Thursday, October 31, 2013

Computer Programming for English

Jayme and I have been reading Gulliver's Travels for English. Since the vocabulary is a little different, I've been reading it aloud.  We are enjoying it. 

Yesterday morning, after reading about an encounter the main character had with the Queen's favorite dwarf, Jayme asked if she could make a game in Scratch about it.  I said of course!

She did a great job using the computer programming skills she has learned with Scratch to create a project based on literature.  What a fun way to learn and show that she is comprehending!

Here is a screen shot:

If you'd like to see Jayme's game, please click here.

Have you tried Scratch programming?  We learned about it through Easy Peasy Homeschool, and are really enjoying it! 

Getting It All Done: Shopping Expeditions Part 2

Last time we looked at how we prepare for a shopping expedition. Today we'll tackle the actual shopping process for the six kids and me.

After we drop Bryan off at work, we tackle the first store on our itinerary. I strap Simon into a front pack and rally the troops. If we have the wheelchair, Owen uses it (with Jayme pushing).  If we don't, we just grab a second cart. Sydney sits in the front of this one, with Owen sitting in the back.  I push this cart, and Jayme pushes the cart we use for our items.  Jeff and Ellie walk along beside us, or take turns sitting in the front of the Jayme's cart.  I'm so thankful for an older child!  She is such a blessing and a helper.

The kids love showing me things they find as we walk through the store. We usually implement a one-finger rule.  They can touch things with one finger.  This prevents them from grabbing.  At least most of the time! Jayme helps me keep reminding everyone about this rule.  I try to practice it too, unless the item is going in the cart.  No fair for me to be grabbing things I'm not buying but telling my kids they can't. 

Some stores we go in, get what we need and get out quickly.  Others we take our time and just wander through.  Costco has good samples (yum!) so we go slow. 

No matter if we are in a slow store or a fast store, if energy levels are high, I'll suggest that the kids skip to the end of the aisle and back (in a non-crowded part of the store of course).  I might even join them. :) I've also done scavenger hunts within aisles. Who can find something blue first?  How about the number 3? Distractions are good. 

Shopping with six kids really can be fun.  It all depends on my attitude.  I really have to keep it in check and  not let myself get stressed. Kids are active.  My children are not perfectly behaved in stores.  They whine.  But, if I start barking out orders or whining, or stressing, the whole trip goes south pretty quickly. I sometimes have to stop and whisper a quick prayer for patience and a better attitude.  The Lord provides abundantly well!

Snacks are also important for keeping the day going well!  Hungry kids whine.  A lot.  At least my hungry kids do. We bring a substantial morning snack (usually cheese sticks and pretzels).  About 10:00 we park out of the way somewhere and eat.  If it's summertime, we'll find a park.  Otherwise, we just sit in the car.  I sit in the middle row and have Jayme sit up front.  This way I can keep Owen from taking Sydney's food.  If I feed Owen, it also cuts down substantially on the mess.  Win-win!

After a snack, we tackle a few more items on our itinerary.  We make sure to take a potty break shortly after. We've learned where clean bathrooms consistently are, and where to avoid.  I usually have Jayme wait with Sydney and Owen while I take Jeff, Ellie and Simon in.  Then Jayme goes when we are done.  I handle diaper changes in the back of the Suburban for all three kids who need them.  Time consuming, yes--but definitely manageable. We park in a spot with a garbage can easily accessible--Wal-Marts are good for this!

Lunch occurs in the car, unless the  weather is decent enough to eat in a park.  It's handled the same as snacks, only with more food. The kids love having their own lunchboxes!  They usually save part of their lunch for on the way home.  (If the weather is cool enough or the food not perishable.)

We finish our shopping and hopefully fit in a park or Mobius before picking up Bryan and heading home to unload all the groceries.  Our afternoon snack (usually cookies!) is passed out. 

Occasionally Bryan will need to go to a store or two, so we continue our shopping expedition with Daddy.  That's a lot more fun!  He can even skate on two carts going through the parking lot! I haven't been brave enough to try that yet, much to the kids' disappointment.

Shopping is a tiring day, but very worthwhile.  We usually sing on the way home.  What a great way to end a productive day! 

Maggie's Milk: Frozen Yogurt Style

We've recently discovered a delicious way to get some probiotics!  Our Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker whipped up some great frozen  yogurt.  It was a nice change of pace from ice cream.

Here's what I did:

In a large mixing bowl, add 4 cups of yogurt, 1/2 cup of organic sugar, and 1 tsp. of vanilla.  I mixed it up really well, and dumped it into the ice cream maker.  It ran for about 10 minutes, and then I added a handful of chocolate chips.  I let it go a couple of minutes longer.

Yum!  The kids all approved. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting It All Done: The Daily Grind

Since both cows became fresh last month, and farm chore times increased, I had to redo our daily schedule.  I finally feel like we have the major kinks worked out.  It's the first time that I really feel like the kids are used to the routine.  Before I share my schedule, here are a four reasons why I think THIS schedule works:

1. I cut out a bunch

 Honesty, there are only so many hours in a day.  When I had things schedule so tightly together that there wasn't any leeway, we all felt it.  We don't have many normal days.  Owen might have seizures and require more care.  The cows might get out.  The sheep might jump the fence.  Life might happen.  Scratch that.  Life DOES happen.  And because of that, our schedule wouldn't.

I'd get stressed over what wasn't getting done, and that would affect the attitude of the whole house. Now I have less planned, and it's working great! Less stress, and important things are actually getting done.  Major happiness here!

2. I stopped trying to have kids do chores before breakfast.

I don't know about your family, but my kids wake up ready to eat.  Every schedule I look at online seems to have chores that get done before breakfast.  I've always tried this in the past. For us, it lead to lots of grumpiness.  Now I've decided that we can eat first.  Chores get done so much more productively now! I love it.

3. I took time to teach the process

Too many times in the past I just made a schedule and tried to implement it immediately.    After doing some research on this--by reading posts at Large Families on Purpose and the Maxwell scheduling book (Managers of Their Homes), I learned the importance of teaching the schedule.

We had dry runs with different parts of the schedule before jumping in whole hog.  We were able to discuss what worked and what didn't work.  I got input from my older kids. 

4.  I have a list of extra things

With all the extra time in the schedule, we might actually have surplus time one of these days.  You know--if the distractions don't happen.  I'm prepared.  I have a list of things that could get done.  Or games that we can play.  Fun things.  Work things.  School things.  Depends on when we have the time. This way I don't just turn on the TV and veg.  It's hard to get back to reality after stopping for a TV break.

So without further ado...the schedule that is currently working for us:

4:30 am: Nurse Simon
5:00: Walk/Run with Bryan
5:30: Milk and am farm chores (clean barn, water animals, feed baby cows, feed hay) Jayme joins me at 5:45,
6:15: Shower and dress. Make breakfast.  Pack Bryan's lunch.
6:45: Say good-bye to Bryan, start English with Jayme.
7:15: Wake up rest of kids.
7:30: Breakfast & Nurse
8:00: Table Chores, Morning Chores & Morning Weekly Chores
9:00: Bible Time
9:30: School--Jayme on her own, Me with Jeff, Ellie, Sydney & Owen
10:00: AM Snack during school
10:30: Finish school & Clean up, Nurse
11:00: Free Time kids while I make lunch (one helps me)
11:30: Lunch
12:00 pm: Table chores & Afternoon Weekly Chores
12:30: Family Play Time
1:15: Pick up and get ready for Quiet Time
1:30: Quiet Time
         One child has special time with me for 30 minutes
         2:00: My Bible Study Time & Nurse
         2:30: My Nap
        3:00 My walk with one child 
3:30: Afternoon snack & story
4:00: Nurse Simon before chores
4:30: Milk & afternoon farm chores
5:15: Dinner prep
5:45: 15 minute cleanup
6:00:  Dinner
6:30: Table chores, ready for bed, nurse
7:00: Family Play Time
7:30: Evening Bible Time as Family
8:00: Kids go to bed, nurse
Time with Bryan
9-9:30: Bed

We aren't a slave to our schedule, but having the routine has been great!  We are actually getting weekly chores done twice a day!  We are staying on top of milking!  We are homeschooling with a purpose and plan.  I don't stick to the schedule as much for nursing, except for the times right before milking.  I don't want Simon hungry during farm chores! :) Otherwise, he nurses on demand through the day. It's about every two hours, so that's what I stuck in. 

I love it! 

What's your daily schedule?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wouldn't It Be Easier?

The Lord has been hard at work with me and my life.  It's hard to exactly explain how, but I just can feel Him at work.  The work has been centered along the lines of an easy life.  And how that is NOT what we are called to.

 Yes.  I realize that life would be EASIER if our family size didn't keep expanding.  Yes.  Life would be EASIER if Owen didn't have Angelman Syndrome.  Yes.  Life would be EASIER if I didn't milk cows and live on a farm.  There are many other examples...I'm sure you get the picture. 

But just because life would be easier--does that mean it would be better?

NO! That is my answer.  Easier is not better.  It's just easier. We weren't called to the easy life.  We're called to walk with the Lord.  This means a life with ups and downs.  But no matter our elevation at each and every moment, we can rest securely in the fact that He is with us. 

All of His recent work in my life really became clear to me in the middle of the night as I was up with Owen. Did I mention that he doesn't sleep much?  2:00 am has been his wake up time recently....but I digress...It was at this hour of the morning (night?) that I had one of those light bulb moments. Things began to make a little more sense.

I was responding to an email on my phone as I snuggled with Owen trying to get him back to sleep, and wrote this...

"The Lord has been working on us as parents through Owen. He is challenging, but has been good at forcing us to grow more and lose some selfish traits that we probably would have clung to without him. "

I realized at that point that an easy life is a life not living to our full potential.  It is through the hard times that the Lord polishes us and conforms us--making us more like Himself.  Rejoicing in the hard times is difficult.  But the Lord carries each and everyone of us and knows the beginning from the end.  Everything that happens--even when things aren't easy--are for our good as believers.   

Yes, there are times when I wish that life was easier. I might even complain about it. (Something I'm really working on!)  But I am learning to be grateful for the purging the Lord has been doing on me through hard times.  I rest in the fact that the Lord has my whole life in His hands and I can trust Him to carry me through.    

5 of our 6 blessings--thank you Lord!

Please join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemaker

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekly Menu: Simplifying Cooking

At this stage in our life, simple is best.  I need to have as many decisions as possible made ahead of time so I can go through the day and not get caught up in little details.  Having a premade meal plan is one way that we simplify.

With this plan, I try to always add a fruit or veggie for dinner to round it out a bit.  We usually drink a cold glass of Maggie milk! Though homemade lemonade, water or smoothies might be offered instead.

We've been using this current plan for a few months, and I anticipate using it through the winter at least.  We'll probably switch things around in the spring if we're getting bored.

Here is what is on our meal plan:

             Breakfast=French toast casserole, Sausage links, orange juice
              Lunch=Something in the crockpot or on delay in the oven
              Dinner=Mac and Cheese with either hot dogs or hamburger

Monday (Jeff's Day):
              Breakfast=Soaked oatmeal with fruit
              Lunch=Pigs in a blanket, peas, applesauce
              Dinner=Pasta, cooked carrots and salad

Tuesday (Sydney's Day):
                 Breakfast=Pancakes and fruit
                 Lunch=Leftover pasta from Monday night or spaghetti with French bread and salad
                Dinner=Oriental (usually a stir-fry, mandarin chicken, egg-fried rice, or egg-drop soup, but
                                            if we have time, we do potstickers or egg-rolls or wontons)

Wednesday (Ellie's Day):
                  Breakfast=Sausage sandwich and fruit
                  Lunch=Crackers, meat and cheese slices (homemade Lunchable basically) with carrots
                 Dinner= Mexican (enchiladas, tacos, nachos, etc.)

Thursday (Owen's Day):
                 Breakfast=Yogurt & fruit
                 Lunch=Cheese quesadilla with fruit
                Dinner=Seafood (crab sandwich loaf, salmon patties, tuna casserole, shrimp broccoli 
                               delight, baked fish...)

Friday (Jayme's Day):
                Breakfast=Omelets with ham and cheese
                Lunch = Meat gravy, mashed potatoes and corn
                Dinner=Pizza at Grandma's house

Saturday (Will eventually be Simon's Day):
                 Breakfast=Hash browns with smoothies
                  Lunch=Leftovers from the week or hot sandwiches (grilled cheese, tuna melt, etc)
                 Dinner=Whatever we feel like cooking! :)

For lunch, leftovers always trump.  That way we don't waste food.  Bryan eats a lot of leftovers in his packed lunch as well.

Do you have a rotating menu plan? How do you simplify life in the kitchen?

Monday's Lunch Menu

Monday is Jeffrey's day.  When I made my repeating breakfast and lunch menu, he got to pick breakfast and lunch options for Monday.  He picked oatmeal for breakfast.  Lunch is pigs in a blanket, peas and applesauce.

I found a great pigs in a blanket recipe at Heavenly Homemaker.  I use this recipe, but my procedure is a bit different--more conducive for little helping hands.

Once our dough is mixed, I simply grab out a small golf ball size chunk and put on a plate.

One of the kids smooshes it flat. 

Another kid grabs a hot dog quarter and sticks on.

I roll them up...

And then we stick them on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and dip in ketchup.  Unless you don't like ketchup.  Then feel free to eat them plain.  But Jeffrey loves ketchup!

Add steamed frozen peas and a scoop of applesauce.  Yummy lunch! 

The best part?  I use 12 hot dogs for this recipe.  By cutting each one into quarters we get 48 pigs rolled tightly in little blankets. Since most of my kids are young still, we don't eat that many for one lunch.  I cook 24, and freeze 24.

Next Monday I just pull them out, put them on a cookie sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes.  Easy lunch!

24 piggies ready to be frozen
What did you have for Monday's lunch?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our Pirate Adventure

Life has been hectic around Grouse Creek, and it was time for a change.  Time to slow down for a few hours. Time for an adventure. So when I found a free printable for a pirate treasure nature scavenger hunt, I knew what kind of adventure we would have.

On Friday, we donned our pirate scarves and trekked out into the backwoods paths here at the farm looking for pirate goodies.  Since we don't have acorns, we decided to use yellow leaves for gold doubloons. Pearls (berries) and jewels (rocks and little pinecones) rounded out the loot to search for. 
We kept our eyes peeled for swords, hooks and eye patches to complete our pirate costumes. 

My crew all ready for adventure!

We had a baggie of hard tack (pretzels) and water for rations on our journey.  With everything in order, we set off. Sydney found the first sword.

Every pirate needs a patch.  We made ours by poking a hole in both sides of a leaf and stringing yarn through it.Quick, simple and really cute!

Our journey took us back into the woods.  The fog in the air created the perfect atmosphere for the adventure, and we decided we were on a mysterious island. When we found everything on our list, a sword fight was in order.  And a break for rations.  Being a pirate is hard work!

With bags full of treasure, we decided to turn back for home.  But, we still had to bury our finds.  Jayme decided the barn should be a volcano in the center of our mysterious island.  A volcano is a great spot for buried treasure!

We picked a cement block with a hollow center as the best hiding spot. Everyone dumped their treasures in, and then we covered it with an x (from two sticks). 

Getting ready to bury the loot.

The pirate adventure was just what we needed. Have you had any good adventures lately?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our Blessing Tree

Today I was inspired by a post I read over at Raising Arrows.  This fall, we are trying to focus on counting our blessings and choosing to be thankful.  Amy's project was a perfect craft for this lesson.

We used what we had on hand.  A big chunk of butcher paper made the trunk of our tree.  Jayme colored it brown for us.  We used red, orange and yellow construction paper to make hand print leaves.  Everyone made two or three to help our tree get filled up.

Each finger was used to hold the name of something or someone we were thankful for.  With so many non-writers, it took a while. We used our hour chunk of time between lunch cleanup and quiet time.  We didn't feel rushed this way, and were able to get everything cleaned up afterwards.

I worked with Jeff, Ellie and Sydney individually while the others colored on leftover butcher paper. Jayme completed her own leaves. I loved hearing each blessing.  When everyone was finished, I added my own hand leaves to the tree. 

We all brainstormed things that Owen might be thankful for since he can't talk.  The kids came up with some good ones I wouldn't have thought of--water and bubbles. He giggled as we suggested things, so I think that was his way of acknowledging his blessings.  The iPad definitely made his list--it's amazing how much he is learning to do with it!

Since Owen enjoys ripping paper and eating it, our tree had to be placed out of reach.  I hung it up on a wall between our desk and movie cupboard. I think it will be safe there,  but only time will tell.

Jayme had a good idea--we are going to try to save this tree and leaves, and add to it annually.  We wrote 2013 on the back of each leaf.  As we put it up next year we can look over each blessing, and bring back some memories.

Getting It All Done: Shopping Expeditions-Part 1

Bryan works in Spokane.  All the good grocery stores are there. Owen's doctors are too. And the dentist. And Costco--don't forget Costco!With all that going for it, it makes sense that we do 95% of our shopping in Spokane.

But, it's 45 minutes to get there.  To the north end.  To get to Bryan's work--its more like an hour. With gas so expensive--it also makes sense that we combine trips. That means the kids and I get up early, go take Daddy to work, shop, and then pick Daddy up.  It's a long day.  But--it works for us.

We do a big shopping day once a month.  I find that this makes it easier.  It cuts down on the number of trips we have to take.  I try to schedule shopping around doctor appointments and dentist check ups and what not.  We do the best we can on that.  Sometimes we take more than one trip a month.  And that's okay.

This post isn't even on shopping yet.  It's on all the prep work that has to be done.  This is crucial.  We can't have a good trip to town if we don't plan.  The day before our town day, we have many tasks:

  • Make a shopping list
    • This actually starts a few days before, and I give it a quick glance the day before.  I have a master list saved on Excel of every store I go to, and the groceries I buy.  I have prices on it, and can plug in how many I need.  This was a pain to make, but a life saver ever since.  
    • If you don't have a list, you can't stick to it.  We've cut money out of the budget just by sticking to our list. If there is a really good buy on something, I'll stock up, but for the most part it has to be on the list.
  • Make an itinerary 
    • We know that Bryan has to be to work at 8.  Thus, we have to leave the house at 6:45. We write down any appointments that we have to keep.  We write down the stores we have to go to (which is easy because of our shopping list).  We figure out errands--post office, returns/exchanges, etc.  
    • I have to pick Bryan back up at 4:30.  Then I start plugging in our destinations in an order that makes sense.  If I need a lot of frozen things, I  schedule that store last. If I have three stores on the north end of town, I schedule them together when possible. 
    • By looking at everything we need to do, I can decide what extra activities we will have time for.  On a light shopping trip, we take advantage of our Mobius Science Center and Children's Museum membership.  On beautiful days, we plan for a picnic in the park.  On busier days, those have to be cut.  
    • I plug extra time into our schedule.  Simon has to nurse.  The shopping might take longer.  Potty breaks occur.  Stuff happens.  If my schedule isn't crammed, it isn't a problem. 
  • Decisions: Wheelchair or Not?
    • I have a lot more room in the back of the Suburban without Owen's wheelchair.  But, if we have an appointment, I can't leave it behind.  Bryan and I try to decide if it's a necessity that day or not.  Thankfully, he's still small enough that he can sit fairly comfortably in the carts at most stores.
    • Some stores are easier to do with a wheelchair.  Cash and Carry for instance, does not have carts.  If I have to go there, I bring the chair.  
    • If I bring the chair--I have to carefully check my list.  Only so much can fit in our car.  I try to alternate the big items that I buy so I don't need everything each month. 
  •  Decisions: Lunch
    • We have to eat. :) There are three choices for us to consider:
      • Packed lunch?
      • Partially packed and partially bought? (ie: buy dollar burgers and bring juice and cookies and crackers)
      • Buy lunch
    • If packing or partially packing (used mainly in the hot summer months), I need to work with the kids to get their lunchboxes out and ready. 
  • Diaper Bag
    • An important element of our day.  I have to be prepared. I bring a change of clothes for each child and a new shirt for me (in case of major spit up or spills!).  Simon and Owen get two outfits each, as they are more likely to need them. 
    • I have diapers for Owen, Sydney and Simon.  Wipes get thrown in.
    • Snacks for the day are packed.  We usually do pretzels and cheese sticks for morning snack, and cookies for the afternoon.    
    • Put it in the car.  We've forgotten it before.  That makes for a bad day...and either extra shopping or extra driving. 
  • Clean the Car
    • It's no fun to be crammed into a mess all day.  I have Jeffrey and Jayme bring in everything from the car. I vacuum. 
    • Yes--it's just going to get very messy again.  But, at least it doesn't start that way! 
  • Breakfast 
    • The most important meal of the day needs prep work too.  We need something fast, portable and healthy.  Something that will keep us filled until morning snack time.  
    • Breakfast burritos, muffins, smoothies and healthy breakfast cookies have all been used successfully. 
    • I make anything in advance that I need to, and have the rest ready to throw together in the morning.
  • Setting Alarm Clocks
    • Very important!  I have to get up a little early in order to have chores all done before we leave.  Since we'll be gone all day, I have to double check all animal water which adds a bit of time.  
Once each of these things are checked off my list, I help everyone set out their clothes for the next day.  Then I feel prepared for our day in town.  Next time, we'll look at what the actual shopping days look like.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My First Series: Getting It All Done: Life in a Large Family

I've been asked by many people how we do it.  I think they mean how do we handle life with six kids--when one of them is in a wheelchair and has a severe disability. How are we able to do day-day tasks, and still manage to homeschool, go shopping, raise farm animals, and do everything else that we do. 

Here is the answer--by the grace of God.  I fully trust that He will never give me more than I can handle.  I am honest about the fact that without Him--I would utterly fail; no matter how many kids I have.  He has brought resources into my life at the perfect time that have helped us to adapt a little bit. Books, blog posts, sermons...these resources come in a variety of methods.  But we are so thankful for them.

We keep growing.  We keep tweaking. We definitely aren't there yet--I doubt that we'll ever be.  But this series will look at some of the everyday ways that we manage life.  Topics that I will cover include:

*Shopping Expeditions 
*Shopping Part Two
*The Daily Grind
*Farm Chores
* The Library
*Cooking Real Food

And maybe more.  If you have a question about something in particular that we do--ask away!  I'll try my best to answer. Just remember that this is just what works for us.  We are a work in progress. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kicking Kraft to the Curb!

Finally!  I finally found a macaroni and cheese recipe that my family happily eats.  With all of the processed foods we've ditched, we were still hanging tight to that highly recognizable blue boxed mac & cheese.  It was kind of sad really.  We make homemade cottage cheese, homemade yogurt, homemade bread, homemade cream of something soup, etc....but every month we still faithfully bought Kraft macaroni.  Not anymore!

Thanks to the Heavenly Homemaker, I found a simple recipe that is tasty.  Only a few ingredients--milk, whole wheat elbow noodles, diced up cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper (to taste).  Couldn't be simpler!

The secret?  Cook the noodles in milk.  I added a bit more milk to the original recipe after reading through the comments.  With Maggie and Epie giving us lots, this isn't a problem.  I used about 5 1/2 cups of milk for 4 cups of noodles.

The starch from the noodles mixes with the milk as it cooks and creates a wonderfully creamy sauce.  It took about 15 minutes for the noodles to get tender enough.  Make sure you stir really frequently, as it will burn easily.

Then you pull it off the heat and melt the cheese into it and season to taste. Wow!  Everyone loved it.  And it was much more filling than the Kraft version.  Real food being more filling?  Who'd have thunk?  :)

To keep with our family favorite, I pan fried some all-beef hot dogs as well.  Mac and cheese with hot dogs...a simple supper that was really good!

Forgot to take a picture while it was cooking, but here are leftovers ready for Bryan's lunchbox. Yummy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Case of the Missing Magnets

The kids love playing with magnets. We have a variety of them. Or at least we did.  Until recently when we realized that we were missing a ton of them.  Like almost a whole alphabet...all of our season magnets...and more. 

Yesterday I was cleaning the kitchen and pulled out the stove, hoping to find magnets.  I didn't.  Until I pulled the drawer out.  Did you realize that magnets can stick to the bottom of that thing?  I sure didn't.  But, we went from having 10 letters of our alphabet to having 23.  Wow--that is huge! 

Today, with Jeffrey and Ellie's help, we pulled out the fridge and started using a stick to hit the magnets down from under there.  Yup--that's magnetic too.  We found most of our missing ones.  Just need the letter U.  Not sure where that went.

So if you are missing magnet, try looking up under your fridge, and on the bottom of your oven drawer.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Alphabet Bible Stories

As we go through each letter of the week, we focus on a Bible story.  Like the A-Z memory verses,
I had a hard time finding a pre-made list of stories that met the needs of our family. Thus, I created my own Here is what we are going with:

A: Adam & Eve

N: Noah’s Ark
B: Tower of Babel

O:O Holy Night--Christmas
C:  Creation

P: Prodigal Son
D: David & Goliath

Q: Quail from Heaven
E: Elijah fed by ravens

R: Ruth & Naomi
F:  Feeding the 5000

S: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
G: Good Samaritan

T: The Talking Donkey
H: Healings of Jesus

U: Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35)
I: Isaac Is Born

V: Voice in the Night (Samuel)
J: Jesus is Baptized

W: Jonah & the Whale
K: King Ahasuerus & Queen Esther

X: crucifiX—Resurrection
L: Daniel & The Lions’ Den
Y: Young Jesus

M: Moses in the Bulrushes
Z: Zacchaeus

Starting Sourdough Starter

I have a love-hate relationship with sourdough starter.  I love sourdough bread!   I hate it when I neglect my starter and it dies.  

I killed my last starter about six month ago, and just went without it all summer.  It's been a long time since that tangy bread has been around and I was missing it. It was time.

This morning I started another batch.  I just use a simple recipe.  Mix 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water in a half-gallon mason jar.  I did add a wee bit of yeast this time around, to help it get off to a good start. 

You are supposed to avoid metal lids with sourdough starter. The starter can react with this material.  Since I don't yet have any plastic lids for my jars, I used a napkin held on with a jar ring.  I can easily swap out the rings if any starter gets on them, and give them a good wash.  In the past I've used cheesecloth with a rubber band.  I might switch back to that.  We'll see.

Now before I make the bread I've been missing (and pancakes...yum!) I need to feed this daily for five days.  Then it'll be ripe and ready to roll--I mean rise.  Hopefully I'll manage to keep this one alive for a while. 

Have you been successful with sourdough starters?  Any tips or recipes you'd like to share would be greatly appreciated.

Sledding in the Straw

Afternoon chore time can take a while.  Once the kids have tackled their tasks, they have free time while waiting on me.  They just have to stay close to the barn or in the yard so they are within earshot.  Yesterday, Jeffrey and Sydney found a creative way to kill some time. 

I love how well they all play together!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Maggie's Milk: Smoothie Style

 Smoothies make for a quick breakfast.  In our busy household, that's essential!  Bryan can take one in a travel mug for his long drive to work.  I can pick it up and set it down as I help all of our littles get ready for the day.  They have protein.  They have nutrients.  And they taste good!

I love that smoothies are so versatile.  They are really easy to make and forgiving.  Here is what I did this morning:

Fill blender half-full of the wonderful yogurt I made in our dehydrator.  Add a scoop of homemade cottage cheese. Throw in a handful of spinach leaves.  Peel and add a banana.  Squeeze in a bit of honey.  Add a few ice cubes.  Put the lid on. 

Ice crush setting for a minute or two.

The spinach disintegrate, the ice gets smoothly blended, and everything melds together.  Pour into glasses.  Add a straw.  Breakfast in a rush!

What's your favorite green smoothie recipe for busy mornings? If you haven't tried one before, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dried Plums Oops...and Fix!

When you plan on having a crying kid be your alarm, things might not work out quite right.  I left my plums dehydrating last night.  They needed to shut off about 1:30 or so.  Owen usually wakes up and beats on his gate about that time, and gets his second sleep med.  I figured everything would work out perfectly. 

Simon woke up first, so I stumbled around and looked at the clock.  It was 4 am.  That was the most sleep I had gotten in a couple months. For that I am thankful!  But, my plums didn't turn out so well.  They were definitely dried out. 

Hard, crisp and not much fun to eat.  Thankfully, there was a quick fix.  I put a handful in a sandwich bag just to test my theory.  I added a few drops of water, and sealed it up for about 10 minutes.  When I opened it up, the plums were rehydrated just a bit. 

This time they were softer, and much better to chew on.  The kids all approved.  So it was a win-win morning.  I got lots more sleep than normal.  And I saved the plums! 

Do you ever use your kids as alarm clocks?