Showing posts from November, 2018

Friday bullets, Nov. 30, 2018

Time just keeps going faster and faster at this time of year, doesn't it? I'm not quite sure how to make it slow down a bit. It's not even as though we have that much on the calendar.

My kombucha making experiments continue. I'm on batch three now. The second batch I flavored with frozen strawberries, but only let it stand for a couple of days. It turned out to be just right. I may try fresh ginger with the next batch. It's like making homemade soda pop.B. works for a tree company, which means this time of year, he spends a lot of time putting lights on trees.
Sixty feet in the air. I have outfitted the children who had grown out of their outerwear for another winter. I managed to do it only from garage sale sites and thrift stores. So, that makes 1 really nice 3-way winter coat, 2 pairs of ski pants, 1 pair of bibs, and two pairs of snow boots all for the grand total of $60. I feel pretty proud of that. I am also very happy not to feel as though I need to spend ever…

Celebrating Advent

A couple of days ago, I had an email from a reader asking how our family celebrates Advent. Thank you! I love nothing more than a good question to provide blog fodder.

We've done different things over the years. For some years, we did a Jesse Tree. If you aren't familiar with this idea, it is a small Christmas tree which has ornaments, one for each day of Advent. The ornaments correspond to the daily Bible readings which cover the whole scope of the Bible. It is a very similar idea to our Lenten tree which we do during Lent. I like that one better, which is probably why our use of a Jesse Tree fell by the wayside.

Other years, we read (or tried to read) Jotham's Journey. It is a story which has a section for each day of Advent. I say tried to read because we do our Advent celebrations after dinner. December can be crazy, and trying to keep up with essentially a chapter book proved to be too much for us.

What has remained constant over all these years is to celebrate the fo…

On not teaching writing

I think we must have lost our collective minds. I know that there are so many possible things we have lost our minds about, you have no idea which of the many options I am going to write about. This time, I'm going to head back to one of my favorite things to harp about... the rushing of childhood and the over emphasis of academics. The current item I came across which made me grind my teeth was a query looking for a writing tutor for someone's fourth grader.

Yes, you read that right. Writing tutor. Fourth grader. You know, the grade that G. and L. are in. For the life of me I cannot figure what could possibly call for the need for a fourth grade writing tutor. And if there is something going on at school that calls for one, then might I suggest spending time fighting the system that would create such a ludicrous need, rather then spending time trying to make my child fit an errant system.

Do you want my humble opinions on how to teach writing, especially to grade schoolers? Y…

Walkin' in a winter wonderland

We had a snow day today. This wasn't so much because there was a lot of snow... we're home either way... but because J.'s school was closed today due to the snow. It's a bit of snow, which was wet and heavy and played havoc with the roads, but it certainly wasn't the 12 inches they were forcasting. It looks more like 3-ish inches around here. We can be a bit disappointed about it because we had no where we really had to go and we had electricity, and thus heat and water. It makes a difference how you view it.

This afternoon J. and I took G., L., and R. out on a walk. They were the only ones whom we could convince to come with us. First we walked down our street towards the little cemetery.

I think our street is particularly lovely.
The cemetery surrounded by the snowy fields. 
G. and L. were particularly smitten with being the first to walk in the untouched snow.

After we walked around the cemetery a bit, we crossed the street to walk home through the woods.

This i…

Dinner in Ethiopia

The fun this past weekend didn't stop with cutting our Christmas tree. Saturday evening we had our dinner for Ethiopia, the country we are currently learning about. So far, I've made most of the food for our country dinners, and we went out to dinner for India. This time, we did something a little different.

Filed under the heading of, "You know you have a good friend when..." I talked to my very good friend, the P. Family mom, and nicely suggested that perhaps she really wanted to come and make us Ethiopian food for our Ethiopian dinner. (Some of her children are Ethiopian, and has a lot more experience with Ethiopian food than I do.) Being the very good friend that she is, not only did she continue to speak to me, she and her family made the trek out and did cook us all exceptionally yummy food.

All the different dishes in the process of cooking.

If you have never tried Ethiopian food, you really need to find some and try it. The main part of Ethiopian food is the …

Christmas tree cutting

This morning we continued with the holiday festivities and went and cut down a Christmas tree. Last year we tried a new place, closer to our new home, but like our apple orchard experience, that tree place was over priced and under whelming. So today, we drove back up to our favorite tree cutting place, Out on a Limb Christmas Tree Farm. I love this place. It's inexpensive and there is a nice variety of trees. On the way up to the where the trees are, we rode the tractor, but walked on the way back down. The trees are shaken and netted as part of the price. Plus there is complimentary hot chocolate. We had a lovely morning together. And it didn't rain!

On the tractor to look for a tree.
We did not choose this tree.
We did find a tree, though. It's a longer needle tree than we usually get, but we were all smitten with this one.

It's a Scotch pine, it turns out. We decided it needed a Scottish name, so Fergus was suggested. Notice how Fergus is spelled. It's the name…

Thanksgiving 2018

We got ready...

3 pumpkin, 2 pecan, 1 apple, and 1 cranberry

Seating for 23
We ate dinner...

We've played games...

And we've taken a family photo with a minimum of drama.
(This is an out take.)
There is still a lot more fun and food yet to come. I kind of adore the days after a holiday. The holiday itself it nice, but there is something so relaxing and enjoyable about the lack of deadlines afterwards.

Right now, we are going to break our long-standing no shopping the day after Thanksgiving rule, and some of us are heading to the Farm and Fleet. The chicken coop needs to be cleaned out and we are out of shavings. Do we know how to have fun, or what?

Teaching children to cook

There are many days when, after either breakfast or lunch, I look around my kitchen, and wonder why on earth I let my children cook. It is not uncommon to have at least four or five different things being prepared. For breakfast, if J. hasn't baked something, people will fix eggs in a variety of ways, toast things, make bull's eyes, fry some rice, or do some combination of the above. For lunch, the variety of food being fixed can include soup, ramen, fried potatoes, sandwiches, quesadillas, tuna salad, or, something else. P. cooked herself some lentils the other day.

Of course, all this cooking means that each person uses the appropriate cooking pots and utensils. Rarely does each child make something that reuses a pot or pan that someone else used. This means that the dishwasher is always full, always running, and there are dishes all over the counter waiting to go into the dishwasher. (Oh, how I miss our double dishwashers!) I'm thrilled they can all prepare food, but I …

Thanksgiving table runner

I finished the casual Thanksgiving table runner. I'm sort of happy with it. I need to experiment some more with stabilizers because I don't like how bubbly the fabric is around the embroideries. It's a learning process.

Don't let the picture fool you. The leaves are separate. I made most of those years ago.

I found this guy last year on a 70% off sale.

The edges (though you can't see them because of the leaves) all have embroidery trim.
I found the little squirrel at the same sale.
From the other side.
I even got out matching napkins.
Everyone has a specific napkin ring, so we can keep the napkins separate. This way we can reuse cloth napkins without getting them mixed up. I totally stole this idea from J.'s aunt.
And now the answer to my quiz on Saturday. The total for that cart full of groceries was $226. What I should have told you is that I'm a little compulsive about how the groceries go in the cart in the first place. It's the only way I can get a…

It's the grocery shopping game

What large families eat, how much they eat, who fixes it, and where the food is procured are questions that are perennial favorites. With that in mind, I thought I would talk about large families, food, and the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving which is pretty heavily food-centered.

It will be all fourteen of us this year as well as another family we are friends with who have seven children. (To be entirely accurate, two of those seven are babies, and won't be eating what's on the table.) They will also be bringing a few of the sides we will be having.

Friday I did the grocery shopping for the week, including all the holiday meals. It also included TM's birthday dinner which we had last night. Am I the only one who really thinks that people should not expect to eat the week leading up to a holiday which involves a major meal? Yet, they do, so I also had to get food for the seven days around Thanksgiving. That would be breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

I usually only have…

Friday bullets, Nov. 15, 2018

We have hit the time of year where it feels as though some cosmic fast-forward button has been pushed. Do you feel that way?

No barn pieces have been delivered. This alone probably explains why I have resorted to posting pictures of kittens. I'll let you in on a secret. The more animal posts you see here, the more likely you probably do not want to talk to me because I am not in a pleasant mood.On some level it's probably good I don't have a barn at the moment as I would be sorely tempted to find a pony to put a bow on for Christmas. L. asked me to trim her hair the other day, which means that she and G. have about the same length hair again. This also means that everyone who has been relying on hair length to tell the girls apart will now be stumped. I mentioned this to L. before I trimmed it, and she was fine with that.Under the heading of things you've just never thought about: chickens leave footprints in the snow. I have two twenty pound turkeys thawing in my refrig…


Some days you just need pictures of cute kittens. They have been temporarily names Thor and Junior, and are four weeks old and 1 1/2 pounds each. Teeny tiny little balls of fluff who love to chase and pounce.

Combating the socialization issue

Be forewarned, I'm feeling a little kvetchy this evening. It is looking entirely possible that this barn will not be finished before Thanksgiving. This is upsetting in so many ways, I cannot even begin to list them all. I'm afraid it is not making me a pleasant person to be around.

It is also probably why I decided to remove myself from an online conversation yesterday. I try to maintain a pretty non-confrontational tone in online interactions, but my mood combined with my great weariness over the topic was not seeming like a good combination. So instead, I will just bombard you with my thoughts, and then go play with the two adorable kittens upstairs. (They are so cute when they play, and they are still so very tiny ]1 1/2 pounds each], that you just cannot believe they are real instead of teeny, tiny stuffed animals.)

What is the question that had me sighing out loud? It was the "S" word... or socialization in homeschoolers. Sometimes I just cannot quite believe th…

How do you spend your Sundays?

I evidently spend mine embroidering turkeys. Here's one:

(Ignore the really horrible stabilizing job. And I'm still not sure that I'm quite happy with this one, I may be trying more.)
I've been thinking about holidays which makes me think about serving dinner which makes me think about the table. Because of the set up of this house, our formal dining room table did not make the move. You know, the one which my dozens of tablecloths fit. Our current dining room table is our former kitchen tables put together to form a square. A very large square. It is very difficult to fit any sort of tablecloth on a very large square table I've discovered. 
But a bare table just does not seem very festive for major holiday dinners, so I've decided that table runners are the way to go. They will provide some interest without trying to find a large enough cloth to fit the table in all the right ways. Plus, they are pretty easy to make, so I could do some fun ones as well as more…

Some progress

We are a step further in the barn going up. Yesterday and today, we had large digger trucks in our yard, digging a very long trench from the well to where the barn will be, and three hydrants were installed near the future barn. Then the trenches were filled. My yard is... well... looking rather like a construction site. But since it means we're one step closer to having the barn done, I'm okay with it. Garden parties when spring rolls round again are probably not going to be on the list, though. I see the need for some grass seed. There is still the electrical to get out there, which also means some more digging. Maybe several bags of grass seed will be needed.

Since the barn is just going to be the shell, we also need to figure out how to create stalls and a hay storage area. J. has been looking at different ways to use pallets to do this, and I think it will work. To that end, J., TM, and I went out bright and early this morning to collect 10 or so free ones that I found vi…

Friday bullets, Nov. 9, 2018

It has felt like a very busy week, but the weekend does not have a lot scheduled, so perhaps we can regroup.

Today we took a little jaunt to Iowa, and visited the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque. (Also a museum with a great, family friendly membership policy.) I meet my brother and sister-in-law halfway when we trade children, so I thought it might be fun to actually do something instead of meet and turn around. It wasn't along visit, but since we bought the membership when we were there last summer, it made sense to get another visit in. We pretty much had the museum to ourselves.This also meant that we had the ray tank nearly to ourselves, and we spent a lot of time there. Some of those sting rays seem super interested in people, and were acting as though they wanted to be lightly petted. I love visiting museums on slow days. As I mentioned earlier, we've gotten a lot of comments recently about exactly what our family is. This was particularly bad at the Museum of Science…

How about an Aster update?

It realize it's been a while since I've shared about Aster. She is 29 pounds now, and is quickly catching up to Kenzie. Aster is a smart puppy, and is figuring things out. She still has her puppy fur, so it still very soft to pet and snuggle. I also love that she is not as mouthy as some of our other puppies have been. Aster and Olive love to play, though every so often Olive does tire of the constant games. Here are some recent pictures.

I love her ears!

She looks a lot less puppy-ish, doesn't she? Her fur is also darkening a bit. Everyone loves her, but she is definitely TM's dog, and does not like it at all when he leaves without her.