Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Waste Not Mystery Supper

We're heading up the Coast for a visit with my Mother and Sister in Law today. We'll only be gone for about a day and a half, but just the same, there's something about leaving home, even for a short visit, that inspires me to clean out the fridge, use the leftovers and fresh produce that really needs to be used up before they turn into science experiments.

We got lucky and found rib eyes on sale for our Memorial Day BBQ. It seems steaks are cut thicker than they used to be, and we ended up with a good amount of leftover meat. In addition to that I had a bell pepper I had actually forgotten I had in the fridge, as well as 4 good sized mushrooms. It seemed like a colorful beginning for a hot dish, and so my latest grand experiment began...

1 lb. leftover meat (I used the rib eye. You could use whatever is calling your name, pork, chicken, beef roast, maybe even mix n match!)
1 Green Bell pepper, coarsely chopped (You can sub another green veggie, broccoli perhaps, or even peas)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic (or use garlic powder)
salt (1/2 tsp.?)
4-6 fresh mushrooms, sliced (minus the 2 slices the kids just have to nibble on)
1 Cup uncooked rice (or use leftover, just cut back on the water)
2-1/4 Cups hot water
2 tsp. Beef Bouillon (or whatever flavor you have on hand, or sub a couple cups of broth for this and the water)

Coat a large skillet with Pam, or melt a couple Tbsp. of butter. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook and stir til veggies are tender. Add rice. Cook and stir til lightly browned. Add meat, Bouillon and water, then stir in mushrooms, and salt to taste. (We just added the salt and pepper at the table). Bring the whole thing to the boiling point. Reduce heat to a simmer. Give a good stir, cover and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally til water is absorbed and rice is cooked, 20 - 25 minutes. Add more water during the last 5 minutes or so if needed (Mushrooms can be unpredictable when it comes to water absorption)

We placed Soy and Teriyaki sauces on the table so everyone could season as desired, and served with tomato wedges. Everyone had seconds, a sure sign of success :)

Movie Review

Sunday evening Pa and I watched The Last Castle. We both enjoyed it so much that we gave it a rare rating of 5, the highest rating option at Netflix. We're pretty stingy with our 5 star ratings, so that says something. There's some violence, and language, so not for the young-uns, but after the kiddos are all tucked in for the night, and Ma 'n' Pa are relaxing on the couch, it may be a fun one to plug in.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Week In Review

This weeks Backyard photo, taken by Nathan in April, is of one of our apple trees in bloom.

It's been a busy week at our house. In spite of the rain and chilly temps that quickly followed the extreme high temperatures of the week before, we managed to get a bit of work done in the garden. The potatoes seemed to enjoy the fluctuating temperatures, and I was relieved when the sun finally came out again yesterday, long enough to dry the soil out to the point I could cover them without fear of crushing them.

In the meantime, the kittens had discovered my homemade potato grow bags, and seemed to think they had been specially created as their personal playground. Pa cut some wire fencing down to size and I carefully placed the pieces around the individual bags. The kittens, as well as their Ma seem to think the new set up is just fine for lazing beside and viewing. Who would've thought watching potatoes grow could be so entertaining?

The sun wasn't out long enough, or hot enough to dry my clothes out on the line, but it gave them a start and resulted in that wonderful fresh scent I love so much! It also gave Pa an opportunity to play with his weedwhacker, which the young uns' enjoy, as it provides them with a fresh alternative to play time. Ah the joys of flinging freshly cut grass at your sibling!

Saturday Night at The Movies

Last night's kiddie feature was Spy Kids 2. Personally, I didn't enjoy it as much as last weeks movie, but the kids thought it was great. There is some very mild language, but, honestly, my children have heard much worse coming from the mouths of other children during our shopping excursions. It is a fun little romp with an interesting cast, and plenty of adventure.

After the kiddos headed to bed, it was time for Ma and Pa's movie event. Our choice, Stranger Than Fiction, was a pleasant diversion. It was not exactly a side splitter, but I honestly can't think of a classification other than comedy that it would fit in. While I wouldn't give it the highest rating, we did enjoy it, and are glad we watched it.

Home School

We are at the point in our homeschooling adventure that the kids' grade levels are variable. Between the 2 of them, depending on the subject, we are spanning 4 different grade levels. I have discovered a new math program which I am quite impressed with. I only wish I had discovered it years ago, as we are finding it necessary to back- track a bit, to pick up those areas we missed, or didn't adequately cover the first time around. However, as we progress through those spots, we're finding the next levels to come much easier for all of us. It may have slowed us down initially, but in the long run I think the pay off is going to be more than worth it. If you're interested, you can download sample pages (go to "FAQ", then scroll down to "Math Teaching Emails" for the sample pages) at Math Mammoth .

We've also changed the way we do spelling. In the past they had their weekly list, which they recieved on Mondays, and studied throughout the week, cuminating in a Friday quiz. Sometimes they did well, other times, not so great, which they found incredibly frustrating. We decided to slow things down a bit. They are now getting a new list every 2 weeks. We have a pretest on the first Monday, which gives them a good idea right off the get-go which words they might have problems with. It also provides them an opportunity to use spelling rules to try to work them out on their own. During the 2 week period, they quiz each other twice. In the meantime, they study their words, and we try to come up with at least one spelling game, such as "Hangman" to break things up. Their scores have dramatically improved, and they're having a lot more fun with this subject. It just doesn't get much better than that!


I finally finished the second sleeve on my top. I'm getting a bit nervous about the amount of yarn left to finish this project. I purchased plenty, but wasn't counting on the flaws in the yarn, so now I'm running low fast. Just in case, I think I'm going to try sewing just the sleeves in, then knit the collar before sewing the side seams. Keep your fingers crossed for me that the everything comes together smoothly!

It's a 3 day weekend! Chances are, if you are reading this you are not among those who chose to spend the extra to gas up and travel to distant parts. No matter how you've chosen to spend your time, be safe, and try to take at least a moment to remember those who have gone before us, who have in some way touched our lives, including those who sacrificed for our nation.

Until next time!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Top 7 List of Nagging Questions

Nagging Question #7
Skin So Soft
Why do you suppose it is that when I'm working on a knitting or crochet project that is simple, and utilizes a basic, easy care yarn my hands are in good shape, my skin is soft and smooth, and my nails are nearly flawless, yet as soon as I choose to work on a lace pattern, or a yarn that snags easily, my hands inexplicably turn dry and I inevitably develop at least one jagged nail?

Nagging Question #6
Speaking of skin and timing...How is it that my skin somehow retains a smooth, healthy glow for months on end yet, when a special event presents itself, such as a wedding, or another celebration or family event where photos are sure to be taken, I develop a zit?!? For that matter, I seem to remember similar traumas in my teen years... Isn't once in a lifetime enough? ?

Nagging Question #5
Supply and Demand
What mysterious force deems when I have absolutely no desire to consume a particular food or beverage item it just sits there, but when I develop a sudden craving for it, everyone else in the family seems to have developed the same craving, making it disappear just before I reach for it?

Nagging Question #4
How does my computer know what time it is? And why is it that ever since the rules for time changes were amended does it keep losing an hour? Where does my computer get it's time and date information? I always just figured it was from Colorado. If that's the case then...Colorado? I think we have a problem!

Nagging Question #3
The Great Zapping mystery
If, as I've been told, food cooks from the inside out when microwaved, then why is it when I zap my macaroni and cheese, the edges burn, turning hard and brown while the center remains frozen?

Nagging Question #2
The Unintentional Rock Garden
Why is it that when I head out to my garden every Spring I find, and remove multitudes of rocks of various shapes and sizes from the soil? I remove them from the top surface. I dig down, sifting through the soil and remove them from below the surface. I remove all I can find, then I sow my seeds, and transplant my seedlings, only to return the next morning to find more rocks staring at me! Where are all these rocks and pebbles coming from?

Nagging Question #1
Snap Crackle Pop!
You know that dull aching feeling you get? In the fore-arm for instance. It comes out of nowhere, just aching. You straighten your arm out, giving it a little jerk. It "pops" and all is well again.
What was that "pop?" I really want to know what portion of my body is "popping" and why!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Hillbilly Weekend

It's Sunday! Time for a new photo of the week. This weeks photo was taken early last month while Pa and I were working on the garden area.

Speaking of the garden, we're getting closer to finishing up with the planting. We stopped by Bi-Mart on Thursday and found tomato plants at 99¢ a piece so scooped up on 9 of them. Most of them are now planted in our newest raised bed, along with carrots, green onions, and lettuce. The acorn squash seeds have been sown, along with the cantelope seeds. Today we're planting the zucchini seeds, and finishing up the weeding of the last two narrow beds, which we'll probably fill with more spinach, carrots, and green onions.

The last 3 tomato plants (including 2 cherry tomato plants) will be planted in homemade grow bags today. We decided, rather than spending the money on premade grow bags, why not make our own from the plastic grocery bags just waiting for a creative form of recycling? We're also choosing not to pay for potted soil for the bags. Rather, we are using "surplus" soil from the garden area, which we amended ourselves by composting. What once was nearly barren soil, useless for growing much of anything other than ivy, is now beautiful, rich soil, and home to many happy worms.

We hope to finish up the last of the family garden today, as well as the container plantings, then it's on to the kid's garden, which they've been working on, so it shouldn't take much. Just a matter of fencing it in, and cutting them loose with the seeds of their choosing. They've adopted the "sand dune" as their garden area, and have been busy composting in there for a few years as well, so it's becoming less of a "dune", and more of a productive garden space all the time.

I needed to come up with some inexpensive "just because" gifts, and wanted to keep them frugal, yet meaningful. I ended up deciding to work on my intarsia skills, while using up smaller amounts of yarn left over from previous projects. It's slow going, but a fun challenge for me.

Saturday Night at the Movies
Last night the kids enjoyed their Saturday night movie. It was one I had seen at the Library many times, but for some reason thought it was a horror flick. I couldn't have been more wrong! It was a delightful animated movie, "The Iron Giant", which we enjoyed almost as much as the kids.

I'm off to play in the garden!

Friday, May 16, 2008

An Overcorrection?

3 mornings ago, the first thing Pa did upon rising was to get the fire going in the woodstove. The kids and I all donned our warm winter robes to fend off the morning chill until the woodstove warmed up enough to begin radiating it's comforting heat to the rest of the room. 3 mornings ago we were using the Aladdin lamp to light the dining room table for school, because it had the added benefit of warming the room as well.

3 days ago, I was fretting about my garden, wondering if the weather would be warm enough for my seeds to actually sprout in the garden. I was hoping I hadn't jumped ahead too soon in planting some of my vegetable plants. I was concerned that we might yet have a frosty night they wouldn't appreciate. 3 days ago, I was wearing a warm sweatshirt, and my jacket over that to keep warm when I ventured outside.

3 nights ago, I was wearing my warm winter nightgown to bed. I was entering the bedroom at least 20 minutes before retiring to turn the heater on to warm the room. 3 nights ago, before heading to bed myself, I made sure the kids were all covered up with 3 warm blankets, in addition to their warm quilted comforters. When I finally made it to my bed, I was pulling up all the covers available to me, including the warm wool blanket Pa had gifted me with several years ago.

Yesterday we went to town. I wore the lightest short sleeve top I could find. Lindsay wore shorts, and still complained she was hot. We stopped off at Taco Bell for dinner as it was just too hot to cook at home.

Last night we all broke out our summer "jammies'. Lindsay and I both wore the coolest cotten nightgowns we could find. I donned my cool cotton summer robe. Last night I found myself seriously considering making a paper fan. Before retiring to bed, I checked both kids to make sure they were sleeping soundly, and I covered them each with a sheet. When I finally headed to bed myself, I pulled up a sheet. A few minutes later I pushed it aside, and found myself wishing I had an air conditioner, or at the very least a fan to turn on to cool the air.

This morning we planned to work in the garden. It was too hot. Although I planted my peas, and other cool temperature loving plants in a shadier area, I am now concerned it may be too hot for them. This morning, as I looked outside at the thermometer, it was reading 118º in the sun. It is currently (2:42 PM) reading 92º in the shade.

Last season's guest, Dame Winter, was in a very cranky mood. It would seem this season's guest, the Spring Sprite is doing her best to make up for all that crankiness. As much as I appreciate her efforts, I'm thinking we need to get the message across to her that she overcorrected.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One Blind Mouse

This morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and turned my computer on, as usual. I sipped my coffee while waiting for the computer to wake up. As it greeted me, I grabbed my mouse and moved it in the direction I needed the cursor to move so I could log on. The cursor just sat there and stared back at me! I thought this a bit rude, and uttered at it before attempting to move it again. Again, it just stared back at me. Huh!!

I picked up my mouse, and noticed there was no little red "eye" looking back at me. Oh No! What to do? I couldn't even go online to find a list of "F" keys so I could at least attempt to navigate! I played with the arrow keys and somehow managed to click on my name. Great. Now I could enjoy the view on my desktop as that little white arrow sat right smack dab in the middle of it and continued to stare back at me.

After considering my little dilemma for a while, it occurred to me that we probably had at least one old mouse laying around somewhere, just waiting to be cuddled. The question was...Where??..Lindsay thought she remembered seeing one in the shop, so she and Daniel wandered out there, confident they would find it near the old PC. They returned empty handed though, and we all began brainstorming. Where in the world might we find a lonely mouse?

I looked at Daniel just as he was having what I recognized as a light bulb moment. He walked into the other room, and looked in the cabinet which holds, among other things, unused electronic gadgets. Of course!! He returned with a rather dusty looking white mouse, it's long gray tail trailing behind.

While I finished my coffee Daniel set to hooking it up. Within 30 minutes I was warming the little critter in the palm of my hand. Poor thing was so cold and evidently feeling rather neglected, as his movements, evidenced by the cursor, were rather hesitant and quite jerky. I carefully opened him up and performed a cleansing surgery with my tweezers. He seems to feel better now.

Thursday, we plan to pick up a new mouse, with a bright red, all seeing eye. I may have to pull the old white mouse out on occasion though. Don't want him to feel neglected. Who knows when I may need him to come out and play again?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day Recapped

Hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Mine started out great and just kept getting better. Even Mother Nature got in the act! We were expecting rain, but the sun was shining all day long. Pa and the kids surprised me with some red roses, a box of chocolate covered cherries (which of course I'm sharing with them) and beautiful handmade cards. Pa also did a few things around the house that I'd been wanting him to do for awhile.

The kids were on their best behavior all day long, and we had a great time creating our German meal. We had Meatballs Bavarian, Carrots in a cream sauce, and stewed tomatoes. I did the prep work, dicing vegetables and all. The kids did the math, converting the measurements from metric, and we all discussed what we had learned about German ingredients, revising the recipes as we felt would make them more authentic. The kids worked together on the meatballs and sauce. Nathan made the stewed tomatoes, and Lindsay, proudly using her own wooden spoon which came in the chefs set she recieved from big sister, Kimmi for her Birthday, cooked and stirred the carrots. Both kids sported aprons they had recieved from Kimmi. They even posed for pictures!

The resulting meal was a perfect medley of flavors, textures, and color. We all had our fill (and then some) with plenty of leftover carrots for another day's meal. We waited a bit after dinner before serving the kids ice cream for their dessert, after which we each enjoyed a chocolate covered cherry. Once we were finished with the culinary delights, the kids presented me with one last gift. It looked like a bottle, and I was instructed not to shake it, or turn it upside down. Once I got the yarn "ribbon" and wrapping paper off I was delighted to discover a bottle of my favorite liquor, Kahlua!

The kids headed to bed at their usual 8 o'clock time and Daniel and I watched a movie, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". Afterwards, I enjoyed a nightcap of Kahlua, before heading to bed myself. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

Today, I'm not even giving the bathroom scale the satisfaction of a sideways glance!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mothers Day With Love

What better time than Spring
When the air is fresh and clean
And new life all around us
All senses beckoning

Morning dew is glistening
As the sun shines gently down
The birds sweet singing
Serenading, as we begin our day

The flowers bursting forth
With colors bright and cheerful
Their sweet aromas mingling
With other Spring delights

A day of celebration
For the ones we hold so dear
Here or there, they're always near
Within our hearts residing

The memories are forever
Their Love, their inspiration
The comfort and encouragement
We draw upon for life

To all the Mothers everywhere
To all the Grandmas too
A very Happy Mothers Day!
Today we honor you!

Friday, May 9, 2008

One Week Down

Yesterday was our weekly trip to town. It was a fun day. We started out at the Library, as usual. The kids both found plenty of reading material, and a fun movie for their Saturday movie night.This weeks feature event is, "Dunston Checks In". I also found two books, both for the kids this time, to purchase. At 25¢ a piece, I may fulfill my dream of having my home library yet. Of course that means we need to add a bookshelf on occasion. Currently, I think 2 new bookshelves would do the trick. I'm debating over keeping my eyes peeled for sales and thrift store finds, or perhaps plan a project for Nathan and his tool box.

While the kids and I browsed at the Library, Daniel made the weekly Post Office run. Lindsay was thrilled when he returned with her new "fun" eye patches, from Ortopad. They're a wee bit more expensive than those available in the stores, but not much, and they make patching time so much more fun for her, they're worth it. If anyone has a child with Strabismus, Amblyopia, or any condition which requires eye patching, this place is worth a look! I was tickled to see the new spelling books I'd ordered had arrived.

At the grocery store I was able to find all the ingredients needed for the end of our study on Germany. The kids and I will be having fun creating a German meal this weekend. Now I just need to check out NOAA and determine which day I'll be least tempted to spend the whole day out in the garden, so we can put that meal together!

Next week our Social Studies lesson will take us to Peru. I still need to search for the perfect fun project to end that study with.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Bugs" Be Gone

Well, I suppose the Hillbillies have been in the house long enough now, that we should start considering the inevitable spam.
For that reason, I've decided to take take a tiny step towards keeping the trash out of the house, rather than needing to come back and clean it up later. To that end, I have enabled comment moderation. It's a small change.

ANYONE can comment here. If you are a member of Blogger you probably already know the drill. If you are not a member, you are welcome to post comments as well. All you need to do is click the "anonymous" option. The only change will be, that any comments will make a quick fly by my inbox before they are posted.

Keeping our fingers crossed that the "unwelcome visitors" have moved on, hopefully aimlessly, never finding another host to latch on to. We're all grateful for the relatively short visit.
One bright note to the "buggy" visit, is that I managed to get some knitting done. I'm hoping to have the back of my top done by weeks end, then it's on to the short sleeves. I'm anxious to finish this top so I can move on to trying my hand at designing my own pattern. That could be a challenge with some entertaining twists! LOL

Today, it's back to school, housework, and hopefully the garden! I have one more wide row left to seed in the pea and spinach garden. That row will easily hold two rows of each, then it's on to garden #1, where the broccoli is thriving, and we have at least one tomato plant looking lively, but lonely. Need to get that girl some company!


In order to make the most of our garden space, we're trying something different with our potatoes this year. We're planting them outside the garden in trash bags! We picked up some 30 gallon trash bags, cut some small holes in the bottom for drainage, then rolled them down to maybe 8 inches high. We then filled our short bags with soil, and planted 3 seed potatoes about a 1/2" deep, covering loosely with soil before watering them in. As the sprouts emerge we'll unroll the bags and cover with more soil. Once the potatoes have reached their mortal end, we'll simply slit the sides of the bags and let the potatoes tumble out into our waiting hands, before returning the soil to the garden. We should be able to use the spent (and cleaned) bags in the garden at seasons end, to help protect and warm those cooler weather crops we choose to round out our gardening experiments this year. We'll be doing probably 12 potatoes in this manner, leaving Nathan and Lindsay with 8 to plant in their garden. It'll be interesting to see how they do in the two (or three, depending on the kid's ideas) different locations, methods, and planting mediums. .

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Another day, another host

The kids are feeling much better today. Of course, prior to vacating my children, all those pesky little "bugs" needed a trip plan, and what better destination than the nearest available human.

Yup! They grabbed on to me, and they're not listening to my earnest pleas to vacate the premises once and for all. Stubborn little critters! Don't they know this is a most inconvenient time for their visit? It's not like we sent them an invitation. How rude is that??

Tomorrow's another day, hopefully a healthy family day!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A rough night..

Lindsay came down with a cold on Saturday. Nothing too horrible, but not fun either. By last evening Nathan was feeling less than wonderful. As usual, Nathan's version is worse. The bright side is that his versions of illnesses usually don't hold on as long. We're hoping that by tomorrow morning he'll be back to his usual self. In the meantime, we're all lacking in energy and I'm not feeling particularly inspired.

Thursday was our high point of last week. Lindsay got her Library card! Afterwards, we found some great deals at Safeway, and were able to replenish the freezer a bit.

Saturday, I planted bulbs while Pa went to town and got more fence posts. Then the two of us put up the fence, so the garden addition is now safe from curious kitties and deer. Hopefully it will keep the raccoons out as well! Yesterday, I got two rows of peas, and three rows of spinach planted. Depending on how Nathan's feeling, I hope to have the rest of that garden seeded by tomorrow, then I can get started with the finishing touches of garden #1. Hoping to be all done with both by the weekend, then maybe I can get back to my knitting!

I'll try to post again very soon. Hopefully this weeks backyard photo, taken by Lindsay will keep you all sated until then.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Glutton For Punishment?

The weather report said rain. I woke to the sound of rain on the roof. It seemed the weather guessers got it right.

By early afternoon the sun was out. I wasn't expecting that. After all the rain that had fallen between Sunday evening and yesterday morning, I knew the soil would be too wet to work , but I had plants in the dining room which were begging to be allowed outside to play. I went outside, and looked at the garden. Still so much work to be done. Even if the soil was dry enough to work, I would need to construct, and fill at least one long raised bed before planting. There was so much I needed to do inside... I almost talked myself out of it. I stayed outside, gazing at my garden a bit too long.

I stepped inside the house and brought the pouting tomato and broccoli plants outside, to sun themselves on the walkway. I then returned to the porch. I grabbed a cardboard flat, and the shovel. Daniel watched with an expression of disbelief as I entered the garden. I scooped some soil into the box, spread it out, and moved it to a sunny spot near the house to dry. I returned to the garden, and began to dig. I ran into a patch of grass, dug it out, and "spanked" the soil from it's roots. I continued to dig.

It didn't take so long as it did on Sunday, before I started slowing down. I was tired, and still sore from Sunday's fun. Daniel entered the garden and took the shovel from me. He continued the digging. I noticed he was making much more rapid progress than I had! I stirred the soil in the flat. It was drying nicely. We took turns digging. Daniel commented that we need another shovel. It's on the list ;-)

I took the last long turn digging, turning the soil, removing the previously hidden weeds, grass and rocks while Daniel found boards and cut them down to size for me. We placed the two 8 foot boards along the sides, and filled the resulting 3 sided "box" with soil.

It was time. I escorted my tomato and broccoli plants into the garden area. I dug holes in another bed and partially filled them with the sun baked soil from the flat. I tenderly eased the plants into their holes, and filled them in with more dry soil. Lindsay watered them in. I then proceeded to the newly created 8 foot long bed, measured the sections, dug the wholes and proceeded as with the broccoli, only this time it was the tomato plants which were carefully placed in their new bed. Nathan watered them in for me.

It is official. It has begun. There are actually plants in my garden! The broccoli looks extremely happy! They can spread their little feet out, stretch out and drink in the rain, or the sun, depending on what the sky is offering at any given moment. The tomato plants don't look quite so happy, but hey, they asked for it! I'm hopeful they will perk up in the next day or two.I'm feeling somewhere between what those two vareties of plants are feeling. Weary but hopeful. Tired but anxious to continue on. I'm also feeling a bit sore.

I sank into the couch last night. I picked up my knitting. My hands were so tired and sore. I noticed I had another blister. I managed to knit 4 rows before giving up. Perhaps this evening I can make more progress on that project.

Today is our weekly trip to town. Along with the usual library books, and groceries, we'll be stopping off to pick up a second shovel, as well as some more fence posts for the newest garden area so we can get it all fenced in, and ready for seeding this weekend.

Now all we have to do is hope Mother Nature doesn't have any more surprises up her sleeve for the season!