Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Halloween 2009

Nate(in full costume), along with the kids, our pastor and his wife

You'll soon notice that Layla was having a hard time smiling that day

What a smiley baby!

Phew! I feel better having posted that before Christmas! Only two days left! Oh come, oh come Emmanuel!

Squeezing It In Just Before Christmas

I'm trying to post all my pictures of fall and such before Christmas Day! We like to do things last minute around here, can ya tell! Halloween pics to come!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Can you tell I'm busy this week? My second YouTube post wouldn't tip you off, lol! Layla came down stairs this morning and said she read most of this book last night by herself. She did it again for me this morning, only needing help with the longer words. It's fun to see her recognizing short words that she no longer needs to phonetically sound out. This is one of the kids' favorites, so I'm sure her memorization of parts of this book helped her "read" it! No matter what, she has made great progress since September.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Spirit

This has to be one of my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs. When I got the CD eons ago, I didn't even like the song. Now after years of playing it each Christmas season, I have grown extremely fond of it. Don't mind the weirdo digital video. It's the only one I could find with this song!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Great Timing

This afternoon, for a very short time, things seemed to fall perfectly in place. As the kids started the lengthy process of bundling up for going out doors, I nursed Gunnar and put him down for a nap. After that, I finished zipping coats, tucking in gloves, and smothering bare cheeks with good ol' bag balm (my kids faces always seem to get wickedly wind burned). I sent them out doors and set the timer, since the wind chill is well below zero. I looked on the front porch to see that the kids' Christmas presents were delivered. I was able to sneak the box to the basement without worrying about little eyes seeing anything! After that I was able to do a bit of meal prep and make some hot tea to have ready for a chilled, Layla and Julius. The timer went off and the kids reluctantly came back inside. They don't really seem to understand or care much about frostbite! As we sat around the dining room table, chatting and finishing up our tea, the baby woke up from his nap. Since then, "great timing" has fled our presence and we have returned to our normal state of chaos. I sure enjoyed it while it lasted! Don't worry, I enjoy the chaos, too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Holiday Season Would Be Complete Without Some Tasty Gingerbread Men!

image from The British Larder

This weekend, as I planned out our meals to get through the end of the week without major grocery shopping, I knew of one tasty treat that I could make with the supplies I had on hand. By whipping up a batch of gingerbread men, I would not only have enough cookies to share with some friends and family, I would be making my children ecstatically happy in the process.

Since I was low on butter, I figured I would just decorate my cute little spicy guys with some decorative chocolate candies and skip the frosting this year. Last year our gingerbread men got all decked out in some tasty butter frosting and they were delicious. This year's gingerbread men were a bit simpler, but just as tasty, especially with a nice hot drink!

This recipe is adapted from Aimee's recipe at Under the High Chair. I love her blog and her recipes always turn out well, too! This recipe makes a lot of dough, so plan on sharing some Christmas cookie love with those in your life so you don't end up eating them all yourself!

Gingerbread Men

(or any other shaped cookie your prefer)

5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup molasses

Cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add eggs, one at a time to butter and sugar, mixing well in between. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat until combined. Add molasses and beat again. Finish with remaining dry ingredients. Divide dough into four or five pieces and press them about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up until three days. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out shapes. I pressed my little chocolate candies in the dough before baking. Bake for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Bake longer for crisp cookies or if using them as decorations. If you didn't decorate your cookies before baking, frost with your favorite frosting, sugars, sprinkles and candies. Enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fun Pics of Our Missouri Trip

Is It Here Already?

Yesterday and today, I was caught off guard by Julius' hunger. Every hour or so, he was walking around the house saying, "I wanna eat!" As I was preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day, he was right by my side in the kitchen, asking if it was ready yet. The kids helped me make a pie this morning, that was for tonight's dessert, but Julius tried his hardest to get a piece well before dinner. I can't even count the number of times he said, "I want pie" throughout the day, in his cute little voice.

I am a little scared that this might be the beginning of that scary, insatiable hunger that parents talk about, from boys that end up eating them out of house and home. You know, the kind of boys that eat the whole pizza by themselves, that was intended to feed a small handful of adults. Or the boy that brings a whole loaf of bread on a field trip, that is already made into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which he eats all of during lunch. That kind of hunger. I kinda thought I had at least a few more years until it kicked in. Julius will only be three in a few months. We are not a big, eat-between-meals kind of family, but after listening to him for the past day and a half, I think this mama needs to add some snacks to her meal planning.

Fortunately, we have had some chips, popcorn and cheesy puffs on hand, left-over from our road trip this past week. But that is not really the type of snack I want him consuming all the time. They are not very healthy and they are not that cheap. Every time I gave Julius something to snack on, I also made him drink a glass of water with hopes of it making him feel more full. Even tonight, after eating two pieces of homemade pizza loaded with meat and vegetables, a chunk of apple, a slice of pie and two glasses of water, he still insisted on a snack about 30 minutes after dinner! I ended up giving him a spoonful of peanut butter and another glass of water. He tried really hard for another piece of pie, but I told him he would have to wait until tomorrow.

This could also just be a phase that will end shortly, but just in case, I think I am going to scribble out a few ideas of snacks that I could have on hand that will fill the belly, in a good way. If I come up with anything good, I'll be sure to share!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making Do With What You Have Can Be Delicious!

With our trip to Missouri behind us, getting the house up for sale, and the Christmas holiday coming around the corner, our household is really tightening up the grocery budget. Determined to make it through the week without buying much food, I really tried to get creative with what I had on hand. Nate's parents sent us home with a bag of leftover rolls that had gone stale. Stale bread makes great french toast. Combine that with the last of our frozen blueberries from this summer and you have one delicious dish. This recipe came from a fellow teacher at Nate's school. I made this recipe without the cream cheese and substituted brown sugar for the maple syrup since I didn't have either of those on hand. It still came out great! This recipe is perfect for any upcoming holiday brunch or just to have ready for some special house guests.

Blueberry French Toast


12 pieces of Texas Toast, cubed (feel free to substitute whatever type bread/roll)
1/3 cup maple syrup (we used brown sugar)
8 or 16 oz cream cheese, cubed - depending on how much you like
12 eggs (I used less because that all I had!)
1 cup milk
1 pint of blueberries

1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup of water
1 pint of blueberries
1 tbsp of butter

Grease a 13 x 9 pan. Place half of the cubed bread in the bottom of the pan. Cube the cream cheese and place on top of the bread. Add 1 pint of blueberries to the top. Beat the eggs, milk, and maple syrup together. Pour over the bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, cornstarch and water. Cook over medium heat until thick. Remove from heat and add butter and blueberries. Pour over the top of the bread mixture after removing from the oven. Let cool slightly before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

My Best Advice For Saving Money In Your Grocery Budget

Another way we are making do with what we have is making stock from my mother's turkey bones. Throw some leftover bones, a carrot and celery stalk broken into a few pieces, and a small onion, quartered, into your crock pot with a few tablespoons of vinegar. Fill with cold water and cook on low for the next 12 to 24 hours. Cooking your stock this long allows the most nutrients to come from the bones. The crock pot allows you to simmer the stock that long in a safe way. Strain out the bones and vegetables and use the stock to make your favorite soup. You can do this with any type of bones. And for a lovely golden color stock, leave the outside skins of the onion on. This is a wonderful way to make a meal from something that many would just throw away. It will save you lots of money and give you added nutrition as well. One of the reasons that people in many Asian cultures are so healthy is that they have bone broth with every meal.

Because the stock simmers so long, don't be afraid to use a small amount of bones. We will sometimes purchase two pork blade steaks for around three dollars. After eating them for a meal, we will take the small bones from each steak and make stock for split pea soup. Even though the bones are small, the stock is still very flavorful. So the next time you are at the grocery store, check out meat that has some bones in it and you will end up getting two meals from where you only used to get one!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Good Times in Missouri

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday! We headed to Joplin, Missouri this Thanksgiving to celebrate with Nate's parents. We had not seen them since Memorial Day, so we were anxious to get down there.

The drive to Missouri should take about 12 hours for two adults who are able to take minimal bathroom breaks. But, for a family with three little kids, that 12 hours turned into 14 1/2! Nate and I counted 8 stops on the way down. Eight! That is kind of ridiculous! But when you have a 4 year-old, 2 year-old and an eight month-old, things frequently become ridiculous. That's the fun of life with little ones! The stops were for coffee, fuel, diaper changes, nursing, food and just plain insanity breaks of being trapped in the van that long! And all those things never seemed to happen at just one stop, so every hour or so we would stop again to do something that we didn't do at the last stop.

God's blessing was definitely upon us during this trip. In the St. Louis area, God allowed Nathan to stop the car just in time to avoid the crash that happened right in front of us! Poor little Layla was very bothered by that accident and said she couldn't get it out of her head. We had to convince her that the people didn't seem to be hurt, only their cars. On the way home there were a few accidents as well, but on the other side of the expressway.

We were relieved to arrive in Joplin. Since we left around 4:30 am on Wednesday, we were able to get there by supper time. It was nice to finally eat real food, too! Nate's mother had a delicious roast with carrots, onions and potatoes. Yum! I think I ate two helpings!

In the middle of the night on Wednesday, we discovered a trip to Missouri is not complete without some puking! Last year at Thanksgiving, Layla was the one puking. This year, Julius decided it was his turn. By the next day we think he was nearing the 15 mark of number of times throwing up. Yuck! On and off the rest of the weekend, Julius would surprise us with his throwing up. At least we got some breaks in between!

The turkey did not thaw in time for Thanksgiving, so we made our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, instead. This seemed like divine intervention since Julius threw up all day on Thursday, but not once on Friday. It is much nicer enjoying a Thanksgiving feast without running to catch puke! Dinner was wonderful! The stuffing tasted the best! Yum, I could eat more right now!

The kids loved their time with "Beepaw and Damma." I know, these are weird names for grandma and grandpa, but they are the names Layla came up with before she was even 2 years-old. Since she is the first-born, she has taught Julius and everyone else that those are their names! Nate's dad even has "Beepaw" on his license plate.

Layla and Julius loved coloring, reading, playing dominoes, making Christmas decorations, watching "Elf", playing at the park, and playing Lincoln Logs with Beepaw and Damma. I think their favorite was going to the petting farm. This was the best petting farm I had ever been to. You could only come by appointment, so there was only two other families there. There were so many animals, it was great! The kids got to take numerous pony rides and feed and pet a variety of animals. The kids loved the baby lama, calf, emu and buffalo. My favorites were the jersey cow, baby lama, and the miniature donkeys. The calf named Curly thought I was his favorite for a while. He wouldn't leave me alone! I was holding Gunnar in his baby carrier trying to peel this calf off me with my free hand. He seemed to love my corduroy pants. He kept rubbing his snotty nose up and down my legs and kept pushing me around. Nate and his mom finally came to my rescue and the farmer tied Curly up for a while. It was so much fun to watch the kids run around and feed all the animals. It really made our dream of having some farm animals that much clearer!

It is always sad to leave Beepaw and Damma, but it wasn't that bad this time because we knew we would be seeing them at Christmas. Only four weeks away! Can you believe it!

The ride home went well, considering the distance traveled. We managed to keep it to only 5 stops on our way home, but a few of them were 30 to 40 minute stops. We let the kids play at a McDonald's play land in the morning, we ran around at a rest stop for a bit in the early afternoon and about an hour away from home we spent about 30 minutes at a Taco Bell because everyone about had it by that point. Julius even managed to puke twice at the Taco Bell to finish off the trip with a bang!

Before we left for Missouri, we managed to put our house up for sale. It is such a relief to have the sign in the yard. We have our first showing scheduled for Sunday. Hopefully those people like what they see! Keep us in your prayers that our house will sell quickly!

We are enjoying our celebration of Advent and our anticipation of Christmas. Don't forget to enjoy the anticipation of Christmas just as the Jews anticipated the coming of the Messiah! Oh come, oh come Emmanuel!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Still Life......According to a Four-Year Old

Today, Layla requested that I place her tooth brush, Julius' tooth brush and their tooth paste on the dining room table so that she could draw it. I arranged it on the table while she and Julius got their paper, pencils and crayons. Layla told me she needed to draw it in pencil first and then color it. Seems like she has been picking up a few things from her aunt the artist!

Layla's great Aunt Julia is a wonderful painter and artist! This past year she painted some amazing pictures of myself, Layla, my mother and my grandmother. Check out this series of paintings titled Four Generations. While your over at her sight, take a look at some of her other works, too! I feel like the pictures of the paintings don't even capture the richness of seeing the paintings in person. Her colors are lovely and bold, and her paintings have great texture. We have a print of this painting, which I just love!

Nate has many talented artists throughout his family. Hopefully our kids have gotten a bit of that artist's touch, too!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Great Progress

It has been so much fun to watch the progress Layla is making with her school work. For about a week she has been attempting to read simple sentences! She really likes this one workbook and she insists on skipping ahead. Well, the book work requires the reading of sentences and with her determination she has been reading them! I didn't think she was ready, but, she has proven me wrong. I am sure it won't be the last time. She is also reading any packaging she can get her hands on! Such great progress since September. It just shows she was ready.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tinker or Canker?

For some reason, Julius insists on calling his canker sore a tinker bell.....hmmm...... I guess I can see the connection! It did take a few days to figure out what he was talking about, lol!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Battling the All or Nothing Mentality

I have this silly little enemy that I am constantly battling with. You might be familiar with it, too. Does "all or nothing" ring a bell? It likes to rear it's sneaky little head into our lives through our relationships, habits, diets, faith, and thinking. If you are having a hard time recognizing what I am talking about, let me give you a few examples.

  • "Well, I really shouldn't have eaten that for breakfast this morning. Oh well, I can always get back to my diet next Monday."
  • "I really only have a few minutes to read my Bible right now, so I will try and do it later when I have more time."
  • "There are a lot of dirty dishes in the sink. I can't really get to them all right now, so I guess I will leave them until later."
  • "Everything seems to cause cancer! What's the use in trying to change!"
  • "The government is just to big for one person to try and make a difference."
  • "How am I ever going to get that entire project finished! I will never find the time to do the whole thing!"

At least in my life, time is of the essence. Between preparing three meals a day, wiping dirty faces, washing dirty dishes, changing dirty diapers, doing dirty laundry, sweeping dirty floors and a whole list of other things that involve dirt and messes, I can sometimes feel like I am getting nothing done outside of my motherly responsibilities. Most times I am to blame, but not because I am lazy. I assure you I don't sit down much throughout the day! But rather because I am losing the battle mentally. In my own mind, if I can not complete a task from start to finish, I don't always think it is worth getting started! If I would only get started and keep back at the task, as many times as it took, then I would finish the task.

I realized this the other day when it took me all day long to clean the ceiling fan in our bedroom. With a crawling baby and two other little people running around, I don't have the luxury of going upstairs to clean my gross, dirty(See more stuff involving dirt) fan for 30 minutes. Instead, every time I laid the baby down for a nap, I would clean a blade or two before heading back downstairs to deal with the older two kids.

Sometimes the same applies to dishes. As much as I would like to wash all of the dishes, it is much better to get a few done than none at all. Then I can do more the next time I have a few spare moments. It is the same for faith. Isn't is much better to spend a few minutes in prayer or read just a few verses, rather than go an entire day without prayer or God's word? With our bodies, isn't it much better to keep trying to eat healthy, whole foods, even if you might have eaten a junky meal or snack? In reality, the "ALL" of "all or nothing" practically doesn't exist. I think Satan just likes to fill our minds with unrealistic pictures of perfection to keep us distracted and keep us from doing "something." He knows that if he can keep us tied up with "all or nothing" type of thinking that we will more than likely accomplish "nothing."

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" 2 Corinthians 10:3 -5

I frequently lose battles against "all or nothing" in almost every area of my life. I would like to start winning! I plan on doing SOMETHING when that "all or nothing" feeling tries to creep in.

In what ways can you attack the "all or nothing" monster in your life?

Friday, November 13, 2009

With My Mouth Will I Make Known

"I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations."
Psalm 89:1

Lately I have been marveling at the way the Lord blesses our family, even in the smallest details. Our budget has been extremely tight lately, and we have just been forced to wait upon the Lord in many areas. He always provides! Even when you don't expect it. I heard a preacher say once that many times we don't wait on the Lord to provide because we rush out and purchase it on credit or try to meet our own needs in our own power. I can surely attest to that and have the debt to show for it!

The song of Psalm 89:1 has been on my heart and I felt compelled to sing of the mercies of the Lord and make His faithfulness known to all generations! Here it goes:

  • Nate's fellow teachers and staff members blessed us with 29 packs of diapers when Gunnar was born!
  • My girlfriend gave me a large garbage bag full of clothes that got me through my post-baby period of frumpiness!
  • My mom's friend gave me two large garbage bags full of clothes that provided me with clothes to wear once I lost all of the baby weight!
  • Layla needed a larger bike this summer and our neighbor's sold us a "princess" bike with training wheels for $5!
  • When we needed new curtains to match our newly painted back room, the Lord miraculously allowed the curtains to come out in just the right color after some "mishaps" with bleaching and trying to dye them, lol! It saved us having to purchase new curtains, which can be expensive!
  • After ruining a very large load of clothes that contained almost all of Nate's work shirt (pen left in pocket, oy!), Menard's just happened to be selling polo shirts - 2 for $5 (Side note: hairspray took the ink out of some of his shirts)!
  • Friends of my parents gave them a nice gallon of yellow paint. They gave it to us, allowing us to repaint our bathroom for free!
  • We needed a new door for our bathroom. Nate found a six panel, primed door at Menard's mis-priced (normally pretty pricey). He was able to purchase it for $10!
  • Nate found outdoor carpet on clearance to re-carpet the front steps, just when we needed it!
  • Our next door neighbor has been clearing out his house since his wife passed away and gave us lots of canned goods, napkins and Kleenex (came in handy with all of our runny noses lately)!
  • My mother has been blessing us with things like steel cut oats, red lentils and coconut milk, pretty frequently. These items are never cheap in the Jackson area!
  • My grandmother purchased a winter coat, snow pants and pajamas for Julius. She bought some pajamas for Gunnar, too!
  • My mother bought some pajamas for all the kids!
  • We received a check for $150 from extra money in our escrow account! I actually cried at this one as I tucked it away for gas money for our Missouri trip!
  • We received coupons for free butter and such in the mail from Kroger, right about the time we ran out of butter and payday was still almost a week away!
  • We needed to replace a Plexiglas window on our front porch. When we priced it out it was going to cost between $15 and $20. When cleaning out the basement, Nate found a piece of Plexiglas just the right size!
  • And even with all this, Nate and I have been able to pay off $900 worth of credit card debt over the past three months!
  • I know there is more that I am forgetting!

In what ways has the Lord blessed you and your family? Don't forget to sing of the mercies of the Lord forever!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing in the Backyard.......In the Dark

In an effort to pass time tonight waiting for daddy to get home from late night conferences, I bundled the kids up and sent them into the backyard with flashlights! They are having so much fun. I keep hearing squeals and seeing the light beams scatter across the yard. Layla said Julius is worried there is an owl in one of the trees! I am worried the neighbors might think the cops are searching our property! Lol!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall Time Fun

I realized I better post some fall pictures before winter is fully upon us! These are from a few weeks ago when my parents took the kids and I to the cider mill. Lots of fun!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bagels Under My Belt and Before There Was Nyquil

A little lame to put all that in the title, I know! But with mama and daddy sick, and two of the three kids sick, I don't know when I'll have another chance to blog.

Last night, as Nate and I lamented over our sore throats, we started reminiscing about the honey, whiskey and lemon treatments of our childhood. I remember laying in bed crying because I didn't want to drink the horrible hot concoction that my father made for me. But, despite my crying, the treatment always brought relief and quality sleep. After a little research on the internet, Nate found a hot toddy recipe that we agreed upon. Since we are not whiskey drinkers, he headed to Meijer for the ingredients, along with some more medicine for the kids.

We decided to substitute apple juice for the water, figuring it would help it taste better. If you want to spend the money or have it on hand, apple cider would be even better. The hot toddy is strong, so it is definitely for sipping, not slamming! It thoroughly coated our throats, warmed the belly and made going to sleep a breeze.

Hot Toddy for Two

  • 1 cup apple juice or cider
  • 4 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon
  • 1/3 cup whiskey

Heat apple juice, honey and lemon in a small pan until nice and hot. Remove from heat and add whiskey. Sip and enjoy the relief it will bring!

Since I am completely insane and I needed to do something with my sourdough starter, I decided to make bagels. The process started last night with making the dough, kneading it, letting it rise for a few hours and then forming the bagels. This morning I boiled and baked them. They turned out pretty good. Nate was happy and he has a thing or two to say about bagels. I was happy that I finally got around to this, as it is next to impossible to find bagels at the store without a long scary list of unpronounceable ingredients. We will be making these again. The kids gobbled them up too!

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bagels

adapted from several recipes

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat four

Combine all ingredients and knead until smooth. Dough will be pretty stiff! Let rise for a few hours until doubled in size. Punch down dough and divide into eight portions and shape into ball. Stick your thumb through the middle and shape into bagel. Heat oven to 500 degrees and place a small pan of water on bottom rack. Boil bagels in a large pot of water with 1 Tbsp. of baking soda. Only do about four at a time. Boil for around a minute and turn them to boil on the other side for another minute. Place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, seseme seeds, or topping of your choice. Bake at 500 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chef Julius

Lately, I have begun to wonder if Julius will be a great cook. He has been duplicating our family meals in his own kitchen. We always have to "taste" his creations and be careful of all his hot pans. I really became convinced the other night when he insisted on taking two of my cookbooks to bed for his bedtime reading material! It was adorable to find him later, with his sleeping face smashed into slow cooker recipes. A son that can cook. I can only hope!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. McGregor's Garden

My flat parsley has really enjoyed the cooler weather of fall. It has gone crazy the past few weeks. So have my children. They have discovered that the parsley is edible and I can't keep them out of it. I figure it's another way to load them full of green leafy things! They have been eating it by the handfuls. After checking on them outside, I overheard them playing "Peter Rabbit," taking turns chasing each other out of Mr. McGregor's Garden. Maybe they are rabbits after all!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Emergency Indeed

This article was published on the Campaign For Liberty website. I usually love everything Anthony Gregory writes!

An Emergency Indeed

By Anthony Gregory

The White House has declared Swine Flu a "national emergency." In the last year, at least 5,000 have died worldwide from H1N1, according to the WHO, making this an "epidemic." Contrast this with the 250,000 to 500,000 — 50 to 100 times as many — who died of the regular flu. Then consider that the great majority of swine flu diagnoses in the last year turned out not to be the flu at all.

The real national emergency is the threat to our liberty. When the president declares a "national emergency," he typically martials the heavy hand of the state in ways unseen when there is no "crisis." Today we have so many "crises" — terrorism, economic collapse, health care, global warming and now swine flu — that no area of our lives is safe from government meddling. This particular "emergency" could lead to despotism: Mandatory vaccinations, quarantines, government control of transportation and so forth.

Be on the lookout in the next couple days for a new piece by Dr. Adam Murdock on swine flu hysteria in our featured articles section.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sassy Gingersnaps

You know the question: "What is your favorite dessert?" Whenever I get that question I really don't have an answer. Don't get me wrong, I am not a girl to turn down dessert. Offer me pretty much anything in the general dessert category, and I will take you up on your offer. But, to narrow it down to just one - impossible!

This week I made a batch of gingersnap cookies. I hadn't made these since last year during the holiday season. I knew I really liked them, but upon pulling these spicy sweet lovelies from the oven, I had an epiphany! This just might be my favorite cookie! I know, it still does not meet the full criteria of the all-time favorite dessert question, but at least I got an answer for the cookie department! Eating the first one, warm from the oven, confirmed my love for this snappy gem. Then I had to wonder, if I love these so much, why hadn't I made them since last December. Never really came up with a definite answer, but I believe I had categorized the gingersnap as a seasonal cookie.

The gingersnap surely pairs well with crisp fall leaves, frost on pumpkins, juicy turkeys, silvery sleighs, jingle bells and other holiday fare. But, please don't make the mistake that I did with limiting the gingersnap to only a few precious months of the year! Pull out this recipe spring, summer, fall and winter to give this little treat the respect it is due! You just might discover a cookie favorite of your own, or at least one of your favorites!

The way we generally handle cookies in our household is to make the dough and just make one sheet of cookies. We refrigerate the dough and continue to make one tray at a time over the next several days. What can I say! I like fresh cookies and can't really stand making tray after tray of cookies, trying to lay them out all over the counters to cool. It's just easier this way.

I feel like I must confess that on Wednesday, I ate 11 gingersnap cookies over the course of the day. E-L-E-V-E-N! And that does not include all the cookies I ate Monday, Tuesday or today! Maybe I have discovered the real reason why I only make these cookies a few times a year!

This recipe comes from Sugar Pie Farmhouse. Head on over to Aunt Ruthie's to feast your eyes on some amazing holiday decorating inspiration.


from Sugar Pie Farmhouse

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Beat together butter, sugar, molasses and egg until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Combine all ingredients until well blended. Chill dough for 1 hour in a covered container. Roll teaspoon amount of dough into a ball. Roll dough ball in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on how soft or crispy you like them. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Joys of Toddlerhood

Julius has been singing "Mawee had a yiddle yam" all morning!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Adventures in Homeschooling

Since we are nearing the end of October, I thought I would give an round up of our homeschooling activities thus far. Since Layla is only four years old, I am still keeping our school time very simple and short. Our two main focuses are faith and reading. Nathan ordered a precious little Catechism book for young children and he printed off a collection of shorter scriptures for children to memorize. We talk through the Catechism book a few days a week and usually go over our scripture memorization every school day. The Catechism book has brought up some interesting conversations about Adam and Eve, Satan, covenants, sin, Jesus' death on the cross, and salvation. Layla also seems to be a natural when it comes to scripture memorization. She has already memorized 6 scriptures!

A month ago, one of the gentlemen at church told her he would give her a quarter for every scripture she quoted to him. After earning a dollar a few Sundays ago, the guest pastor overheard her and handed her another dollar! She was able to use her hard earned money to buy tickets to get on the blow-up rides at the Cider Mill.

While Layla has been memorizing scripture, Julius has been observing. About two weeks ago, Julius tapped me on the leg and quoted the very first scripture Layla ever memorized! It was so adorable hearing God's Word in his cute mumbling two year old voice! Put a bunch of marbles in your mouth and say, "First Corinthians 15:33 - Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character." That's how he sounded! Soooooo cute!

Layla has also been making progress with her phonics. We are using a vertical phonics program and she has been working on all the sounds of a, t, s, l, e, m, i, and n. She has been successfully sounding out shorter words composed of those letters. She is now working on the different sounds of o, d, r, h, w, b, er, and th. We will soon be moving on to words with these phonic sounds.

Some days Layla will spend time doing copy work or practicing writing her letters or words of her choice. She also has several workbooks that she will work on. Again, I try and keep it light and simple. The only thing that I make mandatory right now is Catechism, scripture memorization and phonics. The rest is often at her request.

In the afternoons I have been reading aloud to the kids. This is an important part of the Charlotte Mason theory of homeschooling as well as the Thomas Jefferson Education Model. We finished Charlotte's Web last week. That book was wonderful as a read aloud because it brought up all sorts of questions and conversations. Layla asked if animals really talked. We discussed butchering animals and where our food comes from. The book details the scientific explanation of how spiders spin webs. It covers a variety of vocabulary words such as "salutations" and "languishing" and it gives definitions. Layla also recognized the different emotions that the book's characters experienced. All this from a lovely little classic! I guess there is so much to be learned from reading and discussing the classics, lol! I say that sarcastically! I just read a book on the classics/mentor model of education and will hopefully be posting a book review soon!

Right now we are reading Sprout and the Dog Sitter, which is not really a classic, but my copy of Ann of Green Gables is out in the garage and needs to be dug out for our next read aloud.

Overall, I am very happy with the school year. Layla is just plain ready for phonics, whereas last year she wasn't. Kids are ready to read at all different ages! Her being ready to read makes this school year so much easier and pleasant. That's it so far! We will keep you posted on our homeschooling adventures throughout the year!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Fall Favorite

Yesterday I discovered a new love for our fall time meals and snacks. Nate had asked a while back if we could make some pumpkin butter this fall. I have never had pumpkin butter, but if it was like apple butter, I knew I would have no complaints. After glancing over a few recipes, I whipped up a small pan full. It was delicious. And it was so easy. It tastes of fall. If you serve it warm on top of a hot piece of bread, then you are sure to warm your belly on a chilly fall day.

Pumpkin Butter

  • pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
  • brown sugar, light or dark
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • ginger
  • ground cloves
  • butter
  • apple juice (optional)

I didn't give amounts because I don't know how much pumpkin butter you will want. If you are planning on consuming it by the bucketful, then get some big cans of pumpkin puree. If you want just a small jar, then start with a small can of pumpkin puree. Place pumpkin puree in a sauce pan on medium heat. Add brown sugar and spices to taste. Add a tablespoon or so of butter, if making a small amount. Add a few more tablespoons if making a larger amount. Stir over medium heat until butter and sugar are melted and all ingredients are well combined. If you feel your pumpkin butter is too thick, then thin it out with a little apple juice. Serve warm for the most "wow" factor. But don't worry, it's still delicious cold from the fridge the next morning. To really blow your mind, serve it warm on bread fresh from the oven! Store in the refrigerator and consume within a few weeks.

Easy Bread Recipe

from Hillbilly Housewife

  • 3 cups of flour (half whole wheat, half unbleached all purpose)
  • 1 packet of yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. oil or melted butter
  • 1 cup very warm water

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the warm water for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Add oil to water and yeast. Add dry mixture until dough starts to form. Hand knead for 8 minutes, or knead in stand mixer using dough hook. Lightly grease a large bowl and grease ball of dough. Place dough in bowl and cover. Place bowl in oven with another bowl of hot water. Let dough rise for and hour or two until doubled in size. Remove bowls from oven. Punch down risen dough and knead a few times and shaped into loaf. Place into greased bread pan and cover. Butter seems to work the best for greasing the bread pan. Allow to rise for 30 minutes or an hour until loaf fills bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is golden. Remove from pan. Serve with butter, pumpkin butter, or your favorite toppings!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Well, today it happened. The flannel sheets went on the bed. As I put them on, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. Nathan swore when we were first married that we would NEVER use flannel sheets because he couldn't stand them. Now today, after 8 1/2 years of marriage, they are on the bed in early October, at his request! Funny how things can change in a relatively short time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Biscuits and Gravy

The other night as I fixed biscuits and gravy for our dinner, I was reminded of how much I like the ease and comfort of this recipe. If you make it this way, its not the heart-attack-on-a-plate dish that you normally think of. Brown a pound of ground beef or ground turkey in a frying pan, seasoning heavily with salt, pepper and lots of sage (dried or fresh sage is fine). Don't drain the fat when finished. Add 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Fill the pan 2/3 full with milk and continue to cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Taste and re-season with more salt, pepper and sage until it tastes like yummy sausage gravy. Serve over fresh biscuits. Add lots of vegetables and fresh fruit as your sides and you have a reasonably healthy meal!

This is our standby biscuit recipe. Fast, fresh and delicious!

Fluffy Baking Powder Biscuits

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour (we tend to do half of each)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, room temp.
1 cup milk

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with pastry knife, fork or just crumble together with your fingers. Should resemble crumbly meal. Add milk and stir until just moistened. Drop onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 450 degrees.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What's In Your Chicken?

Today we drove out to Springport High School to pick up 8 pasture raised chickens. Springport has a lovely FFA program where the students have been raising pastured chicken to sell to local communities. For starters, they are tasty! The chickens are smaller that what you normally see in the store, but for good reason. The chicks are given no steroids or antibiotics. They are given feed the first 4 weeks of life, but after that they are put out to pasture for the next four weeks and they eat off the fields. They are butchered and you get them young and fresh. They look the size of what chickens should probably look like. No colossal giant chicken breast here! Chickens were not meant to be the size of dogs! The meat is sweet and tender and the drippings are delicious. They make an excellent gravy.

Nate and I love this program because of the delicious chicken, but for other reasons too! First, we are supporting business from our local community. Second, the students learn important experience in business. At the end of each batch of chickens, students figure out their costs of raising the chickens, determine their profits and make adjustments to their asking prices to support the purchasing and raising of the next batch of chicks. What valuable life lessons they are learning that they will probably remember and apply for the rest of their lives! Lastly, Nate and I love supporting businesses that make better choices in food health. We would like to see lots of changes in the way food is raised and processed in our country, and the best way to make change is to use our hard earned cash and support those businesses that line up with our values.

For a little info on the dark side of white meat, click here.

So I encourage you to do a little research in your community and see if you can find some local ways to get your meat fresher and cleaner! I think you will be happy if you do. Check out the Internet, ask around at farmers' markets, chat with local farmers, etc. It might take a little work, but once you find your connections, spread the word!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

No More Tears (Well, Almost)

Just a little update on Gunnar and his napping. I am pleased to announce that he is now going down for naps without any crying. Hooray (applause, cheers and shouts of joy are all appropriate for such an accomplishment)! We are very happy about this, as we have enough whining and crying from other members of the family (no, I am not talking about Nathan).

The next step will be to tackle the task of sleeping through the night. I am currently building up my courage and will power for this. It will probably require a few sleepless nights, but as with most things in life: NO PAIN, NO GAIN!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wedding Bells Were Ringing

This past weekend was filled with wedding festivities. My dear cousin Ashley got married and Layla and Julius were both in the wedding. They did a good job walking down the isle and being quiet during the ceremony. Later, Layla really tore it up on the dance floor! There were many times she was the only one out there. Julius danced too and tried his hand at the "Cupid's Shuffle." He did pretty good if you ask me!

Layla asked at the reception if Ashley had a baby in her belly now that she was married. Kids are so literal! We have had to have many talks about the order of marriage and childbirth.

Overall, we had a great time. It was wonderful seeing our relatives from out of town. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins and the wedding was beautiful. Ashley was a gorgeous bride! Congratulations Ashley and Gary! We wish you the happiest and best of marriages!