Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Some inspiration!

For whenever you have one of those days, here is some inspiration to get you up and going!!!!

(ht: My Domestic Church)

This Crust is So Easy

This is the easiest crust for lunches, quiches, and etc. Originally from the LLL Whole Foods For The Whole Family cookbook, as part of a recipe for "Mexican Dinner," I've decided that the crust itself deserves a separate entry.

Easy Crust

1/2 cup flour (may be whole wheat, or not)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten

Mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening until it is well combined, mix in the buttermilk and egg. Pour into a greased and floured 9 or 10-inch pie pan (or cast iron skillet!!).

That's it for the crust. It will support 1 lb. meat, or a regular sized quiche recipe, etc.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lego craziness

Okay, this has got to be the funniest nativity I've seen in a very long time. (ht: Seabird Chronicles) I wonder if my Mom would like one like this. You see, every year my sister and I seem to manage to get my mom a new Christmas decoration. The decorations are usually long on, um, for lack of a better word, Character, and short on taste.

In the past, she's been gifted several really so-cute-they're-ugly nativity sets, various musical Santas, some scary snowmen, and a lovely nativity scene done in clear acrylic, on a mirrored base, that spins and plays music. We've been doing this for the past 15 years or so. At this point, now when my Mom decorates for Christmas, she REALLY decorates. Anyone who comes over to her house around Christmastime has got to think, 1. This woman really loves Christmas; and 2. This woman has absolutely NO Taste. (You're welcome, Mom.)

This year, I think I've got the prize. I found an angel, done is lovely clear acrylic, that, although it does not play music, does light up with LED's and goes through many dramatic color changes. I'd put in a picture of it, but it's already wrapped. Maybe I'll be able to capture her reaction. I'm sure she'll have a good one.

Speaking of somewhat tasteless things, here are some of the WORST Christmas songs ever recorded, just for you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Probem I Have With Labels

I was reading this post over at SeaBird Chronicles, on the subject of labels, or more specifically, how should we should define "homeschool." Why do we need a definition anyway? What purpose would it serve? I know a lot of homeschool parents who really have a DIY attitude about schooling. They basically write their curriculum from scratch, and their kids are doing fine. Others I know have a very school-by-the-book attitude, and their kids are doing fine too. Still others pick and choose from a variety of sources, including co-op classes, tutors for some stuff, and independant learning for others. Know what? Those kids are doing just fine as well.

I think the thing that makes all these different homeschool families alike is the commitment they have toward their childrens' education, and a recognition of their own strengths and weaknesses.

Some of the DIY homeschoolers that I know have a real attitude about having a tutor come in or having the kids attend a class on something like math or literature. Some hold the idea that having a teacher or a tutor isn't "real homeschooling." But these same parents have no problem enrolling the kids in a gymnastics course or guitar lessons. That is just goofy. Math and music, literature and P.E. are ALL important aspects of a well-rounded education. Just because you choose to outsource some of that does not make you a non-homeschooler.

By that definition, in fact, we would probably fail as homeschoolers. After all, Ace is attending an American History class with the Indian Hill Co-op, with a teacher, exams, and (eek!) HOMEWORK. Both Ace and Three attend piano lessons. Deuce goes to violin lessons. Plus, for two weeks during the summer, Ace and Duece attend classes with the gifted Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder program at National Lewis University. This year Three will be going as well.

The thing we should look for in a definition is: Who has control over our children's education? If we, as parents can choose what the kids learn, when they learn it, and how they learn it, then we are homeschoolers. If someone else, whether a tutor or the government, dictates their scope and sequence, then we are not. That is the bottom line.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Kids Have Their Own Agenda

It drives me a little nuts sometimes, when despite my well-made plans, my kids have their own agenda, and it isn't what I've got planned at all. To wit: today we were going to spend the morning on academics and music. The kids were amenable to this. Ace practiced piano for an hour and did part of her American History, and some math (although it was difficult to tell her she was going about it the wrong way:-( ). Deuce practiced her violin, and even attempted to arrange a duet with Three playing along with the piano. I couldn't sit her down for math, but she did her grammar without complaint, as well as entertained Jack and the baby for a good hour. Three played on the piano a little, practiced reading and spelling, and played a math game.

I had intended to do a little Christmas study during lunch (which we did, I read Becky's Christmas Dream by Lousia May Alcott), after which we were going to finish up the metalloids for our periodic table, and read some history before I took Deuce to choir, and went grocery shopping.

Here is what my kids did instead:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crock Pot??

I love my crock pot. I love coming home after a day of running around, and having dinner DONE. No worry. I've found a new blog, "A Year of CrockPotting" I've seriously got to try this. Using my crock pot every day for a year. How cool. How very cool.

Monday, November 17, 2008


You may not know, but I'm a Daisy Girl Scout Leader. This month, we are making bird feeders to be considerate and kind to our feathered friends. I made a little feeder watch sheet for the Daisies to take home and keep track of who visits their feeder. Then it occurred to me that they may not be the only one interested. Here is the feeder watch page.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Darling needs a hug

One of my darling friends is suffering from the terrible loss of her baby. We are all mourning with her. There's not much more to say, except that we are all very sad for her and her family.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Science Experiment For You - Free!

Here is a science experiment that uses antacids to explore acids and bases. We are using it for Deuce's Science Fair entry this year, and also for our chemistry lessons. We are using the book Fizz, Bubble, & Flash! Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun! by Anita Brandolini, Ph.D. as our core, and this is one of the ideas for further study. It turned out pretty cool, so I've written up an actual science experiment lab sheet for it using a generator at

Let's try this link: Antacid Test

If you do this, let me know how you like it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Have you ever? meme

Not wishing to comment on the election (yay! - oops, sorry) I'm posting a meme instead.

Bold the things you’ve done and will admit to.

1. Started your own blog - You're reading it
2. Slept under the stars - with my cousins, Dallas and Becky when I was young.
3. Played in a band - Does Jr. High count?
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
- see #2
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain - well sorta, I drove over the Rockies.
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch - Cross Stitch for one, Beading
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb - but I've petted one!
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I’m easily satisfied!)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - The leaning Tower in Niles is the closest I've gotten.
39. Gone rock climbing (does a wall count?)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke - oh yeah.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar - yum!
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
- When Ace was choking on a Fruit Loop.
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - no, but I've seen Warren Zevon (rip) in a bar!
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A coloring page

I've been looking for a coloring page of Brunelleschi's Duomo in Florence, but to no avail. Here, I've made one, in case you are looking for it too.
Be sure to print it in landscape.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Renaissance - Giotto

We're continuing on the renaissance, examining the work and artistic influence of Giotto. Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation has a really nice, easy biography. After reading this, we looked at some of his paintings. Then, for a real art appreciation, I gave my kids a little "window" cut into a piece of cardstock that they could put over the picture and draw what was in the window, rather than have them sketch an entire work, which can be overwhelming. Here are the results:

Can you tell the figures
that Ace copied??

Here are Deuce's

She copied one of the little angels kneeling by Mary.

Three of Hearts did two sketches from the Lamentation picture. I helped her with the face on Mary Magdalen.

The angel is a little scribble-y, but I think you can tell which one it is by the pose.

Of course I needed to set a good example, so I did one too.

My dudes were the three amigos to the right of the Roman soldier next to Judas. I think the fellow near the top looks like the husband of a friend of mine. (hah!!)

Anyway, we had a lot of fun, and learned about how hard it is to make faces look life-like!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Renaissance - Continues

Here are some pictures from our bas-relief project, here we are putting the latex onto the clay forms that we previously prepared. There will end up being about 10 layers of the latex when we are all finished. The latex is quite thick, thicker than I expected it to be, and it has a very strong smell. It is hard to get a light even coat of it, and I think we'll have some goopy areas. It is pretty fun to spread around, though.

Putting latex on the clay forms, layer 1.

More latex.

This stuff is really stinky, by the way. Do it with the windows open.


Baby + Bathroom + Toilet = Messy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Palin for President

This is Genius!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Renaissance - Days 3, 4, & 5

I suppose you want to know how the unit is going. The Book of Days project was wonderful. Check out the pictures!

We've read about Ghiberti and the Doors of Paradise in Learning Through History magazine, and are looking at bronze bas relief. Then following the instructions here, we are making our own plaster bas reliefs. First we are making the forms out of modeling clay. This week we will be making the casts out of latex, and then making the plaster casts. I'll try to keep photos to show our progression.

This week we also are going to be learning a bit more about Gutenberg and his printing press. I've got a few books on Gutenberg, and also have read some from the Famous Inventors book over at Baldwin Project.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Blast from the Past

If this doesn't bring back memories - the good kind, and the scary kind, what does??

The Sweater Song.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Renaissance - Day 2

The second day of the Renaissance. This day is pretty light, considering.

Yesterday we began the "Book of Days" project. We continued with them today. Ace is finished, Deuce and Three are still working on theirs. Jack is just coloring the outlines.

Today's subject is Dante. Van Loon's Story of Mankind has a nice introduction of who Dante was. After such introduction, we cut his portrait out and put it in our timeline notebook. Our timeline is a large sketchbook with a black line across the top of it, each page representing 100 years. We put Dante in at 1300 for writing his poem, The Inferno. We've been working on this timeline for several years now. It is something we add to whenever we feel that something "needs" to go into it.

Here are some directions to make your own timeline notebook.
From KnowlegeQuest
From Donna Young
From Sqidoo

Some links to Dante.
Here is the portrait we used.
A pretty neat explanation of the poem.
A pretty easy translation.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's adventure?

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Renaissance - Day 1

We are going to study the Renaissance for the next little bit.

Day 1 reading: Story of Mankind by van Loon, section on The Renaissance, end today at the section just before the introduction of Dante.

Label a map of the Renaissance: Italian Renaissance States, Italian Renaissance Cities
Blank Map of Italy

Art Project: Limbourg Brothers Book of Days, from Discovering Great Artists book
Some samples:

Stay tuned for how this went, and also for Day 2's adventure!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More New School Year stuff

After much agonizing, here is what is on the agenda for Deuce:

Deuce: 4th Grade

Reading: Free Reading 300 minutes per month
Make a book list

Required Reading: My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George
Not My Dog, Colby Rodowsky
Small Steps: The Year I got Polio, Peg Kehret
Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
How to Eat Fried Worms, Thomas Rockwell
The Ghost in the Third Row, Bruce Coville
Malu's Wolf, Ruth Craig
Secret Letters from 0 to 10, Susie Morganstern

Language Arts: LLAL Yellow (or Orange – I haven't decided yet)
miscellaneous grammar exercises and book reports

Handwriting: Getty-Dubay level D
An Elegant Floral Alphabet

Spelling: Spelling Power 3x per week.

Math: Try Living Math Intermediate Level, Cycle 1, Unit 1. If this works, I'll keep it up. If not, then back to Singapore Math, or supplement with Singapore Math.

Social Studies:
History: Unit 1: Renaissance
Unit 2.: Feudal Japan
Unit 3: Vikings!

Geography: Home Geography for Primary Grades (in PDF form on computer)

Science: Unit 1 – Elements
Unit 2 – Life Science
Unit 3 – Solar System

Foreign Language: German

Music: Violin Practice 15 min/day, lesson 1x per week

Art: Hands of a Child Art Appreciation

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Planning the Year Ahead

Well, its been fun, but I think I'm almost done planning our school year for 2008/2009.

Here is what is on the slate for Ace (6th grade):

Reading: Free Reading 300 minutes per month
Make a book list of books read

Required Reading:
Banner in the Sky, James Ullman
Never Cry Wolf, Farley Mowat
Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, Terry Pratchett
Stowaway, Karen Hesse
Agnes the Sheep, William Taylor
Habibi, Naomi Shihab Nye
Halfway to the Sky, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Language Arts: Intermediate Language Lessons
miscellaneous grammar exercises and book reports

Spelling: Spelling Power 3x per week.

Math: Singapore's New Elementary Math 1, NEM 2

Social Studies:

History: Most of the resources we will be finding in Learning Through History Magazine
Unit 1: Renaissance
Unit 2: Feudal Japan
Unit 3: Vikings!

Geography: Trail Guide to World Geography

Unit 1 – Elements - Fizz, Bubble and Flash! Element Explorations and Atom Adventures
Unit 2 – Life Science - The Science of Life, Frank G. Bottone, Jr.
Unit 3 – Solar System/Astronomy - My World Science

Foreign Language: Calvert French

Music: Piano, Practice 20 min/day, lesson 1x week

Art: Hands of a Child Art Appreciation

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

I took this this morning.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Frugal Breakfast Just Became -- CHEAPER!

Pancakes are, I think, one of the most dirt-cheap breakfasts you can serve your family. Six ingredients, and they think they are getting a real good treat. Now I can go one better, instead of regular pancakes, how about Bread Crumb Pancakes? I don't know about you, but I have a hard time "selling" the heels of bread around here. So I stick them in the freezer. And I use them for ... nothing, actually. I get a big bag of crusts that I do nothing with, then I end up tossing them after a while, when they are all dried out and freezer burned.

But not anymore. I have found a way of using those bread crusts (mostly from my homemade bread, too!) in Bread Griddle Cakes. The recipe is from an old Fanny Farmer recipe book:

Bread Griddle-cakes

11/2 cups fine stale bread crumbs (just swirl them in the blender)
2 eggs
11/2 cups scalded milk (I just used it out of the fridge, no scalding)
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter (melted)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder

Add milk and butter to crumbs, and soak until crumbs are soft; add eggs well beaten, then flour, salt, and baking powder mixed and sifted. Cook same as other griddle-cakes.

Now for the $64,000 question, how do they taste? They taste like FRENCH TOAST!! Yum-O! (to quote Rachael Ray). Seriously, you could sprinkle a little powder sugar over them, instead of syrup, and really make it frugal. Or fresh raspberries from the brambles outside, or applesauce, you get the drift.

Good, cheap and easy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What didn't work for us Meme

Time to start (Like I ever stop) thinking about next year's curriculum. In pruning some dead wood, so to speak, here's what didn't really work for us this year:

1. Starting too late in the day. I have a dear friend who can begin school in the mid-day, and they do a very good job of it. If we procrastinate, linger over breakfast, get too involved in chores or hobbies, and so on, school gets shoved aside, and we end up not doing much.

2. Turning on the computer before 3:00 in the afternoon. This thing sucks you in. Seriously. There is no need for it, and we are waaaayyy more productive if it just isn't turned on.

3. The telephone trap is also a bad one to get into. Even if I have a legitimate need to call someone for something, to pick up the phone is to spend (waste) a half hour. ugh.

4. Assignments that are too open-ended. We attempted a unit on King Arthur this year. Although I think that the girls did learn alot, it was hard to get them to complete assignments without a concrete framework of what I expected from them.

5. "Winging it" without really preparing anything specifically. This had two problems, first, I wasted too much time trying to figure out what I was doing, and it lead to more of the open ended assignments that my kids rebelled against, see above.

6. Expecting too little of Deuce. She is a challenge, make no mistake, but giving her less to do, because I thought that it would be better, or would avoid arguments, was nearly always a mistake. Bribery worked much better.

As far as specific curriculum, we had some hits, such as My World Science (which, sadly, is no longer being published), Genevive Foster's George Washington's World, Henty's The Dragon and The Raven, and Friday math games. We've also had some misses, such as the above mentioned King Arthur study, Primary Language Lessons (for Deuce, it worked well for Ace), and nearly all the attempts at art.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Having a Heat Wave

Summer seems to have arrived. It is hot today, and luckily we are still in our week away from school, because it isn't an atmosphere that would be easy to study in. As it is, it's been a hard one to even manage getting along with each other and getting the basic day-to-day stuff done. My garden is growing, though.

To date, we have lovely lettuce, arugula, and spinach. The beets are up, as are the carrots, and the swiss chard. I've got some sugar snap peas almost blooming, and we've already been eating at the radishes. The zucchini and acorn squash are up, and there are flowers on the tomatoes and the peppers. The garlic and other herbs are strong and healthy. There's more oregano and mint than I know what to do with. I've also got a lot of healthy weeds. (bleeach!)

The flowers from a few posts ago have really filled in. The garden looks almost tropical. I'll have to get out there with a camera (and also weed it as well.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The New Joker

Well, here he is: Astro (he came with the name). Some notes on Astro. First, he was supposed to be neutered. He isn't. So I've got to take him over to the clinic for that little operation. But first, he is going through some antibiotics for some sort of a bug. He came home with a little cough, and then it really blossomed into a respiratory infection of some kind. The antibiotics seem to be working though, he's much more playful than he was, and the disgusting side affects have stopped.

Second, he's big. Ninety-six pounds of joyful yellow lab. Ninety-six pounds of never stop smiling, running all over the place, bringing back every stick he can find, yellow lab. The kids adore him. They hug him, they ride him. I think the feeling is mutual. You usually don't find a kid without a dog, or a dog without a kid.

Third, Carmen, our other dog (breed: brown) likes him pretty well. Proof: she'll allow him to touch her. Even when she's trying to sleep. Plus, she likes to play tug of war with him and a stick.

Instant dog, just add family. Get a used dog.

Day at the Museum

I took the family hearts (well, the kids anyway) to the Milwaukee Public Museum. We had a lot of fun! The MPM has a butterfly exhibit where the butterflies are allowed to fly around. Deuce was a butterfly magnet. She had butterflies landing on her back, her legs, even her hair. She was also the most successful at getting them to walk onto her fingers. All the kids (except the baby) did get one to walk onto their fingers. They were prepped before about not touching their wings at all, and not grabbing them or anything like that. The kids, (even Jack of Hearts) were exceptionally gentle. It helped that the butterflies were clearly used to being handled. There were quite a few that landed on me, and even the baby had some land on her, but I shooed them away before she could notice she had one on her and love it a whole bunch to death.

Other things of interest were the dinosaur exhibit (a little to real for the Jack of Hearts, though, so we pretty much ran past the T-Rex), and the native cultures exhibit from Africa, South America, and Australia. The kids also liked exploring the Streets of Old Milwaukee, and the European houses exhibits.

This is day 2 of our week away from school.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A new heart

Yes, the Hearts family brought home a new dog. It's been about a month since Bilbo, our old loyal Lab mix passed away, and left a huge empty place in our home. We went to Orphans of the Storm, a no-kill shelter in our area, and there we found our new dog, Astro. (like the Jetsons.)

Astro is a large yellow Lab (mix? maybe - maybe not). His coat is very short and sandy-feeling. He is very gentle and patient, especially with the little kids, who climb on him and such. He is also very friendly to Carmen, our brown dog. What else can I say, he loves to play fetch, and will indefinitely, loves to be outside, but mostly loves to be with us. He is not a dog who wants to be "just left alone."

He had such a sad story, with his owners getting cancer, then giving up Astro and his buddy, Star, to the county animal control, when they could not take care of them anymore. Luckily, they were sent over to the shelter, but then Star was adopted, leaving poor Astro with no family, no home, and no companion. I was told that he had been in a home with kids, and that he loved children, so I felt good bringing him into our home, where we have sort of an infestation of children. It's been a short time, but I have a good feeling about Astro. He really is an "instant pet."

To anyone who is wary of adopting a fully grown dog: There is a perfect family for every dog you see at the shelter, especially if the dog is an adult. No housebreaking, you know what size they'll be, and none of the irritating "puppy stuff" like chewing the cushions off the couch. You just have to look, and be optimistic.

All I have to say is: Welcome home, Astro, welcome home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My yard

This time of year things start looking pretty nice around the Heart's yard. Here are some pictures of parts of our backyard. The garden shots are of my shade garden. I got some of the plants at Walmart, some from Jamaica Gardens, and the rest are perennials that are making their spring arrival.

Last year the pink flowering tree had only ONE branch that had any flowers at all. I seriously considered having it removed. This year it is making up for it's poor display last year.

The nasty bench under the tree is a treasure we found in a dumpster. It painted up pretty nice, but now it looks like it needs another coat of paint. It is pretty peely.

Friday, May 9, 2008


What is it about my kids, that on the days that I think "golly, I've really been making them do some boring stuff, how about something fun today, like making their own games, etc., they become the biggest crabby cry-babies?" What is it about getting away from the table to do something that I figure MUST be more fun than worksheets and drills and assigned reading that brings out the worst in my kids?

Does unschooling=crabschooling?

Apparently it does in my house.

"Why don't you play one of those math games for math today, instead of your workbooks?" I say.

"No." replies Ace, "she cheats."

"I do not" says Deuce.

"You do too." says Ace.

"No, you just don't like it when I win." says Deuce.

Sensing that this is spinning rapidly out of control, I suggest a cooperative game that it doesn't pay to cheat at. This seems to be okay until Deuce brings up a coop game.

"I hate that game." says Ace.

"But I like it," says Deuce, "and I won't play any other game."

At this point I am about to toss them both out the window. When Jack and Three pipe up that they also LOVE the game. Sighing in resignation, Ace sits down to play the game. "There's no rules." She announces triumphantly, for now they can't play the game. "I guess we can't play this game."

After a little rummaging in the box, Three comes up with the rules - "aren't these the rules?"

"Yes." says Ace, resigned again to playing the game.

The games goes along just fine til the end. Then the bickering begins anew. Jack shoves a chair into Three, Ace begins bossing around Deuce, who then starts bossing around Jack, who shoves the chair into Three again.

Luckily, the baby is sleeping.


Saturday, April 19, 2008


The baby is sick. Not throwing up sick, but the runny-nose, coughing, fever, grouchy out-of-sorts, crabby sick. I was up with her all night last night, just trying to comfort the poor thing. Tylenol can only do so much. It seems like she could only sleep so long as I was willing to sit in a vertical position and hold her just so.

Today I'm dragging my tired butt around the house. Thank goodness it's Saturday, and I can let the kids play on the videogames guilt free, (like we don't have to do school work. Although we will still probably do some art - there's a homeschool art show coming up, and we have sort of let the electives slide while we focussed on the essentials. A bit like the public schools, eh?)

Speaking of art, the art book we are using is "Art Adventures in the Home." Level 2, although I think it is adaptable for multiple ages. Another one we use has the unfortunate name of "Let's Discover Crayon" but it actually covers the basics of art very well.

We've also been learning about Monet. Here is TOH's "Waterlilies" torn paper collage. It is from an Usborne art book.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Good Boy.

Yesterday we had to euthanize our dog, Bilbo. He was fifteen years old. The family is very sad, but so go those things. Here is a photo journal of our dog, from puppyhood to pictures taken on his last day.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Spring Cleaning

It's late for the Organizational Challenge, but I wanted to at least post pictures of my before and after of one of the cupboards in my kitchen. The kids keep their candy there, and the ants get in every year and just make a humongous yucky mess, eating and spreading the candy around. We also keep kitchen appliances there, so as you can imagine, this cupboard was a huge pile of ick.

This is the Before picture:
Anyway, after taking everything out, wiping it all down, sorting out the useless and unwanted and broken stuff, pitching the candy we had from 3 years ago (!!!!) and making a new shelf, this is what our nightmare cupboard looks like now. I'm doing the happy dance!!

This is the After picture:
I think you can agree that this is a giant improvement. Now I'm itching to get at another one, but it is so nice outside that I think I'll go outside and play for a while.

The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short...

Ace just had her 11th birthday. Happy Birthday Ace!!

Another Food Porn Site

Okay Michelle!

Now that I got your attention - another site to make your mouth water!!

Bake Or Break

I haven't investigated it thoroughly yet though... but as Michelle so nicely said "it'll make you want to lick the screen."

My only wish is that I knew how to make my own cooking look so good, even in pictures! Food styling lessons anyone?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

English Muffins

Ace and I made English muffins from scratch today. The recipe is from the book: "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart. They were surprisingly fun to make, and quite easy. The book is full of interesting information and different "formulas" that you can put together to make different types of bread.

I've been interested in stepping beyond the basic whole wheat family bread into some more artisan hearth types, and I think that this book has nice clear instructions on how to bake that kind in our little regular home oven.

I've got a bowl of starter dough for making French bread tomorrow. We'll see how that turns out. My French bread is usually pretty boring. I hope to make it super yummy, like what you would get at Panera or Breadsmith. I can dream, right?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Tea-Riffic Birthday Party!

Here are some pictures from TOH's sixth birthday party. She had a tea party with all her little girl friends. Ace and Deuce were bribed to go by permitting them to go see the
Spiderwick Chronicles
afterwards. But I think they had a nice time nevertheless.

The tea party was held at a local B&B, and a very nice lady-owner ran the tea and made the very scrumptious looking treats and sandwiches and stuff. The little girls really used their best manners. It was a very sweet scene. Afterwards, the kids were allowed to look at the neat bedrooms and check out the balconies.

My daughter's favorite gift was a Disney Cinderella digital clock (?) She loved it so much she slept with it last night. I imagine it was lumpy.

Now to get on to writing those thank you notes!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Potato Bread

This is the bread I made today. It is a tall, soft loaf. Very delicious. The recipe is from the "Best Breads of 1987" - No idea what magazine, maybe Good Housekeeping, or BH & G.

Potato Bread

2 Tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2 pks. active dry yeast (I used 4 tsps.)
about 8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cups water (I used the water I cooked the potatoes in)
1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes (about 2 medium)
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 eggs

In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast and 1 1/2 cup flour. In a 2 quart saucepan mix water, mashed potatoes, and milk; add butter or margarine; over low heat, heat until very warm (120 to 130 degrees F), stirring often. (Butter or margarine does not have to melt completely.) With a mixer at low speed (or a wooden spoon!) gradually beat liquid into the dry ingredients just until blended; beat in eggs. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 more minutes, occasionally scraping the bowl. Beat in 1 cup flour to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 more minutes. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough (about 3 cups).

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic, kneading in more flour (about 2 cups or so). Shape into a large bowl. Roll in oil so it is coated, cover, and let rise until about double.

Punch down, turn onto a lightly floured surface and cut dough in half. Put each half into a large loaf pan. (The original recipe had you putting each half into a casserole dish and slashing the top. I used regular large loaf pans and my bread was very good. You decide which you want to do.) Cut two parallel slashes on top. Cover, and let raise until double again, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 4oo degrees, brush each loaf with milk, bake 40 minutes until loaves are well browned and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Sunday, February 3, 2008


I've been baking our family's bread for a few months. I think it is healthier and tastier. Normally I bake 4 loaves a time. I use the Hillbilly Housewife family bread recipe. It is just fine for our daily bread. Usually the first loaf is gone within 30 minutes of coming out of the oven. The next is gone by the end of the day. The third and fourth loaves take a couple of days. I think I'm saving money, not sure, but with bread loaves costing $2.00 or more a piece at the store, and I can get 2 whole bags of flour for that price (white at Aldi), I somehow feel that I'm coming out ahead. Not to mention the idea that my family isn't eating a whole bunch of additives and preservatives. I'm not a real fanatic about that, just would rather not, thanks.

So today I made Italian Bread. (No recipe, just basic white bread with the addition of olive oil and some sesame seeds over the top.) I was able to snap a picture of it before the kids got their hands on it. What do you think?? Can you smell it though your computer?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Curriculum Review and a UFO report

On Monday, Ace begun her new math book. We are using Singapore's New Elementary Math, Book 1. You can look at it here. Well, it's been a week and I can say, so far, so good. It is more advanced, but Ace has completed the Singapore Primary Mathematic course, so she is ready.

The toughest adjustment is that she actually has to write out the problems and solve them on notepaper, not fill in the blank in a workbook. Anyone who uses Singapore will be familiar with this if they do the Practices in the textbook. There is a workbook for NEM, but it is mainly test papers to follow up finishing a chapter or section. Not for daily work. Otherwise, I think it will be rigorous, but not too difficult. I hope the explanation in the book will be sufficient for learning the skills, though, because there are no other explanation - even the solution manual has no teaching strategy, and the teacher's manual is mainly a schedule to get it all done in a year, and solutions to the workbook. We will have to update as it goes. I asked Ace what she thought of the new math book. Here was her response:
Just kidding, I just thought that this picture was hilarious.

In other news, Three just finished her Singapore Earlybird 2B today - with flying colors!! Yaay!

Big Smiles!!

Now for the UFO report. You might remember the list of 13 UFO's I posted. Well, I've made real progress on Ace's sweater. I've finished the back, and have begun the front. Yay me! In the meantime I've also knitted a couple of hats. Pictures sometime.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


So I decided to dye my hair - This is nothing new, since my hair went grey back in the 1990's, I've been diy-ing my own. Normally it is either light ash brown or dark ash blonde, depending on whether it is summer or winter. Maybe I'm a little tired of shades with the word "ash" in them, or just need a (major) change, but I decided that this time I'd try auburn.

I can't say it looks auburn. It looks more like this:Does that mean that I deserve a break today?

Man, I hope so.
Or at least free burgers.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When was the last time you blogged?

Mea Culpa!

I've been in the middle of my life, and haven't really touched the keyboard, except to check my e-mail and download soup recipes. No excuse really, just that my dear hubby has been traveling an awful lot, and by the time evening rolls around I'm just to pooped to think of anything interesting to say.

Except have you ever experienced a panic attack? I don't mean a moment of panic, but a real, middle of the night, heart pounding, think you are having a cardiac arrest, panic attack? I've had a couple now (conveniently when my husband is traveling) and they must be stopped. My girlfriend asked me, well, what do you do for you? I thought she was asking something in a foreign language, so I just looked at her with a blank look, but she continued, that maybe I need to blog more about the stuff that I feel anxious about.

Sorry, no.

I will keep my anxiety in a little box with my irrational fears, and maybe my paranoia as well, and it can be one big party in there, and I will not look and see what that noise is, because it might really be something this time, and I really, really don't want that, so there.

In other words, my anxiety isn't up for blogging. Unless the panic attacks get really bad. Maybe then, unless I'm dying of a heart attack.

I saw some friends for breakfast this morning. I've decided that I need to tap into my friends' creativity more - one of them SPINS FIBER!!! and the other one does floral arranging type stuff. These are things I cannot do. Not that I've tried spinning, but my floral arranging looks like something that my 5 year old did -- and she has a better idea of it than me. (the joke here is that I did my own flowers for my wedding) They looked o.k. Still they'd look better if I had any actual skill, rather than enthusiasm. (loads of that, though.)

So that is it in a nutshell, aren't you glad you asked?