Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Munchies: Chocolate Chip Cookies

My family is full of chocolate chip cookie snobs. Truthfully, my mother does make the world's best chocolate chip cookies. She swears she follows the Tollhouse recipe but we all know that she has a secret ingredient because our cookies using that recipe never quite taste like mom's.

This week I made chocolate chip cookies using a knock off brand of chips that had a recipe on the package. Being too lazy to look for another recipe, I used a bit of the recipe on the package and winged the rest. Those cookies were the best I have ever made. I'm not sure they were as good as mom's but they were really, really close.

Almost Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c shortening
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix butter, shortening and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, mix well. Combine flour and baking soda. Gradually add flour/baking soda mixture to sugar mixture. Continue mixing until flour mixture is well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Scoop onto cookie sheet and bake in 375 oven for 12-14 minutes or until light brown. Allow to cool slightly on the pan then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekly Recap: April 23-27, 2012

The first part of our week was spent taking care of my sister for a few more days.  We managed to incorporate a trip to Colonial Williamsburg on Tuesday.  On Wednesday we spent the day driving home.  Our audio book was Huckleberry Finn. 

Thursday and Friday we took the day off.  Our crazy schedule and enforced proximity for the last weekand a half required that we spend some time playing in our rooms, with all our toys, when we got home.  We also rented Chipwrecked from the Redbox for our ride home and our van's selective dvd player refused to play it so we HAD to watch that on Thursday and again on Friday.  Somethings are too important to skip.

Thursday night another of my sisters (there are four) came to visit and help make K15's prom a dream come true.  Our activities on Friday included a tour of the farm, hair cuts and colors and manicures/pedicures for the prom princess and H12. 

I think it's pretty safe to say that the favorite thing about school this week is that we didn't really have it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Easter

Easter Sunday 2012

Field Trip: A Day at Colonial Williamsburg

M7:  Today we went to Colonial Williamsburg.  What I liked the best was the plays.  I liked the fencing.  I liked the colonial people were dressed.  I would like to wear a dress like they did if I were in colonial times.

S10:  Williamsburg is an awesome place. At the garden restaurant, you can eat a huge turkey leg and there are lots of vines for shade.  The governor's garden is like Alice in Wonderland.  I like the way the people were dressed because they were dressed as if they lived in colonial times.  My favorite thing was running in the fields with my new toy gun.

H14:  Colonial Williamsburg was a lot of fun and had a lot of information and fun things to do.  The Governor's Palace was beautiful.  The gardens were something I'd really like to have one day.  The play was fun to watch. I really liked the drums and fifes at the end.  All the tours were very informative.  On the tour about the Declaration of Independence I learned that there was a lot that annoyed the colonists before the Boston Tea Party.  They were also mad about the Stamp Act, taxation without representation, as well as a list of other things. My favorite thing of all was the governor's gardens.

Me:  I was so impressed and pleased with our experience today.  Colonial Williamsburg does a wonderful job of creating an experience or perhaps I should say re-creating a history.  My children were enthralled from the moment we walked into the Gatehouse and met our guide for the children's orientation tour.  The moment he pulled out a box containing cloth patches, steel and flint, he became a hero.  Watching him create a fire on the lawn in front of the Governor's Palace was almost like seeing a magic show.  After learning how to show courtesy to those we might meet, we made our way into the heart of Colonial Williamsburg.

As a parent, my children have taught me how to slow down and enjoy the moment.  They've taught me that enjoying each and every moment is more important than seeing each and every thing.  It's a lesson that I learn and re-learn.  Today, I was able to take a deep breath and live in the moment.

After our orientation tour, my children were interested in renting costumes for the rest of our day at Williamsburg.  We caught the shuttle bus back to the visitor's center to investigate the possibility of costumes.  We discovered that the costumes were $25 a day and didn't include any kind of hat.  Everyone decided they would rather have something to keep than a costume for one day.  S10 selected a Kentuckian rifle.  M7 selected a lovely white bonnet.  H13 decided that she'd rather take the money and spend it at a bookstore. With our new bonnet and rifle, we made our way back to Colonial Williamsburg.

Our walk back to Williamsburg led us past a colonial era plantation.  We learned that each person on a plantation took care of two to three acres.  For our family, that would mean we'd be able to manage twelve to eighteen acres if we all worked on the farm full-time.  During colonial times, there was no such thing as a part-time farmer.

A few moments later, walking through the governor's garden, we learned that the governor's horses had a much nicer house than the average plantation slave or colonist.  H13 fell immediately in love with the governor's garden.  She looked at the manicured lawns and vine shaded walkways and found a dozen perfect places to read.  M7 found delight in the governor's kitchen.  I'll be looking for a recipe for spinach pudding when we get home.

Our time at the Governor's Palace was cut short by the starting time of a.tour of the art museum focused on the Declaration of Independence.  We saw five different copies of the Declaration of Independence, learned about the history of the document and saw some objects related to the document that proclaimed independence to the world.  After our tour, we had the opportunity to create bookmarks highlighting Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence.

After we completed our bookmarks we went in search of lunch.  We found a perfect lunch place at Chowning's Tavern in Garden Fare.   Turkey legs as big as S10's arm and delicious root beer all around.  It was a welcome break in a beautiful setting.

Following lunch we made our way to Revolutionary City where we became part of a city in revolt.  This experience was a favorite for all of us.  Seeing history come alive on the streets where history was made is a goose bump worthy moment.  During our time in the Revolutionary City, we also took time to tour the Capitol. This was my favorite tour of the day.  Our interpreter took us back in time, giving us insight to the feelings and ideas of the average citizen in time of change. The fencing lessons, drum and fife corp and costumes were highlights for all of us.

Our Capitol tour ended just in time for us to exchange our activities page for pins and proceed to the Raleigh Bakery for ginger bread and apple cider.  We took our snacks out to the street to claim front row seats for the parade of the drum and fife corps and militia as they marched off to war.

One day in Colonial Williamsburg wasn't nearly long enough to see everything that there was to see.  We are all looking forward to our next opportunity to visit.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Munchies: Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

This recipe began with a basic banana loaf recipe found in my favorite Southern Living Cookbook.  My children will tell you that it's good enough to be served in a bakery.

1 3/4 c of flour
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 c sugar
1 1/4 t cream of tartar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c to 1 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix first four dry ingredients. Make a well in dried ingredients.
In a small bowl mix remaining ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into well of dried ingredients.  Fold gently until all ingredients are moist.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into muffin cups.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes a dozen muffins.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weekly Recap: April 16-20, 2012

This week has been a little crazier than usual.  My sister had surgery this week. (She's doing great!  Thanks for asking.) We've added primary care provider to our homeschool curriculum this week.

We traveled to Norfolk on Saturday, April 14.  On the way we listened to Jack Plank Tells Tales and Chasing Vermeer.  We enjoyed church at First Presbyterian in Norfolk and the sunshine of Virginia Beach on Sunday.  Bright and early on Monday morning, I accompanied my sister to the hospital and waited until she was through surgery.  While she was resting the children and I took advantage of the amazing colonial history of the area and spent several hours at Jamestown Settlement.  We all agreed that the outdoor exhibits were our priority.  We learned about braiding baskets, scraping hides, outdoor cooking, blacksmithing and sailing the Atlantic. We also enjoyed an interesting and informative film on the settlement of Jamestown.  We took our time with the outdoor exhibits and didn't get to the extensive indoor galleries.  After a quick visit to the gift shop I stopped at customer service and asked if it was possible to get an "add on" ticket so that we could come back the following day.  The wonderful customer service person was thrilled that we wanted to come back and finish seeing what they had to offer and printed complimentary tickets for us to return the next day.  Three cheers for Jamestown Settlement!

Tuesday my sister came home from the hospital.  While she was resting in the afternoon we zipped back to Jamestown Settlement to view the Galleries that we had skipped on Monday.  We learned about the slaves of the Virginia colonies, early settlers and the Native Americans.  We spent about five hours of time, over two days, enjoying the Jamestown experience.

Wednesday and Thursday was more of a normal school situation.  We tried to catch up with the things we'd neglected this week.  On Friday, we did our school work then spent the afternoon at the beach.

Now for the highs and lows:

H13 - High:  Beach
Low: Latin

S10 - High:  Beach.  I liked Jamestown a lot so it's my second high.
Low:  School

M7 - High:  Paddle ball on the beach.
Low:  I don't have one.  I've been doing really good on school so I don't have a low.

Me - High:  Being available for my sister.
Low:  The clogged toilet at 11:30pm on Thursday.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Weekly Recap: April 2-April 6, 2012

This week is a bit different because K15 has her spring break on Thursday and Friday this week and Monday and Tuesday next week.  Rob also decided that since he'll be in Brazil next week, he'd stay home to get some projects done on Thursday and Friday.  Having two special guests at our school threw our normal routine into chaos.  Good chaos.

Amazingly enough, we managed to fit in most of our school work in three full days and two light days. We are right on track for Bible (Lesson 27), Latin (Lesson 24/22), math, and grammar.  We'll play catch-up next week for history.  We are so far ahead of our required hours that I'm not concerned about a couple of light days filled with family learning.

High - Algebra.  I can't believe I like math.
Low - Logic

High - I'm almost done with Latin.
Low - I'm not done with Latin.

High - Spending extra time with Dad.
Low - No low this week.

High - Being able to relax the school expectations and know that we'll still be done on time.
Low - Learning that Rob will be leaving on Sunday morning instead of Monday morning. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lent: A Lesson In Sacrifice

This Lenten season has been full of lessons of flexibility and acceptance for me.  I look back to February and it's hard to believe all that is not as I expected it to be.  My goal for this season was to increase my discipline and sacrifice selfishness.  Little did I realize how that resolve was going to be tested.

Some of the day to day things that I'd intended have happened in a disciplined way.  I have been faithful to a daily Bible study.  I think that faithfulness has shown itself in a less angry, more joyful and peaceful me.  I begin my mornings in a more positive way and I think that's been a blessing to all of those around me.

I haven't been faithful about regular exercise or writing.  Those are both goals worth achieving and I hope to find a place for all the things that I know will make my life better.

I have been more creative in the last 40 days than I've been in a long time.  I love my sewing machine and have really enjoyed creating things for others.  I've discovered the joy of a job well done that actually stays done.  So few of my daily tasks fall into that category.

The best thing I've done for myself over this Lent is to be disciplined with my eating.  I've re-learned how to eat when I'm hungry and stop eating when I'm not hungry anymore.  I've also discovered that alcohol, even one drink with a meal, is just a lot of empty calories.

Forty days ago, I was planning an amazing vacation for our family.  I was so excited about the trip.  My parents were going to  join us.  We were going to see so many of the places that we've been studying in history this year.  The trip was to take two weeks and we were going to travel from St. Augustine, Florida to Boston, Massachusetts.  A few days into the trip planning, my mother-in-law asked that we come to visit them and help celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this summer.  Because of finances, vacation time and timing, we cut the trip by a week and moved it from mid-June to the end of April. 

Since the time was shorter, the number of sights we could fit in had to be shortened.  Philadelphia, New York, and Boston then home by way of Niagara Falls became the new plan.  Until K15 was invited to prom which, of course, fell on the first Saturday of our trip.  No problem!  I speedy quick worked out a new route, dropped Niagara Falls and we were on the road again.  Leaving on Sunday morning rather than Saturday but we could go to Niagara Falls another time.

Co-op started it's fourth session in mid-March.  My children were so excited to participate in the plays that were being prepared.  Co-op lasts six weeks.  I'd assumed that the plays would be presented during the last week of that six week period.  I was wrong.  The performances were scheduled the week after the final co-op session, on Tuesday and Thursday.  My last hope for an amazing family vacation disappeared.  There is no way to see Philadelphia, New York and Boston in three days. 

Am I disappointed?  Yes!  I am mourning the lost vacation.  The joyful thing is that I know the time we spend getting ready for prom, visiting with my parents here, and sharing prom and the play performances with them will be cherished experiences, too. 

Another blessing of my cancelled vacation is the opportunity I have to minister to my sister as she has surgery.  The children and I will be spending a week with her.  If we'd had a major trip to take the week after her surgery, I might not have felt so free to volunteer my time for her. 

I believe that this Easter I approach the celebration of Christ's resurrection with more joy and less irritation, more of Christ and less of me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Sewing Projects for March 2012

Two sets of potholders in two different sizes just for me

A bedside organizer for H13

A nursing cover for my sister