Wednesday, October 29, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 28

Today was a *brrrrrrr!* windy day! It's Wednesday, so that means Library Day! Off we went to the Library and we bumped into another nice mom and her son who also home school! We ended up talking for nearly 2 hours there, while my kids and her son got along great! We exchanged information and I hope we get together again soon.

After a stop at the food store, Hubby decided it was time to carve a jack-0-lantern! The girls were all excited about that.
The finished pumpkin!

Oldest played around with the cut outs and begged me to take a picture of the face she made.

While Hubby and the girls played with the pumpkin, I made pumpkin bread! Mmmmm! The house smells like a bakery!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 27

At last! I can finally post pictures again.

In the spirit of Halloween this Friday, the girls and I made candy corn cookies! Read on for a how-to and the recipe.

This is what your cookies will look like when you're done baking them. Aren't they cute? Tasty, too! You can use your favorite sugar cookie recipe or buy sugar cookie dough from the store, or you can use my recipe posted at the end.

After mixing up your cookie dough, divide into 3 equal parts. Leave one white, and with food coloring, color one orange and the other yellow. Roll each color into 2 thin logs about 12 inches long and 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 15 minutes.

On a floured surface, take one of each color and put orange in the middle. Press them close together and sprinkle a little flour on top.

With a rolling pin, roll flat until about 1/4 inch thickness. If they start to separate at the ends, gently press them together and roll over.

With a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut small triangles all the way across. Separate triangles and place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake as directed with your cookie recipe.
Here's my favorite sugar cookie recipe. It's my go-to recipe anytime I want to make quick and easy sugar cookies.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 c butter, softened
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
Pre-heat oven to 400*. In large mixer bowl combine sugar, butter and eggs. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add all remaining ingredients and continue beating until well-mixed.
Shape into rounded teaspoonfuls of dough and dip in sugar and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
You can also dip in a cinnamon/sugar mixture; you can add chopped semi-sweet chocolate to the dough and top each cookie with a cherry half before baking; you can top with a gumdrop; or you can add 1/2 a cup of flaked coconut to the dough then roll in powdered sugar after baking. OR you can do the above and make candy corn cookies!


Monday, October 27, 2008

An interruption...

How frustrating... I have many lovely photos to share for my ::30 Days:: series and Blogger still refuses to let me load them.**

It has been a busy weekend. On Saturday, I took the kids with me to the consignment shop. It was free "shopping" day and we got to pick through all the clothing, toys and accessories that consignors did not come back for. There were over 4,000 items left behind and still some very nice things. After shopping, we opened to the public to sell the remaining items for 75% off.

On Sunday, Hubby, the kids, and I went back to the store to work our final day. The store was open from 10-3pm and then after closing, staff pulled all the tags from the leftover items and scanned the bar codes in the computer. Everything that is left will be donated to charity-- people from battered women shelters and various homes will come and "shop".

It was a different feel for me this time around. I have been involved with the store almost from the beginning, 6 years ago, when Oldest was still in my belly. There were changes this year, with new staff members, my new baby, and the boss discovering she had cancer in her uterus and had a hysterectomy in the middle of the sale. I am amazed at her determination to be at the store a mere 5 days after the surgery and everyone, staff and volunteers, stepped up and made everything work in her absence.

I felt like the odd man out this sale. I'm coming from 90 miles away and gas is an issue, because even if the prices are falling, my bank account isn't growing. It is a challenge to work and keep a watchful eye on 4 children and then I also had to stop working every so often to nurse the baby. It was fine for me to hold the baby and work, but if Hubby held the baby, he was told to get off the clock. I found it to be overwhelming and have only been to work for a total of 8 days out of 5 weeks. I also spent a lot of time working solo and felt shut out of conversations.

I also discovered that certain items were pulled out before we had our free shopping and then put back afterwards when we were done. If they didn't want me to take any of those items, they could have asked me to leave them. I did not get any more than anyone else did, and as a matter of fact, I filled only 1 shopping cart full of clothing and toys, compared to two other staffers that had 2 shopping carts full. Usually, there is a lot of "what size are you looking for? Here's a bunch of size sixes!" And this time, there was none of that.

A coat I picked out that was a really nice one by a well-known good quality brand was singled out: "Who are you getting the coat for?" The baby, I replied. "It's a size 4!!" (It's actually a size 3) I shrugged my shoulders and put it in my cart. First off, this is a consignment shop, which means you usually only see one of everything, not many duplicates in several sizes like at the stores. Plus, it was a really nice coat and chances are, when Baby needs a coat when he is 3, I'm not going to find one like it, so who says I can't snag it now and hold onto it for a couple years? It was the only item I got that wasn't his current size and she had 2 carts filled with items for only 2 little boys. I'm filling 1 cart for 4 kids. It all left a sour taste in my mouth, to tell you the truth.

My husband also noticed a change in the way people behaved around us and we have concluded that maybe it is time for us to move on, to find another consignment place closer to home, or to try and start our own thing. I have seen how the business has grown every year and I know how it works and I think there is a real potential for it to do well where I live. It could give us the opportunity to get to know people in our own community, contribute to local charities and keep me closer to home instead of driving 180 miles a day to earn a mere $5/hour. Definitely something to check into.

** I'll continue the ::30Days:: series when Blogger lets me post pictures again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 26

We got 2 letters from Child Protective Services. One for the husband and a separate one for me. I opened mine with a little bit of hesitation. I know in my heart that I am a good mom and that the husband is a good dad, but I don't know what people see. Do people see us differently? What does a social worker, that is trained to look at things with a critical eye, see? Does he see crumbs on the table and floor a sign of uncleanliness? Does he see cluttered kitchen counter tops as sloth-like behavior? Does he understand that a home with 4 young children means that mom has her hands full and can't always wipe the table and sweep the floors after every meal, and the mail and other items that come in everyday doesn't always get sorted to their proper places right away?

Opening the letter, the first page explained the policies of CPS and what the letter means and if you weren't satisfied with the results, where to call; etc etc etc. The last page stated:

"Allegations that were investigated:

An investigation was recently completed regarding the CPS report dated 9/05/2008 which alleged that "Baby" was NEGLECTED by "Mama"

Findings of the investigation:

The investigation of the allegations found that "Baby" was NOT NEGLECTED by "Mama"

Risk that abuse and/or neglect may occur in the future was also found to be minimal to low.


For the above stated reasons, CPS WILL NOT be offering services to your family."

You just don't know the relief I felt when I read the last page. It was a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders. Both Hubby and I looked at each other and smiled big smiles.

My husband works at the mall in the big town and he sees lots of familiar faces-- old friends, former co-workers and acquaintances. One day he saw the pediatrician that reported us to CPS. The pediatrician saw my husband and then quickly ducked, covered his face and walked away. Now why would he do that? I'd like to think that he feels guilty for reporting us, but it may also be he wanted to avoid a confrontation. In any case, it's over and we will never be going back to that doctor again.

I'm unable to post any pictures today, Blogger is acting funny.

We pureed one of the pumpkins and made pumpkin cookies then froze the rest of the pumpkin puree in 1-cup portions. The pumpkin seeds are drying and will be toasted and seasoned tomorrow.

Pumpkin cookies recipe found here. Good cookies, kind of cake-y, but good.

I was going to do a whole post about how to puree pumpkin for pies and breads, but Pioneer Woman beat me to it. Go here for how to make puree and here for pumpkin seeds. She makes her puree and seeds pretty much the same way I do mine, so check it out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 25

More laundry... I had to re-wash 2 loads because the husband cut the grass while the clothes were still wet and at the end of the day, the dust from the mower dried into the clothes. sigh.. A woman's work is never done, eh?

Petting Archie the cat on the way back in the house. He used to be an indoor cat, until he decided the litter box wasn't good enough for him anymore. He is doing pretty well outside, already caught several mice! Good cat!

More apples... are you getting sick of hearing me talk about apples? Me, too! I'm so done with apples right now. I made several more batches of apple sauce, dried apples and the apples above are about to be made into apple chips. Apples are sliced thinly then dipped in lemon juice, then dipped in cinnamon and sugar and dried in the dehydrator until crispy. I have about 10 apples left and I will NOT be getting anymore.

We are big iced tea drinkers and I make it by the gallon every few days. I never liked tea growing up and one of my best friends always offered me iced tea and I always said "eww, no!" Then when I was 17, I went to Cordoba, Argentina in South America with my performing arts group and we were told not to drink the water unless it was heated. For two weeks, it was either soda, warm milk or hot tea. I watched all my friends drink the tea and they added lemon or honey or sugar to it. I thought to myself that if they all liked it, tea must not be that bad. So I tried hot tea for the first time and liked it! When I came back home and went to my best friends' house, I asked for the iced tea. You should have seen the look on her face! I learned how to make iced sweet tea the way her momma makes it and I've been making it that way ever since. I even got me a gallon sized tupperware pitcher just like her momma has and it is used exclusively for tea.

In case you're wonderin' how to make sweet iced tea...

6 tea bags

1 cup sugar

1 gallon water

1 gallon size tupperware pitcher!

Boil tea bags in a small pan. Let it boil about 5 minutes then turn off heat but let tea bags sit for a little while. In the pitcher, add the sugar and then the hot tea. Stir to dissolve sugar and then add cold water to make 1 gallon. That's it! Less sugar than a gallon of kool-aid. Less sugar and caffeine than a liter of soda.

Monday, October 20, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 24

It was a chilly day and so we spent most of the day indoors. The girls did some painting with watercolors.

I love how the kids pick up certain behaviors of mine without me teaching them. I'm a lazy mopper and if the kids spill water or some other liquid, I'll throw a towel on top and use my feet to sop it up, because usually I have Baby in my arms or something and bending over or getting on my hands and knees is not convenient for me. I caught Youngest doing the feet/towel thing when she spilled some of her water. I'll have to remember that the next time I'm doing something I don't want the kids to pick up.

Hubby went to our friends' place for more wood and I knew he would come home hungry. Plus, it's chilly and that's always an excuse to warm up the house with the oven! I made a roast and slow cooked it in the oven for several hours then added carrots for the last hour. I also boiled whole potatoes and then thick-sliced them and layered them with cooked onions, butter, milk and parmesan cheese for a rustic potato au gratin-- it was something I made up and it was delicious! I'll make that again!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 23

Hubby's Boss sent him to a fair the next town over. He is a salesman/spokesman for Bath Fitter--I'm sure you've seen the commercials: they cover your old, ugly bathtub or shower with a new one. He explains the procedure and shows how they do it with samples and answers questions. My husband is a real people person and is always talking to strangers, so this is the perfect job for him.

Anyway, the fair! Only 12 miles from our house, so I packed the kids into the van and decided to "visit" daddy at work and see what the fair held.

How convenient, the table next to Hubby's was a face painting group. Of course the older girls wanted their faces done. Youngest was a bit hesitant so she had her hand painted instead.

The kids l-o-v-e watching Pink Panther cartoons, so when they spotted this character, they went nuts! Of course, Youngest was a bit hesitant and didn't want to go near him, until he offered his bucket of candy to them. She gave him the two pieces of candy she had in her hand, thinking she was supposed to give them up, not get more candy. Just about every table and vendor there had candy and little prizes for the kids. We left the fair with bags full of candy, pencils, rulers, popcorn balls, stickers, crayons, balloons and (thankfully) toothbrushes and toothpaste!

After saying good-bye to daddy, we headed back home, and the girls proceeded to dump out all their goodies on the floor in their room. I didn't realize how much candy they got until I walked in and promptly confiscated most of it, to be doled out little by little, later. I was a little too late, though, because the rest of the afternoon was spent with them bouncing off the walls.

Their room was a mess (Oldest and Middle share a room) and this is what I found when I pulled the bed away from the wall. Good lord! What a mess! This is what I found:

hundreds of loose puzzle pieces from more than 3 puzzles

tons of little barbie accessories and clothes

a sock cut in half (what the...?!?)

my nice backgammon game case without the game pieces (!!!)

the jacket that I asked Middle several times to hang up and put away

candy wrappers

naked dolls (why are they always naked???)



and other bits and bobs

The whole room got cleaned up, swept and moved around. Hopefully my threats of no trick-or-treating will help keep the room clean, at least until after Halloween!

Friday, October 17, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 22

While peeling apples for yet another round of dried apples, I noticed an intruder. Looks like a Granny Smith apple snuck in with the Jonagolds... Notice the slightly greenish white flesh compared to the other apples? That's alright. It's all good.

While I was working on the apples, Oldest read some stories to Baby and Youngest. Such a sweet picture. I swear Oldest would take over my mothering duties if I let her. Since I can't hear, I rely on the girls to tell me when Baby is crying. When I'm working the apples, I'll ask Oldest to check on Baby and let me know if he is crying, and instead she'll get him out of the crib herself and bring him out. I get exasperated sometimes, as I don't completely trust her not to drop him. I know she would never intentionally hurt him, but I worry that he might slip from her loose grip or she'll not support his head or not put him down gently. She is only 6 and certainly not old enough for babysitting, although she is a wonderful helper.

I made tortilla chips today and the girls were constantly running in and out of the kitchen to snag a chip or two. Middle here, likes to dunk her chips in water. She's a dunker-- cookies in milk; tator tots in V-8; chips in water. If she ever drinks coffee when she is older, she'll probably dunk doughnuts in her coffee.

I recycled the bag that the corn tortillas came in and put the chips in there. It's a perfectly good bag and no sense in throwing it away when it can be used again. I save almost all the bread bags, too, for when I make my own breads. I used to buy zippy bags almost every shopping trip, from the little sandwich-sized ones to the big gallon ones. The last time I bought zippy bags was for freezing strawberries this past Spring. Recycling bread bags saves me money and helps the earth.

::30 Days:: Day 21

More apples...

The kids helped me get the apple slices ready for the dehydrator. Very easy to make-- with or without a dehydrator. Peel and slice apples, then a quick soak in lemon juice/water to prevent apples from turning brown. You can buy stuff called "fruit fresh" but it's basically lemon juice.

Layer apple slices in a single layer on dehydrator. If you don't have one, use a cookie sheet and a cookie rack and put them in the oven on the lowest setting available. Depending on the temperature and the humidity in the air, and the thickness of the slices, it can take anywhere from 8 - 12 hours.

Apple peelings don't go to waste entirely. The kids love to nibble on them "lady and the tramp style".

You'll know your apple slices are done when they feel leathery, much like raisins. Some of them were ready before others, so check every once in awhile and pull out the ones that are done, or else they become crispy.

They bend without breaking and keep in jars or zippy bags up to 6 months, depending on how dry they are.

You can soak them in water to re-hydrate them for pies and desserts. You can eat them as is for a healthy snack, or mix with other dried fruits and nuts for a homemade trail mix. You can also chop them up and use in recipes in place of raisins-- like Oatmeal cookies. Here's my favorite Oatmeal cookie recipe:

3/4 c butter- softened

1 c brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

1/4 c milk

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 c flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3 cups oats

1 c raisins (or dried cranberries or chopped, dried apples)

Pre-heat oven to 350*. Beat butter, sugars, milk, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and mix well. Stir in oats and raisins.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Flatten lightly. Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 3 dozen, if you don't keep snacking on the cookie dough!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 20

Here we go again: 2 more bushels of apples. Jonagolds in front, Galas in the back. The two combined make outstanding applesauce. The Galas are really sweet and also make yummy apple chips. No sugar necessary.

We went back to the same orchard and then took the back roads home to take in the breathtaking fall colors. Absolutely glorious up here this time of year.

Youngest was dressed appropiately in an apple shirt and shorts for our apple pick-up. We went for a walk in the woods when we got home.

Oldest and middle romping in the fallen leaves.

There comes a time when you have to trust your child with a sharp knife. Oldest desperately wanted to help chop apples for the apple crisp I was making. I decided she was ready and let her do it. I kept my eye on her and corrected her when needed. She chopped all 6 apples by herself! This is one proud mama!

Library day was a success this morning. I put in my order for the next book in the Twilight series and picked up 3 movies. I'll have something to watch while I peel and chop apples for more apple sauce, dried apples and apple chips.

I told myself that I wanted to have at least 20 quarts of applesauce and ended up with 23. Four quarts are already gone and if I want applesauce to eat in the Spring and Summer next year, I quickly realized I need to make more. The apple chips went fast and I have barely enough dried apples for another batch of cookies. I thought I'd better get more apples before the ones I like are gone.

::30 Days:: Day 19

More laundry...

We got pumpkins! Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread here we come! mmmmm!

Can't forget the little guy..

Playing peek-a-boo with the last of the tomatoes.

Oldest raked leaves and Youngest jumped in!

Covered wagon birdhouse on the pole barn... left behind by the previous owners.

This time of year brings the ladybug invasion.

While splitting wood with Hubby, I spotted this big wooly caterpillar. Look at the size of him! The bigger and woolier they are, the longer and colder the winter-- isn't that how the saying goes?

Taking a timeout from helping Hubby to nurse the baby. Gives me such a down-to-earth feeling when I nurse outside.

My view of the growing woodpile from where I lie. Love those orange berries against the red. Don't ask me what they are, I forget, but they'd be perfect for under windows-- they have inch long thorns and they hurt!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 18

While Baby took a nap, I sewed up the screen I had to rip open when we got locked out of the house.

My mom told me that my Grandmother got locked out of the house pretty often and several of her screens had circles cut out and then sewed back on. She finally took to pinning a spare key inside of her bra. She also folded her money into a hankie and pinned that to her bra, too. She didn't like to use a purse. Now I know where I get that from-- I'm anti-purse!

Baby took a long enough nap that I was able to make oatmeal cookies-- my favorite! Instead of raisins or dried cranberries, I added a cup of chopped, dried apples. So good and good for you!

My long hair has been driving me crazy. It's the longest I have ever had it and while I was pregnant, I had it down all the time-- unusual for me not to have it up. I'm guessing it was the hormones that made me love my healthy hair. Now that my hormones are pretty much back to normal, my hair is falling out in clumps, I suspect it is also because of the length and weight of the hair. I'm finding hair all over the place and more than once I've pulled out a long hair from the meal I am making-- ugh! 99% of the time, it's up in a pony tail and I simply can't stand it anymore.

Ahh! Much better! I put my hair in a low ponytail, and asked my husband to cut it for me. It ended up a little shorter than I expected, but I'm happy with it. We'll see how it looks in the morning when my hair is dry. I actually weighed myself before and after and I lost a pound of hair!! Good grief! That's some heavy hair.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

::30 Days:: Day 17

Gotta love a man that knows his way around a kitchen. Hubby is making hash browns with onions and green peppers from scratch-- so good! When we were first dating, he bragged that he made a mean Beef Stroganoff. His work area was having a Christmas potluck and he said he would bring me a sample of his dish. I expected a small spoonful on a plate, but what he brought me was a plate overflowing with all sorts of food plus his Beef stroganoff taking center stage in the middle of the plate. He made it from scratch and it was absolutely yummy. Like me, he liked to hang out in the kitchen with his mom and later, he was a cook in the Navy. I scored with this one! :o)

The girls were having a crafty moment and made a crown for the Baby. Looks like he was having fun being a prince, too!

Today was an ordinary day-- laundry, playtime, cleaning and cooking. I don't usually take pictures of everyday activities, but now as I type this, I think I should. Everyday moments are a big part of our lives and I want to be able to remember those times, too.