Friday, November 30, 2012

November Fragments

And yet another week has gone by without a blog post. (Well, that's not entirely true. I did blog on Tuesday on the Sonlight Blog. That counts!) However, I shall try to atone for my non-blogginess this week by sharing some more fragments today.

Do you know how gray and dark and depressing it's been around here lately?
Not only have we had gray, rainy days... we're a little short on daylight just now. I came out of Costco yesterday to discover it was pitch dark at 4:20 in the afternoon! I mean, pitch dark, not just starting to get dark. Just three more weeks until the daylight hours start getting longer again.

* * *
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I had the privilege of going to the junkyard Pull-and-Save again with my favorite gear-head. He was needing some spare parts to fix up Laura's "new" car. It's just like this one, only not, um, smashed. Thank God!
I felt so sorry for whoever wrecked this car. It had apparently been a young lady's car based on the cluttery stuff that was still in it-- hair ties, a stray shoe, etc. I hope she survived. I think it would be a miracle if she did. I pray every day that God keeps our girly safe when she's driving.

* * *
We had no guests and no invitations for Thanksgiving...
...but we had a lovely feast anyway, just the four of us. The table wasn't particularly fancy, but the food and the fellowship was good. We have our family, our health, our home, our jobs... which is more than many people have... so we consider ourselves blessed!

* * *
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving one of us turned 47. You may recall that we celebrated the other one of us turning 48 back in the summer. I'll let you use your detective skills to figure out which is whose birthday, because I'm sure it's important to you!
We celebrated by spending the day just hanging out. We had a lunch date, and then walked around downtown Spokane for awhile. We were home by dark for an at-home pizza and movie night... but then decided on the spur-of-the-moment to take in a late night movie as well. Happy birthday to me!

* * *
Laura and her bestie were invited to a "smug" party... which, from all that I could gather, meant that they were supposed to dress formally and act snobby.
So here they are, preparing to put on airs. Aren't they cute?

* * *
And thus concludes another week's worth of fragments.
Mommy's Idea

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratefulness

November is such a gray, dreary month. For example, today we get exactly 8 hours and 2 minutes of daylight. And it will only get shorter for the next month. I think that's what makes November so hard-- even worse than February, my second least-favorite month. At least in February the days are getting longer instead of shorter, and spring is right around the corner. With November you get increasingly shorter days with winter just around the corner.

And it's been raining and raining and raining all week. Not a "Super Storm Sandy" kind of rain, of course. But a typical slow drizzly, chilly, Northwest-in-the-fall kind of rain. Perfect weather for curling up in front of a fire with a cup of coffee and a good book. Not that I have time to do that, you understand, but the weather is perfect for it anyway.

Today I'm grateful that the problems I have, and the worries on my mind, are really pretty trivial in the broad scheme of things. Mostly what you would call First World Problems. I don't have to worry about a roof over my head, or where my next meal is coming from. I have good health and a happy family.

I am blessed.

And I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Goldtown Adventures - review

Fellow homeschool-mom Susan K. Marlow's new book series for kids, Goldtown Adventures, has launched!

Badge of Honor  is an exciting historical novel for kids. It takes place in the waning days of the California gold rush, as seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Jem. There is still gold to be found (small amounts, anyway) if one is willing to work hard at getting to it. Jem and his little sister, Ellie, are willing. Too bad their pa thinks they ought to be in school. What's even worse is that Pa got elected sheriff, so now that means they have to be on their best behavior. And to top things off, "city" relatives arrive from back east to live with them. In spite of all that, Jem and Ellie, and their city-slicker cousin manage to find plenty of adventure... if not plenty of gold.

 Targeted for children ages 10-14, my 17-year-old daughter and I both thoroughly enjoyed the story. My favorite character is Strike-It-Rich Sam and his obstinate burro, Canary. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series which is due out later this winter.

Susan offers free study guides for all of her books. She also offers lap books that coordinate with the novels. These are great for turning a fun story into an educational unit study.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Fragments

Sparse blogging just seems to call for Fragments on Friday, don't you think? I wasn't even sure if I could scrape up any fragments to share... but then I read of Keetha's desperate dash around the house to gather up fragments to share, and if they aren't kicking her out of the Frag party for that, I guess I can do the same thing, right? Besides, several of you assured me that it was okay to blog even if I didn't have to have anything important to blog about, so you can only blame yourselves!

* * *

Yesterday, when I posted about making yogurt a certain commenter asked, "Is there ANY domestic skill in which you are NOT proficient?"

I laughed.

Ha.

If she could only see my house. Those of you who have been here know that my housekeeping can best (and by best, I mean, most kindly) described as "comfortable." In fact, Denise described me that way last week, "You are such a comfortable person and I am proud to call you friend ~ for over 30 years now!" She has never actually been to my house (though she has been to my parents' house long ago before either of us were married), but I guess she knows me well enough to know that "comfortable" is a good word for it. I took it as a compliment.

Anyway, as an example of a domestic skill which I do not possess, here is a picture of some gorgeous... and utterly delicious... pumpkin-cupcakes-with-cream-cheese-frosting-and-dark-chocolate-leaves that my friend Janelle made a couple weeks ago. And yes, she made the leaves!! (If Janelle had a blog, I would link to it.)

* * *
Our first snow of the season was earlier this week. Our neighborhood looked like this for a couple of days.
Actually, we ended up with several inches... okay, maybe two! But the ground wasn't very cold yet so it didn't stick around long. That's fine with me. I would just as soon it not snow until winter officially starts. And that's not for another 5 weeks, thankyouverymuch!
The mums survived the snow, though they are almost through blooming, I think. The marigold (the stalky plant leaning over in front) did not. The white pumpkin did not. He's squishy and ready to be carted off. The orange pumpkin, on the other hand, gave his life for the benefit of culinary delights.
Laura tried her hand at making a pumpkin roll to start with. It also turned out utterly delicious. I've never attempted a pumpkin roll before, so there, you see? Another domestic skill I don't possess!

* * *
In Etsy news, my coffee cozies have been selling... well, not quite like I imagine hot cakes sell... but pretty well, at least for my little shop. I have lots of colors listed, but these are the most popular colors.
The top two sellers, by far, are the natural and sage. Interestingly enough, those are the most popular colors for my washcloths, too. Sadly, I'm almost out of the sage cotton yarn. I haven't been able to find more locally recently. I hope they haven't discontinued that color.

* * *
I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in last week. It was at a local coffee shop that I hadn't been to before. That was fun.
I hadn't been to a NaNo write-in before, either, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I did not expect was that most of the other "writers" would sit there chit-chatting most of the time. I don't know how they got any writing done. Maybe they're more talented than I am. I can't write and talk (or even listen to other people talking) at the same time. I managed to get around 1,000 words written in the two hours I was there... and the chit-chat finally died down about 30 minutes before I had to leave. I was parked in a two-hour zone, so rather than move my car, I just left. Next time I'll know to take ear buds.

There's no way I'm going to make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month, but that's okay. I am getting some developmental work done as well as writing.

* * *
In the evenings I've been hanging out a certain print shop. I can't say that I add a whole lot to the productivity, though I do try to help out wherever I can.
Mostly, I'm just there because a certain man seems to have taken up residence there, instead of here at home. I'm hopeful that next week, at least, may be a little slower for him, with the holiday. These 70-hour work-weeks are not doing either one of us a whole lot of good. I'm trying to coax him away for a day trip tomorrow, but it will just depend on how much work comes in today. He usually runs out of time during the week and ends up having to work on Saturday, too, to get it all done.

* * *
Thank you for tuning it to this week's episode of Friday Fragments here at Ramblin' Roads! Please come again!
Mommy's Idea

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Making Yogurt

So I've been tweeting* about making yogurt in the Crock Pot and I thought I might mention it in my Friday Fragments post tomorrow, but it's generated so much interest, I decided that it warranted its own post. This is not, however, a tutorial. There are several excellent ones already available. Just wanted to share my experience.
For the past year or so we have been buying raw milk. We get one gallon a week for our family of four. Buying directly from the dairy farmer is a little different than buying milk at the store. We have a set time to pick up the milk, so we get it whether we need it or not. Besides, raw milk doesn't "keep" as long as store-bought milk, so even if we haven't used the full gallon, after a week or so it begins to go sour.

 One of my daughters is currently experiencing a lactose intolerance, so for the past few weeks I've been ending up with too much milk each week. She had noticed, though, that yogurt doesn't bother her. After doing some research I found out that the lactose in the milk is consumed by the live cultures in the yogurt during the fermenting process. I had heard that making yogurt wasn't hard, and since I had extra milk I decided to try it.

First, I hopped on Google. (What in the world did we do before the internet?) Here are the sites I read before I headed to the kitchen:


Step 1:  About 9 a.m. I made sure my Crock Pot was extra-clean and then poured in a half gallon of milk, and turned it on Low. Then I ignored it for about 2 hours.

Step 2: Removed the lid, turned off the Crock Pot. Checked the temperature of the milk with a kitchen thermometer. You want it to be about 180 and mine was a little higher than that, so I'll check it sooner next time. I also stirred in the "skin" that had formed on the top of the milk. Apparently, it's better to remove that, for a smoother yogurt, so I'll do that next time. Leaving the lid off to let in the bacteria from the air, I kept an eye on it for the next hour or so, "taking its temperature" every few minutes. I was watching for it to get down to about 110 degrees. This was the only "fiddly" part of the whole process, being sure to catch it at 110. At that time, I stirred in about a fourth of a cup of store-bought plain yogurt. I bought the Greek-style because I could get the "plain" in a smaller container. I think it doesn't really matter what style it is as long as it contains live cultures. Then I replaced the lid, and wrapped the whole Crock Pot (outer part and all) in a thick blanket and shoved it to the back of the counter. That was at noon. I didn't do another thing to it until bedtime.

Step 3: Just before I went to bed I unwrapped the Crock Pot and peeked inside. It had set up nicely! I was so pleased. A little whey had separated so I gave it a stir or two just to see what it looked like, and I tasted it. Oh, yum! A little tart, and unflavored, but I could tell I had made real yogurt! I lifted the inner crock part of the Crock Pot out of the appliance part and just set it in the fridge until morning.

Step 4: This morning I took out one serving and stirred in honey and frozen berries for breakfast. Tasty! I decided to try straining the whey, which is an optional step, to make it a little thicker. Apparently, straining the whey off is what makes it Greek-style. I lined a colander with coffee filters (having no cheese cloth) and set it down in a large bowl. After about an hour, a cup or so of whey had drained off, which I reserved because I understand it can be used for cooking. Then I stirred in agave nectar and vanilla, and persuaded my kids to taste it. They were more impressed than they expected to be. "Tastes a little bit like ice cream!"

Don't you love it when something you try turns out great the first time?

*Even if you're not on Twitter, you can read my Twitter feed in the side-bar of my blog, if you didn't realize that already.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

50 Questions - Part 2

Because I'm sure you're all just dying to read the rest of my answers, here ya go. You can read Part 1 in the previous post, if you like.
26. Do you often skip breakfast?
Probably about half the time, though I usually do have coffee.

27. Would you want to know the exact date and time you were going to die?
No, thank you.

28. Describe your neighborhood.
We live in a new-ish neighborhood. The houses are about 15 years old, I think. Because of this, the trees in our neighborhood are all pretty young, so we don't have a lot of shade. Our street is on a hill so we have a nice view of the valley below. We also have mountains in the distance on three sides.

29. Name a TV series you didn't enjoy until after it ended.
I grew up without TV, so a lot of the shows from the 1980s and before had long-since ended before I ever saw them. One of my favorites is The Andy Griffith Show.

30. Have you ever bought a product from an infomercial?
No. Though I have bought products from the "As Seen on TV" section at Wal-Mart or wherever. Not that I had seen it on TV, but because it looked like a useful product. Some turned out to be more useful than others.

31. What is one thing you could never forgive?
I'm not sure. I pray that God would give me the grace to forgive whatever I needed to forgive.

32. What part of the past year sticks out in your mind?
One of my favorite memories is the 2-day trip Lyle and I took to the coast for his birthday.

33. What is your favorite sport?
Who says I have a favorite sport? I don't really care for sports much at all. I enjoy hiking but that's really more of an activity than a sport, I guess.

34. What has been troubling you lately?
Lyle having to work 70+ hours a week.

35. Who was your first crush?
I had a "boyfriend" when I was 5. Does that count? He was also 5 and went to our church. I barely remember him.

36. Where is your favorite place to go out and eat?
On the Border, but there isn't one around here.

37. Give me an unpopular opinion you have.
Nope. Not gonna. This is my blog and I don't invite controversy here. Thanks for asking, though.

38. Describe a person that inspires you.
My parents and my grandparents inspire me. They are/were hard-working and giving. I am grateful for the heritage I have.

39. If you could earn minimum wage doing what you love, would you?
Probably. I do a lot of things I enjoy for which I earn less than minimum wage or even nothing.

40. Describe the last time you were very angry at someone.
I can't remember. Usually disagreements make me sad, not angry.

41. Where would you prefer to live? A city? The suburbs? The countryside? The mountains?
Out in the boonies, whether that's "countryside" or "mountains." We choose to live in town, though, so Lyle can spend more time at home and not commuting.

42. Where is "home" for you?
Home is where I currently live. I have lived in so many different places, that I don't have a "hometown." We have been in our current home for over 4 years now, and in the area for over 14. So it feels like home. That being said, "I'm kinda homesick for a country to which I've never been before..."

43. Where do you and your friends go to hang out?
Usually a coffee shop and/or bookstore. And my "friend" is usually my husband, though occasionally I'll meet another friend for coffee. (Jan, it's been too long... we really need to make a date to "hang out" again sometime!)

44. Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever bullied anyone else?
I was bullied in... oh, 5th or 6th grade. I've never intentionally bullied anyone, unless you count being the bossy big sister the same thing as being a bully. Or being a mom. My kids probably think I bully them.

45. Is it possible for guys and girls to be just friends?
On a certain level, yes. I think there is a fine line that shouldn't be crossed, though.

46. What are the 6 songs you listen to the most?
I don't listen to music often enough to know.

47. If you could meet anyone on earth, who would it be?
I'm not sure. I'm not big on meeting celebrities, if by "meeting" you mean shaking their hand and exchanging pleasantries once. I do have several blogging friends I've "met" online whom I wouldn't mind meeting in real life sometime.

48. What is your favorite blog currently?
I have a list of favorites that pop up in my Google Reader whenever there's a new post-- including Day by Day and Butterflies and Rainbows, where I picked up this tag.

49. What's the farthest you've ever been from home?
Florida, I think.

50. What's the one thing you're afraid of?
Snakes. I hate snakes.

Monday, November 5, 2012

50 Questions - Part 1

I saw the tag questions on 'Tasha's blog, Day by Day, originally... and I was tempted... but decided my blog readers had seen enough of my answers to these types of things.  And then... Jan @ Butterflies and Rainbows posted her answers... and I was tempted again. The clincher was when she actually called me out at the end of her post. Just me! By name! Why, I'd be plumb embarrassed to not participate after that.

Here the first 25 questions with my answers. I'll post the rest another day. And please, do feel free to play along. Let me know if you do. I'd love to read your answers.
1. Are you young at heart, or an old soul?
I'm an old soul. Always have been. Even when I was young (as a pre-teen and teen) I had "grandma" hobbies like knitting and crocheting... and writing letters... and reading stories to little kids.

2. What Christmas present do you remember the most?
I remember lots of presents. I have a good memory! I remember (and still have) several rag dolls that my mother made different years. I should get them out now and let them live in my baby buggy which has finally "come home" to my living room. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've blogged about it, other than posting a picture of Rachel and myself when we were babies on her birthday once. I'm slowing working on cleaning and decluttering this fall, so when I get my rag dolls out I'll be sure to show you pictures of them and the buggy.

3. Name one physical feature that you like about yourself, and one you don't like.
I have thick wavy-ish hair, so I guess that's what I like best. I have never colored it, and it's beginning to "lighten" around the "edges." I'm still not inclined to color it.

I've always wished I wasn't quite so tall (I'm 5'10"), but mostly when other people comment on it. Other than that, it doesn't really bother me. Why is it not okay to comment on someone's weight, but fair game to make remarks about their height? Just wondering. I mean, after all, weight is changeable. Height is not.

4. What holiday do you most look forward to?
My anniversary, which was this past weekend. Does that count as a holiday? I actually don't like national holidays very much. I'm not a Grinch (I hope), but I have found myself wishing that we didn't have big full-blown holidays every year. It just seems like so much excess. I like keeping celebrations as simple as possible.

5. How is the relationship between you and your parents?
I have a good relationship with my parents. They are so supportive and encouraging in everything I attempt.

6. You've got the TV on, but you're not really watching. What channel is the TV on? 
That never happens. I can't stand for the TV to be on if I'm not really watching it. In fact, I never turn it on. I watch TV with Lyle in the evenings sometimes. We only watched pre-recorded programs so we can skip commercials. Sometimes I'm just in the room with him, working on crocheting or reading a book while he watches sports.

7. If you could pick anywhere to live the rest of your life, where would it be? 
Northern Idaho is my #1 choice of places to live. We moved here 14 years ago, and we love it. My second choice would be Montana.

8. Have you ever spent a night in the hospital?
No, I never have. I've never had surgery, either, and the only bone I've ever broken was my little toe.

9. Do you enjoy being with only one or two friends, or with a large group of people? 
I strongly prefer being with one or two friends at a time. I feel overwhelmed in large groups.

10. Do you like the type of music your parents listen to? Do your parents like the type of music you listen to?
I think so. I enjoy traditional sacred music (hymns), and I know that's what they like, too. I also enjoy easy-listening style music and classical. The thing is, I actually don't listen to music all that much. Just like I don't like having the TV on when I'm not watching it, I don't like background music, as a rule, either.

11. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
I'm going to say salad because that could be so many different things and have a wide range of ingredients. That's probably cheating, but I love variety, so I would have a very hard time choosing just one food to eat for the rest of my life.

12. Do you believe in a god? 
I believe in and have a personal relationship with the only true God, the Creator of the universe.

13. What's you're favorite hash-tag to track? 
Sometimes #homeschool. Sometimes #writing.

14. When you were young, what would you dream you would be when you grew up?
I often thought of becoming a nurse... or a librarian... or a teacher... or a novelist. Turns out, nursing was definitely not for me, though both my sisters are nurses. The librarian career requires more schooling than I could afford. I'm currently in my 15th year as a homeschool-teacher. Just another year-and-a-half to wear that hat. It has been so fulfilling. And so the next stage is to become a novelist.

15. Do you want to have more friends than you have right now?
I don't need more friends, but I'm always happy to make new friends.

16. Have you ever met someone through the Internet, then met them in real life? 
Yes, quite a few people actually. When I first started contracting for Sonlight,  I hadn't met any of my co-workers in real life, though I worked with them online. Since then I have met them, and we are all good friends now.

17. Tell me about the last book you read. 
It was Soul's Gate by James Rubart. I'll be posting my review later this week.

18. Predict what your life will look like a year from now. 
I don't expect any major changes, but you never know what a year will hold.

19. Early bird or night owl? 
Night owl for the most part, but I have managed to get in the habit of getting up early, which requires going to bed earlier than I would naturally. Which is a good thing, I think. I'm definitely not a morning person.

20. Where do you live? 
In northern Idaho. I thought we already established that. Oh, I guess the earlier question was, "Where would you like to live?" Okay. Same thing.

21. What was the longest car ride you've ever taken? 
I'm not sure. It might have been the two-week road trip we took in 1991 from Kansas to Pennsylvania. Or it may have been the road trip from here to the Grand Canyon and then up the west coast in 2006. Another possibility was the trip from here to Illinois and back in 2009. Each of those trips included little side-trips and scenic driving along the day. Lyle could probably figure it out and tell me for sure, which one was longest.

22. What is your ethnic heritage? 
I am "American" for at least 200 years back on most branches. One of my great-great-grandmothers came from England in the late-1800s... and one of my great-great-great grandfathers came from Germany in the mid-1800s. Most of my ancestors came from England further back than that.

23. Do you want to live until you're 100? 
I might. If that's what God wills. But I would only enjoy it if I could be healthy both physically and mentally. One of my great-grandmothers lived to be 101. I was 22 when she died (I think-- something like that). I remember her visiting us when she was in her 90s and I was in high school. Her mind was sharp until she died. It was neat to be able to know her and listen to her stories.

24. Do you practice what you preach? 
I hope so. I try to.

25. Have you ever laughed uncontrollably when it was socially inappropriate? 
Oh, yes. The one memory that sticks in my mind is when I was in high school and my sisters and I were singing as a trio. Our church at the time had clear glass doors which could be seen from the platform... out the back of the sanctuary, through the vestibule, down the stairs and through the foyer. As we got up to sing this dog walked up to the doors and peered in. For some reason, that cracked us up. And you know how hard it is to quit laughing when someone is laughing with you. All three of us started snickering. The pianist, not being able to see out the door, did not realize we were tickled. She thought we were sobbing so she just kept playing softly. We finally composed ourselves enough to sing, and when we finished the song and sat down, our dad (the pastor) asked-- from the pulpit! -- "Girls, what was so funny?" That started us up again, and we tried to explain about the dog. No one else was very amused. Except the pianist, who thought it was funny that she thought we were "blessed" when we were actually laughing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Celebrating 27 Years!

Lyle comes home for lunch every day, but my work schedule doesn't always allow for a lunch break, so more often than not the kids serve me lunch while I'm working. Lyle often eats in my office just to hang out with me for the few minutes he's home.

He walked in the other day and pointed to his framed senior picture which I keep in my office. "Whatever happened to that guy?" he asked. The picture is 30 years old and doesn't look much like him any more.

"That guy?" I feigned confusion. "I haven't seen him around in a long time."

He sprawled out on the floor for his after-lunch cat nap. I leaned down to kiss him. "But this guy. I love this guy way more than I ever loved that guy."