Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Weekend at Grandma's

Again no pictures.  I forgot my camera.  Nature Girl didn't take pictures and Little Mama took pictures but dropped her camera, on accident, in the water at the beach.  So, a written commentary is all I have.  Bummer.

Anyway, we left Thursday after daddy got off of work.  We had decided that the drive down on a Friday morning and then turning around Sunday morning to come home was just not enough time to really enjoy being at Grandma's.

So, we got to her house Thursday night around 11PM.  After driving through the most horrendous storm I can ever remember driving through.  Daddy had been up since about 4AM so about 9 PM he had me drive.  And right as we hit the causeway about 1/2 hour from my mom's the bottom fell out.  The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was coming down side ways.  Branches were flying in front of the windshield and I was driving with my hazards on.

We called my mom and when she called us back with the weather update there was an advisory to stay off the bridges.  Well, that was too late.  We were half way across the causeway with no way to turn back.  On a good day, you can see the beautiful water on both sides.  Thursday night the only thing I could see was the little reflector lights about two feet in front of the car. I  was so thankful to be off the causeway in one piece.

The plan had been to swim at Grandma's for a little bit when we got there.  But, we were pretty late getting in and by the time we got settle it was probably close to 1AM.  Way past my bedtime!

We were up bright and early the next day to go to the beach and look for shells.  Unfortunately, Little Mama became sick, so she and I had to stay home and rest on the couch.  But, by lunch time, though, she was ready to go.  Strangest thing but oh well.  I was just glad she felt better.  She LOVES to swim at Grandma's.

We spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool.  And my mom had some friends over for dinner.  My mom's friends granddaughter is just a couple months younger than EG.  Every time we visit the little girls get together for a play date.  This time they spent the whole time swimming!

Saturday we went back to the beach in the AM so Little Mama could hunt for shells.  We walked for about an hour.  It was sunny, breezy and beautiful.  We did a little shopping after that.  There are some stores in the area that we just don't have where we live.  Mostly stores that hubby likes, pertaining to his hobbies.  One shop was a woodworking store and they were doing a demonstration.  Boop was able to participate.  He made a fabulous pen out of a block of wood.  He shaped it, sanded it and stained it.  Then put it all together.  It was really cool!

Next was swimming back at Grandma's and just waiting for her to get home from work.  We had pizza for dinner and walked the beach at sunset.  Then off to ice cream on the Inter coastal.  The kids were wore out from swimming and shell hunting so we popped in a movie and just relaxed for the night.

Sunday was up, pack and head back home.  We had a nice, mostly uneventful, relaxing time.  It always seems to go by so fast. . .

Thursday, July 25, 2013

PW Catch Up

There is a lot of stuff going on around our house lately.  But posting about Pioneer Woman cooking is way more fun.  So, I thought I would play catch up with all the food I have been cooking the last few weeks.

Corn Guacamole.  Your traditional guac recipe but with grilled corn.  It was delicious.  We will definitely do it again.

The next few pictures are from a recipe called Fancy Mac and Cheese or Ultimate Mac and Cheese or something like that.  Anyway, it isn't anything like you would get out of a box of Kraft!  Four different kinds of cheese.  Majority of which I can not pronounce.  It had mushrooms which hubby made me put only on half because he despises mushrooms.  

Fancy pasta and sauteed onions and, of course, bacon.

The end result was really, really good.  It was a lot of work, though, for mac and cheese.  I might make it again for guests.

Next up a family favorite by far.  We have already made it again.  French toast with berry butter.  So, so good!  We had a lot of butter left over, though, so we used it on other things like toast and pancakes and bagels.

I have a sourdough recipe I am trying to perfect so we will probably use that next time.  Although the French bread was delicious.

We ate it for dinner and I see us putting it in our dinner rotation.

Next up PW hummus.  We love hummus around here.  I happened to make this on a night when we had dinner guests and it was a big hit.  In fact, the mom who was here ended up buying a PW cookbook and has made her hummus twice along with a couple other recipes.

It makes a ton, though.  I am still trying to figure out if you can freeze it.

Lastly, I think is Crash Potatoes.  We had a bunch of potatoes from our garden and when my sister came for dinner we made these.  I boiled them and then crushed them and sprinkled them with seasonings.  Put them in the oven to bake.  They were easy and so good.  But, then again, I love potatoes.

So, I think for the moment I am caught up on PW cooking.  I am starting to get down to the recipes that are a little harder or use ingredients and things that I don't necessarily have or have never heard of or not sure I like.

Again, I have enjoyed this and it really has challenged me in the kitchen.  I find myself way more comfortable in just making our everyday dinners.  So that is a bonus.  What is even crazier is I find myself talking about food.  And I am pretty sure I have never done that before!

It is a great experience and I hope I can keep it up when things start to get crazy in the fall.  Only time will tell I guess . . . 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dance Camp

About two weeks ago, my big girls and a good friend of theirs had their very own dance camp for 3 and 4 year old little girls.  It was awesome.

They invited majority of the 3 and 4 year old girls that each one of them knew.  (Little friends of their youngest siblings.)  And it ended up being 9 little girls participating.  They worked out snacks and warm ups and schedules.  They choreographed a dance for the little girls to perform and a teacher's dance.  They had activities and games.  And ran it all by themselves with very minimal assistance from us moms.  In fact, we just stayed out of sight.

They met at the my girls' friend's house on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9:30 to 12.  And on the last day, Wednesday, they had a little recital for the parents.  It was the cutest thing ever.  (I don't have pictures or video because I didn't ask permission from the moms to have their pictures on my blog.)   ;)

It really was sweet.  They taught the little girls some ballet terms and a couple of ballet positions.  And all of the girls did really well.  I think the big girls learned almost as much as the little girls did.  The big girls had to be patient and figure out how to keep the little girls focused on what they were doing.  Great life lessons.

The big girls shared many of their ballet recital costumes from years past.  The little girls got to wear them and dance in them.  They thought that was great!

We have seen some of the moms since then and they have said how their little girls are still dancing and having little dance camps of their own with siblings.

It was such a great learning experience for our girls.  And I am thankful to the moms of the little girls who let them participate.  Just a neat experience all the way around . . .

Thursday, July 18, 2013

You Say Tomato

We had another bumper crop of tomatoes this year.  But, I didn't want to have to can them.  We did that a couple of years ago and it seemed to me to be a lot of work.  And then I was a little worried about the freshness of the canned tomatoes.  Although I think I used them a couple of months ago for salsa.

Anyway, I wanted to see if we could do something with the tomatoes other than canning.  So, the following is what I did.

I found a easy, decent recipe on the Internet for spaghetti sauce that can be made and frozen.  And, I could make it in the crock pot.  So I did and then froze it but we have yet to eat it.  The true test will come next week!

Next I made a tomato pie.  I will be honest, we were all a little skeptical.  But, I had to do something with the tomatoes.  Again, I googled an easy recipe and made this Monday night.

We were all pleasantly surprised.  It had great taste.  I think next time I would mix the cheese spread with the tomatoes.  (The recipe called for it to be spread on the top.)  We ate the whole thing.  The kids didn't even complain.  I am so in the habit of taking pictures for PW cooking that I just kind of automatically took the pictures of the pie. 

Next was a Pioneer Woman recipe.  It was Caprese Salad.  I still have no idea how to say it.  We had friends over for dinner when I made the below salad.  She is Italian and she told me how she thought it was pronounced.

Think slices of tomatoes.

Think slices of mozzarella cheese.

Reduced balsamic vinegar.

Using my very trendy serving platter.

Presentation is everything.  It really did make our serving table look so much prettier!  All the adults liked this one and a couple of the kids.  

So, that is what we have done with a bunches of our tomatoes.  It was a little challenging but a lot of fun.  I might be a chef yet . . . 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


So, one of the hobbies my hubby has is to go "dumpster diving."  Well, really not dumpster diving more like "picking" or, well, I am not sure what to call it.  But he is not above seeing someone else's trash as his treasure.  I shudder when we are driving down the road and he sees something that has been discarded and he sees great potential for it.

I will admit, sometimes he gets some things that are useful.  Many times he will pick something up that might have parts for something we already have so he is able to fix it with out paying for parts.  Many times, though, I just kind of shut my eyes.  Especially when he finds things in our neighborhood.  

Well, the above pictures are of two chairs he found discarded in our neighborhood.  The neighbor was moving and selling them.  Apparently no one bought them because he found them on the curb.  And proceeded to toss them in the back of his truck.

He has spent the last week or ten days fixing one up.  Sanding the wood, replacing rusty hardware and then painting it.  I have to admit, I am pretty proud of his "pick."  These chairs ain't cheap brand new.

We have placed this one on our porch and he will set to work on the other one.  I have a new appreciation for his "hobby" . . .

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Free Weekend

Free is not a word we use much in this house.  When the six of us go and do something it usually costs money, lots of money!  Actually, I am not sure if the word "free" is used by many people these days!

So, what a pleasant weekend we have had so far, when the two outings we have gone on, have both been FREE.  Really free.  No strings attached free!

Yesterday was Cow Appreciation Day.  And for those of you who do not live in the South you may not know what that is.  We have a fabulous fast food chain called Chick-Fil-A or Chick-o-lay as a certain 4 year old calls it.

Anyway, we love CFA.  When I had three children 5 and under and we had our first outing for dinner without daddy we went there.  They not only held the door open for us so we could get in, they brought me my food after I ordered it.  It is about the only fast food place we frequent on a fairly regular basis these days.  Customer service is beyond expectation.  We have even toured the kitchen and I still eat there!

Anyhooo, back to yesterday and Cow Appreciation Day.  Once a year, if you make an attempt to dress up, fully, like a cow, they will give you a free combo meal.  So, needless to say all six of us dressed up like cows from head to toe and went in and got our free dinners.  Along with a whole herd of "cows" already in the restaurant.  It was all free.  No charge.  The bill was $0.  Did I mention they are closed on Sundays to give families the chance to worship/go to church/rest if they so desire?  I love CFA.

I do not have a picture because as much fun as it was for us to dress up, no one would let me solidify the event in our history books with an actual picture of it.   We were cute if I do say so myself!  Especially hubby with his black BDU pants and white Glock gun t-shirt on.  Black spots, an "Eat mor chikin" sign and a hat that had cows ears.  Hmmm . . . wonder why he wouldn't let me take his picture?

Then, this morning, daddy and the big kids went to a local shooting range that encourages kids to learn how to shoot and then maybe some day compete.  And that was FREE.  I think they were there for close to two hours and both girls and Boop got to participate.  They had a great time and did really well.  And hubby said it was really well organized.  It was very safe so maybe EG and I will go next time, just to watch.

All the kids scored really well and picked up the skill quickly.  Nature Girl even got perfect scores.  Some one asked her if she was working on going to the Olympics!  Of course, all the kids shooting well and learning about something daddy enjoys made him pretty proud I think.

Not bad of a weekend so far.  Who said there isn't any such thing as a free lunch?  Or dinner?  Or shooting range experience?  It is kind of fun doing things that are free . . . .

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In the Middle of the Night

My sister and I were talking on Sunday about what it is like to be a new mom.  I mean a brand new mom.  I so vividly remember the whole experience of bring Nature Girl home.  My whole concept of life changed.  I no longer was living for just myself or my husband.

I also very distinctly remember my response to not getting enough sleep.  OK not getting any sleep.  My pediatrician, at the time, told me I would probably not get another full night's sleep until my baby girl was about 8.  The thought of that was terrifying to me.  And that wasn't even considering any more children after the first one.

I needed my sleep.

I am pretty sure I have slept about a handful of nights since then.  Well, that is probably an exaggeration to make my point.  But, not too far from the truth!  It is amazing how 4 babies in about 7 1/2 years changes your perspective on sleep.  Actually my perspective on a lot of things.  But, that is another post altogether.

I say all this because, as many of you know, my 4 year old appears in my bed most nights.  Usually between the hours of 2 and 4AM.  Most nights I notice but there are some nights that I have no idea she is there until I wake up.

A time or two in the past year or so she will start a conversation with me in the middle of the night.  Tuesday's middle of the night's conversation went something like this:


"Yes, EG?  Do you have to go to the bathroom?"

"No, mama.  Did you know that Boop cheats at cards?"

"I have heard that."

In my first few years of parenting: 1) this would have never happened - there would have never been a child in my bed and  2)  if one of my children woke me at 4 AM to accuse a sibling of anything, I am pretty sure I would not have been amused.

Because I am at the end of having babies in the house (first time I have had a four year old with out a baby/toddler - post for another day), I have realized how fleeting these moments are.  If I had realized just a tad bit sooner that my babies grow up faster than I can even imagine, I might have had many more captivating conversations with all of my children in the middle of the night.

I know one thing for certain, I no longer am annoyed at being woke up in the middle of the night.  I also realize that I no longer need a full nights sleep.  I might get some of those when my babies are grown and gone.  I am learning to cherish all of their moments.

Especially those in the middle of the night . . .

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Up Coming Homeschool Year

We are taking about 2 months off from school when all is said and done.  We had so much travel time in the fall last year that summer is cut a little short to make up some time.  Plus, where we live it is so darn hot in July and August, there isn't much else to do so we might as well do school and take extra days off when the weather is beautiful in the fall.

During the two months, I am trying to reevaluate and set goals and make some very loose plans.  One thing I am certain of, is that schooling at home needs to be flexible.  It is part of the reason we homeschool.  We want to be able to serve others and take advantage of opportunities as they come up.  I am hoping to "train" myself and the kids to be open to God's plan everyday.  Not just our own.

In the late spring, an educational opportunity came up for us.  It was a great program and offered a ton of benefits.  But, it also had a few downsides.  I stewed and stewed and talked and researched and stewed some more about what I needed to do for school in the up coming year.  One of the downsides of participating in the opportunity, I felt, was that it took away my flexibility as a homeschooler.

Finally I got smart and gave all my info to hubby and had him give me his two cents.  In one sentence he told me what I already knew.  But it was good to hear from someone else.  When I laid out what our coming up year would look like and then told him the benefits and what I felt the draw backs to be, he simply stated that if we participated in this new program it "sounds like you are taking the home out of homeschooling."

And in a one phrase he was right.  It was what I already knew in my heart for us.  It would have taken away a lot of the reasons we started to homeschool in the first place.   So, once that hurdle was over taken, I was free to start contemplating what we were going to do for the following year.

For the most part, we will continue on with what we were doing in the spring.  We had finished some of our books in late winter so I had already started on new subjects then.  Subjects such as Latin and Writing. We will continue on with Book Club.  This year we are focusing on our state history on the first half of the year and then missionary biographies and Old Testament history using historical fiction books for the second.

One opportunity I am adding for Nature Girl is a Socratic Book Discussion group.  I have gathered together several families and have picked about a half dozen books that the kids will read independently.  They will gather together once a month and with the help of a facilitator, go through a book discussion using the Socratic method.  I am excited about it.  And it is another form of learning that I am being introduced to as well!

I am taking our "downtime" this summer to work on the habit of obedience and really getting our daily chores down to a science.  One of the things that I know I needed to change for the up coming busy year was that our daily responsibilities need to be done without reminding and without nagging.  We do the same things day in and day out.  At this point in the game, there really should be no reason for constant reminders.

Immediate obedience is huge for me as well.  First and foremost, we all have the responsibility to be obedient.  Me to God and my husband and the kids to God and me and daddy.  Daddy needs to obey his bosses etc. etc. etc.  So, when daddy and I were talking about the need for immediate, cheerful obedience in the house, I explained that with four kids doing 10 different things through out the day, I really did not have the physical, mental and emotional energy to repeat myself numerous times to get stuff done.  It is exhausting not to mention frustrating.

Inadvertently we have trained the exact opposite of immediate, cheerful obedience.  So, retraining is hard.  But, we have a well thought out, prayed over plan and are going to move forward.  It will take time, no doubt. But, the benefits of cheerful, heartfelt, immediate obedience is a habit that will serve each of the kids well as they grow older and assume more responsibility and become more independent.

We have also taken the time to do big chores around the house.  Wipe down walls and base boards, clean the porch, sort out closets and drawers, catch up on neglected chores.  But, we have had some fun too.  The kids have hung out with friends, watched movies, taken piano and harmony classes and gone swimming.  The big girls are doing a ballet camp and I will have a post on that.  We are going to visit Grandma so that will be fun.

Just another wonderful thing about homeschooling, we don't have to cram all of our fun into a summer.  We have done some fun things but we have work to do as well.  We also know, that just because we start back to school doesn't mean other exciting and fun things won't happen throughout the whole school year.

It may seem different to most, but, after seven years of homeschooling, it is a way of life for us.  Although, I do love summer and the relaxation it brings  . . .

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Playing Cards

Growing up my brother and I would play cards.  Especially when we were visiting my Uncle who didn't have a TV.  We would spend hours playing War and 21.  When I got a little older I remember being taught Gin Rummy.  I have fond memories of playing cards.

Why I never thought to teach my kids is beyond me.  Maybe because we have so many board games and a couple of DSs around the house.  Anyway, while Nature Girl was away on the bike trip our babysitter stopped by one night and she decided to teach the kids (and me) a couple of new games.

For almost the entire week Boop and LM played cards.  It truly was a life saver.  A definite rescue from boredom.  When Nature Girl came back, she had learned a new card game as well.  And then the other night daddy and I remembered we also use to play a game called Solitaire.

So now, going on about a month, we all have been playing card games almost everyday.  We have been playing so much that even EG knows most of the games and can play pretty well on her own.  During bath time there might be two games going on at once depending on who's turn it is to shower or bathe.

It seems to be raining a little more this year so card playing has helped keep everyone busy during the rain.  It is a great way for us, as parents, to spend time with the kids.  I have since put a deck of cards in my purse so that when we go somewhere and we might have to wait we can play cards.

We (they) have been learning sportsmanship and patience (teaching EG) and some of the games even teach math.  Woo hoo!  A great opportunity for me to be thankful for the little things in life.  I will remember this summer as the one we spent playing cards . . .

Monday, July 1, 2013

7: Waste

Our experiment with the book 7 has gotten a little off track I believe.  This past month was suppose to be about waste.

I read the snippets of the chapter but didn't read her day to day happenings on how she dealt with waste in her home.  After reading the intro to the chapter I realized we do pretty well in this area. God created the Earth and we are to be a good steward of it and I think we do.

We recycle and have for a long time.  We compost and have for a long time.  We use reusable grocery bags and have for a long time.  Some things that I did change though is we use less plastic bags like Ziploc.  And I have even started using more glass storage containers instead of the Tupperware like stuff.  For the most part, we have stopped buying water in plastic bottles and use our big tumblers instead.  I really don't remember much else from the chapter although I am sure there was more.

But, the really neat thing we did, as part of Waste Month, was to tour our local land fill a.k.a. the dump.  It was so informative and I learned a lot of really important stuff about what happens to our garbage.  I learned things that I feel everyone should know who lives in our area.

In our area, the garbage gets taken to a transfer station and then sent to a land fill in another county.  Thirty-four semi truck loads a day.  At first this bothered me that we pay to ship our garbage out of the county.  It can't be cheap.  But, the more she explained the more I understood.  The landfill our garbage goes to is for a region.  And they take the gas, methane, that comes off the garbage and turn it into fuel for thousands of homes in the area.  Not to mention, our county is very densely populated for the most part and no one (including me) wants a landfill in their backyard.

The presenter educated us on reusing as much of our recyclables as possible.  She showed us neat little crafts and gifts and trinkets that can be made with our recyclables.  Much of what we recycle isn't cost effective to do so.  She said glass isn't worth recycling because of the cost but obviously they do it anyway.  Most of it ends up getting ground down and put into concrete.  We got some really great ideas for our market days project that we do every year.

We were able to tour the whole facility.  At the site we were at, the only thing they recycled were Class Three garbage like electronics and such.  We saw the methane gas coming out of its tube.  We  drove by what use to be the landfill, now covered in grass, and I think she said it was going to be a parking lot.

The kids seemed to enjoy the presentation and the tour.  It was time well spent learning about our garbage.  We are taking our recently learned information and putting it to good use . . .