Friday, October 31, 2008

Carving Pumpkins

We decided to carve pumpkins on wednesday night. The kids picked out their patterns, and after I drew them on the pumpkins, Ed and I each carved one. We also had a third pumpkin, but unfortunately, when Ed opened it up, the insides were completely rotten. It looked fine on the outside, but the insides were a stinking mess. Ironically earlier in the day I had carved an ugly, scarred, dirty pumpkin at E's school but the insides were perfectly clean (shoot! I just realized I missed a great teaching moment with the kids regarding the state of their hearts and outward appearance).

Anyway, E had fun scooping out the guts, while N just preferred to watch.

K liked watching too, until I thought it would be a fun idea her to stick her hand in the bowl and squish the seeds. As you can see, she did not appreciate it one bit!

(Isn't this the saddest little face you have ever seen?)

We lit up the pumpkins, and stuck them outside.

Unfortunately, the next day a squirrel decided to eat N's poor autobot pumpkin. We were all very sad.:(

Another great episode...

I just finished listening to this episode of TAL. This is a must-- it is very helpful in understanding the financial crisis.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pumpkin for Dinner!

I got this recipe from Trader Joes, and have made it twice in the past week. It is that good. Make it now, before all the pumpkins disappear!

small pumpkin
tart, peeled and chopped apple
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup of chopped nuts (I used pecans)
brown sugar (to taste)
2 Tbsp butter

Cut open and gut the pumpkin. Mix together the apple, raisins, nuts, and sugar, and stuff the pumpkin. Put butter on top of the mix, and then replace the pumpkin "lid". Place in baking dish and put in 350 degree oven for an hour.

The first time I made this, I followed the directions and baked it in the oven at 350 for an hour, but the pumpkin didn't completely cook, so I had to end up microwaving it. If you decide to bake it, periodically use a spoon to scrape the inside of the pumpkin. When it is soft and comes off easily it is done. It may take an hour an a half. I think it all depends on the size of the pumpkin. The second time I just ended up microwaving it on high for 5minutes at time, until I felt it was done (I think about 20 minutes total).

I served this with roasted chicken and garlic mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just some thoughts...

When I read a couple of months ago how my county, in my state, was "ground zero" for the Presidential race, I thought it was a bit presumptuous. But since then, I have heard more and more about how the way we vote will be a good indicator of the election results. Then I listened to TAL today, and it was a show that focused on PA as a battleground state. (I am just sorry I didn't know Ira Glass was camped out in PA- I would have liked to have gone to a rally he attended, just to meet him!)

I haven't been too vocal in this political race, either privately or publically. I also don't usually like putting up signs, in order to keep our political views to ourselves. But slowly, our street has been overtaken with Obama signs, and the last straw was when our Dutch neighbors who can't even vote put one up! I went out yesterday and got a McCain/Palin sign and stuck it out front. And I'm not even that strong of a McCain supporter. I know, this will shock and surprise my poor husband. Yes, I like McCain, but Obama has been pretty convincing as well.

I hear that Obama is losing his lead in this race, something I never thought would happen, after his speech at the Democratic Convention. It all just makes me wonder how this will turn out next week-- I think this race is a lot closer than most people expected. I am excited to know that in this election my vote does count, and that vote is gong to McCain
(I think).

Friday, October 24, 2008

A lucky mistake

It had been a long day, with every minute taken up by one thing or another. Dinner was rushed, with me forcing E to finish her beets, under the harshly spoken threat of missing Pioneer Girls. She tearfully choked them down, and we were out the door, racing to church. On the way there I warned E that she would be walking in late because she had taken so long to eat. On arriving at church, we discovered that it was a non-meeting week, so I muttered under my breath things like,"I can't believe we drove all the way out here for nothing!", while E walked quietly back to the car with me.

I usually shop at Trader Joe's during this time, so E asked if I was still planning on going. I said I had been planning to just go home so that she could go to bed. A second passed, then a little voice, " But won't I still get back home sooner than if I had gone to Pioneer Girls?". I laughed at her reasoning skills, and agreed. We headed to TJ's. At the checkout counter E proudly handed them her coloring page, and received two fruit leathers and a balloon in return.

On the drive home she chattered happily about a story she was planning on writing. As we approached a Starbucks I impulsively turned in, and E asked where we were. I helped her out of the car, and said," I think we need a little something to warm us up". We went in and ordered hot chocolate and a cookie before heading upstairs to the seating area. As we sipped and nibbled, we talked quietly. E seriously munching away, feeling the specialness of this unexpected treat, "Mommy, isn't it so dark outside?" Me just watching her and reveling in this little blessing of mine. I had been so cross with her earlier, and she hadn't said a word against me. Instead her sweet little self had "saved" the evening. Instead of returning home in a bigger funk than I had left it, I was cheered and my bad mood had evaporated. I had been given an evening out with my daughter, and one-on-one time that I usually don't get with her. Time to listen to her concerns about friendships at school as well as laugh over her story, " The Day the Elephant Went to School". The Lord is good, to have given me this gift, even though I did not deserve it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pumpkin Picking '08

A fun time was had by all:

(click on picture to see it in all its glory!)

'nuff said

Friday, October 10, 2008

So What Would You Say?

E was busy working at her craft table this afternoon. She came upstairs with the finished product-- two very cute Halloween cards for her friends. The outside said, "Happy Halloween", while the inside had a message to this effect: "I hope you have a spooky halloween. What are you going to be? love, your friend, E". She had illustrated them with haunted houses, complete with cracked windows, "Beware" signs, flying ghosts and witches, and walking zombies. I know they were innocent, thoughtfully made cards, with no ill intent. But this is where "celebrating" Halloween gets a little dicey.

I think that it is a perfect trifecta of kid fun-- dressing up, going out after dark and getting/eating candy. We love it in our house. I would say there are very few people who actually consider Halloween a demonic holiday. For most, it is just a fun kid's day. And it is in that spirit that we celebrate it. But there is undeniably the darker side, the reason many Christians choose not to celebrate this day. But I want to strike a balance. I want my kids to have fun, and enjoy the day, but not embrace the spooky or gruesome aspects. It is this reason I will not allow them to be witches (even "cute" ones) or mummies, zombies, ghosts, etc.

So the question is, how should I have addressed E's drawing ghosts, witches, zombies and haunted houses around this time of the year? Should I have just let her do it, and figure it is harmless? Or was I right in telling her that there are darker parts of Halloween that are represented by these things, even if she doesn't mean it that way. As a Christian family, we celebrate the fun parts, but we don't want to glorify the gory or scary. Instead, she can make cards with pumpkins and scarecrows. I don't know, am I doing the right thing? Is there more I can/should say?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Apple Picking '08

Today E had off from school, so we decided to make it a family day. Ed took off from work, and after lunch we all headed over to the orchard.
We started off by taking a wagon out to the orchard.
K's cheeks are red because the sun was so hot! I was wishing I had brought sunblock and hats for everyone. Oh well. Anyway, when we got dropped off, we made our way to the Staymans.The trees were loaded!

We love these apples for their crisp, tart-sweet taste.

They are delicious to eat, as well as to put in pies and other baked treats. We ended up picking 24 lbs!!

We then took the wagon-ride back. N was very interested in the tractor that was pulling us.

I was interested in how K's hair looked strawberry-blond!!

And I thought these two pairs of boots made a cute picture.
Back at the market, there were so many different kinds of gourds. Here is a medley of them.

Along with some of the biggest pumpkins we have ever seen!!
We then headed home, happy, but tired.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tag, I'm it

I guess Judy thinks I need some motivation to do some more blogging, but she tagged me with this meme.

7 Random things...

1. I get addicted to online games really easily. For awhile, I was playing spider solitaire every chance I got. Now I am onto the Facebook application game, PackRat. I got an invitation from a friend months ago, and kind of avoided it because I know my weaknesses. But I didn't delete it because it did say "the most addictive game on Facebook", and if was that good, I knew I would want to try it sometime. Kind of like someone who is trying to quit smoking might hide a pack at the way back of their closet, just in case they wanted "just one" more. So anyway, I finally clicked on the link, and I am hooked. Incidentally, my friend stopped playing, so I don't even get the benefit of playing with her anymore. I have to brave the world of the packrats alone, without a friend to help me with getting feats(are you feeling bad yet, friend?).

2. I am from a blended family. My mom married my dad when I was in 4th grade. Surprisingly, we all kind of look similar even though half of us have Asian blood. Everyone always wants to know who is related to who, so here it is : Me, Cara, and Andrew are bio-sibs; Christine, Julie, Katherine and Sandy are my step-sisters.

3. I like to sleep with my ears covered. When I was a teenager I was permanently scarred after seeing Throw Momma From the Train. There is a scene in there where the mother gets stabbed in the ear with scissors by her son. Ever since then, I have felt very vulnerable when lying down with my ears all exposed to those crazy scissor-wielding psychopaths. So I sleep with a t-shirt over my ears, because, as we all know, scissors can not penetrate something as hard and impermeable as a t-shirt.

4. I like to eat my popcorn with brewer's yeast sprinkled on top. When we were little we would only get this treat when we were on the island with my health-foodie aunt. But we loved it, and it still conjures up images of rainy afternoons in the cabin, eating popcorn while watching a storm come across the lake. It is definitely an acquired taste if you are an adult, but I now only make that kind of popcorn, since Ed doesn't eat popcorn anymore, so I have brought the kids over to the brewer's yeast side. They get very excited about eating the popcorn with the "Brew-cheese" and fight over who gets to lick their fingers and eat up the crumbs on the bottom of the bowl. I get my own bowl.

5. I have recurring dreams about bathrooms and teeth (separate dreams). In my dreams the bathrooms are always disgustingly dirty, and I really have to go. So I wander around trying to use a bathroom, and never being able to because they are so gross. I usually wake up from these dreams with a full bladder. The other dreams involving teeth are always so real. My teeth are falling out, or have fallen out, or I am trying to push them back in. I usually think, "Man! I always have a dream about this, but it's never happened in real life!" Of course I wake up with a great sense of relief, after making sure that my teeth are still solidly rooted in my gums.

6. Speaking of teeth, I have all my teeth that have fallen out/ been pulled in a jar. Baby ones, cute. Wisdom teeth, not so much.

7. I do not like to share my food. This definitely needs some clarifying. It is popular in my circle of women friends to order a couple different things for dessert, in which everyone has a few bites. I no longer take part in these communal dessert dishes. For many years I would cringe inwardly while taking my allotted spoonful of tiramisu, but no longer! I asserted myself for the first time at a recent Girls' Night.
The plates started passing, with everyone declaring, "Oh this is so good" and "MMM!" but when they came to me I just passed it to the left.
"You don't want any?" I was asked.
"Oh, that's ok, I'm not too into the sharing thing", I admitted.
All eyes turned to me, wide with incredulity "What?" "Are you serious?" "Why not?"
"Oh, you know, I would prefer my own plate that no one has dipped their fork into"
"But we don't double dip! " came the protests.
But they don't wash off their forks between samples either. They might as well be taking two bites from the same dessert. I didn't say that, but I did tell them that even as a small child I was grossed out when my mom would lick the drips off my little sister's ice cream cone. I told them not to take it personally, I don't even like eating something my own children have taken bites out of. They still couldn't believe me, and tease me every time we go out. But I don't care, I am freed from bending to the peer pressure of sharing. If I want dessert I will order it for myself, and please don't ask me for a taste!

And that is probably TMI about me!

I am not going to tag anyone, but if you are interested in doing this meme because you love memes, or have some really weird things you must share with the world, go ahead and do it, then let me know!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

18 months

So, what's going on with our little K-K? Although she is not saying much that we can understand, we are seeing her try out some new words. In addition to Dada, Mama, a-oh (uh-oh), and hi, we think she says the following, but are not 100% sure that this is really what she is saying. Me-me(short e sound): Milk,ba-po:book, ap-po:apple, Ba-ba: banana, Wa-wa: cup, da-die : Addie, and.... that's about it. So, the experts
say that there might be a problem if a child doesn't have 15 words by this age, but we aren't really worried. We comment on it often enough between the two of us, but more with a laugh because we know that K doesn't do anything unless she wants to do it, and is ready for it. In fact, a couple of times we thought she said stuff, and asked her to repeat it, and the little stinker just looked at us with a glint in her eye, and refused to say a peep. I think that she will soon get frustrated that we are not correctly interpreting her grunts, squeals, and pointing and just start adding words like mad. So, that will come, I am confident.

Right now she is enamored with her shoes, and everyone else's. She points to her shoes each morning, and prefers to put them on, even while she is still wearing her pajamas. If we tell her that she can put them on after breakfast, she will remember and go up to her room when she is done, stand on her tippy-toes, reach to the top of her dresser and select a pair. They always match, and then she brings them to us, holds them out, and turns around to seat herself in our lap so that we can put them on for her. More recently, she has also gotten into
taking off her shoes. She will take them off, then try to put them on, then bring them to me for help. This can happen 20 times in a day, so after a few rounds of this, I just take them away. She will then try on big sis' shoes and shuffle around in them. She also likes to bring people their shoes, if she finds them lying discarded on the floor. Yes, the girl likes shoes!!

Another thing K loves is the bathroom sink. Anytime anyone is washing their hands, or occupied at the sink, she climbs up onto the stool and watches, or puts her own hands under the running water. Many mornings you will find her wedged between Ed and the sink as he shaves.

As for eating, she has her favorites, and then, well, nothing else. She always has the same breakfast- cheerios with milk, that she feeds to herself, and lunch- PB&J. Snacktimes she goes to the cupboard and points, usually at the cookies, although I also give her things like string cheese, breakfast bars, apples, and bananas. Dinner is the real challenge. She absolutely refuses to let vegetables and meat cross her lips. I always give her whatever we are eating, and she will only eat the rice or noodles, and leave the chicken, ground beef, green beans, carrots, or brocolli, sometimes spitting them out if I have mixed it all together. The only exceptions are when I make spaghetti she will eat it all, even the beef. Also she likes peas and corn. It is a challenge. I know I would not have stood for this if she were my first child, but I am not so sure if it would have made much of a difference. She is a lot more strong-willed than her older sister, and does not give in so easily to my demands. I think if I pushed it, and did not let her eat anything until she ate the chicken, she would just not eat dinner. And, call me crazy, but I know this because I let it happen once. I made dinner, she refused to eat it, she went to bed and I gave it to her the next morning at breakfast. She was starving, but still would not eat. She just cried her head off, and then I gave in, and got her a bowl of cheerios. I guess I taught her, once again, that if she cries hard enough, I will give in. I am just hoping that she will grow out of it, because once she has the verbal skills, and the reasoning skills, I will enforce the "eat it" rule.

She is very affectionate, and will randomly come up to different people during the day and give a big kiss on the leg or whatever she can reach. She even does this to our dog Holly, who just looks at me with a long suffering look.

We love our K, even if she is a little imp!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Going Gluten Free

For some time we have been concerned with N's bowels. Around his birthday in March, things started to get pretty bad, with lots of gas pain that had him in tears. I took lactose out of his diet, and that seemed to help, although everything wasn't perfect. Then in August things started to get worse again, and it was almost like his body wasn't absorbing anything, and food was going straight through him. I thought that maybe gluten could be the culprit, so one day I just stopped giving it to him. I went out to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and bought GF cookies, pretzels, cereals, and various mixes for cookies, bread, pizza dough, waffles and other baked goods. He was such a good boy when I introduced this new diet restriction on him. I explained that in addition to his "special" milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream, he would now have "special" cereal, cookies, snacks and bread. He has never complained. He eats whatever substitution I have made, and does so cheerfully. I am just so thankful for this! I know that the Lord has his hand in it.

Anyway, within 5 days I noticed a difference, and we have never looked back. N's bowels are "normal" for the first time that I can ever remember, and it is such a blessing. Naturally, we went to the pediatrician for a consultation (coincidentally the same day Ed was in the ER for his own issues). N had a blood test taken, which came back negative for celiac disease. I actually didn't think he had celiac because his symptoms weren't that drastic, but I do believe he has a gluten sensitivity. It is the only thing that can explain this remarkable turn around.

But his not having celiac gives me a little leeway in preparing his food. True gluten intolerance calls for separate cooking utensils, pots, and bowls, as well as complete gluten removal from the diet, including trace amounts in things like vanilla extract, baking powder and other things you wouldn't neccesarily consider having gluten. It would turn our lives upside-down, and I truly feel for those families who bear the full weight of this disease. Instead, I avoid giving him things that blatantly have gluten (wheat based products), but don't worry so much about the smaller quantities in other things. Anyway, things were gong fine with just N having the GF diet. The food was more expensive, but I didn't have to buy large quantities since he is still a small boy, and I could easily prepare a small GF portion of whatever we were eating and still make dinner as usual.

But now we have decided to try out a GF diet for Ed, and things are a little more complicated, and a lot more expensive. The cost difference between GF and "normal" is quite staggering. For example, a regular 5 lb bag of flour is easily under $5. I went online to buy flour through a recommendation of a friend, and was astounded that it cost $15 for 5lbs, plus $11 shipping- that is $26, people!! I bought it because I wanted to try it out, but I am still suffering sticker shock! And that is how it is across the board- anything GF will be significantly more expensive than it's normal counterpart. It's also been harder fixing dinners that Ed and N can eat, now that I have to do a large portion of it, if not all, GF. But it seems like it is working for Ed too. He says the pain in his side is almost completely gone, and he feels normal again. Now that could be normal healing, or the effects of eating GF. We won't know for sure until he sees a specialist at the end of the month.

All of this is to say, we are still trying to figure everything out, and how eating GF is going to work in our family. Fortunately there are a lot of resources online, and many GF products available in stores in my area (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Wegman's). I am currently working on finding meals that I can easily make that are GF. For dinner tonight I didn't know what to make, and Ed suggested waffles. GF waffles do have a different taste, and I wanted something a little more substantial, although many times we do just have waffles for dinner. I found a recipe online for chicken and waffles (I thought the chicken sauce would mask any difference in waffle taste), and I thought I would try it out. I made some changes, and I had to make 2 separate batches of waffles, but it turned out really well, and it was delicious! The kids all loved it, and practically licked their plates when they were finished! Here is the recipe, with my changes in it.

Waffles with Creamed Chicken

2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 small onion minced
1 glove of garlic, minced/pressed
*1 small can of cream of celery soup with 1/2 can of milk
1 tablespoon Madeira or dry Sherry
waffles (see below)

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic about 3 minutes, add chicken and sauté until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add Madeira and simmer about 2 minutes. Add cream of celery, put on lid, and stove on lowest setting. Periodically stir chicken as you make waffles.

Start making waffles. The original recipe called for frozen waffles for convenience, and I like to make my own. But this time, to speed up the process, I used a mix for both regular and GF. In both mixes, to make them taste more home-made I used butter instead of oil, and buttermilk instead of regular, and it made a huge difference.

Once waffles are done, arrange 2 waffles on each plate; top with creamed chicken.

* I realize that cream of celery does have some wheat to thicken it, but it wasn't enough to bother my guys. For those of you who can't have any gluten, here is the substitute:
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons GF flour- Bob's Red Mill, or Better Batter would work

1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 c of chopped celery
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth and cream. Add celery. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer sauce 1 minute.

My first award!

Look at this nice surprise I found when I visited my friend Judy's blog this weekend!


I am just getting around to fulfilling my requirements of an award winner. Apparently I need to award 5 other people, and tell them to award 5 more, etc, etc. Since I am not really into chain-mail and the like, I will award them, but I would say that you don't need to fulfill the rules if you too are spam-shy, or too busy, or just don't want to. Instead, enjoy your award with no strings attached, and!

In case you're wondering, here are the Smile Award rules:
1. The recipient must link back the the award's creator
2. You must post these rules if you receive the award.
3. You must choose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself.
4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient.
6. You must create a post sharing your win with others.
7. You must thank your giver.

Characteristics for the Smile Award:

1. Must display a cheerful attitude (not necessarily at all times--we are all human).
2. Must love one another.
3. Must make mistakes.
4. Must learn from others.
5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world.
6. Must love life.
7. Must love kids.

And the awards go to...

1. For the Sake of the Call: Of all the blogs I read, I feel that Angel most fulfills the characteristics of the award. This homeschooling mother of four still finds time to blog! Her posts are thoughtful, real, and sometimes controversial, but she is seeks to serve the Lord in all she does. And too, she is a wonderful friend, and always makes me smile.

2. Find the Mosers: OK, I promised Lise I wouldn't give her anymore Memes, but she does deserve this award. She does amazingly creative things with her kids as she homeschools them, inspires me to be a better mom with my kids, and so I am acknowledging her here.

3. Sutherland: Rachel's blogs have lots of funny and heartwarming stories and videos of her kids, as well as insightful shots into their hearts. I appreciate the way that she writes and shares her life.

4. Anatomy of a Family: I met Judy about a year ago, and found out through her blog that under the disguise of this soft-spoken, quiet woman there lay an amazingly witty and skilled writer. I realize I am kind of "regifting" here, but I felt that she deserves the award, not once, but twice! (And technically, this is a different blog than the one she originally got the award for). According to the "new" rules, as designated by me, she doesn't have to do a thing about it!

And that is all I have for now, as it is very early in the morning and I need to get back to bed.
If nothing else, enjoy exploring some other blogs and the talent that you will find there!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I have a couple of posts up my sleeve, but I actually haven't been reading many blogs lately, so I haven't been writing. As soon as I get my thoughts together, I will be back.