Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We're Doing Swimmingly Thank You!

Today was a co-op meet up so we went to a friends house with a gaggle of other homeschoolers.

They swam. We ate and chatted. It was a good time!

I've been noticing something over the last few months. The amount of homeschoolers in our area seems to be exploding! Or is it just me? I mean, it's great but I'm not sure if I should be a little freaked out or really excited.

Why would I be freaked out? Well, lets use homeschooling as a barometer for how the schools are serving our children and families. If this many people are pulling their kids out or choosing never to send them, then there is an epic problem. It makes me very grateful that we still have this option.

This isn't news to me of course or any of the other local homeschoolers for that matter. We acted on the inadequacy of the public schools already by choosing to learn at home. I hope that these new homeschoolers find it as rewarding as we have.

On other fronts. How do you know you're a homeschooler? When a bug flies in and lands on mom's head late at night, you drag the kids out of bed to identify it!

This big old booger flew in last night because I had the windows open to let in the cool air.

A Stag Beetle. Nice thing to find, huh? It was very shiney tho! It had a very pretty shell.


Due to some irresponsible financial reporting by Harry Reid, there was a run on Indy Bank in California. Thanks Alyce!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

West Virginia Hot Dog Festival

We ventured down to the WV Hot Dog Festival today.
I wanted to have fun but I wasn't in the mood. I didn't sleep for crap last night. Not only that but I'd been cleaning closets all morning and I was just beat. Beat at 1pm in the afternoon. Sad really.
Had I been in a better mood, I might have tried a new kind of hotdog but since I was foul and grumpy, I stuck with my happy food. 1 Taco Dog and 1 WV dog. YUMMY.
A taco dog consists of 1 dog, 1 bun, crushed taco chips, cheese sauce, jalapenos, hot dog sauce, lettuce, tomatos, sour cream, more cheese and picante sauce.
I know what you're thinking, "ON A HOTDOG?"
but it is heavenly, it really is.
A West Virginia Dog qualifies as comfort food to me. It amazes me that slaw is purely a WV thing. I didn't realize this until a few years ago.
You don't eat slaw on your dog?
A WV dog consists of 1 dog, 1 bun, meaty, slightly spicy hotdog sauce, mustard, onion and SLAW.
Hubby gets a WV but doesn't get it with slaw, so it's really just a hotdog.

The above picture was swiped from Retinacandy. Like I said, I was feeling foul and didn't even get my camera out.
After gorging on hot dogs we went over to Sams club for some groceries. Meat is gross and expensive. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a carnivore but all the stuff we seem to be getting from the store is disgusting and exorbitantly expensive. I could go without but it's all the other three want to eat. It's rediculous.
Anyway... after that I came home and CRASHED. I was so so tired. I'm tired now and my nose is runny. Some one dance around a dead chicken and do a "no colds" chant for me OK?
I'm off to Kroger to get the stuff that I didn't want to buy in 50lb bags and get in on that great sale they've been having this week again. Buy 10 qualifying products and get 5$ off!
My children need new swimwear and so do I. Don't you hate it when you're only half way through the summer and your stuff doesn't last?

I'm changing my name..

And other stupid stuff your mother said that makes total sense now.

"Hey mom, look at this"

"Hey mom, where is the (insert something stupid)"

"Hey mom, I'm hungry"

"Hey mom, can I (do something )"

"Hey mom, He's (doing something)"

"Hey mom, the xbox (is doing something that I'm sick of hearing about)"

The one thing they know never to say is "Hey mom, I'm bored!"

They know that's a one way ticket to a bucket of water and a toothbrush.


The whole concept of travel insurance is a new one on me! But it sounds like a good idea!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Canning for Dummies

I'm a novice canner.
Novice meaning, I've done it three times now. I've been successful all three times tho so I guess now I can show you! I would have never had the confidence to try this if Stephanie hadn't showed me how. I'm eternally grateful!

First things first. Sterilize your jars. Don't use old spaghetti jars, only use Mason jars. I guess they wouldn't tell you that if it wasn't important. Commercial jars aren't heavy enough to endure the canning process. Don't use jars with chips or even hairline cracks. This can cause all your hard work to go Kaplooey! I've been sterilizing mine in my hot water bather because it's big and deep. You can also run them through the dishwasher on the sterile cycle. Be sure to keep them really hot. This serves two purposes.
1. It keeps the jars sterile
2. It keeps the jars at the same temperature so they won't pop, explode, crack, etc.
Seals and rings. I've read and been told of 2 schools of thought here. One is to also sterilize the seals and rings the other is to just wash them in hot soapy water. I just do hot soapy water. I'm of the mind that boiling the seals would damage the integrity of the seal. The only thing you really need to know is NOT TO REUSE the seal. Rings yes, seals NO


While I'm heating the water to boil the jars, I make a simple syrup because I'm canning berries today. My syrup is about 1/2 as much sugar as water. i.e. 2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water.
By the way, what I'm doing here is called a "Raw Pack". That means I'm not cooking the berries before hand. The berries will get plenty hot during the processing.
The picture below is my sauce pot setting in my crock pot base. I only have 3 burners on my stove and they're tiny at that, so I've had to get creative to have enough space. This isn't a canning step, I just thought I'd include it!
Now. While your syrup is being kept warm and your jars are boiling (for about 10 minutes) Start heating up about 3 inches of water in your pressure canner. Make sure to remember the rack that sits in the bottom. That's an important part because it keeps the jars lifted up off the bottom of the pot. The water you take the sterile jars out of and the water you put the full jars into should be roughly the same temperature. If they're both boiling,, it'll be fine. You just don't want to change to temp of the glass too often, that leads to broken glass!
It's hard to get a decent picture of boiling water.. ya know? Also,, please excuse my ugly old canner. It's a yard sale find and it works wonderfully, what more can you ask for?

The next step doesn't have a picture but it's pretty self explanatory. Take one jar at a time out of the boiling water and set it on a clean dishtowel. Pack your berries (or beans, or whatever) into the jar, firmly but don't crush them. Fill the jar right up to the first bump on the threads of your jar. This is about 1/2 inch headspace. Next pour your simple syrup over the berries to the same 1/2 inch mark on the jar. Give your jar a little tap on the counter to make any bubbles come to the top. Arrange your seal and ring on the jar, snug but not tight. You aren't trying to seal it right now,, just keep the seal in place.

After you have all of the jars in your canner, place and lock your lid. Don't put the weight on or mess with the safety valve, just wait. Soon you will see a nice steady plume of steam come up out of your valve stem. See? Kinda like this
When you do, plop the weight on. Shortly after you put the weight on the stem, you will see the safety valve pop up. That's good! You can see mine in the upright position here in this picture.
When that happens, it's time to start watching your gauge. Now I didn't take a picture of my gauge. I should have,, I'm sorry! But,, watch it carefully until it reaches the correct pressure for the recipe you are using. Your recipe should tell you, don't worry! Mine was 11lbs for 20m. You may have to tweak the temperature on your burner to keep it at the right poundage but once you get there, you should be able to leave it.
NO! Don't leave !
Keep an eye on it! I just meant you can stop messing with your temperature now!

When you've let it process as long as your recipe states turn the heat off and walk away. Don't open anything, don't move anything, don't touch the safety valve, nothin! Just sit down and have a bit of Blackberry Ripple and a cup of coffee.
When the pressure gauge says "0" and the safety valve has settled back down you may take the weight off and open the lid. Make sure to open it AWAY from you because there is still a lot of steam in there!
You can see in this picture that my safety is down and my weight is off.
I opened it up and look! Blackberries. Yummy. Don't worry about that water being all purple,, it's normal (so I hear).
Let your jars sit another 10 minutes in the pot before you take them out. Finish your coffee and listen for the lovely "pop" that comes from successful canning!

I've also read that after 24 hours you should very gently try and test the seal and see if it's stuck. I think that if the lid popped,, it's sealed. The Ball Blue Book says that you can reprocess unsealed jars after 24 hours in fresh jars but I'd say you better eat them or make cake or something!
I hope this helps all you folks out there that don't have a "Stephanie" in your life! Thanks again Steph! We're going to eat well this winter!
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Blackberry Ripple


It didn't come out real "rippley" because my black berries were fresh but OMG.... it's good. I just winged the recipe so I thought I'd write it down and share while it was still fresh in my memory.

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp sorgum

1 heaping tsp of ground cinnimon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup cold butter

1 package (box, whatever) of Butter Pecan cake mix

3 med handfulls of blackberries

In a good sized bowl combine sugar and sorgum. Blend to the consistancy of brown sugar. You may have to work it all in with a fork.

Add flour, cinnamon, and salt to the sugar mixture.

Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.

Sprinkle half of this mixture on the bottom of a well greased baking dish.

Prepare the cake as directed and pour over sugar mixture.

Top with blackberries.

Sprinkle on remaining sugar mixture and swirl with a knife.

Bake at 350 fo about 45-50m or until a toothpick stuck near the center comes out clean

.Serve warm, would be really yummy with ice cream or cool whip.

Notes: You can substitue the sugar/sorgum mixture with brown sugar and could use frozen berries but do not thaw berries before using.


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Sunday, July 13, 2008

And We Were Never Bored.

Your childhood, they say, is the most formative time of your life. An event or a person may come into your life in passing and change you from that day forward or perhaps have a more subtle presence. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Isn't it great when we can pinpoint when it was for the better?

I spent this Sunday recapturing a glimpse of my childhood. The best part was I got a rare opportunity to share it with my husband and my children. What an absolutely marvelous day.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with a friend and her family. A good bit of that time was spent at their family farm in Tupper's Plains Ohio. It's such a special place. Special because when you enter through the tree lined driveway..... time stops.

Last week I received an Email from this friend saying that they were spending the week at the farm and would we like to come out? I was thrilled at the prospect of getting to visit the farm again. I will admit that I was a little nervous though. Would I be disappointed? Would there be anything that looked the same? I selfishly wondered these things as I anticipated the trip.

A few days ago, it occurred to me, I hadn't asked for directions! I immediately shot off an email to her asking for directions but it was too late. They has already traveled into the technologically vacuous place that is "The Farm". No cell, No phone, No internet. Could I remember where it was? It had been almost 25 years since I'd been there last and that time, I didn't pay attention to street signs and intersections.

"How hard could it possibly be?" I thought. Tupper's Plains is not that big of a place. Surely if I ask around then I'll find someone who can point us in the right direction. The only landmarks I remembered was Keebaugh's Dairy Freeze and a farm house that had a silo in their front yard. "We can find it" I said, but I still wasn't confident. The kids had their shoes on and we were heading out the door when on a whim I tried a phone number that I had for her mom. She picked up on the first ring! She gave us the very simple directions. This is the part where I leave out where we got turned around and ended up on 33 instead of 7 and had to cut over on 28. No, none of that is going to mean anything to you,, just trust me,, I've seen a lot of Meigs county today!
As soon as we entered the little town of Tupper's Plains it was as if I'd been swept back to 1983. There it was... the little restaurant that I remembered as Keebaugh's. It looked exactly as it had and was still bustling with Sunday afternoon customers. We turned left at the only light in town. This isn't even a real light, just a blinking traffic warning. As we traveled down the road to The Farm, I could still see myself scuffing down the hot asphalt in my dirty sneakers with a dollar in my pocket, heading to Keebaughs to get a vanilla soft serve cone.
Ahh,, the road is never long when there is ice cream at the end!
I was thinking that I was a little surprised that we walked all this way but then I never remembered seeing one car on that road and today was no different.
In just a few moments, we saw the entrance. If you didn't know were you were going you wouldn't even notice it. I recognized it immediately!
I was almost bouncing in my seat. The road looked as it had with the exception of a new home built where the horse stables had been. Our car turned the corner and I saw the tree lined road ahead of us and it was all I could do to not tear up. As we pulled in, I was delighted to see that not a thing was different. The barn was still there, the farm house was still there, the huge trees in the front yard were still there but the tire swing had long since come down.
Isn't it odd that a house can shrink as a person gets older? It felt so large when I was 10 years old. It's still a perfect size of course, it just seems smaller!
We were greeted by a gaggle of small children and dogs and then my old friend, Andrea. Wow, it was wonderful to see her again. Her mother, father and her husband were there as well. I was grinning ear to ear like a flippin' idiot the whole time.
We took the tour of the property and it was indeed like there was a vacuum around it. I love that. Then we sat on the porch and drew water up from the well in a bucket on a rope, just like we did so long ago. Nothing tastes better. As we sat and talked and visited, we were entertained by at least a dozen hummingbirds that were fighting over the feeders that lined the railing.
For a place that time stands still,, the day surely went fast. I was thinking to myself that Chris and the boys could just leave me there and pick me up next week,,, right? ha ha. I so did not want to go but Chris has to be up early Monday morning and we still had almost 2 hours worth of drive ahead of us.
I did talk him into stopping at Washburn's Dairyette (aka Keebaughs Dairy Freeze) for a quick bite before heading back. It wasn't good but it was the best hot dog and milkshake I'd had in 25 years. I told the boys stories while we sat at the booth, reminding them that there was (and still isn't) no TV or games, or Internet or phones. They were aghast. I just smiled and said "and you know what? We were never bored."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chickie update.

Not a lot new to report on the chicken front. They are funny as ever and seem very happy in their chicken habitat. Their favorite plant is this small clover that has a yellow bloom.

I don't blame them. We used to eat that stuff all the time when we were kids. I know, we were weird kids but it's a very sweet plant. Apparently it's used as a salad green in small quantities. It's scientific name is Oxalis Stricta if you want to look it up.

Here's some video of our little haven in the back yard!

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Lazy days of Summer

Ahhh, it's been so nice in the evenings around here. A little more humid than I like but tolerable. The last few evenings we've had dinner on the back porch. This evening we had a doe come right down into the garden about 30 feet from our porch. We weren't being particularly quiet or sneaky. She just didn't seem to mind us at all! Well the cats were definately interested in her. Our old tom skulked around the side of the potato bed to try and sneak up on her.
Oh,, he talks a tough game all right! But look what happens!

That cat is so funny. I really do think that deer just wanted to play with Chairman Meow. She also spent a LOT of time at the chicken coop. She had her nose right down next to the chickens checking them out.
A few mornings ago we saw a young buck pacing back and forth beside the cage too. I wonder what these deer are thinking?
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Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy July 4th!!

Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day! Ours was rainy and dreary but not too bad. We got up early this morning and went blackberry picking. Much to our dismay (and to our suspicion) the berries were not ripe yet. Didn't matter. We always love going to the swamp and looking at all the wildlife and plants. I spotted a few heron and that always makes me happy! We didn't get to look too closely at anything as it was pouring most of the time.

We'll try again next weekend for berries I guess. I hope the birds don't get them all before then! The birds have eaten well this year. First the locusts and now all the canes seem to be loaded down with berries!

We opted against going to see the fireworks at Barboursville Park this evening. It's just raining too hard. It rained last year too but it was tolerable because we were with friends. This year we decided it wasn't worth it. Chris did dig up a few sparklers and fountains from last year in the garage though! He also let the boys light them with a little supervision. The pictures stink, but keep in mind that it was raining and of course the camera couldn't focus in the dark!


Do you need new door hardware? I certainly do!