Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What a Mess

This morning, I awoke to BEAUTIFUL weather! The nights in Louisiana are turning cooler, so the mornings are very pleasant. I made a quick judgement call, and I sent the kids out the door. Originally, I had a full day of school planned, but since we don't get mornings like this often these days, I decided to postpone school until this afternoon. They were more than happy to head outdoors!

And with the kids outside and the baby asleep, I thought for a moment about getting some much needed housework accomplished, since we are having company in a few nights. But the day was calling me! I just couldn't stay in when the day was so beautiful! So after a quick peek at the sleeping baby, I took off to my garden.

My garden is my favorite place to be when I'm outside. It is one of my great loves, my place of solitude. But as of late, it has been less than inviting. It is nearing the end of the summer growing season, and my plants were showing their age. Many were overgrown and brown. Weeds had grown nearly as big as some of the plants. (OK, maybe I'm exagerating just a bit there.) It was a MESS!

So today, with the weather so favorible and such a nice breeze blowing to keep me cool, I took my scissors and went to work. First, I cut all the overgrowth. Then, when I got to the point of actually seeing my tomato cages again, I was able to cut all the string I had used to hold up my plants. I yanked weeds from their happy homes. And I ripped up all the dead plants that were no longer needed in my garden. What a MESS!

But now, I have most all of my raised beds cleaned out and ready to start refilling with fall veggies. I am already envisioning the salad that will come in just a few short months. And low and behold, as I was cutting down dead tomato plants, I happened upon a few new tomato shoots that had sprouted off the base of my original plants. So I carefully pulled dirt around them, and, if they live, I will soon have more tomatoes this fall. Yes, tomatoes will grow until the frost, if the heat of the summer doesn't kill them. So in addition to my fall lettuce, I may just have some tomatoes to go on my salad!

Not all of my plants have died. I still have 3' tall pepper plants. I have green bell peppers, purple bell peppers, red bell peppers, long sweet peppers, and some other kind that I can't remember. They are going strong, and if I keep them watered, they will make well into the fall. Also, I have perennial plants, like asparagus and onions, that will grow all year, die back in the winter, and start all over again next spring. So I do still have some beauty in my garden, even after cleaning out the mess.

And then, since the baby was still sleeping, I even had a little time to get to my herb garden. I pulled weeds and grass from around all my beautiful herbs, so you can actually tell what they are again. There was only enough time to do about half of the bed, though. The rest will have to wait until another morning.

All in all, today was a great day. My garden isn't the big MESS that it was, and I am looking forward to replanting in a few weeks. It was a GREAT morning!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Make and Share Monday - Update

It seems I am making a habit of having my Make and Share Monday post on Tuesday. I apologize. Yesterday, we spent the day in town at the doctor with my littlest one who had been sick all night. So, needless to say, I didn't get much done in the way of crafts.

However, today I didn't actually want to share a craft at all. I want to share with you an update of a craft I did 2 weeks ago. If you remember, I made a homemade card to send to a very sweet lady in the church. Here is what happened.

After I finished making the card last Tuesday, I put it in an envelope and set it with the other mail I would be taking out in the morning. Wednesday morning, I put my card in the mail, and off it went. Really, I didn't think much more about it.

Sunday morning, I stayed home from church, because I wasn't feeling well, so I wasn't able to see this sweet lady. But Sunday night, after church, she was there, and she came rushing up to me very excited! She said, "I just have to come and give you a hug and thank you. That was so sweet of you to send me that beautiful card in the mail. And for you to take the time to MAKE me a card, that was extra special. My husband and I had a hard week, and that just made it so much better getting your card in the mail. Thank you."

I was thrilled! She liked it, and she DID realize that I had thought about her and spent time making that card just for her. But there was more. Several other people in the church began telling me how this lady had stood up in front of church Sunday night and showed off her card to everyone. She had bragged on it to everyone. (I teach on Sunday nights, so I wasn't in there to actually see this.) This made it even more wonderful! I knew it had really blessed her.

So I tell you this, not to brag about what I did, but to encourage you to do the same. It took me a very short little while to make this special card for this special lady, but it blessed her immensely. Take some time this week to think of someone you could bless. Make a point to stop for a moment and write a card to someone, let someone know you are thinking of them. Take a break in your busy day, and call someone or send a card. You never know what is going on in someone's life and their day. You may be just what someone needs to cheer them up. And you'll be VERY glad you did.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Much Ado About Nothin'

The heat in Louisiana is nearly unbearable in the summer. For anyone who has never experienced it, we're not just talkin' hot - we're talkin' humidity! It gets so bad here that, for most of the summer, my kids don't even want to brave going outside to get the mail. And so I ask you, what in the world would cause me to want to take 3 entire months off of school just so my kids can be hot and miserable inside? Why would I want to vacation at a time like that? What would make me choose to be amongst a HUGE group of people paying outrageous prices for so-called "fun"? That just doesn't sound appealing to me.

So, being the out-of-the-box homeschoolers that we are, we use the summer months to take in as much learning as possible. We spend each long, hot day inside learning all sorts of fun things. So today, I wanted to post a few of the pictures that we took of our endeavors. Over the last few weeks, we have learned quite a range of things, and the kids have had such a great time doing it, too!! I hope you enjoy looking at our work.

One morning, Colby woke up and decided he wanted to play marbles. Seeing as how I, long ago, threw away all of our glass marbles that we had purchased, I told him how sorry I was, but that just would not be something he could do. So, being the problem-solver boy he is, he decided to make his own marbles. I had a bag of small wooden balls, and he set to work painting them. Later, he came back and painted 2 larger wooden balls for the shooter marbles. Here is his finished work.

We studied triangles for a few weeks. Yes, there is much more to a triangle than just 3 sides and 3 corners! So one morning, we learned the 4 types of triangles, and Colby decided to see which triangles would work best for a kite. He put 4 right triangles together, then 1 equilateral and 1 isosceles triangle, and then 2 scalene triangles. Any of these combinations worked well for a kite.

While we were learning about triangles, we built a pyramid. Actually, the kids each built their own pyramids. I wrote the directions on the white board. I expected their pyramid to have a 5" base squared and each side needed 5" at the base. Their triangles could be either isosceles or equilateral. Other than that, they were on their own. They had to use their rulers and protractors to measure precise angles and sides. Otherwise, the pieces wouldn't fit together well. And, of course, we had to pull out some paint to make it look even better!

While the oldest 2 were making pyramids, my 3 year old needed something to do for her "school." So I set her up with some construction paper, a glue stick, safety scissors, stickers, and pom-pom balls. She had a blast!

But I didn't want to stop there with her. Even though she isn't old enough to make a pyramid, she IS old enough to work with shapes. So she and I made a triangle girl. See the pom-pom skirt?

On the last day of studying triangles, we decided to make some stars to decorate the house. Yes, that seems like a fairly easy task. But not when you require precise measurements! First, the kids had to learn that a circle has 360 degrees. Then, we talked about the different shapes you can make inside a circle - pentagon, hexagon, octagon, etc... They learned how to use a calculator and divide the degrees of the entire circle by how many sides you want. For example, 360 divided by 5 to make a pentagon. After they had divided the circle, they connected the points and labeled them. And last, they connected the points inside the pentagon (or whatever shape) to form the pentagram inside. We made 3 stars each. So they ended up with a 5 sided, 6 sided, and 8 sided star. After the stars were cut out, they painted them with glitter paint so they would "shine." And lastly, we hung them from one of our door facings, so we can see them every time we walk through. It is a reminder to them how hard they worked, how much and what they learned, and how proud I am of them!

These are just a few of the things that we have been doing during these hot summer months. This is the perfect time for us to school. And in a few months, when it cools off some, we'll be taking a fall break to go on vacation - without feeling guilty for "missing school."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Make and Share Monday - Homemade Card

OK, I know today is not actually Monday. Yesterday turned out to be one really busy day for us. We left early for town, and when we finally made it home, we were busy until bedtime. So it goes without saying that I didn't have time to do anything for Make and Share Monday. But today, I made up for it! I hope you like what I came up with.

Recently, we started attending a new church. Everyone there has been very nice. But there is one older lady who has been especially sweet to my family. She goes out of her way each time she sees us to come and give me a hug and speak to the children. So I've been thinking about this for a week or so now, and I decided I'd like to send her a card to tell her how much she means to us. However, I really dislike going to the store to buy a $5 card for someone. First of all, I'm a cheapskate. And secondly, buying a card seems very impersonal. So I decided to hand make a card for this sweet lady.

I started out by gathering my supplies. I picked a few pieces of cardstock, some sticky ribbon that I had left over from another project, my embroidery thread, some wavy cut scissors, a ruler, a pencil, some glue, and my template for drawing straight lines.

I tri-folded my paper long ways, because I am going to mail this card, and I wanted it to fit nicely in a standard envelope. Then I cut the contrasting paper with my wavy cut scissors.

I then glued the contrasting paper on to the front and the inside of my card. This would be where I would put the writing. Also, on the inside of the card along the sides, I applied brown sticky ribbon.

I used a lighter brown color of embroidery thread, and I tied a bow that I glued on to the front top of the card above where the writing would be. Then, I used my line template and I drew very light lines with my pencil. This would ensure that I made my writing nice and straight.

I found one of my favorite verses in my Bible, and I wrote it first very lightly in pencil. Then, I went back over it with a blue fine tipped marker. When the writing was dry, I went back and erased the light pencil lines I had made. Then, I wrote my message on the inside of the card in a fine tipped black marker, and went back and erased those lines as well. I decided to add another small brown bow on the inside of the card, too.

And there you have my finished version of my handmade card. Tomorrow, I will put this in the mail and get it on its way to this very sweet lady. Hopefully, when she receives it, she will realize that I put a lot of thought in to a card just for her - that I was thinking of her.

I hope you liked this weeks craft for Make and Share Monday, even though it was a day late. And as always, check out the link above to get all the great details on how you can get involved in this fun event. Look for another craft next Monday - unless it happens to drag out to Tuesday...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Are You Part of the Herd?

Many years ago, when my first child was born, my husband and I, like most other people, wanted to be the very best parents we could possibly be. So we set to work finding out all the things a person was to do in order to fall into the category of "good parent." The baby was well fed, bathed, clothed, loved, taken to church, allowed to be spoiled by anyone who was up to the task, and many other things too numerous to mention.

Among all the things we had been told needed to be done for a child, one of those things was the need to have her vaccinated according to the Center for Disease Control's standards. So, being the good parents we were, we took our tiny baby to every appointment, so as to be sure she grew up free of childhood diseases that had killed many children in days past.

At every visit, she was subjected to multiple injections of large doses of medicine. And in a very few short weeks, we would return for a "booster" of the same injections. They told us that, in order for it to be effective, you would need the same shot several times. Each time we went, I would hold this sweet baby still, while a nurse who did not know nor did she care to know who we were would quickly and painfully jab this needle into her chunky little leg. But hey, I was being a good parent.

Then my second child came along. My son was sick nearly from the time he was born. It seemed that every time "shot time" came around, he was running fever or had a sickness of some kind. Since you are not advised to give vaccines when sick, he was only able to receive the first two sets of shots. We were never able to take him for the others. So, of course, my daughter was not going for her's at that time, either. I began to question whether or not I was a good parent, since I hadn't done what I was "supposed to do" to keep them healthy. But since there was no way around it because of my son's continued sicknesses, there was just nothing I could do.

During this time, my husband and I began to question the vaccines, how many were given at each appointment, why they needed them, and what exactly were they putting in our small children's bodies. We began researching online, and what we found was simply astounding.

There are simply too many side-effects to list them all. So I will only list a few of the many complications. They are brain damage, severe neurological damage, allergies and hypersensitivities, general damage to the immune system, auto-immune diseases, stealth viruses, and even cancer.

Let me tell you of the one that is very close to my family. It has been proven that immunizations can lead to a deterioration in existing auto-immune disease. What that means to me is this. If you are already carrying a gene for auto-immune disease, vaccinations can trigger this gene into "waking up." Once triggered, auto-immune disease presents itself in many forms - Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, auto-immune atrophic gastritis, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune hemolytic anemia, and many other illnesses.

You many know that my son has Type 1 Diabetes. There is no way for me to ever absolutely say what triggered his auto-immune disease into "waking up" and killing his pancreas function. But I do know that this is one of the side-effects of these so-called "life saving" vaccines. Do they really save life, or do they cause more illnesses?

And then there is the long list of all the things they use to make these vaccines. Again, the list is simply too long to include everything. But some of the things that stick out to me are these: many heavy metals (which are very harmful to your body), formaldehyde, thimerosal, calf skin, chick kidney cells, chicken embryo, monkey kidney tissue culture, mouse brain culture, and, my favorite, aborted fetal tissue. Are these things that I really want to inject in my body or the small bodies of my children?!

So the question for you is this. After researching for yourself, are you willing to be part of the herd that gets run through the vaccination line every so many weeks in order to be a "good parent"? Or are your children important enough for you to stop and think about what you are doing to them that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Make and Share Monday - Bread

Yep, it's that time again - Make and Share Monday! Today's project - homemade bread! My friend asked me to share my recipe, so I decided that, instead of just writing it down for her, I'd just make up a few loaves today. So I am "making" bread, and "sharing" the recipe. Also, I will be giving away most of the finished product to friends!

I found this recipe in an Amish cookbook that I bought several years ago. It is called "The Wooden Spoon" and was written by Miriam Miller. This is one of my FAVORITE cookbooks ever, and I make this bread all the time!!

So here's where you start. First, gather your ingredients:

1 cup lukewarm water 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. yeast 1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. salt 1/2 c. oil
1 qt. warm water flour

In a small bowl, take 1 cup lukewarm water and mix brown sugar and yeast in it. Let it sit while you are mixing your other ingredients, and it will get bubbly and look like this.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, salt, oil, and 1 qt. warm water. Add 4 cups of flour and beat well.

Add the yeast mixture.

Add 3 more cups of flour and beat well. Keep on adding flour 1 or 2 cups at a time, beating well after each addition. I like to start out using my wire whisk, then, when it starts sticking in my whisk, I swap to a really large spoon to stir, and then I finally end up using my hands. The amount of flour you use is not ever exact. A lot of it depends on the weather or how thick or airy you like your bread. The more flour you use, the thicker your bread will be and it will have fewer holes. You want to arrive at a dough that is elastic and no longer sticky. Be sure to mix in ALL the flour really well.

Once you are finished mixing, you need to lift the dough slightly to one side of the bowl and pour in a small amount of oil. Roll your entire ball of dough around in this to keep it from sticking to your bowl while it's rising. I do this step in the bowl as opposed to doing it on the counter, because it saves much time on clean-up! Cover your bowl with a dish rag and put it in a very warm place to rise. I like to use my laundry room, because this is the warmest room in the house!! You'll know it has risen enough when it looks like this.

Make a fist and punch down that dough! Then, cover it and put it back in its warm place. Let it rise again. You need to let your dough rise and punch it down 3 times. After the 3rd rise, divide your dough and put it in your sprayed bread pans. This recipe usually makes about 5 loaves, but I actually cut the recipe in half today. So my batch made 3 loaves. Don't fill your pans too full, because they will continue to rise.

Let your dough rise to the top of your pans.

Put them in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees. They need to bake for about 35 minutes. But really, you want to keep an eye on the color. I like to bake in glass pans so I can see the bottom of the loaf. When the top is golden and the bottom is nicely browned, they're ready.

You can see how they kept rising in the hot oven. If you overfill your pans, they will rise too much and go over the pan! (I speak from much experience on that one!)

After you get them out of the oven, put a dish rag on the counter and turn them out onto it. Let them cool, and then package them up to go in the freezer or to give away as gifts.

And there you have it! This is how I make bread. It's one of my great loves in life. I hope you will give it a try, and that you will find as much joy in it as I. One of these loaves will find its way to MY freezer, but the other two are reserved for two new friends.

I have so enjoyed being crafty again this Monday! Look for more "Make and Share" crafts next Monday. Be sure to check out the link at the top to see how to get involved with this fun idea! And a big thank-you to Katie and Kristy for putting together the idea in the first place.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The End of a Season

Several weeks ago, a very hard rain came through our area giving a much needed drink to the very dry and thirsty earth. It cooled things off and made everything seem so fresh and new again. Rain has a way of making you feel good inside just to sit and watch it all day from the window. And that's just what we did, enjoying every minute of the beautiful day.

But when the rain subsided, I went to check on my garden (as I do many times a day), only to find that a tragedy had occurred! My 7 foot tall tomato plants were laying over on their side. These plants had grown so full and tall, they had long since grown past the tomato cage to which I was tying them. So when the wind came, they acted like a big umbrella - they caught the wind and blew over. And then, because of the thick, beautiful leaves, the rain that had been falling beautifully on them finally grew to be too heavy and weighted them down too much, adding to the plants demise.

Considering the fact that I have been very careful with my tomato plants this year, so as to actually get a good harvest, I nearly cried seeing this! I enlisted my husband's muscles to help me, because these plants were so heavy, I was not able to do anything about them on my own. Together, we stood the cages and plants upright, and I covered the roots as best as possible. The roots were so long, most did not pull up entirely. So I hoped with all hope that they would re-root and continue to grow until fall.

But about a week later, to my great dismay, the leaves began to yellow and my tomatoes started turning brown. I was crushed! All the work I had invested in these beauties was now coming to an end. But I still had loads of green tomatoes covering these plants that I certainly did not want to let go to waste. I new they would never ripen on these dying vines, so I made the decision. Britches, squirt, and I went out one morning and picked all the green tomatoes off the plants, brought them inside, and prepared them for what would be my first ever batch of green tomato relish! In the middle of my sadness, I still felt a little excitement. All would not be lost.

So for two days, I washed, cut, and prepared my tomatoes. After much hard work, I had my first batch of green tomato relish, which consisted of 7 quarts and 1 pint! I was thrilled!!

So now, I am left with the hard task of pulling up the old dead plants, cutting off all the strings I used to tie them to the cage, and feeding the left-overs to my goats. Then I begin pulling any other weeds, and finally, I'll take a shovel and some elbow grease and go turn under the dirt in each of my raised beds.

As will everything in life, all good things must come to an end. But the ending of this season just means getting prepared for the beginning of the next season. And I like the fall season as much as the spring/summer season. In the fall, I will plant peas, broccoli, spinach, and a mixture of lettuces. There is nothing so good as fresh salad straight from the garden - except maybe fresh tomatoes!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Today is Monday. Actually, it's "Make and Share Monday." And that means that, for awhile today, I get to set aside time to be crafty!! That's sometimes a hard thing to do when you have four children. But today, I set aside time with my oldest daughter to be crafty and make a gift.

My cousin is having her baby shower this coming Sunday. We needed to make a nice baby gift in a relatively short amount of time. So off we went to our local store to purchase a few supplies. We started off with a wooden picture frame, a few pre-made animal shapes, and some paint. Britches (aka Big Sister) wanted to make this picture frame to be a jungle theme.

First, Britches painted the picture frame a light green, we came back and painted another coat of light green, and then she and I both worked on some vines around the sides.

Now time to add our pre-made animals to round out our jungle theme, and I wrote the new baby's name on the bottom. And there you have it.

This is our finished product. For our first "Make and Share Monday," we made this adorable baby picture frame.

Look for another crafty something next Monday from Britches and myself. And in the meantime, be sure to click on the picture at the top to find out all the details of this fun crafty idea! Participation is so easy, and Britches and I had a lot of fun being crafty together! And a big thanks to Katie and Kristy for putting this together.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess