Friday, July 4, 2014

July Stuff

Oh my there is so much to record, and I never get around to it. Blogging is a time-consuming effort, but totally worth it when I see the happiness it brings to my kids. They just love to read my old posts. Too bad I don't write more often. I'm only about three years behind...

Today is Independence Day, 2014. As I stepped into the shower and thanked God for hot water (again), I also thanked him for this nation. In spite of all the horrible things that are happening in the U.S. of A., I am still grateful to live here and to have the liberties that I do have. The trouble is not all the U.S. government's fault --  if we humans would just govern ourselves, we wouldn't have half the trouble that we do. As long as people want a right to do whatever their flesh desires with no accountability, and as long as they say, "Don't judge me," (translation --"Let me sin in peace!"), we're going to have trouble. God didn't say not to judge; he said to judge righteous judgment. How do we know what is the righteous standard is that Jesus Christ talked about?  I'll give you a hint. The Bible is where you'll find that standard of righteousness. Why do most people believe same-sex "marriage" or abortion or any number of other evils is wrong? Because it's wrong. God said so. But some people don't want even GOD telling them what to do. And that is a big problem for all of us.

Okay, end of unfinished soapbox moment.

We've done lots of projects, and we've left a lot more undone. I learned to make some pretty good bread without even using the bread machine. Betz started an online math class. We went to family camp in Missouri. Amy is becoming an awesome early childhood education expert. Alison was promoted to Culvers management and is now teaching violin lessons in three towns. We planted a vegetable garden and decorated the front step with some potted flowers. Emily started a quilt. We went on a train ride. I cultured (and shared!) real live, Russian kefir for several months. Mr Diamonds started a job. I started another blog (silly me.) The floors got mopped. But both girls' bedrooms need paint and some cheery decor. The top of the kitchen cupboards needs scrubbing. The fridge needs cleaning out. ...Eh, it's not going anywhere.

Today was another project day. Our poor, cheaply upholstered piano bench, which is assembled and disassembled and hauled to church every week, was really looking pathetic. I fixed it this morning with less than $1.50 and a borrowed staple gun. Put that in the pile of projects that I have looked at for months, thinking, "I should fix that."  Another one of those projects was moving the sewing table downstairs and the piano upstairs, along with our big desk. And cleaning out under the basement stairs. Thankfully we have Amy. She's great at tackling those formidable things. She does it cheerfully and completely. Love that kid!  

Speaking of Amy, she is graduate #2 in this family, hooray!  But she deserves her own post about all that.

Remember this project
Well, it didn't work. The spray adhesive didn't stick to the foam, not one bit. I think we used Elmer's spray adhesive the first time. As a result, the board and print flopped behind the sewing table for the past two years, gathering dust. Last night Amy dragged me to OfficeMax for new prints, and to Target and WalMart for a different aerosol adhesive that would stick to foam. The dusty old print went in the trash, having been scratched and smeared the first time through. Amy cut the insulation board down using a hand saw, leaving the rough edges. Then she painted the edges with $.97 black craft paint and waited impatiently for it to dry (approx. 20 min). Next step, she sprayed the back of the print and one side of the foam board, then carefully lay the print down, smoothing out the air bubbles with a rolling pin. A couple hours later (or less) here's the finished product:
Might cut that larger border down and repaint, but otherwise it's all good! Except I might change my mind about which wall we want these on, especially if we find a free, small couch or comfy love seat for the other corner of that room. It's so cool have these professional-looking prints for a small fraction of the price.

Next project, that blog header. I'll be back.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Apology to self for my disappearance.  I was going to change my blog decor, got distracted while it was still a mess, and forgot I had unpublished myself.  Here we are still in a mess and since it's late at night, it will stay that way for a while.  Looks like my blog housekeeping and my house housekeeping share a common trait.  After all, the mess isn't going anywhere...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brief Announcement

Those of you who are local, I have started an additional blog endeavor, The Garden Gazette.  This is the blog of the Cambridge Community Garden.  Come by and see what's happening this season!  (Looks like it's time to change out that snowman header, yay!)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Man-sized English muffins
On the back of the Gold Medal unbleached flour bag there is a recipe for a no-knead artisan loaf you can put together in five minutes. Since my bread machine bit the dust quite some time ago, I have been using that recipe, slightly altered (because I always alter recipes), for weeks now. When we were growing up Mom always had some sort of rolls on the supper table, or at least I remember it that way. Supper just doesn't seem like it is complete unless we have our habitual bread with it. I know, it's filler, right? And my body could really do without it. 

But the other day I ran across this variation of their basic flour bag recipe on the Bread in 5 website  -- griddle-baked English muffins

Had to try 'em.

As you can see above, only four fit in my 10" skillet. (They really aren't yellow -- that's my camera, sorry.) These are MAN-SIZE English muffins! That wasn't the recipe's fault, but mine. I sort of forgot the dough would grow while the unbaked muffins were resting on my counter top. I used a wide-mouth canning ring to cut them, getting only 8 English muffins out of what would normally be a nice sized loaf of bread. So these are like 4-5" in diameter. Unlike the shrimpy Thomases English muffins, there is no problem getting these babies out of the toaster!
Whoops, sorry, I tore off a piece before taking the photo.
I am wondering what I will be filling my days with after all my kids are grown.  I won't be an expert at anything, but maybe I will have at least tried lots of things.  :)

I think for my next trick I will be making this apple strudel bread. Or maybe not. It does feel futile to bake for a family of six. But I love them... and I love bread, too.  Okay, you talked me into it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29th. Yes. It is STILL snowing here. The scenery has not changed much since the last time I used this photo. It's been a popular one with me this season. Okay, we do have some grass greening up now, and the trees are starting to bud, and I have seen a few bugs out. But it will be snowing, or at least raining, for the rest of the week. 

So we decided we would go do something that every other mom in our town is probably thinking of doing this week, too, and that is swimming at the local motel pool. We are hoping all the other moms are planning to take their kids later in the week, and we'll go today.  

So we drive the 1.1 miles to the motel and behold, disappointment! A sign on the door says the pool and hot tub are closed until further notice. Can you imagine being a ten year old, beside yourself with anticipation, and making this discovery? Life is cruel.

We are fortunate to have another motel 15 miles away, another one that has public swimming hours. But they open later. On the phone they don't sound nearly as friendly, but we'll sneak in there in a bit and get three good hours of swimming in before the federal school, lets out. 

News:  Betz is now wearing glasses, much to her discomfort. She is very cute in them, but you know how it is when you feel conspicuous. Amy is graduating this spring and even though I knew that, the event has kind of snuck up on me. I need to at least order some announcements. Emily has joined the Junior Master Gardener Program for our county. Not sure what that entails yet, but I hope it instills in her a love for growing things. I discovered, or maybe rediscovered, the Project Based Homeschool website and book. I always seem to come across these things in the spring, and then by the next fall I'll be back to ordering very "box"-conforming textbooks for school. I'm hoping that will change this year. It can change. I can change. I can, I can. Lord willing, I will change.

Time to go swimming. Hopefully the pool will be empty. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16th.  You just thought spring was here!

There are a few drafts in the works, but I will probably never get them written. Life happens. I am going to post one of them for the photos, if nothing else, because in about four years my girls will scroll thru my old blog posts again, and they will be greatly entertained.  

We've been to the history museum, gone to a play, dissected rabbits, shot a gun for the first time, collected maple sap for syrup, started walking (that was before we had mounds of spring snow), visited a lovely farm, baked cookies and muffins and that amazing whole wheat banana raisin bread, nearly slid off the road into the lake (that was today), and gone to a party for the 5th and 6th grade girls at our co-op.

I have taught math and English, reviewed algebra, read up on the terrible secret history of Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia/Finland under Stalin's regime, had a date with my husband, and invented succulent dishes for my family.

And today, after a long hiatus from reading all the weekly posts on the Carnival of Homeschooling, I was challenged again by other parents who are thinkers and movers and defenders of our privilege to teach our own children and to decide what that means. This post by Lori Pickert, at Project-Based Homeschooling, was particularly meaningful. Unfortunately for me, the timing was bad.  My reading of the post coincided with one daughter's bold insistence that this stuff we call "school" really doesn't matter in the long run and is therefore a complete waste of time. Other than my insufficient but standard response, "You need to be able to teach your kids this stuff, so they can teach their kids this stuff," I am out of arguments. She desperately wants a real job, to learn stuff of life the real way, and the PBH post backs her up nicely. I don't know what to do now. But I never really have known what to do, so I'm no worse off today than I was yesterday. :)  Lord, show me! ...I'll probably figure it out a week after I graduate child #4. And hopefully my realization will be accompanied by a sense of affirmation, not one of regrets.

I'll be back.

*     *    *

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; 
and what doth the LORD require of thee, 
but to do justly, and to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with thy God?
Micah 6:8

(I didn't see anything about school in there. Did you?)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I broke my mini tablet a couple weeks ago. Three months ago I didn't have one and I didn't want one. But then Alison picked one up for me just because ♥. I got over the aggravating learning curve enough to get involved with "Scramble With Friends". And I practiced until I felt confident enough to play against a real online opponent. I won the first round! And then I dropped my tablet and smashed the glass thingie, whatever it's called. You know, the screen thing.


I kind of missed that aggravating thing.  

For a few days I wanted to replace it with a smart phone, or at least an iPod. I even went so far as to look for an iPod giveaway contest. (As if I'd win!)

But now that a few more days have gone by, I'm back to thinking like I did before I had my tablet.

I think I am.

But in the event that I am ever gifted with another one, that will probably make me happy.

I'm going to end up one of those old ladies who is still in the dark ages with her rotary telephone, without any friends or family because their friends and family are modern people and don't know how to connect with loved ones the old fashioned way.

But I'll still have my blog. :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

I believe there may be a law of Nature that states that whenever you have a serious banana bread craving, you will not have any super-ripe bananas, and any bananas to be found in the grocery store will be in shades of green varying from grass green to pea green and not one will be even remotely brown-speckled. So you will buy them under-ripe and set them on your counter, and then just as they are about to turn nice and ripe and spotty, your husband will eat them with peanut butter because you have been so focused on baking banana bread that you haven’t stocked the house with anything to eat for lunch. Cruel, cruel Nature. ~ Emily Vikre,
I just had to copy and paste this quote in an email to the preacher this morning, for he is this very husband who scopes out and eats the bananas that have been especially hidden away for the banana bread purpose. Excellent man that he is, he just can not stand to see food go "bad".

I have not been able to convince him that there is no such thing as a bad banana, unless it is a green one.

A few minutes later, noting four perfect banana-bread bananas in the fruit basket, I asked him if he had already eaten his daily breakfast banana today. He answered in the affirmative, and that was the end of the conversation, but I should have been listening for his unspoken, "And I can't wait to eat that banana bread that you are going to bake with the rest of them!"

But I wasn't. If I had been listening to his yearnings, I could have saved him a profound disappointment.  Instead, I was focused on Emily Vikre's recipe for Espresso Banana Bread, and I proceeded to smash up those last four perfectly spotted nanners. I changed up the recipe a bit, since I didn't have espresso granules, and because I thought 1/4 cup of sugar was just waaay too little sugar for banana bread. I used instant coffee and doubled the sugar, then subbed the sour cream with kefir. And I added 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, because. (Do I need a reason to add chocolate??) AND, since I was too impatient to wait two hours for a loaf of bread to come out of the oven and cool, too, I made muffins instead.

The muffins turned out beautifully: nicely risen, a little bit cakey, and perfectly sweet and moist, with that wonderful heaven-made taste combination of chocolate and banana.  But the instant coffee didn't cut it.  There is not one trace of coffee flavor in those muffins!

Now, the preacher absolutely hates anything to do with coffee -- the smell, the taste, and most especially the resulting poisonous breath of the one who has consumed it. (That would be me. He doesn't get close enough to anyone else to smell their breath.) So when the muffins were cooling nicely on the rack and Pastor J. came in to the kitchen to "test" the finished product (as if he doesn't know what banana muffins taste like), I felt I ought to warn him that it contained coffee. 

And that is how I discovered a no-fail method for keeping the preacher out of the baked goods or anything else that comes out of the kitchen:  "Oh Honey, I added a bit of coffee to that."

To be fair, I did assure him that he would not be able to taste it, not one tiny little bit. 

But the word "coffee" did it. The poor man was so disappointed.  I did try to convince him that those muffins were really good anyway, but he wasn't buying it.

And so there were enough of them to take a half dozen to our piano teacher this afternoon.

Who ever heard of a Swede not liking coffee??

Oh.  And the green-bananas-when-you-have-a-banana-bread-craving problem is easily solved.  See Jillee's quick banana ripening method.  It works!

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