Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Giving you my Best

According to traffic statistics, my top ten posts of 2008 were:

  1. Free Giveaway: Corduroy and Caps for Sale
  2. Happier Children Through Sensory Play
  3. One Stop Planning
  4. Simple Exercise Plan
  5. Online Shopping
  6. Toys Worth Buying
  7. Diaper and Panty Storage
  8. Cast of Characters
  9. Learning to Learn to Read
  10. A Day in Our Life

Not surprisingly, this list is comprised of one giveaway and nine "Works for Me Wednesday Posts." A link from a larger blog sure increases traffic, doesn't it?

There are some very good posts in that list -- Happier Children Through Sensory Play -- might be my favorite post ever (if only for the title), but here are a few more that deserve a second look:

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best Books of 2008

I set a reasonable goal of 26 books in 2008, or a new book every other week. In reality I read more like 40 books, but do not have an exact tally since I have returned most of them to the library. I probably skimmed or read parts of another 50 or so books.

The best of 2008 includes one novel and five works of non-fiction; this ratio roughly approximates my reading as a whole.

  1. First Circle by Alexander Solzhinitsin (fiction, although based on true events)
  2. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
  3. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  4. All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
  5. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why by Amanda Ripley
  6. One Small Boat: The Story of a Little Girl, Lost Then Foundby Kathy Harrison

If I were a good blogger, I would review each of these books in detail. I am not, so take it on my word that each of these five is worth a read. Be forewarned, however, that the final selection is a tearjerker that may make you go out and become a foster parent.

In case this list leads you to believe that I only read serious books, I also read books like
Dean Koontz' Sole Survivor (which drew me in, but had a very lame ending) and 1862 by Robert Conroy (which is offers an intriguing but implausible hypothetical history of British involvement in the US Civil War). I also read my first Jodi Picoult book -- My Sister's Keeper -- which was very good, but not as amazing as I had been led to expect. Unlike many books (Sole Survivor for example), the ending was excellent. The problem was the incomplete character development and utter sappiness. On the other hand, I was unexpectedly impressed with my first Janet Evanovich book -- One for the Money. It was entertaining and did not take itself too seriously.

Anyone have suggestions for what I should read in 2009?

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Couldn't Write, and Didn't Feel Like it Anyway

When we last spoke, I was signing off of the computer to write some Christmas cards.

It took me awhile, okay?

No, honestly, for the first time in my adult life, I actually got all of the cards designed, printed, signed and mailed by the second week of Advent.

But then my computer stopped working. Doesn't load up. Gone completely kaput. I have torn the house apart, but I cannot find the system disks to reinstall windows. Of course this is not surprising given that I have had not needed them once in the seven years I've owned the machine, and we have moved twice in the interim. No computer (obviously) means no blogging, no email, no online newspaper reading, and no catching up on friends' stories.

I have had intermittent access to my husband's work laptop, but haven't posted.

That is because I didn't know what to say.

How do you catch up on a month's worth of updates, especially when that month is December?

Especially when it has been such a tough December.

It all started when mr warillever's cousin had a freak accident and died suddenly. No warning, nothing. Gone. I'll put this one on my list of questions for Jesus if I ever get to does such a good person, a father of four, just go -- poof -- without any discernible reason?

While we were out of town for the funeral, an ice storm hit our region. We (along with 500,00 other families in the state) were left without power. Living without lights, computer, and television was refreshing, but without heat in single digit temperatures? Not so nice. Fortunately we have a woodstove and town water -- others (including my sister) were without water for the duration of the outage. Our power was restored in just under three days, just as the temperatures started rising above freezing. My sisters and mr warillever's brother were in the dark for nearly a week.

Then the woman I teach religious education with died. This death wasn't quite as sudden -- she was diagnosed with cancer three years ago -- but it was no less tragic. I was just getting to know her, and am in infinite awe with her unshakable faith in Jesus. Of course this leaves me with yet another question for God -- why would You take a mother away from a 5-year-old boy? Such a faithful, strong, person. Gone.

I have yet to process the grief that two of mr warillever's siblings have been experiencing this Christmas; his sister E's friend died after a long battle with cancer a few days ago and his brother 7's friend fell suddenly ill and has been in a medically-induced coma ever since. [She has died since I drafted this post.]

The long and short of it is that I just haven't felt like writing. I am a naturally positive person, and to be in a funk as Christmas approached was, well, depressing.

Fortunately, the joy of Christmas is infectious. The miracle of our Savior's birth managed to eclipse all of the temporal worries. And the kids, in their holiday excitement, kept me going. We kept up with our Advent reading (more on that later), made pomanders, braided salt dough candy canes, and baked batches and batches of cookies. We baked a birthday cake for Jesus, sang Christmas carols, and watched classics like The Grinch and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

There have been some other light moments -- Teresa was born, I got back in touch with two people I hadn't heard from in years, and brought the kids to visit some of my aunts and uncles. I also joined Facebook, chatted with an old friend, and played endless games of Connect4 with my daughter.

And I'm writing again.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I'll be back with y'all soon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Blogging Break

As if you hadn't already noticed.

I've got lots of stories to share with y'all, but the family calendar and Christmas letter beckon.

Didn't I promise myself that this would be done before Thanksgiving this year?

Didn't I promise the exact same thing last year?

If I have your address (say if I got a package from you this morning), expect a photo-missive in a few weeks. Or maybe in a few months.... we never did finish writing Christmas cards last year....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meals this Week

This week, I will attempt to sketch out all of our meals. Keep in mind however, that lunch and snacks are far more flexible than dinner.


  • Breakfast: cereal
  • Lunch: Beer-poached chicken, roasted squash, bean salad
  • Dinner: Ravioli with Butternut Squash Filling*
  • Brunch: pancakes and sausage (mr warillever)
  • Dinner: egg rolls (prepackaged), rice, mixed veggies
  • Breakfast: yogurt, toast**
  • Lunch: Chicken soup [read Stone Soup]
  • Dinner: Meatball calzones, Collard Greens (Glory Foods)
  • Breakfast: yogurt with mix-ins (wheat germ, nuts....)
  • Lunch: Chicken soup with rice [read Chicken Soup with Rice]
  • Dinner: Kitchen-Sink-Fritatta -- eggs with any perishable foods mixed in, rice
  • Breakfast: cereal
  • Lunch: PBJ on honey wheat (on the road)
  • Dinner: at Grandmas
* Our new recipe this week is "Ravioli with Butternut Squash Filling." The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cooking School. Don't worry, I didn't go all-Martha on you. Although the filling was prepared according to the recipe, I used wonton-wrappers instead of homemade pasta. I served it with a mixture of olive oil and melted butter and sage.

** I made a loaf of Spelt-and-Oat bread according to the recipe Jenny suggested. Delicious! Boiling the oats resulted in a very moist loaf. The spelt is very mild, and does not have the nutty whole-grain taste. If I made this recipe again I would reduce the amount of molasses, but would otherwise highly recomend it.

Being Thankful

As in past years, we have spent a few minutes a day throughout November noting what we are grateful for.

Inspired by other bloggers, I have previously attempted to paint a "Thankful Tree." That has failed spectacularly every time. This year we went simple. Very simple.

Using an abandoned autumn themed painting (use #427 for kids' paintings), I cut out leaf shapes. We wrote our "thankful thing" on the back of leaves, then taped them to threads hanging in front of the bay window. You'll have to trust me on this (since I have no pictures to prove my point), but it looks just like falling leaves inside of our house.

I am grateful to have such a fun way to show our gratitude.

I awarded a few prizes throughout the month.

The Meta-Gratefulness award goes to Agent 004 for "I am thankful for having leaves to write thankful things on."

Agent 004 also wins the Brownie Award for her thankfulness for "Saints" and "Veterans." Maybe she was earnest, or maybe she was inspired by the two holidays we had just celebrated at the beginning of November. A part of me had has a sneaking suspicion that those two items might have been chosen for their assued grown-up appeal.

Cousin F gets the Down-to-Earth Award for realizing that she is most grateful for "dresses," "shoes," "slippers," "Mommy and Daddy" and "loving my brother P."

The Covering-All-Bases-Award goes to me, for writing (on two separate days) "I am thankful for the sun" and I am thankful for rainy days."
I am also grateful for the opportunity to take part in Unplugged Projects, where families accross the world-wide-web share their non-television inspired creativity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

7 Quick Takes (Vol. II)

  1. The cousins have already headed off to their Memère's house for Thanksgiving, so Agent 004 and I had the day to ourselves. She insisted that we go to the indoor play area in the "big city." I willingly obliged, and we had a wonderful time together, lavish expenditures and all. It really is nice to get some one-on-one time with the kids sometimes.

  2. As I type, father and son are getting their own bonding time in front of a movie. I love that they get to be guys together, too.

  3. Our English Muffin experiment went well. Given that it was y first time through, I very cautiously followed the recipe. Next time through I will try a whole wheat dough.

  4. I would share some pictures of the muffins, but my camera and computer aren't talking to each other again. A couple of old biddies set in their ways.... The computer is eight years old now -- that is what, 105 in people years? And a six-year-old digital camera is the human equivalent of 240, right?

  5. NaPraMoGo is going well. I haven't been following the prompts everyday, but I have been praying. Once you form the habit, it becomes second nature to pray in the down times that are a natural part of parenting and child care. Some of my prayers may be pleas for intercession, but they are prayers nonetheless...

  6. The weather has been freezing this week, but no snow yet. My mother-in-law 300 miles to the south had to brush the snow off of her car on Wednesday. I don't want to rush things, but snow is so much more fun than 14 degrees and green grass... We found some used skis for the kids already, so we are ready to play!

  7. I have already received one quinoa recipe, but I'd love some more. And anyone know how to use spelt? Can I just substitute it for whole wheat flour in a yeast recipe?
I am sticking with 7 Quick Takes too, Jennifer.

My Spending Problem

Those of you who know me in real life think that I am frugal. Miserly, even (although I try very hard not to be).

What you may not know is that I have a serious shopping weakness.

Organic vegetables.

For some reason this tendency only surfaces when I am alone with Agent 004.

The last time we went out together (for a doctor's appointment), we came home with organic brussel sprouts. The time before that it was a peck of local apples. Today it was spelt and quinoa from the natural foods store.

Anyone know how to cook quiona? Have any good spelt recipes?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dork Dates

Some of you expressed envy that I got to go on a date last week.

What I didn't tell you is that mr warillever and I actually go on dates several nights a week.

Well, we don't exactly go anywhere, but our philosophy is that if the two of us are alone, we can make it a date. According to Miss Manners, all we need is fun, food. and affection.*

We've been known to spend hours quizzing each other on factoids from the The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008. You know, exciting stuff like "How many cities in Iowa have a population of 50,000 people or more?" or "What are the seven largest countries in Africa in land area?"

Before the presidential election, we spent hours on planning different scenarios for the electoral college distribution.

We spent two evenings last week ogling the maps at

But the ultimate in time-wasting dorkitude?

Line Rider


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dinner This Week

I had this planned out this weekend, but forgot to post!


Leftover Veggie Fried Rice
Vegetable Minestrone
Honey Wheat Bread
Chicken Teriyaki
Boiled Potatoes
Pea Salad*
Lima Beans
French Bread
Chicken in Peanut Sauce
Whole Wheat Pasta
Tuna Salad
English Muffins
4 Bean Salad

This is a much better menu plan than last week. Although it wasn't a big hit, we did try a new recipe (Pea Salad), there are very few processed foods, and we are eating fish on Friday evening. I'll also be making English muffins for the first time. I'll tell you how that goes!

We have entered winter mode; there are no green salads or steamed vegetables. Other than the butternut squash I am saving for next week, don't expect to see any local produce in my menus for the next few months.

The chicken on Wednesday are "planned-overs" from Tuesday's dinner.

Beginning - To - Read- Resources

The Agents are both on a reading kick, and it is me that is struggling to keep up with them. Where do I find activities and age-appropriate reading materials?

Agent 004 is working through the Reading A-Z phonics program. I downloaded it for free during their trial week last spring, and from our experience would recommend it to other families. We supplement that with some word family work. She is most proud of her "Word Book" which lists every word that she can read. We are up to 47 words!

I have been writing some of her stories, but I am just not creative enough to make it all from scratch. That is when I refer to various sites online. This is what I have been visiting this week:

  • Hubbard's Cupboard : A free, comprehensive, Christian preschool curriculum. We used the Bible and Rhyme 3's Curriculum when the Agents were 2 and 4 years old. It covers the Bible, letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and anything else that a preschooler needs to know. We no longer use it as a curriculum, but we constantly integrate components including the sorting letters, playdough recipes and printable books.

  • Carl's Corner : Maintained by a retired elementary school Language Arts specialist, Carl's Corner is an amazing resource for reading resources. In particular, F uses the alphabet activitied and Agent 004 uses the Word Family activities.

  • Mrs. Meacham's Classroom Snapshots : Although this site's intended audience is elementary school teachers, mnay of the ideas are easily adaptable to the home. Our circle time activities are strongly influenced by her calendar page. Since I have a "multi-age" classroom, I plan on making each of the children a mini-office highlighting the areas that he or she is currently working on. I also get a lot of ideas fro Mrs. Meacham's literacy centers.
These Work for me. Do you have any more suggestions of resources for early reading instruction?

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Favorite Store

I went on a shopping spree this weekend.

For someone that hates shopping, it was a rather successful outing -- I secured seventeen dresses, fourteen skirts, twenty-nine sweaters, forty two winter shirts, six business suits and one pair of jeans.

An entirely new wardrobe, all in colors that I love. And they all fit perfectly.

I'd bring you shopping there, but the inventory has been severely depleted. In fact, rumor is that the shelves will be completely empty by this evening!

I should probably give you some back-story here: When we bought this house we were enamored with the wood floors, tin ceilings and period wall coverings. We envisioned ourselves sleeping in one of the spacious south-facing bedrooms with three windows and a large closet. The children would be accross the hall from us in their own large bright rooms with bookshelves and a rocking chair in each room.

That is exactly how we lived in the summer of 2005. Oh, there were some inconveniences -- the lack of a second floor bathroom meant that trip to the bathroom with a toilet-training toddler required traipsing down the stairs and through three unlit rooms -- but it was nothing that a portable potty chair couldn't solve.

Then the weather turned. Our bedroom, which was so bright and sunny during the day, dropped to freezing temperatures overnight. Those large windows were uninsulated, as were the walls behind the pretty wallpaper. Our poor ancient oil burner was no match for a New England winter. The oil prices didn't make us any happier about the situation, either.

We promptly moved into more humble accommodations -- the "ell" of the house which had been walled and insulated in the 1970s. There are three inter-connected rooms arranged train-car style. Where in our old room we had tin ceilings, in our new room we had sloping walls. In the place of pine floors we had shag carpeting. And there is no antique wallpaper in our new digs, just sheetrock painted pale blue. What it lacked in charm it made up for in convenience though -- we now had a full bathroom, insulated walls, and a close proximity to the woodstove.

So what does this have to do with my weekend shopping trip?

My hanging clothes never made the move from the old bedroom to the Winter Palace. Since my current job requires nothing more than sweatpants and a flannel shirt, I haven't felt the need for easy access to my business suits. When I do feel the need to wear a cocktail dress, I can don a parka and mittens and rifle through my old closet.

But now that I have my very own walk-in closet......
Isn't it great to have a handy husband? He fashioned this out of a previously unused corner of our bedroom. With just a coat of paint, two hanging racks and a carpet remnant, we have our very own bit of luxury in our pedestrian bedroom.

All of his hard work me with a lot of work too -- the fun kind of work in which I got to pretend that I was a fashion model. I tried on every scrap of clothing in the room,
sorting the clothes into
and discard.

Once I finish sorting through the sweaters, I hope that I leave enough closet space for mr warillver!
Though I didn't plan this to coordinate with this week's Unplugged project, I'm pretty sure that this fits the "sort-junk-donate" theme! Click over there to see what everyone else is junking and donating.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Retrospective Menu Plan

This week's menu plan falls short on four of my menu planning objectives. It was not completed in advance, it includes too many processed foods, it does not include a single new recipe, and it does not include any fish (we aim for once a fortnight, but have not had any in almost a month).

Given that, however, I think we muddled through okay.


Mama and Papa on date;
Agents ate pasta with the Cousins
Baked ziti (from freezer)
Rotisserie chicken (purchased hot), steak fries, frozen mixed veggies
Chicken-barley chili
Vegetable fried rice
Church potluck
We are bringing deviled eggs

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Decluttering my Brain

To accomplish today:

  • clear pile of papers from the counter next to the computer
  • finish putting groceries away -- make sure that the pantry floor is cleared
  • fold and put away "first floor laundry" (towels and sheets)
  • put new audio book(A Short History of Nearly Everything) onto Shuffle
  • draft a non-list blog post
To accomplish this week
  • Sort my hanging clothes into keep / store / donate / discard piles
  • Sort mr warillever's hanging clothes into keep / store / donate / discard piles
  • Move our clothes into our new walk-in closet
  • plan Sunday's kindergarten religion class
  • plan next week of preschool
To figure out
  • How to approach "math" with my precocious 4yo
  • A Christmas budget and shopping plan
  • How to keep up with a grocery pricebook
  • Whether I should start couponing (and if so, where to find the mental energy to do so)
  • A family values plan like Julie's ROCK.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

7 Quick Takes

In a nod to Jennifer (and to my inability to focus on one topic), today's post will feature seven short bits.

  1. We have been passing a head cold through the house for the past month. Nothing major, but just enough to render its victim a boogery embodiment of grumpitude. The latest casualty? Me. I spent most of the past week in a mucousy haze. Thus....
  2. ... no menu planning. Despite the absence of a plan, we have continued to eat. In fact, we have had some of our favorite dishes like Cincinnati Chili and homemade pizza. If I settle down and make a plan for this week I'll post it. But don't count on it, because I have been very busy...
  3. ...getting the garden ready for next spring. I had started building long narrow beds before I read and became enamored with Square Foot Gardening, but I think that we can make it work. The lumber was all free, as was the leaf mold. The sole cost of rebuilding our veggie patch? $12 for peat moss. If I get the time and motivation I will put up some process pictures so that you can learn how to garden like a real amateur.
  4. Don't be insulted if I haven't visited your blog in a while; Google Reader has been on the fritz for a few days. It looks like it is working today, so I'll be commenting away on all your lovely blogs.
  5. Remember how I told you that I would be cutting back on the number of blogs that I read? That was until I started clicking through the links on the Stephanie's sidebar on Montessori Free Fall. Despite my practical and philosophical issues with Montessori, we seem to be sliding more and more in that direction. And I am so inspired.
  6. My religious ed class was learning about "discovering God's world" this past Sunday. So what does this this non-Montessori teacher do? I brought in a mystery bag, sound jars, and smelling bottles for my kindergartners to work with. They loved it, and really learned a lot from the experience. So glad that I have this kind of thing just lying around our non-Montessori house.
  7. We had our annual teacher conference with Agent 002's teacher last night. No new news there, but it was a momentous occasion for us -- my sister watched the Agents while we were out, and offered to keep them for the night. We went out for a date last night and slept in until 7 this morning. Wonderfully refreshing, and what allowed me to write this post. The house is so quiet! I should probably go pick them up now, or maybe I'll savor the solitude for a few more minutes....

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanking Our Veterans

Our "preschool" task this morning was making Thank You cards for the Veterans in our family -- Uncle Ichabod (Iraq), Uncle E (Korea) and Uncle W (World War II). We will mail them this afternoon.

A quick tip for those of you making cards with emergent writers: Make the card from construction paper or cardstock, but have the child write her signature on a piece of lined paper and glue it into place. This way the perfectionist won't stress about messing up the card, and the sloppy child won't make random marks on the card.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Toys Worth Buying

Shannon is hosting a special themed edition of Works for Me Wednesday - the Toys Worth Buying Edition. Since I plan on leaning heavily on these "Kid-tested, Mother approved" ideas in my Christmas shopping, I thought it would be only fair for me to contribute. This is a quick list of those toys that I never need to rotate out, because they are in constant use
  • Don't Break the Ice -- a classic for a reason! Probably the best "first" game for an older toddler.
  • UNO Stacko -- stacking blocks like Jenga, but played by matching color or number like the Uno Card Game
  • Chairs -- even a toddler can play this stacking game, but it is complex enough for the adults to join in
Dolls and Doll Accessories
  • Dolls and Animals -- their collection is probably excessive (at my last count we had 12 dolls and 200 stuffed animals), but a variety of people and animals is a requirement for imaginative fun.
  • Clothes -- the dolls have their own dresser (a 3-drawer wooden nightstand shared with the dress-up clothes) and the kids are constantly dressing their babies. Cabbage Patch and other large dolls can wear infant clothing which is very easily purchased at yard sales.
  • Strollers -- THE INDISPENSABLE TOY. All four children love to wrap their babies and blankets and walk them through the house. Cousin P has been pushing the blue Graco around since he could barely walk.
  • Almost-Homemade Crib -- It doesn't need to be anything special (one of my nephews used a shoe box when he was a toddler), but every imaginary baby needs a place to sleep. Our crib is large enough for several babies and the cat loves it for naps.
  • High chair, diaper changing table and other "real" things
Dress Up Clothes --
Musical Instruments
  • electric keyboards
  • harmonica
  • whistles
  • homemade shakers / rainsticks / drums
Wheels and Transportation toys
  • We love our ThomasTrains, but at that price we wouldn't have them if we didn't get them as a hand-me-down.
  • Shake 'N Go Racers -- annoyingly loud, but even a toddler can shake the car and make it zoom accross the room. We also have the Shake 'n Go Speedway, but I would not consider it indispensable
  • Hot Wheels - the brand name is important on this one. The cheap imitations are not as durable. Don't worry, the real ones last -- my children are playing with the ones that my husband asn I played with as children.
  • Playmat -- a place to drive all of those cars. We have and love the Discovery mat which has roads and railroad tracks.
  • Fisher Price Garage - we have an older version of this toy, big enough for four children to play together. It has ramps, elevators, and adequate parking for a convoy of wheeled vehicles. It is also on its third generation of play, it is a very durable toy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pray With Me

The world needs our prayers -- do the NaPraGoMo in 2008. Pray 15 minutes more every day in November, and maybe we can change the world.

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Or NaBloPoMo?

This is kind of like that, except instead of writing a novel or blathering in your blog, you pray.

Sound good? Then join in.

I won't be blogging about it every day -- I'll be praying in the time that I am usually on the computer in the evening -- but I'll be doing it.

Pray hard!

Monday, November 03, 2008

What Else is She Hiding From Me?

Agent 004 came accross a picture of a man holding balloons in an activity book.

Without any direction from me, she colored each balloon the color that it was labeled.

Since when does this four-year old child read?

And since when does she follow directions?

Feast Before the Fest

6 muffin cups per person (2 per row)
Row 1: mashed squash, tomato-cuke salad
Row 2: zucchini bread, crackers
Row 3: crackers, tuna salad

I tried to load everyone up on nutrients before trick-or-treating. Here is the tin that mr warillever and Agent 002 shared before trick-or-treating Friday night; Agent 004 and I had a similar presentation.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Dandilion and the Hero

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Busy Kids Learning

Cousin F and Agent 004 working hard in the Red Room. Agent 004 was using her sound mat; Cousin F was doing some number matching.

Here is another shot of F's number work. I made the game pieces from 3x5 index cards cut so to be self-correcting. I traced around each piece with a marker to ensure that the numbers go in the correct order.
Here is Cousin P doing his own thing. Yes, he does take off his socks that he can get rice between his toes.
And here is Agent 002 writing his manifesto. He has been working on it every afternoon this week, and has a notebook full of scrawls.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eery Invisible Ghosts

Amber taught me about using white crayon and watercolors "Magic Art," but it was my own idea to create mysteriously reappearing ghosts for Halloween.

To create this spooky effect, draw a ghost with white crayon on white paper. Color it in. This is harder than it sounds, so you may have to do it for the child.

Have the child paint the entire sheet of paper.

If she is feeling particularly spunky, she may paint it varied colors. It does not matter -- so long as she covers the entire picture with paint, the ghost will magically appear.

The kids LOVED watching the ghosts appear as they painted. We will definitely do this again. Maybe I will write secret messages for my emergent readers?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Half a Lifetime Ago

Three years and three months ago, a three year, three month old boy joined our family.

My, how time has flown,
but I can barely remember a time when he was not part of our lives.

You will always be my little bunny!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Muffin Tin Monday Thinly Unplugged

banana, carrots, green beans, banana
pan-fried potato, green beans, carrots, pan-fried potato
sukhariki, broccoli, broccoli, sukhariki

"Sukhariki" is one of the few Russian words in common usage in our household. It translates as "crouton," but we use it more like toast.

This batch was cut thin from the remnants of last Friday's french bread. I tossed the bread with olive oil, kosher salt, oregano and garlic powder. It was baked at 300 degrees for precisely the amount of time it took to slice the vegetables. I don't always bother with oil, and we vary the spices according to our whim.

I hope that the Unplugged families will appreciate my lame attempt at integrating this week's theme -- thin -- into our lunch. Except for the broccoli all of the foods were exceptionally thin.

It is also our first time participating in Muffin Tin Monday. The girls really liked having a new presentation for our frequent "bits-and-bobs"lunch, so we may do this again next week.

Melts My Heart

Coming home from the Costume Parade (no pictures, sorry) on Saturday, the kids were a bit hyped up.

Mr warillever ran into the store for a few things, leaving me in the car with two children on a sugar high. They were screeching, poking each other, and otherwise driving me crazy. I suggested that we sing a song.

Agent 002 opened his mouth, and an angelic 6-year old soprano pronounced:

Oh most holy twinity
Undivided unity
Holy God,
Mighty God.
God imowtal
Be a-door-ed.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

So Very Grateful

I am so grateful for

  • the yardwork that brings neighbors together on warm fall weekends. While raking the side yard yesterday we chatted with our tenant who was coming in from errands, as well as our next door neighbors who were cutting branches away from their roof.
  • free firewood from kind neighbors. We will need to dry for a few months, but on some cool night, the branches formerly skimming the neighbors' roof will warm our home.
  • movie nights with my family, even if I have yet to stay awake for an entire film.
  • mechanically inclined brothers who will (hopefully) repair my finicky van this afternoon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Preserving Nature's Bounty : Applesauce

Despite our own lack of gardening talent, we have been blessed by others' abundance this fall. A neighbor drowning in tomatoes gave us a bushel of scarlet treasure that became salad, salsa and six dinners' worth of tomato sauce.

This week it was apples. Lots and lots of apples.

My sister only just realized that the apples on the trees at her new home are edible. Unfortunately, this realization was made long after our first frost.

The apples were blemished and bug eaten, but wonderfully delicious. They might even be called Golden Delicious.

With some advice from the internet, we decided to transform our bounty into applesauce. After coring and chopping we filled an 8-quart stockpot.

After a long-simmer, we had a pot full of soggy apples

which after a trip through this thing-a-ma-hoosie

became a wonderful, yummy pot of sauce.

Once we realized just how yummy the sauce was, we chopped up the remaining apples to make a grand total of 7 quarts of sauce. One to my sister's home, one for immediate use, and 5 for the freezer. We will be enjoying these apples for weeks to come.