1/31/13

Black & White {Think Back Thursday}

Yesterday when I linked up my Silly Post for Debbie’s Think Back Thursday, I noticed that this week’s theme is Black and White.  This brought to mind the images my daughter created while playing with the black and white setting of the digital camera.  Photos like these:

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The above photo is a self-portrait of BooBear.  She likes playing with the camera.  I think the camera likes her!  The photo below demonstrates Supergirl’s love of the camera.  She loves having her picture taken anytime, anyplace, black and white or full color!

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I found the next picture irresistible.  Of course every time I look at it I can’t help but hear Madonna sing the phrase “strike a pose”.  Turtlegirl tells me that she was demonstrating to Tailorbear how to strike a pose.

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But as I searched for those pictures I found other pictures, that while not photographed in black and white cried out to be included because they were black and white themed.

Our digital piano didn’t just boast ebony and ivory colored keys but the case itself was black.  I picked a photo that also included a bit of sheet music: black notes on white paper.

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I knew that the black and white photos I wanted were taken in spring so I went searching through digital files with spring dates and I found this picture of a chocolate cross.  That year we gave each of the girls a chocolate cross in their basket. 

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Confession time, the sphinx replication inspired my deviation from straight black and white photography to searching out photos to fit a black and white theme.  Snow is white and his eyes are black.  Works for me!

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Supergirl’s favorite animal is the penguin.  The first exhibit that she wants to see is always the one with the tuxedo dressed flightless birds.  I don’t think a blog post with a theme of black and white would be complete if it didn’t include at least one penguin so here are three in one picture!

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Thank you to Debbie at Debbie’s Digest for hosting Think Back Thursday!

1/30/13

Just a Little Silliness

One of the blog memes that I really enjoy participating in is Think Back Thursday hosted by Debbie over at Debbie’s Digest.  I do strive to post on Thursdays but I never seem to quite make it so I am thankful the linky stays open so I can add in sometime during the week.

This week’s theme is silly and since I am needing some silly right now it sounds perfect to me.   One of the things that makes my family special is the silly ways we goof off and make each other laugh.

This picture makes me smile.  It is just so Turtlegirl.  Big silly glasses and eating a pickle.   I think this was taken when she was about 5 1/2.

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I don’t know why but my girls were always trying to sit or climb into the strangest places.  So here is one silly girl sitting in a kitchen trash can!  She had just turned 3 a few days earlier.  Tailorbear being silly!

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Playing dress up gives you a chance to be silly and make up stories.  BooBear and Turtlegirl decided to put on a silly play about “the lady who was on the boat for a very long time.” 

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Being silly isn’t just for childhood.  Grown-ups can be silly, too!  In this first “grown ups being silly photo” my husband was goofing off with the girls in the kitchen.  He put a cabbage leaf on his head and began to sing a silly song (I guess he thought he was a vegetable like Larry the cucumber or something.)

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I think my husband enjoys being silly.  We had the opportunity to do some skits with friends.  Doesn’t my husband make a very sill looking lady?  (Think Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play within a play)

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I think this last picture though has to be my favorite one of all.  It is my mother sitting on my grandmother’s lap!  They were both laughing and having fun. 

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1/29/13

Pork Roast Dip Sandwich Recipe

One of my most favoritest (is that a word? I’m making it a word LOL) crock pot recipes is my Super Easy Crock Pot Roast Beef which makes a Fabulous French Dip.   I had a couple of pork roasts (boneless sirloin tip roasts to be exact) but no beef roasts.  We had already done pulled pork bbq sandwiches and I wanted to do something different. My family suggested we try making french dips but using the pork instead.

It turned out fabulous!  This is a keeper and though I still love my beef dipping sandwiches, this Pork Roast Dip Sandwich will satisfy my dip craving.  And it’s cheaper for me than a beef roast.

What you need:

Ingredients for Pork Roast Dip

  • a pork roast ~  I used one that was roughly 2lbs.  It was enough to feed the six of of us.
  • water ~ I used 2 cups of water but didn’t quite have as much au jus as I wanted so I would do 3 cups water next time.
  • Soy Sauce ~ I prefer Bragg’s Liquid Aminos which is a soy sauce substitute but I’ve been using regular soy sauce.  About 1/4 cup
  • Garlic ~ to taste and it can be fresh minced (the best!) or powdered or granulated.
  • Sandwich Rolls
  • Butter ~ optional and used for toasting sandwich rolls.

Place meat in slow cooker add soy sauce water and garlic.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.  I usually cook on high because I never get things started early enough. 

Part way through cooking I cut the roast in pieces.  Some of the pulled pork recipes I had read had suggested cutting the roast into pieces.  I think it helps when it comes time to shred the meat and the flavor of the au juice infuses into more of the meat.

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When the meat was nice and tender, it shredded very easily.  I just used two forks to kind of tear it into strips.

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When the meat was all shredded I turned the crock pot to low and let it simmer for a bit while we toasted our sandwich rolls.  Some of us like them toasted and some do not care either way.  So we just toasted them all.

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To toast, we just thinly spread some butter on the cut side of the roll and broil under the broiler until browned.  You could be healthy and just brown them without the butter but believe me the butter tastes much better!

Place meat on bottom half of sandwich roll, put the top on (wait for it) the top and serve with au jus for dipping.  Or you could be like my husband and forgo the dipping sauce and just put a bit of bbq sauce on your sandwich.  Either way these were a big hit with my family!

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1/27/13

S is for Sundays and Seniors

Oooh that title sounds like I’m going to talk about something really spiritual like visiting a nursing home on Sunday afternoons and visiting with elderly senior citizens.  If you thought that’s what this post is then I apologize.  This post is about a typical Sunday in my home and my daughter who is 1/2 way through her senior year of high school.

I’m sitting here missing my daughter.  It helps that she just called and I got to talk to her but still on a typical Sunday I don’t spend much time with my 17 year old music loving daughter.

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Like most people I know things are bit busy maybe even hectic on Sunday morning as people rush about getting ready.  With three “normal” teenagers there’s usually a rush for the bathroom so they can do each other’s hair or to apply some make up.  “Does this look ok?” asks one. “Zip me up” shouts another. 

Once we get to church I lose my oldest.  Remember I said she was the music lover?  She heads over to the choir. 

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Sometimes I lose Supergirl.  She seems to have been adopted by the entire church and will often spend Liturgy with a very dear and wonderful family friend.  Sometimes I lose my husband.  He goes off to serve.  Sometimes I lose Tailorbear as she will sometimes head to the back of the church to help with little ones.  I love seeing her sitting on the floor with a toddler or a baby.

I do try to catch up with my family at least for a hug during coffee hour.  Then I lose BooBear again to the choir.  She usually make sure that she says good bye because we do leave her behind and head home.  When she’s done singing she walks up the hill and teaches piano to two little boys. 

So with the hustle of preparation and the losing of self to worship and letting my daughter grow up to go her own way, I just don’t get to spend Sundays with her like I did when she was little.

And on a day like today, it will be even longer before I see her smiling face.  The Youth have an activity today.  I miss her but I’m treasuring those moments that I do get to spend with her because I know it won’t be long before there will more days of the week that she’ll be busy doing her own things.

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Blogging Through the Alphabet

The Wonders of Winter Nature

I live in the Pacific Northwest on the rainy side of Washington state to be more exact.  Winter in the PNW is not the same as the winter I experienced growing up in Minnesota (Minne-SNOW-ta to the locals).

Winter here is usually wet, cold and green.  Like this:

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Sometimes, thankfully not often, just frequently enough for the girls to like it, winter looks like this:

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I much prefer the first picture.  You don’t have to shovel rain!

We haven’t done a true nature study session in very long time but this week’s Blog Cruise Topic is Winter Nature Study.  So I’m digging out some ideas. A few years ago when we were studying botany we were able to easily find some lichen and study it. 

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The above picture is from this weekend.  But when we studied lichen for science it was growing on a tree in our front yard.  A tree that no longer exists because of a record setting  storm.  (The tree is laying on its side next to the lamp post.)

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Since ice and snow are not common to our area, we found it fascinating when we found ice crystals in the back yard.  These ice crystals were from weeks after the actual storm. (The one that cost us the tree).  These bits of ice stayed around because they were UNDER more storm debris and in the shade of very tall redwood trees.

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This winter has been different.  After two or three years of having some significant snowstorms that keep snow on the ground for a few days, this year we’ve not really had any snow that has stuck to the ground for longer than an hour. 

Instead this winter we got to experience an inversion, a type of weather pattern where all the cold cloud-like weather is at ground level and the warm and sunny weather can be located in the higher elevations.  It was like living in a cloud.  The thick fog, often making visibility close to zero, reminded me of the clouds we sometimes fly through in an airplane.  You can’t see anything but the condensed air.

I do not have any pictures of the fog that descended daily.  You wouldn’t see anything anyway LOL.  It was very scary to drive because the fog would roll in and then roll out and out here near the foothills of the cascades it would be dark and you would lose the road.  It was cold.  Much colder than we usually experience.  Lots of FROST. Frost that never melted.  Frost is common enough here but it usually melts.  We had frost that looked like snow until you got up close.  (I wish I had taken a picture of that!)

I’m glad to see the inversion has ended.  It’s not really better living in the clouds.

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On Tuesday (January 29) you’ll be able to read what other participating crew members have to say about Winter Nature Study.  Until then you can click on the button to read past Crew Blog Cruise posts.

1/23/13

Squirrels and Knights Oh My!

I could title this post the things children say but there are some days.  You don’t know if you should laugh or cry so you laugh because it feels better than crying.  (Ok I laugh because I hate that stuffed up feeling I get from crying.)

Supergirl is very much like a 6 year old 1st grader.  Her actual skill levels cover a wide span but over all 1st grade seems to work.  For history we are using Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer.  We’re also adding in The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia (The Red Cover version from 2004).  I’m using the activity guide as well.

Yesterday while I read about Sargon, she colored his picture.  Then I pulled out the narration prompts form the activity book.  “Who was Sargon?” I asked.  She responded with “He wanted to rule the world.”  (and wouldn’t you know it but then I had Tears for Fears singing “Everybody wants to rule the world” in my head.)  Ok.  He wanted to rule the world.  That makes sense.  I can get that from what we read.

So then I asked her to expand a bit.  “He got his knights to follow him.”  Knights? Where did that come from? I ignored the word and hoped it would go away.  It didn’t. 

We talked about him conquering the people and I asked her “what happened to the people who didn’t obey?”  Those pesky knights came back. “His knights come and take the people who don’t obey and put them in the dungeon.”

Knights?  Dungeons?  Um, I really thought I was reading about Sargon and the Sumerians.  I wanted to hear words such as military and army.  At least I know she’s been paying attention to her sister Tailorbear’s English lessons.  Tailorbear is using the Medieval themed lessons from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

The crazy things coming from Supergirl didn’t stop with history yesterday.  They carried on today through science.  We’re using Apologia’s Zoology 3: Land Animals book along with the junior notebooking journal.  Today we did the mini-book and vocabulary story.

I ask her if she remembers what habituation means.  She responds “that’s where the animal bites you.”  Huh?  So I probe a bit and redefine what she says.  “You mean that’s when the zoologist gets the animal used to him so he doesn’t bit you.”  “Ok.”   Good.  Move on, right?  So we talk about habituation and how our pets needed to get used to us when we first adopted them.  The pets getting used to us is habituation.  “But George scratched.  Like this.” and she scratches my hand.  *sigh*

“I don’t want the squirrel to bite me.”  (Where did that come from?  She can’t see out the window can she?  I don’t see a squirrel.)  With complete exasperation I reply “we are not habituating the squirrels.”

I’m almost afraid of what tomorrow might bring.

1/20/13

R is for Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This past week has been R week for Blogging Through the Alphabet.  I was going to blog about Reading (and I will) but then I thought no, I’ll do my R post on Reflections.  That didn’t happen either and here it is Sunday and the last night of the R week.  So I’m making dinner.  We’re having Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  R is for a Recipe!  R is for Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

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When I was a child I liked Brussels sprouts.  I also liked broccoli and cauliflower.  I knew I was weird even back then.  Nobody else seemed to like those “weird” veggies.  They all preferred corn or peas or carrots.  I like carrots.  I like green beans.  I’ll pass on the peas and corn thank you.  I grew up with Brussels sprouts.  I think my mom always bought frozen ones and she’d toss them in butter.  But then one day, I ate an overcooked Brussels sprout.  It was mushy and the texture was horrible and I couldn’t eat another one.  I just couldn’t.  Not for years.

So the years go by and my children were spared the weirdness of eating Brussels sprouts. At least they were spared for most of their childhood <insert evil laugh here>.  My husband likes Brussels sprouts. So I got brave.  I tried some.  Fresh.  Not frozen.  Steamed only.  And you know what?  They were good.  The key was to make sure you bought small ones (my husband tells me that the big ones are too woody and I think for the most part he is right) and to STEAM them just until tender.  Do NOT.  I repeat: DO NOT over cook your sprouts.  You will regret it.  But though I now I had a happy husband, I didn’t have children who were overly excited about Brussels sprouts.

Not that long ago I made a discovery.  This has changed the way my family views Brussels sprouts.   I now have children who like Brussels Sprouts.  I even have one daughter with whom I have to fight for second helpings, that is even if I have second helpings available)

This isn’t a real recipe.  This is just what I do so I’m not including any hard and fast ingredient amounts.

What you need:

  • Brussels Sprouts: washed, ends trimmed off and large ones cut in half I used 2 lbs of sprouts.

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  • Garlic: Lots of it or as much as you like.  We often use 1/2 or more of a large bulb or most of a tiny one.  Chop the garlic but not too finely

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  • Butter:  3 tablespoons? I didn’t quite use 1/2 a stick. slice it up and put in the bottom of your 9x 13 (or in my case 11x15)

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What to do:

  • Add chopped garlic to butter.  place in oven and heat oven to 425 degrees.  You just want to melt the butter and take advantage of the oven preheating.

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  • Remove the melted butter/garlic from oven and add the Brussels sprouts.  I kind of stir them up a bit so that there is some butter over most of each sprout.  Then I try to turn some sprouts to the cut side down.  This gets the leaves extra brown and crispy which is what we like.

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  • Roast for about 20 minutes or until tender.  I usually roast between 425 and 450 degrees.  The hotter oven gets the outside nice and brown but doesn’t overcook the sprout causing that disgusting mushy texture.

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This post is linked up to Blogging through the Alphabet  hosted by Marcy over at Ben and Me.

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This post is also linked up to Try A New Recipe Tuesday:

1/17/13

Wood {Think Back Thursday}

It’s been a long time since I’ve participated in Debbie’s Think Back Thursday meme but when I saw that this week’s theme was “wood” I knew just the pictures I wanted to use.  We took a trip 9 years ago.  9 years!  I cannot believe it’s been that long!  It was an awesome little trip to spend some time together as a family.  I had been a single parent for nearly 1 year while Honeybear had gone to “play in the giant sandbox.” (Think Middle East Military Deployment).  On this trip we drove through Oregon to take a field trip to see crater lake and then on to northern California to see some really big trees. Mostly I just wanted to be able to say I had been to California!

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Photographic evidence that at one time Turtlegirl and BooBear really were taller than their younger sister, Tailorbear. You can see little Tailor’s head resting on her arms. She’s barely able to see over that sign.

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I love seeing pictures of my husband with our children.  Above: he holds a Supergirl who had only just starting walking a few steps independently while he was deployed.  She still used her walker for short trips and around the house but we had the KidKart for longer trips.   Below Daddy with the same tree but with the other three girls.

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This next picture is not so good but it is all four girls with Daddy.  I think someone was ready to move on to something else.

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One more picture.  In this one the girls are much more cooperative. Though I think big sister is trying to keep youngest sister in line.

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They grow up so fast. I am glad that we took the time to make memories when they were so young. 

This post is linked up to Think Back Thursday hosted by Debbie at Debbie’s Digest.  This week’s theme is “wood”.  Come check it out!

 

1/15/13

Hungarian Goulash {Crockpot Recipe}

I never seem to follow a recipe exactly but instead take a bit of this and little of that and throw it all together.  This week I want to share my variation of Crock Pot Hungarian Goulash.  The original recipe came from the Complete Slow Cooker Cookbook by Carol Hedding and is titled “Hungarian-Style Goulash”  It is described as a stew.   I think of it as more of a saucy dish served over noodles, but Ms. Hedding’s version is more like a broth with chunks of meat and vegetables. If I created her recipe, I would be tempted to put the noodles in the crock pot or to put the noodles in a bowl and ladle the Goulash.

But here is “Tess’s Hungarian-Style Goulash”

What you need:

  • 2 pounds of beef such as cheap roast or round steak or stewing meat, trimmed and cubed
  • 2-3 medium onions thinly sliced (Ms. Hedding’s variation said 6 onions.  That’s too much for my husband <grin>)
  • 2 cups slicked mushrooms (I used regular white but portobello appears in some variations)
  • 1 1/2 large green peppers sliced into strips
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste ~ I think 1 teaspoon or 1 1/2 would be better. I  know I added more salt)
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes ~ DO NOT drain
  • 1 teaspoon browning sauce (optional)
  • about 3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
  • about 1/4 cup cold water
  • sour cream (optional)
  • Egg or broad noodles (enough to feed your family)

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Here you can see most of what you need.  I realized too late that I hadn’t put the tomatoes in the picture.  This was the meat after being trimmed but before I cubed it into bite size pieces.  I only used 2 cups of the mushrooms and the rest of those babies are in the crock pot right now for tonight’s dinner. (Chicken Stroganoff).

What to do:

  • This first step is, in my opinion, completely optional.  Most of the time I skip it because I am so lazy or running out of time.  But you can brown the meat in oil, then put the meat in the crockpot and sauté the onions and mushrooms together.  Add those to the crock pot and then pour the water into the skillet, bring water to boil and scrape up all those tasty brown bits.  This does add a little something to the recipe but I usually don’t do this.
  • If skipping the above step put everything into the crock pot *except* the last five ingredients (from browning sauce through egg noodles).  Stir well, cover and cook on low for 8 hours or do as I do and cook in high for about 4 –5 hours until meat is tender.

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  • When there is about 3/4 of an hour until serving time, you can add the browning sauce if you like.  I didn’t measure; I just put some in.  I do not always use this but it does give the dish a nice brown color that I find more appealing.  It doesn’t affect the taste and my family doesn’t care if I put it in or leave it out.
  • Between 3/4 of an hour left and 1/2 hour left before serving mix the cornstarch with the water until the cornstarch is smooth and fully dissolved.  Stir this into the crock pot to thicken.  This gives it more of a gravy feel.

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  • I like to time things so that the noodles and crock pot are done at very close to the same time. I’m not always successful. You’ll want to cook the egg noodles, drain and keep warm when it gets close to serving time.

To Serve: Spoon over egg noodles, top with a dollop of sour cream (totally optional!) and serve with a salad.  I also serve it with green beans. 

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Notes: my version adds the green peppers, more tomatoes, more water, thickening, and sour cream.  I’m thinking of adding carrots next time.  I may even add green beans, too, leave out the thickening and serve it in a bowl with crusty bread and a salad on the side.  This recipe feeds all 6 of us with leftovers that would feed 2-3 people for lunch.  This would easily feed 8 people and no one would go hungry!  One more very important note: you’ll want to make sure your paprika and pepper are not so old that they’ve lost their zip.  I discovered my paprika needs to be replaced.  I used 3 times as much and still didn’t get the flavor I wanted.  So I’m adding Paprika to my grocery list.

  This post is linked up to Try a New Recipe Tuesday over at Home to 4 Kiddos.