Saturday, February 28, 2009

Elegy in E - Piano Competition

Oldest son competed in Gold Cup Festival Auditions and was the winner in his upper elementary piano level. He will compete at the state level in April.

Take a listen...

He first appeared before a judge, privately and then went on to a play-off recital. This video was take during that recital. You know when you want something so bad for your child and how you feel when they achieve it....well, that is the feeling I have. He didn't do so well last year and was full of determination this year. I am so proud and happy for him.

We celebrated with dinner at Golden Corral and an evening of family games, what fun!

It has been an amazingly busy day. We are getting ready for the Lord's Day tomorrow.

May you all be tremendously blessed as you worship Him,


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Got Bit By The Gardening Bug

I can't help it! Every year the same thing happens. Dh says, "So honey, what do you want to plant in the garden this year?" and I usually respond, "Oh, I don't think I have time for a garden this year, after all we have school, music, church activities......and what about the expense..."
All the while that seed has been my head. So today, I had a little gift that was given to me by our good friend Nick, who loves flowers, too. He blessed us with this little kit that has been sitting on my window sill since December, waiting for springtime. Well.....springtime is here, almost?

So I put together the kit and had lots of seeds leftover so I dug around in my gardening bins and found some leftover peat pots and potting soil and now I will have lots of herbs I hope. OK, that was when the gardening bug bit! It must have been the dirt, I love playing in it!

Dh must have been delighted (he loves to garden but has difficulty also finding the time) when I telephoned him in the middle of the day to ask, so how inexpensively can we do our garden this year? Earlier in the week we had looked at the Earthtainer method but decided that was too much outlay this year. I also had a good friend suggest using things that we already had, just implement the ideas in different form. That too, seemed like a lot of thought work. At dh's suggestion, I just went out to do some spring clean up in the flower beds and look what I found!

My Purple Coneflower or Echinacea. I have planted many over time however, I have never had any overwinter and survive til the next spring, yea!

Of course, the beautiful Daffodils, signaling that spring is almost here.

This is my Blooming Magnolia. Last year was the first time it had ever bloomed and it has been planted here for at least 3 years. It is covered with a bloom at the end of each stem and will be in full color in a couple of weeks, yea!

These are some Hollyhocks that I planted last spring and I thought they had died as they never came up. Guess what, the aren't dead, yea!

And one lone strawberry!

And of course, the tulips are peeking out of their beds!

"While the earth remains,
Seed time and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease."
Genesis 8:22 NKJV

May God bless all of your endeavors this day, Suzie

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cream Soup Recipes

In my previous post The Frugal Kitchen I posted a recipe for fake cream soup that is healthful, yummy and economical. I absolutely replace it everywhere and in any recipe that calls for any flavor of cream soup.

Here are a couple of my family's favorite recipes that are easy, economical, and yummy.

Ham and Potato Casserole

This recipe is one that I call a 'scrap casserole' recipe. I use the basic cream soup mixture, potatoes, sour cream and cheese and then fill in with whatever I have on hand. I have used chicken instead of ham and have substituted corn flakes for dry bread crumbs, crackers, whatever. Personally, I think finding and using these type of recipes is the key to learning to use what we have rather than running out and buying more (something I sooo want to get better at). The simple life for me!

2# frozen, cubed hash browns
2 recipes of cream soup mixture (see previous post)
3 cups water
16 oz sour cream
2 cups cooked ham
1/3 cup green onion (or dry chives work well too)
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 t pepper
2 cups corn flakes (or crushed crackers work well too)
1/4 cup melted butter

Combine all ingredients minus corn flakes and melted butter. Mix well. Place in well oiled/buttered/sprayed pans. If baking for dinner, combine cornflakes and melted better and mix well. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake 1 hours. If freezing reserve this part for when you place it in the oven and bake 1 and 1/2 hours from frozen. This recipe makes one huge 9x13 or two 8x8 pans. I usually make one for dinner and freeze one for another time. It freezes well. I usually serve it with a salad.

White Chicken Enchilada Slow-Cooker Casserole

1 whole chicken boiled and picked (or you can use canned)
(I only use 1/2 of the chicken and use the rest for another, nobody knows, shhh)
2 recipes dry cream soup mix
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic
16 oz sour cream
7 oz. can of diced chilies
10 flour tortillas
4 cups cheese (Monterrey Jack is what the recipe calls for, but I just use what I have on hand)
10 oz can black olives - sliced, optional

Cover chicken with water and simmer for several hours. Cool. Pick meat. Cut in small pieces. In medium saucepan combine dry cream soup mix and water. Heat stirring over medium heat until a little thick. Add chicken, garlic, sour cream and chilies. Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray and begin layering tortillas (cut in half or torn in pieces), chicken mixture, cheese and olives if desired. I unusually make 4 layers but you can do as many as you want and have ingredients for. If you wanted to stretch this recipe, you could add another recipe of cream soup mix and have more for less...if you know what I mean. And best of all this is a slow cooker recipe. I set it on LOW for 4-5 hours. Instant dinner that your family will love! I usually serve with a salad and fresh bread or rolls.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 31. I have a piece of needlework hanging in my kitchen that references a portion of those verses. Let me share with you the best part.

Proverbs 31:27-31

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, and thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful,and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Blessings to you as you minister to your families in these difficult economic times,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Fun!

Yesturday, we attended an extrmemly large book sale in the largest metropolitian area near out home, and wooaa, was it fun! We came home with about 75 new books for our library. Here is some of what we bought.

Wee Gillis - Munroe Leaf, FIAR

The First Thanksgiving Feast - easily adapted into TOG curriculum

The Viking Press - Rachael Wright TOG go along

Eating the Plates - Lucille Recht Penner, a TOG go along

Baseball Saved Us - Ken Mochizuki, a FIAR go along

Pegasus - Marianna Mayer, a TOG literature book

Robin Hood - Niel Philip, a TOG literature book

The Illustrated Book of Myths-Neil Philip, a TOG go along, used many weeks and years.

Old Testament Days - Nancy Sanders, a TOG history/activity book, used many weeks in year 1

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth - Kathryn Lasky, a TOG core history book

Cleopatra - Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema - a TOG core history book

Chanticlear and the Fox - Barbara Cooney - a TOG literature book

Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May - Jean Fritz, a TOG core history book

Johann gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press - Bruce Koscielniak, TOG core history book

Rembrandt by Mike Venezia, easily adapted into TOG curriculum

What if you met a Knight - Jan Adkins, easily adapted into TOG curriculum

Canada - Elma Schemenauer, easily adapted into TOG curriculum

The Babbs Switch Story - Darlene Bailey Beard, our state history go along

Wagons Ho, A Diary of the Oregon Trail - Cynthia Mercati, easily adapted into TOG

Growing Up In Colonial America - Tracy Barrett, easily adapted into TOG

We the People, The Way We Were 1783-1793 - Suzanne Hilton, easily adapted into TOG

When this Cruel War is Over - Duane Damon, easily adapted into TOG

Who Settled the West - Bobbie Kalman, a TOG go along

Give Me Liberty - Russell Freedman, easily adapted into TOG

Celtic Fairy Tales - Neil Philip, just for fun, dd loves poetry and we will be studying about the Celts soon.

Usborne Introduction to Biology, great science book!

The Roman Empire - Peter Chrisp, a TOG go along

Esther's Story - Diane Wolkstein, a TOG go along

A Medieval Feast - Aliki, easily adapted into TOG

Georgia O'Keeffe - Mike Venezia, I love these books. They are great to have around for reference.

Tales from Shakespeare - Marcia Williams, easily adapted into TOG, this is a cool book, Shakespeare in cartoon strips, great for youngest son!

The Roman News - Andrew Langley and Philip DeSouza, easily adapted into TOG

Paul Revere - Illustrated by Charles Santore, easily adapted into TOG, may even use for compare/contrast discussion as I have several versions of this poem by different illustrators.

Wise Guy, The Life and Philosophy of Socrates - M.D.Usher, easily adapted into TOG

The World's Great Explorers, Henry the Navigator - Charnan Simon, easily adapted into TOG

A Long and Uncertain Journey, The 27,000 mile voyage of Vasco da Gama 0 Joan elizabeth Goodman - easily adapted into TOG
I just wanted to mention how easy it is to swap books with Tapestry of Grace (TOG), our core homeschool curriculum. TOG does a very excellent job of choosing core books that are the best living books available, however if there is another title that I feel is better for our family, or in this case, cheaper ($1.00 per book), I can switch them out very easily. That flexibility is built into the curriculum. Isn't that wonderful!
The best part of our book sale adventure was to see the children and dh having so much fun. They all searched for titles of their own. Is was so rewarding to see youngest son, who is just mastering the art of reading, tay up late last night (or early this morning) to finish his chapter book. I love homeschooling!
May you have a blessed day, Suzie


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hannibal and His Elephants - Elephant Carving

This week in our Tapestry of Grace Unit, we have been studying about Hannibal and the elephants that he attempted to take across the Pyrenees and Alps Mountains to Italy in an attempt to conquor Rome. This was the second Punic War. He began his journey in Carthage with an estimated 30 elephants and 60,000 men. By the time he got to northern Italy, he had lost more than half of his men and only had one elephant left. Cold weather and small tribal attacks depleated his army.

I thought it would be fun to carve elephants out of soap. We used Ivory, cheap and gentle. We have a wonderful book called Pioneer Crafts by Barbara Greenwood and Heather Collins that have really good instructions and pictures for soap carving. There are other great things in thsi book as well.

For cutting instruments, I had several 'dull' sharp knives that we had bought at the dollar store years ago. They were sharp enough to cut the soap, but not a finger. Case knives would also work well.

The picture that we were looking at and using as a model is here.
I just used google images 'elephant carving' and picked the best one for us.

Here is what we got when we were finished.

Just a bit of a warning, this is a messy project, but we all had a great time, lots of fun! The children even used some leftover soap bars to make some other things with their creativity. Dear daughter made a camera (she is camera happy these days) and they are currently in the bathtubs putting all the shavings to good use.

Blessings for a fun and wonderful art project at your house today. Suzie

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Frugal Kitchen

I too, like many have been working hard to cut the cost of my family's grocery bill each week. As I have talked about in previous posts, making your own yogurt is extremely cost effective. You can read about how to make your own yogurt here. You can grow your own sprouts very easily and for pennies. In the winter months, it can bring some green into your life, too. You can read about that here. A few weeks ago, I visited our local bulk warehouse club and they had on clearence (a few days before expirations) whole chickens for $.29/per pound. I bought as many as I could afford and store. Needless to say, my deep freeze is full of several months worth of chicken. A chicken often will provide our family with 2 meals. One of meat and salad, the other I use the stock and leftover vegetables and meat to make a soup, adding additional vegetables and rice or pasta to complete the soup. We have also stopped using ground beef and have replaced its use with ground turkey that I can buy at the bulk warehouse club for around $2.00/per pound. It is the name brand rather than the off brand that I am not comfortable buying. I have also cut the amount of meat from the recipe portion in half, meaning if a recipe calls for 1#, I will add 1/2# instead. No one has noticed a difference in any of the recipes I make. One other thing that I have done is replaced our use of canned cream soups with a low cost recipe. Besides being healthy, the cost is just pennies compared to buying cans of creamed soup at the store.

Here is the recipe I use:

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 T cornstarch
3/4 t dry onion
dash of pepper
1/8 t dry basil
1/8 t dry thyme
1/2 t chicken broth powder (I use one without MSG)

Combine all ingedients and mix well. Use in recipes in place of condensed cream of chicken. To reconstitute - in saucepan combine mixture with 1 1/4 cups cold water. Stir over low heat til thickened.

Variations include:

Cream of Mushrooms soup-add 1/2 cup freshly chopped mushrooms
Cream of Celery soup-add 1/2 cup minced celery
Cream of Potato soup-add 1 cup diced, cooked potatoes
Cream of Broccoli soup-add 1 cup broccoli, cooked
Cream of Asparagus-add 1 cup asparagus, cooked

I usually make the basic recipe up ahead of time and store them in my pantry to use when needed. I have several recipes that I use them in including Potato casserole and Cheezy rice and broccoli casserole. Maybe I can share those recipes another time.

It is extremely important to me that I plan wisely the monetary gain that my husband brings into our home. I have been working hard and getting better at it. Blessings to your family as you seek to use HIS blessings in HIS ways.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Salt Dough Map of Italy

We have begun our study of the Roman Republic and
youngest son designed this salt dough map last week as part of his schoolwork.

Salt dough is very easy to make. He measured and mixed it himself. He used the lid of a shoe box as his palate. I have heard of others using pizza boxes.

Here is the recipe:

1 cup white flour
1 cup salt
1/2 cup water

Mix all ingredients to the consistency of play dough.
I just used leftover acrylic paints for him to finish the job.
Didn't he do a wonderful job? I think so.

Blessings to you and your school, Suzie

A Valentines Celebration

Happy Valentine's Day!
Dinner was steak on the grill and mashed potatoes with sparkling grape juice for everyone. Daddy toasted to God who gave us all of our wonderful blessings. After we ate, daddy read
from I Corinthians 13.
The children each got a valentine basket. Think I spent about $40.00 in all for our Valentines Day. Most items came from Dollar Tree, including the baskets (which we 2/$1.00) and most of the small toys. We also each bought each other valentine cards, like the would do in public school, and exchanged those. It was a blast.

Here is what our table looked like after clearing the dishes and getting ready for cake.
I decorated the table with a plain red table cloth from Christmas and this inexpensive place mat. Oh, and the candles. Each got a candle next to their plate to symbolize that they are each a light in this world.

I had never made a red velvet cake from scratch. I thought about using a box but wanted to try from scratch. I got the recipe from here , but admittedly, I will probably just buy a mix next time. The cake was rather dry. The icing, however, was a delicious white chocolate and cream cheese icing. It will be a keeper.
Here is youngest son with his most favorite toy in his basket.

Here is oldest son with his most favorite toy from his basket.

Here is daughter with her most favorite toy in her basket.
As we ponder our Valentines experience, I wish to leave the verses that dear husband read last evening.
'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity enviety not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh not evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:...And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. I Corinthians 13:1-8;13 (KJV)
May your Valentine Day and each day be filled with Charity. Blessings, Suzie

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Baroque recital-Judas Maccabeus, Handel

Dear daughter performed in a Baroque Period recital this morning. Take a peek.

Blessings for a wonderful day, Suzie

Monday, February 2, 2009

Managers of Their Homes/Chores

It has been awhile since posting here but let me assure you, we have been busy. We are implementing (with great success, I might add) the Maxwell's systems of scheduling and chore assignments in our home. You can read more about the Maxwell family, their ministry and books here. They have some very wonderful ideas. I have had their Managers of Their Home system for quite some time but have been working to tweak it for our family. Here is what we have done with our daily schedule.

As you can see, this is posted on the refrigerator. We have a limited amount of wall space in our home, and this is a very convenient place, where all can view it. It has taken me some time to tweak this schedule, however, recently, when ds needed 30 minutes of vision therapy with me every day, it was very easy to 'plug it in' without me feeling overwhelmed. I have also incorporated my own chores as well as blocks of time to 'inspect' and 'train' the children in their chores. I need to add that I tried this system many years ago, in our early years of homeschooling and it didn't work then because I tried to follow it too closely. I now have learned to use it as my guide rather than my master (even though it is called a 'master' schedule). I believe that this is a very important key to making this system work for your family. FLEXIBILITY!

Another system that the Maxwells created and is rather new to me is called
Managers of Their Chores.

Chores have always been a challenge for me to implement in our home.
I felt like I spent much of my day telling the children to pick up this, do this job, or do that job. I no longer have to do that. This system does that for me. I have found that I know that the jobs that need to be done, will be done sometime during the week, so I am not concerned about getting it done, right then. This entire system frees me up to focus on other thing, rather than chores. When I work the system, it works.
As with any new system, it takes some time to set up. One of the most time consuming but important things is to figure out what chores need to be done, how often, and which child will do them. Once you do that, the rest is a cup of tea, walk in the park...
The way the system works is that the children have a plastic clip-on pocket (note in photo) that they clip to themselves during the allotted time for chores. They do each chore consecutively, until they are all complete. At that time, the child 'turns in' his chore pocket to me. Having the child clip their chores on them has been especially helpful to my youngest son, as he gets distracted so easily and forgets what he was doing. He is learning that whenever he is 'wearing' his jobs, that is what he is to focus on. All of my children are of reading age, but the Maxwell's have software included with book purchase, that will help you make picture cards for children who are pre-readers.

For me, the most difficult part of maintaining this system was to follow up and check the work that the children had done. I created the following system to help me with that. It is located on a wall in a high traffic area of the house, for everyone to see. The pockets are made out of file folders (a different color for each child) and packing tape. After I have inspected the jobs in the plastic pockets then they go in the completed section and I load their plastic pocket for the next round of jobs, in a couple hours. The children have three, thirty minute sessions for jobs, during each day. I have conveniently labeled them AM, PM and evening jobs. Some jobs they do every day, or several times a day, other jobs, only one time per week. The system teaches you how to arrange all that. The Managers of Their Chores process is not difficult to understand and the way the Maxwell's root the material in the Godly importance of teaching our children the responsibility of hard work is very encouraging.

Several years ago, when the children were younger, I did not see such a great necessity for systems like these, however, as my children are growing and their educational demands increase, I have found myself drowning in a maze of calenders and sticky notes and an inability to figure out where I am suppose to be next, let alone the children. Most days we get all of our school work completed, as well as the many sports and music appointments. We are even getting daily Bible reading done and the bathrooms cleaned, all because these things are scheduled. It is truly a wonderful feeling. Everyone feels better about their accomplishments.

I must thank Steve and Teri Maxwell for their forethought in sharing such insightful information in their books. I will highly recommend them to any home school family. I pray that this post may have interested you in investigating some of their writings. May God bless and encourage you in helping your family be more productive.

Blessings, Suzie