Tuesday, December 28, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Last week, I announced the 400th project pack of Hands of a Child. And, I announced that I was giving away a FREE copy of one of those project packs, compliments of Hands of a Child, to one of you! I have had so much fun reading all of your wish lists! It is exciting to see the different topics you would like to do with your children! Some of those project packs are ones that I would have picked as well.

Well, today was the big day! It was time to have our drawing for the first ever give-away on my blog! YAY! (That right there was exciting to me!!) In order to insure that we held a fair and honest random drawing, we used a highly sophisticated method for picking our winner. It's called "I wrote down everyone's name on a piece of paper, folded them, put them in a cereal bowl, and let Britches draw a name." How much more honest and sophisticated can you get, I would just like to know?!

Congratulations go out to Ms. Jennifer Wallace, who is my first ever winner of anything on my blog!! YAY Jennifer!! The project pack will be sent out sometime next week, and I just can't wait to hear all about how Jennifer is using it and enjoying it with her kids!

Thank you to all of you great girls who entered my give-away contest!

And don't forget, Hand's of a Child's 400th Project Pack sale will be early next year and will included great discounts as well as 3 completely free 1 year super memberships ($225value), a FREE custom ordered project pack (you tell them the topic and grade level and they do all the work, a $75 value), as well as a FREE Lifetime Super Membership ($275 value)! Be sure to read up on the features of all these giveaways by visiting their site.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In The Hands of a Child's 400th Project Pack Celebration

Several years ago, I was introduced to a great homeschool resource, In the Hands of a Child. At the time, I didn't know very much about them. But the more I looked at their web site and saw the unit studies that they offered, I was certain that this was something I wanted to make use of! And since we homeschool using unit studies, this was a perfect fit for us.

Since that time, I have used several of their project packs to teach my children, including Chocolate, Mary Cassatt (a famous artist), Amelia Earhart, Ecosystems, and Galaxies. These packs include all the information you need to teach the subject, and all the templates needed to finish out your unit with a great lapbook. We have really enjoyed using HOAC project packs!

I am so excited to tell you about Hands of a Child's exciting news! They are getting ready to release their 400th project pack!! WOW! That is quite an accomplishment! This certainly calls for a celebration! And Hands of a Child is certainly celebrating! They are offering YOU a chance to win a FREE 400th project pack bundle!

I am so excited, because this will be the first time I have ever had the chance to give away something on my blog!! And believe me, you are really going to want this! Here's what you need to do. Check out their web site to see what they offer. Make out your "wish list" of five of your favorite project pack titles that you just can't live without! Post a comment on my blog telling me your "wish list". On Tuesday, December 28th, after the holidays and after you have some time to post your "wish list", I will draw a name at random to win the project pack give-away! Hands of a Child will mail the winner a free bundle pack, with everything being covered by them - including shipping! You just can't lose with a deal like that, now can you?!

**Free bundle packs include a printed Project Pack, Kit Pack, and Answer Key (when available) which will be mailed to the winner once the drawing is completed. This is a $40 value with EVERYTHING needed being covered by Hands of a Child, including shipping!
Their 400th Project Pack sale will be early next year and will included great discounts as well as 3 completely free 1 year super memberships ($225value), a FREE custom ordered project pack (you tell them the topic and grade level and they do all the work, a $75 value), as well as a FREE Lifetime Super Membership ($275 value)! Be sure to read up on the features of all these giveaways here. 

Every six months, Hands of a Child offers a FREE project pack that you can download! It is a complete unit to use with your children, so be sure to check it out and take advantage of it!

So head on over to the Hands of a Child web site to see what project packs they offer, and start making that wish list. If you'd like, you can download their free 2010 catalog for an easy look at all they offer. Don't forget to check back on their site over the next few weeks to see more information from them about the 400th project pack CELEBRATION!!

After I draw a winning name (at random, of course!) on the 28th, I'll announce the winner on my blog! Be looking for it!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Back in October, Brient and I took the kids to two different pumpkin patches. It was LOADS of fun! The kids all had a blast, and they each came home with a pumpkin from each patch. Also, at the last patch, Brient and I got a pumpkin! So all together, we had ten lovely pumpkins. We don't celebrate Halloween, but I do let the kids decorate their pumpkins. They paint them or use markers to decorate them. And they made lovely decorations for our Thanksgiving celebration!

After Thanksgiving was over, I was ready to begin decorating for Christmas. But I had all these pumpkins all over the place! I just couldn't throw out good pumpkins, so I did what I do every year - we cut them open, roasted the seeds, and cooked and canned the pumpkin. Even though I can buy a can of Libby's pumpkin for about a dollar, I just really enjoy preserving foods. I do the same thing each year, and I end up with lots of jars of pumpkin to use throughout the year.

I had several friends question how to cook pumpkin, and, after you do all that work, what in the world do you do with all that pumpkin! So I wanted to share my canning directions, and several of the yummy recipes that we enjoy that use pumpkin.

I have a 1974 Ball Blue Book of Canning and Freezing that I go by for canning pumpkin. Here is how I cook my pumpkin and what the directions in the book say for the actual canning.

For Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Wash firm, fully ripe pumpkin/squash. Cut in half, and scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting later). Place each pumpkin half face down in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees until you can poke a fork in it.
Scoop out the pulp, and pour hot into hot Ball jars, leaving 1" head space. Add 1 tsp. salt to each quart, and 1/2 tsp. salt for each pint. Wipe rims of jars. Adjust lids and rings. Process pints 1 hour 5 minutes, and quarts 1 hour 20 minutes, at 10 pounds of pressure. (You have to use a pressure canner for pumpkin.) When you take them out of the canner, put them in a spot and leave them for 24 hours, to be sure the lid seals.

After you have your pumpkin canned, store it in your cabinet just like you would any of your other canned foods. You can use it all year!

One of our absolute favorite recipes is pumpkin spice bread. I can't remember where I found this recipe. It probably came off of the Libby's can or something. This recipe is one that I make every year around this time. We use it for breakfast or just a good snack. And this year for Christmas, I am giving these to many of the people in my church.

Pumpkin Spice Bread
1 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin, packed
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix all of these ingredients together with a blender. Add:

3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Mix all of this well. Add:

1 1/2 cups nuts (I use pecans.)

Fold in the nuts. Divide between 3 loaf pans, and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
I also make this recipe into muffins, and we like them that way for breakfast. It takes less time to cook if you put the batter in muffin cups - about 20 minutes. 

After looking online at lots of pumpkin recipes, I found a soup recipe that turned out DELICIOUS! 

Creamed Pumpkin Curry Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

-Saute these for 3-5 minutes, until aromatic. Add:

1 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken broth

-Simmer 10-15 minutes. Add:

15 ounces cooked pumpkin
1 cup half and half (or other milk or non-dairy substitute)

-Simmer 5 minutes.

Puree in a blender, and serve warm. This can be frozen for up to two months.

There are so many different ways that pumpkin can be used, from appetizers to main courses to desserts. You can make breads, muffins, pudding, salad, soup, stew, cookies, cheesecake, gingerbread, waffles, pancakes, and so much more. Pumpkin goes WAY beyond the pumpkin pie! Check out Better Homes and Gardens web site that shows 36 different yummy pumpkin recipes!

And now, I'm off to pull out my third batch of pumpkin spice bread from the oven. It is making my house smell so good right now! And after looking at all those 36 different recipes, I'm thinking about making up a batch of pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake bars. They are calling my name! I hope you enjoy these recipes that our family loves so much! 

Just remember, you don't have to throw away your fall decorations. Try preserving them. Unless, of course, you're like my friend and go shoot them up after lunch on Thanksgiving Day.

Hunger Knows No Season

I've been wracking my brain over something for the last several weeks. Every since the Thanksgiving holidays arrived, and on into the Christmas season, everywhere I turn there is someone raising money or collecting food to help a needy family "during the holidays." There are food boxes to be filled at local banks and grocery stores, and most churches have adopted a family to help. And then there are the yearly Salvation Army bell ringers at the door to nearly every business in town doing their part to collect any spare change you may have to "help the needy at Christmas." There are even places in town who offer a free hot meal to those without food "on Thanksgiving Day" or "on Christmas Day." I just cannot understand all of this.

Don't get me wrong. I am not, in any way, against giving food and clothes to those in need. In fact, my husband and I have often given a month's worth of groceries to a family experiencing hard times due to lack of work or whatever - and we have never regretted it. There have been many occasions when we have chosen to give money to a family who really, really needed help. I LOVE being able to help others, and I love even more that Brient and I try our best to do it anonymously. I get great satisfaction knowing that we were a blessing to some family, and, since they don't know who did the "good deed", there is no chance they can ever think about paying it back! LOVE that feeling!

What I don't understand is why everyone feels the need to do their "helping" only during the holidays. In truth, there are many people who are going hungry and need clothes to keep warm during this time of the year. But why give only one month out of the year, or, in the case of the hot meal, one day of the year. People are in need every day of every year, and it is a shame that so many people are only willing to give when the holidays roll around.

After thinking about this for awhile, I think I have come to at least one reason that may contribute to societies "do-good" mentality for this one time each year. During the holidays, most people seem to be more considerate, compassionate, and sensitive to others around them. We all seem to have more of that "holiday spirit" that just puts us in a giving mood. Also, that same "holiday spirit" seems to cause most people to shop and buy many things that they don't need with money that they don't have. It seems to me that, when people are out buying and spending all that money and coming home with loads of packages to put under their trees, they begin to feel a tad bit guilty. People begin to feel guilty that they "have" and others "do not have." They feel guilty that they just spent a few months worth of paychecks on "things", and there are other "less fortunate people" out there who won't be doing the same. I think (and this is entirely my own opinion on this) that people, after feeling guilty over their "holiday spirit", begin to want to somehow justify all of their "money well spent", and, in turn, decide to help "those less fortunate" than themselves.

And that's where our giving comes in. People decide to "help" all those poor, hungry people out there with food or money or clothing or whatever. They give to all the causes, they donate food and toys to all the boxes, and they may even feel the need to go and help at one of the outreaches. Many see to it that every family has the traditional holiday meals and lots of gifts to open on the big day. And, after that is all done, their conscience is eased, they have done their part to help lower class America, and they can go back to enjoying their own holidays.

In truth, all the help that comes in this way is certainly needed and appreciated. What bothers me is that most people, during the rest of the year, are too busy, too broke, too whatever to help anyone. Hunger and lack of clothing is not limited only to the holidays. There are 364 other days in each year that people go without. There are 11 more months in each year that people are in need of basic living essentials.

Now, I realize that many of you reading this are probably thinking, "Wait a minute. I give because I really love giving to people, and I give all year." Good job. I'm not referring to you. Check your motives this holiday season. Why are you giving to "the less fortunate"? If your motives are pure, FANTASTIC! But if you are doing it to ease your conscience because of your way of life, you may need to step back and rethink some things.

My challenge to you is this. I challenge you to not only give during the holidays, but to remember and to commit to give all year long. Don't forget that, every time you sit down to a meal with your family any time this year, there is another family somewhere who is going without. Purpose to seek out one family each month this year to help. Find a family and give to them in secret. We don't give to the local food bank, even though I know they are a large organization who helps a lot of needy people. Instead, we look for individual families that we can help personally and KNOW that we made a difference in their lives. Remember, the saying is very true - "Hunger knows no season."

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Christmas Time

Last week, I finally gave in and let the kids pull out the Christmas tree. I was waiting as late as possible, because I knew Baby Girl was going to LOVE the ornaments and be taking them off the tree constantly. So I was trying to postpone that as long as possible. But the kids couldn't wait any longer! So out it came.

Britches and Little Man set up the tree, while Little Sister and I made a batch of no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies! We decided that we would need a reward cookie when we finished decorating the tree! The two older ones were just finishing up as Little Sister and I dropped the last of the cookies. Now it was time for the fun part!

I pulled out my box of ornaments, and began to hand them out. Britches, Little Man, and Little Sister all went straight to work. But Baby Girl just sort of watched for awhile.

After watching for a while, Baby Girl finally realized that there was something in that box, so she started checking it out.

And she started putting on some of the ornaments, just like her big brother and sisters. 

Each time she put an ornament on the tree, she would turn to her daddy and say, "Clap, daddy. YAY!" and start clapping and cheering for herself! 

Baby Girl picked two limbs to hang all of her ornaments on. Those two limbs looked very beautiful when she was finished!

Both of my little ones had such a good time decorating the tree! If you notice, Baby Girl's shirt is on backwards. She dressed herself. My two year old thinks she is just as big as the rest of them! 

When the tree was done, Britches got in some snuggle time with daddy! Then we all went to try out those cookies that Little Sister and I made! We needed a reward for all that hard work decorating our tree. 

Here is the recipe, in case you need to make your own no-bake reward cookies! 


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
Combine sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in a saucepan. On medium heat, bring to a boil for one full minute.Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter (optional), vanilla and oatmeal.
Drop by spoonful onto wax paper. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.

I hope you have had a chance to put up your tree and get festive. Here in the Deep South, it's a little hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it's still warm outside on most days. But decorating the house, playing some Christmas music, and making some yummy cookies sure does get you headed in the right direction! Merry Christmas to you all!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Great Gift!

This time of year, we are all busy, busy looking for that perfect gift for each and every person on our list. It can get a little crazy with all the shopping!

If you have a homeschool friend or loved one, consider this as a gift for them. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, the LEADING homeschool magazine in the country, is offering a special for the holidays. For a very limited time, you can purchase a one year subscription to their magazine for $7.95!! This is a HUGE savings, because usually, each issue is this price. So it's like buying one magazine and getting three FREE! YAY!

To be perfectly honest, this is how I first started receiving this great magazine. My wonderful mother bought me a subscription two years ago, and has paid for it each year. She knew that, since I am a homeschooling mom of 4, I have times that I just need some encouragement. She thought about it, and decided this would be really beneficial for me. And she was right. Every time I get my magazine, I expect great articles telling me all sorts of helpful things about homeschooling, biblical advice regarding child raising, many tips on running a household, and so much more! I am so thankful that she thought to bless me with this gift for Christmas! And I am even more thankful that she KEEPS paying for my subscription. I can't imagine a better gift.

 If you buy now, you will be in time to get the winter edition in January, which, by the by, has MY ARTICLE IN IT!! YAY! (Just had to put a plug in there for myself! :0)

So if you have someone in your life that you would love to bless (of if you just want it yourself - and who wouldn't??), consider purchasing a one year subscription for them to this AMAZING magazine. If you want more, they also have other great deals that include a subscription, a tote bag (which is REALLY CUTE!), and homeschool planners. Check out all the deals, and see which one fits best for you. You won't be sorry! I promise!!

Google Ads Coming Soon

For the past year or so, I have been writing for my blog just for the fun of it. It has been a way to put my thoughts into writing, and get all that jumbled up "mess" out of my head! It has been nothing more than a way to improve my writing while encouraging and sharing with all of you great people.

But I've decided to add to my blog a way to earn some money while doing what I love. In the next few days, you'll see new Google ads pop up in the sidebar of my blog. Every time you click on those to see what that advertiser is offering, I get paid. So please be sure to check out the ads after you read my blog post!

And please, if you notice ANY questionable ads being shown, TELL ME! I can't keep a check on this thing all day every day, so I really will not know which ads are placed on the page, even though they tell me it will definitely be of interest to my readers.

Thanks to all of you who have read my blog over the last year! I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from each of you! And I would greatly appreciate it if you would check out the new ads that you'll be seeing soon on my blog!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homemade Holiday Crescent Rolls

The holidays are here, and many of you will be having parties at your homes, or maybe going to other parties. One food that is always sure to please is a nice, hot batch of crescent rolls! I decided to try my hand at making some homemade crescent rolls today, and they were a HIT!

I started out with this recipe.

1Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 C warm water
1 Tbsp. honey
1 C butter, melted
1/2 C sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
5 C flour

In a cereal bowl, mix the yeast, water, and honey. Let this sit while you mix up everything else. Melt the butter, and add the sugar and eggs. Mix well. Add the salt and half of the flour. Pour in the bubbly yeast mixture and mix well. Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time. When this is all mixed together well, pour a little oil in the bottom of the bowl and roll your dough around in it. This keeps it from sticking to the bowl. Cover it with a cloth, and let it rise until double. Punch down the dough, and let it rise again until double. 

Punch down the dough, and divide the dough in half. Roll out each lump of dough into a large circle, and, using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles. Roll up each triangle from the large side down, and put it on a greased baking pan with the smallest end on the under side. This is what mine looked like.

 Some I made in the traditional shape, but some I pulled in the ends to make more like a roll. I was planning to make homemade frozen breakfast sandwiches for my honey with these, so I needed them more round. 

After they are all on a baking pan, let them rise until double in size. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and bake the rolls until they are nice and brown on top. That takes about 20-25 min. Be sure to watch them, because it would be terrible to go to all that work and then burn them! YUCK!

Looks pretty yummy, doesn't it?! (It was!!)

As I said, I had planned to use these to make homemade frozen breakfast sandwiches for Brient, because he often is running out the door and needs something quick. This will keep me from buying pre-made frozen breakfasts, which are quite expensive, and it keeps him out of an unhealthy and expensive drive-through. 

I made several kinds, so he would have a variety. I made sausage, egg, and cheese. 

I made ham, egg, and cheese.

This one is just ham and cheese.

And this one is egg and cheese.

When I finished, I wrapped them in foil and popped them in the freezer. When he gets ready for them, he can pull one out of the freezer, open it up, and put it in the toaster oven or microwave. (Personally, I think the toaster oven works best, because you can open up the sandwich and it warms it without making everything inside mushy!)

So that was my reason for making the crescent rolls today. But you could very easily make these to take with you to any party for the holidays. Or you could make them for you own holiday meal. 

This was a BIG hit with all my family! The kids wanted to taste them right out of the over, and who wouldn't! I'm sure all of your gang will love them, as well. They were easy and turned out delicious. Even if you're not a bread maker, this recipe is worth the effort. You will be glad you tried it - as will all the hungry little ones around you smelling them!

“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