Saturday, April 28, 2012


The last park day started like any other. It was a balmy 80 degrees, the sun was shining with a few puffy clouds. When we arrived at the park, there were only a couple of families there. The kids helped me unload our lunch bag and various scooters and ripsticks from the back of the minivan. Children ran and played and their joy filled laughter filled the park. If we had known it would be so short lived, we would have treasured every moment of happiness.

Shortly after her arrival, my friend JK was gracious enough to go to her car and retrieve some ibuprofen for me. I had started to develop a headache, and didn't want it to ruin a perfect day at the park. As a courtesy, and because we were in the middle of a conversation, I decided to accompany her. The headache should have been my first clue that danger was imminent.

As we were nearing her vehicle, we heard screaming coming from the other end of the parking lot. As we look up, we see a giant brown bear running out of the woods. And straight towards us. JK was stricken with fear. Mothers were gathering their children and running for the safety of their vehicles. My friend KS shouted "Please, someone help them!!" Those words seemed to spur me into motion. I quickly dashed behind a tree and donned the uniform of my alter ego- Super Homeschooling Mom!!

I sized up the situation using my super intellect. I realized that the bear was actually running in fear itself. While every one else heard "Growl, roar, growl!!", the poor bear was really screaming "Rabid squirrel!! Rabid squirrel!!" My arch nemesis had arrived. No way was I going to let him ruin a great day at the park. With a flick of my cape, with matching shoes, belt, and a too cute purse, I flew across the park.

As quickly as I could, and with all the super strength I could muster, I scooped up the frightened bear just as it reached my friend! I deposited the bear inside the dog park. Thankfully, there were no dogs in the park at the time. Just as quickly, I rushed back just as the squirrel was jumping at JK. I snatched the squirrel out of the air by it's tail. I spun it around several times and threw it far, far away! As I turned in triumph, my friend JK, overwhelmed by the whole ordeal of being attacked by two animals, fainted. I flew to catch her but misjudged the distance. As she fell, I had to turn my body to cushion her fall. I didn't want her to hit her head on the hard asphalt of the parking lot. I turned my body, landing awkwardly, stepping into a hole. And that's how I scraped my knee and sprained my ankle.


Have a great day. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Inspired Reading

Mermie has always been a huge fan of reading. As long as I can remember, and that's a long time, she's had a book in her hand at almost all times. That instilled a love of reading in me. And I am trying to pass that to my kids.

The boy and I have a book that we read while the girls are at piano. We go to the book store up the road and find a nice comfy chair. Our current book is Sign of the Beaver. So far, it has been a great book. Next school year, he'll be using two literature studies. One is for Mr. Popper's Penguins and the other for The Whipping Boy. In our current book, Robinson Crusoe plays a big part in the story. I've read the abridged version to the kids as our after dinner book, but they haven't read the whole story. Suddenly, the boy wants to. I think maybe when he gets a little older. I'm just glad he is inspired to read. For awhile, he would only read graphic novels, which are like comic books. I really wanted him to read something that didn't have pictures. At the library one day, roaming the aisles, he found a series he liked. And the books don't have pictures. And it has nothing to do with Pokemon. Even better.

I tried to read to the girls while the boy was at guitar lessons. That desn't work nearly as well as reading with the boy. We sit in the middle of a music store that is busy with customers and we are frequently in the way. Well, that was a bust. My new plan of action is to read to them when school's over. We are going to start with the Little House series. I may alternate between that and Anne of Green Gables or maybe even the Christie series. It's definitely different from what they usually read.

Our library has started carrying DADs, or digital audio devices. They are like a plug and play. You add a battery and headphones. I checked one out for me, but I never got the chance to listen to it. I've added it back to my list to rerequest over the summer when I may have more time. We'll see how that works, though.

Our after dinner book is Old Yeller. I figured that if I have a captive audience, I might as well take advantage of that. I want the kids to know what great books are. I think our next one will be The Witch of Blackbird Pond. We just finished Bud, Not Buddy as our book on CD. We listen to those when we get in the van. I'm never sure how the kids will like a book, and we've taken a couple back to the library after listening to it for a couple of minutes. Sometimes, it's not the book as much as the person reading the book. Our next two books on CD are Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and R, My Name Is Rachel. I have been trying to pair our books with what we are studying in school, as well. We read The Drinking Gourd after studying slavery. One of our history curriculums has a list of books that go along with each time period. I'll be using that, thank you very much.

I was at a friend's house yesterday and was browsing through a stack of books that she had sitting on a table. I took pics of a couple so that when I got home, I could request them from the library. When the boy and I are done reading during our weekly trip, we sometimes have a few minutes to wander the aisles. I'll take pics of whatever books may interest me to request those as well. I also read through the flyer I still get from the Literary Guild even though I will never again join their club. And don't you join, either, or I will knock some sense into you. Talk about a rip off. Our big box bookstore has a newsletter that has reviews or upcoming releases. And I love my book club. I always write down the books that are recommended for the next meeting. Some of them are really not my style, but it helps expand my reading horizons.

For the first time in our homeschooling journey, each of my kids has a book list that is the front and back of two sheets of notebook paper and we are still reading. The boy may fill one sheet of notebook paper. Maybe. The big girl always has multiple pages. The baby has increased the number of books she's read as well. Previously, her list has been full of quick read books. Now there's a nice combination of quick and fluffy and chapter books. And the chapter books are ones she's read and not just the ones that were read to her.

I want my kids to be inspired when they choose books. I want them to know that there are great classics out there for their enjoyment. I want their brains to be active and engaged. Of course, some days, it's a miracle my brain is active and engaged, but still.

Have a great day.   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Booking It

Crazy, crazy week. It started out so sane, but 10 minutes in my hands and poof! You get a daybook post, because it's what my brain can handle.

  • Outside my window: It is starting to be a beautiful day. It's supposed to get cloudy and rainy in a  couple of days, so I will take the sunshine while I can.
  • Around the house: I could say what a sty the house is, but it really isn't that bad. Hubby and I have been focusing on projects. Our last was the chicken coop. We need to make some adjustments to it, but that's for tonight. Next on our list is expanding the garden. We need about 6 more raised beds for what we want. Hubby says he turned me into a redneck. I still wear shoes so I can't be a redneck. I'm a farmer. After we get the garden done, it's time to clean out the pool. The kids are actually going to do that, so we might have dual projects going on. It would be awesome to finish the garden and jump in the pool. There's an idea.
  • From the schoolroom: That's where things started to get screwy this week. Today is a catch up day for us. I got new dry erase pens! They click so you don't have to worry about the cap. Yeah, it's the little things. We have about three weeks left, and I really want to get everything done we need to get done. The boy is working on a research paper. It's the first one he's done. That was suposed to get started this week. It hasn't started yet, but that's why today is catch up. The big girl finished her language arts. We still had 4 weeks to go when she did that. We got a jump start on next year and she's started her literature. It's part of a larger curriculum that is huge. I was looking at the rest of it the other day and I'm wondering how anyone could possibly fit it all into a schoolday. I am so glad we aren't using the rest of the curriculum. The baby has a friend that already writes in cursive. She decided that she wants to learn cursive. There was a handwriting book in her school drawer. She drug it out and started teaching herself. Crazy thing has beautiful cursive handwriting after a week.  
  • From the garden: All of our plants have fruited. We have tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and cucumbers and zucchini and strawberries. The berries are just a couple a day, and we're waiting for the rest to ripen up. I have a feeling that when all the romas are ready to pick, I'll have more than enough to make tomato sauce. That will tie in nicely with our next topic. We're hoping to be able to have a nice stock on hand of homemade tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce that we didn't have to buy and we know what's in it. 
  • I am researching: Canning. I don't know why they call it canning when you put stuff in jars, but whatever. We're hoping to be able to preserve alot of our harvest. We want to know what we can preserve and what we can't. I also need to research vacuum sealing. If I have baked goods and seal them well, how long will they last? I don't want to freeze them if I don't have to. That really alters the taste. We'll see what I come up with.
  • I am reading: I have a stack of books again! I'm not sure how that happens, but there it is. I'm trying to read a book for book club next week, but haven't had the time to sit down and read. Hopefully, after we get caught up today, I'll have 10 or 15 minutes to read. The big girl has been borrowing DADs from the library. Those are Digital Audio Devices. It looks like a little MP3 player. You need a AAA battery and your own headphones. It's like a plug and play game only it's book. We are loving those. And our book on CD is Bud, Not Buddy. James Avery, the dad from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is the reader. He is really making the story come alive. The kids have started checking out more books on CD and listening to them in their rooms. At least there are books being read in our home. Hubby's feeling a little left out, though. The CD player in his truck doesn't work and he doesn't have a CD player in his work truck. We'll figure something out for him.
I guess that's about it. I think I cleared off my list quite nicely. Now, on to catch up day. I'd rather go back to bed, but that ain't happening. I guess while I'm on the computer, I'll get to researching.

Have a great day.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sweet Cakes

This is one of the hardest Lenten seasons we've ever been through. Normally I give up soda and chocolate. That isn't as bad as it seems. There are lots of alternatives and we don't drink much soda anyway. This year, we gave up two things. We gave up sugar and going out to dinner. Aaaaahhhhhh! Fine...Do you know how many things they put sugar in that don't need it? We were, but until we gave it up, it didn't really hit home. We had to find new lunch meat, chicken nuggets, ketchup, mayonnaise, and a ton more stuff. We did stick with natural sweetners like honey. It's a good thing we like honey and it has so many health benefits. It also makes a great cake.

One thing we did miss was dessert. We aren't big dessert eaters, but when you can't have it, it sorta becomes important. I had plans to make all kinds of great things with healthy ingredients, but time just got away from me. I didn't start making sweet things until a couple of weeks ago. I made brownies. They were so good. We all went a little bug nuts crazy. The panful was gone in less than 24 hours. My kids scour the racks at the grocery store for cereal that doesn't have sugar or it's evil twin cane juice. That had us suckered for a little while, too. But last night, I made the best thing ever. I made a sweet potato chocolate cake. Oh my giddy aunt, I could have eaten the whole pan by myself. Hubby says no I wouldn't 'cause he would have eaten half. Let the games begin, my man.

My mom is the best mom ever. I mentioned that I had a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens and how much I love that magazine. So she bought me a subscription. I get all giddy when I see it in the mailbox. I have a stack by my bed. I look at them over and over. I drool over the recipes and dream that one day my house will look that magnificent. It is time for the stack to disappear. I have been scouring them for recipes to put in my collection. This cake is one that immediately got added to the cook now stack.

It's actually a cupcake recipe. The recipe calls for chocolate kisses and we can't have those. We can have cocoa powder, though. Want to know what's in it? Cocoa. Thank you, God, for cocoa powder. So I changed the recipe. And it was awesome. Next co-op, I'm getting extra sweet potatoes just to make this cake again. I'm going to add my changes to the recipe and omit the kisses and cupcakes. It seemed like alot when I looked at the recipe, but if you organize your ingredients, it's not that bad. It is worth the effort!!

Sweet Potato Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder*
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 lb. sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, mashed
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside. In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each. Add sweet potato, milk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to egg mixture until combined. Fill oiled cake pan.* Bake 20-25 minutes or until the middle is springy to the touch*. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.  *My changes.

Ok, from the top. That is alot of cocoa powder, but it's what I used. You can change that to your liking. I loved it. I also didn't have pumpkin pie spice, so I used cinnamon and ginger. I thought I had nutmeg, but no. I added about 1 tsp of each, then a little heavier on the cinnamon. I didn't use sugar. I used honey. I used a cup, but not quite 1 1/2 cups. It blended very well with the butter. Considering my butter wasn't quite soft enough when it was time to make cake, I thought it did a great job. I didn't realize until I was typing out this recipe that I only used 2 eggs. The consistency of the batter with two eggs is almost frosting like. It's very thick. When it cooks, it's almost fudgy brownie. The top stays a little soft and gets gooey on your fingers. Oh, yeah!! I roasted my sweet potatoes the day before. I cooked them at 400 degrees for about an hour, hour and a 1/2. I let them cool, then skinned 'em. I just left them in the fridge until it was time.

We absolutely loved it the way it was. It was thick and chocolatey and gooey and so good warm dunked in a cold glass of milk. I might not make it with three eggs. Or I might for a change of pace. I know I'm making it again and that's the important part.

Have a great day.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Down on the Farm, In Pics

Lots of hard work going on here. Lots of fruits of our labor, too. The garden is beautiful. The chickens will be here soon. Here's what we've been up to.

This handy dandy container blew into our yard one day. There was a tree farm behind our house that went out of business. This was one of the planters they used. We put our sweet potatoes in it. See how cute they are? We didn't know at the time that sweet potatoes are vining. Normally we do our research first. Yeah, not this time. Hubby also planted onions in there. So far, they are living amicably.

We bought kits for the raised bed gardens. Hubby was working alot and just did not have the time. We bought two. I didn't take a pic of the first one before we filled it with dirt and plants, so this is the second one.

This is the first one we did. There's a tree in my way so I had to stand funny to get the pic. This is the first one we planted. There are tomatoes along the back and peppers down one row and the middle two sections of the front row. We planted onions in the empty spots later.

This is the view from the tomato side.Now they're at the bottom of the pic. We didn't even have them all planted yet.

 This was about two or three weeks ago. They have grown so well. All the tomatoes and onions are planted by this time. So happy to see the growth and so quickly.

These were the plants about three days ago. They are even bigger now. I have tomatoes on almost all of the plants. I have Romas, Beefsteaks, Cherokee Purples, Lemon Boys, and Chocolate Cherrys. No Mr. Stripey's yet, but soon.  

It isn't a great pic, but this is a cluster of Romas. We are so ready for them to get bigger and ripen up. We have plans for those babies.

Our second raised bed garden, we planted cucumber, zucchini, and eggplant. I didn't get a before pic except when it was empty. This was taken the same time as the previous pic. Hubby and I were looking at the plants today and we have veggies on all of them except a couple of cucumber plants and the eggplant. The eggplant is being shadowed by the zukes so we rearranged some foliage.

This is the sweet potatoes that are starting to cover the onion. Oh, well. We're gonna let this play out and see what happens. Hubby said we have another planter. We are thinking red potatoes. We're going to use our compost and see how well the potatoes do. We think they'll be great. Go, sweet potatoes, go!!

You would think I would have gotten a pic of the tower right after we put the plants in, but I didn't. These are the strawberries. We get about two or three strawberries a day right now. We're hoping that the plants fill out and start producing more. After the coop is up and running, hubby is going to build a screen to keep the birds off the berries. It hasn't been too bad lately and we've actually managed to eat what's been on there before the birds get them. There's cabbage in there as well.

We are loving gardening. With the raised bed gardens and the tower there is little weeding and little maintenance, but lots of checking for bugs and making sure plants are growing well. It has been a joy and we are excited about the results so far. And you know as soon as we harvest you know you'll get to see it. For now, we focus on finishing the coop. Chickens will be here in about 10 days. Whoo hoo!!

Have a great day.