Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This and That

I keep thinking I need to post something... but I don't really have any earth shattering news or exciting events to write about. Wait! My oldest was talking at the dinner table last night and with his exuberant hand-waving, completely flipped over his plate of spaghetti. Most of it flipped into the butter tub. That's it. That's our exciting event. Is your heart racing?

For our family, the end of April and then through May is probably our busiest time of year. As we wind down our home school, warm weather taunts us as we get our algebra and spelling finished. And, it's time for my yearly "Project Surge". I am suddenly inspired to get busy with all these projects I keep seeing around the house. But, I. must. stay. focused... I've got to finish up May before I can tackle the fun stuff. That doesn't mean there's been no fun around here. My garden is up and running and I must say that I'm just tickled with it. Everything looks really good and we found beans poking through the fresh soil yesterday. I transplanted my cantaloupes today and will get a few marigolds in this weekend. See... not all work and no play.

I also had a birthday last Saturday. The yearly melancholy-ness came and went without too much ado... Birthdays and Mother's Days without a mother stink. But, my family came through and I had a lovely day. The weather was beautiful, and I felt loved.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Human Body

When I quit teaching in the public schools to stay home with my first son, I packed away all my stuff, thinking I'd save it for when I went back to work. Five children later, and with a decision to home school, well... I haven't had a (paying) teaching job is almost 15 years. Since I taught 3rd grade, it's always fun when one of my kids goes through that grade and I get to pull out some of the stuff I saved from those early years. Actually, I pull out saved stuff for almost every grade since we seem to go over the same stuff every year, just a different difficulty levels. For example, the human body. My 3rd grader and my 1st grader were covering that topic in both of their science schedules. So, I made a few schedule adjustments so they'd be going over that topic at the same time, and then I pulled out my human body stuff. I have copies of all the major components of the human body. We took butcher paper and traced and cut out their body so we could attach the parts as we studied them. These are so fun!

You can't see it, but the top of their heads will "flap" down so you can see their brains. And, behind the floppy lungs is a heart. You can see it peaking out from behind. The big pink/brown thing under the lungs is the liver, which is attached with a brad so you can look behind it and see the stomach, the gall bladder, the spleen, the pancreas and the kidneys. Under the liver is the intestines. The large intestines is a darker orange and is connected to the small intestines, which is a lighter orange. The whole group is also attached with a brad so you can look behind them and see all the other stuff. Then, one leg shows muscles, while the other leg shows bones.

These guys have been hanging in our school room since January, but it's time to roll them up and put them away. I told they boys that their "bodies" were blog worthy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring Break in Italy

It's a really long, boring story...but through a twist of fate, Roger and I were able to go to Italy last month. I went with my girlfriend last year, and I was able to go back and take Roger with me. We were there over spring break...5 nights and 6 days. We had a blast! I was able to be a "tour guide", and I loved it. Our hotel was in ancient Rome, so we just walked out the door and down the block to visit the Colosseum, the Forum, and all the ruins of ancient Rome. We visited the Vatican and went to the top of the dome in St. Peter's Basilica. We went into the basement of St. Peter's and walked by the crypt of St. Peter himself! Ok, this man knew Jesus! And his remains were right there! Behind the rope, behind the glass, behind the security guard... We also saw the casket of Pope John Paul in the next room. Anyway, it was a fabulous trip.

The one thing we did this time that I didn't do on my first trip was take a train down to the city of Pompeii. Pompeii is about 2 1/2 hours from Rome by train, so I was tempted to just skip it. But, my 6 year-old actually studied Pompeii this year. When he found out that we were thinking about visiting Pompeii, he said, "Mom, all I want is something from Pompeii." Oh brother! I could have picked up something from Rome and faked it...told him it was from Pompeii...but I just couldn't do it. So, off we went. 5 hours round trip! It was the town that was buried about 2000 years ago from a volcanic eruption. The volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, is really there!! And the town, well, it's really there too. It was completely different than I imagined it. The town of Pompeii is about the size of Siloam Springs, not some little, tiny village that you can just look at and see the whole thing. It was really quite big. We were there for about 5 hours and still didn't see it all. I took a few pictures, but eventually, they all begin to look the same.

This is at temple in the Pompeii Forum, where they did all the government stuff. Sort of their version of Washington DC. Their worship of gods was intricately interwoven in their government. Imagine that!

Below is a picture of their small amphitheater. There are 2 more, and one of them is about the size of a football stadium. They had their own version of gladiator events.

This picture is to prove that we were actually there :-) I'm holding the Rick Steves guidebook, like a true tourist.

The museum had the plaster casts of the people that they found buried. When the volcano erupted, it spewed so much soot and debris that most people were killed when their roofs caved in on them. If they weren't killed by that, they suffocated. When they excavated the city, they would send small sensors down into the ground. When they would find a pocket of space, they would send plaster down into the tiny hole to fill the space. They would often find that the space was in the shape of a person, which meant that the person had been covered, and then had decomposed, but the shape of his body had been left behind.

I wonder if this person was praying when he died? Or trying to cover his mouth so he could breathe.
This person's skull was still intact when they recovered him.

Fabulous trip. Fabulous time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Cupcakes!

Here's what the Easter Bunny made for our Easter celebration! Aren't these adorable?

They are cupcake pops that I made on Good Friday. Some of you may remember that my BFF, the Crockpot Lady, used to post a recipe on her blog every single ding-dong day during 2008. Well, when Jan. 1, 2009 rolled around, for some reason, she thought she should go back to her real life. While she still post recipes every now and then, she's not providing me my instant recipe gratification, so I've begun to wander around the blogosphere a little. Hence, my 2nd BFF, Bakerella. She posts pictures of yummy cupcake pops that she makes, and if you aren't inspired by her pictures, well... I don't know what. Anyway, I figured I'd try to make some of my own.

The picture above looks like little cupcake soldiers, all in a row...excited, I'm sure, at the thought of being eaten. I used red velvet cake. I cooked it according to the box. Then, I crumbled it up and added a whole can of cream cheese frosting. That's right! A whole can! That moistened the cake up...A LOT! Then, I used a melon ball scooper to scoop out the cake and shape into balls. I chilled them overnight because I started way too late at night and was really tired. The next day, I shaped each ball into an oval and pushed one end into a little flower cookie cutter. This caused the other end to sort of mushroom over the cutter, hence... it looked like a cupcake. This was easy to do, but took a long time. The cake mix made 62 of these babies!! Once the cupcakes were shaped, I chilled them again. Then, I melted chocolate and dipped the bottoms of the cakes and added sticks. That's what your seeing in the picture above.

Once I finished the dark chocolate, I melted white chocolate and dipped in the tops. That's what you're seeing in the above picture. Then I used what I had on hand to decorate each one. I used regular m&m's, sprinkles, and sanding sugars. I can honestly say that the red velvet cake was the most awesomely moist cake I've ever had. I guess if you add enough fat, you can make just about anything taste great.
Once again, the kids think I'm a kitchen goddess... They have gone on and on about how yummy they are. And, each one is really only one bite of cake, (Ok, maybe 2 for those of you that would eat it nice and daintily instead of shoving the whole thing in your mouth like me), but they think their getting a "whole dessert" when they have one... This leaves more for me!
I bought a Styrofoam block to push the sticks into so they wouldn't get smashed, but I had no idea one recipe would make so many. I explained my quandary to my Handy Man, who immediately reached out and grabbed a box of Kleenex, grabbed the nearest ink pen, and proceeded to stab holes into the bottom of the box with questionable glee. Problem solved. That's why you see a Kleenex box in the last picture. And, that's just one of them... there's another Kleenex box full of pops, but it isn't in the picture. Happy cupcake Easter to us!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Beautiful Compost

After I posted about my endeavor to garden, I got a couple of requests for pictures of my compost barrel. My Handy Man cut a door into the side and attached it with a hinge. Since we don't really need a lot of compost, we figured this barrel would produce about the right amount for us.
This is what it looks like when it's composting... Just a barrel, minding its own business...producing good enzymes to help the stuff inside become yummy compost, quickly. Notice that my boxes have their trellis poles up. These will be used to hold up the tomatoes and cantaloupes. I know what you're thinking... "Aren't cantaloupes too heavy to be on a trellis?" My friend, Mel Bartholomew, assures me that they can be trellised. And, when they get heavy, he says to use pantyhose to make a nice little cradle for them to use until they're ready to be picked. Walmart has their Hanes pantyhose (queen sized in brown) on sale for $1.00 this week, and I had 6 coupons for $1.00 off any Hanes product! Free cantaloupe cradles!! Awesome!
Handy Man bought the stuff and made the trellises last week. He enjoyed showing our boys how to weld the corners.
Here's a picture of the top. Handy Man used chicken wire to allow air inside to circulate. Isn't he smart!
In this picture, you can see the bottom. I'm not sure how Handy Man made the holes, but I'm sure he used one of his super-duper tools in his shop. The knob on the door just screws into a piece of wood that he attached to the inside of the door. I don't think we need to worry about anyone stealing our compost, so there's no lock :-)
I couldn't resist showing a pic of my beautiful little onions. Aren't they cute! It will be a shame to eat them...OK, maybe not.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Becoming a Gardener

It's the Friday evening of Good Friday and I've got a little time to waste. Two of my chickadees are spending the night somewhere else, and it makes a huge difference. I've been tossing around all kinds of bloggy ideas and thought I'd go ahead and write about one of them.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am no gardener... I even posted about it last year. However, my desire for homegrown stuff has exceeded my aversion to dirt. So, I'm doing a Square Foot Garden. If you want to know about SFG, you need to check out the book and read up on it. The author, Mel Bartholomew, makes all kinds of promises about weed-free, quick growing, easy to maintain gardening. Lord knows I wouldn't even attempt this if he didn't promise that it would be easy. I looked up SFG online and found lots of other people blogging about their garden, and singing Mel's praises. So, I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

My Handy Man built me 2 boxes, each of them 4' x 8'. Then, we went and bought the stuff to make "Mel's Mix", which is what he says will make the gardening so easy. The mix is made of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite. They are close to the house because I know myself well enough to know that I won't take care of them if I have to trek across our 5 acres to get to them... I know...I'm so lazy!
Here you can see the boxes... Technically, I have 4 4'x4' boxes, they just happen to be connected. Mel assures me that it's fine. We put that plastic stuff on the bottom before we added the dirt.
My plan was to have a Spaghetti Sauce garden... only tomatoes, onions, peppers, oregano, and basil. Well, once the boxes were complete and the mix was in, the kids got interested. My first instinct was to tell them no way was I going to let them plant stuff... I just want to keep it simple and I don't want to be responsible for their stuff. But, being the good home school mom that I am, I put away those selfish thoughts and told the kids they could plant some squares. My littlest is going to plant a square of Catnip. Isn't that nice of him? Now we can use our precious soil to help the cat become even more of a spaz... Awesome. Sam loves corn, so we're going to let him plant several squares of corn while Katie is going to plant marigolds because we've heard they are natural pest repellents. Then, Handy Man thought that it would be silly to waste any soil and have empty squares, so he bought a bunch of bush bean seeds... Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "Keep it simple. Keep it simple."

So, I went ahead and planted 3 squares of onions because Mel says I can plant them up to 6 weeks before the last frost. Guess what!! They're growing!! I'm growing onions!! And, to prove that I'm really serious about doing this, I actually started seeds for tomatoes, peppers, and cantaloupe inside. Did I mention the cantaloupe? Keep it simple...keep it simple.... Anyway, I started them and they're growing. Hopefully they'll do well when I transplant them outside in another week or two. And, I know you won't believe this, but I've even started composting. Handy Man took a plastic barrel and sliced off the ends. Then, he put screen over the top and bottom, and made a door on the side. Now, I take our compost stuff outside, open the little door and dump it all in. Then, I close the door and roll the barrel so it all gets mixed up. Truthfully, composting has always intimidated me. The thought of having to use a shovel to turn everything over and move it from one pile to the other has always been overwhelming to me. But, we don't really need a whole lot of compost and I can at least roll a barrel.
I'm pretty excited to see if I can do this. Is this a small measure of what "real" gardeners feel?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pay it Forward

Oops, I forgot... I was going to post this today. My friend Wendy posted this on her site and I agreed to pay it forward with her.

For the first 5 people to comment on this post, I will make something for you. It will be something specifically for you... I don't promise that it will be in your hands soon, just sometime before the end of 2009. The only catch is that you make the same post on your blog, or facebook, or where ever... I love to pay it forward... Now you can pay it forward too...

P.S. To Bekah G.... I haven't forgotten... I'm still working on an idea :-)

I'm on the way back...

Wow! It's been a while... I think that doing the Christmas Picture Challenge in December (I posted every single day), wiped me out! I'd burned out a little. But, I'm feeling a little surge to get back to blogging, even though I have no idea why anyone would be interested. Isn't it funny that I love reading blogs of my friends, even the daily routine stuff, but I think it's silly that anyone would be interested in my daily routine stuff. Oh well, I'm sure that there are times you may read my blog and think, "Oops, I just wasted 2 minutes!" But, that's the risk you take :-) I have several bloggy ideas bouncing around in my head and I'm waiting until the right time to write... I'll be back. Consider yourself warned...