Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Munchies: Pumpkin Goodness

One of the challenges of keeping two blogs is that I must decide the most appropriate place to post the things I write about.  The farm blog is for farm.  This blog is for everything else.  The tricky part is that farm and life seem to intersect much of the time. 

On The White House Farm blog I wrote about some of the things I do with the produce purchased at the local produce auction.  An obsession with dirt cheap pie pumpkins turned into a series of posts sharing recipes that will delight any pumpkin lover. 

Just in case you haven't been to my farm blog, I thought I'd link the recipes here so that you can go check it out and enjoy all the pumpkin goodness for yourself.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weekly Recap: October 22-26, 2012

As so often happens, our reading this week sparked additional interests.  M8 was reading A Confederate Girl:  The Diary of Carrie Berry.  As we read, we found directions for using sock to make a doll.  I mistakenly thought the project was going to be too much.  M8 was determined so we made a sock doll.  M8 did all of the sewing herself.  I was really pleased and impressed with her commitment to the project.  She also found the clothes for the doll and drew the face.  After discussing the options for eye, nose and hair, she settled on a Sharpie pen for the facial features and yarn for the hair.

I always find it interesting when my children approach challenges in ways that are unique and unexpected. If I had been drawing the face of a doll, I would have made an endless number of practice efforts on paper before I attempted using a Sharpie on cloth. In fact, I probably would have done the marking in pencil first and then gone over it with Sharpie.

My dauntless 8 year old grabbed the Sharpie pen and in several deft moves revealed the perfect face for her doll. There was no hesitation. As far as I know, this was her first effort at drawing a face on anything other than paper. It was almost as if she were uncovering a face that was already there but I was too blind to see. The doll is beautiful and my daughter is, understandably, a very proud mother.

High:  Grammar - I enjoyed marking the dialogues.
Low:  Math - Graphing was difficult.

High:  Reading - I liked Call of the Wild.  (I just need to add that I gave him the book on Thursday and he finished it by Friday morning.  Of course, I got White Fang from the library today.)
Low:  Latin

High:  Latin
Low:  Grammar - It takes too long.

High:   Reading.  We are enjoying Anne of Green Gables so much.  S10 absolutely ripped through Call of the Wild.  H13 finished Gone With the Wind and admitted that she loved it and was glad she read it. Sometimes it is so tempting to indulge our passion for reading and let everything else go. 
Low:  Physics and history.  While we did do some history this week we are still stalled on physics.  I think that I will need to devote a week in November to catching up in physics.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Field Trip: Blue and Gray Days

We've been studying the Civil War and I had high hopes for field trips to enrich our study.  Unfortunately, we haven't been able to manage any trips.  Much to my delight, I discovered a local Civil War re-enactment that was just an hour away.  We were able to join in the activities of Blue and Gray Days for the day on Friday, October 18.
We got to meet General Robert E. Lee.

A visit in the military camp.
Playing graces and other Civil War era games.

Making beans and johnny cakes for dinner.
We got to experience the firing of a Civil War era cannon.
This was the perfect addition to our Civil War study.  I cherish our opportunity to learn in a hands and minds on manner. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The "Perfect" Star Wars Room

Over a year ago, I posted about my experiences as a stripper (of wallpaper).  I realized a few days ago, thanks to a discussion on a message board, that I'd never posted pictures of the finished effort.  Life moves fast and the moment to celebrate creating the perfect (for S10) Star Wars room slipped past. 

So, by way of celebration, I'm taking time to revisit and share this room. S10 loves it as much today as he did when he first saw it and I think it has potential for transitioning with him as he grows.
The Star Wars Clone Wars figures are all wall clings I found on Amazon so they will peel off. 

  I fear the closet doors will have to be repainted but that was a pretty easy project so it won't be a huge loss.
The paint while perfect for Star Wars can be adapted to other colors or themes.
 Overall, I am really proud of the room.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Munchies: The Search for a Replacement Muffin

For the last few months I've been looking for a replacement for Cinnamon Muffin Melts.  When I decided to give up my business there were two things I knew I'd miss; the discount on food we'd grown to love and the other consultants I'd come to know.  I am hoping that the relationships that count will remain.  When I found a recipe for beer bread that was just as good as the one I'd been making I knew there was hope.  The other baked good staple around our house is the Cinnamon Muffin Melt. I'll be referring to them as CMM. 

Thanks to Pinterest and Google I've found a large selection of recipes that may or may not be like our beloved CMM.  An acceptable replacement needed to be light and airy, cinnamon sugar delicious with a hint of nutmeg or something to add just the right flavor.

I've tried several recipes.  Some have been total misses.  I won't share those with you.  Some, like this one, are tasty but not exactly what I was trying to find.  Finally, a friend posted French Breakfast Muffins on Pinterest.  I made them this morning and they totally fit the bill.  I made a few changes because I am unable to follow a recipe so here is my new recipe for Better than Cinnamon Muffin Melts.

1 c. sugar
3 c. all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2/3 c. butter, melted

2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. milk

1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

/1/2 c. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.

In a small bowl whisk together wet ingredients.
Tip: If your butter is warm and your milk is refrigerator cold put the milk in the microwave and heat it for a few second to bring it to room temperature before adding.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir gently just until combined, but still a bit lumpy.

Scoop batter into mini muffin tins that have sprayed with cooking spray.  You should get about 48 mini-muffins.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they just start to turn a bit golden at the edges.
Another tip:  You can also make regular size muffins.  Just increase your baking time to 20-25 minutes.

For the topping, mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place melted butter in another small bowl. Dip the warm muffins in melted butter then dip the muffin in cinnamon sugar. You'll find a lovely, warm, anticipatory rhythm to this process.  Dip, dip, plate.  Dip, dip, plate.  Until all 48 are setting in a lovely arrangement ready to be savored.   This morning I had a beautiful plateful of muffins ready for breakfast.  Since the recipe from the link above was smaller it made just one pan of mini-muffins.  This was perfect for us today because it was a weekday and only four of us were home.  I knew that if this were the CMM replacement we'd clean the plate.  It's good to think ahead sometimes.    It was especially good to think ahead this time because by the time I grabbed my camera, this was what was left of our Better than CMM.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weekly Recap: October 8-12, 2012

I have a confession to make.  I have totally flaked on history and science for the last two weeks.  I used the excuse that H13 and S10 haven't finished their assigned reading from the last history chapter.  I justified it by telling myself that butchering chickens and canning fruit and vegetables counts as science.

Really I just felt things were busy enough and I didn't want to add to my stress.  Instead, I felt guilty because I feared we were falling farther and farther behind.  In reality I know it won't be a problem to finish what needs to be finished this year but I feel a little relieved now that I've confessed.

Another thing that took a lot of our time this week was our book on cd.  We finished The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  Here they are eating pancakes while they listen.

I admit I wasn't sure about the wisdom of listening to this book.  I knew it was a classic but I knew it was a classic in the spirit of Old Yeller, Sounder, and Charlotte's Web.  No good can come of raising a pet deer on a farm.  Thankfully my children were able to predict the inevitable result and weren't caught by surprise.  Would we recommend this book to others?  Absolutely.  It got a thumbs up from all of us with the caution that it's not for really young children.  S10 suggests that younger children listen to some other stories with tragic elements before trying this one.

High: Grammar - I did really well on my test.  It was easy.
Low:  Latin - It was hard.
My favorite thing this week was having dinner with Sharon.  I'm glad I got to see her.

High: History - I've enjoyed reading about the Civil War.  The book I am reading tells about what boys really think of the Civil War and life.  It tells about three boys on the Rebel side and two boys on the Union side.  The book is called The Boys' War by Jim Murphy.
Low: Latin - It is getting even more complicated.

High: Grammar - I am enjoying this week.  I feel like I did a good job.
Low:  Logic - It's long and I don't like it.
I have a new story idea that I'm excited about to use for NaNoWriMo.

High: Finishing The Yearling.  I'm so relieved that the kids really liked the book.  I was worried that I'd never be allowed to pick another book ever again.
Low:  Still feeling unable to get everything I'd like to do done.  I doubt this feeling with ever go away.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Our 360 Experience

Sometimes when my husband makes suggestions or brings home ideas from work I cringe.  He's a six sigma certified black belt.  That means that he's an expert in getting rid of variance in a process.  He is trained to break a job down to it's simplest parts and eliminate anything that adds cost or time.  He's also trained to manage the people that do the jobs so that they happily buy into the new cost and time efficient processes that result.  His training is wonderful but I've discovered that employees have more motivation for change than do family members.  I've also discovered that I don't really like to change.

After a difficult time managing a farm job yesterday afternoon we all sat down to a family dinner and he proposed that we have a family meeting when the meal was over.  As the meal progressed everyone was in good spirits.  We talked and laughed and really enjoyed each others company.  When it was time for the family meeting Rob told us that we each should share something we recognize about ourselves that could use improvement and then share something that we see in each family member that could use improvement.  The goal as I understood it was to recognize that we all fall short of perfection and that there are some very real steps we could take to improve our family.

I will admit that I was sceptical.  Sharing faults is not my strong suit.  I'm a glass half full kind of girl and this seemed like a glass totally empty kind of activity.  I was wrong.  As we moved from person to person I was blessed to see that the comments were thoughtful and caring.  We were able to share some things with each other in a safe environment that really needed to be shared. 

We laughed together and truly listened to what others  had to say.  Most of the time we all agreed.  When we didn't agree we found it possible to let go without being defensive.  Our only difficult moment came when M8 cried while I held her.  Hearing about the things others don't like about you is hard for anyone but especially for a sensitive 8 year old.  Learning that some of your behaviors aren't charming is a tough lesson but it's a timely one.

Now I won't kid you that I found the process easy or especially pleasant.  It's hard to know that my children aren't blessed by me every minute of every day.  I'd love to be perfect for them.  It is good to know that I have the ability to bless them more often than I do.  It'll be difficult to break the huffy breath, eye roll habit that I have but I'm willing to try.  I'm also going to try to ask for help before I'm at the end of my rope.  And, I'm going to try to make my expectations clear and manageable. 

I think that we were all a little more mindful of our potential for improvement today.  I pray that as we move forward our circle remains unbroken and that we continue to find strength and support in each other.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Weekly Recap: October 1-5, 2012

This week was a good one.  We got a lot done.  Everyone is progressing nicely.

We are still facing challenges with fitting everything into the time we have.  I'm not unhappy with what we are doing but there is never enough time to fit it all in to the time permitted.  I'd love to add physics and art to our schedule next week.  We'll see how that goes. 

H13 is still having difficulty managing her time well but we are working on that.  I expect that by Christmas she will have a firm grip on her time and all subjects.

We are loving our book on c.d. - The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  The kids are enjoying the story so much but I'm afraid before it's over they aren't going to be very happy with me.

K16 had a big week.  Homecoming is this weekend so she's been preparing for the dance.  She has the dress, the spray tan and, today, after years of waiting, she got her braces off.

It's so good to see that straight, white smile.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beware of the Capsaicin

Today I decided to tackle the job of processing the jalapenos from our garden.  I picked out a recipe for easy jalapeno jelly and, even though I didn't have enough sugar to do the canning, I decided to go ahead and stem, seed and vein the jalapenos.  I read through the recipe tips, got my gloves and began to carefully cut the jalapenos.
About halfway through the jalapeno mountain my hands started to tingle.  I switched to a new pair of gloves.  My hands began to burn.  I finished 2/3 of the jalapeno pile and cried uncle.   
My hands were on fire so I washed them with soap.  The burning continued.  I did a quick check on the internet to see if there were tips to help ease my pain.  There were several suggestions:

Vegetable oil provided relief for a few minutes and then it didn't.

Unfortunately, the advice given didn't include drinking the alcohol.  Rather, I was to pour it over my fiery hands.    While this was more successful than the oil, I couldn't see soaking my hands in alcohol every few minutes to keep the burn away.  Since alcohol was suggested and I didn't have rubbing alcohol, I tried to think of something that was high in alcohol but not liquor.  This fit the bill. 
And, it worked.  I reapplied several times and waited several hours before the burn went away completely but, hands down, the hand sanitizer was the best solution.

From my jalapeno experience I have determined that if I can't even cut them without pain there is no good reason for me to ever grow or eat these precarious peppers again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Scene from the Front Porch

My autumn front porch arrangement.  Too bad I can't get the cat to stay put all the time.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A New Direction

This morning I woke up and part of my life for the last 10+ years was gone.  It was a good feeling but also a strange feeling.  Last January I made the decision to resign my leadership position with a direct sales company that I loved.  Over the last 10 years my life has changed.  I've added a child, moved twice, made major lifestyle changes, and, as a result, adjusted my priorities.  While I loved building and training my team, my life was no longer such that I felt able to be a motivated and effective leader.  Giving up my team and leadership position was a big step.  While I knew I didn't want to be active in business. I also knew that giving everything up at once was more than I was ready to tackle.

Now, nine months later, I woke up and my business was gone.  The loss, long in coming, was freeing. Financially, we haven't missed the income from my former business.  When we moved to our new home, we made changes in our diet and lifestyle.  After Rob's surgery this summer, we made even more changes especially in our eating choices.  Moving even further toward whole food choices made my previous company something that holds little appeal.  Last night when I realized that I need to place an order or deactivate, I wasn't even tempted.  It's no longer a good fit.

I've already started to find activities that will use the time and talents that I developed in my business.  I am now a volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.  My job is to build a community relations team in an area where no community relations program exists.  I'm really excited about the possibilities and I'm excited to be using my talents.  I'm also excited at how this new adventure will involve my family. 

For so long my business has been about helping others by teaching them to build a business.  I set goals that moved me forward.  I helped others to get to my ultimate goal.  By sharing my gifts, everyone could benefit.  Now my focus is on Kingdom goals, sharing Christ with the world.  OCC focuses on high impact principles, in here, and out there goals.  This organization is about prayer and spiritual development.  It's about on earth as it is in heaven.

God's plan never ceases to amaze me.  As I read through the training materials I realized that I'd spent the last 10 years building skills that I would need for this new challenge.  As the team coordinator for community relations in a new area I get to build a new team and open up community partnerships in this area.  I can do this.  I know how to make presentations.  I have training in conference presentations and community event booths.  I have experience recruiting, training, motivating and leading a team.  I am ready for this.  God has made me ready for this.  I can't wait to see where this new direction takes me.