Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ya Win Some....

This morning as I made my daily rounds to check on the status of my gardens I noticed some turmoil. Seems a neighbor's dog had dug under the fence of one of my gardens and had himself quite the good time at my expense. Grrrr.

Once I had managed to block the new "entrance" to garden #1, I went back inside to "cool off". A bit later Nathan came in and informed me that we had an invader of a different sort in the other garden. He took me out to show me the evidence. There were aphids on two of my pea plants. Well, of course there were! Why not? This does seem to be the year of every imaginable gardening challenge after all.... I grabbed the water bottle/squirter, added some garlic powder and a couple drops of dish soap to the water, swished it around a bit to mix and proceeded back outside to give the peas a misting.

Naturally, the mister clogged up within a few seconds. Last time we picked up garlic powder I didn't notice it was "California blend", what seems to me a silly mixture of garlic and parsley. I thought I'd managed to sift out all the parsley bits, but I guess I managed to miss at least one little speck which found it's way into the misting head and lodged itself.

Alrighty then! I dumped the garlic water mixture into my hand a little at a time and sprinkled/tossed it at the offending little "bugs" clinging to my pea plants. Hopefully we got them soon enough, and good enough that they will not spread further in my pea garden.

Hopefully my hands won't get too upset by the teeny bit of dish soap they were subjected to.

Hopefully the lovely garlicky aroma on my hands will cease to exist by the time we go to town this afternoon.


Hopefully, our neighbor will keep their dog home this evening.

Tomorrow, we harvest the peas that are currently ready, and I replant the spinach patch our neighbor's dog dug up last night.

At least I have yogurt! :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Sweet Curds Of Success!

At last! The torture is over! I have achieved...Yogurt!

Yesterday morning we got off to a slow start. Pa and I aren't getting any younger and the previous days celebration left us a bit worn out. I spent the morning forcing myself to get things done around the house so I wouldn't be overwhelmed today.

Somewhere around 1:30 I decided to give my yogurt another go. I tried a slightly different technique this time, which included removing the "handy plastic sleeve" from the thermometer. By 2 PM my yogurt was all mixed up and safely hidden away in it's 2 thermoses to keep warm.

Right about 11 PM I couldn't stay awake much longer, so decided it was time to check on the yogurt. I nervously unscrewed the top on the first thermos. I slowly tilted the container, expecting to see the now familiar warm liquid attempting to spill out the top. It didn't happen. I couldn't believe it! I held my breath and tilted it more sharply. Still the contents remained fixed. Success! Overjoyed, and attempting to control my squeals of delight as I didn't want to wake the children, I scurried about, collecting containers to transfer the gelatinous substance into before placing in the refrigerator for safe keeping.

This morning I called the kids into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door, instructing them to look inside and see if they saw anything different in there. It took maybe 30 seconds before, almost simultaniously they began exclaiming, "The Yogurt!" You did it!" It worked!"

Yup! It worked! I did it! And it's even recognizable! The yogurt did not beat me! For those who may want to perform their own yogurt experiment this is how I finally achieved satisfactory results.

Homemade Yogurt

1 blender
1 Instant read thermometer
1 pan (deep and narrow enough so thermometer can get correct reading)
Thermos (slightly more than 1 qt. total capacity)
Measuring cups

4 cups water
1/4 cup plain yogurt with live cultures
1 2/3 cup powdered nonfat milk

Measure 4 cups water into pan.(Important:Remove thermometer from plastic sleeve!) Heat until thermometer reaches about 110 (between 101º and 110º). (While water is heating prepare thermos by filling with HOT water and covering.) Pour water from pan into blender. Take it's temperature again, making sure it's above 101º. Add 1/4 cup yogurt and give it a good whirl to combine well. Add the powdered milk and give it another good whirl. Dump water out of thermos, and immediately refill with your warm milk/yogurt mixture. Cap it, and set it somewhere it won't be disturbed for at least 8 hours. I let it sit for 9 hours. Next time I'll try to start a bit earlier so I can go 10 hours. Once set, pour contents into desired containers and immediately refrigerate.

Next, I plan to rearrange the fridge to make room for straining the yogurt (holding back 1/4 cup for starter) to make yogurt cheese!

Is everyone doing the happy dance for me?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How Do Ya Wrap A Hoe?

Or, for that matter, how do ya wrap a shovel?

I'll tell you right now, it can be a challenge. Then again, once you've figured it out, it can also be quite fun! Never mind I was up, wrapping presents until nearly midnight Sunday night. I can't remember the last time I had more fun wrapping gifts!

First I wrapped the more simple gifts, occasionally giving the larger, odd shaped items a sideways glance, always keeping them in mind. Once I finished the others, I took a little break, looking these two objects over, scheming the whole time. Then it hit me. I grabbed a roll of wrapping paper, and unrolled it all the way. I then cut a narrow strip all the way up, and then another. I began at the bottom (or would that be the top?) of the hoe's (actually, I guess it's a spade) handle. I used a small piece of tape to secure it and began winding it around and up. I made it about half way up before needing to secure the next strip in place and continuing up. Once I reached the top of the handle I was presented with another challenge. First, the shape, then the pointy end of the spade itself. Hmmmm. What to do? First I thought I might need to round out that point. I spotted a square of bubble wrap, placed it carefully around the "head" and was thrilled to note it fit around perfectly, well, once I applied some tape...I then cut off a square of paper to tape around the now blunted pointy half, followed by another for the back half, and then, a "collar" to bring everything together. I stood back and surveyed the result. He was actually kinda cute!

I then proceeded in a similar manner with the shovel, which was a bit shorter, and just altogether an easier shape to deal with. He also turned out looking kinda cute, but they were both missing something.

Seeing as I had begun to think of these two creations as critters, I decided they needed facial features of some sort. Fortunately I had recently acquired a bag of google eyes in various sizes. Out came the glue stick and my two critters had eyes. Then they each were adorned with just a wee bit of curly ribbon for hair. If I hadn't been so sleepy by this time perhaps the spade could've become a horse! It didn't really matter though. Nathan thought they were great!

This picture was taken outside with Lindsay's camera. Unfortunately their cameras don't do well with inside pictures, nor do they tend to hold on to photos for any length of time, so we were unable to get pictures for sharing here today, from our big trip of the day. We did however get pictures with our old camera. Hopefully they'll turn out, and I can manage to scan them into my PC so I can feature one as a Backyard View photo in the near future?

You may think it odd that a parent would gift a child with such implements on his 11th Birthday.I was actually a bit nervous about the gifts we chose for him. Turned out he was thrilled with everything he received. His face just lit up as he opened each gift, which is truly an accomplishment when dealing with him! You may notice he even smiled for the pictures! He loves gardening and yard work, dealing with plants, and was just thrilled to have his very own gardening tools. He was also tickled with all the other gifts he recieved that were not yard and garden related.

Prior to the gift opening and cake presentation, we went on our traditional Birthday event, which was oodles of fun! But that's a post for another day...

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Taste Of Greece

Today's going to be a busy day at our house, so I decided it might be a good day to leave you with a recipe from our Homeschool files. Last Fall we studied Greece, and our grand finale included this incredible recipe I found within my Master Cook. It is a variation on the traditional Dolmas served as appetizers. We served them as a main course.

Basil- Perfumed Tomato Dolmas

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Cuisine: Greek

Categories: Florida Tomato Committee, Lamb, Main Dishes

Source: Florida Tomato Committee

4 large firm fresh Florida tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
8 ounces ground lamb
8 ounces ground beef
1/3 cup uncooked rice (regular cooking)
1 cup loosely-packed fresh basil, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Use tomatoes held at room temperature until fully ripe.

2. Cut a thin slice from top of each tomato; remove pulp leaving a 1/4-inch thick shell; set aside. Chop pulp (makes about 1-1/2 cups).

3. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat oil; add onion; cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes. Add lamb; cook and stir for about 2 minutes, breaking up meat. Stir in rice, basil, cumin, salt, pepper, 1 cup water and reserved chopped tomato pulp. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

4. Spoon rice mixture into reserved tomato shells. Place stuffed tomatoes in the skillet along with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered, until tomatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

Note: We did cut back a bit on the salt, used fresh basil, and wanting to keep it as traditional as possible, used lamb.

Recipe says 4 servings. We chose the largest tomatoes we could find, which were still smaller than those called for in the recipe, so we added a couple more. These are fairly rich so I would say, depending on the size of the tomatoes you use, 4-6 servings.

Scooping the tomatoes is a bit of work but a fun family project. All 4 of us got in on the act, and had a great time with it! I would say, unless you've prepared something similar, including the tomato scooping, you might want to allow more prep time. This was not a quick throw together for us! However, the resulting taste sensation was well worth all the time and effort.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Yogurt Disasters Part 2: The Saga Continues...

Yesterday, I gave my homemade yogurt another go. In so doing I learned that 3 times is not neccessarily a charm. *sigh*. I know I had the temps right. I gave it plenty of time to sit and be warm, and I know it stayed warm enough, without becoming too hot. Still, the result was nothing more than warm milk with an additive. Granted, it was a healthy additive, and if I hadn't been so disgusted by the whole thing, and been so hasty in dumping it, perhaps it would have made for a healthy beverage. Then again, there was a certain amount of satisfaction in dumping the offending brew.

I have not quite reached the point of totally giving up. There is only one other culinary challenge I can remember not managing to master, and I am not yet willing to add something so seemingly simple as yogurt to the list. I will master it! No lowly pot of yogurt is going to get the best of me! I went on line and found another similar, but slightly different recipe which I'm going to try, a bit later today if I can find the time. Otherwise it will just have to wait until Tuesday, as we will be busy celebrating Nathan's Birthday tomorrow, which promises to take up most, if not all day. He and his sister are, of course looking forward to it for all the usual reasons, including the traditional Birthday day off from school.

Yesterday, the sun came out and really warmed things up. It was actually almost uncomfortably warm. We enjoyed it just the same, as it seems such an odd occurance this year, which up to this point has been so cool, and damp. It is beginning to seem this will be the season of the Summer tease. We'll just do our best to make the most of what the season offers, and wonder at what may be to come.

Saturday Night At The Movies

This week I have 2 movies to review. The first, the kid's choice for the week is Nancy Drew. I was busy with other pursuits last night so did not have the opportunity to view the whole thing, but the kids both enjoyed it immensely. The little I did see and hear, I think perhaps there was a hint of more mature than their age group material, but they didn't seem to catch that, focusing instead on the mystery and adventure. It was rather entertaining to see the "older" styles I remember, being worn alongside todays more modern clothing. I had to smile at the vision of Nancy wearing knee highs with her dress... All in all, I'd say this is a fine film for family viewing, although I doubt it would hold the attention of the very young.

A bit later in the evening, Pa and I plugged in Tortilla Soup. I think I enjoyed it more than Pa, but he seemed amused by it as well. I found it highly entertaining, with plenty of chuckles, and little twists that surprised me as much as it seemed to surprise those who played their parts so well. It was fun seeing an older (but very well preserved) Raquel Welch,as well as Paul Rodriguez, in a role which suited him perfectly. The dining scenes were just amazing, leaving me with but one complaint. I couldn't help but feel it only fair that they include a bonus feature, containing the recipes. Though it was lacking in that feature, I learned from it just the same. Along with the chuckles, I found myself oohing and aahing at the beautiful spreads adorning the dinner table, and I loved how they showed the chef rescuing a disaster, successfully turning it into yet another masterpiece.. In my opinion, the culinary adventure alone makes the film worth viewing.

Yogurt Disaster Update

Oh For Crying Out Loud! Pa just asked me if I removed the plastic sleeve my new thermometer came with. I explained the only sleeve I found was that which was part of the original packaging (which I thought rather "cheap" considering the sleeve was part of the marketing on the package). He hinted at the possibility there might be something I missed. I went in to look. Sure enough, I had inserted the whole shabang, including the "handy protective sleeve" which had, indeed been included.

Good Grief!!


Friday, July 25, 2008

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Unlike my daughter, who despite dealing with similar weather patterns, and is living in an apartment in the city, with nothing but a deck to utilize for such pursuits, my garden is not faring so well this year. I find myself viewing my daughters garden photos with longing, reading her descriptions with disbelief, as my eyes wander over the much larger garden space my country home affords me.

My daughter has been kind enough to share photos of her 2 tomato plants, their lush greenery yielding a full 14 healthy looking tomatoes waiting to ripen, and, she says, those are just the ones she can see at the moment. She mentions her green peppers, also bearing fruit, and her herbs, all flourishing on the deck of her city apartment.

I wander outside, and gaze at the two large areas my family and I have toiled to shape, spent time and dollars to protect with fencing, carefully strung flashing tape to dissuade the Blue Jays, tilled by hand, amended with our own compost, and endured hours straining our backs, seeding, weeding, watering by hand. For all our trouble we have 9 spindly tomato plants, adorned with a few flowers on each. We have 3 small bell pepper plants, with nary a flower. For all the hundreds of spinach seeds we sowed, we realized perhaps 6 small plants, all together yielding perhaps enough leaves for a scant garnish on our 4 dinner plates. Our romaine, while looking reasonably healthy, along with our zucchini and acorn squash sport the clothing of early June, rather than late July.

Our peas seem happy enough, although they're certainly taking their time, nearly a month behind schedule, and a good portion of our carrots and green onions have been growing steadily, providing the smaller of my two gardens with some greenery. Two of my 6 Broccoli plants were showing some limited promise,until they went to seed, but most of my potatoes are looking great.

While at the fair on Wednesday we met, and discussed our mutual gardening woes with a Master Gardener. I was only somewhat gratified to hear her voice the same thought that has been on my mind. We can only hope for an extended late Summer season. In the meantime, the Earth Box, which my daughter relies on for gardening on her deck outside her apartment in the city is a recurring picture milling about in my mind.

There's something seriously wrong with this picture!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Day At The County Fair

Oh what a fun day it was! The weather was perfect, not too warm as last year, just warm enough, with a slight breeze to keep things feeling reasonable cool. We did take our jackets along, and I wore mine, although most of the time it was worn around my waist.

Upon paying our admittance, we were offered free bottled water, as well as lanyards, which I'm sure we'll find a use for at some point. First stop was, of course the restrooms, where I met a young lady sporting a real cute handbag, which I complimented her on. She informed me she had purchased it at a vendor at the fair for a reasonable price. I thought she must be joking about the price, but sought out the vendor just the same and found their prices were reasonable indeed! So reasonable, that I just had to make a purchase of my own.

Next, we headed over to say hello to our ISP, who has a booth, but were stopped short by the captain of the train, who insisted we hop on for a ride. It seemed a bit silly, especially considering I was looking forward to the side benefit of some exersize via walking, but we climbed on and were treated to quite the tour. It was fun interacting with the other passengers as well, including the little girl seated in front of us, who was merrily "toot tooting" between my "chugga chuggas" throughout most of the ride.Her mother seemed quite amused by the whole thing.

The food and beverages were overpriced, as expected, but we payed nothing for the little we consumed as, for some reason the vendors were feeling generous. While we dined on our free goodies, we sat at a picnic table, listening to the Old Time Fiddlers perform.

Then it was off to the rides. The kids immediately headed to their favorite, the big slide, then Pa and Nathan took a ride on the Ferris Wheel before the kids proceeded to the Shrek feature, which is a bit like an obstacle course designed for kids. Then it was off to the Bungee hop, which Nathan and Lindsay both enjoyed. Daniel opted out of that one this year, which was probably just as well. I was becoming rather concerned by the time his turn ended last year. As the fellow this year said, "It's quite a work-out!"

We didn't get to see the "pretty Good" Magician/Comedian, or the sting rays, but we did visit with the reptiles, where we saw, among many other things, an anaconda, a tarantula and my personal favorite (NOT!) the spitting cockroach (shivers). The kids also enjoyed petting, and visiting with the albino Python.

The kids also got to pan for gold! The fellow was extremely helpful, truly seeming to enjoy helping them out, and carefully bagged Nathan's flake of gold he'd managed to glean from the sandy water. Of course, the kids are both wondering how much that tiny flake must be worth, but they have no plans of cashing it in, as it is worth more in memories than any amount of money ;-)

That "fun" over with, we headed over to see the cows, the sheep and the Llamas. One Llama was evidently feeling a bit cranky. He took one look at us, snorted a rather disgusted snort and turned his back on us. Alrighty then! Other Llamas, as well as several pigs were much more friendly, and we had quite the entertaining conversation with them. The rabbits were beautiful and the chickens were quite chatty. As we left that area I realized there's really no point in us acquiring livestock for food purposes, other than perhaps eggs. That would be one sure way of converting me to vegetarian status. Those critters were all just so durn cute! Even the moody Llama ;-)

Perhaps the most exciting event at the fair this year, was one we didn't actually get to witness, but happened to be situated near a fair employee who's radio was providing us with a play by play. First, there was the call to "The Purple Cow", which we're really not sure what that is, although we've seen the sign. A first aid station perhaps? Anyway, someone had been stung by a bee. A couple minutes later there was a callover the radio for all employees and volunteers to "drop everything" A steer was on the loose. Suppressing the urge to run out and see what we could see, we listened in, as they excitedly called for reinforcements, "We need some horses!" I'm not sure which would have been more exciting, the radio transmissions we heard, or actually seeing the action, but I'm pretty sure we had the safer seats of the two.

We spent the whole afternoon at the fair, and upon returning home discovered we were oddly completely worn out! It was an early night, and we all got a good nights sleep. Surprisingly, I remember no nightmares about anacondas, pythons, or hissing cockroaches.

Happy Birthday to Kimmi! I hope you're having a great day, and wish I could share the day with you, or at least give you a Birthday hug. Guess I'll just have to count on Nick to give you a hug for me!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Family Fun Day

Late yesterday afternoon the kids were a bit confused when I informed them they had an extra spelling assignment for the day. They finished the assignment just the same

This morning, after everyone was showered and dressed, and the kids were deciding who's turn it was to prepare the table for the days school lessons, I sat them both down, explaining I had an announcement to make. They were both facing me, the expressions on their faces unsure. Were they in trouble? What had they done? Perhaps a new daily chore? Or maybe school was going to take a turn for the worse.

Once I deemed them sufficiently confused, but before they seemed overly concerned, I made my announcement. "I am officially declaring today, "Family Fun Day!" The expressions on their faces softened a bit, smiles were beginning to form as I continued my announcement. "..No school!", to which Lindsay responded by asking, "What about math?"

Silly girl! Lindsay, no school means no math! I went on, In order for us to declare today a "Family Fun Day", we needed to have a fun event.They both waited for me to continue. I thought it odd they hadn't caught on. Perhaps they were afraid to actually speak it, for fear my idea of fun might not be quite so exciting as all that. I continued..."Today, we are going to the fair!"

The smiles on my children's faces were now complete. Their eyes were sparkling, and Lindsay was running around in circles, squeeling her most delighted squeel. They both wanted to know when we were leaving. That time is fast approaching and so, I will call my most current blog entry complete, and wish you all a fun day of your own!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fair Weather Plans

Last year we took the kids to their first County Fair. We spent way too much money, and we all had a great time. The only drawback was the heat. We couldn't seem to consume enough fluids to keep us from overheating. It was a grand time just the same, and brought back some wonderful memories of my own childhood.

It's that time of year again and, as we promised our children last year, we will be making a return visit to the fair this week.

There will, of course, be many of the same events as last year. There will be farm animals to admire, flowers, homegrown fruits and vegetables, and various craft entries, festooned with their brightly colored award ribbons. There will be exciting rides, which will leave our children breathless, and perhaps a bit dizzy, games and plenty of overpriced food and beverages, which somehow seem to taste better when consumed at the fair.

There will be changes this year as well. The "Big Cats" show is being replaced by a Sting Ray show. There will be a chainsaw wood carver and, I understand we may see a Magician/Comedian who describes himself as, "Pretty good."

There will be at least one other significant change this year. We do not anticipate spending massive amounts of time searching for potable water, for drinking as we rest in the crowded shady areas that so many other fair goers have gone in search of and found before us. We will be taking jackets along. We're estimating the temperature will be at least 20º cooler than last year.

No wonder we're finding it so difficult to believe the calendar is turned to the correct page!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Another Year..Another Bear

A couple years ago I posted about a rather exciting visitor to our back yard (technically, probably our front yard LOL) Bill, the bear. We have reason to believe Bill ceased to exist a couple weeks after that sighting, but now it seems one of his relatives is making our property his home.

Bill wasn't a shy fellow. In a year which yielded a less than plentiful supply of natures best for our large neighbors, Bill and his relations were seen in higher numbers than usual in the daytime hours. Bill visited our yard several times that summer. He seemed particularly fond of the numerous Banana slugs that hid around our woodshed. He put on quite a show for us, as we watched from the safety of our house one day. The rest of his visits weren't quite so eventful. He would saunter on back behind the house, gobble down any berries he may have found back there, then head back the way he'd come. Usually, we weren't even aware he was there until he was making his return trip. The kids and I would be sitting outside, they reading, me knitting. I would happen to look up and see him lazily heading back from behind the house, not even bothering to give us a sideways glance.

This last week we noticed signs of another bear on our property. Thanks to the prolonged rainy season this year, there seems to be plenty of the bears favorite food source available. Perhaps that is why this bear hasn't seen fit to make an appearance during daylight hours. Considering the local news reports, we're counting that as a blessing.

It seems the most recent immigration of humans to our area includes a good number of folks who are less than knowledgable about the rules of cohabitating with those mammals that called this area home long before we moved our families in. Whether they consider it an amusing game, or they are just plain clueless, these folks are creating a dangerous situation, both for the human residents of (and visitors to) our area, and for the bears. They are (inadvertantly for the most part, I suspect ) encouraging the bear in the area by feeding them. They leave their trash outside at night, leave food out for their pets, etc. This in turn is creating a problem with, and for the bear. The bear are becoming more bold. They are becoming a nuisance, and a danger.

In Oregon, with our large bear population, the wildlife folks who are called out to deal with these troublesome bears do not capture and relocate. The reason is simple. The bear population is large enough, and the wildlife areas small enough, that should they catch and release them elsewhere, chances are either one of two things would happen.

A) Relocated bear would become a nuisance, or worse, in or near it's new location.

B) Relocated bear would simply return to the original location.

Either way, once a nuisance, always a nuisance. These are wild creatures. Once you've taught a bear that humans are a source of food, you're not going to get it out of his head. Therefore, when the officials are called in, and find it necessary to remove a bear, said bear is then destroyed.

Obviously, this has the potential to become, and in fact, we're already seeing signs of, a big problem. Bears around our general area are being put down in increasing numbers, as they are becoming nuisances, and even aggressive. Personally, I find it extremely frustrating as I know just how simple the solution is. Just a wee bit of education, and common sense would decrease the chances of a negative bear encounter to near nil. A winning situation all around.

Irregardless, our children know, this time of year (every year) they don't get to go play in the wooded area of our property. They also know, should they unexpectedly find themselves in the company of one of the large furry creatures, how to react. Additionally, this year they know they may need to react differently than in years past. They are learning about how to judge a bears intentions by his actions, and how they need to react in different situations.

Please, if you are a resident of a rural area, or if you spend time in the great outdoors, be a responsible resident or visitor. Educate yourself. Act in a manner which promotes safety for you and others, and in the process, perhaps, save a bear..

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Of Sand and Math

Thursday, our weekly run to town started late, and we had more than usual to accomplish. In addition to that, Friday was the first day of the community's annual Birthday bash, so we ended up making two trips to town. Thursday was entertaining as usual but Friday was probably the most interesting of the two.

Thursday we started out in our usual place, the Library, where the kids collected their weekly reading program prizes, before proceeding to load their bags with more reading material for the week. Once they had finished perusing the offerings in the children's section, they headed over to the big people section, where they not only added to their collection of books, but Nathan helped a fellow out, who was in search of a particular book. Seems this gentleman was searching in the wrong place, but Nathan knew exactly where the book could be found. Nathan has plenty of ideas of what he wants to do and be when he reaches adulthood. Perhaps he should add Librarian to the list?

Friday we returned to town. We had already gotten our grocery shopping done on Thursday, so all that was left was a trip to the Dollar Store, where I found several items on my school supply list, a run by Bi-Mart, where I found my thermos and a few other needed items, a stop by the Mall where the kids enjoyed visiting with the puppies and kittens while I browsed the hand knit and crochet items in the farmers market, a stop by Jo-Ann's where I finally found the ever elusive sweater drying rack, and then, the hunt was on for 2 more items. One was a full circle protractor, which we still hope to find, perhaps at Staples? Then was the item we needed to fill the two turkey roasting pans we had purchased at the Dollar Store...

We looked at the Dollar Store. We looked at Jo-Ann's. We brainstormed until our brains were throbbing in pain. Finally we thought of a place we might find what one might consider an odd thing to be searching high and low for in our particular place of residence.

As has been previously noted we live off 101, near the beach, and a natural phenomenon, a National Park, known to most quite simply as, "The Dunes." This time of year we sit outside in the evening and listen to the ATV's as they buzz around the mountains of sand that line this section of 101. A scenic drive, no more than 15 minutes in any direction of our home will find us gazing at acres and acres of gleaming sand. Yet, here we were, in a seemingly endless search for a bag of...sand! We finally found 50 lbs. of neatly bagged, clean sand at a building supply store in town for right around $4. Every time I pass through our enclosed front porch, and glance over to the side I see this bag of sand and wonder at the irony. But, we now have our bag of sand which, just in case any of you is wondering, we will be using for math starting this coming week.

Saturday Night at The Movies

Thursday the kids found another movie at the Library for viewing on Saturday evening. This weeks choice was, Mr. Nanny. It was an entertaining adventure, with plenty of action which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. It stars Hulk Hogan, as a wrestler, turned bodyguard/nanny, under protestation to his manager, played by Sherman Hemsley. Perhaps not a "must see" film, and a bit "silly" at times for my tastes, but a fun one to plug in for the kids.

Last night, once again, Ma and Pa chose to put off our weekend viewing pleasure until tonight. I've been catching up on my reading, finishing the previously mentioned, "How To Fit A Carseat On a Camel", then proceeding on to the book I've been attempting to read for several years now, "Undaunted Courage". I may make my way through that book yet, maybe even before Nathan gives into temptation and reads it before me! Last night, however, while Pa was happily browsing his news sources on the Internet, I chose to get at least partially caught up with my crocheting project. I need to get a bit more done on that before I feel I can once again plunge into my current knitting project,which I hope to finish before weeks end. Guess my reading is going to be put on hold once again. That's okay. Gives me something to look forward to, and I just happen to enjoy my knitting and crocheting as well, so it's all good.

Today, I have laundry to do, dishes to wash, a garden to weed, and a host of other projects I want to squeeze in, and I'm not going to accomplish any of it by sitting here banging away on my keyboard, and so I will leave you to gaze at this weeks Backyard photo, and perhaps contemplate the sandy irony of life.... Until tomorrow....

Friday, July 18, 2008

Confessions of a Packrat

I admit it. My Father was right. My husband is right. Everyone (and there have been many) who has ever made the observation was correct. I am a packrat.

We are fortunate to have a good size shop on our property. We also have a fair amount of storage space in the house. The amount of storage space we have within the house itself would probably be considered plenty for most reasonable folks. I'm thinking perhaps I have surpassed the realm of reasonable in this particular matter.

I've made good use of the storage space inside the house. Every shelf inside the doors of our storage space has been crammed full, and for the most part, neatly stacked. The multiple shelves located within our two good sized closets are also utilized to their full capacity. Those two, rather spacious areas do a fine job of containing perhaps an eighth of the items I have managed to accumulate over the years.

My second storage space, that which contains the "spillover", the items I couldn't manage to fit in the ample storage space within the house would be the shop. The shop is large enough that one could probably fit 4 average sized vehicles with room left over. My "spillover" takes up probably 1/3 of that space, and we're not talking a single layer!

Last week the kids were more than happy to go on a treasure hunt with me in the shop. We managed to empty several bags of clothing, transferring a small portion of them to another bag which will ultimately be transferred to a couple other containers which we have added to for the kids. These would be baby clothes and such which hopefully they will pass on to their children one day. Some of the clothing we removed was placed in yet another bag, to be freshly laundered and donated to a thrift store. The bulk of the items however were piled into several boxes to be toted inside, laundered, separated into two piles, one for fabric, and one for Mom to try on.

I oohed and aahed at the memories each piece of clothing brought back. I was tickled to note most of them actually fit once again. However, there were those items I wondered about. I just wasn't sure that darling top I wore in 7th grade would be considered so darling when being worn by a 51 yr. old woman.

Did you catch that? 7th grade! I've been packratting since 7th grade, and somehow managed after moves around the country so numerous I've lost count, to tote these things around until now. No wonder my Father would become so frustrated at my insistence to hold on to every little thing! Thank goodness my husband didn't look inside those bags and boxes as he complained at the number of items he was packing around from house to house, from storage unit to storage unit, and finally to our current residence. I'm thinking there's some clearing out to do in my future.

One thing I'm not planning to pare down though, is one ever growing collection that I could never bear to cut back on. It has been my dream ever since I can remember. I'm thinking it all began the first time I walked into a library and saw all those wonderful books, all lined up so neatly on shelves. Or perhaps it was the first time I checked out a book and enjoyed it so much that I could barely handle returning it, having it leave my possession. My dream, which in this day of electronic, touch of the keyboard information, may seem odd to some, was, and still is to have one incredibly large library. A library packed full of every informational, instructional, historical, educational, recreational and just plain enjoyable book I could possibly get my hands on. Not one of those books is ever leaving my home! I have already put in my request to my nearly 11 yr. old son to assist me in building more bookshelves for my ever growing collection. He seems more than willing to comply with my request. He may be the only person in my family who completely understands my passion for books. Because of him, as well as his younger sister, who is rapidly joining the "club" of book appreciation, I am confident, that one day, when I am no longer about, my vast collection of books will go to good, loving homes.

The clothing collection, however...... There may be a quilt (or 3, or ? ) in my future. There! You see? I just knew I'd find a use for them at some point! ;-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is It North Or Is It South, and Where Is My Front Yard?

My husband has accused me, on numerous occasions, of being directionally challenged.Perhaps he's right. Then again, maybe he's left?? It's hard to say for sure.

It seems every time I move to a new home I find myself in a state of confusion. Every house is facing a different direction. I'm pretty sure the roadways they are located on are all facing different directions as well. For that matter, the towns they are located in may be facing in different directions. From one place to the next, I can never seem to figure out what direction I am facing.

The house we are living in now, in it's particular location is especially confusing to me. I look out my dining room window and I'm really not sure what direction I'm facing. If we leave the house, I become even more confused! As we ramble down our driveway, we turn to the right. I have no idea what direction we are headed at that point, which is understandable, considering I've no idea what direction we were headed as we began our descent. Once we've reached the bottom of the driveway, we usually turn right again. We then head down the road, which curves this way and that, past the power lines, around the "twisty windies", and finally we reach the "T", where we have a choice of turning either right or left, depending on our intended destination. Then we turn either left or right, and again, right or left to enter 101. By this time the only way I'm going to be able to tell what direction we are headed is either to have a compass in hand, or take the easy way out, and ask my husband. I usually opt for the latter and am nearly always rewarded with a shake of the head, and a chuckle, followed by, "Where does the sun come up?"

How the heck am I suppose to know that?? Never mind the sun has usually managed to become fully awake, peering down at me from high in the sky by the time I've managed to consume my third cup of coffee, which also coincides with the time my eyes have reached their maximum level of alertness. I've now experienced every possible twist and turn imaginable, and have no idea where I am currently located is, in relation to where the sun may have emerged from the view in my house! He just shakes his head, smiles and leaves me to figure things out within my own mind. Eventually I usually figure it out, at least to some point.

Back at the house I find myself wondering, when I refer to my back yard, or my front yard, just which portion of my yard actually fits the description? I remember, as a child my Grandparents explaining that their front door, was actually their back door. I seem to remember it having something to do with the location of the kitchen, which was what the front door (or was it the back door?) opened into. At my house, we enter into the living room. However, the driveway, is actually around the corner from my front door. Does that mean my front door is actually my side door?

Then again, our driveway, and parking area, are on the back side of the house in relation to the road that brings us to our driveway. Does that mean our driveway, and parking area, are actually my side yard? Or, does the fact that my kitchen, and dining area are facing the direction the road is on, make that side my back yard, and the driveway/parking area my front yard?

I have somehow come to think of the portion of the yard that faces out from my kitchen/dining area as my front yard. I think perhaps that is because it is the best view, although actually there's no such thing as a bad view from our house. I would however, like to know, once and for all, just where is my front yard??

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

With Thanks to Marcia, For a Wonderful Honor!

Thank you so much, Marcia, for honoring me with these blog awards! You have been a great friend the past few years, and I am grateful to have met you and gotten to know you. Marcia's blog, HDMac's Crafty Blog and More is well worth a visit! She has such a wonderful assortment of crafts and recipes, as well as some wonderful family memories. She is also incredibly talented with the crochet hook!

I am also honored with the opportunity of passing these awards on to some folks that I feel are more than deserving!

First, I would like to honor my daughter,at Musings of a Pastry Case. Kimmi inspired and encouraged me to start my own blog. She has been a big help whenever I have run into a question or difficulty with blogging. Kimmi has multiple talents, including cooking, baking/decorating, and photography. She is generous in sharing her recipes, and some great photos of her creations, as well as her life adventures on her blog.

Bev, at Emma's Daughter Designs is my second choice for receiving the awards. Bev has been an incredible influence in my life! Like me, she is a homeschooling Mom. She is also perhaps the most talented knitter I know, and I am so very grateful to her for all she's done to help me realize my knitting goals. She read my tearful messages when I was so close to giving up, responding with calming, encouraging words, and excellent advice, without which I would never have made it through my first scarf. She then nudged me forward, and shared my joy when I managed to accomplish each little goal, including my first knitted garments. Bev has been in a period of transition these last few months, but she is on the eve of moving into her new home, and having more reliable internet service again, so I know she will be posting regularly again soon, sharing her life experiences, and her knitting wisdom, not to mention her incredible projects! Bev is the one I look to for inspiration, especially with my knitting goals.

Next, would be Connie, at Play Wit Me Nana. Connie has created a wonderful log of her experiences grandparenting a beautiful, lively little girl. Kenzie has provided her with plenty of material for fun entries, and I appreciate how freely she shares these events. I've gleaned many ideas from her site for activities to enjoy with my children.

There's one more person/Blog I would like to honor with these awards. My sister, at Too Many Hats is another homeschooling mom, who freely shares her adventures, of which there are many, with her audience. Carol truly does wear many hats. Among other things, she travels around the country, toting her talented children to various events they have earned the right to participate in. She has gathered up her family and traveled to India with her husband on his business trips on several occasions, and she actively supports her son as he reaches his goals in sporting events. Carol does a great job of relating her, and her families very active lives on her blog.

Alrighty then! I am now required to post the rules for the recipient's to grant these awards to others of their choosing!...
Now you can grant these awards to others following these rules:
A) you must mention the person who granted you these awards including their blog link on your blog
B) post the award images on your blog,
C) nominate the blogs and persons you want to award with their relative links giving your motivation,
and last but not least send a message to the nominated bloggers to let them know they have received these awards and explain they can grant these awards to other bloggers as long as they follow these rules.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Life Cycle Completed

Yesterday I spent some time going down a relatively short memory lane. I wasn't entirely happy with the quality of the photos within the included storage system, so I took a look at the place my daughter uses, Flickr. I was amazed at the difference in the quality of the viewable photos.

I have managed to find, and load 9 of the photos I have featured in my Backyard View, as well as those I've posted elsewhere in my blog, and, thanks to some pointers provided by my daughter, have provided a link to these photos should anyone wish to view a larger version of my Backyard view photos, or if you'd like to take a stroll around the yard via past pictures. Just click on the current Backyard photo in my sidebar and it will take you there! I will be searching for other past photos and adding them as they reveal themselves to me, as well as updating the set as I add photos here in the future.

Last night Pa and I watched the second of our Netflix movies for the week. National Treasure: Book Of Secrets, starring Nicolas Cage, the second in the National Treasure series was as much fun as the first one that we watched quite awhile back. Plenty of adventure, several chuckles, a car chase for the guys, mystery brain puzzlers.. something for everyone. We ordered this movie to view ourselves, after the kids bedtime, but it would've been fine for them to view, and I expect they would've enjoyed it as well. We may well choose to get it again for their viewing at a later date.

Now for the big news of the day. Several weeks ago, the kids each found a caterpillar and carefully placed them in their chosen containers, along with a few leaves, some grass and a stick. Within a couple days, both caterpillars had spun cocoons. It was really quite interesting as we were actually able to watch as one of them completely surrounded itself with the finely spun material. We watched as it's head bobbed around, and the cocoon became thicker and thicker, his body gradually fading into a darker and darker shadow,until his figure was finally completely hidden from view.

This morning Lindsay glanced over at her container and began squealing with delight. Her caterpillar had completed it's transformation and was now a "beautiful" moth awaiting release. What a wonderful, exciting way to start our day!

Monday, July 14, 2008

That's Why They're Called Experiments

As I noted in yesterday's post, I attempted to make yogurt. The first problem I ran into was the pan I chose to heat the milk in was evidently not to my candy thermometers liking. I managed to get it clipped on, or rather settled upon the side of the pan. It turned out the pan was too shallow to actually utilize the clip on feature. I decided it would be fine, so long as it didn't get bumped. Everyone in the faily was instructed to remain a safe distance away so as to reduce any chances of it being bumped. Everyone did a fine job of following my instructions.

Then I decided I needed to stir the milk as it heated in order to keep it from scalding to an impossible to remove film in the bottom of the pan. I was careful to avoid the spot where the thermometer was resting. Then I thought perhaps I needed to stir just a wee bit closer to the thermometer. That worked out okay, so I chose to move just a teeny bit closer. The thermometer tumbled out, and onto the floor. Dang! Only 30º to go!

I quickly washed the thermometer, and let things heat up a few more minutes. I removed the pan from the heat and replaced the thermometer. It leveled out at 100º. That seemed fine to me, so I stirred in the yogurt for culture, then I poured it into a wide mouthed jar, and took it outside to the garden where I knew it would get plenty of sun, and would remain undisturbed by curious kitties, or playful children. After the allotted time had passed I went back outside and into the garden to check on my masterpiece. I tilted it ever so gently. It was as fluid as the moment I had placed it out there, maybe even more so!

While it is possible my temps were off a bit in the initial preparation process, I don't think they were off enough to make that much of a difference. Rather, I'm thinking perhaps solar isn't the way to go for yogurt incubation, at least not unless you (or I) have a way to regulate the temperature of the container. That was one warm jug of sour milk!

Today, I'm taking a break from experimentation. Tomorrow, I may give it another go. Either that, or perhaps I'll wait until after our trip to town on Thursday, when I can acquire a large wide mouthed thermos which will be dedicated to nothing but yogurt incubating!

This morning Lindsay described the rather vivid dream she had last night. It seems I had attempted to make yogurt and she noticed "poison" was one of the ingredients. Not sure how I should take that! ;-)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Feather and A Song

This weeks Backyard photo, taken by yours truly is of Nathan (doing his best to suppress a smile) and Lindsay wearing my first two attempts at knitting clothing. You can't tell in the photo (or maybe you can), but Nathan's is a hoodie, while Lindsay opted for a more traditional crew neck style.

Looks like today is going to be another classic summery sunshine day. I've decided to take advantage of the solar rays and try making some yogurt, keeping it warm in the sunshine. I have the container, now all I need to do is find a spot where it's not likely to be disturbed, and won't get too warm. I'm thinking the heat regulation will be the most difficult aspect to achieve. Guess there's only one way to find out for sure. That's right. Another grand experiment.

Saturday Night at the Movies

Last nights weekly main event was Shrek The Third. Pa and I are both impressed by the ability of the Shrek folks to continue to put out entertaining sequels. It seems in most cases sequels steadily go downhill, but not Shrek. We've now watched 3 Shrek movies and all 4 of us enjoyed each successive one as much as the one before. I was unsure about obtaining the first one for viewing, as I had seen reviews saying it was inappropriate for children, something about being downgrading to girls and self esteem. We found the opposite to be true. We heartily recommend any and all of the Shrek films for family viewing.

The kids snuggly tucked in bed it was time for Ma and Pa's feature film of the evening. About the best thing I can think of to say about Whithnail and I is it was not disgusting. It also wasn't edifying in any way. Neither did we find it entertaining. Listed under comedies, we found ourselves searching for those laughable moments. We did manage a few chuckles, but those moments were limited. On a brighter note, it was Daniel's computer time, so at least he had something relatively interesting to divert his attention. From the ratings lists I've seen, obviously there are a lot of folks out there who would disagree with us on this one, so perhaps some of you might have a different take on it as well...

Birds of a Feather

This morning Pa was standing by the dining room table, gazing out the window, which is always a pleasant thing to do around here. Ya just never know what might show up in the birdfeeder, or flit by the window. Hummingbirds are usually the biggest thrill. They seem to enjoy the colorful suncatchers the kids have created and hung up in the window. When the hummingbirds check them out it seems almost as if they're coming up to the window to say hello. We always respond with a cheery "Good Morning", or other welcoming greeting.

This morning Pa witnessed something a bit out of the ordinary, one large, solitary feather spiraling straight down out of the sky. There were no trees directly above it's point of descent. Nothing but clear blue sky. It seemed so odd, so unlikely, that, thinking perhaps his eyes were playing tricks on him, he ventured outside to investigate. There, laying on the ground, was a beautiful, large wing feather, bearing no signs of mangling. Now the 4 of us are having a fine time playing the guessing game. We know it's not a vulture. Nathan would like to think it is from a Falcon, which is possible as they are around, and have been seen swooping about in the sky above us, but we've pretty much narrowed it down to either a hawk or an eagle, both of which we see playing in the currents above our home this time of year.

We are fortunate to have many feathered visitors to our yard. Along with the hummingbirds, I count the bright yellow Western Tanengier as a favorite. Another colorful visitor is the Varied Thrush. Nathan is especially interested in birds, and has more than one feeder hanging out in the trees, in spots easily viewed from the windows of our home. He keeps those feeders well stocked and the result has been an increasingly varied assortment of birds. The Blue Jays visit the feeders on occasion, but they seem to prefer larger portions of food which are attainable elsewhere, leaving the feeders open for business to others. A side benefit to our increased bird population is the music. What to them I suspect is mere chatter, to my ear is a sensory delight. Just one more reason I love living in the country.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Christmas In July

Last week when Pa returned from the Post Office he was carrying a rather large, packed full to the point it was bulging, box which included my sister's return address. I couldn't get my boxcutter out and open the box fast enough for the kids who were anxious to dig in and see what the box contained. I carefully sliced through the tape and quickly stood back, out of the way as my children eagerly plunged their hands inside and began pulling out items of clothing, one piece at a time. The squeals of delight were nearly as enthusiastic as those we hear each Christmas morning. The nice thing about this time was Pa and I were both awake enough to fully appreciate it all right along with them.

Most of the clothing contained within the box was intended for Nathan, as their cousin, Beeb, is the closest in age to my two, but there were a few items included for Lindsay as well, including a vest and a jacket in Lindsay's two most favorite colors (pink and purple) and a very cool scarf which she insisted on wearing for several days, despite the warm temperatures being provided by our grinning solar friend. I can't say that I blame her as not only does it include all her favorite colors in various pastel hues, but it is also incredibly soft. She was also treated to some summer tops which are a bit large but that proves to be beneficial during the warmer days when lite and airy is the way to go. She has happily worn everything on more than one occasion already and is looking forward to repeating the mix n match as often as possible.

Nathan's selections were also exciting. There were shorts and pants of the sort of fabric he is most fond, as well as shirts to round things off. He has a habit of choosing a piece of clothing that he likes and wearing it as long as possible, even hiding it so I can't manage to sneak it away and into the washer. He seems to hold to the same belief system for his clothing as he does for himself. There is such a thing as "lucky dirt", and you want to hold on to that substance for as long as possible, avoiding anything that in any way resembles a shower for as long as you can avoid your Mother's grasp. Fortunately, there were more similar items of clothing so I am hopeful I may manage to to do a switcheroo when he's looking the other way, which will result in the least amount of protestations as is possible in such a situation ;-)

Thank you Carol! We all truly appreciate your generosity!

Bookin' It

To add to the festive spirit of things, once again I found a book that I simply could not live without! After checking it out at the library and thumbing through it, I realized it was one of those books that would be extremely painful to return. What else to do but head to Powell's and see if it was available. Indeed it was, and for a very tempting price. The book, Math Wizardry For Kids, is an amazing book that truly brings the fun back in math. It includes fun little projects that enhance the understanding of concepts in a manner which not only provided, merely by reading about them the "AHA!" moments for me, but retention value as well. It deals mostly with Geometry which is one subject (of many) that I am sorely lacking in understanding. Reading through any lessons that come up for my children in this subject leaves shaking my head, wondering what foreign language this may be written, and where I might find a translator. This book explains, and illustrates it all in a way which I can understand it, and will be an excellent precursor to the geometry lessons coming up in our Math Mammoth series.

Dining In

Last night we celebrated the end of our school week with a dual menu supper. The kids enjoyed their BLTs with pear tomatoes on the side, while Pa and I dined on Liver and onions. For some reason that is something we don't often treat ourselves to, so when we do manage it, it is thoroughly enjoyed, and always leaves us wishing for more. It's one of the very few things we don't force our children to eat, opting instead to provide them with something that is easily prepared along side it. Perhaps we are more apt to provide them with this option because it somehow seems it leaves more for us. We don't have to share! The liver, prepared by Pa was cooked to perfection, topped with plenty of onions cooked almost to the caramelized stage, and a slice of bacon on the side. The kids were both watching, shaking their heads in disbelief as we happily consumed our meal. Poor things. They really don't know what they're missing!

Happy weekend y'all! Be safe, and have fun!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A House of....Styrofoam??

Hard to believe it's Friday already. This week really flew by for me. I suspect it has to do with keeping myself busy, which hasn't been difficult. The sun has finally decided to act it's seasonal self, and shine some heat down on us. It feels good to step outside into the sunshine and let it warm my shoulders. Of course there's a downside to it as well.The warm sun has been joined by the wind, and between the two of them they've done a fine job of drying out all the vegetation that had been taking advantage of the extended rainy season, resulting in some rather incredible growth spurts.

For those of us who call the country home, that means some extra work. As we've been outside toiling in the heat, cutting back the baking vegetation, Pa with his bushwhacker, me with smaller grass clippers, we are serenaded by the sounds of our neighbors doing the same thing. The Boondocks are humming with the sounds of busy humanoids doing their best to reduce the odds of their home and property being undertaken by the long fingers of red hot flames, should a spark be set off in the general vicinity.


Of course, we're also still working the gardens. The kids' garden is doing great! Nathan's sunflowers are growing taller by the day, as is the elephant garlic. The potatoes all look healthy, and their lettuce is growing at twice the pace of mine.

Portions of my gardens are doing well too. Most of my potatoes look happy, and my peas are doing great. Of the hundreds of spinach seeds I planted, I think I have 6 healthy looking plants. At least I know they didn't go to waste. The Blue Jays and the slugs were provided with several tasty snacks. Ah well. Another month or two and hopefully (depending on what surprises Mother Nature may opt to throw at us) I'll be able to try the spinach again. My main patch of carrots and green onions were looking fine a week ago, but now most of them seem to have suffered the same fate as my spinach. Next year I guess. That's the thing about gardening, the ultimate gambling experiment. Just gotta take it as it's thrown at you, and hopefully learn from each year's experiences.

Power House

We had a busy week and weren't able to accomplish as much as we'd hoped with our science project. We did, however manage to get the house built. Initially it looked like it was going to go together quite easily, but then we noticed some unacceptable gaps in a few places that just wouldn't work in regards to future experiments. We all looked it over and tried several things to make it work, pushing and jiggling, as gently as possible since the whole thing is made of styrofoam,and we really didn't want to break it, or make any little hairline cracks that may undermine the structure ...Finally I took it all apart except for the greenhouse and one wall. I found if I placed a rather troublesome inner wall into the front wall first, then fit it into the back wall prior to placing the smallest wall in, that side worked out. Only problem at that point was the other side of the house was tilting up in the air. About this time I was thinking it was near hopeless but then I remembered how much this thing had cost us and thought I'd try placing the one remaining side wall in. That brought everything together and it all fit snuggly in place, including the all important roof. So, the house works as provided but, in our case anyway, not quite the way the instructions state. It was a fun beginning project, and even with the slight bit of frustration at times, the extra figuring was entertaining, and even provided some additional educational value. So far, so good. This weekend we'll put the doors and windows in so we'll be all ready to begin our first experiment early next week, We're going to "...capture the sun.." . Reading ahead, the biggest hurdle I can see (so far) is finding a small matchbox. Hmmm. Figures, we have a large kitchen matches box, but no small ones. Maybe we'll get lucky and find one before the need arises. Otherwise, I guess we'll just have an overabundance of kitchen matches! I suppose I can live with that ;-)

More Fun to Come

Pa is outside teaching Lindsay how to cast a fishing line. She's all excited, looking forward to her first fishing adventure. One more thing we're going to try to fit in to our schedule next week. Something about Summer time, just seems like such a busy season. Guess it's a good thing we're treated to some extra sunlight hours, which I suppose is about as close as any of us is ever going to come to more hours in the day :o)

I've got all my gardening done for the day, and need to get to my dishes before I can set myself down in the cool comfort of my humble home and get some knitting done.

Hope you're all enjoying your Summer events, and looking forward to a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

No Beans on Sunday

Sunday we ended our lesson on Costa Rica with a culinary experiment. In studying this country, and searching for recipes/meal ideas, we discovered that Costa Rican's consume a lot of beans. They have beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They even have beans for snacks! While we have been working towards integrating beans in our diet on a more regular basis (for nutritional, as well as economic reasons) we still haven't achieved the level of enjoyment that we are striving for from the children. We do want our edible portion of geography lessons to accurately portray the regions we are studying, but we also want it to be an enjoyable experience for the kids, we opted to just go with dessert this time around.

In searching for the perfect dessert recipe, I found a lot of recipes that required the use of an oven. Being without a conventional oven at this time, I was a bit limited in my selections. Finally, I settled upon a recipe for a bread pudding which utilized ingredients one might expect to find in abundance in Costa Rica. Looking over the recipe I decided I could easily make some revisions, creating my own version. The end result was a wonderful taste sensation, which I felt was worthy of "jotting down", and sharing with you.

Costa Rica inspired Bread Pudding

10 slices white bread (old sandwich style, if using larger style slices you may want to reduce to 9 slices)
1/2 cup strained,crushed pineapple (reserve juice for sauce)
1/3 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
1/3 cup flaked, sweetened coconut

5 TBSP butter or Margarine
1 cup lite coconut milk
1/2 cup milk
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup pineapple juice (reserved from pineapple)
2 Tbsp. dark rum

Remove crusts from bread, and cut into small cubes, placing in a large bowl. Add pineapple, coconut, and macadamia nuts. Pour melted butter over all and stir to combine. In medium size bowl, combine milks, beaten egg, granulated sugar, and spices. Mix well, then stir into bread mixture. Lightly grease an 8" or 9" square pan (I used 9"), or spray with Pam. Pour mixture into pan and allow to set for an hour or so.

Bake pudding in preheated 350º oven for about an hour, or until pick comes out clean. Allow to cool a bit in pan while preparing sauce (or 10-15 minutes if you opt to skip the sauce)

Melt 1 TBSP butter or margarine in small pan over medium heat. Mix cornstarch well with brown sugar. Add to melted butter along with pineapple juice. Cook and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in rum.

Serve warm sauce over warm pudding.
Alternately, serve pudding with vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. You may also want to try serving the pudding with ice cream and drizzled with the rum sauce. could do like the kids did! Simply top it with more crushed pineapple! :-)

Yields about 6 servings

Let me know if you try it!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Sunday has arrived once again, signalling the end of one week, with all it's memories and the beginning of yet another, with new memories to come.

We had a good time on the 4th. The kids and the kittens watched, with eager anticipation as Pa cooked chicken on the grill, which we simply served with potato salad, and ice cream for dessert. Try as we might, we could not convince the kids to wait til after dark for their fireworks fun. They did however, agree to limiting themselves to those items which lent more to the audial senses than the visual, with the exception of those disgusting "snakes", which don't tend to show up as well in the dark, and the "Champaigne Poppers". This year they discovered a new day time delight, some really cool snapping things, quite small in size, which you merely toss on the ground with some force, or simply drop and step on for a popping sound. Such a simple, unassuming item which is oddly entertaining. Shortly after 9 we broke out the smoke bombs, and the sparklers. One of our kittens really enjoyed the smoke bombs. He'd go running up to them, and as the colorful smoke curled up in front of him, he would stand up on his hind legs, carefully batting at the plumes with his front paws. Those bombs which tended to rush out to one side rather than curling up into the sky, he would chase. Such a funny little fellow!

Once these delights were finished off it was beginning to get good and dark, so we broke out the more spectacular offerings. The rattle snakes were great fun, emitting oodles of snaps and pops in rapid progression. In all we spent about $20 for our evening of sensory delight, and it lasted just over 2 hours. The kids were finally tucked into bed about 10:30.

The next morning, being Saturday, and the kids' one day of TV viewing for the week, I awoke about 7:30. I noticed Lindsay still asleep in her bed, and kissed her on the cheek to wake her. She appreciated the wake up call as she only missed one of her traditional Saturday morning shows. Later she mentioned how odd she thought it, that she had slept in on a Saturday morning. The price you pay for late night fun :)

Saturday Night At The Movies
And a wee bit o' readin'

Last night the kiddo's watched another older film. This one was dated by the musical selections, sung by Cyndi Lauper. The Goonies was a fast paced adventure, which I would love to give a blanket recommendation for family viewing. Unfortunately, as the film really was a great romp, it did contain some language and less than child friendly references. The vast majority of these verbal downfalls were near the beginning of the film, perhaps the first 10 or 15 minutes. I guess I'd have to suggest, for families with younger children, that the parents preview the film prior to setting it up for the whole family to watch. My children thoroughly enjoyed this film, and even asked if there was a sequel. Pa and I had a mixed reaction. While we enjoyed the film, and thought it okay for the most part, there was the language, spoken by children, which we felt innapropriate. I guess I'd have to rate this one proceed with caution..

Pa and I skipped the later night viewing last night, choosing to get some reading done instead. I enjoyed getting some more read in the book my daughter sent me for Mother's Day, How to Fit a Carseat On A Camel. A delightful book, filled with stories from individual authors, portraying the various challenges and mishaps encountered while traveling with their children. The stories are entertaining, and a bonus for me is the short story format, which works well for me, as I don't often find the time these days to follow a lengthy novel.

Earlier this last week however we did watch a film that we enjoyed, Immortal Beloved. The first word that comes to mind regarding this film is, "Wow!" It is a historical fiction about one of my favorite composers, Beethoven. The music, of course was amazing, and the story an interesting take on the question of the identity of the mysterious intended recipient of his last testament. There is some brief nudity towards the beginning of the film, which may have been unnecessary, but not what I would consider frivolous. It was simply a part of the story. Netflix has a rating system which consists of whole numbers, 1-5, 5 being the highest rating. We rated this a 4, although it came close to a 5 for us. Perhaps it was the lack of portrayal of his love of nature that bumped it down for me, which really is unfair on my part, as this was clearly a story of another aspect of his life. Honestly, it is probably deserving of a 5 rating. Who knows, I may end up changing my rating.

The Scale

Yes, the scale. It seems I was errant, or at the very least jumping the gun a bit, in my previous post stating our conquering of the scale. It remained zeroed in for maybe 12 hours, until Nathan decided to see how it worked. Once again, we worked and worked at getting it zeroed in again, accomplishing a couple brief zero moments, but it was way too touchy for us to consider it functional. Finally, we had to admit defeat and gave the company we purchased it from another call. Matthew's now familiar voice on the other end was reassuring. You may recall my comment that we probably could've fixed the problem within a few minutes if we had merely called the company for assistance. Alas, after numerous hours, spanning several days of attempting to figure it out on our own, Matthew led us through a couple simple steps which resulted in a perfectly functional scale within about 5 minutes time. We're just loving this scale, and again, highly recommend this company, Home Science Tools, for homeschool science needs.

Once again, my day is getting away from me, and I need to get started on my chores if I hope to spend any time
with more leisurely pursuits, or knitting, so I will call this good for the day, and wish you all a very happy Sunday!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Last year at this time, we were residing in a motel in town. We missed being out here where the kids could run and play, and we could have our traditional BBQ, but we had our fun just the same. We had gotten to know the management of the motel quite well, and invited both the manager and the housekeeper to join us in lighting our personal fireworks, as well as watching the more extravagant show in the distance from the Mill Casino.

The area we live in makes a two day event of the 4th. On the 3rd, the Mill Casino goes all out. They have specials, kiddie fun, and a most spectacular fireworks display. A very large percentage of locals show up for the festivities, as well as many folks from outside the area. I wouldn't be surprised to learn our population doubles over the weekend.

The following evening another nearby community lights off their fireworks. Many folks attend that event, as well as setting off their own personal cache at home. Whole neighborhoods gather at a central point and light up the sky as children scamper about. At a certain point the fire chief announces, over the scanner (probably 75% of the local population owns one of those gadgets) that the fun is over. Everyone rushes to pick up the "evidence" before the patrol runs through their neighborhood. It's all rather entertaining to watch, and nice to wake the next morning to an amazingly trash free street.

This year, we're back home, in the normally quiet countryside for the 4th. However, this is one time of the year that we don't count on enjoying the quiet evenings. You see, we live quite near the dunes, a major tourist destination. At first the noise bothered us, but as time passed we realized it is a small annoyance that we are willing to put up with, as it is a great economic shot in the arm for our community. Rather than be annoyed with it, we now find it a source of amusement.

Many folks look forward to making the trip to the dunes each year, and the month of July is a big one for them. Last night we sat outside and listened to the ATVs roaring in the distance until their curfew of 11 PM. Tonight we expect the same, but that will be nothing compared to the weeks to come. This year our area is sponsoring an even bigger dunes event than in the past. There will be several organized events having to do with the dunes. There will be races. They are even planning to set up an outdoor theatre for the ATVer's viewing pleasure. Being one of the many families in our area who owns and listens to their scanner on a regular basis, I can't help but wonder at the wisdom of supplying such a diversion to the temporary populace racing about in the dunes, providing our local Police,EMTs and hospital with their seasonal business influx. Then again, I don't know exactly how it will be set up. Surely they will have safety in mind...


This last week I had hoped to get started on our summer science project. Due to the holiday, and the resulting short school week, as well as the children's excitement level over the fun to come, we opted to start slowly. We read the introduction, to get an overview of what is to come. I read it out loud as the kids followed along on the pages I had printed for them. I paused on occasion, both for effect, and to allow them plenty of time to underline, with their colored pencils, all the words and phrases that were unfamiliar to them. By the time we had finished reading, they had some rather colorful pages! Great! A bonus vocabulary lesson! We discussed what had been underlined, looking up some words in the dictionary, and we discussed some of the things the author had mentioned in this introduction which was written a couple years ago. He mentioned the oil crisis of the 70's, and the resulting wake up call for many Americans. We were then able to include some discussion on current events, and how what he had written may be even more relevant today.

By the end of our first little lesson the kids were pumped! They wanted to know more about what we were going to be doing. It was then I pulled out the box. The box itself is descriptive enough there was no need to remove the contents in order for the kids to become even more excited. They were talking about it for the rest of the day, and are eagerly anticipating the plunge in next week. They're not the only ones!

Last night I decided to read ahead a bit in the manual. I'm even more excited than I was initially. It looks to me like this is going to be a fun and educational project for the whole family.The way the manual iswritten is nothing short of brilliant! We will be following along with the adventures, the trials, and the lessons learned by a group of young people, living on an island, attempting to create a self sustained, ecologically responsible home and life, via their journal entries. As we follow along, we will be building projects, and performing experiments which directly relate to their experiences. For a sneak peak at what is to come, take a look at Power House, by Thames and Kosmos.

Wishing all a very happy and safe Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

An Odd Bird

Since we discovered this new species in our backyard, we're thinking we have naming rights. Perhaps the "Featherless Natewarbler"?