of a leisurely morning.  The gift of hot coffee.  The gift of a hot shower.  The gift of cheerful, helpful, cooperative children.  The gift of time together.  The gift of a church to attend.  The gift of people with whom to fellowship.  The gift of good food. The gift of people we love and people who love us.  And then there were the gifts...Wii games, gift cards, clothes, stuffed animals, sports equipment, games, kitchen equipment, jewelry.

Our blessings are many but more than any of this my heart rejoices...

Thanks be to God for His Indescribable Gift!

Friday, December 23, 2011

End of an Era

The key to change... is to let go of fear.     -Rosanne Cash

Yesterday I quit my job.  It was a hard decision and one that I struggled with and put off finalizing for about two years.  Now the deed is done and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

For the last nine years I worked as an independent consultant for a direct sales company specializing in easy to prepare gourmet food.  I built a team of 50+ consultants with about $250,000 in annual sales.  I enjoyed the products, the work, the interaction and the challenge...until I didn't. 

The fit just wasn't right anymore.  It took me a really long time to admit that.  I wanted to make things work.  I wanted to be able to just float along, let the paychecks come in without doing more than the minimum requirement of the job.  Admittedly, I liked getting a paycheck each month for doing five hours or less of work.  I wanted to continue to enjoy the social interactions that conferences and training provided even if I didn't really intend to do anything about the training I received.   I wanted things to stay the same.

Unfortunately, I was raised to feel very uncomfortable when my values and my actions are out of line.  My job was causing havoc between my values and actions.  As I learned in my counseling classes in college, change usually is caused by pain.  The discomfort of my actions finally exceeded my tolerance and I made a change. 

There was a lot of fear involved in delaying my decision.  I feared what people would think of my choice.  I feared what conclusions people would come to about me and about the company.  I feared a loss of personal worth.  I feared a loss of influence. I feared disappointing others.  I feared regret.  So many fears kept me frozen in place, even though I knew it was no longer my place. 

Today, I feel a sense of relief and a freedom from fear.  I know that I made a good choice for myself.  I know that it's time to end this era and move onto I'm not sure what.  I really have no idea what comes next but I know that it's going to be good.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice 2011

In 1999, we started the tradition of holding a holiday party on the Winter Solstice.  It's a tradition we continued through four moves.  The people changed each year.  New friends and neighbors mix with long-time friends as we celebrate the longest night of the year. 

Early on some people question our intentions in celebrating such a night.  The concern was that we were celebrating something other than the Creator of the signs and seasons of this world.  No one wonders that anymore, they just come and have a great time.

Last night was no exception.  With our return to the mid-Ohio valley, new friends and old friends mingled like never before. We saw people that we haven't seen in years and introduced them to people that we've gotten to know over the last 11 months.  It was a fun night.

Normally, I don't mess with remembering my menu from year to year.  I love to try new things so I don't want to be tied up with "traditional" food.  This year, because of my own procrastination, I didn't get the cupcakes that I planned to order and had to go to plan B.  My plan B was making my own mini-cupcakes.  At Thanksgiving, my cousin Allison brought a beautiful plate of mini-cupcakes.  She'd used our grandmother's favorite cake recipe to make them and they were as delicious as they were beautiful.  Her success inspired me.

One of the flavors offered from the bakery which I planned to order was mocha peppermint.  A quick internet search turned up a delicious recipe for mocha peppermint cupcakes.  While the frosting didn't inspire me I knew my standard buttercream frosting could be made minty by substituting peppermint extract for the vanilla.  I decided to copy Allison and make cupcakes with my favorite chocolate cake recipe.  I rounded out the cupcake offerings by making a spice cupcake and topping it with cream cheese frosting.

The cupcakes were a big hit and made an impression on everyone.  They were also easy and fun to make.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekly Recap December 12-16, 2011

We've done it!  We really worked hard this week so that we could take the next too weeks off and now we are on vacation.  I  think we are all pleased and proud of what we've accomplished so far in our school year.

M7 finished The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  She loved the last lesson.  It totally delighted her to read such a lengthy and beloved word. 

S9 completed his 4th grade math book and well be moving on to Life of Fred when we start school next year.

H12 completed the second session of Analytical Grammar.  She nailed the last test and is extremely proud of her ability to deconstruct a sentence.  She's also relieved that grammar is over for the year except for reviews.

K15 has several more days of school left.  She'll be finishing her community service next week.  We are all hoping that it's a lesson learned and one that won't need to be repeated.

We are going to spend next week reading.  S9 and M7 are interested in learning about the origin of our Christmas traditions so we are going to read about some of those.  We are also going to read The Gift of the Magi and A Christmas Carol. 

I've also go a stack of books coming just for me.  For my book club our January selection is to read a biography.  This isn't something I'd willingly do so I'm hoping the one I've picked about Benjamin Franklin is a good one.  

In addition to my "required" reading I'm going to read as many of these as  I possibly can:  
Patron Saint of Liars

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
How the Irish Saved Civilization
The Thirteenth Tale
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Bootlegger’s Daughter

Merry Christmas!

'Tis the Season

Remember my post yesterday about the chaos of Christmas and about how I try to let the things I don't enjoy go.  Well, right now I'm spending time, lots of time, creating a Christmas card.  The thing is that I love Christmas cards.  I love thinking about them.  I love taking the pictures that we'll use for them.  This year I've got some amazing pictures!  I love writing the Christmas letter and getting each envelope stuffed and addressed.  I love picking out the stamps and putting them in the mail.  Most of all I love receiving Christmas cards. 

The thing I don't love is figuring out how to get the card made.  There are so many places to do photo cards.  Each one has its own templates and pricing. I've uploaded my pictures to at least three sites and still don't have a card that I'm excited about sending.  I especially don't love this process when it's almost midnight and my husband has been sleeping in the chair for more than two hours.  Also, the chair is adding to my lack of enthusiasm because it's providing a grating harmony to the chorus of snores.  Each time he inhales or exhales there's a weird squeak coming from the chair. 

I've been trying humming different Christmas carols to see if I can find one that fits the rhythm that I've been given.  So far, no success with that.  'Tis the season to be jolly! Fa la la la la la la la laaaaaa!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Chaos

Christmas chaos is a situation I fight hard not to experience. The key for me is to do the things I love and let the rest go.  I love to bake and entertain.  I love Christmas music and I love the opportunity to worship.  I try to spend as much time doing those things as I possibly can.

When I must do something that I don't love, I try to find a way to be thankful and joyful in the situation.  I don't love to shop but  I love those for whom I buy gifts.  I try find the joy in each line, shopping cart and choice because it is an act of loving sacrifice.  Prayer is required sometimes.  I do try to shop early and to know exactly what I want and where to get it.  I don't spend time window shopping or wandering and looking.  I also try to buy from small, local businesses.  They tend to have good service and I feel that my purchase is providing a direct benefit. 

For the most part, I love the holiday season.  Mine begins the week before Thanksgiving when we hold our annual shoebox packing party for Operation Christmas Child.  We continued with a Thanksgiving celebration that included family, family and more family.  Twenty people were at our table.  Sixteen of those stayed through the weekend.  It was a time for which I will be forever thankful.

Thanksgiving has been followed by tree trimming, Christmas music, cookie baking, Christmas pageant rehearsal, Christmas parties, a search for Mary's costume, cookie baking, church dinner, A Christmas Story, cookie decorating.  We have so many more holiday adventure ahead of us.  Another company Christmas party, our own Winter Solstice party, Christmas Adam, Christmas Eve, Christmas.  Most of the Christmas shopping is done.  I put in the last orders online today.  I've only got a few last things to pick up and then I can start wrapping. 

Some things are different this year but so many of our traditions and habits have stayed the same.  It's good to know that Christmas can happen anywhere and that chaos is not absolutely required.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Weekly Recap 11/28-12/2/11

This week flew by.  We had my parents here until Wednesday so we were only doing the basics while we enjoyed the last of our company.  The entire day Wednesday was take up with a trip to and from the airport.  Oh for the days when the airport was 20 minutes away.  Thursday and Friday we kicked it into high gear and got as much of our week done as we possibly could.

The plan is to work hard the next two weeks and then take two weeks off.  Everyone seems to like the plan and, at least at this time, is working to make it happen.  H12 is going to have the most work to get done in the next two weeks.  In fact, she's spending time this weekend working on outlines for history.  I suspect that being able to work in her room without the rush of our daily activities appeals to her.

K15 started volunteering at a local nursing home.  She has 48 hours of court ordered community service to complete before December 26.  In my opinion, that means the community service needs to be completed by December 22.  In a community the size of ours, finding 48 hours worth of work is a challenge.  She is helping clean and organize at our church.  She is working for our local township recording the names, dates and locations of graves in the township cemeteries.  We are hoping that the nursing home will allow her to round out the hours required.  She seems to enjoy the nursing home.  She has a favorite resident and talks about the people she's met there.  One man patted her butt.  She was surprised and found it funny that old men still think about pretty girls.  Between the cemeteries and the nursing home, we haven't seem much of her this week.

S9 began writing his first report this week.  He spent time the first day taking notes from sources concerning the Iroquois.  Using those note he wrote a rough draft.  Next week we'll work on correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation and making a final copy of his report.  He seems to be doing well on the project.  At one point, he said he didn't know what to write next.  He quickly remembered his page of notes and had no problem continuing with his report.

M7 continues to move through her work without difficulty.  She's within 30 lessons of finishing Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We began a Singapore math program and she's found the lessons to be easy and fun.  We haven't had anything new yet but it's nice to know she's got a good grasp of the concepts so far.  Latin continues to be her favorite subject.  She did a wonderful job writing the Doxology in cursive and illustrating it.

Thanksgiving Recap

The meal was wonderful and the weekend flew by way too quickly.  If I wait to do a longer summary it may never get done so here are some things that I want to be sure I remember to help with planning the next holiday gathering.

My best moves for Thanksgiving:
Having meals planned for the entire weekend
Renting tables and chairs for Thanksgiving dinner
Making as much as possible ahead of time
Putting my sister in charge of the table decorations

Things to improve for next year:
Find a new gravy recipe
Figure out what is wrong with automatic meat thermometer
Get Mom and Dad to stay longer

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu 2011

Here is what I'm fixing for Thanksgiving dinner this year.  The items marked with a * have a recipe included below.

Deep Fried Turkey*
Roasted Turkey *
Gravy
Sweet potato casserole
Make Ahead Mashed potatoes*
Shoe peg corn
Sage dressing
Creamy Wild Rice Dressing
Cranberry sauce*
Rolls*
Pumpkin Roll*
Bourbon Pecan Tart
Apple dumplings

Cranberry Sauce
Servings: 24
Submitted By: Toni
"A Thanksgiving classic. Originally submitted to ThanksgivingRecipe.com."
INGREDIENTS:
1-1/2 pounds cranberries
2 cups and 3 tablespoons white sugar 2 cups and 3 tablespoons orange juice
DIRECTIONS:
You have scaled this recipe's ingredients to yield a new amount (24). The directions below still refer to the original recipe yield (11).
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and place sauce in a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools
Add a 2” cinnamon stick to orange juice in sauce pan

“Sunday Best” Dinner Rolls
Added by Terri @ that's some good cookin' on July 27, 2011 in Breads, Dinner Rolls
Servings 36
Ingredients
• 2 Tablespoons Yeast
• ½ cups Sugar Plus 1/2 Teaspoon, Divided
• 2 cups Warm Water, divided
• ½ cups Butter, Melted, Plus More To Dip The Rolls In
• 3 whole Eggs
• 7 cups To 8 Cups White Flour
• ½ cups Powdered Milk
• 2 Tablespoons Dough Enhancer
• 2 teaspoons Salt
Preparation Instructions

issolve yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in 1 cup warm water.

While the yeast is proofing, add the remaining 1 cup of warm water, melted butter, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and eggs to the mixing bowl of an electric mixer such as a Bosch or KitchenAid. When the yeast has doubled (it only takes a few minutes), add it to bowl. Mix on low speed just until the ingredients are combined.

Add 4 cups flour, powdered milk, dough enhancer, and salt. Mix on a medium speed for 7-10 minutes. Turn off mixer and let mixture rest for 10 minutes.

Add 2 more cups flour and mix on medium speed until ingredients are well incorporated. With mixer running, add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, just until the dough cleans the side of the bowl. This is an important step because it marks the difference between a roll that has just the right amount of flour and one that has too much or too little flour. Turn the mixer to a higher knead setting and let the mixer do its thing for 8-10 minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic.

Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. I leave the dough in the mixer bowl. This is where you really save time on this recipe. After the dough has rested, you can start forming the rolls.

Lightly butter a 9 ” x 13″ metal pan. Use a metal pan, not a glass baking dish. Pinch off enough dough to form a 1 1/2″ ball. You can vary the size of your rolls by how much dough you choose to make each one. Sometimes you might decide that you want bigger rolls if you are using these for sandwiches, sometimes you might be in the mood for something a little more traditional. Look at the amount of dough you are using for your roll and imagine it double its visible size. That’s how big your finished product will be—maybe even a little bigger. I make my rolls so that I can get 4 rolls across the pan and 5 rolls lengthwise.

Dip each roll into some melted butter before putting them into the pan. The butter provides two things: it allows the rolls to make a wonderful top and bottom (the corner rolls are my favorite because they have two outside browned sides, a brown bottom, and a lovely golden brown top) and the rolls separate easily from each other after they are baked.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set the rolls in a warm place to rise. It takes about an hour for the rolls to rise; sometimes only 30-45 minutes, depending on how happy the yeast is that day. You can get some good talking done while the rolls are rising.

Once the rolls have doubled in bulk, remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls at 375ºF until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. You can brush a little more butter on them, if you want to. It makes them extra pretty.

By the way, this recipe can make about 4 dozen rolls. You could make a pan of rolls and use the rest of the dough for cinnamon rolls or scones. Just a thought.

Deep-Fried TurkeyRecipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2006

Ingredients
• 6 quarts hot water
• 1 pound kosher salt
• 1 pound dark brown sugar
• 5 pounds ice
• 1 (13 to 14-pound) turkey, with giblets removed
• Approximately 4 to 4 1/2 gallons peanut oil*
• *Cook's Note: In order to determine the correct amount of oil, place the turkey into the pot that you will be frying it in, add water just until it barely covers the top of the turkey and is at least 4 to 5 inches below the top of the pot. This will be the amount of oil you use for frying the turkey.

Directions

Place the hot water, kosher salt and brown sugar into a 5-gallon upright drink cooler and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve completely. Add the ice and stir until the mixture is cool. Gently lower the turkey into the container. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure that it is fully immersed in the brine. Cover and set in a cool dry place for 8 to 16 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Place the oil into a 28 to 30-quart pot and set over high heat on an outside propane burner with a sturdy structure. Bring the temperature of the oil to 250 degrees F. Once the temperature has reached 250, slowly lower the bird into the oil and bring the temperature to 350 degrees F. Once it has reached 350, lower the heat in order to maintain 350 degrees F. After 35 minutes, check the temperature of the turkey using a probe thermometer. Once the breast reaches 151 degrees F, gently remove from the oil and allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to carving. The bird will reach an internal temperature of 161 degrees F due to carry over cooking. Carve as desired.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Prep Time: 15 Minutes Ready In: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Submitted By: Carol Evans Cook Time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes Servings: 12
"You can make these ahead several days and store in the fridge. If baking cold, let stand 30 minutes first."

INGREDIENTS:
5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese
8 ounces sour cream 1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons onion salt
ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, and mash.
In a large bowl, mix mashed potatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, milk, onion salt, and pepper. Transfer to a large casserole dish.
Cover, and bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven.

Creamy Filled Pumpkin Patch Roll
Submitted by Nikia Glapa (NC)

Ingredients
Pumpkin Patch™
1 egg
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus 2 Tbsp. for towel
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup whipped cream

Directions
Combine first 4 ingredients in large bowl; stir to blend. Spread batter on greased, rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 17 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Sift 2 tablespoons powdered sugar over clean kitchen towel; invert cake onto towel. Roll-up the towel with cake; refrigerate at least 2 hours. Combine butter and next 3 ingredients in medium bowl; blend well. Fold in whipped cream. Unroll towel with cake; spread cake with cream cheese mixture. Roll-up cake; wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours; cut into slices. Makes 6-8 servings.

BEST WAY UNBRINED TURKEY (CONVECTION)

INGREDIENTS:
1 turkey, 12 to 16 pounds
2 tablespoons melted butter
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat A convection oven to 375°. If your oven has settings for Baking or Roasting, select Roasting.

Remove the turkey from the packaging; rinse and dry well. Brush 2 tablespoons melted butter over the skin; sprinkle 4 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper over the skin and in the cavity. Tuck the wing tips under and tie the legs together. Place bird breast-up in a V-shaped roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan.

Roast for 45 minutes. Baste with 1/2 cup chicken stock.

Return turkey to oven and baste with pan drippings every 20 minutes until internal thigh temperature reaches 165°.

A 12- to 16-pound bird will cook in about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

Let turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Giving Thanks for This Time

My holiday season has officially begun.  On Friday we gathered with friends to take part in our first traditional activity of the holidays, our Operation Christmas Child box party.  Our participation in this wonderful program sets the tone of our celebrations and reinforces the value that this season is an opportunity to give more than to receive.  Today we took 33 shoe boxes full of gifts to the church for a blessing and then to the drop off site.  It's such a blessing to be able to do this each year.


Tomorrow, I will pick my parents up at the airport.  I am so excited for this Thanksgiving weekend.  Three of my four sisters, and their families will join us, along with two of my aunts and uncles and two cousins.  There should be 23 in all for dinner on Thursday.


I spent part of yesterday and today making Christmas ornaments that will be favors for our guests.  I'm pretty pleased with the ornaments. 
They are old alphabet blocks upon which I pasted a photo of our home on one side and the date and name on the other side.  I think they look really nice.

I spent a larger part of today putting together recipes, a grocery list and a schedule for Thanksgiving day.  It's good to see it all on paper.  Having a plan always helps me feel more relaxes about the challenges that I know are going to  come along.

Here's the menu.
Deep Fried Turkey
Roasted Turkey
Gravy
Sweet potato casserole
Make Ahead Mashed potatoes
Shoe peg corn
Sage dressing
Creamy Wild Rice Dressing
Cranberry sauce
Rolls
Pumpkin Roll
Bourbon Pecan Tart
Apple dumplings


Here's the plan.
Monday
Pick Mom and Dad up at the airport
Roast chickens for dinner. Use leftovers for chicken enchiladas.
Make pumpkin roll

Tuesday
Grocery shopping
Make chicken enchiladas. Freeze.

Wednesday
Make apple dumplings, bourbon pecan tart, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, make ahead potatoes
Pick up tables and chairs
Chop onions and celery
Brine one turkey

Thursday
Breakfast and Macy’s Parade
Set table
Snacks for lunch
12:00 prep dressings 2 9X13 pans
1:15 Roasted Turkey 2 hours in oven 20 minutes rest time
1:30 Dinner rolls 2 hours prep and rising ½ hour to bake
1:45 Deep Fried Turkey 30 minutes to bring to room temperature 45 minutes-1 hour fry time 30 minutes rest time before carving
2:00 Sage dressing 1 hour in oven (put back in oven when turkey comes out)
2:15 Creamy Wild Rice Dressing 45 minutes in oven (put back in oven when turkey comes out)
2:30 set out Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes and Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes
3:10 Put Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes and Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes in oven
3:15 Make Gravy
3:30 Shoe peg corn – 20 minutes
4:00 Dinner

We are going to rent tables and chairs so that everyone can sit together for dinner.  I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to buy new table clothes and napkins or if I'm going to go with mix and match that I already have.  I do know that I need to pick up another eight person place setting of silverware.  I've got all the plates and serving pieces that I need.  It feels wonderful to be able to look forward to every moment of the coming week.  I am so thankful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekly Recap: November 14-18, 2011

We are making this recap short and sweet.  It's been a good week.  We are all excited to have next week off.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

M7: High - Latin - Drawing pictures and quinque.
Low - Falling my bike.

S9: High - Operation Christmas Child - Giving kids toys.
Low - Writing three book summaries on one day.

H12: High - Writing - NaNoWriMo is going really well.  I'm writing fast and I like my book.
Low - Attitude - I complain about things when I don't want to do them.  I need to work on that.

Me:  High - Knowing that we are on track for the year and get to take ALL of next week off!
Low - Forgetting that my book club met this week. I missed one of my favorite monthly activities.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanksgiving On My Mind

I intended to prepare the second Redwall Feast with S9 this weekend then I became obsessed with Thanksgiving.  I started looking at recipes, thinking about seating and napkins, and planning sleeping arrangements.  I also spent some time on Saturday morning talking about the menu with my husband. 

During our conversation, my husband began to wax poetic over the rolls he remembered from our junior high school cafeteria.  Yes, we went to junior high together.  Yes, the rolls were worth remembering.  They were tall and buttery.  They were served warm and they pulled apart in a light and fluffy goodness that can best be compared to cotton candy.  They were exquisite.

I have always made my own bread.  I have my grandmother's tried and true bread recipe that I use for almost all my bread needs.  It makes lovely pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, loaves and rolls.  It is delicious but it is not light and fluffy and it does not pull apart like cotton candy.  So, I went on a quest to find a contender to stand up to childhood memories. 

This is the recipe I found and it is the one we will be enjoying on Thanksgiving day.  These rolls were light and fluffy and if they didn't pull apart exactly like cotton candy, they were pretty close.  The recipe calls for a heavy duty mixer.  I did all the mixing and kneading by hand and it worked fine.  I also left out the dough enhancer and the rolls were lovely.

“Sunday Best” Dinner Rolls


Added by Terri @ that's some good cookin' on July 27, 2011 in Breads, Dinner Rolls
Servings 36
Ingredients
• 2 Tablespoons Yeast
• ½ cups Sugar Plus 1/2 Teaspoon, Divided
• 2 cups Warm Water, divided
• ½ cups Butter, Melted, Plus More To Dip The Rolls In
• 3 whole Eggs
• 7 cups To 8 Cups White Flour
• ½ cups Powdered Milk
• 2 Tablespoons Dough Enhancer
• 2 teaspoons Salt

Preparation Instructions
Dissolve yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in 1 cup warm water.

While the yeast is proofing, add the remaining 1 cup of warm water, melted butter, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and eggs to the mixing bowl of an electric mixer such as a Bosch or KitchenAid. When the yeast has doubled (it only takes a few minutes), add it to bowl. Mix on low speed just until the ingredients are combined.

Add 4 cups flour, powdered milk, dough enhancer, and salt. Mix on a medium speed for 7-10 minutes. Turn off mixer and let mixture rest for 10 minutes.

Add 2 more cups flour and mix on medium speed until ingredients are well incorporated. With mixer running, add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, just until the dough cleans the side of the bowl. This is an important step because it marks the difference between a roll that has just the right amount of flour and one that has too much or too little flour. Turn the mixer to a higher knead setting and let the mixer do its thing for 8-10 minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic.

Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. I leave the dough in the mixer bowl. This is where you really save time on this recipe. After the dough has rested, you can start forming the rolls.

Lightly butter a 9 ” x 13″ metal pan. Use a metal pan, not a glass baking dish. Pinch off enough dough to form a 1 1/2″ ball. You can vary the size of your rolls by how much dough you choose to make each one. Sometimes you might decide that you want bigger rolls if you are using these for sandwiches, sometimes you might be in the mood for something a little more traditional. Look at the amount of dough you are using for your roll and imagine it double its visible size. That’s how big your finished product will be—maybe even a little bigger. I make my rolls so that I can get 4 rolls across the pan and 5 rolls lengthwise.

Dip each roll into some melted butter before putting them into the pan. The butter provides two things: it allows the rolls to make a wonderful top and bottom (the corner rolls are my favorite because they have two outside browned sides, a brown bottom, and a lovely golden brown top) and the rolls separate easily from each other after they are baked.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set the rolls in a warm place to rise. It takes about an hour for the rolls to rise; sometimes only 30-45 minutes, depending on how happy the yeast is that day. You can get some good talking done while the rolls are rising.

Once the rolls have doubled in bulk, remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls at 375ºF until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. You can brush a little more butter on them, if you want to. It makes them extra pretty.

By the way, this recipe can make about 4 dozen rolls. You could make a pan of rolls and use the rest of the dough for cinnamon rolls or scones. Just a thought.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Recap: November 6-November 11, 2011

The best thing about  this week for me was that it didn't include any evening activities.  I enjoy sports but when the season is over, I'm very happy to enjoy family time together.

H12 enjoyed writing this week.  NaNoWriMo is going well.  She's just beginning chapter 6 in her book.  Algebra and grammar were a bit more challenging to complete.  H12 tends to slide to the dramatic when she'd rather not do something.  I'm trying to help her just ask for what she wants rather than prefacing a request with nervous breakdown.  It's a process.  We took a break from algebra this week and reviewed multiplication instead.  Grammar didn't get finished today but I am assured it will be done by Monday a.m.  We'll see.

S9 found the Redwall food to be as tasty as he'd anticipated.  You can read about our Redwall feast here.   Several more meals are planned and S9 is looking forward to trying more new dishes.  S9 is almost finished with his math book as well.  I'm going to have to get my act together and decide where we go next. Skill wise, he's well past grade level.  I think maybe I'm going to try the Life of Fred books with him. 

A big surprise for me this week was that S9 started his own novel.  Up until this point, writing was at the top of the least favorite subjects list.  He came to me on Tuesday and asked for a notebook so that he had a clean place to write his novel.  The novel is definitely in the Brian Jacques style.  No surprise there.  We have lots of work to do in the areas of punctuation and spelling but the story, characters and descriptions are pretty impressive.

M6 finished her math workbook and is ready to move onto her next math book. She's flying through OPGTTR now. On a normal day she does two or three lessons before she's had enough. At the library last week she selected several chapter books and I've seen her reading them silently for a few minutes at a time. Sitting still is still a challenge for her but reading seems to be worth the effort as long as it's not required. 

In history this week we talked about the relationships between early American settlers and native Americans.  We also learned about William Penn and the founding of Pennsylvania.  We started listening to The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  All of us are really enjoying the story and it's given us lots of topics for discussion.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Establishing a Reputation

In my mind, I have a reputation.  I am dependable, trustworthy, helpful, kind, generous, resourceful and creative.  I believe that those who know me would agree.  In fact, I just asked my husband if he felt those words were descriptive of me and he agreed and added faithful and critical thinker to the list.  What I forget is that each time I move, I have to re-establish my reputation.  In fact, I forget this so completely that I expect those around me to just know that I am all these things upon first meeting me. 

Earlier this year, in September, my children and I joined a co-op in our area.  Each parent involved in the co-op is assigned a job during the co-op time.  I was given the joy of co-teaching the 2 year old classroom.  Upon accepting the assignment, I was told that there wasn't a curriculum or a particular schedule of activities.  We could decide how much or how little we wanted to plan for the children.   My partner, also a new parent to the co-op, and I are both mothers of four.  Our children range in age from 16 to 7.  We are familiar with two and three year olds.  We understand development and play.  We know that reading to children is the best thing we can do.  We played, we read, we colored, we stuck stickers, we laced, we traced, we played.  We felt pretty confident that we could handle this class of five. 

We were wrong.  The co-op let us go for six weeks, the entire first session, and at the beginning of the second session they reassigned us with more experienced teachers.  They didn't reassign us because of anything we had done, they said, but because there were parents who wanted their children to have more challenging activities and not just play.  The three and four year old classroom was doing crafts. They had themes.  The children in that program were learning and being challenged.  The children in our class were being cheated because of our lack of experience.  Of course, it wasn't anything that we had done.  Rather, it was all we hadn't done.  Now, I'm being trained by a more experienced teacher so that I know how to manage a class of two and three year olds.  Hopefully, by the end of my training, I'll be able to handle the assignment I've been given.

I keep reminding myself that no one here knows anything about me except what I've shown them.  I keep reminding myself that I haven't given anyone here any reason to believe that I can do more or better.  I keep reminding myself that being offended or hurt really has no purpose.  I keep trying not to be indignant, outraged, frustrated, angry.  I keep reminding myself that homeschool mothers are a tough crowd.  I keep reminding myself that everyone in the co-op is an expert, an overachiever, a parent striving to make sure their child has the very best that life has to offer.

Just because I believe that teaching a two year old the alphabet is as useful as teaching a dog to shake hands, doesn't mean that anyone else agrees with me.  Just because I believe that free play, listening, learning to cooperate, share, negotiate, and entertain yourself and others is the work of pre-school, doesn't mean anyone else agrees with me.  Just because I believe I am a competent, creative and capable teacher doesn't mean that anyone agrees with me, especially if I haven't shown it to be true.

I find myself wondering if it wouldn't be better just to be quiet and thought incompetent.  That would limit the jobs I'm asked to do in the future.  What purpose does it serve to prove myself once again?  Do I really care? 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Feast Fit for Redwall

During our history lessons last year my son, then 8, discovered The Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  We listened to the first novel on cd and he was captivated.  Since that time he has made a steady diet of the rest of the books in the series.  He devours everything Redwall.  In the course of his reading, we learned so much about a wide variety of animals with which I was totally unfamiliar.  Stoats, pinemartens, voles, sables, ermin, sloworms. 

We also learned about an entirely new kind of food. Pasties, ales, custards, tarts, leeks, nunnymolers. The Redwall books are full of feasts.  The descriptions that Jacques includes in every one of the books is sure to leave even the pickiest eater drooling.  Even the everyday meals are worth a few lines. 

A few days ago, I was online reserving the Redwall books that S9 hadn't read yet.  In my search, I came across The Redwall Cookbook.  S9 was beyond thrilled.  The opportunity to taste what he'd been reading about for the last six months was a dream come true.  He spent hours reading the cookbook then he pulled me into his plan.

A feast fit for Redwall was his goal.  He'd gone through the book and picked out fifteen recipes that he thought would be perfect for our Redwall feast.  While I appreciated his appetite and his vision, I couldn't get my mind around cooking fifteen dishes, many of which included things like turnips and currants.  After some discussion we decided that having several feasts and a tea or a special snack might be more manageable.  We made a menu for each meal and tea and then S9 made the grocery list while I read the recipes. 

Tonight was our first Redwall feast.  S9 helped me with all the preparations.  It was the first time he'd spent that much time helping me with a meal.  His job is usually setting and clearing the table.  Meal prep was new to him.  He loved the roll of chef.  He peeled carrots and turnips, cracked eggs, stirred custard, sauteed onions.  His culinary skills doubled in one evening.  

Our feast consisted of salad, cornbread, Shrimp'n'Hotroot Soup, Mole's Favourite Deeper'n'Ever Turnip'n'Tater'n'Beetroot Pie, Honeybaked Apples with Custard Sauce and Mossflower Mulled Cider.  I think we were all surprised by how much we enjoyed the food.  Not everyone liked every dish but everyone found something that they enjoyed.  S9 ate everything and asked for seconds of the Shrimp'n'Hotroot Soup and then asked for thirds.

Our Redwall feast was a total success.  I might even add Shrimp'n'Hotroot Soup to our regular meal rotation.  We've got plans for several moreRedwall meals.  S9 can't wait to take on the roll of chef again and I'm looking forward to enjoying the delicious tastes of Redwall.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekly Recap: October 31-November 4, 2011

This week we enjoyed trick or treating, the beginning of our second session of co-op, plenty of time in the sunshine and history lessons that were even more interesting because of my trip to England and France last spring.

M6 enjoyed her Latin more than anything else this week.  She thought the words were easy and she's enjoyed working regina, aqua and corona into conversation and play.  She continues to fly through grammar, reading and writing.  While she's still completing the first grade math that we began in April of last year, nothing there has slowed her down.  She should finish the book before Thanksgiving.  I'll have to do some research to see where we go next.

Football was the only thing that S9 could talk about when I asked him about his week.  He spent several minutes talking about his coach and the other players, his best plays and his worst plays before I told him that I'd meant to ask him about school.  History was his favorite subject.  He's been reading an abridged version of The Three Muskateers today.  History that involves kings, soldiers, adventure and battle is S9's passion.  We spent part of this evening watching The Three Muskateers on dvd.  He really enjoyed that as well. 

Another project that S9 and I have taken on is a Redwall Feast.  Since discovering Redwall last winter, S9 has worked his way through almost all the books.  I believe the last few books are in his room waiting to be read.  While we were ordering the last couple of books from the library we came across the Redwall cookbook.  S9 was thrilled.  We went through the cookbook and selected a list of recipes.  If our plan works out, we'll be fixing two meals and two teas.  S9 helped me write the menu and make the grocery list.  Our first feast will be on Sunday.  I'll let you know how we like Hotroot Soup.

NaNoWriMo kicked off on Tuesday.  H12 has been looking forward to this event and counting down days. Writing was definitely the highlight of her week.  Her novel is a futuristic adventure story.  I'm really looking forward to reading the finished product.  While she would have preferred to skip the rest of her school work this week and spend all her time on writing I have promised her the entire week of Thanksgiving off.  H12 would also tell you that her least favorite subject this week was algebra.  No surprise there.  Even though she fusses, she's doing well and seems to understand each new lesson.  The video on Monday, reinforcement Tuesday through Friday schedule has been a perfect fit for her. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween 2011

Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, a fallen angel and a devil.

Little Red Riding Hood meets the Big Bad Wolf

Even I can't resist a good costume!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekly Recap 10/24-10/28/11

We've had another wonderful week.  I found myself wondering today why this year felt so much easier than our previous homeschooling years.  It dawned on me that last year we were in the midst of showing our house and looking for a new house.  My dh started his new job on November 1 last year.  What a year it's been!

Our history is going so well.  We completed two chapters this week.  We learned about the events in China, Japan, and India during the 17th century.  All of the children really seem to be enjoying the passages from Story of the World as well as the library books that I have been checking out from our local library.  S9 spent time this week reading about Japanese artists and shipwrecked boys while H12 was reading about royalty from Sweden and India.  M7 and I read several story book versions of the Grimm fairy tales.  We even caught the others listening in a few times.  We also spent some time this week watching and listening to the fairy tales by the Grimm brothers.  We had some lively compare/contrast conversations about their favorite tales.  Everyone voted that Tangled was much more enjoyable than the original telling of Rapunzel.

If we keep making progress at this rate we will be able to take the entire week of Thanksgiving off of school.  With our extra company coming during that week, it will be good to have some days without the responsibility of school.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Keeping Perspective

Today I tried to catch up with my own Bible study of Job.  The kids are on lesson 8 and I was on lesson 5.  A little free time this morning enabled me to complete lessons 5 and 6. 

I fixed pancake sundaes for four of us for breakfast. 

Afterward, we completed Bible, grammar, math, algebra, Latin and reading.

I made sure everyone had lunch.

I did three loads of laundry.  Washed, dried and folded.

I made French bread and pasta for dinner, from scratch.  I topped the pasta with my delicious shrimp scampi. 

I helped the family as we got the house straightened for overnight guests visiting tomorrow.

Even after all that I still feel unsuccessful for the day. 

Some days success is just not possible.  It has nothing to do with the activities completed.  It is a result of my own frame of mind. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Recap: October 17-October 21, 2011

We had a great week this week!   I may feel this way because I'm writing this recap after a relaxed weekend.  It's hard to remember the bumpy parts when time has passed.  I feel like I've been counting down to this week since August.  This week was our last week of practice for soccer and football.   I know the kids have enjoyed participating in these sports.  I'm thankful they had the opportunity.  I'm also ready for some family time in the evenings.  We've been shuttling kids to and from practices and games at least five days a week.  It's good to be done.

This week was also an off week for co-op.  We have two weeks off before the next session starts.  All the kids enjoy co-op.  It's a worthwhile use of our time.  It does mean that most of our day Tuesday is not available for our normal academics.  Having five days for school this week rather than four was lovely.  We used the extra time to catch up on chemistry.  We built models of atoms using styrofoam balls.  We learned more about the periodic table.  We made sugar cookie atoms with m&ms for protons, neutrons and electrons.  We discovered that there were fewer yellow m&ms in our bag than any other color.

We are all on track according to the "master schedule".  It's a good feeling!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Drama of Algebra

Today was a typical, if rainy, day at our house.  M7 and S9 moved quickly through their work.  H12 stalled in every way possible.  She loves to read and to write.  Everything else requires monitoring, prodding and, sometimes, bullying.  Algebra was where we got hung up today.  It often is.  The drama that has been inspired by math in our home is impressive. 

Today's drama resulted in whining, crying, melting down, stomping from the room and flopping into bed.  Thankfully, today, it was H12 that put on the show.  After I took a deep breath, I went upstairs to talk with H12 about how she expected the rest of her day would go.  We were able to engage in an impromptu review of her logic lessons by identifying numerous fallacies in her many passionate and varied arguments for why math is unnecessary and why her behavior should be excused.  After several minutes with no progress, I decided to take a break and regroup. 

I completed a couple of jobs then went back to check on H12.  I found her where I'd left her, in bed staring at the ceiling.  I asked if she was planning to do this all day.  She replied, "No, now I'm just being difficult."  All I could do was laugh as I walked away.  I'm so thankful that I've got a daughter who is able to recognize her stubborn choices and own up to them. It didn't take long before H12 climbed out of bed and we finished her math lesson.



Too often, the behavior that I find most difficult in my children is a reflection of my own behavior or attitudes.  How often do I choose a course of action and stick to it even when I know there is absolutely no benefit in it?  How often to I choose stubborn over logical?  How often do I not even recognize that I've made the choice?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice...

We are now at fool me three times.  I suppose we should be full of shame.  I certainly feel foolish, used, betrayed.  My beautiful 15 year old daughter fooled me three times.  Trust is so far gone that I'm not sure how we will ever get it back.  Today I was served with a court summons.  Delinquent.  It's sobering to see that word applied to your child.  I look at her beautiful face and wonder how such a word can possibly describe her.

Earlier in the summer my daughter got caught sneaking back into a friends house after going to a party with her boyfriend and drinking.  We discovered that the sneaking around and drinking were an ongoing habit.  Lovely.  My daughter spent the remainder of the summer under my direct supervision.   Sleepovers are no longer part of her world.  Parental supervision when visiting with her friends is a requirement.

Two weeks ago, we allowed my daughter to go with her boyfriend and another couple to their school's homecoming.  It was the first time we'd allowed her to go anywhere without direct parental supervision since last June.  It was the first time we'd allowed her to ride in the car with a teenage driver.  After the couples left for the dance, we discovered (thanks to some text messages) that vodka was part of the plan.  We had no confidence that the kids would remain at the dance, despite what they'd told us or the limits that we'd placed on them.  My husband went to the dance to confront our daughter.  Unfortunately, our hopes of keeping our concerns quiet was impossible when the school officials and sheriff got involved.  All four of the kids involved were charged with underage drinking.

Today, my doorbell rang and I was greeted by a sheriff with a court summons. We had a nice chat.  He liked my tattoo.  Evidently, several families in town received a similar summons today.  Homecoming was a busy night for the sheriff's department evidently.   In twelve days we go to court.  We'll probably see several people we know there.  My daughter will be pleading guilty.  She is.  No doubt.  I have no idea what the consequences will be nor the cost.  She'll pay them all.  Hopefully it will be a lesson learned, a lasting lesson.

Maybe I've learned something in all of this too.  Perhaps, I won't be fooled again.

Weekly Recap: October 10-14, 2011

This week began with the end of a visit with Oma and Opa.  They came to visit on October 2.  We took them back to the airport on Monday evening.  Between their visit, a bought of flu/sinus infection on my part and the busyness of daily life, we took this week to play catch up.  It had been several weeks since I took time to chart our progress against my year plan.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we weren't as far behind as I'd feared.

We finished our first session of co-op.  Everyone enjoyed participating enough that we decided to register for the remaining three sessions.  H12 enjoyed co-op most of all.  That was a pleasant surprise.  H12 hasn't been enthusiastic about social opportunities prior to this so I expected to force her through co-op.  The topic, Crime Scene Investigation, and the other kids in the class were a perfect fit for her.

We have a two week break from co-op.  I'm going to enjoy having our Tuesdays to ourselves.  Next week we plan to spend our co-op day, Tuesday, catching up on our Chemistry lessons. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Recap: September 19-23, 2011

This week was a good one.  We are moving right along and have developed a pace and rhythm for this year.  Everyone is finishing lessons without much difficulty.  Moving from one lesson and one child to the next is coming more easily.  Everyone is finally old enough that juggling independent work and time with me is getting easier.  

H12 and I have been taking time before school each morning to walk the puppies together.  It's nice to have quiet time together.  Some days H12 complains her way through the walk but most days she's a joy.  It's nice to have the time to talk about what she's doing and plan our day together.

After our walk and caring for the animals, we have breakfast and begin our school day with reading aloud.  We've been working our way through The Penderwick series for our read aloud time.  H12 and I have already read the books but we loved them so much we wanted to share them with everyone.  We are halfway through the second book. 

Our morning continues with Bible time.  H12, S9 and I are studying the book of Job.  M7 is learning about the stories of the Old Testament.  While we miss our Community Bible Study we are enjoying the new lessons and I feel that the learning is worthwhile.

Bible ends our group work for the morning and we spend the remainder of the time before lunch getting our individual work done.  H12 works on her own while I shuffle between M7 and S9 to complete their lessons.

After lunch and a play/reading break we get back together for history, chemistry or art.  H12 and S9 usually finish their day with a Latin lesson. 

Here's what the kids had to say about school this week:
M7 - I'm enjoying math.  It's easy and fun. I did grammar but I don't really like it very much. 
S9 - I liked chemistry this week.  I liked that I was able to measure and think about what I wanted to do.  I liked the safely goggles and the smock.  It was fun to wear them and act like I was a real scientist.  I didn't like reading about Pocahontas because the book was so long.  I really enjoyed the story but I didn't like not being able to read a different book until it was done.
H12 - I enjoyed reading The Broken Blade.  I thought the characters and the story were interesting.  Even though I'm good at math I don't like it.

Just in case you were wondering, my house is still a disaster but it doesn't bother me as much today as it did last Friday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Enjoying the Unexpected

Tonight I attended a mom's night out with other mothers from our new homeschool co-op.  The mom's night out was supposed to take place at an area restaurant.  Because this was my first mno with this group and because I've been to other mno's where no one came but me, I called to double check the time and location of the gathering.  I also wanted to be sure that at least one other person was going to be there.  I was assured there would be others attending.

I arrived at the restaurant, went inside to inquire about the group and no one from the group was there.  I was on time, not early or late.  I wandered outside and met another woman also waiting.  Since both of us were new to the group we only recognized each other because we were both alone and uncomfortable.  Before long, a veteran of the group arrived and took us in hand.  No one else from the group was at the restaurant.  We didn't have a table.  The restaurant was crowded.  Seating for regular size groups was 20 minutes.  Seating for a large group would be even longer.  We opted to leave word for any late arrivals and move to a different restaurant nearby.

While the beginning of the evening was dicey, the time spent visiting with and getting to know some of the other mothers was worthwhile.  On the way home I found myself reflecting on how unexpected situations often turn out to be really great. So often I spend time planning and scheming and working it all out only to have my plans altered, adjusted or totally scrapped. 

So many of the wonderful things in my life were unexpected.  Careers, homes, people, situations.  It almost makes me want to stop planning. If I stopped planning it could be that I'd miss the blessings of the unexpected because everything would be unexpected.  That sounds overwhelming.  Perhaps, the unexpected favors the prepared life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekly Recap: September 12-16, 2011

We've had a busy and productive week.  I'll let the kids hit their high lights and low lights for school this week .

M7 - What I learned about and thought was really interesting was Pocahontas.  I didn't like Latin.  I like math a lot.  I also really like The Penderwicks.
S9 - My high light is that we are almost to machine guns in history.  My low light is Latin.
H12 - My high light is the book I'm writing.  I'm working really hard on it.  I hate math though I am good at it.  I'm rocking the socks off Latin.

It's a good thing that I have no expectations when I ask the kids to weigh in with their point of view.

I'd say that my high light this week was finding a rhythm.  This is our second week of co-op.  Things seem to be flowing pretty well.  We seem to be getting all our subjects done.  It's good to be feeling a sense of accomplishment this time of year.  My low light was the house.  I seem to be really struggling to get a handle on the cleaning and straightening. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Curriculum for 2011-2012

M7
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
Rod & Staff English 2
Prima Latina
Chemistry for Christian Kids
Story of the World 3
Math on the Level
Singapore Math 2A & 2B

S9
Rod & Staff English 4
Spelling Power
Writing Strands 2
Latina Christiana
Chemistry for Christian Kids
Story of the World 3
Math on the Level
Life of Fred Fractions

H12
Analytical Grammar
Spelling Power
Writing Strands 4
Latina Christiana
Chemistry for Christian Kids
Story of the World 3
Math on the Level
Algebra I from Great Courses

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back to School: The 2011 Edition

The last two days have been filled with back to school activities.  K14 went back to high school yesterday.  H12, S9 and M7 eased back into school today.  I wasn't really ready for summer to be over.

K14 was so excited to be back with her friends.  After her somewhat isolated summer she was anxious for outside activity and contact.  She left for school with a new Marvel Comics back pack and a spring in her step.  I wasn't sure I was ready to let her out of my sight.  Being the mother of a teenager is so much more difficult than being the mother of a toddle.  With toddlers you can pick them up to keep them safe.  It's so much more complicated with teenagers.

On K14's first day of school, the rest of us spent the day playing, talking, watching movies and hanging out.  We have a tradition of celebrating the first day of school by not beginning school.  Usually we only start a day or two later but we all enjoy the ability to decide when we begin.  After K14 got done with school we picked her up for an orthodontist appointment.

In our last two homes, we've had driveways that have allowed me to write welcome home and happy first day of school messages for the kids.  This home has no concrete, except in the barn.  I don't know if anyone except me missed that tradition.  No one mentioned it.

We returned from the orthodontist by way of the grocery store so that I could gather the things we needed to make our first day of school tea party.  It's another tradition that we enjoy and our change of location didn't impare our ability to throw a wonderful tea party.

During the tea party, we heard all about K14's friends, teachers, school life and plans for the year.  She was excited about her day and happy to be back in school.  Even a new dress code couldn't put a damper on her return to school. 

K14's second day of school became the first day of school for the rest of us.  We talked about waiting until Monday but decided that easing into it might be better.  We didn't complete every subject but we did do more than 50% and things seemed to come back pretty easily.  It felt like stretching muscles that we hadn't used in awhile and we were all pleased to find out that the muscles are still pretty toned.

Our day began with flash flood warnings and the rescue of 100 drowning chickens.  We were able to save the chickens and as H12 said, "That's a skill you'd never get in public school."  She's so right.

The biggest change summer brought was in M7's reading ability.  When we finished school last spring, reading was still a chore that required sounding out every letter.  Rather than pushing her through the summer we took a real break.  The only reading she did between May and yesterday was purely for her fun and enjoyment.    Today we picked up The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and continued at Lesson 115.  She flew through it.  During the summer, something clicked for her.  She began reading cereal boxes, billboards, books, magazines, anything that crossed her path really.  She read because she could not because she had to.  Sitting next to her today and listening to her read was such a blessing.

H12 surprised even herself when it came to Analytical Grammar.  She started Section 2 today.  She took one look at the pages and decided she couldn't remember any of it.  After lunch and some reading time we sat down together with the book.  In less than an hour she realized that not only did she remember what she'd learned last year but that she was quickly learning more.  Another blessing of the day.

We finished our school day with the read aloud book we started a few weeks ago, Charlotte's Web.  We'd read a few chapters here and a few chapters there but like so much during the summer our reading lacked focus and discipline.  After a morning of torrential downpours and flooding, the afternoon was glorious.  Sunshine, blue skies, temperatures in the high 70s.  Gorgeous.  We took Charlotte's Web outside and read the last five chapters in the sunshine on our own farm.  We enjoyed the outdoors and remembered our trip to the fair just last weekend as we read about Fern and Wilbur and Charlotte.  I originally selected the book with M7 in mind but S9 enjoyed it much more than his sister did.   

Our school year has begun.  I know day one isn't necessarily a valid predictor of the year to follow but a good first day sure can't hurt.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Puppy Love

Our European Vacation: Artistic Paris

The feeling of waking in Paris was delicious.  The sunlight filtered through the sheer curtains at our full length window.  The noises of the city morning drifted up from the sidewalk below as the city moved into second gear.  We began our day with a typical European breakfast, cold cuts, boiled eggs, yogurt, rolls and coffee.  After breakfast we took the metro to the Louvre to immerse ourselves in the artistic side of Paris.

The Louvre as a museum, even without the art that's housed there was impressive.  A former palace, it's structure and size were awe inspiring.  If the entire palace had stood empty it still would have been worth touring.  In fact, I think at the end of the day Rob took more pictures of the paintings on the walls and ceilings of the Louvre than he did of anything else.  I found it amazing that with all the political unrest centering around the monarchy in France that the palace was standing and still so beautifully decorated.  I suppose the citizens didn't love the royalty but took pride in the art even when they were part of an angry mob.


Once again, we used Rick Steves as our guide and made our way through the Louvre using his suggestions and information.  I noticed several people inch closer as I read the entries from Rick.  We both decided that we were glad to have the actual guide book and not the audio version as we moved through the museum.  It was nice to pick and choose what we learned and not to stand so close together all the time in the crowded areas. 

Rob was focused on finding and experiencing the Mona Lisa up close or at least as close as possible. I preferred to walk loosely and soak in as much as possible.  My favorite piece of art turned out to be Winged Victory but the pieces that I was most eager to see had to do with our study of ancients last year; Hammurabi's Codex and the winged bulls from the throne room of Sargon II.  We both found the Louvre to be amazing and overwhelming.  Rick suggests spending at least two hours there.  I think we called it enough at three hours and left without seeing 3/4 of the museum's collection.  We both felt satisfied with hitting the highlights.

Upon leaving the Louvre we felt the need to sit quietly and eat well.  Thankfully there is no shortage of lovely places to eat in Paris.  We found a cafe a few blocks from the Louvre and took a table outside.  One of my favorite things about Paris was the outdoor dining and the easy availability of table space.  If one cafe was full it was a simple thing to walk to the next for a seat. 
After enjoying lunch and a relaxing break from the world of art we made our way from the Louvre through the Tuileries Garden to the Orsay Museum.  The day was beautiful and our stroll through the garden refreshed us almost as much as our lunch.
We were immediately impressed with the openness of the Orsay Museum.  Compared to the corridors and connecting rooms of the Louvre, the Orsay seemed straight forward and manageable.  Unfortunately, even our walk hadn't cleared our heads of the Louvre and the Orsay started with the disadvantage of coming second in the day.  Had we seen the collect first we might have counted it among our favorite experiences of the trip.  The greatest hits of the impressionists and post-impressionists were represented in impressive numbers. The galleries are astounding.  Given a fresh start and a full day we might have lingered.  There is such thing as an overdose of beauty and art.  We reached our saturation point before we reached the end of the Orsay collection and as a result we may have missed some of the museum highlights.  We did stick with Rick through out so I'm sure we didn't do the museum a total injustice.  Two hours was our limit for the Orsay and we were ready to see something besides art. 

We opted for military prowess and Parisian views instead and headed for the place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe.  The view and the history lesson were just what we needed to finish our sight seeing day.  From the Arc we took the metro back to our hotel and changed clothes for our dinner cruise.  We were looking forward to a delicious meal and sightseeing without walking.

Prior to our departure for Europe we had chosen a few special events.  These were things we were willing to pay money for over and above the normal expenses of sight seeing.  Our dinner on the Bateaux Parisiens was one of these activities.  We took the Paris Illuminations dinner cruise and it was magical.  The ship was beautiful, the food was excellent and the service was outstanding.  Best of all, there was no walking.  Choosing a boat for our expensive dinner out was perfect for us.  It insured that I got three solid hours to eat and relax with my husband and it insured that he was a captive audience.  It also took the stress of ordering away.  For the most part, meals in Paris didn't concern us but going to a fancy restaurant and ordering seemed challenging.  The boat menu made it painless.  We had four choices for appetizer, main dish and dessert.  All the choices were exceptional. 

Upon arriving on the ship we were delighted to be seated at our own table toward on the starboard side of the ship.  We weren't right next to the window but with all the glass we had beautiful views all around.   We were also a few tables from the center stage area so when the live entertainment, a singer and small band, began we were close enough to enjoy but not so close to impare our ability to talk.  We enjoyed a kir with sparkling Blanc de Blancs and mini-savoury breads while we waiting for the ship to get underway.  As appetizers we shared Royale of porcini and morel mushrooms and tender leeks in a creamy sauce and chilled king prawns in a creamy crab sauce. 

Cruising down the Seine River enabled us to see the sights we'd toured over the last few days from a different perspective.  The river and the evening lent a glow and glitter to the city outside our windows.   As it was a Friday night and the weather was beautiful it seemed that much of Paris had come out to enjoy a waterside picnic or stroll.  We departed the Eiffel Tower and traveled past les Invalides, l'Assemblee Nationale, le Musee d'Orsay ,  la Conciergerie and la Cathedrale Notre Dame turning back down the river at la Bibliotheque Nationale de France.  For our main dish we shared poached sea bass in truffle sauce and fillet of roast beef in Chateaubriand sauce. 

The singer and band provided entertainment as we traveled back toward la Tour Eiffel.  For dessert we shared mature Saint Marcellin cheese with young salad leaves and fresh strawberries and strawberry sorbet in a strawberry coulis. The music was a lovely backdrop to the view and the conversation.  The night darkened and it because obvious why Paris was called the City of Lights.  A beautiful city turned into something even more magical at dusk.  We traveled past Notre Dame and la Conciergerie on the opposite side then proceded on past le Louvre, la Place de la Concorde and le Grand Palais circling la Statue de la Liberte and returning to the Eirrel Tower.   The Eiffel Tower illuminated exceeded my expectations.  It was glorious and I couldn't get enough of the view.  We strolled from the boat under the tower and down the Champs de Mars.  We arrived at our hotel full of delicious food, beautiful Paris and thankfulness for the day.








Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekly Recap: 7/24-7/29/11

This week involved home improvement and preparing for the school year.  I finished painting the walls for S9s Star Wars room.  It looks great and once the stickers are up I'll take pictures and post them.  I still have the closet doors to complete and plan to finish those this weekend. 

K14 and H12 were so inspired by the painting of their brother's room that they decided to paint their own room.  I taped the trim for them and gave them a lesson in using  a roller and some tips on painting and left them to it.  By the end of the day they had a beautifully painted room.  Frankly, I was surprised.  The mess that they made while helping paint their brother's furniture made me wary of turning them loose with paint and brushes again.  I suppose my ranting and raving after the last episode had it's effect and while there was paint on clothes and skin there was no paint on floors or furniture. 

As a family we cleaned out the upstairs closet and rearranged things, decluttered and organized the laundry room, moved seldom used items to the attic, found a pile of things to donate to the football league yard sale and hung a bunch of  pictures. We also cleaned and organized the school room and all our supplies.  The shelves are tidy and in a few weeks we'll be ready for the start of the school year.

To celebrate successful completion of the summer reading program our library sponsored a pool party at the community pool.  We all completed the program but only S9 and M6 were interested in the pool party and they both had a great time swimming last night.  We'll be writing thank you notes to the library for such a fun way to celebrate their accomplishment.

S9 started football practice this week.  I'd forgotten how that throws our family time off.  He doesn't get home until after 8:30pm.  M6 loves to go play with her friends while their brothers practice so practice ends up involving half our family which makes it impossible to eat a family dinner or spend time as a family except on the weekends.   Once school is in session he'll only be practicing two nights a week but our weekends will be totally tied up with practice and games.

I mailed M6's registration for soccer today.  She'll begin playing mid-August.  Thankfully, football and soccer are held at the same school on neighboring fields.  At least the practices and home games are.  The away games will have us traveling far and wide.  M6 will have her games on Saturday and S9 will have his on Sunday.

Finally, I ordered our materials for the last two subjects for the coming year.  I'd been debating over the best route to take for H12's math and Bible for all of us.  After much discussion, H12 decided that she'd like to try algebra and that a teaching DVD might be a good way to go.  I purchased a 36 week Algebra class from The Great Courses.  We both liked that each class was 30 minutes.  We envision watching the class on Monday then spending the remainder of the week reinforcing the learning before moving on to the next lesson.  It's wonderful that my math hating child feels confident enough in her ability and understanding to want to tackle algebra this year.  Frankly, I figured she'd take it in 9th grade when she started high school. 

Bible was another tough choice.  We are all missing our Community Bible Study program.  The only similar thing here is Bible Study Fellowship but it is a day class and BSF doesn't offer a day program for school age children so that wasn't a good fit.  Community Bible Study doesn't offer their materials for sale outside their class setting.  I've been looking for something similar.  I value the Bible study and the way we were all learning the same thing at the same time.  The kids liked the straight forward nature of the materials.  I'm hoping that the Explorer's Bible Study programs will satisfy all of us.  We'll be studying God's Wisdom this year.  I thought Job, Psalms and Proverbs was a great place for us to go after our last two studies.

I got our homeschool letter and test scores sent into the school system last week so now it's just a matter of getting the acknowledgement back and waiting for the first day to arrive.  I'm happy to hold onto these last days of summer and hope they crawl by.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

M6's Lost Tooth

Today I have a guest author.  This story was written by M6 describing the loss of her first tooth.

I was in the hallway and I started to wiggle my tooth.  Then I began to whine about how my tooth was so loose that it hurt.  H12 told me to sit down.  She twisted my tooth so it cracked.  It hurt so bad and I yelled.

It was so loose that I could just wiggle it, wiggle it, wiggle it.  I went downstairs to get a glass full of water.  H12 came downstairs and put some salt in it.  H12 pulled my tooth so it was only hanging by one root. She pulled again and it was out.

There was blood all over my face so we went over to the sink to wash my face.  We went upstairs to show Kady.  Kady asked, "Are you going to sleep in here or what?"

I said, "Yes!"  I crawled into my bed on the floor and I went to sleep.

The End.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

True Confessions of a Reluctant Stripper

It started as a project to give my nine year old son a Star Wars room. I've spent the last few weeks studying the Star Wars web site and searching the internet for ideas and bedding choices.  I thought that the most complicated part of the room was going to be making it look like the inside of a space ship.  Unfortunately, the only room in the house that had wallpaper in it was my son's.  Having dealt with wallpaper in several other homes, I knew the danger of painting over it.  As tempting as the idea was, I couldn't stand the idea of creating more work at a later date by painting it.  So, the stripping began.
S9 is at 4H camp this week.  I thought I'd have plenty of time to strip, paint and create the perfect Star Wars room.  Today was day three of the project and I still have several hours of stripping to go.  After the stripping is done, I'll need to wash the walls, repair the damaged parts of the dry wall and then, maybe on Friday, I can start painting.  Obviously, the room won't be done before S9 is home from camp.  I'm hoping it won't be too disappointed.

The conclusion I've come to is that wallpaper should be illegal.  I've only tried to put it up once.  Several years ago, my husband and I put up a wallpaper mural in my son's room.  It was a jungle scene and it really made the room.  After we complete the project, we were able to agree that the results were worth the effort. While we were gluing and hanging, we were certain that wallpaper had been invented by divorce lawyers.

After three days of stripping, I'm inclined to believe that wallpaper was created in the 5th circle of hell.  Now that I've been forced to reevaluate my time line, I'm confident that the room will be done by next Friday.  I am also confident that no matter how reluctant I am to strip, I will be glad that I've done this project well rather than getting it done quickly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - The Louvre


Waiting to meet the lady.

The lady herself.

Hammurabi's code

Colossi from Sargon's palace.