Thursday, December 19, 2013

December quiz

We traveled up north for this month's quiz.  The girls and I took the opportunity to make it a weekend away with our friends by leaving Friday afternoon and spending the night at a hotel near the church where the quiz was held.  Clarence drove up Saturday morning, bringing our remaining quizzer and the coach along.

We had a lot of fun spending time with our friends but as far as a strategy for being better rested, it didn't work so well.  None of us slept really well but the kids were still able to quiz well.

Molly's brother Max joined the team this month and did well as a brand-new quizzer.  The team competed in the Senior Teen Veteran A division and came home with the first place trophy.

In individual competition, Allison took first and Molly got third place.  This is only the second month Molly has quizzed, so she is doing amazingly well.

Max came in fourth in individuals, one place shy of getting a medal, but fantastic for a first timer-and he quizzed in the Young Teen Vet division, even though he's a rookie.

Although we saw a lot of cars in the ditches as we traveled, we all made it home safely, ready to quiz another day.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

How to freak out your family for Thanksgiving

First, make sure they hear all about your Vibe vs. Semi accident a couple days prior to the holiday.  Let them know you were unhurt.

The day after the accident, keep your appointment to have skin cancer surgery-the kind where they scrape some skin off, test to see if they got all the cancer, then scrape more skin off until they are sure they have all of the bad stuff off your nose.  Make sure you don't mention the surgery ahead of time to any of the extended family.  It would ruin the effect completely.

Walk out of the surgery appointment with a ridiculous amount of bandaging on your nose, which must remain in place for 48 hours.

Go home, get some sleep.  You've had a stressful week.

Wake up on Thanksgiving with the black eye the surgeon told you to expect.

Now, at long last, all is in place to freak out your family.  Enjoy it.  It's probably the best time you'll have for a while, considering what you've done for fun this week.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful for inconvenience, instead of tragedy

There was a freezing rain advisory until 4 AM Tuesday morning and by the time Clarence left for work around 6, it was still slick.

This fall, the road commission paved about a mile of road between our road and the highway.  We've been enjoying the smooth ride and a little less mud on our commutes.  We have had concerns about how it would differ from years past once the weather changed, so Clarence was taking it slow and cautious as he headed for the highway yesterday.

As he approached the highway, he realized there was no way he would be able to get the car stopped in time, though the anti-lock brakes were working overtime, and he could see a semi truck headed for his intersection.  The braking system allowed him to maintain good control over his steering so he quickly made the decision to aim the car for the shoulder of the highway, heading south on the northbound shoulder.  There was nowhere for the trucker to go, as there was traffic from the opposite direction as well, and he hit the passenger side of our poor little Vibe.

The airbags deployed (so glad we got the driver's side one fixed this summer!) but Clarence had closed his eyes, waiting for the impact, so he didn't see that happen.  He says the airbag didn't hit him, either, since he was almost stopped by then and he sits so far back due to his height.

It seems, to me, an incredibly small amount of visible damage for being hit by a semi.  We're pretty sure it's too old for fixing it to be a viable option, though the insurance adjuster hasn't seen it yet.  We decided to see if we could find a replacement, just in case, especially since we've talked about adding another car to our fleet for several months.

We were pretty excited to find another Vibe, three years newer than ours, though our old one has nicer options than this one.  We'll miss power windows and door locks (hard to remember having a car without those "basics" or a clicker to lock and unlock it-how spoiled we are!).

It made for a busy day, trying to decide between new or used, and looking at what was available.  Even though it was a hassle, I was so thankful it was only an inconvenience when it could have easily been a tragedy.  We feel so, so blessed.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Power outage

We lost our power Sunday night so I made dinner by lamplight on Monday.  I was thankful for my gas range which allowed me to light the burners by hand so I could cook.

I have a collection of oil lamps and am always glad to have a reason to put them into use.  We have a woodstove in our living room, which helped keep the house more comfortable.  Clarence got his generator running so we wouldn't lose all the contents of our refrigerator and freezers.  The weather, though very windy, was not terribly cold which would have made things more difficult.  As it was, we had a lot to be thankful for.

After about 24 hours, the power came back on and our pioneer party was over.  It was a long week.
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

FIAR Moms Reunion

I was thrilled to get to spend a few hours catching up with dear friends today. 

Eleven years ago this month, we had our very first Five in a Row co-op day.  We read Cranberry Thanksgiving and were done by lunchtime.

I remember the kids making bookmarks by stamping them with cut cranberries but my only other memories of that day are of how shy the kids were with each other (of course, I was shy, too) and the thought that this group seemed very promising.

It turned out to be the only group we stayed with all through the years.  We drifted in and out of various other, larger, co-ops but they all paled in comparison to what we had with this group.  It was a good fit in those early months because it expanded on our main curriculum.  It remained a good fit not only because the families all became friends but also because there was a lot of brilliance in the minds of these women below.  They had amazing ideas accompanied by great follow-through and I credit them with making our homeschooling journey not only more successful, but also a whole lot more fun.

 (I'm stealing my friend Cheri's picture since, bad blogger that I am, I didn't even take my camera along.)

As we continued to meet, the ideas expanded and became day-long events each month.  Our planning sessions helped us get to know each other better and become good friends.  We'd often be brainstorming ideas when we should have been heading for home, because we'd spent all the planning time talking and laughing together.  As the kids grew, we moved away from the FIAR curriculum but remained a literature-based group, reading a book each month and doing corresponding activities.  We're down to three families now, but have no plans to give it up yet.

Time moves on, circumstances change, and it had been a few years since we'd all been together.  The idea of a reunion was mentioned and we all managed to make some time today to get together and play catch up.  It's hard to believe the youngest of our kids is now 12-he was just a baby when we met.  The oldest of the group is now a couple years into his enlistment in the Marines.

I am so thankful God brought us together all those years ago.  I left our reunion once again feeling so thankful for the blessing they have each been to me and so happy to have been able to spend a little time with them-just like old times.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October Quiz

The Bible quizzing season is back.  This year, the quizzers will work their way through the book of Matthew.

It's different this year, with Julianne trying her hand as quizmaster, and Allison quizzing without her.  Another reminder that they're growing up quickly.

In individual competition, Allison ended up placing 3rd.

Allison was able to join with another team for the team competition.  They were supposed to have another quizzer, but she was sick the day of the quiz.  The two remaining girls still managed to take third place in the team competition.

We are hopeful that Allison will have a team of her own by next quiz.  She and Julianne have recruited their friend, Molly, to join in the fun and we may yet add another quizzer from our church.  Even if no one else from our church joins, Allison and Molly will be able to compete as a two person team and oh, my, are they ever looking forward to it.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Meeting Phil Vischer

This past spring, our FIAR group read Phil Vischer's autobiography, Me, Myself, and Bob.  The kids suggested this book, mostly because they wanted our activity for the day to be a VeggieTales marathon.

As a mom of VeggieTales groupies, it was, at times, a difficult book to read because we so love VeggieTales.  Phil Vischer is incredibly gifted and it was heartbreaking to read about the downfall of the company he had invested so much of his time, talents, and energy into creating.  But you have to keep reading because it ultimately is not a sad story, but rather a story of how God used the failure of his business to teach him some things, as well as to direct his path.

One of the other FIAR moms heard about Phil Vischer coming to the area to speak at a church this past weekend.  The church has both Saturday night and Sunday morning services, so we all met there Saturday evening to hear him share his story and some of the lessons God taught him through those bad experiences.  It was well worth the hour-and-a-half drive for us, especially when the kids got to meet him afterward.

It was a pretty big deal to meet him-especially considering Julianne's comments for her commencement program included the following:

I’m tempted to attempt thanking everyone who has helped my education thus far, beginning with Phil Vischer and Veggietales, or Tom Clark and his obsession with why.  However, in the interest of saving trees I think I’ll just cover the highlights.  You can all breathe a sigh of relief.


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Thursday, September 12, 2013

2013 Garden

It seems like an off year for our garden.  The weather has been different this year, and Clarence has been working on our bathroom a lot of the time he would normally have spent in the garden.  I haven't done any gardening due to some issues with my hands so I've been especially thankful for the help the girls have given us with weeding and harvesting.

When our beans weren't producing in July, as is usual, I started to think we weren't going to get much at all out of the garden.  Every time Clarence or one of the girls would bring in something, it seemed like a special blessing because it honestly wasn't looking very promising to me.

The beans eventually came on like gangbusters and, if I don't can any more than I already have, we'll have plenty. 

After I considered buying cucumbers from the farm market, Allison came in with a basket full of them that was more than enough to make the girls' favorite bread and butter pickles.

We got a nice amount of onions, which is better than normal for us.  The potatoes still need to be dug, but Clarence and Allison have already grabbed a few and it looks like we will have a good amount of them as well.

The tomatoes are ripening slowly and, if we don't get an early frost, I'm sure we'll be pleased with the amount produced.  There are some jalapenos and bell peppers ready to pick for making salsa, too.

We've had a fair amount of corn for dinner (I don't can or freeze corn), and beets are growing for a fall harvest.  Our zucchini hasn't done as well as years past, but we've enjoyed several of them as well. 

The basil has done beautifully.  Clarence brought in a paper bag of basil tonight and I was able to make this pesto.  He harvested it a while back, too, so I already had a few jars in the freezer.  (If you wonder why I have old dates and contents on my lids, I use old canning lids with my Foodsaver to vacuum seal the jars before freezing.  Sealing stuff in jars is my main use for my Foodsaver-it is well worth ordering the attachment if you have a Foodsaver.)

So, after such a slow start, our garden has done very well.  Oh, me of little faith.
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Sunday, September 8, 2013

New WalMart training

Allison picked some of Clarence's dahlias to enjoy in the house.  They have nothing to do with this post, except that I thought I needed a picture.

I don't venture into WalMart very often, but there are some items that are enough cheaper there that I make the extra stop once in a while.  This past week was one of those times.

The girls each needed a new planner for the school year and I wanted to get some other odds and ends while I was waiting to pick Julianne up from work.  Having time to kill (therefore, time to look around) makes for a much more expensive trip than being in a hurry and loading only those things on my list into the cart.

I found cute planners, but not notebook filler paper.  Big packs of index cards and, oh, yeah, the last time I tried using my white-out, it was all dried up, so into the cart it went.  Then off to the health and beauty department to get various things.

I finally arrived at the self-checkout lane and started scanning my items.  When I scanned my white-out, the register told me to wait for assistance.  Who knew they had to card you for correction fluid?

The checkout girl walked over, carefully punched in her numbers, then turned and very deliberately looked at my face.  I smiled and said "I'm 50."

She responded with "Really?  If you were buying booze, I would have carded you because you only look 35."

I laughed and thanked her-and as I walked away, I mused that I felt a lot better about my $80 bill than I had before she had to verify my age.  I'm convinced this was some sort of marketing ploy.  Well played, WalMart.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

She did it!

Last Saturday was Julianne's commencement ceremony.

Julianne and her friend, Samantha, were the only graduates, which made for a small ceremony, but it was a very special day.  One of the big co-ops here offers a graduation ceremony to any homeschoolers who want to participate-but you don't get to choose your own color cap and gown.  I still find that strange, since homeschoolers by definition are independent thinkers.  So we had to do it ourselves.

Allison played the piano for the ceremony, then sang with Julianne while Julianne played, in lieu of having to fit a piano recital into our too-hectic schedule this spring.

Emily made Julianne toss her cap into the air when we were outside for pictures.  Some traditions just can't be broken, ya know.

Julianne's cap, by the way, is a Dr. Seuss "Oh, the Places You'll Go" cap.  When I saw it on Amazon, I knew it was perfect for her.  She agreed.

Some of our dear Five in a Row friends made the long drive to spend the day with us.  Unfortunately, a ninja snuck in and knocked Max out of the picture.  Looks like Molly is in imminent danger, too!

We are so proud of you, Julianne.  You've worked diligently to reach this milestone and we look forward to seeing what you accomplish next.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Making Ricotta

While the Mozzarella making was underway, the kids were also making a batch of Ricotta.

They used citric acid in the milk, but they didn't need the rennet.

Julianne stirred and stirred to keep the milk from sticking as it heated.  Max was the temperature-checker, which was a worse job because he had to hold his hand closer to the hot milk than she did as she stirred.

They strained it through cheesecloth, then hung it from a wooden spoon to allow the whey to finish draining.

It was quite tasty with crackers.

And again, the process was actually simpler than I would have expected.
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Monday, April 1, 2013

Mama's Bank Account

I've been remiss in blogging about our FIAR co-op days.  For March, we read the book Mama's Bank Account, a book the girls and I really liked.  It was made into a play and movie titled I Remember Mama.

At our day together, we discussed bank accounts, cash vs. credit, and the kids did some interest computations to see the power of compounding interest.  We compared the book to the movie and talked about reasons for the differences.  For snack, it seemed like I had hundreds of choices but I ultimately settled on making gingerbread.

 In the book, it mentions Mama making cheese and our friends offered a cheese-making kit to use for the occasion.  We started out by making mozzarella.

Adding the rennet...

cutting into cubes...

lifting the cubes out of the whey...

squeezing more whey out after microwaving the cheese.

I was surprised at how easy it was to make mozzarella.  That ball of cheese in the last picture is the amount we got from a half gallon of milk.

We also tried making ricotta but I'll save that for the next post.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My latest project

Ah, another long absence from blogging for no good reason.  I seem to have stopped using my camera, which means I don't even consider posting anything on my blog.

I nearly forgot my camera the other day, and I had actually completed a little project!

The girls have a dear friend who is turning 16 this week.  A party was planned in her honor, by a friend who enlisted help from Julianne and Allison.  They decided on a music theme, as music is one of Molly's passions.

It so happened that I recently checked out a library book called Fabric by Fabric One-Yard Wonders.  One of the projects in the book was a guitar, which I decided would make a nice addition to the decorations the girls were putting together.

It made a cute display next to the banner Julianne made out of old albums.

Molly arrived home to shouts of "Surprise".

Sadly, there was one surprise none of us had anticipated.  Both my girls ended up sick on Sunday and couldn't attend the party they had had such fun helping plan.

The girls have talked to both Molly and their co-conspirator, Sarah.  From all reports, the party was a success and Molly enjoyed herself.  

Happy Sweet 16, Molly!
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My most unique Christmas gift

I know, it's New Year's Day and I'm just talking about Christmas.  I've been part of an email list of homeschool moms for several years and, the other day, one of them asked what our favorite Christmas gift was.  I've been short on bloggy inspiration for so long that I decided to answer her question here.

I visited a new store a while back and was telling Clarence about all the cool things I saw there (including a cute chair I got for the living room).  The item I kept thinking about was a vintage clothes drying rack.  I'd never seen anything like it before.  You lift the dowels up, pull them out, and a ring on the end serves as a stop so they don't slide too far out.  Ingenious!

 I love how little space it takes up when not in use.  I love that I can hang something to dry on it like I would on a hanger.  I love that it's just so different than anything I've seen before.

I especially love that he remembered I'd mentioned it and found a way to get it for me, from a store that closes before he could get there after work.

So, moving on from Christmas...Wishing all of you joy and peace in 2013!
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