Monday, June 29, 2009

Bright Lights Banquet

Our girls were invited to join a Bright Lights group this spring and have been really enjoying participating in it.

Saturday was their last event until fall, a banquet with the theme "Honor Your Parents". The girls and their group leader planned the menu, made the food, and put together a program.

We met at a local park and ate together under the pavilion. The girls sang us several songs, then performed their skit.
The girls were asked to write poems or notes of appreciation to their parents. Allison wrote us some haikus: (click to enlarge)

Can we just ignore Allison's honesty about homeschooling? Thank you.

Julianne was asked to share a testimony about honoring her parents. I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses because I started to tear up a little. She gave me permission to post it here.

One of the areas in which I struggle the most is honoring my parents with my attitude. Whenever my parents ask me to do something that I do not want to do, I let them know by being unpleasant. Usually, after I am no longer irritated, I feel bad for being so unwilling to help and un-Christ like in my attitude. I have been praying for a while that God would help me to overcome this, but I had no idea where to start, and my attitude was not improving by itself. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that God wasn’t dropping the answer into my lap or magically improving my attitude towards my parents.

I was still having a hard time with my attitude when I sat down to write my mom’s Mother’s Day card. She’s the one who I usually treat the worst and I apologized for all the times I had argued and given her attitude and told her that I wanted to show her that I loved her by obedience. I didn’t realize it while I was writing, but this card has turned out to be the answer to my prayers. Whenever my mom realizes my attitude is not what it should be, she says, “Where’s that lovely card that you gave me for Mother’s Day?” I still have a long way to go, but I’m thankful that God has provided a reminder to me that he wants me to honor my parents with my attitude.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009


The girls were out in the garden first thing Friday morning to pick the strawberries before it got hot outside.

They also picked the snow peas, which have just been ready to harvest in the last week or so. We love eating them as a raw vegetable and always anticipate them with eagerness.

Since the strawberry harvest was so plentiful, I tried a couple of new-to-me recipes. I was going to make freezer jam but I bought bulk pectin in Shipshewana and it didn't have instructions for freezer jam, only a processed jam. So, I consulted my old Ball Blue Book-and still ended up making processed jams.

First, I made strawberry-rhubarb jam. Our rhubarb isn't young and tender by the time the strawberries are ready, but it seems to work anyhow.

The second recipe I tried was for Strawberry Butter. I've made peach, pear, and apple butters in the past and have found that they are basically the fruit with a lot less sugar than jam, with very little else added. The strawberry butter has a little lemon juice added.

Between the two recipes, I have a dozen jars of processed jam plus some of each type in the refrigerator to use. My family has voted each recipe a winner.

For more From Seeds to Harvest posts, visit Teaching Good Things.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Quick Trip

Clarence and I were recently discussing our low supply of whole wheat pastry flour in my mom's presence. We buy it in Indiana, at the Bonneyville Mill. Clarence said we'd have to take a trip to pick up some more because our supply wouldn't last until our usual September trip.

Mom suggested that a girls trip might be fun.

So the girls and I left home a little before 6:30 this morning to meet Mom and head out. We don't drive 3 1/2 to 4 hours just to pick up some flour, of course. There are plenty of other places to go when we get to the Shipshewana area.

We started with a Goodwill store in Elkhart. We happened to hit a 40%-off-everything sale so got a few good things, including the enamel pan pictured below. I have a larger one that I use when canning and I just couldn't leave this one in the store. Clarence just smiled when I told him that.

We got the flour at the mill, then went to the bulk food store in Shipshe, then started for home.

Since we set out for home around 3, we decided to stop at a couple other Goodwill stores on the way home.

Julianne is always looking for pretty dishes to use for mosaics (did you see this?) but she decided to pass on the dishes above (though she still bought plenty of others). They were only $3.99 and I thought they were pretty so I brought them home. We'll use them until we tire of them or they break, then I'll pass them on to her.

And then there are the corn holders. I've never seen any like this before. No reaching into the container and getting stabbed? Sounds great to me! The "functional sharp points" interlock. Aren't some people just brilliant?
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Garden update

The zucchini are off to a good start. No blossoms yet, but Clarence is keeping an eye on them. We're all getting anxious for some Honey Roasted Zucchini.

The recycled potatoes are starting to bloom. They are way ahead of the seed potatoes we planted.

This is our first picking of strawberries this year. They are from our established rows in the garden, not the strawberry tower. We are thrilled the chipmunks are allowing us to share some of them. Unfortunately, the chipmunks seem to like to take a taste out of several berries, instead of just eating one completely. I'd probably be a little more tolerant of them if they had better manners.

Allison's green beans are up. She's using her favorite hoe, a small stirrup hoe. I think it's her favorite because it reminds her of riding horses, which she loves. On the terrace behind her are the zucchini and some red bell peppers.

We've had a lot of rain the last couple of days. The plants are loving it, as are the weeds.

For more garden updates, visit Teaching Good Things for their From Seeds to Harvest challenge.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Makin' hay

Clarence and I both had grandparents who were farmers. My Gramps retired from farming when I was in early elementary school, but I remember "helping" with hay at least once. I think I was riding on the wagon as the hay was being stacked. Big helper, me. It was fun, though.

Clarence remembers, with fondness, going to his grandpa's farm every summer to help with the hay. He's been missing the experience the last few years and kept saying he was going to ask one of the neighbors if he could help when they put up their hay.

We only have a couple of acres but the neighbors behind our property both have several acres. One uses her land to pasture her horses, the one beyond her lets his friend Carl grow hay.

As we were eating dinner last night, we were talking about the rain that was predicted for today. Clarence had seen Carl out with the tractor and wagon, baling the hay.

Clarence walked over after dinner and Carl was glad for the extra hands. His wife was already helping but they were able to go faster with another helper.

(If I enlarge this photo, I can see Clarence, wearing a red hat, to the left of the horse. Julianne shot the pics for me and was afraid to walk into the field with the horses.)

They filled this wagon twice, and a utility trailer as well. They were able to finish the field before the dew could make the hay wet again, and before today's constant rainfall could ruin it.

Clarence really enjoyed himself! He was pretty tired by bedtime but I'm pretty sure he'll go over again the next time he sees Carl baling.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I sometimes complain reminisce about the early days of our marriage.

The days when Clarence would buy me flowers, just because.

Life changed.
We bought a house. Money was tight.

We had kids. Money was tight.

I quit my job to stay home and homeschool the kids. Money was tight.

I told him not to spend the inflated-for-the-holiday-price on flowers for Valentine's Day and Sweetest Day. He heard "Don't spend money on flowers". So I don't get flowers all that often anymore.

We were walking around a garden center this weekend and Julianne spotted these violets. She called me over and I was as taken with them as she was. I told Clarence that if he wanted to buy me flowers sometime, I'd take these. I'm subtle that way.

He brought this home last night after work.

I am delighted.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

The girls' gardens

Last year, we studied Botany and the girls were supposed to plan and implement a butterfly garden. Julianne was excited about it but Allison, not so much.

They couldn't agree on anything. Julianne had extremely elaborate plans and Allison was adamantly opposed to helping her carry them out. She had some ideas of her own, but Julianne didn't really care to hear them. Compromise is good, but I ran out of patience trying to get them to work together.

I ended up telling Allison she had to take ownership of one of the terraces Clarence had constructed in the front yard. She could plant whatever she wanted, but it was going to be her responsibility alone. She grew green peppers and basil and did very well.

This spring, I asked her what she planned to grow this year. She didn't know, so I suggested that she try green beans since she always serves them when it's her night to cook. She got them planted recently and they are just starting to emerge and get their true leaves. She's pretty excited.

The pinks you see are on their third year. Allison went out quite early this spring, spread compost over her terrace and hoed the whole bed. The pinks in her garden are the most spectacular and we're thinking her early care gave them a big boost.

Julianne got the wilderness area we planned to use for the butterfly garden. The propane pig is just an added bonus she's had to consider when she plans.

A few weeks ago, Clarence and I mowed down some of the weeds so he could till it. Once it was cultivated, we added the path. Last year, she gardened in the little area where she's working in this picture. This year, she has a lot more space to experiment.

Clarence and Julianne built this tee-pee last year for her sweet peas. She planted more this spring and they are starting to come up.

Julianne used to love winter. She loved the snow, building snowmen, sledding. Not this year. This year she tolerated winter by looking through seed catalogs and asking her dad how much she could order. She has become a gardener.
This is my post for the From Seeds to Harvest garden challenge being held at Teaching Good Things.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Well drained spinach

What do you see?

The label calls this a potato ricer/fruit press. I've never used it for either of those things.

What I see is a spinach draining tool extraordinaire. It is a rare frozen spinach recipe that doesn't use the spinach after it has been "thawed and very well drained".

When a recipe calls for well drained spinach, I call for the potato ricer. Oh, I used to load it into my colander and squeeze the water out of it as best I could. My hands and colander would be covered in bits of spinach but there'd still be quite a bit of water left in the spinach.

No more.

Clean hands. Very well drained spinach.

My first ever submission to Kitchen Tip Tuesday. Head over to Tammy's Recipes for more shared tips.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Awards with bad pictures

Last Wednesday night, Allison got her year-end badges for our church's CLC program. Bad mom that I am, I completely forgot to have her wear her sash. Just pretend you see a blue sash covered in awards from previous years, ok?

Then, Sunday morning, the girls were recognized for their year in quizzing.

Sunday morning Allison was also awarded the John Wesley award-the highest award in our CLC program. You earn it by completing the requirements for all the badges from 1st through 6th grade.

If you'd do me a favor and pretend you see that blue sash, covered in even more badges than before, I'd really appreciate it. My brain can't seem to remember details like "She's getting her award this morning, she needs to wear the sash."
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Garden update

For the From Seeds to Harvest challenge this week, I thought I'd update on a couple things other than the potatoes.

Clarence started romaine, spinach, and some Asian greens quite early and we've been enjoying them for a few weeks now.

We've had a couple nice surprises in the garden this spring. The radishes and the light green lettuce in the bowl are self-seeded bonuses Clarence found when weeding the parsnip patch. (Yes, Mom, I do still hate parsnips. Clarence grows them for his dad. Last year I think the total harvest was four parsnips. You'd think I'd been out there weeding them, wouldn't you?)

Clarence transplanted his "bottled" orange pepper plants into the ground in the hoop house about a week ago. The cold weather we've been having convinced him to plant them inside, since they already had peppers forming.

We've been worried that they'd go through major transplant shock since they were so far along but, so far, so good. I'm really hoping they continue to thrive.

Clarence topped off the strawberry tower with compost and planted green beans in it this week. The winter seems to have killed all the strawberries that were in it (although they cover the ground around it) so we're going to find out how beans work in it. If they grow well, it will be much nicer picking!

The girls each have their own garden areas, too, but I don't have any pictures of them yet. Hopefully, I'll get some pictures soon and be able to update on those, too.

For other gardens participating in the challenge, visit Teaching Good Things.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jar cozy

This is Julianne's latest project.

No pattern, just a picture Kathy sent in an email along with the question "Can Julianne make these?"

It isn't as simple as it looks to me, a non-crocheter. She kept working to get a good fit. She says this is about her fifth attempt.

I'm continually astonished at her ability.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Jicama slaw

The big round thing in the back of the picture is a jicama.

On several occasions when I've been buying one, the cashier or a customer behind me has asked me what it is and what to do with it. I don't know what other people do with it, but I make slaw with it.

I'll share my recipe with you, but I must forewarn you that it isn't much as recipes go. It's more like a guideline-which, if you know me at all, you know that I consider all recipes to be guidelines. So, I suppose, that makes this a perfect recipe for me.

When I was counting my weight watcher points (like I should be doing now), I think it figured out to be one point or less and that was only because of the raisins. They really are essential to the dish so don't begrudge the point, ok?

I started making this slaw in an attempt to copy the slaw we were served at Rainforest Cafe several years ago. I was surprised by the flavor when I tried it-it's kind of sweet. I'm not sure how close mine actually comes to theirs, but we like it.

I recommend making it a day ahead of time, if possible. The flavor improves significantly upon standing. A food processor or Salad Shooter makes all the shredding go quickly.

Jicama Slaw

1 Jicama, peeled (this one was a monster at over 3#-usually they're a bit smaller)
3 carrots, peeled
1/2 head cabbage
1 bell pepper (1/2 red & 1/2 yellow is pretty but I had green on hand. Shop at home.)
1 cucumber, peeled
1/2-3/4 cup raisins, soaked and drained

Pour about 1/2 cup boiling water over raisins. Allow raisins to soak 5 minutes, then drain and set raisins aside.

Shred jicama, carrots, and cabbage; place in large bowl. Dice or make short strips of bell pepper; add to bowl. Cut cucumber in lengthwise quarters, then slice and add to bowl. Add drained raisins to bowl, toss to mix.

That's it. I didn't forget the dressing, either. There isn't one. How easy is that? Adjust the amounts of the ingredients as needed. If you get a small jicama, you can use less of the other stuff, of course.

Note to raisin haters: Put them in anyhow and pick them out when you eat it. I think they are that important to the flavor.

I'd love to hear what you think if you try this.

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