Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fast Scrabble

Fun and educational.  I love when those two words work in the same sentence.  Our pastor's wife taught us a very fun way to play Scrabble, one which everyone can play and no one has to wait their turn.

Leave the Scrabble board in the box, and turn all the tiles upside down on the table.  Everyone draws seven tiles at random.  Put the remaining tiles where everyone can reach them.

On the count of three, everyone turns their tiles right side up.

Make your own Scrabble grid with the letters you drew, following normal Scrabble rules for forming words.

The first person to use all their tiles says, "Draw!".

Each person picks another tile and tries to incorporate it into their own Scrabble puzzle. Puzzles can be rearranged at will for as long as the game is in play.  Again, the first person to use all their tiles says, "Draw!"

Play continues this way until all  the extra tiles are used up, and either someone goes out or no one can play.

Score the normal way, subtracting your left-over tiles from your total.  Shared letters are added twice.

To include smaller children, allow them to make words without shared letters.  You could also allow proper nouns.  Or make all the bigger people draw two tiles, while younger ones draw only one.

For larger groups, combine two or more sets of Scrabble tiles.

Since starting this post, I learned that this is the same way Bananagrams is played!  Since we already have Scrabble, we'll save our money. :D

Even More Beautiful

Alison got her top brackets off yesterday.  Yippee!  See her post, which reveals some of her inner beauty, too.  :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Summer's Last(?) Hurrah

There was some deliberation this morning about whether or not to go to the lake.  After all, the forecasted high temp for the day was only 108º.  Water temp: 76º.  With any breeze we'd be chilled to the bone!  We took our chances on the breeze.

With the boat, it's a tight squeeze .

Look at that beautiful empty beach:

Now from the other direction:

Add clean, clear water,

sand between my toes,

and five people I love:

Uh - oh.  I see another swimmer.  The beach is getting crowded.

Heading home.

I love it when school is in session.  ;)  It was the perfect day.

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm 136:1

Friday, September 17, 2010

2010 Trip Part 4

Are you ready for this?  I fell in love with, of all places, North Dakota.  (No, it was not January, I'm sure that had a lot to do with it.)  Before we could get there, though, we had to pass through lovely Wyoming (I am not being facetious.  It was lovely.) and South Dakota, where my children had their first experience with mosquitoes after dark.  They acted just like girls, which is understandable.  They are girls.  We stayed in a teeny tiny town, Buffalo, which has just one motel, and a decent one at that.  (File that away in case you ever need to stay in that vicinity, but be warned about the mosquitoes!)

I don't know what it is that I love about hay fields, certainly not the  allergens.  But I just adore a rolling landscape and wide open spaces with big, fresh, round hay bales scattered about.  (Bale, not Baal -- that's for Short) :)  A picture's worth a thousand words, and to me this picture speaks  of freedom and of clean-living, hard-working, orderly, family-oriented, patriotic people.  I know, there is sin everywhere, and LOTS of it, but if I had enough leg room and a comfortable seat, I could drive through baled hay fields all day, enjoying my delusion.  I could even call it home.  In July, that is.  Or August. In North Dakota.  I can't believe my resident photographer did not get even ONE hay bale photo for me.

Our entire route was planned and timed around the location of Little Caesar's restaurants, for where else can you fill up a family of six for $10 ($12 in pricey Bismark)?  Not even McDonalds, thankfully. :)  John Garrison, on location:


At the same time we were driving all day across ND, our hosts, who are friends in the ministry, were driving home all day from Iowa.   This visit was so awkwardly timed, with us arriving between back-to-back weddings, but the Custers were top-notch in gracious hospitality.  We were to meet them at their church in Grand Forks and follow them to their home on the Minnesota side of the Red River.  While we waited for our friends, we were treated to a real live life-threatening ND thunderstorm!  John Garrison, knowledgeable amateur weatherman that he is, had his poor children all worked up over the ominous black clouds that were speeding our way.  The wind picked up, the sky blackened, the rain pelted us. Just in time our hosts pulled into the parking lot.  As we followed them to their home, my husband learned a good lesson.  If you do now follow the pastor, you may get lost or even crash. :)  We were completely blinded by the rain, having only the tail lights ahead of us to follow.  I love a good mid-west storm! It was so exciting.

Sunday morning was perfect.  We had  beautiful weather, maybe about 75º, a hot summer day up there in the north country.  (I know I can trust Weather Truth Man to comment if I am wrong about the temperature.)  Anyway, the air conditioning at Bible Baptist was on full blast, and my poor husband, though he was equipped with long underwear, had to go outside to warm up between Sunday School and the preaching service!  He preached the evening service, and a dear, thoughtful brother brought the desert-acclimated preacher a space heater for the platform. :D

Since the church is undergoing a major remodel, there is room for only half the orchestra to play at each service.  You all know Alison's longstanding dream has been to play her violin in an orchestra. In anticipation of that possibility, she squeezed her instrument into the seat with her for 5000+ miles.  Well, her dream came true!  :D  Space was made for her to play along.  She was one very happy young lady!

Emily Custer, who is the piano accompanist on her brother Seth's beautiful soprano saxophone CD, Come Thou Fount (produced by Soundforth), graced Alison with her company at the piano and violin.  Besides being quite an accomplished musician, she is a graceful servant of Jesus Christ.  Our girls enjoyed her so much!  They all slept out in a TENT for the first time ever, thanks to Emily C.  Yet another trip highlight!  Sleeping in a tent is something every kid should get to do at least once in her life.

Elisabeth found a haven up in the old attic school room.  Come to think of it, all the girls did!  What a treasure trove of good old books.

My Emily made a new best friend whose name is Lollypop.  That's Lolly, for short.  She is  a Pomeranian/Bichon Frise mix, and soooo sweet!  I normally do not like small dogs.  They are all high-strung type A personalities, yippers, ankle biters.  (All except yours, of course!)  I am now developing a theory that dogs are much like their owners; this one certainly is.  I anticipated Emily's subsequent request for a dog, but she was smart.  Knowing her chances of getting a dog were nil, she asked for a FISH instead!!  The answer was still no. Poor kid.

Something else every kid should do -- go frog catching!  The salamander was a bonus. :D

Ah, a  real campfire with hot dogs and smores.  These dear people really know how to show desert dwellers a good time! Thank you, Custer family!  We love you!

I love North Dakota.  I love the people.  I could live there.  In August. :D

But I am resolved "in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."  Philippians 4:11

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010 Trip Part 3

The momentum on my vacation posts disappeared!  I have to finish them, just for my own sake -- my blog is sort of my travel log.

Let's see, I left off with southern Utah and the National Parks.  Ha ha, that is also where I started these posts.  Oh I have a long way to go!  Next we drove from America's playland, Moab, UT, to somewhere near Greely, Colorado.  GORGEOUS scenic drive the entire way!!!  I know I have said that several times, but it's true.  I couldn't even get into a book that day.  Our faithful old van ground up the freeway over Vail Pass with a worn-out bearing, creating a huge racket, but the Lord got us to our destination.  While we waited for work on the van to be done, we visited Platteville Baptist Church and had a good meeting.  The preacher and his wife, the Smiths, treated us to a late-night buffet where the girls innocently and adventurously tasted Rocky Mountain oysters. *blechhh*  They decided "oysters" are pretty good, even if these were rather chewy.  *~~shudder~~* Those folks were a blessing!  One of the church members, bless his heart, loaned us a car so that we could spend the next day visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.

If you ever get close to Denver, you must see RMNP.  My camera just does not do the place justice -- it is so huge and so magnificent, and it made me feel like such an infinitesimal part of God's creation!  There was still snow in spots -- in mid-July -- and we needed our jackets as we climbed to the 12,000 ft+ peak of  ... can't remember the name of it...  That's what I get for not writing things down.  Anyway, it really did seem like we had our heads in the clouds.  Delicate arctic plants lined the trail, and we saw several animal species that were new to us.  Real campers and hikers could spend weeks here, but we just stayed one day.  We like the convenience and comfort of a motel room, especially when it is raining. :D

Here's Amy, the indomitable photographer, scaring me to death again:

And the resulting photo:

We parked and took a bus to a trailhead, where we met dozens of soaking wet hikers.  Assuming they must have all ducked under the Alberta Falls,  we adventurously headed up the trail in the drizzle.

The bus ride was as big an attraction to some people as the scenery was to the rest of us!

This is my kind of hiking, a nice smooth path with little elevation gain:

A rare photo of Amy without her eye behind a camera:

Gummy worm break!  It's important when hiking, to keep up one's energy.

John Garrison at Alberta Falls:


Would you believe that guy was planning, at one time, to be a TV weatherman? :)

We finished the hike soaking wet, not from the falls, but from the drizzle, like all the hikers who had gone on before us.  More exploring, another bus ride, a great picnic, and a drive through Estes Park finished the day off.  We had as much fun watching people as we did viewing God's handiwork.  :)

Had we known our van repair was going to take the entire morning of the next day, we'd have invited Wendy and her daughter, Laurie, to come and visit us in Greely!  But we expected it to be done first thing in the morning.  The motel pool kept the kids happy, comfortable, and entertained in the meantime.  The longer stay in Colorado required a rerouting of our itinerary, and we missed Mount Rushmore.  Instead we made a beeline for eastern North Dakota.

Stay tuned for more excitement!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Better Than Chocolate Cake

We are having a bit of fall weather here, only in the high 90's today.  :D  It puts me in the mood for baking!  The oven that was zapped in our voltage problem last May was finally fixed (I think) last week.  (No kudos for Sears from this customer.)  I think it's fixed.  I had to bake a cake to be sure.  Apple cake sounds fallish, don't you think?  I thought so, too.  So yesterday I tested the oven with this Apple Dapple Cake.  I wish I could give credit to the right person, but I don't remember where I got the recipe.  I found it scribbled on a scrap of paper and crammed into my recipe box.   The result?  The oven works (yay).  And Emily says,

It's better than chocolate, Mom!

(Prepubescent girls don't know that there is nothing better than chocolate, so I am allowing this.)  Give it a try.  Wish I had a good photo for you.  Add a dollop of whipped cream for the full treatment.

Apple Dapple Cake

Mix these together: 3 C flour, 1 t cinnamon, 1 t soda, 1 t salt.

Now cream these in a separate bowl, beating for about three minutes: 3 eggs, 2 C sugar, 1 C oil.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well, then add these: 3 C grated apple (peeled) OR 2 1/4 C applesauce, 2 t vanilla, 1 C coconut OR 3/4 C oatmeal (I used oats), 1 C chopped walnuts.

Grease and flour a 13x9 pan.  Better yet, use sugar and cinnamon in place of the flour.  Pour batter in.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

While cake is baking, combine these in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for 3 minutes: 1 C brown sugar, 1/2 C butter or margarine, 1/4 C milk.  Stir constantly to prevent burning.  Poke the hot cake all over with a fork and pour glaze (? is that what you call it?) on top.

Cool, and taste autumn. :D

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day

Alison and I spent yesterday afternoon shopping.  It was the lure of end-of-the-season + holiday sale prices, combined with left over birthday money to spend on ME that gave me this idea, and maybe a bit of the ever-hopeful in me -- forty-some years of coming home with little or nothing still has not killed that hope that maybe today I will find something!   Normally a holiday would be for resting and relaxation, you know.  Shopping is fun if it includes buying, and maybe some good company.  For me, shopping is work!  My shoulders ache from trying on every reasonably-priced blouse in the mall.  My feet hurt from walking miles in my broken-down Crocs impersonators.  I did have good company, but I did not get to spend any money.  I'm not complaining about that, exactly, just saying.

This trip was supposed to be for me.  But it wasn't long before Alie realized I was only looking for things for her.  (I had already given up on finding something decent for myself.) That right there is a huge challenge.  Have you ever shopped for modest clothing for a juniors-sized young lady?  One who is both modest and particular?  It's not easy.  There's just nothing out there.  I held a cute blouse out to her and she made a face.  She suggested one for me to try on, and I made a face.  After we had covered 75% of the mall this way she says to me, "Mom, maybe you need to branch out a little."  What.  Change my dull and frumpy wardrobe taste?  To what?  She holds out one of those nice blouse/sweater combos and says, "Try something black.  Black is in style!"  I told her black has been all the rage for at least twenty years, and I am ready for the fashion industry to move on.  It's the longest lasting fad on record, ever.  Besides, I never wear black.  Almost never.  I have one pair of black shoes that I paid $15 for, to wear with the dress I own that has black in it.  And I only wear that because my husband likes it.  Otherwise I'd never wear black.  Okay, so what if I have eliminated a good percentage of the clothes that are on the rack out there.  "How about this?"  Nah. "This?"  "Okay, this.  Mom, this is pretty."  Dark royal blue ribbed sweater with a wide band around the neck, and a fancy doohicky at the collarbone.  Okay, I'll try that.  I'm actually hopeful.  I come out of the dressing room with my hair stuck to my head, blessed static electricity.  Alison is thrilled to see me in her pick.  "Mom!" she exclaims in a louder-than-normal voice, "You look like ROYALTY!"  Yeah, royalty with flat hair, wearing a sweater made for Barbie! I look more like the Pillsbury dough boy with a few extra lumps, all in the wrong places.  I duck behind a clothes rack for a moment, while the other shoppers have a good laugh and go back to what they were doing.  The sweater is a gorgeous color.  I love the style.  But, like everything else I tried on today, it's made for either a woman who has been endowed by her creator with a certain shape, or whose upper body is artificial.  (I'm pretty sure there is a strong conspiracy between the garment industry and the plastic surgeons of America. )   With that I did give up,  and we made our way to the food court to split an Orange Julius.  That is, until I discovered they wanted $5.  $5!! We settled for a cone at McDonalds and came home with memories of a pleasant mother/daughter afternoon.

Alison and I learn a little bit about each other every time we shop together.  Our color and style tastes are so different!  Our Labor Day laboring was fruitless in the material realm, but it was worth it for the one-on-one time with my daughter.  I'm grateful for the work the Lord has done in this girl's heart, giving her the desire to dress modestly whether or not she can dress fashionably.  (JoAnn Fabrics is coming to town this winter. Yippee!!!)

...I need a new body, but I do have the promise of one to come in the resurrection.  Hallelujah.  In the meantime, I shall consider the lilies.

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not;and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? Luke 12:27,28


Saturday, September 4, 2010

One Week Down

Whew.  We have had great success so far, other than math.  Math will always be a bump in the road, unless a miracle happens.  And miracles do happen, so I could be wrong about "always".  I watched the secondary math demo video at the Math-U-See website, and yes.  Definitely.  There is potential for a miracle to take place.  But since we are not using MUS, it won't be today.  I found two more very good resources here and here. The circle of letters (A-L-G-E-B-R-A) up there makes me think of my synesthetic kids!

Back in the Dark Ages, when I began to think about homeschooling, I decided we would NOT use ACE.  ACE is too classroom-ish.  Workbooks.  Read and answer the questions.  It looked toooo easy.  Unchallenging, even insulting.  And boring!!!  ...But never say never.  In the past twelve years I have tried everything else I could afford, except for just going to the library and inventing my own curriculum.  So, where are we this year?  Mostly with ACE! I still don't like it a lot, but there are things to like about it.  One biggie is that my kids like it! Another biggie is that the curriculum acknowledges and honors God across all subject matter.  I do like that.  It remains to be seen whether the girls will still like it after a month or two.

Since this is homeschooling,  that means the mother is learning, too.  :D

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