Saturday, November 29, 2008

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

We are peaceful people, I don't like to rock the boat if it can be avoided. My husband will stand up for himself and his family, but will otherwise walk away if possible. That said, we had to talk to the neighbors for trespassing on our side of the property. Normally we wouldn't be too bothered by that, but it happened in a weird way...

I was taking out our daily scraps and heading to the compost bin in the garden area by the back end of our property. I wasn't paying any mind to the woods around me and I was singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music..." (we were watching it on DVD and the song stuck in my head) pretty loudly. All of a sudden I hear a loud motor sound and it scared me. I looked around, thinking maybe it was by our drive, but I didn't see anything and then when I looked up by the property line, I saw a someone there, with some sort of tractor with yellow flashing lights and smoke. He was burning something. It really startled me to see someone there so close, and I was also kind of embarrassed he probably heard my terrible singing. Then again, he wasn't supposed to be there, so if I broke his eardrums, it's his own fault.

Anyway, I didn't stay to see who it was, though I was pretty sure it was the neighbors, and I hurried back into the house where my kids were watching the movie.

When my husband came home that night, I told him what happened. It was too late to go out and check and the next day we went out to get my mom from out of town. So we didn't get to investigate until Thursday, when there was a lull in my cooking. The neighbor was a good 10 to 15 feet inside our property line, cutting down trees, burning and making a path. I don't know why he was making a path when there is a dirt road just inside his property line. The husband told me that the tractor with the flashing light I saw was probably the bobcat the neighbor owned. Hubby saw him with it before when he went over to talk with him once.

Our lines are clearly marked, so there was no excuse for him to be over on our side. They bought their house about a year after us, and the surveyors left their orange markers and neither they or us, have taken them down. When the husband went over there to ask, the neighbor denied being there and said he saw the smoke and called the fire department. When Hubby asked if he had a bobcat, the neighbor got all shady and said he didn't know what Hubby was talking about. Instead of pointing a finger, my husband said that he was tired of trespassers and he was going to catch them sooner or later, then walked off. He hopes that it was enough of a warning to keep the neighbor away.

Might be time to invest in some fencing materials.

Might also be time to get a dog. A dog would have barked and alerted me to the fact that someone was out there, and I would have known instead of being caught unaware. The more I think about that day, the more I think it would be nice to have a dog around the house, me being deaf and not being able to hear certain things, especially when Hubby is away at work. We would train the dog to bark when someone is at the door or someone is outside. A dog would also be nice to have when the kids are playing outside and we can train the dog to stick around the children at all times.

I've been scanning the web for local shelters for puppies and am keeping an eye out for ads in the local papers. We can't afford a pure-bred and we're looking for a mid-size dog. The prices for shelter dogs have sky-rocketed! We saw one puppy that we liked and found out the adoption fee would be $325, not including the required spay/neuter costs. Ouch! A local shelter down the road asks $125, also not including spay/neuter costs. After we first moved here, we got a dog from the local SPCA for $75, including micro-chip and neutering, but unfortunately, he didn't work out with us and we took him back a few days later. We know we have to start with a puppy and not an older dog, since we have cats and small children and babies.

If anyone local knows of a place that has puppies for a reasonable price, let me know.

Monday, November 24, 2008

WARNING:

Do NOT leave your children unattended with markers!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Crafts

As of Sunrise Monday morning, hunting season is in full swing around here. West Virginians take hunting very seriously and the schools here close for a whole week instead of the usual 3 days for the holiday. Living where we do, with 2 sets of neighbors that are hunting around our property, we will be staying in the house just in case. No matter how skilled a hunter they are, accidents still happen and I'd rather be safe than sorry.

We have been doing crafts this month that are Thanksgiving related and I thought it would be time to post about what we're doing. Maybe you want some ideas on what to do to keep your kids busy while you're getting ready for dinner preparations, or maybe the kids said "I'm bored" one too many times... well, here's what we did:

Handprint and footprint turkeys! Trace hands and feet and then assemble to look like turkeys. Makes a cute picture and the bonus is to remember how small their feet and hands were. Oldest went a step further and drew feathers and then made a nest full of eggs for the turkey to sit on. She added black dots on all the eggs and when I asked why, she said the babies are peeking out of their shells. After Thanksgiving, these turkeys will go in their memory boxes-- I have a box for each child and I save extra special drawings and mementos.

Last Friday (I try to do art class every Friday) we had our new friend join us for art class and they made pilgrims! Paint pointy party hats black, then cut out construction paper to make faces, hats, arms and belts and buckles. Assemble and glue to parts to the hat and presto! A pilgrim! Oldest again, went a step further and cut out yellow construction paper for hair. Oldest and our new friend are both 6 and they did this project with minimal help from us, Middle is 4 and Youngest is almost 3 and they needed a bit more help to assemble and glue the pieces together. It was lots of fun though, and they'll look great on the table for Thanksgiving dinner!
While we waited for the paint to dry on the hats, we took a short break and the kids made cranberry bread. After the bread was put in the oven, we went back to finish the pilgrims. We found all sorts of recipes in cookbooks and on the internet, and they're all pretty standard. I've made several different kinds and they are always yummy, so if you've never had cranberry bread, now is the time to make some-- cranberries are on sale everywhere and you can buy extra and freeze them.
Happy crafting!

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Update...

Sunset at a local park



I have been wanting to write a post lately, but seem fresh out of ideas. Things are busy here, as they always are when the holidays near, and my head is filled with ideas of what I can make for gifts. I am constantly on the lookout for gifts that would be fairly easy for me to make on a mass scale and something that everyone would like. I have a few projects that are high on my list, I just need to find the time to make them.

I met a woman and her son at the Library last month and she also home schools. How lucky that her son is the same age as Oldest! We have been getting together, twice a week, to do lessons and art projects and I really enjoy her company. She had been feeling much like I was, looking for another home schooler and not finding very many who have the same or similar ideas. It's so nice to be able to talk to another adult (besides my lovely husband) and have an excuse to get out of the house and going somewhere other than the food store.

We have not had satellite TV service for nearly a month now and I am amazed at how much I don't miss it. None of us do, really. My husband apologized to me, saying he was sorry it took him so long to "see the light" and canceling the TV and he told me I had been suggesting it for over 6 years! Was it really that long? In any case, better late than never and we are doing so much more together as a family without the TV. The husband and I are also going to bed earlier now and I've actually started to wake up before the kids! I still have a few late nights when I have my nose stuck in a book that I can't put down, but for the most part, I am finding myself in bed before midnight or earlier.

It snowed here and we have a light dusting of snow on the ground. I am so grateful for all the hard work we put into gathering firewood and now we are enjoying the benefits of the woodstove. As my husband likes to put it-- "All our hard work is going up in smoke!"

The kids are asking for me to make snow ice cream, but I have to explain we need more than just a dusting of snow to make it. They're disappointed it isn't enough to go sledding or build a snowman, but I tell them we still have more months of winter to come and who knows what that will bring.

I'll be writing again when I have fresh ideas and a complete post in my head to put into words. Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making Cookies

I want all of my kids to know their way around a kitchen, to be able to whip up meals and feed themselves instead of depending on take-out or microwave meals. Cooking is a good life skill and I am so grateful to my mom and dad for teaching me how to cook. Home Ec. was one of my favorite classes when I was in school and it's a shame that many schools no longer offer that class.

Reading recipes is also a good math lesson-- figuring out how many halves are in a cup and how many teaspoons make a tablespoon and so on. Cooking usually becomes a math lesson when I have one of the kids helping me. Makes for a yummy home school lesson.

The other day, the kids wanted to make cookies. Oatmeal with apples was the pick and while the Baby slept on a blanket on the floor, the girls got busy in the kitchen!

I keep a blanket in the kitchen for moments like this, sometimes I need two hands and asking for help is not an option and the Baby doesn't like the swinger and screams his little head off. Put him on a blanket and he's happy and then he falls asleep.

The girls kept pinching bits of oatmeal to eat. I'm glad they like oats, but I wasn't happy with the mess on the floor. I'm a lazy cleaner, which means I try to make the least amount of mess so I don't have to clean. My blood pressure went up when I let the girls make cookies all by themselves. I had to look away more than once and tell myself it's only oats, easy to sweep up; only egg, easy to wipe up; only batter, easy to clean up.

Oldest is cutting up the dried apple slices into smaller bits for the cookies. Between their snacking and the one cup designated for the cookies, they used up a whole quart of dried apples! Next year I will be drying more apples!

They took turns adding each ingredient and then stirring the cookie dough. They made the cookies all by themselves and I was so proud of them. I shooed them out of the kitchen when it came time to bake them but not before they all got a big spoonful of cookie dough to nibble on. Never did get a picture of the cookies, but they were quite tasty.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hammin' It Up!

Despite the fact I never shop at the malls or buy specific brand clothing, my girls have seemed to develop a style all their own. The clothes that I picked out for them to wear get rejected in favor of frilly, shiny, glittery, ruffly, girly stuff instead. I was such a tomboy when I was a kid, so it shocks me how much my girls like wearing dresses and skirts. I have to be firm with them when it gets cold and insist they wear long pants. They found a loophole and wear leggings or stockings in place of pants.

One chilly morning, I was trying to get Youngest to wear jeans and a long sleeve hoodie. She wouldn't have it no matter how much I tried to appeal to her 2 year old mind. I love the hoodie and told her if I could wear it, I would. Finally I came up with an idea-- if you put on these clothes, I'll take pictures of you and you can be my model! It worked! Here are some of my favorite pictures from our "modeling session".



Is that not a cute hoodie and jeans? Isn't she a cutie??

"Whatchu lookin' at dude? Wanna make somethin' of it?"

How about this one?

"This is my angry face."
It is? More like a smoochy face to me-- c'mere and let me smooch you!


She is such a ham! Just look at those blue eyes!








Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wanted: Chef to Cook for Ravenous Kids

For me, one of the hardest parts of being a parent is the cooking. Day in and day out, I have to constantly and consistently serve meals and snacks to the kids. It seems like my kids are also at the age where they are having growth spurts and they are asking for snacks more frequently than they used to. It feels like I always have a kid saying they're hungry right after I just fed them!

What then, would be the problem? I am trying to eliminate processed foods from our diet. That means no quick-fix meals like cheesy pastas and rices, open-a-can-and-heat soups, chips and cheese puffs, frozen snacks like chicken nuggets and taquitos. In other words, almost everything I make and serve is from scratch. I like the way we eat and I believe we are healthier for it, but it does leave me drained of ideas and I find myself in the kitchen more often. I can only make PB&J's so many times before they go on strike!

Another issue is the hours my husband has for work. Some days he works in the mornings, which I prefer, and he is home at night for dinner. The days he works evenings I find the hardest, because I make a late, large lunch, since he'll be missing dinner with us, and then I have to think of something to make for a light dinner with the kids later on. They aren't big meat eaters and my Middle is the picky eater of the bunch, and Youngest will watch her and then follow suit even if it is her favorite. argh!

I try and solve the snack problem by making large batches of certain things-- oatmeal cookies with dried apples or raisins, tortilla chips, and popcorn, to name a few. I also try to keep fresh fruit and vegetables available, but I am amazed at how quickly they get eaten up and they very rarely last more than a few days and then I am caught without until the next shopping trip. On a tight budget and a once-a-week grocery trip, buying more or going more often is not an option.

We came up with some extra money last week and I promptly planned a trip to the warehouse store. We purposely went during lunch time and we noshed on all the yummy food samples they offered. We left with nice full tummies and a cart full of stuff. I can easily spend $500 there in one shot, but we can't do that anymore, and I have to be choosy and stingy and get only what we absolutely need. "Honey, we need a 5 gallon bottle of olive oil, don't we? We just have to have that 8 pound jar of maraschino cherries! Look it! A big box of cotton balls, we gotta get that!" No, our shopping trip was more like: "Toilet paper- $11.99; eggs- $3.49; ham-$8.99; that's about $25 so far, $75 to go...oh wait, more like $70, can't forget the tax!"

We have our weekly shopping trip tomorrow, and I am planning to get a few extra items to make our own version of trail mix. If it's a hit, and I think it will be, I hope it will be enough to keep their tummies filled between meals. What do you give your kids for snacks? I could use some fresh ideas.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Have You Ever Had...

Kool-Aid Ice Cream?
No? Ohh! It's So-o-o good!

I made up a batch of Kool-Aid ice cream and it's the easiest thing to make. When I was a kid, Kool-Aid used to have recipes on the back of the packets. This recipe came off one of them and we've been making them ever since. No more recipes on the back of the packets, but this has remained in the family recipe box all these years.

It has a similar taste to sherbet or italian ices, depending on what flavor Kool-Aid you use. This one was cherry and the girls beg for a bowl everyday until it's gone. Then they beg to make more!
Here's the recipe:
1 packet Kool-Aid
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
3 cups milk
Combine all ingredients in freezer safe bowl (I use a pyrex serving dish) and beat well. Freeze 1 hour and beat again. Return to freezer. Freeze another hour or 2 and beat again, returning to freezer when done. Serve when frozen completely. If there is any left after serving, it will freeze harder the next day and becomes like italian ice and you have to scrape it with a spoon.
Try it and let me know how you like it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Love Affair Is Over...


We finally did it.. we killed the Television!

It's something I've been pushing for awhile now, to end our service with the satelite company, but Hubby was resistant, saying he liked to watch the news or some of the other shows. I pointed out that he usually gets his news off the internet or the radio, since he falls asleep in front of the TV before the news even comes on. With all the money we paid for the TV service, and all the channels there were to watch-- there was never anything good on. Almost always reruns and repeats and stuff that we weren't interested in.

I tried the money factor, telling Hubby we were paying X-amount of dollars for stuff we never watch, but it didn't fly. We ended up calling the satelite company and revising our service and paying about $20 less. A few more months go by and again, I bring up the subject of canceling the TV service. "We can watch movies and catch up on TV shows when they come out on DVD. TV shows get released on DVD so quickly now," I'd tell him. But still, he didn't want to let go of the TV.

I tried the kid factor, showing him the language the girls were picking up from the shows they watched on TV. The commercials the girls get bombarded with and then they turn and ask if they can have the latest crying baby or polly pocket or cupcake maker (No No No!). "Wouldn't you rather the girls play outside or use their imagination and play with their toys instead of sitting in front of the TV, turning into zombies?" I'd ask him. Still, he wasn't about to let go of the TV.

I tried the time factor, explaining that we would get more stuff done around the house if it wasn't for the TV. Instead of watching some mindless show and falling asleep out of boredom, he could be working on his projects or reading that book he's been wanting to read. I could catch up on sewing or doing my other projects I've been meaning to get around to. We could go to bed earlier and get up earlier (especially me, night owl that I am). Still, no go.

Then last week, my husband had an epiphany on the way home from work one night. He came home all excited and said, "Let's do it! Let's cancel the TV!" I was so happy. He called and stood his ground when the service person on the other end of the line tried to convince him to change to a cheaper service instead of canceling. They offered $20 off, then $25, then half of what we were paying. Finally, when they realized my husband wasn't changing his mind, our service was cut.

It's been bliss ever since! We have been doing more reading, playing and spending even more time outside. The weather has been glorious lately and we are taking advantage of it and working on the rest of our wood pile. The kids hardly miss the TV and they are watching movies that they haven't seen in ages. I don't miss the TV either. I have actually read 3 books in 4 days! My husband has started writing again and he is finally several chapters in his latest book.

Who knew not having the TV would be so freeing? While we are still watching movies that we have, it is stuff that we approve of and have watched and know that the girls will not be picking up bad language or behavior. I'm just glad I won't have to suffer through any more lousy commercials, especially all the toy ads and diet ads!! Good riddance!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 30

We voted... Did you?

Monday, November 3, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 29

We had another family day of being outdoors and splitting more wood. Oldest is right beside Daddy, helping move the split wood out of the way.


The younger two girls were happy to just jump around in the back of the truck.


After Hubby split the wood, I loaded them up in the back of the truck (the girls got evicted). When the truck bed was full, we drove around to the front of the house where we keep our wood pile for the wood stove. Hubby goes back to split more wood and I unload the wood and stack it. I'm a better stacker than he is, so we both agree that I stack and he cuts/splits the wood. This is the best wood pile we've ever had and I hope we have more than we need. The wood behind me is almost as tall as me, stacked in 4 rows. This is more than 5 cords and we still have more wood in the pole barn.

After I empty the truck, we get to ride in the back of the truck, back to the pole barn to load it up again. I remember what fun it was to ride in the back of my dad's truck when I was a little girl, and I'd see big trucks go by and motion for them to honk their horns. I always got a thrill when the truck drivers would pull their horns and honk them for me. The days of riding in the back of a truck on the highway are gone, but we can still let our kids ride in the back around our property. I sit in the back with them, to make sure they stay seated.

I couldn't resist a photo of Youngests' "plumber's butt"!! She was helping me pick up wood to load into the truck and every time she bent down, this is what I saw. The cutest plumber's butt I've ever seen! :o)


A sweet ending to a very good day-- making peachy muffins for breakfast the next morning.