Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg

On our recent trip to Virgnia, in September, we visited Colonial Williamsburg. It truly was unlike anything our family has ever experienced. It was like going back in time 200 years, to the 18th century.

The Virginia Governors Palace (Governor Dunmore)
Colonial Williamsburg is a archaeologically accurate area of the real Williamsburg of the 18th century. Many of the houses and shops have been refurbished to be much like they would have in the 18th century. Archaeological research has shown them exactly where and what many of the town shops were, who owned them and what they made an sold. Therefore, Duke of Gloucester Street is much like it was in the 1770's in Virginia.
Colonial Williamsburg has an apprentice system in place as well, where artisans are taught to do the craft/skill as it was done in the 18th century, using the same tools as would have been used then as well. It was quite an amazing place!
Here we visited the blacksmith's shop. This was the only one in town in 1770. There was excavation going on beside this shop on property that was owned by the same person. It was the summer kitchen. It was interesting to watch the excavation. The home was on Duke of Gloucester Street and the shop and kitchen were behind. You entered a small gate at the side of the house and then walked through a courtyard to the smith shop. Not only were horseshoes made here but all kinds of tools, shoe buckles, cooking utensils, anything that was make of metal.
There were many different types of hammers and anvils in this shop, all for different purposes. Interesting!

As we walked down the street, we visited a shoemaker, the silversmith, and the millinery shop where you would buy clothing and accessories and even be fitted for your stays:)
As you leave the city streets of Williamsburg, you go into the 'country' where you find a plantation. This man was showing us how to hand hewn a log into a beam for support for a home. He instructed that you would fall this log in the forest and do all this there and then haul this beam to where you wanted. No sense in moving a heavy log before cutting it. It just made sense. This class was to demonstrate the art of building a home with tools of the time period. There was another man showing us how to split pine into clap boards that would be used to cover sides and roof.
Here the men demonstrated the use of a pit saw, which would be used much in building this house.
Other places we visited in Williamsburg were the Capitol Building where we learned much about the conflicts between the people and their government, the Governor Dunmore's Palace and the Courthouse, where we experienced a mock trial.
Overall this was a great family vacation. We also got VERY good prices as it was during home school week. Check their website. I believe they do this two time each year. There were special classes that they offered to us during this time as well. When we first began talking about it, the children (and I too) were not sure what to fully expect. By the end of our three days there, they were talking about coming back next year. That's what I call a successful vacation.

When we go back, here are some of the things that we will do differently:

1. Make sure to wear comfortable, closed toe shoes

2. Bring snacks and lots of water bottles, maybe even a cooler on wheels

3. Attend earlier in the week. There were some events that you had to 'register' for that were not available to us. The sign ups begin early in the week.

The highlight of our time in Colonial Williamsburg was the wonderful street re-enactments that occurred each afternoon. These provided so much excitement and learning for our children. IMHO there was a bit of literary license that took place but that just provided a platform for discussion among us later on. Above you see the drum and fifer core that marched before the Governors carriage.

Here the Virginia Army is calling people to the town center. The British Army is coming and they need to call for a volunteer Army.

Here the Revolutionary War volunteer army is being sworn in as solders. There is Josh and Daddy, right in the middle.

Here are our two soldiers, ready to fight for their country, and freedom from England. The are equipped with 1 rifle and 2 cider mugs and a bit of hard tack in their pockets.

We were grateful to be blessed with this vacation. Suzie

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Construction...and Life

Things have been a bit quiet here and there is a very good reason for that. Our house is under construction and we have all been busy helping. Our little DIY project has blossomed. I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel so I can talk a bit about it. We are converting our 2 car garage to a bedroom for the boys and a utility room and their bedroom will be occupied by my handicapped brother who is coming to live with us. We are excited about his arrival next month. He will be an integral part of our family unit.

So we started this project way back in March when we got home from California. We had to empty this indoor garage space into somewhere so....we built a shed. You can see it in this post.
We were grateful that the tree missed it.
We then moved all the 'stuff' into the shed and other nook and crannies in the house. Have you ever had a pantry in your living room? I have! We hired the electrical and framing to be done but all the rest we have been doing ourselves. I think we will be ready for paint next week and carpet on the weekend, yay!
Take a look at all our work...and play:)

Did I mention that we went without a washing machine and dryer for several days:)

When my father went to be with God, we were blessed with several of his earthly posessions that have made this project possible. The drill ds is using was his, a DeWalt of course, daddy always bought quality when it mattered. We were also blessed to be able to purchase my daddy's truck from my mother. We could have never hauled all the things necessary to do a project of this size, without it. When I was a child, my family did a very large addition to our family home, it took 7 years to complete. One day, I came into our addition to find my daddy's hammer laying there. I had no idea that it had been given to my husband by my mother and was shocked to see it, knowing full well who it belonged to. It is amazing to think that in a small way, daddy is helping us to make our addition possible. Ds and I both have shed not a few tears thinking about not being able to share this space with him.

Here I am with the spackle job. Not my favorite, but necessary! I am glad this job is done.

Last but certainly not least is the sanding. Boy am I glad this is quickly coming to an end. Maybe I will be able to see my furniture again, after I wipe some white dust away:) Joshua learned to like the sander. He became a pro by sanding the ceiling smooth so we could texture it.
I hope to get back to blogging soon. My mother and brother are both coming for Christmas. Brother is planning on staying indefinately and mom will go back sometime, not sure when. We are looking forward to both of them being with us. It will be a wonderfully cozy Christmas.
Blessings for all, Suzie

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Puppy Dog Song

While at Roundhouse Camp (see here), the children performed a song that we have affectionately named the Puppy Dog Song. It was a favorite of both my grandmother and father who both recently passed away. I think it helped us all to remember them fondly through this song. It's a catchy little tune with honest words. My mother told me that my 94 year old grandmother used to giggle at it, in her sweet, sweet, way.
The children did a fantastic job! I am so proud of them!

See for yourself!

They worked so hard on this project and it came off without a hitch! They proved that they can work as a team.

Blessings, Mom


We just returned from a 2 1/2 week vacation. It was fabulous! On of the purposes for our vacation was to attend Roundhouse, a homeschool camp for families who are members of the church of Christ. You can read more about this camp here.
This is the 21st year that this camp has been held. Each year they have a t-shirt made and for their 20 year, last year, this wonderful quilt was made. It hangs above the podium where most of our activites are held. Being a quilt lover, I was very impressed with it. We were not able to make camp last year. The camp spun off from a newsletter called The Home Train thus the name Roundhouse.

This year, the children were able to be involved in the zip line. It was nail biting for me to watch but they all loved it.

Do you see how high up that is?
Roundhouse was mostly about seeing our old friends from years past and making new ones. For me, it was about getting my spiritual cup filled up so that I can make it through another year of homeschooling. My children express that it is truly a place where they feel like they fit in a bit better than in most circles. I glean lots of encouragement for the year to come through moms jam session and workshops. For those who wish, there were all other types of activities including Bible bowl, spelling bee, a crafts fair and activity fair. My children spent a lot of time fishing. They were the go to kids for all the line and tackle needed.
Can you tell we had a wonderful vacation. We also camped on the Piankitank River and spent several days at Colonial Williamsburg. I will post of those outings in a few days.
Blessings, Suzie

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Happy Birthday!

~posted by Noami~
Yesterday -August 6th - was my moms birthday! Before 4 O' clock that day she had no idea what we had planned for her. What we had planned for her was this:
5:30 - dinner at olive garden with dad
8:30 - cake and ice cream at home with family
10:00 - Movie at the mall with dad
While mom was eating dinner, I iced her cake.
Earlier in the day dad had taken her out to lunch.
That's when we baked it. When she came
home we had the cake and ice cream. It was about nine O'clock.

Now before we could eat the cake we had to light the candles so here's us
trying to light the cake. I burned my
fingers twice and well...... just watch the video.

Mom blew out the candles and we wished her a happy birthday. She asked for no present so there were none. But dad had sent her 5 e-cards!

After cake and ice cream dad and mom went back out to the mall for their movie. They were not back till midnight but that's ok. I think mom really enjoyed her birthday.

Blessings, Naomi

Friday, August 6, 2010

Volunteering In The Garden

Our garden has provided us with an amazing amount of produce this year. It has been a very wet year in our area, which I am sure has contributed to this. Most things are dry and shrivelled by this time of year.

Our tomato vines are covered with green tomatoes

We had an interesting situation with our canteloupes. Last year we had an open compost pile of sorts that we designed with an empty concrete pad and cinder blocks. We were impressed with the quality of the compost that came from that, however we got lots of volunteer plants which sometimes was irritating. After a bit of research, I discovered that part of the problem could have been that the compost pile was not getting warm enough to make the seeds so they would not germinate. This year we decided to invest in these composters from Sam's Club.

They also work well to hide the gas meters that seem to take up the most visible space in our back yard.

We needed the old compost pile, that was now nice rich soil, to fill in the new garden area that was formed when we put up the retaining wall near the new shed. We never dreamed that we would have so many volunteer melons. Look what we had for dinner last night!

It was very juicy and a bit sweet. We were amazed that this grew just because of God.

'Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?'
Matthew 6:26

Blessings, Suzie

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gobs of Peaches

This week, our small kitchen has turned into a peach processing plant!
Our little peach tree had so many peaches this year that we had branches breaking with all the weight. This is the same peach tree that survived the huge maple tree branch breaking and rolling under it rather than on top of it. You can read about it here. So we KNOW that these are all blessings from God!
This has been a wonderful family activity that we ALL have been involved in. The boys picked and washed. Naomi, David and I pitted and sliced while Joshua ran all of our 'leftovers' to the compost pile. We have canned 24 quarts in light syrup. Here is the recipe for the syrup and directions to can. I like this site because they have pictures. I didn't peal my peaches as it doesn't seem to matter to my family and it cuts the work down significantly. We also had to pick these a bit green, which would make them more difficult to peel.
As mentioned, we picked them a bit green because it is our experience that if we wait, the birds and bugs get them before us:)

First we washed, pitted and sliced peaches.

At this point, I sprinkled with Fruit Fresh, then had to decide what to do with it all. I had some jars, but not a ton and I didn't want to use them all because I will want to make applesauce later on in the year. So I decided that I would only can 2 dozen jars of peaches and save a dozen for applesauce later on. If finances are better in the fall, I may purchase another dozen quart jar, but that remains to be seen.

Here are the peaches we canned, all washed and labeled. I still had peaches to preserve even after all my jars were used up so I decided to make peach cobbler mixture to freeze. I found a recipe on Allrecipes for Freezer Peach Pie Filling making a few modifications. I increased amount of peaches used to 4 cups and added 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon. I will use this as a cobbler in a square 9x9 inch pan rather than a pie. I also doubled several recipes to be made in 9x13 pan for church potlucks and such.

Peach Cobbler Toppings

To top these beautiful peaches, I will choose from 2 that I took from other recipes in my collection. The first I made as a go along for breakfast the other morning. My mistake was making it the night before and allowing samples. There was very little left for breakfast:)

Crumble Topping

1 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
(or you can substitute 1/3 cup applesauce for a lighter version)
Mix all dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add melted butter and stir til combined. Spoon over top of defrosted cobbler filling that has been put in a 9x13 sprayed glass pan. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven on bottom rack for 20 minutes. Turn down temperature to 350 and bake another 30-35 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Baked Cobbler Topping, it is more difficult to make 'lite'

2 stick butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour (use white)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Mix in mixing bowl. Pour over top of thawed cobbler filling that has been put in a 9x13 sprayed glass pan. Bake at 355 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until the top is brown and sides are bubbly. Cool and eat, YUM!

Even with all our recent losses, it is so easy to see that God is blessing us more and more abundantly that we could ever imagine.
My prayer today is that you are able to see God's Blessings in your life.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ants and Hamburgers

We are going to a hamburger cookout tomorrow after church and have been asked to bring dessert. See what we made. This idea is taken from a blog sister of mine at
Raising Olives and she got the idea from a book called Hello Cupcake!

Adorable name for an adorable book!
Anyway, Naomi and I had tons of fun in the kitchen.

First we gathered out ingredients. This amount is for a crowd, so we used 2 yellow cake mixes and 1 chocolate cake mix. Made cupcakes as directed. This made close to 5 dozen cupcakes. Most mixes make 2 dozen but we made the yellow ones a bit fuller to have a round top for the hamburgers.

We also needed:

a batch of my Grandma's buttercream icing recipe (see bottom) divided and colored ketchup red, mustard yellow grass green and chocolate brown,

2 packages of bridge mix (you only need the chocolate covered almonds)

sweetened coconut

green food coloring

18 small watermelon cadies

1/4 cup apple juice

2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

a sharp knife

For the ants in the grass we iced the top with green icing then sprinkled a bit of colored coconut (as grass) on top. Choosing carefully, we then put three ants in a row and set it aside.

Later, Naomi and I took turns carefully putting the feet and antena on the ants as well as giving them a watermelon slice to chase.

See how cute they turned out.
How for the hamburgers, you use a whole yellow cupcake cut in half (your bun) and the bottom half of a chocolate cupcake (the meat). On the bottom half of your bun, pipe mustard then place the chocolate piece. Then pipe katsup placing green coconut on top of that for the lettuce. On the top of your bun, use a pastry brush and brush lightly with apple juice and sprinkle with sesame seeds for an authentic looking bun. Place on top of the lettuce and set aside to dry.
See how it turns out.

Looks yummy huh!

I arranged these all on a large lazy susan with a cake plate on top. It will be fun. I hope I can get it there without any incidents. There is nearly 3 dozen. You would not have to make this many unless you were feeding a small army, as we are.

We had a lot of fun doing this but the best part was that Naomi and I had so much fun together! I pray that we will have many more times together in the kitchen, or anywhere, for that matter. She is a wonderful daughter!

I think I have mentioned in another post that my grandmother was a professional cake decorator so this recipe is tried and true. Hope you like it. We love it. I almost always have some put away in the back of the fridge. It's great on cookies too.

Grandma's Buttercream Icing Recipe

1 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup plus 1t water
1 cup shortening (use Crisco, others don't hold together well)
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
2 large egg whites
1 t clear vanilla
(today I used regular b/c I didn't have clear and was coloring all my icing)

Beat powdered milk and water til thick then add shorteneing, salt and beat til creamy. Add sugar. Beat until heavy consistency and creamy. Add egg whites and beat til good and fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Store unused portion covered and refrigerated. Make enough to easily ice 2 9 inch round cakes.

Blessings for a wonderful Lord's Day, Suzie

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grape Jelly

Today we are making Grape Jelly at our house. This is our 10 year old grape vine, which has given us a bounty of around 15 pounds of grapes this year, after the birds of course.
What beauties! We washed. cleaned and juiced all these to make 12 and 1/2 pints of jelly.

These are concord grapes and they were so juicy and sweet this year. We had a lot of rain and they were larger than I think they have ever grown! These grapes have seeds in them so they take a bit of processing to get them into jelly.
Here is my very non-traditional way to extract the juice. I use my Champion Juicer! This is no typo! My mother used to boil and hang everything in the jelly bag, press it through a jelly sieve to separate the juice from the seeds but that all seems like a lot of work to me, and besides mom didn't have a Champion back then. Once I get the juice, I measure 4 cups of it, add 1/2 cup of water and put it on the stove to boil. When it comes to a boil, I add 7 cups of sugar and bring it to a rolling boil. Using liquid pectin, add it and cook it at a rolling boil for exactly one minute. Remove from heat and hot pack in jars with lids from the hot dishwasher (she didn't have one of those either) and turn upside down for 10 minutes. Turn them rightside up and place them on a tea towel making sure that they are not touching each other. Tell your kids to come in and listen for the 'POPS' so that we all know they are sealed properly! When completely cooled, wash, label and store in a cool, dry place.
Now just do that a couple more times and you have all this!

As youngest son and I were out picking these grapes this morning, I saw several that the birds had knocked on the ground. That fruit that became separated from the vine had no chance to mature into anything edible.
This verse came to my mind:
'I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.'
John 15:5
May we all live to abide in him. Blessings, Suzie

Monday, July 19, 2010

Frozen Assets

Many have blogged about Once A Month Cooking and I suppose I will join the many who have already blogged on the subject. My favorite Once a Month Cooking Book is Frozen Assets Lite and Easy by Deborah Taylor-Hough. All of the chapter are organized by type of meal, ie: pasta, chicken, turkey, or beef. There are also seafood and vegetarian choices as well. Having them organized this way, I can buy what is on sale for the week and cook it for the freezer. It all becomes a 'Frozen Asset' to my family. I also like that all of the chapter are mini sessions, meaning, there are no more than 5 meals in one session. I can do that in one afternoon! I do not even attempt to cook ALL our food for a whole month in an entire session. As the title indicates, lite and easy. The recipes have been broken down and replaced with lower fat alternatives. Nutrition information is included with each recipe so it is easy for me to calculate Weight Watcher Points. I suppose I just wanted to share as I have struggled finding a system of cooking that works for our family. I like this method and especially like this book as it is much healthier and cost effective as well.

Blessings to you, Suzie E.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Trip to Wyoming

~posted by Naomi

While my mom was in California me and my two brothers went up to Wyoming after my granddad's funeral. We stayed with my dad's dad for three weeks. We spent those three weeks going to parks, national monuments, and we even went four wheeling!
Almost every other day we went four wheeling. One time when me and my grandpa went four wheeling on top of the mountain we saw a herd of horses! We were on the four wheeler so we were able to get so close. We got some great pictures.

In one whole day we went to the sand dunes, bores tusk, and saw petroglifs.

Several times while we were in Wyoming our grandpa took us to Green River which was a town about 12 miles from where he lives in Rock Springs. At the green river our grandpa taught us how to skip a rocks!

Sometimes our grandpa would take us for drives in the mountain. On the very first day that we got there he took us up the mountain and he stopped somewhere for us to read a sign. We saw a four wheel trail up to what to us seemed at the time to be a big rock sticking out of the ground. From where we were standing the trail didn't look to long. Our grandpa said we could go and we thought we would only be about 10-15 minutes. Boy were we in for a surprise. Apparently grandpa knew it would take us a while so about 10 minutes after we started hiking he got in the truck and started to drive behind us. After we found this out me and my little brother got in the truck for little brakes but my older brother hiked the whole, long, hot way. It was steep climbing up to the "big rock" which our grandpa later informed us was called pilots butte. We got all the way to the top and looked where we had com from. all in all it took us about an hour to walk to the butte. we found a few caves up on top but we were strictly told NOT to go into the caves for fear of snakes and other animals that would not be so pleasant to encounter. we rode back and went home tired and dirty.

Our mom came on the 23rd of June to pick us up and take us home. We left the next morning and got home safely. We were so glad to meet our dad but over all I enjoyed the trip to Wyoming and sometimes wish we were still there.

~Blessings, Naomi