Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fall Update

I love fall. 
I love it for the colors and the temperatures
and all the fun things to do...
Cow train rides...
Corn mazes...

Fall flowers
Fresh baked (magic) bread
Carving pumpkins
(hello foot)
Leaf piles 
(even if they have to be stolen from other peoples yards!
our kids decided that their leaf pile needed to be up to the branches of this tree
so for days and days they carted leaves from neighbors yards to ours in that big green bucket.)

pumpkin crafts

Happy Ho Ho Halloween
(ha, couldn't resist)

toilet paper pumpkins covered with orange cloth with card board stems, silk leaves and raffia ties
(thank you, Aunt Kim!)

pumpkin food--sorry for the blurriness
Pumpkin Applesauce
1 cup applesauce--no sugar added
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons pumpkin


beautiful color
first fires

I love fall.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pray this Boy Home!

At last night's banquet for our local pregnancy resource center, we had Herb Lusk as a speaker. (passionate Philadelphia preacher and former Eagle's player). If you're ever in Philly and have a chance to hear him, he is amazing! Though I am usually a very quiet listener of sermons, I found myself unable to stop saying a loud "Amen!" when he called for it!
His main message was that we should not be ashamed to fight against abortion because IT IS A FIGHT and we are to hold our heads high and march in with love, service and the Word of God. He was right on (Amen, Brother!).
Another thing he said has been playing through my mind over and over about our adoption and the adoptions of our friends. "The promises of God cannot be broken." Of course it is something I know and believe, but right now in this process, I need to be reminded! I need to hear this, so feel free to remind me whenever you think of it.
Yesterday at the park, I was talking with the friend who is waiting for her son Kervens from Haiti. They are almost two years in to their process of waiting and still the Haitian government is creating more hurdles for them to jump.
But there is something magical (permit to use that word in a very Godly-miracle kind of way) about the Word of God, and promises there mean something for our every situation. So I claim this one for Kervens:
“Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations,
And set up My standard for the peoples;
They shall bring your sons in their arms,
And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders." Isaiah 49:22
And again, I don't claim to understand the connection of prayer and happenings. I don't claim that our prayers can change the mind of God (of course not!) but I do think our prayers can change the minds of the Haitian government. We can fight in this war! We can kneel and pull out our love and the Word of God and we can fight!
If you'd like to read more about this sweety, I wrote about Kervens here and here as well. 
So what can you do? Well, I would love to use this wonderful thing called the internet for God's work. There are a lot of us Mommy Bloggers out there, right? Well, if you have a blog, would you be willing to post the Kervens button from my side bar onto your sidebar? Would you be willing to right a post about it asking your readers to pray? Would you pray?
Let's pray this boy home!
P.S. And lest you think that my zeal is perfectly motivated, please remember that we are in the process of adoption as well, and there is something in me that is not comfortable with praying our constant, "Let it be today, Lord!" until Kervens is safely with his family. So when we're done praying Kervens home, we can pray our new baby home as well! 
P.P.S. Also, I just have to say, HOORAY! My friend Lisa is coming home TODAY with her son Sammy from Uganda. Yay!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Magic Bread

In my Pinterest perusals I occasionally find some great stuff--activities for the kids, great ideas for the house or a wonderful recipe to share with my family. Then there are the very few pins that are just amazing, really worth shouting about.
So here's a shout about my latest amazing find...
On the original post over at Simply So Good, Janet calls it crusty bread, but really I think a better name would be Magic Bread. It's pretty magic the way a few simple ingredients can make a bread that makes even my hubby come back for more!

Magic Bread
3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water

If you think the ingredients sound easy, just wait til you hear the instructions!

Mix the dry ingredients together, add the water. Mix until all ingredients are moistened.
Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 12-18 hours.
Put an oven-safe covered pot (about 3-6 quart) --minus the lid--in the oven and heat to 450 degrees.
Pick up the very sticky dough from your bowl and knead it gently a few times on a heavily floured surface into a small ball. When the oven is heated, drop the floured ball into the pot (no butter/oil needed), cover and bake for 30 minutes. For a crustier bread, remove lid and return bread to oven for another 10-15 minutes. For the lighter bread pictured above, just let bread cool in the pot after the 30 minutes.

This bread tastes great, is thick enough for sandwiches, makes great french toast, and 
the best news is: this bread loves add-ins. Check the original post for some great ideas, but really, the skies the limit for what you can put in this bread! My first add-in is going to be small chunks of cheddar and fresh garlic. Yum!
Happy Baking!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Penguins and My Philosophy of the One-Room School House

If you've been following our school process, then you know I've been teaching a little class at our local aquarium. We are blessed to have a great place for children to learn and interact with water animals (and butterflies). This week's class was on penguins.
Our aquarium has both Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins. I really enjoyed finding out about the differences between these two.
Two crazy facts about these penguins:
Macaroni Penguins lay two eggs--the first almost always dies and the second is raised to adulthood.
Gentoo Penguins lay two eggs as well, and they are rare among animals by taking care of even the
weak and sick of their young.
In order to take advantage of the great Penguin Room in the aquarium, I gave the kids a check list of things to do in the room. They especially enjoyed finding the names of the penguins and observing the penguins like a real scientist. Oh, and the suckers I gave them when they brought me their completed checklists. : )
Our craft for penguins was making our very own cute flightless bird:
You'll need shapes that look like this. I just free-handed them (by drawing one side, folding the paper and cutting them out.)
The large piece and the boomerang-shaped piece will need to be black.
The feet and beak will depend on what kind of penguin you want to make. 
Black: Emperor Penguin
Pink: Macaroni (you could add the orange crest on the head as well)
Orange: Gentoo (these penguins have a white stripe above the eyes)

Our bodies are cut from that foam poster board stuff at Walmart. I don't really recommend it. It's a beast to cut. If I could have had my way, we would have used foam for all the pieces.
The wings and feet are from black poster board.

For our class, we needed to be able to put these together quickly. So I gave each child a bag with all the pieces plus a small piece of sticky stuff. They were supposed to break their sticky stuff in half to put on the eyes. In the meantime, one of my momma helpers handed out four pieces of double sided tape to each child. Two for the white belly, one for the wings (on the back) and one for the feet (also on the back.)
The beak is cut out of sticky foam. (Just peel off the back and stick it on.)
And there you have it. 

 Oh, and a word about teaching different ages all at once:
I've been doing the one-room school house bit for about 9 years. I love the fact that my great-grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the county where I grew up back when that was all there was. Now we split up our children most of the time, and that method has its pluses, but I really love teaching across ages. There are many reasons this is great:
1. Children learn to interact with others of different ages. This helps with self-esteem and having a clearer idea of one's abilities instead of just one's age.
2. Younger children learn a lot more than we give them credit for. If you teach all of your children together, you may be quite surprised to find that your 2 year old can tell you the difference between a Gentoo and a Macaroni Penguin or that your 5 year old already has his times tables memorized. 
3. Older children who need to use their hands in order to learn often benefit from the kinds of simple crafts like I've used above. In a age-grouped classroom they might not get this kind of craft, but with a one-room schoolhouse approach, they can use their hands to build a penguin at the same time they are hearing about penguins. This often helps them absorb the information better. 
And suckers never hurt either!

Happy Learning!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Decorating

My husband's grandparents have been married for 60 years. 
{I love that}
To celebrate them and their love, we brought that whole side of the family together at my in-laws' house.
My mother-in-law very wisely chose fall colors and fall decorations for the party. Living on acreage as they do, the trees were a perfect backdrop for the party--God put up his own wonderful decorations.
When my mother-in-law gave me the decorating duties, the first thing I noticed was that she had one strand of silk fall leaves left and a large empty wall.
So I went for a walk and it wasn't long before I spotted some lovely vines that with a little pulling and a little weaving made this large wreath.
(total cost: whatever my MIL paid for the strand of leaves)

At the front door, we just added to some existing pots of flowers--
branches of beautiful fall leaves (from their yard)
and pumpkins.

On the back patio we did much of the same: more leaves, more scarecrows and more pumpkins along with some mums.
 (total cost for front and back: About $16 for the pumpkins and dollar store scarecrows.)

For the outside tables, we went incredibly simple with a small branch and a small pumpkin.
Happy fall and happy decorating!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sunset on the Road

Just a little of God's beauty to share with you today...
"For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." Ps 107:9

Monday, October 8, 2012

Care Packages

One day while the kiddos and I were out running errands, we passed a man holding up a sign asking for help. The kids asked why he was there, and I explained that sometimes when people need help, they ask, and it is really up to Christians to answer. But did I have anything to give him? No. That verse about sending people away empty handed and praying for them and thinking wrongly that that is true Christianity was ringing loudly in my head. 
I feel very uncomfortable with handing out money--I have often thought that having $5 McDonald's giftcards or something similar would be a good solution. I determined in that moment that we would not let another opportunity pass us by like that.
Then I saw a wonderful pin on pinterest linking to a blogging momma who had created care packages to keep in the car and give out. Here was a great solution! So the next time we went to Costco, we stocked up and then the kiddos helped me pack the bags. We included a copy of Isaiah 55, my favorite chapter of the Bible right now, because it is essentially a perfect word to anyone in need.
Introducing our first batch of care packages. Including:
Water bottle
Juice box
peanut butter crackers
granola bars
Rice Krispy Treat
Wet Ones
Isaiah 55
This time, I stuck with things that anyone might need--not just if they are homeless.
Other things that could be included:
flash light
toothpaste and toothbrush
chewing gum
other food items
On the way home from the Y the other day we saw a man with a sign asking for any kind of help. I stopped, turned off our Spanish podcast lesson, had the boy climb in the back and get a care package and handed it out the window. He blessed us as we drove away. It has been much easier to remember to pray for the man after handing him a little tiny bit of Christ's love.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall Food

This week is turning into an all-food week over here. That's fine with me. We have a fridge and freezer well-stocked for the month of March and I'm finally in a baking mood. Here are some of my fall faves:

1. Baked pork chops, black eyed peas, and cornbread. I like to sprinkle the chops with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (a favorite combo of mine) and a little bit of garlic, salt, and pepper. I know if I were truly aiming at the southern classic, I would fry them every time, but this is easier, and I think, tastier. The black eyed peas are soaking right now, and I'll boil them with plenty of salt and mix in some of the pork drippings.
2. I didn't get to this beef stew last week, so it definitely makes the fall top ten. It's a perfect chilly weather meal!
3. Spaghetti pie is a favorite for any time, but since it requires a little more baking, I usually avoid it in the summer. I'll be making this as a double batch this week in order to take a meal to friend who just had a baby. I love that egg and parmesan mix with the noodles--it tastes better than regular spaghetti to me, and it makes spaghetti go a lot further! (picture from here)
4. Lentil soup is one of my favorites! I'm still trying to achieve the soup of one of my favorite local greek restaurants, so every time I make it, it's a little different. I love to put in chopped chicken, carrots, and lots of chicken stock. But really, you could just cook lentils, add a little broth, and eat them just like that; lentils are so flavorful!
5. Chili! This really is a perfect food for this time of year, and the hubby likes it, so I make it a lot. I really like this recipe from the side of a Bush's chili beans can, but as you know, I never exactly follow it!
6. Baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and baked veggies. I love the fact that you can (lightly) cover a whole chicken with olive oil and spices and pop it in the oven, and it comes out tasting marvelous. I've always wanted to try to bake my chicken by standing it up on a coke can. Every heard of that? Evidently you just oil and salt your chicken and push the chicken down over the opened coke can. Set it on a pan in the oven and bake. I might try that or I might chicken out and just do this with it in a crock pot instead. Any way you cook it, a whole chicken is a tasty fall meal! And as for the baked veggies, just spread a bag of frozen mixed veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots) in a baking dish, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. The veggies almost come out with a smoked taste, and they are very yummy!
7. I will definitely make some cheeseburger pies soon. This is the weather that makes me want to bake everything!
8. Pumpkin ANYTHING!! (I think I'll do next week's post just on that wonderful, yummy fall treat!) But for this post, I'll just stick to chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. (Be sure to use half whole wheat for these; they taste so much better with that grainy texture!) Wow! These are enough to make anyone love fall the best. And I've heard a rumor that Aldi has canned pumpkin! I'm planning on buying a case (or maybe two!)
9. Chicken soup is another thing I love to experiment with. The family never knows what's going to turn up in it! I prefer chicken and rice, but the family likes noodles with it better. Sometimes I do it my way; sometimes I do it theirs. I like to use frozen mixed veggies (carrots, peas, green beans) and chicken bouillon. Using leftovers from one of those whole chickens (see #6) is a good idea as well. With soup of any kind I love to serve these rolls or just some good old fashioned biscuits (1 1/2 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, and a T of baking powder mixed and cut together with 1/4 cup butter--then add 2/3 cup buttermilk. Pat out, cut and bake at 475 for 8-10 minutes.)
10. And these would be on any season's top ten:
Olivia's Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Southern Living's "Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies.")
1 cup margarine, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 c uncooked quick-cooking oats
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 bag mini semisweet chocolate chips
 Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended. Pulse oats in a food processor to a fine powder. Combine oats, flour, and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
 For frozen cookies: Roll and wrap cookie dough well. Chop cookie roll into cookies of desired thickness. Cook at 375 degrees for 14-17 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Aquarium Class

We have enjoyed some social learning at our local aquarium this semester.
I teach a little class with some facts, some books and some crafts and then we head over to look at that animal.
The first was sting rays--amazing animals. I loved researching them and then teaching a bit. My favorite part about them was the amazing way their stinger is arranged to protect them. They actually flip the top of their body over in order to sting someone. And the stinger is covered in a small skin sack that is full of poison. Definitely makes me want to be careful around them! The ones we got to touch at the aquarium had their stingers removed.
Our aquarium is so spacious that we are able to head right up near the animal (or insect) we are talking about, park in an empty corner and learn and create.
This week we had about 30 kiddos--though some of them were babes in arm who I can't really say will take anything about butterflies away from the lesson. : )
Thanks to my oldest, who became a photographer for the day, for all these pics!
(the view behind me while I teach)

Did you know that butterflies and moths are the only insects that can boast scales?
Yes, real live, teeny tiny scales. God paints each one beautifully.
And did you know that moths land with their wings spread out flat, but butterflies land with them up together?
Did you know that some butterfly eggs can wait up to a year to hatch? 
And the same is true with the chrysalis--the caterpillar can stay in for up to a year before it emerges as a butterfly.
Penguins are our next class.
Did you know that octopus mommas only ever have one litter of eggs? They lay 1000s of them. If they are fertilized, they wait to die until they hatch. If they aren't fertilized, they begin to starve themselves right away. Their life's work is done, and they naturally die soon after the eggs are laid. 

After the class, we all head outside to eat lunch and play in the beautiful lawn. I think the exact same thought every time I am in this area of our downtown--we are so very blessed to live where we live!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Soup Weather

When there's a chill in the air and the calendar says October, that means it is time to cook soup around here. Here are a few soups I'll be trying this month:
1. Chicken and Corn Chowder: Corn, bacon, chicken, garlic combine to make a fall/winter wondersoup!
2. Butternut Squash and Apple Soup: I have been itching to try a butternut soup recipe (will my family eat it???) and this one will be my first. Perhaps the kiddos will taste the apples and give it a decent chance. 
3. Chicken and Dumplings: This is my favorite "soup" ever. I like it thick and warm and, yum! Maybe I'll make this one tonight!
4. Awesome Stew: With black beans, corn, tomatoes, and sausage, it really does sound like it will fit its name.
5. Chicken and Spinach Soup: Again, will my kids eat it??? It looks so very yummy! I'm just going to have to give it a try and let them taste it blind folded or something. : )
6. Black Bean Soup: This recipe is easy, easy, easy--as easy as dumping cans into a pot and yet, it is so very yummy! Hiding veggies in it is pretty easy too.
7. Egg Noodle Soup: Homemade egg noodles and chicken make this a healthy yummy alternative to the normal chicken soup.
8. Ham and Potato Soup: Potato soup is another of my favorites. I love the thickness of it--add some ham and you have a meal!
9. Stone Soup: You know the one where you just put whatever you have in the pot together? I make that one all the time. Every time it's an experiment and every time it comes out completely different. My favorite thing to start with is chicken stock and I often add tons of veggies and maybe some lentils, but really this soup could go any way you choose. Just keep taste testing as you go along!
10. Beef Stew: This is a good basic recipe, but with different spices, this stew can take on a completely different personality. Feel free to experiment!
I could keep going...there are so many soups and stews to try! Maybe I'll have to do do a Soups and Stews Part II next week!
Have a warm and happy week!
(this list first posted back here)