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Monday, November 29, 2010

Time for

Christmas Cookies! Yes my friends it is that time of year, the time of year that I longling wish for a bigger kitchen with more space to store the delicious little morsels that I've been making since I was about 7 years old (probably earlier but I don't remember those early years much).

Long before I had a family of my own, back before I had children of my own, before my parents separated and divorced, back when my little world was perfect Mother and I would begin our Christmas baking the day after Thanksgiving. We spend Thanksgiving with friends because Daddy was always working, but we would leave supper just in time to drive to Daddy's work and watch him light up his Christmas tree! Then Black Friday when all the world was shopping, Mommy and I would put on our aprons, tie them up tight, drag out all the bins and containers and tins that would hold our supplies and our creations, pull out the pans and racks and bowls and spoons, rifle the cabinets to find all the sprinkes, and piping tips, and decorations, fill the sink with hot soapy water for washing, and clear the giant kitchen table to begin our holiday baking.

We would pull out the recipe file and remove every cookie recipe we had and sort them into 3 piles: cookies that bake at 350, cookies that bake at 375, and cookies that bake at 400. This was important because each day the cookies we made would all bake at the same temperature! Black Friday was never a school day so that meant that we would have time for at least 3 batches of cookies (usually 4 or 5), beginning with Friday Mommy and I would make at least one batch of cookies every.single.day!

Living in Pennsylvania had it's advantages, being so cold that time of year meant that we could package our cookies neatly in those large popcorn tins and store them in the garage because the cold air would keep the cookies fresh and delicious as the day they came out of the oven. It also kept them neat and orderly for packaging into smaller tins and baskets to give to teachers, friends, neighbors, and others who so kindly serve us throughout the year (bank tellers, our mailman, our garbage man).

Each year my boys and I make some cookies, no where near the quantity Mommy and I did, but we do bake. I do not make the same quantity of cookies as my mother for several reasons but the number one reason is lack of space. I do not have storage space for 10-20 large popcorn tins full of cookies, and I do not have the space to lay out my ingredients and such the way I am used to doing it.

You see, I learned my baking procedures from my Mother and this is how we do it:
Step 1: Read your recipe(s) and make a list of all ingredients you will need
Step 2: Check your cabinets for the ingredients and make a list of all ingredients you will need to buy
Step 3: Shop for ingredients, buying in large bulk quantities wherever possible because we will use it all!
Step 4: Choose which recipe(s) will be made today
Step 5: Lay each ingredient (in it's jar, box, bag, or can) neatly along the back side of the Kitchen Table (This often meant two rows depending on the cookie)
Step 6: Follow the recipe to make first batch of cookies
Step 7: While the first cookies are baking wash dishes from the first cookies
Step 8: Take cookies from the oven and transfer to racks to cool
Step 9: Repeat steps 6 - 8 as many times as you have recipes to make for the day
Step 10: Clean up and put everything away

Living in an apartment does not afford much space and so because I am unable to lay out my ingredients as I was taught from just a little girl I feel stressed and frazzled when I bake because my organization is not there. We do bake, but I tend to stick to the simpler recipes that require few ingredients and that I can get done in a short period of time, spending hours baking in the kitchen is just not an option because of lack of space. I can certainly tell you that the very first year we spend in a home large enough to allow me to bake as I was taught will be a year we all gain 20 pounds eating all the goodies I'm sure to go crazy making!

Mother and I made so many cookies that often we were eating them well into February or March, some of the cookies we made I'd never seen before or since, but they were all delicious! Somehow we never really got pictures while we had everything out baking, but I will dig a bit and see if I can't find a few pictures of the chaos that was holiday baking. I do have all the old photo albums so I'll go through and see if I can't find a few good shots to share (provided my computer will cooperate with my scanner because the photos are of course back in the age of *gasp* 35mm FILM *oh the horror of it all*)

Birbitt thinks that the best part of the Christmas season is sharing the Joy of Christ and the family memories and traditions that make the holidays special for each person in a different way! Won't you all share some of your favorite holiday traditions (you can share here or on your own blog, I'll find it!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I talked them into it!

After much begging and pleading with my oldest boys I have talked them into allowing me to share two of their drawings. They went through the numerous drawings that they created both yesterday and today and each chose the two they consider to be their best. So I will now share them with you! I am hoping that the images are large enough for you to see clearly, or that they are clickable so you can make them larger. I am not the resident techie in this house! Enjoy the drawings!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wonderful Weather For...

A trip to the zoo! We woke up this morning all in a good mood and with the boys have plenty of energy to spare. I decided that instead of staying home and doing a few lessons and playing outside that we'd pack some snacks and head off to the zoo after an early lunch. I forgot the camera but no matter we have a membership so we'll go back again soon.

Our zoo just recently got Koalas! Because they are new there is a zoo volunteer/employee at the exhibit to answer questions and such about the animals. Our Koala's won't be staying on exhibit permanently as our desert climate is too hot for them, so we will have them until the end of March. We learned quite a bit about them, for starters Koala's are not a fierce animal, they are also not social animals. There weren't many people there and so the lady took quite a bit of time talking to the boys about the Koalas, answering all their questions, and even telling them some things they didn't think to ask. As we were leaving the exhibit she commented to me about how attentive the boys were and what school did they attend? When I said we homeschool she said "Oh, that must be it then, I've been talking to school groups all week and none of them listen like your boys! You must be so proud of them!" I thanked her for her nice comments and off we went.

Even little baby L was intently watching the animals. He even skipped his nap in favor of watching the animals and enjoying the excitement. The only time I heard a single peep out of L was when we rode the Carousel. He really did not like that at all, so we'll not be trying it again for a while!

We really had a lovely afternoon, as once the school groups cleared out around 1:30 we had the zoo practicaly to ourselves! There are few people there on a weekday once school groups leave, and it's nice to be able to get so up close and personal with the animals. We enjoyed the lions as they laid in the sun (usually in the summer they hide in the shade, out of the heat), we watched as the otters played in the pool and begged a nearby guest for popcorn (the animals are not supposed to be fed, but the occasional treat sometimes sneaks in), we laughed as baboons chased each other around and ate bark from the branches in their exhibit, we talked about how fast a cheetah can run, and why they have the color they do, we smiled as the elephants ate grass and the boys discussed how they never knew what elephants ate until they saw them today.

When we got to the children's petting area I thought for sure L would be scared of the larger goats, but he didn't utter a single peep, he just walked away when the larger nubian goats came near, but he would happily walk up to one of the smaller pygmy goats and pet it. He wasn't afraid of the sheep, but he had no interest in petting them. I briefly debated paying for the boys to have a camel ride, and then decided that we'd save it for another day when hubby was with us in case little L wasn't too keen on getting up on that large animal!

What a lovely afternoon we had, and the best part was that all the way home they were telling me all about what new facts and bits they learned today, and how they couldn't wait to get home and write and draw about their day! The very moment we got home they went straight to their school crates in search of colored pencils and sketchbooks where they drew the most lovely pictures of cheetahs and meerkats and lions, koalas and baboons and pelicans, monkeys and zebras, and giraffes each one just as detailed as the last and there were even a few sentences written! I would have loved to share some of the artwork but my shy little artists have requested that I not show anyone!

I think we learned more today that we have all week, and surprisingly I'm OK with that! I know that today they learned something so much more important that how to write proper sentences, or why rocks are the colors they are, or any of the other things we had on today's agenda. Today they learned that they are valuable to their mama, and that there is always time for fun, and that playtime is just as important as learning time, and I think that those are important lessons indeed!

Birbitt thinks that every child should have a day to just play and be a child, they grow up far to quickly and before we know it the children that used to enjoy days at the zoo with mom are now adults taking their own children to the zoo. I only know that because it doesn't seem all that long ago that my own mother and daddy were taking me to the zoo to see the animals.

Friday, November 5, 2010

We're halfway there.

I have been hard at work for more than a month now, busily sewing up some gifts for the children for Christmas. There are few things that they really want, and by want I mean want enough to ask me for them more than just when they see them in a store or on a tv commercial, and so this year I decided to do something a little different. I decided that instead of just buying all their gifts, I would use up some of the fabric I've been hoarding in my closet, and some of the discount coupons I have for Joann's and I would MAKE some gifts.

Well first up were two fire engine red robes for my big boys, which came out quite well, other than the names I wrote with puff paint (it's been so long since I've used puff paint, and I can not embroider for beans).

Next, I used several bits of leftover fabrics to create 3 pairs of PJ style pants for baby L. I may make him some more from his old receiving blankets as well, because they'd be perfect for house days with a simple t-shirt.

I also made two pairs of PJ pants for my big boys made from some quilters fabrics I had purchased for only 2.00 a yard. One pair made from a green frog print, and one pair made from a blue and orange fish print. They are loose and comfortable and I can't wait to see their little faces when they get them.

I also made two big throw pillows from some old fleece lying around and some fiberfill from the back of my closet. I'm going to make a few more pillows, and after Christmas I'm going to teach the boys how to sew pillows. I am hoping to have 6-10 pillows on each of their beds so they can nestle snugly in a nest of pillows for reading time, this I am sure will make silent reading time much more enjoyable!

After that, I thought "wouldn't it be neat if I could make some simple shirts to go with the pants?" It would be great, except I don't own a pattern for shirts and the internet has been less than helpful. I was able to find a shirt in the baby's size that I took apart to make a pattern for his shirts, so that will work out just fine. Unfortunately, the big boys don't have a shirt I can take apart.

I have a small quilt nearly finished for the baby as well, I just need to put a binding on it. It was a simple quilt make with small squares cut from many of his old receiving blankets, sewn together, and then a simple flannel backing. I left out any quilt batting because it doesn't get very cold here and I wanted him to be able to use the blanket all year long. It is soft because the fabrics are well loved and have been washed many times, and it is colorful because of all the different prints I used to make it, and best of all it's full of love because it's made by mom!

I still have some more PJ pants to sew, and some shirts, and a couple more pillows, but this is shaping up to be a lovely Christmas for my boys, full of handmade gifts that are fun as well as useful.

I think I just may do this every year, it feels good to give my children something made by my own hand instead of something made from plastic that they'll likely break or loose or forget about.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Pack Wins

Those three words sum up the entirety of my feelings tonight as I sit on the sofa trying to recover from the evening. Have you ever sat in a room with 100+ young boys from 1st grade up to 5/6th grade? If you wish to exit with your nerves and sanity intact I do not recommend it.

So now to explain. I have three boys, two of them fall in the age range mentioned above, one does not. My two eldest boys have recently joined Cub Scouts, a good activity for boys! Normally the boys break into groups based on age, meeting in their respective dens. I have a Tiger cub scout, who being only 6 must per BSA guidelines have a parent present with him at all times. I also have a Wolf cub scout, who being 7 is perfectly OK to be on his own most of the time. I also have a 16 month old who thinks the world is for his touching and tasting pleasure! (This is important to remember) Tonight was the first full PACK meeting I had to attend, this means that instead of having a flag ceremony and then breaking off into smaller more manageable groups we are all in one room, and each den is called one at a time to present their awards and achievements. Yeah, this also means that all the scouts need to sit QUIETLY, and fairly STILL. Hmmmm. I see a problem already, the meeting itself is about 1.5 hours long! So my oldest B is sitting with his Wolves and the leaders and I am on the other side of the room sitting with my Tiger S and of course my Taste Tester Extraordinaire L.

So, both boys joined about 2 months into the year, and as a result had quite a bit of catching up to do. I am happy to report they managed to do just that! So first up at the meeting is the flag ceremony, and those of us not presenting the flags are supposed to be quiet, well it seems my little L did not get that message, he squawked and squealed through that part. Then we are supposed to recite the pledge of allegiance and cub scout promise, of course L is quiet for that. Then we are quiet again as the meeting is opened up in prayer, once again L didn't get that memo!

Next up the awards! Tigers first, and all is well, except that L thinks he should be up on stage with his big brother so off he runs, with mommy chasing behind him. Wolves next, and this time L has decided that he's going to climb through the chair beside us and try and sit with the man behind us, whom I have never seen before but L is quite fascinated with him. He was happy to oblige and so there is my 16 month old on the lap of a man I've never met. Now the man had to get up after wolves because he has a bear cub scout and they are next. B and S did great through the meeting...other than S not wanting to sit still that long. L on the other hand really, really wanted to run that isle, and no amount of bribing with tasty treats and cold drinks was going to change that. Nope, he wanted that isle so finally I gave up and let him have it, except he really didn't want to run the isle, he just wanted the little TINY piece of something or other that was left on the carpet! YUCK! Now we are supposed to be quiet during awards, except when they finish one den we may clap and cheer, well L wants to clap and cheer during the quiet times, so he does!

Finally the awards are over, and we can get up. The big boys get up and go get their snacks, I go outside to find B running playing ball with the other boys, he's fine. So I go and check on S, well his den is in charge of the canned food drive, so he and the other three member of his den are trying to push carts full of cans (carts big enough to hold all four boys and their den leader in mind you) across the grounds to the food pantry at the church! They don't want our help though, because they are tigers and tigers can do it all by themselves! So we just follow watching to be sure they don't hit anyone or anything.

Come back to the main meeting area and B is still playing ball, fine...except why is his neckerchief hanging that way? "B, where is your slide?" I ask "I lost it" he replies. UGH! "Well find it please" I ask. "Good luck on that one" is the reply from the scout master beside me. "My son looses at least 4 a year, I suggest you just make a new one from a rubber band and a matchbox car." Please can someone explain to me why you would make a product for a BOY scout that is so slippery and poorly designed that it falls off every time the BOY scout runs?

We did find the slide by the way, and I will be scratching my head to find a way to keep that thing where it belongs when it belongs there.

Ok, that's the end of my chaotic evening and now we can all come home and rest right? Wrong, S lost two beads from his awards so he's not happy....well, good luck finding two small round beads in the dark, especially when he has no idea where he lost them. I'll have to talk to his den leader and find out if we can get replacements. You know I love my boys, and I love that they enjoy cub scouts, but I don't think I can do this pack thing once a month! I think I need a babysitter, yup a good, reliable, sweet, honest babysitter. 2 hours, once a month, on Monday nights. Any takers?

Birbitt thinks that she needs to sleep, and maybe wake tomorrow ready for more boy chaos!

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