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Tuesday, March 29, 2011


So I've been thinking a lot lately about a lot of things.  The word "conviction" has been floating through my head.  In all honesty, it's a very scary word.  It means change is coming.  It probably means it might be uncomfortable.  On the upside, it's a necessary step toward sanctification, and that's a good thing.

Ah sanctification.  I confess that I had never heard this word until I jumped denominations into my current church, which is a Christian Missionary and Alliance Church.  Sanctification, as far as I understand it, is our growing into Christ-likeness.  It is the process by which we are refined, where iron sharpens iron, and where we are set apart from others for the purpose of serving God.  It is our journey toward holiness.  It's not just a CMA idea; it's in the Bible.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:14

And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:24

I recently gave a talk at MOPS where I mentioned this topic.  I became a Christian in high school, and for so many years, I thought my way was wrong.  Where was my magic genie Jesus?  Why was being Christian so hard?  What was I doing wrong?

I had surrendered to Christ, in that I accepted his free gift of salvation.  I let him be my Savior.

Now I was ready for him to be Lord of my life.

For me, these are two different steps.  They are two different acts of surrender.

Once I began to surrender, he began the process of sanctifying me for HIS glory, and not my own.  As I have grown into Christ-likeness (which hasn't always felt good or been easy), I have seen the difference in me.  Those who are close to me have seen the difference in me.  I ABSOLUTELY do not claim to hold any secrets, nor to sit around and sing Kumbaya, nor to be perfect.  I am far, far from perfect.  But I know that God is growing me into who I am meant to be, and that is what matters.  I have flirted with moments of peace and contentment.  I have seen what happens when I am obedient to what God wants from me.  And I want more of it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Week in Review--Hastings and Hailstorms

We had two days of field trips this week.  We spent a little time in Baltimore, MD.  You can read more about our trip here.

Other than that, we've had a low-key week.  I admit I am not horribly motivated, even though I was delighted to see that Scrappy only needs 35 more days of school to meet the state-mandated 180 educational days.  You'd think that would light a fire under me to "get 'er done" but it doesn't seem to be the case.

I blame the weather.

It's obviously spring, and I have a nearly overwhelming desire to clean out the house and organize things.  It's been too cold to spend a big chunk of time in the basement.  The house is still a construction zone (*sigh*) but there's light at the end of the tunnel.  Hub's brother is coming to finish up the last bedroom and then we can rearrange all the Flour Children.  Well, their rooms, anyway.  So I just want to clean.  Let's face it.  I should go with it, right?  I knew you would agree.

There has been some traditional educating going on here, despite the obscene amount of kids' clothes I've been sorting through.  We had a great discussion on Vikings (wrapping up with that topic) and we've moved into the beginning of the English kingdom.  We learned about Alfred the Great and his battle to keep the Vikings out of southern England.  We studied Harold vs. William in the showdown for the crown (aka The Battle of Hastings).

By the way, I love homeschooling.  I learn so much more than I ever learned in school.  I did take a British Isles class in college, but dropped it after we spent 3 periods watching Braveheart.  It's a huge hole in my History knowledge and I love that we're studying it in elementary school!  I mean, really, battles and kings and castles are very interesting at this age.  Okay, they're always interesting.

It also hailed this week.  Hooray!  Most of it was just slightly larger than pea-sized.  We were in the middle of schoolwork when it started and we all ran outside!  We studied weather in detail two years ago, and it doesn't really hail here too often.  It was very exciting to see some hail.

Hailstone collection.

The boys built everything from this Lego book, all week long.

Funny helped me bake a cake.

Lazy Cream Bundt Cake

Generally, cake isn't exciting.  Frosting, yes.  Cake, no.  You know why I think that?  Because most of the cake I've had in my life has come from a box.  I totally think that cake mixes have their place.  There is something comforting about their odd lightness and fluffiness.  But, generally, for me, that's not really what I want from a cake.  I want something a little denser, and definitely more interesting.  That's my personal preference.

This is an extremely easy cake to make, especially if you are first-timer and a little nervous.  The main trick with this one is just to be sure to grease and flour the pan really well, or it'll stick.  Plus, someone you know has a Bundt pan you can borrow, and so you don't have to buy your own.

Lazy Cream Bundt Cake
from The Spiced Life

3 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 large eggs, room temperature (just set them out at the beginning of prep time and they'll be fine by the time you need them)
2 3/4 c. sugar
4 tbsp. vanilla or 1 tbsp. vanilla plus 1 tsp. lemon or orange zest (I totally forgot about the vanilla.  So my cake just tastes like cream.  I'm not really complaining.)
2 c. heavy cream (the package might say "whipping cream"), room temperature (again, just let it sit on the counter a bit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the eggs and sugar together in a mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes or so.  The batter will start to thicken up a little and turn a lovely pale yellow color.  While mixing, slowly pour in 1/3 of the cream, followed by 1/3 of the flour mixture, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl after the flour addition.  Do that two more times and then beat the whole thing for a minute on medium to combine well.

You can't really tell, but I promise this is yellow.

Scrape the batter into the pan.  Bake one hour, checking at 45 minutes to see if it's getting too brown.  If so, tent some foil over the top.  Mine was fine, so I just baked it the whole hour with no foil.

Ready to go in the oven.

When the cake is done, it'll start to pull away a little from the sides of the pan.  It'll be puffy and beautiful (it will deflate some after you take it out).

It's done!  You can see how much it rose and how it's pulling away from the sides.

Let it cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack, then invert it onto the rack and slowly (and wiggly) remove the pan.  Let it cool completely.  Then eat it!

Don't tell the raw egg police, but we actually argued over
who got to lick the bowl.  Super tasty.

I'm linking up with Sweets for Saturday here.  Check it out for more tasty treats.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tortellini with Asiago and Bacon

Yes, I did say bacon.

Now that I have your attention, this is one of the best things we've ever had at our house.  I would've payed $10 for a plate of this at a restaurant.  As it was, it wasn't that cheap, but for about $25 I fed the Flour Children plus two of their friends, Hub, and myself.  And Hub has some for tomorrow's lunch.  So that's pretty good.

And, yes.  This is pretty easy to make.

This is my version.  You can find the original here.  I had to double it to feed all of us.

You can't really see any browned bits from the broiler because I didn't leave this one
in long enough.  But I broiled the second one enough to brown it.  We just couldn't wait.  It happens.

Tortellini with Asiago and Bacon
adapted from Cooking for My Peace of Mind

12 oz. bacon (about 8 slices), probably better make a little extra for noshing while cooking
1/2 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or about 2 tsp. of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste (I skipped the salt, what with the bacon and the cheese being salty)
2 tbsp. flour
3-4 c. milk (depending on the consistency you want; I opted for 3)
2 lbs of refrigerated cheese tortellini, NOT cooked
1 c. grated asiago (or other hard cheese, like parm or romano)

Heat broiler.  In large skillet (I used two; this is a lot of food), cook the bacon until brown and crispy.  Set aside to drain.  You can pour off a little of the grease, but not too much.  That's right.  We're gonna eat it.  You'll be okay.  In fact, it's why it's so good.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.

Slowly whisk in the milk.  Add the tortellini.  Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.  Reduce heat to low until thickened, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and crumble the bacon over the pasta and add half of the cheese.  Stir to combine.

You could eat it now, but why?  Top with the rest of the cheese.  Stick it under the broiler for about 3 or 4 minutes and let it brown a bit.  It's just so pretty.  Well, make sure your pan can go under the broiler (I made mine in cast iron skillets).  If not, transfer it to one (or two) that can.

You are welcome, my friends.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taco Soup

I love my crock pot.  I love it because it's hands-off cooking (mostly) and sometimes I am just too lazy to cook. I know you relate, otherwise, we wouldn't all order so much take out.  This is SUPER easy and there's really no excuse not to make it.  My version is pretty simple and the original is even easier.  Give it a shot.  Ole!

Taco Soup
See original recipe here.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 c. or more if you want)
2 cans (I used home-canned pints) diced tomatoes with liquid
2 generous handfuls of frozen corn
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (any beans that you like would work)
1 c. water
1 packet ranch dressing mix (seriously)
1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp oregano, 2 tsp garlic powder OR 1 packet taco seasoning

Brown the ground beef with the onions and drain.  Add to the crock pot.  Sprinkle the ranch mix and taco seasoning or spices over top (feel free to adjust the spice amounts to make yourself happy).  Add tomatoes with juice, corn, beans, and water.  Stir.  Cook on low for 8 hours.

We topped our's with some freshly shredded cheddar (you know how I feel about pre-shredded cheese) and sour cream.  And we happened to have some tasty cheddar-jalapeno bread too.  It's good to be us.  This was so very tasty and I will make it again.

Monday, March 21, 2011


The Inner Harbor near the National Aquarium.

We just got back from a trip to Baltimore, where we visited with some dear friends.  It had been years since we'd seen them, and it was a great visit.  We drove around a few different neighborhoods and got a bit of a feel for the city.  (Okay, sometimes we were lost.)  There were A LOT of boarded up old brownstones, which was sad.  But then there were also gorgeous buildings, and a lot of very nice homes for families.

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum

We loved the B&O museum!  My dad is a bit train-obsessed, and I grew up around model trains.  We also went to visit a number of train museums/rides (Strasburg, Cass) during my childhood.  Somehow, we never made it to this one.  I was really wishing he was there with us, but we took a ridiculous amount of pictures to show him until he can get there.

Ridin' in style, right here.  Unless you had to ride on top, I guess.

It's nearly impossible to get anything resembling a good
family photo.  But here we all are.

Scrappy with an early engine.  See how big he is compared to the wheels?

Ooooh, bigger train, bigger wheels.
Another attempt at a family photo.  Goofy makes that face in most of his pictures.
This is in front of an Allegheny, which, according to my dad, is a BIG deal.

Outside shot of the workshop.  It's been in continuous operation since 1869.
I guess if you have a train that needs fixing, this is the place to go.

This was great for kids.  We got to see the history of engines in a nutshell, from horse-drawn passenger cars to modern diesel and electric trains.  I think that anyone who likes trains, transportation, engineering, or history would really enjoy this museum.

National Aquarium

We were smart enough to go to the aquarium on a Monday, which greatly increased our chances of having a good time, according to the Internet reviewers.  There were a few times where it felt crowded, but for the most part, it wasn't too bad.  Having read the reviews, I knew that I had to lower my expectations, but I forgot to tell Hub.  In the end, we were disappointed.  I really would like to know why it's called "The National Aquarium."  I think other aquariums are nicer.  And cheaper.  (Price for three soft pretzels=$11.50.)

There were some exhibits that I thought were especially well-done.  They have an exhibit on the massive growth of the jellyfish population and its impact, which was really interesting and different.  They have a great collection of sharks and stingrays.  The Flour Children liked the dolphin show best.  There is also a huge coral reef tank which the kids really loved.  The Australia exhibit is also pretty good.

They were shooting pictures for their website,
so the dolphin was up close and personal.

These jellyfish are called Upside-Down Jellyfish.  Seriously.  Clever, right?
They were working hard to stay down at the bottom of the tank.

Rays.  I want one as a pet.  Hub says we would need a much bigger
fish tank.  Too bad.

Fun in the gift shop.

Overall, it was a good visit.  We discussed a lot of the things we have learned about in science class.  You know how it's always nice to know the darlings are actually retaining things now and again.

After all that, we were too tired to do anything else, but we'll go back again.  We were told a couple times that we should go to the Babe Ruth Museum.  Anyone ever been there?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Brined Pork Chops

I had some pork sirloin chops that I got for a good price.  Hub merely tolerates the pork chop.  I think he wishes I never bought them.  Fact is, every one else likes them and they're cheap.  So now and again, it's pork chop night.

Now, I do take Hub into consideration when planning meals.  This was no different.  I rooted around to see what I could do to make the chops extra tasty.  And I found the answer.  Brining.  According to the cook book where I found this recipe, in the past 20 or so years, most of the fat (ie taste) has been bred out of pork.  Brining is a great way to add flavor.  Brining just means something is soaking in salt water.

Brined Pork Chops
adapted from It's All American Food

4 c. cold water
4 tbsp. coarse salt
2 tbsp. sugar
10 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
1/2 orange, halved again

That's what a bowl of brine looks like.

Mix all brine ingredients, squeezing orange juice out of orange before adding peels to brine mixture.  Stir a bit to combine.  Then add your chops.  Brine the chops for an hour in the fridge.

pork chops (I used 5 1/2 inch-thick sirloin chops that I cut in half; you could use any type you like)

For frying:
3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, shortening (whatever you like)

Remove the chops and let the liquid drip back into the bowl.  Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag.  Toss the chops (a few at a time) to coat and set aside on a plate (don't stack them).

Heat your oil.  A word about olive oil... if you are using a low-quality olive oil, it will have a lower smoke point and will not be suitable for this recipe.  Once your oil starts to smoke, it starts to taste gross.  I used a combination of olive oil and butter for frying my pork chops.

Add the chops to the heated oil and lower heat to medium.  Cook 5 minutes (don't touch them, they're browning).  Flip them over and cook another 5 minutes.  Cover your pan and turn the heat down to low, and cook for 6 more minutes.

Drain the chops on paper towels, and let them rest a couple minutes before serving.

These do not come out tasting all salty and gross.  Instead, they are DELICIOUS.  Seriously.  Hub had 2 of them.  That's a record for him.

I did take a picture for you but pork chops are not very photogenic.

Week in Review

Spring is finally springing around here, thank goodness.  I spent most of the week laying on the couch as I've been suffering with an ugly cold.  Headache, chills, exhaustion.  I seem to be (mostly) on the mend, which is great.  As a result, there wasn't much in the way of "traditional" (you know, for our house) schooling.  My throat hurt too much to read aloud, which really is quite tragic.

Scrappy managed to squeeze out a couple lessons of spelling.  We've been so hit-or-miss with Sequential Spelling, but it's nice that when we get back to it, he remembers the patterns again.  He and Funny both did some work with cause and effect.  It's early logic, right?  Right.  There's been some math, and they are both working on writing stories.  Goofy and Silly have both done some workbook pages this week, too.  Everyone has read to me, which is nice.  But mostly, we had a relaxed week.  We had a park day and a couple field trips.  I squeezed what I could out of the week, and that's the best I could do.

On Saturday, we went to see 46 Circus Acts in 45 Minutes, which was really fun.

Fun in the sun.  I played on this, too, until I thought
I was going to vomit and fall over.

Silly and Funny getting in the swing of things.

I can barely watch this kid climb.  He's scary.

Scrappy really liked this replica of a church entrance
in France and made me take a picture.

Scrappy thought this sculpture looked like the first gate on The Neverending Story.
Good thing we weren't doubting ourselves when we passed by.

Very pretty twisted columns with mosaics.  Original is in Rome, 13th century.

Top of the twisty columns.  More mosaics.
We wondered if this was a Byzantine influence.

Replica from Notre Dame.  I figure this is as close as I'll ever get.

Goofy and Silly contemplate this art installation.  (It's a loop of Diana spinning into
Wonder Woman and then running.  Yes, from the TV show.)

We picked up Hub before going to the museum.  Here he is discussing fossils with the Flour Children.

Funny took it upon herself to fix this loose piece of decking.
Don't worry.  She has her safety goggles on.

She's awesome.  And helpful.

Check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see how others are homeschooling.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I love pancakes.  I didn't use to.  I merely tolerated them.  But all of the sudden, they are like manna and I am filled with great joy at the sight of them.  They are just what I want!

You could make pancake-like substances from that weird mix where you just add water and shake.  Or from that other weird mix where you open a box and add an egg or something (I forget).  Those aren't as tasty as the real thing.  And the real thing is actually easy to make.

This recipe reflects the fact that I have 4 pancake-loving children and a husband who also likes pancakes.  You may want to halve it if you are humans.  Then again, I should note that pancakes keep nicely in the fridge or freezer.  I always make extras so we can just microwave them the following day.  Bam.  Pancakes.

adapted from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook

4 large eggs
4 c. flour (I used white with the bran added back in, but wheat is fine, too)
3 c. milk (more for thinner pancakes)
3 tbsp. sugar
3/4 stick of butter, melted (if you use the whole thing, I won't tell)
3 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Beat eggs in large bowl with whisk, hand beater, fork, or sheer will.  Mix in remaining ingredients just until smooth.  Let it rest while you heat up your electric griddle (375 degrees) or frying pan.  You can grease your pan if you have to, but I don't.  If you can drop a few drops of water on the pan and it dances, then your pan is hot enough.  I use a 1/2 c. ladle (or just use your 1/2 c. measure) to scoop the batter onto the pan.  Let them cook until the edges start to look a little dried out.  Flip and cook the other side (it won't take as long).

You can keep them on a plate in a warm oven if you want to serve everyone at once.

You can adjust what you put in these little gems.  When you pour the batter out, you can sprinkle with frozen or fresh blueberries, chocolate chips, crumbled bacon, perhaps?  I am doing the bacon thing next time.  I've been dreaming about it for long enough.

I think it's pretty common practice that the pancake chef often jacks up the first pancake (too dark, too doughy in the middle, maybe both).  So don't be sad if it happens to you.  I have only recently gotten to where the first one is consistently good, and I have been making them since 1995, when my lovely friend Brenda taught me the ways of pancake-making.

What, you want a picture?  We ate the picture.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weeks in Review

We had two great school weeks.  I chalk most of that up to having a less-stressed attitude (something I've been working on all year) and embracing those days that feel more unschooly.  I still try to direct them (to a game, or outside, or whatever) but I have really relaxed.  I still have those days where I freak out and think I'm messing them up, but I am pretty confident every parent thinks that at some time or another, no matter where their kids go to school!  Those days of insecurity are getting less and less.  Or maybe they just aren't as loud anymore.

Goofy and Silly play Stratego.

Scrappy is flying through his MUS Gamma book.  I think he may finish it by the end of the year, which would be wonderful!  He's been reading everyday, and I have seen a huge improvement in his fluency and comprehension as a result.  I am so thankful, because reading has been a struggle this year.  He struggles a little with reading but mostly it's my struggle with patience.

Funny has been doing addition flashcards all week.  She needed to memorize her facts.  Her lack of memorization had been slowing down the rest of her math, so we're on a break from Saxon.  We're back to it on Monday.  She's been reading a lot also.  She LOVES books, which is great.  It's better than great, actually.  She loves to read to Silly.  That's handy for me, and it gives me the warm fuzzies.

Goofy has been reading a lot, as well.  He picked out a box of Spider-Man readers at the local Borders during its going-out-of-business sale.  They are a little above his level now, but he wants to read them so we've been working through them.  Superheroes are the best.  He is about halfway through his little subtraction workbook.

Scrappy and Funny build their own electric circuit.  It didn't work.
They kept working until it did.

We've all been studying Vikings this week.  We are Viking it and liking it, my friends.  We've had a great study where we've read a number of books and used the map and globe A LOT.  They were a busy people, those Norsemen.  By the way, Vikings really didn't wear hats with horns on them, it turns out.

We started our Apologia chapter on crustaceans.  We haven't gotten very far.  I was reading them the section on lobsters, and we were talking about omnivores (which lobsters are).  That got us onto the fact that people are also omnivores.  Funny piped up with, "But our cousins are vegetarians."  So then we talked about a variety of reasons why people would want to be vegetarians.  We are going to be vegetarians for a week, probably in April.  And then, even better, we got into a great discussion about factory farming vs. traditional farming and why it is important to Hub and I that we eat "good" meat (meaning organic, kosher, local, or hormone & antibiotic-free).  As a result, we don't eat a whole lot of meat, and now they understand why.  It really was a wonderful conversation.  I am so happy that I am fostering that back-and-forth with them.

Books read:  Viking It and Liking It #12 (Time Warp Trio)On the Go with Pirate Pete and Pirate Joe! (Viking Easy-to-Read)Hi! Fly Guy (Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book (Awards))Buzz Boy And Fly Guy,Poppleton Has FunPhonics Volume I (DVD), Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky CrackersThe Missing Monster Card (My First Graphic Novel)How Many Fish? (My First I Can Read Book)Yo, Vikings!Viking Explorers and Settlers (The Viking Library)Elfwyn's SagaAtlantis: The Legend of a Lost CityThe Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy TaleI Read Symbols (Mulberry books)Pizza CountingThe Last Battle (Narnia)

Last Friday we went back to the Science Center, which you can read about here.  We also went bowling with Hub.  I am longing for a hike.  It won't be too long before spring finally gets here and we can get outside.  I just want to be with the trees.  Yes, I might just hug one.

Read about how other people are homeschooling at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.