Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Handmade Christmas

When I was growing up, my family gave homemade gifts to each other every Christmas.  We each drew a name so we only had one gift to make.  With 6 kids I'm sure that's all my parents could handle.  My mom would help us with the crafty/sewing while my dad helped with any woodworking.  I have some really great memories of those homemade gifts both given and received.  My family still puts an emphasis on homemade in our gift exchange.  And I've tried to do the same in my own family. 

I only have 3 kids, so this year I decided that it might be nice to have each of them make something for both their siblings.  We'll see how it goes!  And I might make something for each of them, I haven't decided.  My oldest son has already decided what he wants to give his brother and sister and my second son has a few ideas as well.  I guess I'll end up deciding for my daughter, and probably making hers as well.  Unless someone out there has a great, useful gift that a 3-year-old can make!

As I've been browsing around the internet I've come across a few fun ideas for homemade gifts.  Not sure if I'll use any of these, but maybe you will!
I'll post what my kids are doing for their gifts later on.  Since they don't read my blog, it won't spoil anything if I post before Christmas.

How does your family exchange gifts?  I'd love to hear about any cute homemade gift ideas you have!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Baking Bread

Math, science, home ec, and PE with a little history and religion. Tasty!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Nursery Singing Time

I am the music leader for the primary (children's group) at our church.  That means every Sunday you will find me doing all kinds of crazy things to help the children learn the gospel through music.  A few months ago, my primary president asked if I could also go into the nursery (children 18 mos to 3 years) and teach them as well.  I was more than willing as my daughter is in that class and I know how much she loves music.  I will admit that I was apprehensive because is seemed a bit overwhelming to add that to my already busy schedule.  So of course I turned to the internet for help.  I took most of my ideas from here and here then modified them for my situation.  Here's what I do....

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


This spider built a web right outside our kitchen window this morning.  So for science today we observed it catching and consuming bugs.  Awesome.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Number Three

I just heard from a friend today that she is expecting! So exciting! Her story is very similar to mine, and it got me thinking and remembering the path it's been to get our family where it is today. Two boys, two years apart. Three years later I lost one at 12 weeks, and when I finally got pregnant after trying for three more years I was so afraid I would lose that one as well. I had so many ultrasounds just to make sure she was fine. It wasn't until the first trimester was over that I finally felt safe enough to admit to myself that I really was pregnant without making 'just in case' plans. It was probably my hardest pregnancy. But we got her here safely, and I'm so happy to have her! All of them! Truly, my cup runneth over.

Feeling blessed...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Blueberry Nectarine Freezer Jam

It's blueberry season!  I never really appreciated how good blueberries are until we moved to NJ.  The blueberries I buy here are FRESH!  Unlike the blueberries you get in UT that have been shipped across the country, probably from NJ.  And you can't beat it when they go on sale 6 pints for $7.  So what do I do with all those blueberries, other than eating them like popcorn?  Homemade jam, of course!  My favorite is the blueberry butter recipe from my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but today I thought I'd try an easy freezer jam recipe that caught my eye from the same book.  One tip, measure the fruit after crushing/chopping.  Happy preserving!

Blueberry Nectarine Freezer Jam
1 cup crushed blueberries
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 pouch (1.59 oz) freezer jam pectin
3 cups finely chopped pitted peeled nectarines
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice

1.  In a glass pie plate, heat blueberries in a microwave oven on high, stopping the microwave several times to stir and crush the berries, until the mixture reaches a boil, about 2 minutes.
2.  In a medium bowl, combine sugar and pectin, stirring until well blended.  Add blueberries, nectarines and lemon zest and juice.  Stir for 3 minutes.
3.  Ladle jam into plastic or glass freezer jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Apply lids tightly.  Let jam stand at room temperature until thickened, about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately, if desired.  For longer storage, refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 1 year.

Aren't they beautiful?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

"In our hour of deepest sorrow, we can receive profound peace from the words of the angel that first Easter morning: “He is not here: for he is risen.”"  - Thomas S. Monson

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


My younger ds made chocolate chip cookies today!

I've put together some "adult skills" courses for the boys, and the first one is baking.  In a nutshell, they learn to bake several things independently and when they 'graduate' they throw a party for their friends and serve some of their favorites.  (There's also meal preparation, grocery shopping, and home maintenance classes, but that's another post.) 

Anyway, he choose to make the cookies for his first lesson so I told him that it was the very first recipe I learned how to make from my mom.  He thought about that a bit then said maybe he could teach it to his kids and did grandma learn it from her mom?  I didn't know the answer to that.  But I'm excited that he's excited about baking/cooking.

Making the cookies with him and then having creamed egg on toast for dinner got me thinking about learning to cook as a child.  Those two recipes are the oldest of the handful I can make from memory.  What I like to cook has changed a lot since then, but I'll never forget my first lessons.  I feel very fortunate to have had a mother who took the time to teach me.  Oh, and those first chocolate chip cookies are still the best.

What about you?  What was the first thing you learned to cook/bake?  What recipes can you cook from memory?  Who taught you?

Friday, April 01, 2011

April Fools

We've always had a little too much fun with April Fools' Day at out house.  We've mixed up cereal bags, made meatloaf 'cake' and 'cupcakes', candy veggies, and traded beds in the middle of the night.  Here's what we did this year!
For breakfast, this sliced banana prank.

In the afternoon, the Amazing Origami Rock Craft.

And for the grand finale, a crazy, mixed-up dinner.  I think this one may become a tradition.

Now you know who the April Fools are!  Are you one too?

Friday, March 25, 2011

A good day for art

Today was a good day.  We went to the homeschool art day at a different county library.  The kids really had a good time putting their projects together and looking at what the other kids had brought to display.     All the projects were so unique.  My older ds drew a LARGE picture of him and his cousins battling a dragon in oil pastels.   Younger ds did a Lego mosaic of Mario.  And dd did a finger painting (pic).  There were acrylics, watercolors, paper mache, Lego, etc on display.  One of the moms demonstrated a watercolor painting that really impressed the boys.  I don't have an artistic bone in my body, so I'm glad they could get a chance to see someone who does in action.  They also played with some air drying clay from Crayola that was fantastic.  I'm going to have to get me some of that.

And the kids were so well behaved.  The boys said nice things about every project.  Older ds sat with dd and shared his snacks with her.  He even listened when I told him he couldn't have any more snacks except carrots (after his second trip the the snack table).  I was so impressed with them.

Hooray for art, libraries, and homeschooling!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My maple

I just had to share this photo.  It's my Japanese maple from this past fall.  It looks even better in person.  When it turns red like this, it gives the whole house inside a rosy glow.  When we were looking at houses, we looked at a few that had Japanese maples and I made the off-hand comment that I would love to have one.  Of course it wasn't even on the radar for things we were looking for in a house, just on my "probably not going to happen" wishlist.  We didn't buy this house for the Japanese maple, but I'm so glad it's there.  It makes me happy to look at it, no matter the season.  It even looks beautiful in the winter.

Thankful for Tender Mercies

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bobotie and Sambal

Saturday night is 'international night' at our house, for dinner at least. I use a 4 week rotating calendar to plan our meals, so that's 4 different international dishes each month. We've got the usual stuff (stroganoff, curry, stir fry) but I wanted something else a little more exotic. When I ran across a recipe for bobotie in our "Around the World Cookbook" I knew I'd found what I was looking for. But it needed a side. Foodnetwork.com is the first place I go to find recipes and that's where I found this recipe for South African Sambal.

Of course I've modified it, though this time it was a serendipitous mistake rather than an intentional change. First, it turned out that I didn't have enough apples so I added some sliced grapes I had on hand to make up for the missing sweetness. Then I accidentally added the salt after the soak and squeeze rather then before. But it turned out to be a really nice combination of salty and sweet so I kept it along with a few other changes. Here's my version:

2 cups grated carrots
2 cups grated apples
1/4 cup bottle lemon juice (it just gets discarded so no sense using the good stuff here!)
Kosher salt
1 cup black grapes, halved
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 (scant) tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Juice of one lemon (works out great as the bobotie calls for zest but no juice)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss carrots and apples with lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt, let sit 1/2 hour (about, I usually only manage 15 minutes), then squeeze with hands and discard any excess liquid. Add the grapes and cilantro. Combine remaining ingredients plus 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and mix well. Add to the salad and toss. Allow to sit refrigerated for several hours before serving (I almost never have time to do that!)

I've used blackberries (see photo) and other types of grapes, but black grapes are my favorite, if I can get them. Altogether it's a nice salty, sweet, sour, and spicy side and a vast improvement on the typical carrot/raisin/mayo salad, IMHO! Enjoy!

How do you plan your meals? Does this sound like something you'd like to try?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

If I had a million dollars....

I entered to win the HGTV dream home (who didn't!) and ever since reading through the rules and seeing that the winner could take 1 million dollars instead of the house, I can't stop obsessing about what I would do if I won. Yeah, the house is nice, Vermont is beautiful, BUT it is COOOOLD! So, yeah, I'd take the million. Anyway, I've got to stop thinking about this and I thought the best way to do that would be to get it written down so my brain could let it go and give me some peace! And so.....

What I would do if I won a million:
  1. 10% to tithing (that's okay for prize money, right? It's not like winning the lottery.)
  2. The same amount to Fast Offerings and other donations.
  3. Of course Uncle Sam would have to take his cut.
  4. Pay off the mortgage, student loans, and car loan.
  5. Adopt a 4th child.
  6. Set up trust funds for all the kids.
After that it's not so easy to decide.
Would I remodel the house or landscape my 1/3 acre yard? or move closer to family? I'd probably invest the rest and wait to see if dh gets tenure first.

In the meantime, I'd get some "incidentals":
  • a stand mixer, black, 'ice', or 'persimmon'.
  • a wheat grinder
  • a fridge with the freezer on the bottom and french doors
  • a freezer of death
Oh, and I'd trade the SUV for a more fuel efficient commuter car. And/or a really cool bike for my bike commuting husband.

This really is an exercise in ridiculousness. Hopefully this will get it out of my head! I really am grateful for what I have. I have been blessed so much and it probably wouldn't be good for me to get everything I wanted!! So there it is.

What would you do if you won a million dollars?