Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Holiday...

So, we were listening to the game on the way home from church yesterday, and one of the announcers said, among other things, "Happy Halloween." 

I find that offensive. 

That same announcer won't dare to say Merry Christmas in 6 weeks.  Why is it that he can mention Halloween, but not Christmas, hmmm?  Something to think about.

Another someone, not one of the announcers, was quoting scripture to illustrate what our team needed to do to win. 
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

That was interesting--he sounded very....passionate.  But he wasn't saying it in a God-is-on-OUR-team's-side way, he was just saying that God's wisdom applies in ordinary, every-day circumstances, even in football games.  That's a good thing to remember, every day.  Feel free to think about that one, too :)

Alright, so I wanted to break the following up into two posts, but I did a media fast on Saturday and didn't get to it on Sunday, so it's all going down here.  Hope I don't lose anyone...

In honor of today's Happy H-H-Holiday, we made some fun little creepy things last week.

We made these spiders (who spent much of the day being chased by owls, but that's another post):
 And some webs for them:
 We also made these glue ghost window clings (they really stick to the windows):

And we had fun with pumpkins.
We did some pumpkin-themed sequencing:
 And made these mosaic pumpkins (or quilt blocks?)
(You can see the finished mosaic in the above photo):
It was such a treat to watch the light of discovery in the kids' eyes as they discovered that two right triangles make a square.

And, of course, pumpkin muffins:
And now, on to the next h-h-happy h-h-holiday!

How to:

Spiders: you will need 2 pipe cleaners, 2 pom poms (same size or different sizes), and 2 (or more) googly eyes.  Cut the pipe cleaners in half, then stack them together and twist in the middle to form 8 legs.  Bend each leg in a Z shape.  Glue the pom poms together, and glue eyes on the head, then glue the head/abdomen to the legs.  Remember to let it dry before playing with your spider!

Spider web: you will need a heavy duty paper plate (like Chinet), black yarn, and a hole punch.  Punch holes around the edge of the plate--we used 6" plates, and made 8 holes.  Cut a length of black yarn and tie one end to the plate through one of the holes.  Lace the yarn through the holes in the plate, making sure to criss-cross the plate.  Tie the yarn off when your spider web is webbed to your liking.

Ghost Clings: line a tray or baking sheet with waxed paper.  Draw a ghost outline on the wax paper with regular school glue (I used a marker first, then traced with glue).  Fill in the ghost with glue--use a toothpick or straw to spread the glue around.  We also added googly eyes to our ghosts.  Let dry (this might take a couple of days, depending on how generous you choose to be with the glue), then peel carefully from the wax paper.  To apply to the window get the back of your cling wet.  Very wet.  This next part is very messy, but don't be afraid.  Apply the cling to the window and hold for about 30 seconds until it stays by itself.  When it's dry, use a paper towel or cloth and glass cleaner to clean around your cling.  To remove the cling, peel off, then use glass cleaner to remove any residue.

Pumpkin Quilt Blocks: you can, of course, print off the materials provided by Making Learning Fun for this project, but I decided to make my own grid, with 2.5" squares, to make it easier to use a paper cutter to cut my blocks.  If I were to do this again, I would either print my grid on colored paper, or use colored paper (perhaps yellow) in place of the white blocks--the kids didn't see any point in gluing white paper on top of white paper, and I can't say I blame them.

Pumpkin Muffins (thanks to my sis, Buckwheat, for the recipe): Add a 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin to a cake mix--any flavor (we used spice, and the muffins turned out a nice orange color, but I've heard that yellow cake and chocolate cake also are delicious for this recipe)--and stir until combined.  Bake, using the cake mix instructions for cupcakes.  That's it!  So easy, and so moist and delicious!  We made ours in my Nordic-Ware mini bundt pan (similar to this one), so they'd look like pumpkins, and added a lime tootsie-roll stem to each.

Bonus craft:
3-D paper pumpkin (we did make these, but I didn't get a picture.  Hopefully you can imagine what I'm talking about): Trace 6 circles onto orange paper and cut out--ours were about 3 3/8" diameter, so that we could fit all of them onto one sheet of paper.  Fold each circle in half, and glue half of each circle to half of the next circle until you have all 6 stacked on top of each other--it'll be in a semi-circle shape.  Glue the very top half to the very bottom half, et voila! you have a sphere (sort of).  Add a brown or green stem, and you're done.  This one kept Bubby busy for a good 15 minutes while we were at karate, and his circle cutting improved immensely over the course of the project. Click here for a similar one (with a picture!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friendly Friday: The Kinding Mission

Have you heard about this?  So there's this brand called KIND--

(From their website):
KIND is a brand of all natural whole nut and fruit bars made from ingredients you can see and pronounce and it's also a movement that gives new purpose to snacking.
 At KIND we do things a bit differently.
 KIND was founded on the principle of holistic kindness, and we pride ourselves on creating new paths that avoid false compromises. Instead of "Or" we say "And". We choose healthy and tasty, convenient and wholesome, economically sustainable and socially impactful.
 And every month, on the first Tuesday, they have what's called a Kinding Mission--the next one is November 1, which is next Tuesday.  The Kinding Mission is a challenge to carry out a kind act.  Sound familiar?  That's what our own AllisonO has been challenging her friends and readers (who are friends she just hasn't met yet) to do.

For example, in September the Kinding Mission was to give a book, newspaper or magazine to someone else to enjoy, and in October the Kinding Mission was to send a thoughtful note or email to a woman who had impacted his or her life.

Hello, Friendly Fridayers!  Are you paying attention?  They are telling you what to do!  So easy!  No excuses!  You can check out the archives for other ideas.



The best part?  If enough people accept the mission, the KIND team facilitates a BIG kind act for a group of people who really need it.

Ready to accept your mission?  OK, November's Kinding Mission is this:
On KIND Tuesday, November 1st (or ANY time before midnight on November 1st), we invite you to do ANY act of kindness for ANYONE of your choosing. Whether it's opening the door for someone else or buying a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you, every act of kindness makes a difference.
Me?  I'm busy making a couple of apple pies to take to our new neighbors.

So how about it, friends?  Are you ready to do the KIND thing?  If you blog about it, please hop on over to O My Family and link up to encourage others in performing unexpected acts of kindness.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

 The other day, 2/3 of my children carved their pumpkins.  It was ooey gooey fun!  The kids did the conceptualizing and scooped, and Daddy did the cutting.  My job was to separate the seeds from the pulp for roasting.
After I washed and dried the seeds, I separated them into two batches. 

With one, I made traditional roasted pumpkin seeds:
Mix 1.5 c pumpkin seeds with 2 T melted butter and toss with 1 t salt.  Spread in single layer on baking sheet, and roast at 350* for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Mmmm.  This was my personal best pumpkin seed roasting experience--I think it must have been because of the butter.

With the other, I made cinnamon roasted pumpkin seeds.  I followed a recipe I found online (I think maybe from Allrecipes.com), with a bit of trepidation.  See, I was afraid if I added the sugar right away, it would burn before the seeds were completely roasted.  I used 1.5 cups of pumpkin seeds, 2 T melted butter, 1 t ground cinnamon, 1/2 t ground nutmeg, and a pinch of salt, and roasted at 350* for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I was right--it did.  Burn, that is, just in the last 2 minutes.  So, if I was to do it again, I would either just add the sugar for the last 10 minutes or so of roasting, or do as An Almost Unschooling Mom suggests and roast them without sugar, then pop the hot seeds into a plastic bag with some sugar and shake.  They were still pretty good, even with a little bit of a burnt flavor, and the house smelled heavenly while they were roasting :)
Do you have a favorite pumpkin seed recipe?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tuesday's Tip revisited

Remember when I told you to label your leftover paint?  I also gave you a link to a page with some ideas for what to do with leftover paint and mentioned that my favorite idea was to make artwork.  Well, my friends, the time has come for me to show you what I came up with.

I wanted to create some artwork for our guest bedroom, which recently moved to a new space that we painted a lovely tanish shade with a bright blue accent wall (this color scheme was unabashedly stolen from one of my favorite sisters in law because, while I know what I like when I see it, I have absolutely no "vision" when it comes to decorating).  We actually didn't have any paint leftover from the project, so I bought some 11x14 inch canvases and craft paints in complementary colors and got to work. 

I love being outside, so I wanted to bring the outdoors in by using items found in nature to paint.
 For this piece, I had Bubby use a foam brush to paint the background a swirly blue, then I used willow tree branches dipped in off-white, tan, brown, and burgundy to decorate the canvas.  The effect almost looks like birch trees, which I love.

 For this piece I used a foam brush to paint blended vertical stripes of brown, tan, and white.  The effect is almost like tree bark, which I also love.  Then I applied paint to a couple of different sizes of birch leaves and used them to decorate the canvas.

For this piece, I first painted the canvas using an antique white, allowed it to dry and masked off different sized blocks.  You can see I got a little over-zealous with the brown at the bottom (oops).  This is actually the second iteration of this piece.  In the original, after the painted blocks dried, I dipped the base of a pine cone in burgundy and turquoise paint, and rolled it on the canvas to create rings.  I got a little over-zealous with my rings, as well, didn't like the way it looked, and decided to start over.  It looks a little plain to me, so I may try to do just one burgundy pine cone ring, off-set over the center light brown, blue and light blue squares--I'm a little gun-shy, though, so I haven't quite worked up my courage to try it yet.

I'm happy with my one-of-a-kind artwork--I think they'll look great hanging in our guest room...as soon as Hubby gets around to helping me hang them...and it was so easy.  You should try it.

Flashlight

Uh, if I'm going to be the one walking AKD out to his bus stop in the morning, I think I'm gonna need a flashlight.  It's pitch dark out there at that time of day.  Tomorrow morning, try this: wake up at 6:15 a.m. and walk outside your house with no house or porch lights on.  OK, now imagine, if you can, no streetlights, and a curvy, hilly 1/8 mile driveway, surrounded by pine trees, to walk down.

Oh, but it was beautiful.  I had to pause as I stepped out into the crisp, cool early morning and noticed the thousands of twinkling lights in the sky and the shadow the earth cast on the moon.  What a magical time of day to be out and about.

14 And God said,
“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”
And it was so.
16 God made two great lights—
the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.
He also made the stars.
17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.
And God saw that it was good.
19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. 
Genesis 1:14-19

1 LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Psalm 8:1,3-4

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's new

Here's what we've been up to around here since the last time we talked:

Bubby got his stitches out.

We made some caramel apples.  Yum!

We adopted a fish from our neighbors, who are moving, and can't take him with them. 

 We went to the pumpkin patch/corn maze/harvest celebration.

MC got his green belt (don't ask me why Hubby didn't take any pictures of MC in said green belt).

What's new with you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friendly Friday: Give 'em a hand!

That's right, friends: it's time for another installment in the Friendly Friday series, inspired by Allison over at O My Family. Allison has challenged her friends and readers (who are friends she just hasn't met yet) to go out of their way to perform acts of kindness, and then share about their experiences.

We do this, not to boast, but to encourage one another, to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). It is through these small acts of kindness that we bring glory to God, and in these actions, the kingdom of heaven draws near. 

I know you've been waiting all week for this, because you're just as obsessed with Friendly Friday as I am.  Right?  Right?  OK, maybe not.

This week, I had an opportunity to get some very inexpensive hand sanitizer from the home improvement store.  You know, the one where you can "save big money."  Very inexpensive as in twenty-five cents for 8 fl. oz.  Yeah, I know it's not free, but it was the best I could do on short notice.

Here's what I did with it:
 I just traced some hands (these are mine, since I forgot to trace MC's before he headed out that morning, having been distracted by the jacket issue and all) on construction paper, cut them out and wrote, "{name of person}, you deserve a "hand!" on each left hand.  Then I taped a pair of hands to the front and back of each sanitizer bottle, to sort of kind of look like clapping hands, and delivered them to MC's school for his teachers (when I was there check the lost and found due to the jacket issue).

I've been meaning to do this for a while...quite a while, in fact...but it took Friendly Friday (and a sale on hand sanitizer) to prod me into action.  I'm so thankful for my children's teachers--for all of the love and effort they put into caring for my children when they're away from me, and I wanted to show them, in even just this small way, that I'm thinking about them and appreciate them.

Did you step out in kindness this week?  Feel free to share. You can also click here to visit O My Family Blog to read about the experiences of others, and be inspired to make a difference this week.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fuzzy and pink

So when I went to school yesterday, I found one jacket of ours in the lost and found, and MC managed to remember to bring home a sweatshirt.  That leaves 2 or 3 more out there somewhere.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to run down the hall to search outside of MC's classroom.  Maybe next week...
*****
Bubby got his stitches out yesterday.  I'll spare you the details, but in some ways getting them out was more difficult than putting them in, for Bubby, me, and the health care professionals.  But now they're out.
*****
AKD just finished up his 6 week "Family and Consumer Ed" class at school.  This is the class that used to be good ol' home-ec, when I was in Jr. High.  It's been a good class for me.  For instance, one of his assignments was to cook a meal for his family.  I loved that assignment.  He had to clean up, too.  Anyway, here's one of the simple and yummy recipes they made in class--you'll definitely want to double or triple this one.

Cinnamon Snails
4 slices of bread (we used store brand whole wheat bread)
1/4 c. cream cheese
3 T butter
2 T cinnamon sugar mix
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Trim crusts from bread (AKD used a pizza cutter)
  3. Soften cream cheese in microwave for 20 seconds.  Spread 1 T of cream cheese on each slice of bread (AKD used substantially less than this).
  4. Roll up bread slices with cream cheese inside.
  5. Slice each roll into 3 pieces.
  6. Put butter in a custard cup and melt in the microwave for 20 seconds.
  7. Dip one cut side of each roll in the melted butter (AKD dipped one uncut side) and then in the cinnamon-sugar mix.  Dip only one cut end.
  8. Place rolls, buttered and sugared side up on greased baking sheet.
  9. Bake 5-8 minutes.
MmmMmm!  So good.  The next time I make this, I think I'll sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar on the cream cheese before I roll the bread up.
*****
And now, seriously, this is so exciting, I'm not sure how I managed to keep from blurting it out this long.  Hubby bought me a present yesterday when I was at the Mart.  (Don't worry--I showed it to him when he got home).  It's fuzzy.  It's pink.  It's Animal slippers!  I looooove them!  So warm and fuzzy and pink...  And I had to get a Muppets DVD from the library today, so my kids would understand. *sigh* They're growing up in a world where the Muppet Show exists only on digital media--so sad.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jackets

MC keeps leaving his jackets at school.  I say jacketS because by now he has a collection of 4 or 5 jackets and sweatshirts hanging out somewhere at school.  The problem is, it's cold in the morning, so he'll wear a jacket, but by the time the kids are getting out of school, it's not as cool any more, and he doesn't think he needs it, so he just leaves it there.  What?!  Does he not realize that it's going to be cold again in the morning?

I remind him in the morning.  I tell him to take his jacket off and put it into his backpack when he gets to school.  I tell him he can take it out again if he needs it at recess.  I write notes to him in his assignment notebook: "remember your jacket!"  I scold him when he comes home without a jacket and remind him that he's going to need one the next day.  It's not working.  Nothing's working.

And we're running out of jackets.

OK, not really.  Have you been in our basement where I keep all the kids' coats hanging up?  Not kidding--we've got at least 25 of various sizes and weights down there (I buy them when they're on clearance in the spring or at Goodwill on Toddler Thursday).


But I am running out of patience or goodwill or something.

I've always been a natural consequences kind of mom.  If my kids don't put something away and can't find it, well good, I guess they just won't get to play with or use that whatever.  So I know what I should do.  But I'm struggling a little bit with this one, wondering if it's a health and safety issue.  I would love to send him out to the bus stop on this chilly 38*F morning wearing nothing but his T-shirt, so that maybe, just maybe, when it's time to come home, MC will remember to bring a coat or two home, too. 

But it's cold out there.  I don't want my baby to be cold.

But if he needs to be cold to learn this lesson, I would be doing him a disservice to let him take yet another jacket to school.

But what will other people (other people, who just happen to be mandated reporters for suspected abuse) think if I send my kid to school on such a cold day without a jacket? (Hopefully they would think, "hey, good parenting," but somehow I doubt it).

I'm not sure how this is going to turn out today--at least MC's wearing a long-sleeved shirt.  I think maybe he has another sweatshirt in his closet that might end up going with him.  And I know I'll be driving past the school this afternoon, so I'll probably pop in to raid the lost and found for our property (I can't imagine he would have all 4 or 5 of them hanging on his hook--there's not enough room).  I'll let you know.
No jacket.  He doesn't even look cold, does he?

*******

And now, I'm wondering if you could do me a favor.  Could you please leave me a comment telling me how you found me?  I feel like I'm talking to myself, here, which is fine, I enjoy talking to myself, but I know it's not true because I've seen my stats.  Someone's reading.  Actually a lot of someones are reading.  If you don't have a blogger profile, you can leave your comment anonymously or choose the name/url option from the drop down menu--you don't need an url.  Thanks.  I owe you one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We have an astonishing number of oak leaves on the ground, considering we only have 2 oak trees, and they both still have most of their leaves.  I'm not sure where they could be coming from...but I'm not complaining.


After all, what could be more fun than raking up a huge pile of leaves...


and then jumping in it?

Or throwing them up in the air?



Or being buried in them?


No leaves at your house? No problem--just head out to your favorite deciduous-tree-endowed park with your leaf rake, or even a snow shovel. If you're worried about looking silly, don't be--anyone else who happens to be at the park at the same time will be joining in the fun before you know it!


 Click here to check out my bloggy pal Valerie's idea for indoor leaf pile fun.

Tuesday's Tip: Keeping Inventory

Shortly after Bubby was born, my in-laws found this cute little chest freezer, which Bbil referred to as a "starter freezer," for us. I'm not going to say that I don't know what I'd do without my chest freezer, because I do know. After all, I managed to survive for more than 3 decades without one, but I'm glad to have the extra freezer space so I can take advantage of sale prices on meats and frozen items.


It's great to have extra freezer space, but, as we all know, empty space begs to be filled, and it's difficult to keep track of exactly what's in the freezer. Enter today's tip.

For at least a couple of years now, I've kept a dry erase board magnetically attached to the door of the freezer--I use it to keep inventory. When I take something out, I erase it; when I put something in, I add it to the list. It's not perfect, because sometimes I send one of the kids to the freezer, but I try to remember to add or erase the next time I'm there.



It's so great to be able to just look at my list to see how much more ground beef I have, or how many pork chops, or which frozen meals are available to me--so much nicer than digging around in there.

If your freezer has a smooth finish, you might be able to skip the dry erase board and write directly on the surface with dry erase markers.  Just be sure to test the markers in a hidden area first.  This is a great way to keep track of leftovers in the refrigerator, as well.

Bonus tip: to remove dry erase markings that have been left too long, just use glass cleaner, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol and a cloth or paper towel.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My husband told me the other day that he's going to be traveling for work a lot during the next couple of months.  He might finally get to Mexico and last night he was telling me about the grueling long flights back and forth to Ireland.  Yes, that Ireland--he might go there next month!  I'll have him drink a beer for you while he's there.

But before you even think it, stop.  You should know that if one more person says to me, "I don't know how you do it," I will scream.  No maybe about it.  Once and for all, here is how I "do it."  I do what needs to be done because, as the adult, I have to.  I am not a saint or a supermom or even very nice sometimes.  I do what I can and the rest falls by the wayside because I am only human.

When Hubby's gone, I try to fulfill all of my responsibilities, along with as many of his as I can.  Let me just clue you in here, in case you're still not convinced: I always fail miserably.  Always.

Here are just some of the things that Hubby does for us, that we miss when he's away.
  • Pours drinks at supper time
  • Takes boys to Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, FROG, and karate
  • Walks AKD to the bus stop (at 6:22 a.m.!)
  • Puts clean dishes away
  • Cleans the stove top
  • Tells awesome bedtime "no book" stories
  • Uses the broken elevator to put Bubby in bed
  • Mows the lawn
  • Reaches stuff on high shelves
  • Kills and removes bugs, spiders, and other creepy crawlies
  • Deals with household malfunctions
  • Picks apples
  • Makes breakfast
  • Changes Bubby's bandage
  • Plays with us
  • Cheers at soccer games
  • Puts clean clothes away
  • Keeps boys on task with their chores
  • Gets the oil changed in our vehicles
  • Helps me rearrange furniture
  • Takes us fishing and canoeing and kayaking and hiking
  • Cleans up after vomiting children
  • Lets boys "help" him
  • Provides emotional support and parenting back-up
  • Hugs and kisses us
  • Loves us
We are so thankful to have our husband and daddy :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

You may have heard that we had a bit of excitement here yesterday afternoon, when Bubby racked up his first ER visit (if you're keeping score, AKD's been to the ER twice, plus had a broken thumb that was treated at the clinic and MC has had zero ER visits).  Bubby managed to hit his head hard enough on the wooden part of our rocker/glider to open up a pretty deep gash above his left eye, and I knew it would require stitches. 

He was a superstar in the ER, lying still like a pro while the nurse put the numbing gel in, and then while the doctor and PA were putting in the four stitches.  He's doing great today--he says it doesn't hurt at all.  He's a little worried about pulling clothes on and off over his head, and he thinks it's a bad idea to take the band-aid off to clean and re-dress the wound, but other than that he's fine.  He needs to go have the stitches taken out in 5 or 6 days.

I just wanted to say a little something about divine provision.  While I fervently wish that this whole episode had never occurred, since it did happen, the timing couldn't have been much better.  You see, I was caring for 3 little ones yesterday, my Bubby, plus the little girl I babysit twice a week, Pal, plus the little girl I babysit every other week, Car.  Usually Car leaves around 2 p.m., but yesterday her mom had a doctors appointment and Car ended up staying a little later than usual.  When Bubby hit his head a little before 3 p.m., and I realized that he was going to need medical attention, I had no idea what I was going to with the girls.  Turns out Car's mom was just a few minutes out, on her way to get Car, so J ended up taking both girls for me.

If Bubby had hit his head earlier in the day, J would not have been able to take Pal, and might not have been able to get back to pick up Car, either, because of her appointment.  If Bubby had hit his head later, Car would have been gone already, and I would have had to 1. take Pal with us or 2. drop her off at her Aunt's house (and I wasn't sure Aunt G was even home) or 3. waited until Pal's mom came to pick her up.

God knew that I was going to need some help, and what can I say?  God provides.  Amen.  Thanks for being there, J.

I know I should probably take a picture of Bubby's stitches for posterity's sake, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do it just yet.  The wound is still too fresh and ugly on my sweet baby's face.

Friendly Friday: Muffins

That's right, friends: it's time for another installment in the Friendly Friday series, inspired by Allison over at O My Family.  Allison has challenged her friends and readers (who are friends she just hasn't met yet) to go out of their way to perform acts of kindness, and then share about their experiences. 

We do this, not to boast, but to encourage one another, to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). It is through these small acts of kindness that we bring glory to God, and in these actions, the kingdom of heaven draws near. 

Last week, Allison mentioned she had been struggling with her motives for doing good, wondering if she is doing good because it feels good or because it is good.  Because of this, she said that this week she was going to be performing her act of kindness anonymously.  To read about Allison's experience this week, click here.

I don't know if you know this about me, but I prefer to be kind in private.  I would much rather sneak around and do something for someone who either doesn't know it was me, or doesn't know me at all--something about "do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret."  I get such a kick out of knowing that, even if they wanted to, the receiver of my gift would not be able to reciprocate, except by giving to another (control issues, anyone?)

Friendly Fridays, from the very beginning, struck me as a great way to build community, and so, independently of Allison, I had decided that this week I needed to step out of my comfort zone and direct my kindness toward someone who knows it's me.

The other day I mentioned that Pal, Bubby, and I made some muffins.  What I didn't tell you is that we made them with the intention of sharing.  We finally used up that zucchini that's been sitting on the counter (the kids got such a kick out of shredding it in the food processor) to make zucchini muffins, and we also used up the banana that was past its prime (along with some others from the freezer) to make banana muffins.

We put some of each kind in a paper bag, with a card saying "happy fall" and indicating what kind each was, along with some ribbon.  Then we set off for the neighbor's house to give them away.  I envisioned me knocking on the door, and our neighbor answering, me giving her the bag with the muffins and us having a nice little chat about the latest in our lives, while the kids played with the neighbor's dog: a lovely, and friendly, scene, to be sure.



It's such a simple thing, isn't it?  Sharing with others?  Showing kindness?  It's so simple, in fact, that a lot of times we forget how important it is.  It's really not difficult, but how often do you go that little bit out of your way for someone else?  How often do you lift your head up, out of your day to day existence, and look around at the others with whom you're sharing life?

It was a gorgeous day--sunny and 80 degrees--box elder beetles were buzzing everywhere.  As we walked up the driveway, I was basking in the warmth of the sun's rays, and the kids were chasing fuzzy orange and black caterpillars as they zipped across the pavement.  We walked across the street, knocked on the door, and waited.

Nothing.

Knocked again, and still nothing.  No one was home, so we left the muffins on the porch.  Well!  That did not go according to plan.  So much for non-secret kindness :)  So much for the cozy little scene I'd imagined.

We walked up the hill to visit the goats and horse who live there, and then back home.  Later, as I drove past the house on the way to karate, I noticed that the bright red bag was gone, so I'm pretty sure our neighbors found their treat--I hope it was our neighbors and not some wild creature.  I don't know if they know it was us, but that's OK.

I am reminded of the saying, "we plan, God laughs."  I can plan and scheme as much as I want about friendly Friday, or about any other area of my life, but in the end, it's God who calls the shots.  We are called, not to be concerned with our own success or failure, but to be obedient to the Spirit's prompting.  All we need to do is sow the seeds of love and kindness, in whatever form they may be.  It's God's harvest to reap.

I hope that, through this blog post, you will be motivated to actively seek out ways to show God's love--please leave me a comment if you've been inspired.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All about acorns

Acorns are one of my favorite things about autumn (along with crunching through leaves and eating cinnamon donut holes with spiced hot apple cider), so it should come as no surprise that it was all about acorns at Camp Scarlet today. 

As I mentioned in this post, last week we went on an acorn hunt, so we had examples of acorns from 3 different varieties of oak to use for inspiration.  Did you know that different oak trees produce very different looking acorns?
First, we made these:
To make your own, cut an acorn nut shape out of brown paper (or paint some white paper brown, like we did--while the paint was still wet, we sprinkled a little cinnamon on top to add dimension and make them smell good). Then cut an acorn top shape out of a different shade of brown paper (we used a paper grocery bag).
Next, glue small brown things to the acorn top. We used pine cone pieces, but you could easily use buttons, beads, or even tissue paper. I thought about using sand, too (or you could cut the whole thing out of sandpaper). Instant coffee or chocolate cookie crumbs would work, too.  Don't forget to use plenty of glue!

All of that artsing and crafting left us ravenous, so we decided to make some acorns we could eat.  
To make some, choose glazed or plain donut holes.  Spread something sticky, like peanut butter, nutella, or frosting, on the top third of a donut hole, then dip them in something yummy, small, and brownish in color, like chocolate jimmies (that's sprinkles, for those of you who don't know), mini chocolate chips, chopped peanuts, graham cracker crumbs, or toffee bits.  Add a pretzel stick stem, and enjoy!
 We used glazed, peanut butter, and jimmies.

Then it was off to the library for story time and to find some books about acorns, like these:










Now that we've got some autumny looking decor, it looks like the weather might finally be starting to pay attention to the calendar.  What's your favorite thing about fall?

AKD's 7 layer bars revisited

The other day, when Hubby and MC were at the football game, AKD and I decided we needed to make a special treat. I don't know about AKD, but I was feeling just a teensy, tiny, wee little bit left out. Whenever I mention "a special treat", AKD immediately insists that we need to make his 7 layer bars, so on the way home we stopped at the grocery store to buy the necessary ingredients.
Then we were home and watching the game, and after the game AKD was taking apart a chainsaw instead of making bars, so I decided to modify the bars to meet my own selfish specifications. Oh, my, they were so delicious, especially when they were still warm from the oven. Here's what I did.

We didn't have any prepared chocolate chip cookie dough, so I made a batch of my favorite recipe, substituting about 2 T (all that were left in the bag) of mini chocolate chips and 1 c. of milk chocolate m&ms for the regular chocolate chips. Then I pressed about half of the dough into the bottom of an 8 inch square pan and stuck it in a 375* oven for about 20 minutes.

When it came out, I sprinkled ~1/3 c shredded coconut, 15 caramels, cut in quarters, 1 c. chocolate chips, 1/2 c. m&ms, and ~ 2 T (all that was left in the bag) toffee bits on top. Next, I dropped, by spoonfuls, about 1/2 of what was left of the cookie dough on top and popped it back in the oven until it was done, about 20 more minutes.

Mmmm. I would post a picture, but they're all gone :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This n that

AKD and MC on our driveway in November 2005
Crunching through oak leaves on the path this morning reminded me of our home in West Virginia--we were surrounded by oak trees, and we loved it!  Hubby especially loved the no-grass aspect.  In our current home, we are also surrounded by trees, hundreds of them, but only two of them are oaks.  I used to decorate with acorns in the fall; now I decorate with pine cones :)

A few weeks ago, a friend of ours referred to the "smell of caterpillars" at this time of year.  I wasn't quite sure what she meant, and actually it sounded a little gross to me, but after spending this morning immersed in the nostalgic scent of fallen oak leaves, I think I might know where she's coming from.  Love that smell!

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MC qualified for his green belt yesterday evening.  Yay, MC!
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The little girl I babysit is having a rough time this school year.  She's really missing her mom and dad a lot, and I can't say I blame her--they're great people.  I am a little surprised at the separation anxiety, though, considering the relationship we forged last year.  Apparently Pal is having an even worse time at preschool, which means it must be pretty terrible, because it hasn't been all too rosy when she's here with us. 

So yesterday was the worst drop-off yet for Pal.  She's crying and clinging to her Dad's leg, and I'm wondering when I should step in and just take her from him.  Ugh.  Not a fun scene.  Finally he drove away. 

We made muffins (should have read If You Give a Moose a Muffin, but we didn't).  We did a "project" that required markers, muffin papers, googly eyes, foam stickers, and lots and lots of glue.  We played outside.  We played inside.  We ate muffins.  We read books.  We played outside some more with Bubby's (oh, excuse me, Roger's) new pet frog (which is really a toad and has since escaped).  We drew caterpillars and butterflies and pumpkins and ghosts and a very sad looking scarecrow and a crow for it to scare with chalk on the driveway.  Our morning was full, and when Pal's mom came to pick her up, I was tired, and so happy to see her.  I thought Pal would be ecstatic as well.  As in whew, made it through another separation from my beloved parents.

As we were standing out of the way, watching her mom pull up, Pal said to me (true story), "I don't wanna go home!"  I could not believe those words came out of her mouth.  Sure we were having a great time, but Pal had spent the whole morning telling me exactly how much she missed her mom and how much she missed her dad.

I guess it does my ego good to know that Pal likes it here...it sure would be nice if she would remember that she likes it here so we wouldn't have to live through separation scenes every Tuesday and Thursday...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Perfect

I am not perfect. 
Goodness knows I'm not perfect.  And I'm OK with that--most of the time.  Really, who wants to be perfect?  Being perfect such a drag (not that I would know...)

As for God, his way is perfect:
The LORD’s word is flawless.
Psalm 18:30

Every now and then, though, I try, not to be perfect, because I know I am not and never could be perfect, but to be...better.  It's not necessarily a bad thing to try to be better.  Trying to be better is what drives us toward success.  But I've found that when I try to be better in one area of my life...for instance, keeping the kitchen tidy...I lack in other areas...for instance, keeping on top of the laundry (did you just have a mental picture of a several stories high mountain of laundry with little ol' me perched on top?  I did :) and sometimes it does feel like a mountain).  It's a constant give and take, back and forth, push and pull.

In my current quest for better-not-perfect, one thing has become glaringly obvious.  Most of what I do is temporary, and most of that lasts less than an hour.  Nothing lasts.  I wash the dishes after breakfast, and there are more dirty dishes to wash at lunch time--sometimes even sooner.  I sweep the floor and there are crumbs on it again minutes later.  I sort, wash, dry, sort again, fold, hang, and put away 5 loads of laundry and before the day is even through there's another load to do.  I wash a window (believe me, it doesn't happen very often), and my kids' grubby little hands are inexplicably drawn to it within seconds.  And the toys!  They are everywhere.  I swear they must multiply when my back is turned.  At the urging of my little ones, I build a train track or a lego tower or a fun something out of pool noodles, and they delight in destroying it.  Sometimes it lasts an hour or two, sometimes mere minutes.  Occasionally one of my creations will stand for a couple of days, but inevitably, they all come tumbling down.  I literally spend all day, every day, doing things that are almost immediately undone.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19-20 NIV

It is completely disheartening.  I often wonder why I even bother.  Very often.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance
from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

And then, I remind myself: nothing lasts forever.  Sure the buildings Grandpa Blue builds stand for decades (maybe centuries, but he's not quite old enough yet to know for sure), the processes Hubby installs last for years, the code esheppy writes...well, it's probably obsolete quickly, but I'm sure his work lasts longer than a day...but even those things are only temporary when viewed through the lens of eternity.  Nothing lasts forever, except love.

Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV

All of those temporary things, they need to be done, but they will not last.

The world and its desires pass away,
but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:17 NIV

Monday, October 10, 2011

More silly fun stuff

Guess what!  My husband is not in Mexico!  Isn't that great news?  He *is* someplace that starts with an M, though.
 Hubby and MC went to a football game on Sunday.  Our team won!  It's so much more fun when your team wins.

In the category of channeling our inner Valerie, Bubby just discovered that markers can do this:
 It is soooo much more fun to color with markers when your marker is taller than you!  More challenging, too.

And, last, but not least, a sweet picture of two of my boys reading this morning :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Zoo!

We finally made it to the zoo today! 

First it was too cold, then it was too wet, then it was too windy, cold and wet, then we had something else planned...but today...today was another gorgeous 80 degree October day, and we headed over. 

We saw primates...who had a lot of fun new toys and were more active than usual...
 (but not this one--she's bronze and consequently doesn't move around a whole lot).  And seals, polar, brown, and grizzly bears, reindeer, zebras, giraffes, lions, tigers, a snow leopard, flamingoes, bison, an ostrich, artic fox, grey wolf, various hooved creatures...you get the idea.  We missed the penguins and puffins, though.

I also saw the galapagos tortoises for the first time.  I honestly thought they had just forgotten to take the sign down and there weren't really any in that enclosure.
 (not this one--he's bronze). 

After the zoo, we went for a short walk to see if we could find any acorns.  We did.  That place is crawling with oak trees.  Along the way, we took some time to do one of my favorite fall activities...
 ...walking in dry leaves to make them CRUNCH, followed by fun on the playground, and more crunching through fallen leaves.

It was such a wonderful day!  Now Pal's gone home, and E rode the bus home with MC.  And Bubby...well, here's what Bubby's doing.
I hope that you all enjoyed your day as much as me!
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