Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodbye 2011!

What kinds of things did 2011 bring to you?  It was a good year for me, despite the crazy start.  The year started with no water at our house, living with my in-laws and commuting back and forth.  Driving the hour drive home to stay 3 days a week while babysitting, with minimal water.  Returning to the in-laws for the rest of the week for laundry and bathing.

We rang out 2010 and rang in 2011 with a stomach virus!  We started at Christmas.  You would think it would run it's course and be finished pretty quickly.  However, this particular strain was slow moving.  It would take a full week or a little more to strike its next victim.  There are (were) 7 members of my family.  It took two months to clear this bug through my entire household.  I say there were 7 members because I was pregnant with our 6th child.  I never, ever, ever get sick - at least not vomiting sick.  Even I got this one, pregnant and all.

Then, the last of January came and my brother-in-law graduated from Army Basic Training in Georgia.  We set up a family trip to visit for graduation.  Right before we left my husband's grandfather passed away.  The day after we returned from Georgia, we drove an hour north for the funereal.

Emotions were running very high in the house we were living in.  Five kids, stomach virus, trip to Georgia, funereal.  Then, on the drive to the funereal, another victim of the stomach bug hit and my 5 year-old started vomiting.  This was a time of great chaos, distress and emotional havoc for me.  Remember, I was pregnant.

In March, still displaced from my home, I gave birth to my 6th child, my third son.  What an amazing blessing he was!  His birth was an interesting story, but I won't relate it here.  He brought with him great joy, but additional stress as he failed to grow.  That story is outlined here if you are interested in reading it.

The week he was born, the man came to drill my well.  Unfortunately, no water was found.  The rest of the spring was too wet to do anything more.  Once the threat of freezing was over, we were able to move into our home and haul water.

Despite this crazy start,  I still see this as a good year.  I gave birth to a baby.  That is the most joyful thing I can imagine.  I've increased my blog readership.  I've found many other outlets for my writing.  I've found use for a great desire that God placed in my heart to help children come to love Him.  I've discovered a workable schedule for my children to manage school and house duties (not perfected, just beginning to develop).  I've discovered some new recipes.  But more importantly, I've discovered that I can make some homemade stuff that I thought you had to buy!

The year has been chaotic.  It's been a little crazy.  It's been extremely emotional.  It's been a good year.  Goodbye 2011!

Below are listed my top 5 favorite posts of the year.  I'd love to hear from you if there is a post of mine from that you enjoyed this year.

In no particular order:

My Box

Be Careful What You Wish For


View From My Window

Goodnight

It's That Time





Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meltaway Cookies

In an effort to be more like my friend Amanda at Cooking Three Handed, I went web searching for a cookie recipe that was fast, easy and took only ingredients likely to be in my  kitchen already.  I often fail to make yummy treats because I didn't plan ahead and buy chocolate chips or raisins. 

I found a recipe for Meltaway Cookies.  It looked easy enough even for me.  I also decided to "mix it up" a bit.  I separated the dough into 3 batches.  I colored the first batch red and added a smidge of peppermint extract.  The next batch I colored yellow and added lemon extract.  The third batch I colored green but left unflavored for a control group.

Ingredients:

1 c. soft butter
1/2 c. sifted confectioners' (plus extra to roll in afterward)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
 
 
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix thoroughly butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla. Sift flour, salt; stir in. Drop teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet (cookies do not spread). I had the kids use a spoon and make the "balls" but they ended up too large so we sort of tore them apart and plopped them, unshaped.  They were all different and not perfectly round, but I liked them that way.  Bake about 8 minutes until set, but not brown. While still warm sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. The sprinkling didn't work for me, so I plopped them in the confectioners' sugar and rolled them around in it.  Makes 5 dozen cookies the size of a quarter.
 
Many of my children actually preferred the plain to the flavored, but all were a hit.  The coloring made them more festive and I suspect that my children would not have been as excited to eat them had they been "dough colored".
So now you have a fun, family friendly, quick and easy cookie recipe that calls for no specialty ingredients.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spoon Rolls

This recipe for quick and easy dinner rolls will make you look like an expert chef and please all bread loving members of your family.  My mother-in-law always knocked my socks off "whipping" these up for dinner.  Now I realize these are really easy enough to make any night of the week.



4 c. self rising flour*
2 pkgs dry yeast
2 c. warm water
3/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Add egg. Dissolve yeast in water.  Then add to above mixture.  Slowly stir in flour.  Grease muffin tins. Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Dough will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.

*make your own self rising flour - 1c flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt for each cup of self rising flour called for in the recipe


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Joys: Santa Train

One of my family's favorite Christmas traditions - okay, they are all favorites.  One Christmas tradition that my children love is the visit of the Santa Train.  This tradition actually dates back to my days as a young aunt with no children of my own.  I remember visiting the Santa Train in my home town, young boyfriend in tow, and holding any number of young nieces.

When my first two were pretty young, perhaps 2 and 3, my husband (same said young boyfriend with just a few more grey hairs) and I decided to take our children to the Santa Train in the town near our home.  We discovered, over the next few years, that the train actually visits 3 towns in a row the same day.  It starts at 3 o'clock in the afternoon at the first town and usually arrives at the third stop (the one I went to as a child) around 9 pm.  We decided that Daddy leaving work early and meeting during daylight hours was totally worth the time.  It is much warmer and takes much less time.

As the train pulls up to the stop, you see Santa and the Mrs. waving from the front of the engine.  Once it stops, characters of all sorts, from Buzz Lightyear to Rudolph, descend among the line of children and parents to entertain them while they wait to see the Claus.

The children love climbing on board the train and seeing it's decorations.  They (sometimes) sit on Santa's lap.  They rarely speak to him, as my children are incredibly shy, but they sort of smile for the camera.  They take their candy cane from Mrs. Claus and usually some other "gift" from the elves, this year - light up necklaces.

As they get down from the train they talk rapidly and excitedly about how fun it was and how neat the train was.  They discuss their favorite character and who they had pictures taken with or shook hands with.  Even the 10 and 11 year olds look forward each year to this event.  It amazes me how this pretty small event impresses them so.  The memories they are building now priceless.  This is what makes all the anxiety of Christmas (my anxiety) worth it.  The joys my children experience at Christmas outweigh all the stress I endure.  Merry Christmas!

Ed. note:  Check back for pictures.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Five Golden Rings

I have two blog posts waiting.  They have been waiting for days.  I have dinner cooking.  I have a grocery list to make.  I don't have time for this.  So, here goes.

The Write On Wednesday Rules: Get creative with the writing exercises - there isn't a right or wrong. Please do try to visit the other members of Write On Wednesdays and leave a comment of support and constructive criticism. 


Write On Wednesdays Exercise 27 -  Mel suggested that we look at the "12 Days of Christmas" poem/song and select one of the days/lines for our writing inspiration. So, whether a Partridge in a Pear Tree or Five Golden Rings, write your line at the top of your page, set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head. 

Five Golden Rings 

He stared down at them.  Each shiny and sparkly.  Each with it's own story to tell.  The snow was swirling outside the window.  December had blown in with a vengeance after a November of sunshine and promise.  Tonight that was all he had left.  A promise.  A promise to love, honor and protect.  She was worth that.  She was worth far more than that.  She was worth all he could muster for her.  As he stared down at each golden ring, he wondered.  What stories did they bring with them?  Were they tales of love and joy, as he hoped his own to be?  Or were they tales of heartache and desperation?  He wished he were shopping in the finest jewelry store in the city.  But he had to settle for this cold, dimly lit pawn shop.  Would these used rings, these already told stories affect his own story?  Their story?  All he had left was a promise.   That was enough.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Homemade" Liquid Hand and Body Soap

I have been rather unhappy with my liquid shower soap lately.  Changing is not an easy task.  First, my husband doesn't like frilly, flowery smells first thing in the morning.  Secondly, I have been unable to find liquid body soap that smells like soap.  I found one that was okay, but it always left me feeling less clean than I would like.

I happened upon a post about making liquid hand soap and read that you could turn any bar soap into liquid soap.  Eureka!  I was thrilled!  I could buy soapy smelling soap, and make liquid!  Hooray!

Well, of course I quickly lost track of the post so I began websearching.  I discovered that there are conflicting explanations as to how to do this.  So, I am adding to the internet chaos of how to make liquid hand or body soap.

But I'm not giving "precise" measurements because I figured that all the recipes were different, mine would be trial and error.  Here's how I did it.

***

I grated a bar of soap (I used Lever, I loved the smell).  I believe it was a 4 oz. bar.  I put it in a small soup pan and added 4 cups water and began heating and stirring until (mostly) melted.

Next I decided to try to blend it in my blender as several recipes recommended this step.  I put the 4 cups in the blender.  This is where I must warn you - they will suds.  I am missing the little top piece that fits in the lid of my blender, so I usually cover it with a washcloth.  I couldn't wash the soap out of the washcloth.  The soap created so much suds that it absorbed directly into just one small spot on the washcloth, but at that concentration, it was nearly impossible to remove. 

Several recipes recommended glycerin, others said it was unnecessary with most bar soaps.  After reading horror stories of the soap congealing so hard in the pump that it ruined the pump, I decided to try without and add it in if necessary.  Glycerin is apparently to help with the smoothness and softness, like a silky girly shower soap.  But it apparently affects the thickening as well.  I poured the 4 cups of liquid soap in a 3 gallon bucket with a lid and added more about 2 more cups of water.  I let this set overnight with the lid on but not sealed.

The next day I took about 1 1/2 cups of the soap and put it in the blender.  It was very thick.   I added about 1/2 cup of water.  I blended it and checked that it was a good consistancy.

I washed and reused an old soap bottle. 

The next day, hubby and I tried the soap.  We decided it needed the glycerin.  How much?  Well, the reports again conflicted so I added about 1/2 tsp to one (not quite full) bottle of liquid soap.  It seems to be less drying on the skin with the glycerin, so I will in the future add it again.

***

All told I spent $1.50 for 2 bars of soap and $3.00 for the glycerin.  I used very little so far of the glycerin, so I would say that each batch (which I'm thinking will make about 8 ish cups of soap) will cost me about $1.00.

It does not suds a lot on the scrubby.  We use 2 or 3 pumps to get a good sudsiness.  Many will not really like this effect.  I love the smell and I feel so much cleaner with this soap.  After an evening shower the first night, I awoke able to smell the soap the next morning.  This made me so happy.  I never knew how much I loved the smell of soap.


Holiday World 2011!

Holiday World 2011!

Baby # 6

Baby # 6
Welcome to the world and welcome to our crazy family!

Fort Benning

Fort Benning
We finally made it to Georgia!!!

Just a day at the park!

Just a day at the park!

My Hero!

My Hero!
I don't do dead things. Fortunately for me, God gave me boys!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!
Daddy and Grandma make Jammies every year for the kids, They love it!

Christmas in PJs

Christmas in PJs
Don't I just have the cutest kids?

2010 Jammies

2010 Jammies
Once again Daddy pulled it off. They look cute!

Round 2 birthday parties

Round 2 birthday parties
Cake number 1 of 3 done. I am so not an artist, but I think it came out pretty well!

My Girls

My Girls
Borrowed dance clothes, my girls sure look cute.

Couped up

Couped up
More images below showing the children feeling a bit "couped up" from the long winter!

Chickens: Take 2

Chickens: Take 2
Cute chicks!

The robot cake. I am glad my kids' standards aren't as high as mine!

Tree Climbers

Tree Climbers

Summer Fun!

Summer Fun!
Hi Daddy! Hope you are having fun at work!

This one is so bad, I had to label the cake so you would know it's not a cow!

Dressed for Church!

Dressed for Church!
Come as your favorite Bible character night!

Too cute for words!

If the boy wasn't so tall, I could get a picture of his face!

Establishing the pecking order!

Babies!