Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cranberry Concoction

I always make this cran-apple-pear sauce for holidays because the kids love it. The first step is boiling a ton of cranberries in water until they pop, and then draining the water. Usually we just drain the water down the sink, but Nathan wanted to drain it into a bowl this year so he could drink some. We did capture it in a bowl, and he and Bob both drank a little bit--tart!!

Then we started tinkering. The recipe also calls for a couple cans of sliced pears, so we drained that juice into our bowl. We added some sugar. And more sugar. Next was a wee bit of cranberry ginger ale that someone had brought to our last church small group meeting. We're just not that big into carbonated beverages, so there it sat in the fridge, taking up room. Then we poured in the last bit of some cran-grape juice that was also just lingering around in the fridge. And some apple juice. By this point, the cranberry concoction was quite tasty! We bottled it into the ginger ale 2-liter and the cran-grape juice bottle, and we took one bottle over to the L's for Thanksgiving. We should have brought both, as it was rapidly consumed!

Although this concoction is probably not repeatable, I think we have a new tradition. Waste not, want not and all that! It's fun to have kids around who think up new things to do!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lots to Be Thankful For!

I'm 20 weeks along now, and I had another appointment this morning. One thing I am so thankful for is that I can leave Nathan and Luke home with everyone, while I go on my merry way to Bethesda. I had to wait awhile to be seen this morning, but I was just relaxing in the quiet, reading a Reader's Digest I had brought. Ahhh. Very unlike the last several pregnancies, with everyone squirming around in my lap as we read book after book in the waiting area, and as we crowd into the too-small exam rooms!

Another thing I am very thankful for is that I did pass my 3 hour glucose test! Yay! I have to retest at the normal 28 week time, but I was expecting that. I'm just glad to knock 10 or 12 weeks off the finger-pricking!

The baby's heartrate was once again in the low 140's, which makes me think boy. The girls' heartrates were all in the 160s. But I know there are plenty of exceptions to that little old wives' tale! I have my ultrasound on Dec. 3, so hopefully s/he won't be bashful and modest! None of the rest of my kids ever have been, LOL.

I went ahead and got a flu shot today. I don't ever go out of my way to get the flu shot, but sometimes, if it works out, then I get one. The kids got one last year, although I never did take Faith back for her second dose. Oh well. I doubt they'll get one this year, since I'm not really planning on taking them all in. Anyhow, my arm is really hurting tonight--I should definitely have had the tech give the shot to me in my right arm! What was I thinking?!

One thing that has been bothering me this pregnancy that I have never had trouble with before is that my arms are always falling asleep. Really. If I sit at the table and support my head on one arm/hand, then that hand will almost immediately start getting tingly. When I wake up at night to pee, whatever arm is on top (I always sleep on my side) is sound asleep. And it is PAINFUL to wake it back up again! I asked the doctor about it, but other than saying that pregnant women often had more trouble with carpel tunnel-type symptoms, which I knew, she didn't really have anything to add. I have cogitated upon this problem quite a bit, and I finally decided maybe it is a pillow issue. I sleep on 2 very cheap pillows that are squashed down, so that the 2 of them together fit into one pillowcase. I have noticed lately that they are even less puffy than ever! So I think a weird neck angle at night might be contributing. Tonight Bob and I went to Walmart, and I bought a new pillow--NOT the cheap $3 one we would normally buy, but a memory foam one! Ooooh . . . I hope it works anyway. I would really be thankful for that!

I'm also thankful to have good friends who are like family to spend Thanksgiving with! And the absolutely lovely thing about a potluck Thanksgiving meal is that any one person doesn't have to do too much cooking! So today I made a chocolate pecan pie, cran-apple-pear sauce, and the dough for ginger snaps, which I will bake up tomorrow. I also have to make the sweet potato casserole tomorrow. And that's it! Since my arm is so sore, I was also very thankful tonight for my wonderful Electrolux mixer. I love that big thing!!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving day tomorrow! Here in America, we truly do have so much for which to be thankful!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bunches of Bananas

Does this happen to any other family?! The kids go through a phase, I guess you'd call it, where they eat a ton of bananas. I can't keep them in the house. For snacks, at breakfast, in smoothies, etc. Then, all of a sudden--it stops. Usually right after I've been to Sams and bought 2 bunches.

So there the bananas sit. I am no help, because I only eat bananas that still have a hint of green on the skin. What can I say--I'm a banana diva, LOL. I try to pass off some of the ever-ripening bananas to Faith by peeling them before giving them to her, but she doesn't buy it. And everyone is just no longer interested in bananas at all.

The past week I've made banana bread, a double batch of banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and finally today, frosted banana cookies. The oatmeal ones were just okay, I thought. I just grabbed a likely looking recipe off the internet because I wanted something easy and banana-y to take for our church fellowship meal Sunday. But I got no complaints, and all the cookies were gobbled up!

My kids' favorite recipe to use up over-ripe bananas is the frosted banana cookie one. I got it from my friend Felicia Gruber back in Colorado. She brought them over when we had a playdate at our house one time, and I immediately asked for the recipe! They call for nuts, but it's been years and years since I baked cookies with nuts in them--a little less than 9 years, LOL. They are more time-consuming, however, and don't make very many, which is why I wanted a different recipe for church. I do have a good banana snack cake recipe that I like to make, but I had just made that for a church small group meeting not too many weeks ago, so I was kind of bored with that. I probably have posted this recipe on here before, and some day I will update my blog so that I have all those cool sidebar options, like the ability to click on the different categories I have tagged (like "recipes"). But until then, I guess I'll have to repeat myself, since it is almost impossible to find old things I posted!

Frosted Banana Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cloves

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 med. size bananas)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Grease cookie sheet and preheat oven to 375. Mix together first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add the mashed bananas and dry ingredients. After batter is well-mixed, add nuts if wanted. Drop from a teaspoon 2 inches apart on a well-greased cookie cheet. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from cookie cheet immediately to cool on a wire rack. Frost cooled cookies with banana butter frosting or any other glaze. Can also be served unfrosted.

Banana Butter Frosting

2 cups sifted powder sugar
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1/4 cup mashed banana (about 1 small banana)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Stir all ingredients together well. If necessary, add additional powdered sugar to make the right spreading consistency. Frost cooled cookies.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rivendell Update

On Tuesday we finished our 12th week of the jr. high co-op. Since we only have 33 weeks of academics, we are already over 1/3 of the way for the year! We are taking a break next week for Thanksgiving, and then we'll have 3 more weeks to go until Christmas break.

I think all of us moms are still pinching ourselves each week, as far as how well it is all going! Theresa has the boys reading interesting books, writing tons of papers, and doing lots of 20 minutes essays (which Nathan hates, but I keep telling him how grateful he'll be for the practice when SAT time rolls around). Siri is definitely teaching a Spanish 1 class. Nathan is going to be WAY more competant in Spanish than I ever was in French after my 2 years of high school French. Languages are definitely not his first love, but he is having a fun time. Now history with Christine--he loves that! They have lots of interesting discussions and books to read there. I would say that is his favorite class. In science, we are finally past all the botany chapters, which are definitely not my strongest interest, and into some genetics chapters. I LOVE genetics, so that is a welcome change! Right before Christmas we finally get into more zoology stuff, and we start doing dissections, beginning with the earthworm. I remember doing the earthworm in high school as my first dissection! I can't wait!

The last few weeks we've had some fun lab activities, many of which involved various candies, so you know they were a hit with the boys, LOL. We modeled DNA with Twizzlers, gum drops, and toothpicks.
Here in a non-candy activity, Nathan is putting yarn chromosomes through the stages of mitosis. As I am sure you can tell, these chromosomes are clearly in metaphase.

Last week I cut up these labeled genes, and the boys picked one of each allele from each parent. Then they had to put together this "spudoodle" based on the genetic code they picked out. So their alleles determined eye color (purple or white spice drops), ear type (popcorn or puffed wheat), hair or no hair (toothpicks), dorsal spines (3 different colors of marshmallows, as that one demonstrated incomplete dominance), leg color (push pins), curly or straight tail (pipecleaners), and either a 1 or 2 "hole" nostril (more pushpins). Nathan was the proud papa of this fine creation, LOL.

In the afternoon, after we pick up the younger kids from their co-op, Luke and the other 5th/6th graders have a writing class also with Theresa. She is really challenging them with writing assignments and books to read, and it has been so good for Luke! Christine is teaching a little writing class for Caleb and the other 3rd graders. It's a gentle introduction to IEW-style writing, and Caleb's writing is coming right along. He's working on a 3-paragraph paper on Pecos Bill right now. Jonathan often tags along in this class. He is my only one who really WANTS to write, LOL.

The younger kids are doing so well with their memory work time in the afternoon. They have memorized Heb. 11: 1-13 so far, as well as a science fact from each chapter of the older boys' life science book. This week's fact was "DNA segments called genes are arranged on chromosomes, and chromosomes are found in the nucleus. Human cells have 46 chromosomes." (I didn't really touch on the fact that gamete cells only have 23 chromosomes, LOL.) We've memorized 2 complete poems so far--"The Owl and the Pussycat" by Lear, which was a real kid-pleaser, as well as "True Nobility" by Guest. Now we are in the middle of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", which I thought would be good leading up to Christmas. We're memorizing it like the hymn, not as Longfellow originally wrote it. We've also memorized 12 points in my 32 point timeline, complete with dates. The last point we memorized was "Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours--732 AD". A very important date in history!

We also do mapwork each week, usually relating to something the older boys are doing in history. One week we all made salt maps of Israel, so they could be more familiar with the geographic features of the country. We've memorized locations in Egypt and all over the Fertile Crescent, as well as India, China, and Greece. We're back in Israel for a few more weeks, and then we'll move back into the world of ancient Greece. I've tried to work on modern neighbors of these countries too, because I think that is so important.

Lastly, this picture doesn't have anything to do with Rivendell, but I thought it was too cute. The co-op for the younger kids had their Civil War 5th week activity Tuesday morning. They had some great speakers come in--re-enactment soldiers and ladies in period dress. Most of the kids dressed up as well. I think this dress is another hand-me-down from Aunt Rose's girls, and it is still a little bit big, but Anna looked so cute as a little girl in the Civil War time! All the kids got either bonnets or army caps, as well as a little haversack filled with a sample johnnycake, hardtack, and 2 pieces of taffy. Anna's class also made these little drums. So it was a really fun day, ending a really fun and interesting unit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interesting Report from the Football Team Party

Tonight was the team party for Nathan's football team. Some parent on the team knows someone, and so the party was at a place that sells entertainment stuff for the home--arcade games, gaming systems, etc. The shop was just opened up to us all, and we could play whatever games we wanted to! Since we don't have a Wii, X-Box, or any other sort of game, you can imagine the fun the boys had! We had all thought it would be sort of a "Chuck E. Cheese for Older Kids" sort of place, where you have to pay like a dollar for each game you want to play. We had already told the kids we would just eat and not stay too long if that was the case, so don't pester us for money!

The night started off very bizarrely, however. This store was in an industrial business park type place, way down at the far end. Definitely a hole-in-the-wall location, and not a place we ould ever have stumbled upon on our own. We were, of course, about 10 minutes late, so all the close parking places were taken. We had to turn around and park closer to the entrance of the business park, several doors down from the game place. As we got out, we noticed a pizza delivery guy further down. He was backing out and then driving weirdly--there were lots of speed bumps, and he would speed up and then slam on the brakes, screeching and roaring. We hurried to the other side, where the place was we were going. The pizza guy was coming toward us, and although I was sure he saw us, he still was driving very oddly, so we made sure to hurry across. Then it took us a few minutes to walk down to the storefront. When we got there, we were greeted with a very odd scene--the pizza car was stopped but running, the driver's door was wide open, no one was in the car, 2 people were running away, and one of the moms from our team was standing there, in a bit of distress! I thought her wallet had been stolen or something, since the people were running off (was the pizza man chasing the robber?!), but no, it turns out the pizza man had turned in and had HIT the mom! Thankfully, it wasn't that hard, and she was at the right angle, so she didn't fall and go under the car--the Lord was definitely watching over her! Then the passenger, a girl, had jumped out and started running, and the driver ran after her. Okay . . . Bob wrote down the license plate and tried to call the police, but his phone wouldn't work. It was all so surreal--are we in the twilight zone?! Fortunately another dad from the team was also outside making a phone call. He was able to call the police, who came quickly.

As it turned out, the pizza delivery man was drunk. He was arrested, and although he will be in a heap of trouble, at least he didn't kill someone! Hopefully this will be a huge wake-up call for him. He definitely won't be driving again for awhile, and I'm sure he'll never be delivering pizzas again. The girl was totally weird--she told the police she usually is on valium, and she has anxiety attacks. Evidently she then had one, because an ambulance came and took her away!

Meanwhile, inside we all ate pizza, played games (well, not me, LOL), and had a lovely little recognition ceremony for the boys. They each received a minature replica of their helmet, complete with decals and team number! What a great idea! Much better than a trophy or something! Nathan really liked it. So it was a nice night, although it was definitely one to remember. I think the whole scenario made a big impression on our kids, to say the least!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Caleb's Birthday Weekend

Caleb turned 9 early Friday morning! We've been celebrating all weekend! My parents went to a retirement ceremony down in the Norfolk area, and they drove up here Friday night, just in time for cake and ice cream. We also had the McC's and the P's, both from our Bible study, over to join the party. Normally we would just bring the cake to Bible study, but we didn't actually have Bible study that night, so we had to make our own party!
Caleb wanted a "jersey" cake, like the Pittsburgh Penguins cake I made for Jonathan and Nathan back in June. Caleb, however, roots for the Anaheim Ducks (rather randomly, I might add, since we don't even know anyone who lives in Anaheim, LOL), so he wanted a Ducks jersey. I am fine with jersey cakes--they are not hard at all to shape or even decorate. I think it's funny that I seem to have "series" of cakes--first the Lego Star Wars series (crossing light sabers, A-wing fighter, R2D2, clone trooper, pilot clone trooper, and Anakin), then a brief Bionicle series (put to an end by my refusing to make any more, LOL--Vezok and Toa Gali), and also a "military" series (B-2, USS Nimitz, F-22, and a tank before I started blogging), as well as a few odd cakes before we moved to VA (cowboy boot, construction hard hat, space shuttle, dolphin, and pirate ship). Out of all of these options, jerseys are by far the easiest!

I decorated the cake Friday afternoon. I didn't quite get done before Faith woke up from her nap. She helped herself to what was left of the black (chocolate) frosting. She was quite a fan! The boys said she looked like her Uncle Dan, who has a goatee, LOL. I'm sure he is flattered.

Caleb got some fun presents. He got this Lego set from Bob's parents, and some 39 Clues books, plus a cool activity book about ancient Egypt from my parents. He also got a set of juggling balls from the McC's, and he has been diligently trying to make that all work. We needed Ed L's expertise, but unfortunately they were in OK, which is why we didn't have Bible study in the first place! It was a very fun evening, and I think Caleb had a really good birthdya celebration!

We continued celebrating Saturday, when we had Caleb's actual birthday dinner. He requested this sausage roll I make, and we also had fresh stir-fried garlic green beans, broccoli slaw salad, and some pineapple and grapes.
My parents are leaving tomorrow, and we are all sad to see them go, since this was such a quick trip. But we are thankful they came at all, since it was kind of a spur of the moment, last minute decision to drive out for the retirement ceremony and Caleb's birthday! It made Caleb's birthday really special to have them here to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Leaves Are Changing . . .

. . . the bruises are fading . . .
(One day after the 3 hour test)
(This afternoon, five days later--and no, I don't know the results yet, LOL)
. . . Ah, it must be fall.
I think football ended not a moment too soon. We bundled up for Nathan's playoff game on Saturday. Isn't Luke's reflective jacket nice?! He won't get hit by a car playing in the snow, if we get any snow, that is. Nathan's team lost, and I was sad for them . . . but happy to have our evenings and Saturdays back!
Sunday we had our annual time of fun at Chuck E. Cheese with our Friday night Bible study group. The kids all had a blast! I enjoyed the fact that they could all run around without me, while I sat and visited. Next year I'll be dealing with a 6 month old again . . .
When people ask me about what we do for Halloween, I like to point out that our kids dress up all the time! That's nothing special! Going to Chuck E. Cheese, however, is a once-a-year thing, and they REALLY look forward to that, LOL. I did have to run to Walmart Monday, so I did pick up some half-price Halloween candy. We discovered over the weekend that Caleb likes Twix bars, when a neighbor girl down the street gave him one. The first chocolate thing he has liked! So I bought a bag of those, and I'll put one in their lunches for co-op day for the next little while.
And in the spirit of dressing up . . .
. . . here is Grace, as a lovely ballerina, although I think her leotard is actually on backwards. This is another one from Bob's sister Rose and her 2 girls. I tell you, Anna and Grace have LOVED the stuff they have passed on to us!

And lastly, here is a picture of Faith, fresh from a nap. She is eating a Tootsie Roll that Luke bought for her out of his Chuck E. Cheese winnings. (He got 301 tickets, and everyone else combined got 318 tickets, LOL. Of course, Jonathan drove the average down, as he seems to have spent all his allotted tokens on things that take pictures. He has 13 pictures from Sunday night! Ah well, the prizes you can buy are nothing to get excited about, so whatever makes him happy!)
Happy Fall!