Friday, December 31, 2010

Stickin' It to the Groceryman

The Great Twenty-Ten Put Up

4 lbs red grapes, frozen
4.5 lbs bing cherries,pitted & frozen
2 lbs Rainier cherries, frozen pits and all
1 gallon raspberry jam (canned by Hubbie)
48 oz Strawberry Orange jam
48 oz Strawberry Orange syrup

Twenty - Ten Harvest Totals

12 pickling cucumbers (that were quickly turned into pickles)
3 Purple Cherokee tomatoes
5 oz cherry tomatoes
5.25 lbs German Butterball potatoes
5.5 lbs 'Russian Banana' fingerling potatoes
2 lbs 'Candy' onions
3 lbs sugar snap peas
4 oz rhubarb
1 gallon bag of salad greens
Razzies: 5 lbs (that have entered the door to be counted)
1 lb blueberries

Shazam...try to beat that 2011! Please do...especially if i plant 11 tomato plants again!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

You're the fairest of them all!

We found this today in a consignment shop in the mall. It's the first vintage mirror I've seen that had frame and silver both in good shape.

The owner was willing to make a deal.

I can't wait to see what it looks like in our dining room!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Elves in the Kitchen

Busy day today.

We're putting the new oven through Christmas Boot Camp.

2 pans of manicotti, 3 different cookies, an apple cake, quick bread, crackers, and chocolate coated candy canes.

Whew! Thank goodness it all doesn't stay here!

Pictures to come.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas :: Seattle Style

On Wednesday, we headed to Seattle with our dear friends for a theater production of Lyle the Crocodile. I had mentioned to my friend that i would like to show Riona around Seattle while it's all dressed up for the holidays. If you're there, it's something you should see. And you don't have to stay up late for light displays, since we are getting dark here around 3:30 to 4pm.

Here are some highlights of our tour:

The Space Needle all decked out with it's Christmas Tree on top.
Different holiday nutcrackers displayed all around town.
Outdoor lighted walkways at the Seattle Center
The Macy's Star (formerly the Bon Marche' Star) at 5th and Pine
and the gingerbread displays for charity by the famous local chefs:
this one is a tribute to the house boats on Lake Union
The city is looks great when it's all decked out for Christmas!
For more Sunday Stills holiday decorations, lookie here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Washed Away

What a weekend! I think we are all still recouping; Moose most of all at our place. I can't imagine what it must be like for the families in the area dealing with major flooding...especially this time of year.

Stories of people canoeing through Snoqualmie, tweets from Wsdot about the Tolt River flowing at 6500 cfs just a few hours after the rain started (flood stage on the Tolt is a mere 2500 cfs., Moose discovering that the info presented to him on the estimated amount of flow in the Green River was way too conservative. Thankfully the Green River Valley and the Howard Hanson dam survived this latest lashing from Mother Nature.

Of course, because our culture is so business-centric, you don't hear many estimates on the number of people who live or work in harm's way in the valley. But you hear numerous times that the nation's second largest industrial area this side of the Mississippi exists just in Kent's portion of the valley. That alone is scary, especially in a recession period. Who insures the businesses that stay in a flood plain? What does that do to the price of goods coming out of this area?

All that seems trivial though, when I see pictures like this from my friend who lives on the Green:

those lite green things at the bottom of the picture? her deck rail. Above that, those black things behind the bushes? Sandbags. Her backyard is actually about 5 to 6 feet lower than the levee that those sandbags sit on. And her house isn't on stilts. Thank goodness her main living area is on the 2nd floor of her home, but truthfully, who is going to stay in their residence when their backyard (and downstairs) could be filled with 5 ft. of water??

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Moose's Bunting

One more...that's it. I promise. If i don't stop myself, i'm never going to get any of the baking done. :)
Which in other news.....

Inaugural Run

Our oven went out while i was making our Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us. I know, it was such an obvious thing for an oven to do. Ahekk!

So it's been a trying 3 weeks, but we've finally returned to normal cooking procedures around here. Hooray!

Thank goodness, Moose installed it just in time for today's math lesson: baking brownies!
Have i told you yet how much we love the Saxon math program??!
(incase you were wondering, i did put out the clean hand towel for the photo.) :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Mood (home)Movies

Here are a combination of the adult and advanced Irish dancing classes from SRS-Kent.

Didn't they do an awesome job?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mini Me Bunting

These are a little gift for a friend who i previously agreed to a "no gift" exchange this year. Oops. whistle, whistle

Well, in recieving this gift, she'll have really been giving me one: 2 hours of busy fingers that really wanted chocolate but instead were busy sewing. Hooray! I'll have lost 15 pounds before you know it!

One more bunting to go i think today (for Moose's office...sneaky sneaky! That's what a good wife has to do when her hubbie doesn't want to display his Star Wars Christmas gear she collected for his office), then it will be time for dinner. :)

Christmas Spirit

Just a little something from Cookie Monster to put you in the holiday mood!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Deck the Halls With One More Bunting...

Fa la la la la....

Made this today in just a few hours. Wishing now i had gotten some more material so i could have made more!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Hand-Me-Down I Can Get Behind

Last year, i started trying to build a collection of select Shiny Brites and other Christmas tree ornaments from yesteryear. I had my parents on the look out for a never know what they'll find along their travels between the NW US and BC.

They were successful in finding a few non-coated ones at a shop for me. Then my mom mentioned that i needed to exercise caution, as she had some things in the attic that might be what i was looking for.

During the spring clean, she found what she was looking for. My grandma's Christmas ornaments. Everything in there was in decent shape for the most part, aside from a few broken bulbs that were causalities of a trip from CT to ID, via their brief interlude in AZ. Some of the tops are rusty, some of the finishes are flaking. For me, that just adds to their charm.

So this year, rather than pull out all our Christmas trimmings, we are keeping it simple. We've erected our Fake Fir and Cookie and i decked it out this week. Here are a few samples of the eye candy hanging from our tree.

An ornament depicting the town i'd love to call home...maybe it's in Vermont.
Vermont would be nice.
What can you say bad about a place with fresh maple syrup and Bernie Sanders?
These grapes are great...we have some in blue also.

This is one of the Brites that isn't coated with the silver on the inside. Curiously, there was another one that's an exact replica that is coated, so Cookie decided it was a good idea to hang them together for the chance to give her friends a quick history lesson when they see our tree. :)

Incase you don't know, there was a businessman named Eckardt in the early 1900's that started importing handblown glass ornaments from Germany, as it became popular here in the States to bedeck your trees. In the 30's, knowing a war was on the horizon that could damage his importing business, he teamed up with Corning Glass Co.'s lightblub division to make Shiny Brites. Once WWII's rations took effect, the silver lining and lacquer for the Brites where in short supply, thus leaving bulbs translucent glass.
Some of the Brites were sold plainly, straight off the assembly line at Woolworth's. Other's were taken to the businessman's factory, where they were hand painted.

One thing i've read is that toward the latter part of the war around '43, the bulbs were actually made with paper tops or cardboard as the metal caps and hooks were victims to the war's needs and stock had ran out.
One way to tell if you have pre-war or during the war or post-war Brites is the stamp on the cap.
"Made in the US of A" = pre-war/war era
"Made in the USA" = post-war
And of course, if the stamp reads Germany on it, then that is definitely pre-war. :)
I was afraid to combine any of this set with our ornaments, for fear of not remembering what's who's. However, seems the frugality of Grandma's generation will help me decipher who's are who's--she used bent bobby pins and old wire to fashion many of her ornament hooks. Some of the ornaments have simple string on them for hanging.
Makes me like this even that much better.

I wonder what my grandma would have had to say about her great-granddaughter hanging her collection of ornaments on our tree this year?
One thing is for sure, i am very thankful that my parent's saved these treasures!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A New Visitour

During the snow, we had a new little visitour to our trees out back. He made me remember that photographing birds like like trying to photograph a 3 year old.

Come on your little face!

Ha ha, gotcha!

He has the most beautiful steel blue eyes.
If my bird book wasn't packed, i'd be able to figure out what kind of winged creature he is. :(

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Snow equals Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and your a wonderful holiday weekend and yummy turkeys and pies!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's Sew Much Fun Being an Aunt

At her birthday party, my 5 year old niece shared her desire to have a proper purse.  Of course, the only  special request regarding it was that it had to be pink.  Pink's all the rage with the 5 yr old set you know.

So, I got to figurin' that I could make one just as easy and with a little sass too. 

Here it is.  Not good enough for Made in China, but pretty darn good for a beginning seamstress like myself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Child Labour

It's the only way to get everything done by Thanksgiving. :)

Actually, in the spirit of this homeschooling stuff, we decided that Cookie Monster would learn to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. 

She picked out a sugar pumpkin at the store with Grandma and we roasted it today.  It yielded 1.5 cups of pumpkin, so we had to do a little mathematical figurin' to get the purse the cream ratio just right.  Then she measured all the ingredients and beat the filling.  I had a pie crust ready in the freezer, but she's made that before and if we get all our school done early tomorrow we're going to try our hand at making homemade puff pastry, which is sorta like pie crust.

Beautiful job, eh?

Next Turkey Day recipe she is going to tackle is dressing--two batches worth to feed all the in-laws!


It's been close to three months since the biddies gave up egg laying and Cookie had to retire from the egg selling business for the season.

Now, she's come up with an entirely new gig...

Hoping your day is full of fun--especially if you are in Western WA!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dear Washingtonians,

While stuck in traffic this morning when it took 2 hours to drive a mile and a half because of inclimate weather, i have a few insights for drivers living in our area.

Because our roads are like \ or / with lots of U, S or C (read "lots of hilly, curvy roads" for people with more than half a cerebrum), snow is never a good thing when it falls in the Pacific Northwest.

When conditions exist that make the roads look like this:

picture taken by Cookie Monster at 11 in the morning

there are some basic truths you should follow. See below my list of handy hints to help make yourself not look like even more of a moron than you already do, especially if you are taking your life and fellow drivers' lives in your own hands. Besides, if you end up dead, you'll never have another chance to prove that you aren't a complete jerk or totally daft!

1. Don't go out in your car if you've known you needed new tires since last Spring. (I actually heard someone admit this today while she was stuck blocking one of the lanes on the highway to our house.)

2. Don't drive your BMW with 16 inch rims (but 1 inch thick racing tires) ON ANY ROAD.

3. Don't operate a truck without 4 wheel drive, unless you have something heavy in the back. Also, if your truck is sliding all over the road because you neglected to put sandbags in the back or if you have bald tires, it's probably also wise not to try to "gun it" up the hill with a 65 degree turn in it at a high rate of speed when you are surrounded by at least 50+ cars.

4. Don't drive on the shoulder to avoid the traffic jam. (P.S. You will not get around because all of the semi-responsible people who have deduced correctly that they will not make it up the highway you are travelling have actually pulled their cars onto the shoulder and left them there till the snow melts. (That's why all the people are walking down the road...against traffic.) Your car, however, may get stuck sideways while you are trying to cut back into the lane of traffic that will be moving as soon as the semi up the lane gets his chains on.)

5. It doesn't matter how close you follow someone, it will not make them be able to go any faster, since they are in fact behind 50+ cars that aren't going anywhere either.

5.1. Along the lines of following too closely: when you see the vehicle ahead of you whipping back and forth across the road because they are losing control of their vehicle, that is not the time to ride their bummer.

6. If the road was a two lane road before the 2 inches of snow fell, chances are pretty good that it's still a two lane most. If you want to be completely honest, in a total white out, with no exposed asphalt, probably best to make it a one lane chain, slogging it up the hill together and leave space for emergency crews to get through to help clear accidents.

7. It doesn't matter if you are late. Slow down!! Breathe. And btw, you might want to hang up your phone. Doctors, your boss, the school....all will understand when you arrive really late, because they will hear on the traffic reports that the highway is at a complete stop.

8. Also along those lines, forget the speed limit. The new speed limit is only what it takes to get your car safely up the hill. Think of 5 mph as the new 55mph.

9. Don't cut off the guy with the Minnesota license plates. Granted, he may not look like he knows what's what because he chose to wear shorts to a snowstorm, however....he has more experience at this than you do. Worship (and follow) him (just not too closely.)

10. When you are stuck next to someone going the opposite direction (whether walking or driving), roll down your window and talk with them. Ask 'em about what's going on ahead. Oh share a better route to get through. Shoot, even if they don't know or you don't know anything, you can at least find something in common and help pass the time.

Truly, when it snows in the Greater Puget Sound area, it's probably best if you stay at home and do this.

I know that was our last trip out in our vehicle till Thanksgiving.

If it hadn't been for the bread for our dressing molding, we wouldn't have been able to put together this list. I am going to be most thankful this week that i still have my life. Now to try to get Moose home in one piece.

People back East had Snomegeddon last year; we're calling this snOMG here in the Pac NW. At 6:30pm it's 25 degrees and the wind is blowing snow at 20 mph. 2" accum.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas Comes Early To Western WA

This just in....

The snow flurries that started around noon today have accumulated enough for Cookie Monster to head outside dressed like the little brother in A Christmas Story so she can throw snowballs off the deck.

Also, in other news, because it was so stinkin' cold this morning (for us webbed-footed Washingtonians anyway), we Wii'd it up a little. We all weighed in and i was delighted to find that i now weigh under 300 lbs!! Woot!! That's 7 pounds less of me in 2 months! 49 more to go and we can start trying for another little cookie...except maybe this one we'll have to name Snickerdoodle or Whoopie Pie. :)

Like i said, Christmas came early! Do you think it's too optimistic to think that one could possibly shed 15 more pounds before February 3rd?

Now it's off to make dinner. I have a feeling Cm will be eating her meatloaf sandwich outside. There's no dragging her away from the white stuff!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Little Bit of Denial Sewing

Well, the sale/purchase of any home is still on hold here. We're especially not keen on dealing with much of this during the holidays, but especially because we aren't sure our grand plan would work out best financially for our family, long term. It's not like we "have to" move like many families in America who have been victimised by a corrupt banking system that not only created panic, fraud, and more panic in a housing market, but by bring our economy to it's knees and shedding tons of jobs in our country. Due to the fact that there are many fellow countrymen having a vacate their homes, i feel especially guilty for wanting to move because we are secure in our house and Moose's job is still seemingly safe. However we still desparately want to move for many reasons like the unsettling events the last few weeks in our area (i.e. the biggest haul of underage prostitutes in the country was just a mile or so from our house last week and last night a gun wielding man who was disobeying a restraining order at apartments about couple mile from our house was daft enough to point the gun at a cop who eventually shot the man in a nearby shopping center about 3/4 mile from our place). Also because of our neighbour's complete and udder disregard for our safety, the safety of our chickens, and the safety of her dogs. Now both of her dogs have discovered our chickens, one attacking another chicken on our property while Moose was outside giving them chicken recess Tuesday. Apparently the neighbour is feeling like we are to she kept telling Moose that she is "trying to do what she can, but when kids come in the door the dogs bolt out." Moose kindly asked her to leave her dogs in a fenced area she has, and now she says "that isn't an area for is acceptable for the dogs." Apparently she is feeling like she is the victim here. Huh? Interesting conclusion.

So, as you can see, we need a little denial therapy around here (i've sworn off retail only leads to more harm than good.)

Moose distracted Cookie Monster with a trip to a local theatre production about the physics behind Star Trek. Apparently, Moose was called on stage to display that some object could only be picked up by a Vulcan and not a human. I am kinda sorry i missed it for that reason alone. :) However, i haven't been feeling very well because of a fall i took over the weekend down our stairs. Yet again another of the many reasons for denial therapy.

I stayed home and googled "sewing children's pants with no pattern" till my fingers flamed. Research from many different sites yielded a fine lookin' pair of fleece zebra pants for Cookie Monster.

Apparently making a pair of pants for anyone is as easy as tracing around a pair of pants that fit them perfect now and adding an inch all around for seam allowances. First i folded the pants in half lengthwise to expose the front and cut out two pieces. Then, i folded the pants in half lengthwise again to expose the back and cut out two pieces. Especially important is to leave an extra inch or two in the length of the legs on top of the hem allowance, as some of the fleece can shrink lengthwise when washed. Of course, if you prewash your fleece, you won't need to do this. You'll need to sew the seams at the abdomen and at the bum area, then place right sides together and marry the seams at the crotch to sew the inseams. After this, i veered from the simple and crossed over into extremely experimental territory....i had a great idea and reached for the ricrac.

I thought it might look so sweet to have ricrac exposed on the outer seams of the legs. So i sewed a length of it one of the right sides of the fabric.

Then i married the pant legs, right sides together, and sewed down the stitch i created when sewing the ricrac in place.

Upon turning the pants right side out, i discovered it was even better than i imagined: doesn't it look like a little zebra mane?? Ha ha! Success!

Another neat idea i found on the blogsphere is that many people sew a little ribbon in the back of pants, diaper covers, etc. to make the back easily identifiable.

Here are the results.
(and no, we haven't adopted a pet zebra. Yet.)

The most important result being Cookie monster's approval. :)

Well, i am sure you have more important things to do this week than listen to my predictaments, but i hope you find the fleece pants insightful. I suppose i should get back to school and Turkey Day prep. Frankly, i think all we'll be doing for the next few hours is singing and dancing to our new favourite song from the Recess Monkey, "Los Icepacks Estan ardiendo". Super cute and funny song, aiding in our denial quotent! Hooray for the Monkey!! Heard in the movie announcer's voice: "In a world, where a young boy or girl falls off of a swing. There is....Icepack." Then the chorus chimes in: "Icepacks are cool, so get them while they're hot! Cha cha cha!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Friendly advice for myself

It's been a little while.

We're still packing.

I'll be back soon...I've love reading everyone's posts as I can.

Take care,


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Time to Play Big Dose of Reality....

today's game is brought to you by people who can't control their implusive spending, corrupt banks that couldn't help but leave people swimming in money (aka debt that they could never repay), and the Party of No!

First Question: What would you do if you wanted to list your home in the 2010 market, however the listing price is the same as the appraised value from 11 years ago??

a. unpack all your treasures again 'cause you're not going anywhere.
b. curse Bush 2.0 and those who came before him...all the way back to the president after FDR.
c. raise your child in an area where they could possibly film a whole season of Cops.
d. if it's this bad for a family that has a stable-ish job and a slightly sensible mortgage, pray HARD for those families whose jobs are on the chopping block and who are teetering on the brink of foreclosure.

doo doo doo dum, doo doo doo.....
The answer is All of the Above, Charlie!

Second question: True or False. Can you negotiate the price of a short sale home?

doo doo doo dum, doo doo doo.....
The answer is false. You'll need to pay listing price. And as an extra added bonus, you'll pay extra fees too as the banksters way of saying, "Take that!", er, um, ahem, we mean "Thank you for your patronage (and more money we can throw toward the casino!)" It is actually easier to purchase a property that has been foreclosed on (taking down a low to middle income family with it) than it is to help them save their credit and find yourself a nicely discounted farm, turning the situation into a win-win for everyone.

We're sorry you didn't win anything on today's episode of "Big Dose of Reality." But as a lovely parting gift, we'll leave you with more cardboard and packing tape than you could ever use in your lifetime. Plus, the extra bills this month to fix the kitchen floors and the second coat of paint for the deck.

The more the mess unravels, the more ashamed i feel about the country of my origin.

This is not what America has been about these last 234 years. Except for maybe a short time during the 70's and 80's where you couldn't sell a home if your life depended on it and you were stuck in line for gasoline.

Good day, fellow Americans, and good luck!
It's murder out there!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vegetarian Carmel for Apples

1 cup honey to 1 cup cream and at half tsp salt

medium to medium high heat for 30 minutes til thick

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oh My Goodness!

I had no idea there was such a publication!  How many copies should we request?

I wonder if it has a chapter about how to decide what possessions to part with when downsizing from 2800 sq feet to 1500. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Bit of a Break


How ya been? As you can see, blogging has moved a little further down on the priority list. The pay off? We are having our first week off of school--and we are all on track with the outline of work to be done at this point of school.

The reason why it couldn't be better timing?

This could be our new bathroom.

This could be our new "media" room.This could be our new office/sewing/school room.
And, this could be ours too....
It's a super risky deal with timing and all....and lots of elbow grease to put this baby back in shape, but we think it will be worth it to get our little farm girl out of the city and raised with some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet.
A listing appointment is in our future. The near, near future. Eeek! Better get back to packing! I'll be back as i can...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wish You Were Here

Greetings from Half Dome!

This is my best loaf yet! I can't believe the largess of it! It's like a begula!! After reading The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens, it became apparent that my bread making could use a lot of help. So i started incorporating a few ideas i gleaned from the book: like adding gluten flour to the bread for better structure (i sub out 1/3 of the "white flour" with gluten flour), looking for the perfect knead, forming the roll a certain way so that most of the loaf isn't one big bubble of crust attached to a densely packed bottom, and most importantly making it more like the commercial breads in texture (which just requires that you bake your bread in a steamy oven.)

The last two loaves i tried in this way have been amazing. Best, i've merely stored them in the oven, uncovered, and they've lasted at least 3 days!! However, you see, i can't attest that they might last more than 3 days, as we devoured this entire loaf this large in 3 days!! Shhhh! Don't tell my Weight Watcher leader. :)

This is only the half of it!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Livin' the Slow Life: A Day in the Life of Moi

Annette at the fabulously inspiring Sustainable Eats participated in "A Day in the Slow Life" posting from one of the blogs she reads. You can follow the trail there. :) She invited her readers to post their goings on for their submissions to Simple Lives Thursday.

I'm game, but i have to admit, i feel a little homely compared to some of what these amazing people do! I don't grind my grains or make fabulously healthy dinners every night of the week. But i thought i would contribute since even the littlest changes and successes count, right? I have become more scheduled this year, consequently overcoming my need to make extra trips to the grocery during the week or consisently feeling behind (in some areas anyway, i'm still a work in progress, don'tcha know?)

So, here it is "Livin' the Slow Life: a not so typical Wednesday" by me, Whit
Now yesterday's kinda Wednesday doesn't happen every week. We have religious ed class once a month during the school year. It makes our life a little crazy, as you will see, however it is totally worth it because Cookie Monster is getting a great education (so are we)...and to boot she gets to see her uncle, who is our priest, more often!! Good Guys Win! Woot!

0545 Moose's alarm wakes me up. I dispise getting up this early. Especially because most nights i'm wide awake from somewhere around 2 am to 4 am. So, as i watch hubbie have a rendezvous with the snooze button over the next half hour, i tuck the covers back around me and grab the phonebot to catch up on the news that happened overnight--you know, mainly just what some crazy Tea Party candidate says on the Really Late Late Shows or something.

0700 Cookie Monster wakes. This is usually the time we snuggle in bed and read, awaiting Moose's departure. This day, we finished our first American Girl mystery.

0730 Moose is currently in a heated battle with some hornets that decided to build there nest just under our bedroom window in the wood pile. He pours 3 gallons of hot tap water on them to try to evict them. This is the third day in his war against the hornets, and thankfully it's not as expensive as another current war going on in our world. :)

0745 Moose says good bye and head's off on his bike for his 3 mile commute to work. C.m. and i get up and get ready for the day.

0800 Made granola. A few months ago, i purchased large quantities of flour, oats, and the like) and spent a few hours over the course of a few days making homemade "pre-mixes" of things that we use frequently (cookie mixes, granola, granola bars, meatloaf mix, and such.) As you can imagine, this really cuts down your "baking" time.

0825 While the granola is baking, it's time to make bread. I am currently working my way through a bread book by the River Cottage owner and his instructions are wonderfully easy! And while my stand mixer does the work for me, i jump online to check out a couple blogs. Obsess some more over a really cool quilt i discovered on one of my favourite blogs. But how to make it bigger???

0900 We have breakfast: we have cereal and some of our homemade applesauce we made at the beginning of the week. We tend to read during this time too, making breakfast extremely longer than it actually needs to be.

0945 We clear the table and get down to business: Homeschool! And remember to take the granola out of the oven before it burns. :)

Since we are a homeschooling family, we need to make the most of our weekdays. So i discovered creating a weekly plan that considers our work load, our appointments, and our dinners really helps us out. I usually sneak out of the house at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning and because the local library isn't awake that early, i head to our local coffeehouse (my only trip to a coffeehouse for the week) for a couple hours, taking with me cookbooks, school books, and our trusty calendar to plan the week and make the grocery list. After a sufficient amount of caffeine, i head from there to do the weekly shopping. We've made significant changes in the way we shop: we visit the butcher once a month on our way to church and we order staples from a food co-op monthly. I can't believe how much those two things will add up in time savings at the brick and mortar grocer!

1000 Math lesson.

1050 Break. During our 15-20 minute breaks inbetween subjects is when i bake or clean. Now i can add the extra task of packing up the house to the list too. On this day though, the bread was overdue for shaping and it's second rise. Also swept floors.

1105 Writing and spelling. Clear the table.

1200 Stick bread in the oven and make lunch. We keep it simple for lunch most days. Today it's ham, cheese, and apple quesadillas.

1250 Clear the table (again) and prepare some grapes to freeze to sustain Cookie Monster's appetite for them through the winter.

1310 Retrieve bread from oven and start Art History: read about Toulouse-Lautrec and Matisse for 30 minutes. Also cover our memory work that involves trying to commit the Egyptian dynasties to memory.

1400-ish Read for 30 minutes more. Cookie Monster tackles this while i discuss the latest object of my obsession over the phone with my mom. After serious debate, we're satisfied we've solved my problem. Unfortunately, we were both quite chatty and ate up a huge amount of our day. Arrgh...times two.

1515 Grammar lesson. STAT!

1530 Take leftover grapes, lunch, and snacks out to the Ladies of Laying, take care of their water and food, and collect eggs. Look over the garden quickly to see if there are any treats for the girls. Since the ruthless killing of one of our hens by our neighbours off leash beast, we haven't been able to let our girls free-range as they should, so gathering treats each day is a MUST!!

1550 Return inside to help dress Cookie Monster for her dance lesson. Reminded again why i love these crazy Wednesday night because she doesn't need to wear tights to class. I *loathe* tights!

1555 Make 2 tuna sandwiches and one PB with homemade raspberry jam on homemade bread. Pack water and cookies.

1615 Head to dance in the Kent Valley. While dance class is on, i obsess some more over the quilt while i eat dinner and work a bit on my first pair of socks i am knitting for C.m.

1745 Meet Moose at the car, dispense dinner items and beat cheeks to Lakewood.

1834 Arrive 4 minutes late to religious ed class, however it is okay, because the Deacon George still has have of his announcements to go since he has to make them in English and Spanish.

2030 Drive back home. Play "Whoever Yawns the Most on the Way Home Wins" game with family.

2105 Arrive home. Indulge in a dalliance on the computer for 10 minutes while C.m. gets herself ready for bed.

2115 Head to bed myself, reading a Curious George story to C.m. and giving the feline a pat before hitting the pillow. Having a brief thought about Mad Men before my eyes couldn't stand it any longer. We went through Hell this entire season with Mr. Draper, and now, in just a few hours in California with his secretary, he's proposed marriage to her? Really?

Anyway, that's a day in the life around here. A little extreme i guess because truly it's only one day of the month that looks like that, but subtract out the trip to Lakewood and it all pretty much looks the same otherwise! :)

What's your day look like?

I must say, reading through some of these entries has given me a plethora of great ideas!

To see more ideas on how to make your life simpler, visit the Simple Lives Thursday link at the top of this post.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Say Buh-Bye To Canned Beans

I just discovered a simple method to cook dried beans, making over salted, lackluster tasting, BPA containing canned beans obsolete! As an added plus, in buying dried beans, namely pintos, you'll be helping family farmers like my friend in Colorado.

As long as you have a crock pot, it will be completely easy for you too, to have wholesome, flavourful beans ready anytime and no further than your freezer! However, it does take some planning.

And since it is such a simple process, i am going to keep this post simple. No pictures. No fluff. Just facts.

Steps for cooking dried beans:

1. The Soak: Place 1 pound of beans in the crock, covered about an inch or two above top with water.
  • Large, thick skinned beans (e.g. runner, lima, or fava) soak 12 hours
  • Garbanzos or whole peas soak 10 hours
  • Medium beans (black, kidney, pinto) soak 6 - 8 hours
  • Small, thick skinned beans (azuki, mung) soak 8 hours
  • Small, thin skinned beans soak 4 hours.

Take precautions during hot, humid weather, either changing the water once or twice during soak times or place crock in fridge overnight.

2. Pull The Plug: Drain and Rinse Beans

( More special precautions: if cooking red beans, boil for ten minutes in fresh water on the stove top for at least 10 minutes to dissipate toxins contained within the bean. It's something regarding a natural occuring chemical in the bean that makes a human sick. Even NASA has funded research on the subject.)

3. Repeat. Place soaked beans back in the crock, cover with fresh water and cook on low for 8 hours* (* or till bite tender.)

At this point is where i diverged from the beaten path. Add fresh or dried herbs. Add garlic or ginger. Add anything your little heart desires to make these beans palatable and sought after!

4. Salt. Add this at toward the end of the cooking time. Or not.

5. Drain and Chill!

After they are done, it's time to drain the cooking liquid and cool your beans. Once cooled, they can be packaged in containers and frozen for up to 6 MONTHS!! Yippee! I find packing them in a pint glass jar provides the closest quanity to a canned equivalent.

Should you come from a family that consumes beans in *large* quantities (bless your heart), then the pot of these in the fridge will last 2 weeks.

To see more ideas regarding making your life simpler, visit Simple Lives Thursday. Every Thursday.

Rockin' the Irish Dancing

Back in July, Cookie Monster not only competed in her first feis, but she sat for her first grades as well.

She qualified for Grade 1: the reel and the jig.

The judge happened to be a childhood friend of Cookie Monster's teacher, so her teacher told her that her friend is a really strong critic, a very good judge. But students can think she is very strict. First, she doesn't hand out A's. Very few B+'s either. Cookie Monster's grade? B!!

Also, unique to the certificate was that the judge strayed from her usual habit of writing only criticism for improvement, and noting the practices she does really well! Things thrown around like "great smile", "lovely style", and the most impressive "promising dancer"!

And so she receives her first grade certificate of completion. 19 more passing grades and she could be an Irish dancing instructor!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finally, A Current Events Story We Can Teach!!

Isn't it amazing the live feed from Chile? Truly a miracle for our entire human race!

And what was pretty good about it (the best being that everything is running smoothly, by the grace of God, and the men are coming up reasonably healthy and reuniting with their families) is that it is a current events story i feel comfortable teaching my soon to be 8 year old about! Hooray!

Up until now, i've been pretty mum about the whole business. I remember the day in '86 when someone at our school had the great idea to have us all watch the Challenger lift off because it carried the first teacher in space. And there us 5th graders sat with a group of 2nd graders to watch the horrifying events of the morning, while our teachers and principal shuttled in and out of the room dealing with their own shock, and having to contain ours, while coming up with a game plan. So you can say i've been a little antsy to say anything about the Chilean miners...until today!

But that's just what we soon as our feet hit the floor this morning!

We talked of the geography and methods of mining. We talked of the science of living underground--trapped a mile below for 17 days with little food or light. We covered math in conversions from days to months and metres to feet to miles. We touched on everything else from plate techonics to modern technology. We talked about life vs. time: miners celebrating birthdays, babies being born, men who had just started working a few months ago with a man who was going to retire in a few months. We discussed the strength these men have to possess to stay alive for 69 days underground. We discussed world relations of Chile and Bolivia having to put aside differences now because the miners include a Bolivian citizen; and how a number of US companies and NASA helped with donations of materials so that the Chilean government could design a plan that would be so successful! We delighted in their superstitious belief about the number 33: there were 33 of them, it took 33 days for the rescue shaft to be completed, and they were rescued on 10/13/10 (add them up, you get 33)--they marvel at the fact that their 33's match up to the number of years that Jesus was alive on this earth. We talked of the power of hope. Of faith. Of determination. And of courage.

And then, we went downstairs for an hour and watched 2 rescues. Cookie monster's hooked now. I can't get her to come back up and eat breakfast so we can start school. And once she heard the chanting "Chi chi chi, le le le. Los Mineros de Chile," she couldn't stop singing it.

We've found a great live feed website to share called It is filtered to receive only the news on the miners, and MSNBC links video of important developments very quickly. They even have a video of the ride up the rescue shaft with the rescue of Edison Pena. The BBC has a great website that is updated as well with international feed. I find their feed for mobile devices is in if you are in a place that you can't watch video feed but you will be able to read updates.

I know we'll be glued all day!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fries a la Jeanette

A quick recipe shared by an adorable friend of mine, over a lunch that was way too short, while our children pretended to be robots.

Place potatoes (russet, Yukon, sweet, etc.) in the microwave, covered.  Steam 3 to 5 minutes to remove the excess water from them.  Pat dry, then hand toss to coat in 1 tbsp oil mixed with 1 tbsp organic, non gmo corn starch and 1 tsp salt.  Meanwhile, in oven, have a large cookie sheet with 5 tbsp veggie oil heating until it smokes.  Carefully place fries in the oil.  Cook for .... then turn and cook for ..... 

Crispy fries.  Is there anything better?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Last Straw

What a week! We were feeling good, coming home from our trip to Portland, and then....

Monday afternoon we let our chickens out for the first time in 3 days to scratch at the grass, eat bugs, bathe in the know, do all those chicken-y things that makes them healthy and happy. We've sealed the holes in our yard that they used to access the neighbour's yards so they couldn't wander off. All was well until i heard a blood curdling squawk coming from the side yard. I looked out and couldn't find a single chicken. Blast it!

Wondering if the cooper's hawk we saw land on our bird feeder the week before had returned for a entree rather than appetizers, i put on my shoes and headed out the door (in my jammies, mind you, because we are a homeschool family and that is how we roll most days.) :) Once i headed out the deck door, i see the neighbour from two doors down coming up our driveway. She's got a look of shame on her face. She also has a *huge*, menacing dog named Otis (who incidentally has been a frequent visitor to our yard for the past 10 years and has tried to attack us on two occasions while we were working in the yard.)

The reason for her second visit within a month? To inform me that this time Otis was successful in killing one of our chickens. Last time, he just mouthed it and took it home. That time, she thought the chicken had walked two houses down the street and appeared in her yard for the dog to play with. Since then, i've seen that daft beast in our yard at least once. Now we know twice.

She was still postulating like last time that my chickens are visiting her of their own will; a fact which i highly doubt. She said that her dog had the bird in it's mouth when a parent was arriving to pick up their child from her daycare. (poetic justice?? having to explain why your dog is allowed attacks animals in front of small children. for a second time in a month.) I found a dirty shirt in the car, and sent Cookie monster in the house to call her grandparents. I walked with the lady down to her driveway to find Macaroon lying in near their front steps like a trophy. I insisted that our chickens don't leave our yard, but that i had seen her dog in our yard recently. She said she didn't know how he would get there as they have an enclosed backyard for him. Later (mistakenly, maybe) she admitted that he ran out the front door into the unfenced front yard while she reunited the parent and child, and he returned in minutes with my chicken in his mouth. She wanted to know what she could do, because this was my pet. I was ready to scream blood murder at her, but i could feel something keeping me from being rude to her. I calmly pointed out that these birds are mainly kept for our food, first and foremost, and the pet part is secondary. Now we were going to be down 5 eggs a week. And truly, what can you do to "replace" one chicken as the dynamics of chickens are a little more complicated than that?

Walking with Mac motionless in my arms, life seemed so surreal. I was sad, yet appauled at this woman's naiviety. She didn't even know the chicken was a hen...she thought it was a rooster, when the poor thing was about the size of a loaf of bread!! She suggested we fence off our yard completely, so i reminded her that i keep a fence....for what i need for my chickens. I don't need to keep a fence for dogs, because i don't have one. Her dog is the one that is breaking the law by accessing our yard through another neighbour's yard. She came back to our house trying to show me how we could fence our yard and then realised that we can't really easily. Promises of constantly keeping her easily 90 lb dog inside her home "from now on" started flying. Yeah, right.

I was determined to find the spot where that dumb dog got my chicken. It didn't take long, but unfortunately, she didn't stick around to see it. It's right near my daughter's playset.

So here we are, left with the options of fencing off our property (of which will be highly costly as there are a few things from the yard that must be removed first since restricted access may make their removal more expensive later), not letting our chickens out for recess, or moving. We'd fancy the latter. But how will we do that in this market? We'll have to see.

I suppose there is one other option, as postulated to me by a family member..."I'd make sure you bury that dog!" Don't want to look too obvious, though, you know? I think i'll keep my camera handy with the date stamp at the ready to snap a picture of that dog in our yard should he return before i call 911 to report an off-leash beast.

Maybe a slingshot would be in order?

One thing is sure, we are sure going to miss Macaroon!

RIP my little roadrunner...

Meep Meep!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

7 Bean and Grain Soup

In wondering what to make for dinner the other night, i was in a conundrum: i wanted to make something using up our last half pound of ground beef and something that could be consumed within a couple days so we wouldn't have leftovers in the fridge when we headed to Portland.
It also had to meet the all important criteria: no shopping any further than the pantry. :)

I had some 7 Bean & Grain soup mix, in which are pinto, black, kidney, and navy beans, split peas, lentils, barley, etc. There's a cabinet full of spices.

So it sounded like to me, soup was going to be the ticket. However, i didn't want any tomatoes added.

Here's what i came up with--more gruel than a soup, i'd say, but pretty yummy:

1/2 lb lean ground beef
half large onion
2 cubes garlic (this fabulous new invention i found--frozen packets of garlic by Dorot, frozen in perfectly beautiful cubes equivalent to a clove)
1-2 cups soup mix
8 cups water
2 tbsp organic beef boullion

2 tsp parsley
2 cubes of frozen basil (see garlic)
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary

Precook the beef. Add beans, etc and simmer for a few hours.
Best the next day!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homeschooling Helpers :: Art History

Are you a perfectionistic homeschooling mom like me? If you are, and you are teaching the Classical method, i have a few lists i am planning to post here (for my sake, and possibly yours.)

The first list i made regards the great artist covered in Art History curriculum. In the Well Trained Mind book they seem to be in random order to me. I wanted the list to tell me who arrived in what order, since i remembered studying these artists in an actual order as they tend to build off each other somehow. I also added a few i thought weren't worth missing.

I've arranged them in order of accepted year of birth. That way, when we are studying the Renaissance, we'll be able to pull all the artist from that time and review them.

Art History Reference: Who Came First, What's on Second, Picasso's on Third, and Warhol's in the outfield.

Botticelli 1444
Da Vinci 1452
Michelangelo 1475
Raphael 1483
Bruegel 1527
Rembrandt 1606
Francisco Goya 1746
Edgar Degas 1834
Cezanne 1839
Monet 1840
Renoir 1841
Mary Cassatt 1844
Gauguin 1848
Van Gogh 1853
Seurat 1859
Toulouse-Lautrec 1864
Matisse 1869
Klee 1879
Picasso 1881
Edward Hopper 1882
Diego Rivera 1886
O'Keeffe 1887
Marc Chagall 1887
Grant Wood 1891
Norman Rockwell 1894
Dali 1904
Pollack 1912
Warhol 1928

Sunday Stills::Green and Red

This week's challenge was kinda tricky. Especially since we were travelling to Portland so Cookie monster could attend another feis... where she made them all green with envy as she won 2nd and 3rd place medals
for her performances in the Single and Light jigs.
I think i pulled it off though.
This time of year, around the Pacific Northwest, there's a changing of the colour guard, if you will. Not just the leaves on the trees though...

but with our fish too.
The mature Chinook salmon start swimming upstream in the Fall to spawn. It is when they spawn that they change colours and the males get their funny looking jaws.
(the salmon above and below are exhibits at the Oregon Zoo, in Portland.)

I thought that'd be it for the extent of red and green at the zoo, but it turns out they had one more animal to submit for this challenge:
The Western Pond Turtle
For more Sunday Stills that will put you in the mood for Saint Nick's arrival,