Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Munchies: Raspberry and White Chocolate Fudge Brownies

I've been trying some new recipes that I really love.  I've also been struggling to make my blog more regular and easier to manage.  Enter Monday Munchies.  Each Monday I'm going to share a recipe that I've made and enjoyed.  Chances are these won't be totally original recipes nor will the pictures be mine but I'll link you up to my source so you can check it out for yourself.  I will be adding my version of each recipe because I can't follow directions when it comes to cooking no matter how hard I try.  I hope you find something here that inspires you to munch.

For the first Monday Munchies I'm sharing a recipe for Raspberry and White Chocolate Fudge Brownies.  I found this recipe while searching for a way to use some raspberries frozen from our garden.  My children aren't particularly fond of raspberries and I didn't want to waste them but really didn't have any go-to recipes for raspberries. 

The first recipe that caught my eye was for Raspberry White Chocolate Scones.  The pictures are amazing and they look delicious but the recipe called for grating frozen butter.  I'm a lazy, impulsive cook and this seemed like something I'd never get coordinated.  Honestly, the only reason I can make things that call for softened butter is because I can do that in the microwave.  So my search continued.  The other challenge is that this is the end of the month and I overspent my grocery budget so whatever I make must come from the ingredients on hand.

This is the recipe I'm sharing and it's a keeper.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Fudge Brownies

½ c white chocolate chips
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar
¼ c unsalted butter
1 t vanilla
2/3 c white chocolate chips
1 c raspberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 8 inch pan. Heat 1/2 c white chocolate chips in microwave 30 seconds, stir and heat at 30 second increments until melted and smooth.
With mixer cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Add melted white chocolate. Stir in flour until just blended. Fold in white chocolate chips. Gently fold in raspberries. Spread evenly in baking pan. Bake 40-45 minutes.

Now, this really is a fool proof recipe because H12 made it for us and she added the melted white chocolate chips to the butter, eggs and vanilla before she added sugar.  The recipe also called for softened butter but H12 went straight for melted butter and that worked fine.  After I watched her scraping white chocolate and egg gunk off the inside of the mixer bowl I did an eye roll and a huffy breath and she kicked me out of the kitchen. Like I said, this is a 12 year old master cook proof recipe.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Weekly Recap: January 23-27, 2012

Another busy week.  On track in all subjects.  Even got a few chemistry lessons in this week.
Co-op was gym and swim.  M7 started reading Beatrix Potter.  S9 found a new hero in Lafayette.  H12 made a cheesecake from scratch.

Here are our highs and lows:

High - My favorite thing about school is that math is awesome.  I love math.  It is really easy.  I like counting by 2s and 5s.
Low - I don't have a low this week.

High - Learning about Lafayette.  I liked that he was French and became one of the most important men in America.
Low - Latin.  Just the same old battle of Latin.

I just had a medium week, not really high or low.
High - I enjoyed math this week.  It was easy.  That's different for me.
Low - Outlines for history.  I don't like outlines.

High - Finding joy with each of my children in moments of learning and sharing.
Low - Forgetting those moments of joy when things aren't going quite so smoothly.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Margaret, amateur biographer, is hired to write the biography of one of the greatest and most illusive novelists of all time, Vida Winter.  As Margaret begins her task she asks to be reassured that the story she is being told is the truth.  The remainder of the book is Vida's truth and Margaret's effort to untangle it and find her own.

This story is a well-written mash up of Flowers in the Attic and Rebecca or perhaps Jane Eyre.  If you are a fan of Gothic romances this book is one that you will probably enjoy.  In the spirit of the Gothic romances of the past you'll find a heroine with her own mystery, intrigue and even a bit of danger.  Setterfield uses all the expected twists and turns, mistaken identity, ghosts, the moors, a special garden and an imposing house to weave her tale.  This is not normally a genre that I read but I found the characters and plot enough to hold my attention and pull me through to the end even if only to confirm my own guesses for the ending.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Weekly Recap: January 16-20, 2012

Our week has flown by.  Monday was a holiday for K15 so that made a light day for the rest of us.  We spent much of the afternoon watching Liberty Kids.  It's nice when something like that can be a treat and help us learn a little more about the founding of our country.  We've done enough reading that most of the stories and characters where easy to recognize. 

Tuesday we had an afternoon of bowling with co-op.  It's been nice to get out of the house and do something fun on these cold days.  On the way there we began listening to Mr. Revere and I.  So far we are enjoying it much more than Ben and Me.

Wednesday and Thursday were normal days.  We got everything done that needed to be done.  Yeah us!  Friday was a two hour delay for K15.  Dad decided to work from home.  We've gotten the necessary things done but chemistry will be waiting until next week.

Here are the highs and lows:

High - I love multiplication and division.  It's very easy.  It's exciting that I'm learning that.
Low -  Reading takes up too much time.
I loved having dad home today. We made cookies together and ran errands.

High - The United States has finally gotten away from England.
Low - Latin makes me learn grammar and I've already gone through three books for that.
My birthday is coming up real quick. I'm really excited!

High - I had a very good week.  I did a good job and I worked hard.
Low - Math.  I just hate math.

High - Getting almost all the things done that I had planned for the week and feeling satisfied on Friday. 
Low - Not getting chemistry done.
I am pleased that I intentionally let something go rather than trying to stuff something else into a busy schedule and causing stress for all. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: Ladies' Night at Finbar's Hotel

Through seven short stories, we learn some of what goes on during the re-opening night of Finbar's Hotel.  The stories overlap every now and then but also stand on their own.  The cast of characters is varied and the stories are entertaining.  The hotel itself serves as a back drop but the action could just as easily take place at the local Mariott in any city USA.  If you are looking for some quick stories to entertain, this certainly fills the bill.  If you are looking for definitive Irish literature you'd probably better look elsewhere.

Book Review: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill combines narrative and literary analysis with a comprehensive knowledge of history and historical figures to weave a tale of devotion and heroism.  Cahill does a convincing job of tracing the survival of civilization's literary history to the Irish monks.  Not only does Cahill discuss the social and political situation throughout Europe during the Fall of Rome he also shows the growth and development of Ireland at a time when the rest of the world was in decline. 

I love it when I read a book that makes me feel smarter.  This is one of those books.  Over the past two years I've learned a lot about ancient and medieval civilization.  Teaching those time periods has forced me to read more and find interests in time periods that, to be honest, I thought were kind of boring.  As a result, I discovered that I really like history and that the story of people is as interesting in the past as it is in the present.  Reading this book added another perspective and gave me a clearer understanding of the transition between the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Fun with the New Webcam

Why Do I Need a Washer?

My clothes washer stopped working.  It's not the perfect time for something that I count on to let me down.  I really count on my washer.  With a family of six, it's something that is constantly on call and having it has become something that I take for granted. 

I bought my washer and dryer for more than 10 years ago.  In that time washers and dryers have been transformed.  I've watched the transformation but I haven't even been the slightest bit tempted to purchase a new washer or dryer.  Even when we moved into our new house, I wasn't tempted.  Even though our laundry room was designed with the new models in mind and configured in a way that causes our old models to not fit in the space provided.  My washer and dryer are just fine.  I feel the same way about my 2002 over 200,000 mile mini-van.

Unfortunately, my washer is no longer working.  The repair guy said it will cost almost as much to fix it as it will to buy a new similar model.  The thing is, if I get a new washer, I'll want something that's been tranformed and if I get something transformed I'll want a dryer to go with it.

As a result of the inoperable washer, we took our laundry to the laundromat today.  Notice that I said "we".  It was amazing.  Six washers, six dryers, four children, two parents.  Six laundry baskets.  All the laundry washed, dried, folded and put away in just two hours.  It was family time.  Everyone pitched in.  I didn't spend hours doing laundry by myself.  I didn't feel isolated or irritated.  I've never had so much help with laundry.  Why do I need a washing machine again?


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sew Successful!

A beautiful new skirt for M7 made with love by Mommie.
  If you look too carefully you might see some flaws in construction and technique.  My best advice is to step back and take in the picture as a whole.  There is almost nothing as delightful as a little girl wearing her favorite color, spinning in circles to make her skirt float out.  It's especially satisfying to know that the skirt is only a skirt because you took the time and energy to make it.  I am sew pleased with my efforts and with the results.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Learning Something New

I decided a few months ago that I really wanted to learn to sew.  Rather than buying a sewing machine a couple of months before Christmas and burying myself with unrealistic expectations I chose to wait until after Christmas to get my machine.  My beautiful new Janome came in the  mail ten days ago.

My first challenge was reading the directions and learning how to use it.  Without too much trouble I learned how to assemble the few pieces that needed assembly.  I learned how to fill a bobbin and then how to thread the machine.  After some trial and error I got the machine to sew a seam.  I even figured out what reverse stitching was.  Not bad for someone that had never owned a sewing machine.

Last Friday I made a reversible hobo bag just the right size for my computer using the tutorial on Simply Modern Mom.  I love the bag and I especially love that I made it myself.  After my success with the bag I decided that I wanted to try something with a pattern.  Here's another place that I learned something new.  I am not a shopper, that's not new.  What is new is that I didn't equate selecting a pattern and material with shopping.  That was such a mistake.  For a non-shopper like me, shopping for something that's not yet made is way worse than normal shopping.

After two hours in the fabric store trying to decide first on a pattern then on material, I emerged victorious.  I brought home two patterns, a skirt for me and one for M7.  I also bought purple fabric to make the skirt for M7.  I couldn't decide on fabric for my skirt and decided to call it a day.  After all, I can't make two skirts at the same time.  Pacing myself is a good idea, don't you think?  Now that I understand that buying patterns and material is shopping I'll be looking into ways to do that online.

Today, I got out the material, pattern and machine and began my project.  I now have much more sympathy for my husband and his home improvement frustrations.  So often he's lamented that the people that write the instructions leave out important information because they assume a base of knowledge.  Sewing is the same.  Since I didn't know how to thread a machine until a week and a half ago,  my base of knowledge is extremely small.  Thankfully, the internet is available.  I was able to find all the information I needed to get the project started.  The only thing that still has me confused is how to change my stitch lengths.  I read something about foot dogs but I haven't been able to figure out how to change them.  I'm sure new questions will come up tomorrow but I'm pleased with my results so far.

Another thing I didn't realize about sewing is how much ironing is involved.  I've done more ironing in the last two weeks than I've done in the last two years.  Tomorrow I will continue my project, practicing some of the skills I've learned in the last few days, practicing patience and self-control and learning new things as I go. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekly Recap: January 9-13, 2012

 This week we plowed our way through.  Believe me, some days it was an uphill battle.  M7 and S9 seemed distracted.  I'm afraid H12 is back to her habits of procrastination and avoidance that we were dealing with before Christmas. 

High - Roller skating with co-op.  I loved the disco balls and fancy lights hanging from the ceiling.
Low - none
Additional comment - I hate it when my big sisters won't let me in their room.

High - I was able to go roller skating. I learned that in-line skates are way better than the old kind.
Low - Latin
Additional comment - I like spending so much time with my family.  That's really my high this week but mom said it had to be about school.

High - I got to work on my story about the orange plantation in writing.
Low - I had a really good week but I didn't work as hard as I wanted to.
Additional comment - I like that it snowed but I hate that it's cold.

High - I finished my biography (Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson) and made it to my book club meeting.
Low - I experienced a lot of frustration over delayed obedience this week.  I'm praying the weekend allows me to rest and feel refreshed on Monday.
Additional comment - I am so thankful for a husband who acknowledges and supports all my efforts and comforts me without judgement.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Guest Writer: My Tackle!

This week S9 wrote about a personal experience.  He was charged with putting his ideas in order and being descriptive.  I think he did an amazing job so here is his essay.

My Tackle!

Vienna vs. Warren, what a day!

The sweat dripped from my face.  My foe was staring me up and down.  I didn't feel right.  The stench of sweat filled the air.  I heard heavy breathing.  My blocker was twice my size.  That's when I heard the ball snap.  I felt relief as a I ran.  I heard the whoosh of air as it passed me then I saw a switch!

I jumped in front of the receiver, started running and bam!  I grabbed his legs and tripped him.  He fell straight on top of me.  He rolled off and then I heard the announcement, "Tackle made by number three, S9!"

Picking Things Up and Putting Them Down

There is a commercial that I've seen several times for a gym.  One of the muscle bound guys keeps repeating, "I pick things up and put them down."  It's a silly commercial but we find it funny.

This week in math H12 consented to resume her work in Algebra.  Before Christmas we'd called a break because the injustice of working math problems with no "purpose" was killing her.  She just couldn't stop arguing about the usefulness of algebra.  She also was unwilling to consider that while finding the point slope formula might not help her now, there was a reason she needed learn how to do it.

When we resumed math this week, the point slope formula came easily.  She could even see how learning to plot points several weeks ago helped in the new skill.  As we were working through the problems we began comparing building these skills with exercise.  Of course it didn't take too long before H12 remembered the gym commercial.  "So I guess every time I do a problem like this"  H12 continued in her best tough guy voice, "I'm picking things up and putting them down" to get ready for later math."

This entire week we've been "picking things up and putting them down" during math and having fun doing it.

Weekly Recap: January 2-6

This week we are listing what we loved about Christmas break.  Then we are sharing our highlights and lowlights from this week.

M7 - Daddy being home so much.  Playing Barbies more than usual.
High - Math is getting harder.  I'm excited about Ivy and Bean
Low - None

S9 -  Tony Hawk game for the Wii.
High - Acing all my tests today.
Low - None

H12 - No school and being with family.
High - Fun in math.
Low - Having to do math at all.

Me - Reading books for fun.  Cooking for fun.
High - Getting my sewing machine and making my first project.
Low - Getting back into a routine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's for Dinner?

There has been discussion several places I've been recently, both in real life and on the web, about fixing dinner for the family.  Since I've got a plan for this I thought I'd share it with anyone that's interested.  Sometimes I even stick to it myself.

The thing I like about this plan is that it's easy to take out the meals I make and substitute your own or to rearrange the days.  Years ago, I wrote down all the meals I could think of easily that my family likes.  That was my first meal plan.  I think there were 25-30 meals on the list and I just rotated through them, adding in a new meal whenever I had time or energy.  That worked fine too.  This day of the week rotation just gives me a little more structure and makes it easier for me to focus.

I try to buy fruit in season so that would change according to what is fresh and local.  The same is true of the vegetables.  Right now we are eating lots of chicken because we just filled our freezer with our own chickens.  In a few months we'll probably be eating a lot more beef.   As far as ease of preparation, sometimes I make everything from scratch other times I buy what is convenient.  It depends on the pace of life at a given time.

Menu Plan

Monday - sandwich/casserole
Tuesday - soup/crockpot
Wednesday - ethnic food
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - seafood/steak
Saturday - pizza
Sunday - dinner/out

pork roast, rolls, roasted potatoes, salad
ham, sweet potatoes, salad, rolls
baked chicken, stuffing, green beans, rolls
lasagna, salad, bread
stuffed shells, salad, bread
beef butt chicken, broccoli, rolls

pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, baked beans, chips
sloppy joes, buns, pasta salad, veggies & dip
hamburgers, buns, fries, veggies and dip
hot dogs/brats, buns, broccoli salad
mac & cheese, smoked sauasage, steamed broccoli with cheese
chicken broccoli casserole, rice, salad
meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn
skillet chicken casserole, salad, bread
chicken pot pie, baked apples

taco soup, cheese, sour cream, chips & salsa
perfectly potatoes and ham, green beans, rolls
pasta fagioli, salad, bread
white chicken chili, salad, cornbread
Merlot beef stew, salad, rolls
slow cooked teriyaki chicken, green beans, rice
cheesy slow cooker chicken, rice, salad
vegetable soup, cheese, crackers

spaghetti & meatballs, salad, bread, applesauce
nachos, sliced apples/pears/oranges
beef & broccoli stir fry, rice, eggrolls, pineapple
chicken & broccoli alfredo, salad, bread, applesauce
chicken enchiladas, refried beans, chips, salsa, sliced apples
chicken and veggie stir fry, eggrolls, rice, pineapple
tacos, refried beans, chips, salsa, fruit


steak, salad, potato, bread
shrimp & grits, green beans, salad, rolls
Asian shrimp & pasta, salad, bread
baked fish, veggies, rice
shrimp boil, salad, cornbread
shrimp scampi, salad, bread
salmon teriyaki, green beans, rice

pizza, veggies & dip

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz was on the list from my book club.  I'm trying to catch up on the books they've read that I haven't.  I usually really like their picks although every now and then I run into a dud.  I won't put Oscar into the dud category but it won't make my list of favorites.

The book was well written and the stories had potential to engage.  Unfortunately, I just didn't feel it. In it's favor, this is one of those books that stretched me.  I had to pay attention and use my memory to link things I'd read (LOTR) to this novel.  I learned quite a bit about the history of the Dominican Republic.  I appreciate a fiction book that makes me feel smart for having read it.  The setting and context were flawless. 

The characters were what I found lacking.  Though the stories were compelling, I couldn't connect to anyone.  The women especially were shells with no flesh.  They didn't invoke feeling or connection.  I'm not sure if it was because of the chronology in which the story was told or the voice of the narrator.   Maybe it was a combination of the two that left me feeling disconnected. 

The other difficulty I had was the fact that I'm not fluent in Spanish.  In most instances there were enough context clues that I got the gist of what was said but I certainly didn't get the nuances, if there were any.  Also, Oscar was a sci-fi and fantasy nut.  There were an extensive number of references to that genre that I only hope I understood. 

While I'm not sorry I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz I won't put it on my list of books to recommend.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reading List for 2011

Bootlegger's Daughter by Margaret Maron
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
Elephant Run by Roland Smith
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Erasure by Percival L. Everett
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
One of Ours by Willa Cather
My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin
The Call by Yannick Murphy
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History by Ben Mezrich
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Passion by Lauren Kate
Tourment by Lauren Kate
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Hallelujah! The Welcome Table by Maya Angelou
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Penderwicks at Point Moutte by Jeanne Birdsall
The Florabama Ladies Auxiliary and Sewing Circle by Lois Battle
The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli
Fine Print by Joann Burch
A Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron
Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo
The Contrary Farmer by Gene Logsdon
Living with Chickens by Jay Rossier
Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
The Canterbury Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
Hobby Farm by Carol Ekarius
Keeping Bees and Making Honey by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
The Host by Stephanie Meyer
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor: Being the First Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, Pearl: Verse Translations by Marie Borroff
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Grey
The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
Mothers and Other Liars by Amy Bourret
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
Pack Up the Moon by Anna McPartlin
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
The Little Prince by by Katharine Woods and Antoine de Saint Exupery