Monday, February 21, 2011

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

I don't have anything earth-shattering to share today, but I did make some really good cinnamon rolls yesterday!

I got the recipe from this book, which I received as a gift at the homeschool mom Christmas party (thanks Shelley!).

Easy Cinnamon Rolls
2 cups biscuit baking mix
2/3 cup of milk
1/8 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. cinnamon

Mix biscuit baking mix and milk in a small bowl with a fork.  Knead dough gently 8 to 10 times on lightly floured surface.  Roll into a 12"x7" rectangle; spread thinly with butter.  In a separate small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle dough with sugar mixture.  Roll up tightly, starting with long end; pinch edges to seal.  Cut into 1" slices and put one slice in each cup of a lightly oiled muffin tin.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, or until rolls are lightly golden.  Makes approximately 1 dozen.

These were very quick and easy, and went over well.  I checked mine at 10 minutes and they were bordering on "too done", so I'd start checking around 7 minutes next time.  I also made a powder sugar glaze for them.  I have ideas for making orange rolls with this recipe, too. 

Bon apetit!  Maybe tomorrow I will have something deeper than, "Mmmmm, cinnamon rolls," to share!

Or maybe not, who knows!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year.......

Hahaha, and you thought it was Christmas!  NO - it is NOT Christmas!

It is homeschool convention season, and it is gearing up! 

It seems odd, to have them this early in the "school year" - I am going to one in Memphis, TN the first week of March,

local ones are end of March and middle of June (which seems more reasonable).  But, all over the country, March and April are big homeschool convention/conference/expo months.

I know you are wondering (if you don't homeschool), "Why on earth do you need to think about next year, when you are only in the middle of this year?"

Good question.  The best answer I can give it - because hope springs eternal!

Halfway through a school year a homeschool mom knows A)what is working and B)what is not working.  At this point in the year, though, you really don't want to ditch the science program you are halfway through and start something new.  You feel like you should give it your all and finish it. you are proceeding along, you can start to dream of how it will be different next year.  Of the things that you like and don't like about what you are using, and start refining in your mind what you want to use next year.

Personally, I also think the convention planners schedule the conventions for when most of us are getting our income tax refunds, too, since a HUGE portion of the conventions is the vendor hall/sales.

Anyway, even though I am only a little over halfway through my year (we run our year July 1 - June 30, with breaks as needed) I too, am already dreaming of what I would like to buy.  Fortunately, I don't need much.  And, I am NOT (do you hear me, NOT) buying a bunch of stuff at the conference in March.  I am not buying anything until this summer, closer to when I really need it.  But I do plan to spend a whole lot of time in the vendor hall, looking at all the goodies.

There is an axiom about if you sit in a barber chair long enough you are going to end up getting a haircut, but I am sure that won't happen to me (again) this year.

I mainly need stuff for my oldest, Tony, the middle-schooler, who will be in 8th grade next year.  He has now reached the point in math where I cannot teach all of it to him without having to learn it myself.  Can I help it if I didn't need to take geometry to graduate in 1984?  Why did he end up with it in 5th grade?  We are learning it together, but I think he could use further assistance (ie, someone who doesn't have to do all the assignments herself before teaching it).  So, we are going to move into either Saxon DIVE or Teaching Textbooks, both or which are video-driven.  He needs a new science as well.  I think Apologia General Science would be a good fit for he and Ben (who will be in 6th grade) next year.  And for social studies, I am leaning towards a semester of Notgrass's "Elections" curriculum, followed by economics with "Whatever Happened to Penny Candy", all interspersed with US Geography.  We still have plenty of language arts stuff here.  We go back and forth - we will use Daily Grams for a little bit, then back to BJU for a while.  I tend to jump around with what topics I want to teach, and mix that in with creative writing and journalling.  What that means in English - it takes forever to finish a textbook, so a purchase is good for 2-3 years.  For the younger boys I don't need anything except BJU for Joe (3rd grade).  At their age (1st and 3rd next year) we do reading, handwriting, math and they "tag along" with the older boys for history, Bible and science, and they read their own level books - junior bios and science books, that sort of thing.  Everyone needs the next level math workbook, and that is about it.  This year we are doing a structured Bible curriculum, but I don't think we will next year.  Between daily Bible reading, Bible discussion and videos, AWANA, Sunday School, church, weekly Bible studies and whatever else I toss into the mix, anything else might be an overload.  I don't want it to become burdensome to them, I want it to be their joy. 

As I add in more kids - and look at all the stuff I "over-bought" in years past - I have gotten more relaxed in our schooling structure.  We've never been ones to do pages of workbooks, etc.  For years we were Sonlighters, which means a ton of reading aloud to them and them reading on their own.  As the boys have gotten older, though, they have lost interest in this.  Every year is something different.  That is one of the best things about homeschooling, getting to tailor their learning experience to suit their learning styles, personalities, desires, and our family dynamics. 

It all goes back to the lifestyle of learning I keep trying to promote here - that all of life is learning, it doesn't all take place in the schoolroom, it doesn't all come from the pages of a textbook.  God has so blessed us with this incredible world to explore, so many resources to choose from.......

And a lot of them are free.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rambling thoughts

I haven't posted anything for a week.  Well, ah've bin bizzy. 

It has been a good week, but there has just been a lot of "life" going on.  Last week I crammed a church fellowship dinner, Super Bowl gathering at my home, one son's eye exam, another midweek fellowship, four sons' haircuts, my own haircut, 4 sons' physical checkups (and immunizations), a birthday, a breakfast out with a friend, lunch at Pizza Hut, roller skating, a youth lock-in and AWANA Bible quizzing into 7 days.  I have to admit to being glad we got a bit of snow and I was able to re-schedule some fun for this week instead!

But this week we are back to normal, or at least "normal as it appears here". Yesterday was Valentine's Day, for anyone who didn't know that! Nevin brought me some beautiful roses

He also brought me a box of chocolate covered strawberries (he said he knew I was trying to eat healthy, and those are healthier than the box of chocolates I usually get from him - so thoughtful!).  I'd post a picture of those, but the box is just about empty, and not terribly pretty right now! 
Two of my sons made me cards.  Joe's says, "My mom's the best cook ever," and has pictures of Doritos and Snicker bars taped to it.  Not quite sure what to make of that, but I am going with the sentiment!  Even my mom got me a card, and a pretty-wrapped Hershey bar.  I ate the Hershey bar.  I think I was supposed to eat it in little bites, but as I spent a large chunk of my afternoon on the phone with the Department of Revenue, discussing sales tax laws, I just put my head on the desk and swallowed it whole. 

The birthday was nice - my 2nd son Ben is 11 now
Here he is with his Chocolate Covered Oreo Cookie cake, surrounded by homemade Oreo truffles.  I think he had a good day.  He ended up getting a lot of attention last week, as he also competed in the AWANA Bible Quizzing

He and his teammate tied for 4th place this year.  It was VERY nice not to have to be at AWANA an hour early for quizzing practice Sunday - but in just a few weeks the practice will start for his older brother Tony's quizzing! 

Today it is a glorious sunny day, supposed to get up to 55 degrees.  We are going to do a bit of school, then we have friends coming over to watch West Side Story.  This week we are going to Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis for one of their educational concerts, and they will be playing excerpts from Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story.  So, today we will have popcorn and soda and hang out and watch the movie.  My yard is a muddy bog right now, so hopefully that will help when the boys start begging to quit watching the movie and go outside.  We'll see how this plays out.  Probably end up with the guys outside and the ladies and girls inside watching.  Oh well, more popcorn for me!

Other than that, just a basic week.  Some bookwork school, some "living life" school, midweek fellowship, probably hit some outside activities later in the week, and then a dinner out with grown-ups this Saturday night.  So many things to look forward to. 

This morning my 3rd son Joe was sitting with me in my chair (as he does most mornings - we are the early-risers here)

and we were discussing how to tell time, and watching the minute hand move from 7:00 a.m. to 7:01 a.m.  I told him that time goes by so fast you don't even see it.  He told me time was flying, and pretended to reach up and grab numbers as they flew past us. 

Yep, time is flying, and sometimes in all the busy - even the really fun busy - I have to remind myself to stop and enjoy it, to focus on what God is doing all around us, and not to be frantically grabbing at the imaginary numbers as they fly by.

But right now I need to go feed people and educate them and pick up the house and feed the chickens!  Praise God!

Monday, February 7, 2011

I wore blue jeans to church

Yesterday I wore jeans to church.  Levis, to be precise.  I know a lot of people wear jeans to church.  There were a lot of people AT church in jeans yesterday.  My husband and sons wear jeans most Sundays.  So, I wore jeans and who cares, right?

Well, I did half-expect the building to get hit by lightning when I walked in, so that could be a cause for concern.

I don't think I have EVER worn jeans to church.  I don't mind that other people do.  Maybe it is just an old-fashioned tradition.  But I have always, since I was a child, "dressed up" for church.  I have certainly worn slacks, but they were dress slacks.  Growing up, I had "school clothes", "play clothes" and "dress clothes".  As an adult, I worked in offices that ranged from "office dressy" (pencil skirts, pumps, usually a jacket) to "office casual" (slacks, Dockers, casual skirts with low-heel or flat shoes).  But never jeans.  I did once work in an office where we could wear jeans on Friday, but someone got crazy and wore tennis shoes and that was the end of that.

Anyway, I have always LIKED to get dressed up on Sunday.  Especially now - I stay at home most days with the kiddos, and that means sweats.  The days I go into town it is jeans and a t-shirt.  When we go to any sort of event - it is jeans and whatever.  Dress 'em up with a fancier shirt and shoes, but still jeans. 

So this Sunday the parking lot at church still had a lot of ice on it, and I start thinking how ridiculous it is to try to find the right "dress shoes" to wear to walk across ice.  I need to wear casual, comfortable flats (with some traction).  Those usually don't look too hot with a dress.  So I thought.....I guess I could wear jeans.  I mentioned this to my husband.  He said, "I don't see why not, lots of people do, why wouldn't you?"  (It is funny sometimes how I can approach him with huge, life-changing issues and he seems oblivious to all that.)

Well, then, why wouldn't I?  Hmmmm, I don't know.  I like to think I always get dressed up as a sign of respect for church - that coming together to worship is worth getting dressed up for.  But I meet with other Christians all the time, and I don't dress up then.  We have fellowship every Wednesday night, with prayer, singing and Bible study, and I don't dress up for that, either. 

Could it be vanity?  A little pride slipping out?  That is a sin that God convicts me of, over and over. 

I watched a clip of Francis Chan a few weeks back, and he said he wore jeans on Sunday because he wore them every other day and he wanted to be the same person Sunday as the rest of the week.  He didn't want to be a different person when he showed up for church.  I know a lot of people who put on a "Sunday face" at church - we can all be nice and act like a Christian for 2 hours a week, right?  Okay, digressing there...but think about it - if I am to carry who I am out of that church building and into the world, if my life is not to have "compartments" (I have used a lot of " " in this post!) where I seperate the secular from the holy, then why would my closet have these same compartments?

Just some meandering thoughts. 

I will probably still wear skirts most of the time - mainly because I have a closet full of skirts and no where else to wear them!  I think the chickens would wonder what I was up to if I showed up all decked out to fill their feeders, you know.  And I just like them, especially when it gets warm outside.

But I don't HAVE to wear them.  I can wear a skirt, and a pair of heels, because I enjoy it, and because I want to, not because I feel some legalistic compulsion to OR ELSE.  I don't even feel the need to point out that they were new jeans, not particularily tight or immodest, or even bring up the safety issue of the ice on the parking lot.  Okay, so I did just bring them up, but I didn't HAVE to.  I am getting there.


Friday, February 4, 2011

The Closet Experiment

In another attempt at "de-cluttering" I am trying out a closet experiment this year.  I know that EVERY expert says that if you don't wear an item of clothing in "X" number of months or years, you need to get rid of it.  While this does not apply in every case, I think a basic truth can be found here:

"If you don't wear it very often, get rid of it."

I am trying tho organize and simplify a lot of things in my life, and my clothing choices are part of that.  I have been removing things from my closet a little at at time the last few years.  Right now, I have a lot of clothes - besides half of a walk-in closet I have two huge tubs in the basement of things that are for spring/summer, things that have sentimental value (like sweatshirts my dad bought me, or t-shirts from events I want to remember), and things that are close to my current size but either just a little small or a little big. 

A small glimpse into my side of the closet

But honestly, I don't wear a lot of it.  Like so many women, I probably wear about 20% of what is in my closet regularly, have a few things that I like to wear when we go somewhere nice, and the rest is just a mass of clothing that I like but don't wear much for whatever reason. 

So why not get rid of it?

Well, because some I may wear again.  Some I spent $$$ on and hate to get rid of.  Some doesn't fit but I like to think it will again.  Some I just think is pretty, even if I know it doesn't flatter me, and it seems a waste to toss them. 

Don't get me wrong - I have been removing quite a bit lately.  Two weeks ago I took out SIX pairs of shoes that are in great shape, but that I simply never wear, never plan to wear, for whatever reason. 

So - I have started an experiment.  This year I put a "divider" in my closet and as I wear items, they are going to the left of the divider.  What do I hope to learn from this?  Which items are getting worn over and over, and which ones never see the light of day.  This spring, when I switch out my closet, those items that are still unworn for the entire season may be heading out the door.  At least they certainly SHOULD be.

Already, just five weeks into the new year, I see myself reaching for items on the left side of the closet out of habit.  It is taking some thought and effort to look at the other clothes with fresh eyes.  I did take tops and skirts and mix and match them around to come up with some new combinations, and that opened up a lot of possibilities.  I hope to learn from this how few "things" I actually need (or even use) so that I can get rid of some of it easier, and have a better "game plan" for the future - to only buy things that I really love, or even better, to wear what I have and love, and NOT spend money on new things!

I am well on my way with the shoes portion of the closet, and the "blessing others" bag is getting full!  

Next.....the bookshelves.....!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reading log, January 2011

Started the year in a bit of a rut - but it is a good one!  As you can tell, I am thoroughly caught up in the Hamish Macbeth Mysteries.  I like them - murders in small, quirky Scottish villages.  Not much bad language, not much sex, and the murders aren't gory, usually just a blow to the head with a blunt object, or some craftily administered poison.  Anyway, they are my escape late at night when everyone else has gone to bed!

I did also read an Anne Shirley book, just to keep things upbeat!

Books are rated 1-5, though if it is bad enough to be a 1 I generally don't finish it, and a 5 is just about life-changing!  I do get lots of 3s and 4s.

1. Anne of Windy Poplars – 4.25 – L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables #4 Not as good as the first three, but still a good story. Made me wish I was more like Anne!

2. Death of a Charming Man: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery– 3.75 – M.C. Beaton – more adventures with Hamish. It was okay, not as good as the others.

3. Death of a Nag: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 4 – M.C. Beaton – better than the last one, a little bit of a trick ending.

4. Death of a Macho Man: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 4 – M.C. Beaton – good, easy adventure. Hamish starts to grow on you.

5. Death of a Dentist: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 4.25 M.C. Beaton – I really like Hamish.

6. Death of An Addict: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 4.25 – M.C. Beaton - one of the better ones

7. A Highland Christmas: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 4 – M.C. Beaton – a little too sweet

8. Death of a Dustman: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery – 4 – M.C. Beaton – I had a hard time keeping track of all the minor characters in this one

And what did YOU read last month??

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Another snow day

Another snow day!  Or maybe a sleet day!  Whatever you call it, it has been wonderful so far.  Nevin stayed home, and he got to relax this morning while the boys and I did their schoolwork.  I like having him here, because I stayed "on task" with school (since he could hear us!) and that was really good.  I am so easily distracted.  Anyway, back to the snow.  We all had lunch, hung out a bit, now the guys are outside, sledding and 4-wheeling around the yard.

You say you want to see pictures?
Heading to the driveway on the 4-wheeler

The man and the machine

Ben hauling his sled back up the hill.....again!
It is really cold - I came back in.  Hot cocoa is on the stove - Henry is already enjoying a cup of it.  Later on there will be board games, and I think we will watch Groundhog Day (Bill Murray!) in honor of Groundhog Eve.

A perfect, it does all need to melt tomorrow, though, because I really do have some things to do out in the world!  But for today, this is good.