Saturday, April 26, 2008

How we spent our vacation- Part 3

Building a fort for the boy- the start

The base

Kids helping

Working "on" the roof- it was getting quite dark

The DH and the boy had a blast working on this together. Even the girls pounded nails in between swinging. The girls wanted curtains in the windows so I had to explain to them that it is a FORT and forts usually don't have curtains. The girls will get to help design and make the Lewis Family Fort Flag, though.

We still have a bit more to do on it but it is pretty much done now.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How we spent our vacation- Part two

We only live about a half hour away from Lake Michigan beaches, so we made a couple of trips over the past few days. One we just played on the dune a bit, the other the kids wore swim suits and went into the VERY cold water. They had a blast! Reagan and I chose to stay dry.

How we spent our vacation- Part one

Aleah Hall and Reagan dancing- note the bowling shoes

Social butterflies- Gabriella Hall and Reagan

Bill and Heather Hall

Remington in action

The DH's work had a pizza and bowling party. Of course the DH drew the short straw and had to work during most of it, but the kids and I went and hung out with our dear friends the Hall's. (Mr. Bill also works for Costco.) We had a great time and Mr. Bill was nice enough to assist my son and youngest daughter with their bowling skills. He's already a father of six; little did he know he was going to play father to a few more that night.

I have tons of pictures from that evening but bowling doesn't lend itself to great pictures. Most of them are of people's backsides, watching the ball go down the lane. Just what you all want to see, huh?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Promised Pictures

Seven with Bangs

Andi in Glasses

Andi's glasses close up

The hooligans

Vacation Blogging Break

Sorry to be gone for a few days. My DH is on vacation and even though we haven't gone anywhere, we've been quite busy. Here is a little catch up for the Grandma's... Andi has glasses now, Seven has bangs, my due date for the new baby is November 7th (Much to the kid's dissappointment, there was only one heart beat at the Doc's.), and it has been beautiful weather for the past week (sunny and 70). We have spent most of our time outdoors.

I've been trying to load pictures, but technology is conspiring against me this morning. Check back later today.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yo-Dawg 1st page contest

Rachelle, over at , has just wrapped up the Yo-Dawg writing contest. While I didn't win, it was still a good experience. Here is my first page entry. The first line was given to us and we had to come up with the rest, up to 300 words. Please feel free to tell me what you think.

Things were going along just fine until the miracle fouled up everything. Dennis Saxton had moved his family to Vermont for solitude, not for a hoard of reporters to crush his wife’s prize roses.
“Janet! They’re in your roses again!”
Janet Saxton came into the parlor, wiping flour from her hands onto her apron.
“I gotta put up the signs.” Dennis said.
“Because nothing,” said Janet, taking a peek out the window, “says welcome to Saxton B&B like a no trespassing sign.”
“And a media circus does?” He shook his head. “Where’s Matt?”
“Up in his room- why? You’re not thinking of sending him out again are you?”
“MATT!” Dennis called. “Matt come down here!”
15 year-old Matt Saxton barreled down the stairs. “What’s up Pop?”
“They’re in your mother’s roses again.”
“You want me to take ‘em on another ride?”
“No.” Janet said. “I don’t think…”
“We are prisoners in our own home, Janet. If we’re sport for them, why can’t they be sport for us?” Dennis turned to his son. “Make sure to take them into town. Spend a little time with Old Nick at the bike shop and hang out at the Ice Cream Hut too. Don’t ditch ‘em until they’ve dropped some cash.”
“Should I take ‘em by the dock?”
A scowl darkened Dennis’ face. “No. Stay away from the lake.”
Dennis watched his son jump on his bike and take off down the street. Like a swarm of locusts, the crowd around the Saxton’s inn took off after him: Some on foot, some dashing to parked cars.
“Why us?” Dennis muttered.
“Just be thankful that Matt is alive, Den.” Janet said. She kissed her husband on the cheek. “He’s more valuable than the roses.”

Well, that was it. Brenda over at also has her entry posted. Check her's out too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chickens in the Road

One of my favorite blogs is Suzanne McMinn's Chickens in the Road. She blogs about building her farm house and farm and other country related stuff. Today she posted the most yummy breakfast recipes with delicious pictures to match. If you're in the mood to try out some great farm food, check out .

Monday, April 14, 2008

Local CSA's

After reading Crystal's frugal friday blog post on CSA's. ( Crystal's Blog - ) I was intrigued enough to investigate my local area for Community Sustained Agriculture. I found two local farms that offer programs. Mud Lake Farm in Hudsonville and Trillium Haven Farm in Jenison.

For those readers unfamiliar with CSA programs, it is, essentially, buying a piece of the farm. For a set fee you get a specified amount of the farms bounty. (Usually weekly.) Some CSA's have you work on the farm, others just have you pick up your share. The benefits for you are locally produced, FRESH food. Usually the produce is picked the same day you pick it up. A lot of CSA's are organic farmers but even if they aren't you are still getting a better quality/fresher product then in a grocery store. Buying a share in a CSA also helps your local farmer, giving them the capital needed to run the farm.

If you are in the Grand Rapids area, check out . Their shares for the 2008 season are already sold out but they offer a great number of value added incentives for their share holders. You might want to get in line for 2009. They have an on-farm store that is open on Saturdays and participate in the Fulton Street Farmer's market in downtown Grand Rapids. They offer a wide variety of vegetables and herbs.

Also in my area, . They are primarily lettuce growers (a wide variety)but have a few other offerings as well. They grow hydroponic lettuce and it is available year round.

I plan to make trips to both farms and check out their operations! There are other CSA's in the Western area of Michigan. (And across the country.) These are just the two that are closest to me. Check out and find some in your area. Support your local farmer!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trip to the Children's Museum

Seven and Rem post officing

Post Master Seven

Will Hall and Bob the Builder

Reagan Puppy

Little Gabriella Hall planting flowers

Autumn and Aleah Hall

My little Poser

The Lewis Family and the Hall Family ventured out through the rain and wind last night to the Grand Rapids Children's Museum. On Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm you the entry fee is only $1 per person. This makes it actually affordable for larger families to go.

The kids had lots of fun but I don't think it is something we'll do again. It was more of a giant play area then a museum. My kids seemed to think playing at the Post Office set up was fun. (They definately have Grandpa Schuh blood in them. My dad retired from the USPS after 40 years of service.)

It was incredibly difficult to get good pictures. I didn't even get one of DD2. If I actually got my kids to stand still, then someone else's was running into the picture. (That's what we get for going on the discount night.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More on Candy Making

Can you guess what the pregnant lady is eating for breakfast as she types this? Ha... bet you can't... refried beans with lots of extra cheese and pinapple juice. Scared yet?

Continuing on with info from my new candy making book:

If you let caramels stand for 24 hours before cutting them it will make them less sticky and easier to cut. I can't imagine my family letting candy sit untouched for 24 hours.

Divinity, nougat and marshmellow are all classified as similar candies.

Homemade marshmellow creme is known as "mazetta" or "frappe"

There is a recipe called "Snicks" in the book which resembles a snickers bar. Uhmm... I am so gonna be trying that one! There is also a Mounds candy bar like recipe. I suppose you could add almonds if you are an Almond Joy person.

I have already ordered flip flop shaped lollipop molds to make lollipops for DD2's pool birthday party this June. All that is required for the recipe is corn syrup, water, sugar, flavoring and color. (And lollipop sticks if desired.)

The DH has two and half weeks of vacation coming. Little does he know that pulling taffy is on my agenda.

For those of you with frequent chocolate attacks: there is a great microwave no-fail fudge recipe. 14 ounces of sweet condensed milk, 12 ounces chocolate chips, pinch of salt, teaspoon of vanilla, nuts if desired. Microwave milk, chips and salt for two minutes (on half power), stir in vanilla and nuts, pur into greased pan, refridge until firm.

Tomorrow we'll have a little talk on chocolate, chocolate like substances and perhaps marzipan.

If I have piqued your interest in Candymaking (the book) or candymaking the subject, look for Ruth Kendrick and Pauline Atkinson's book: Candymaking. I found mine at Barnes and Noble and it is available on line as well.

A great source of supplies and ingredients is: . They are based out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Perfect for us Midwesterners.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Overdone on Monday

Well, apparently, I overdid myself on Monday. I crashed and burned on Tuesday about 3:30pm. I got the basics done but didn't have energy for anything extra. I even had to have the DH bring home dinner. (KFC- yummy, but no great nutritional value.) I spent the rest of the day, parked on the couch, instructing the children on what needed to be done. (I love having kids old enough for a lot of responsibility.) I did start reading Candy Making (Ruth Kendrick, Pauline Atkinson). I like that they recommend using what you already have rather then going out and purchasing a lot of fancy equipment. Though I do want to invest in a really good candy thermometer. I go through the cheap grocery store ones like, well, candy.

They go through basic instructions on how to test your thermometer for any needed altitude adjustments and have a handy altitude conversion chart. They list out basic candy making ingredients and give you some of the "why" these are used.

The best thing I come away with so far is a new understanding of Fondant. I had purchase some premade fondant at a craft store last year to work with cookies. I thought it was awful tasting, and despite the beautiful things you can do with it, I want a good tasting product not just a pretty one. So I wrote off fondant. Well, with these homemade fondant recipes, I might just change my mind. I can't wait to try some out. Both for candy filling and for cookie/cake decoration. They give me 14 different basic fondant recipes, each with many different flavor variations.

The next chapter is on truffles and fudges. I have a fudge recipe that I faithfully use so I don't know if I want to change recipes but we will see. Also, I tried making truffles a couple of years ago and didn't care for the results, so we will see if they can renew my faith in truffle making.

Tips I picked up: Candy temperatures raise as water boils out of the mixture, leaving more candy. (Water doesn't get any hotter past boiling.) The reason to wipe sugar crystals off the side of your pan is because even one crystal can cause a chemical chain reaction in your candy and make it grainy. And lastly, the liquid in a cherry cordial is actually a fondant that is firm when wrapped around the cherry. The cherry juice reacts with the sugars in the fondant to cause it to liquefy days later, after being encased in chocolate. I had always wondered about that!

Free Land and Finding Your Homestead

I read through the article, "Find Your Dream Homestead" by Dave Wortman, April/May 2008, Mother Earth News, yesterday. It was a great read as I dream of living in the country on some acreage. What was dissappointing was that the internet links listed for "free land" were, indeed, only for lots in the said towns. I was hoping for acreage. (Just one or two acres- not an entire farm.) But he did say that some Mid-West federal legislators are working on a "New Homestead Act" that would give tax credits to land buyers/businesses in rural America. So there is hope.

Here are the tips for finding your homestead:

1. Make a list of your wants and needs in a piece of land and know the difference

2. Focus on one area at a time

3. Research free land

4. Let everyone know that you're looking

5. Read the real estate sections of local papers/web sites

6. Drive the back roads, knock on doors, ask questions

7. Look for forclosures, government land sales, tax liened properties, abandoned farms

8. Team up with friends and invest together. (I don't recommend this one.)

9. Think long term

10. If you like a property, ask if the owners want to sell, make an educated offer.

Another important tip was to check out the soil of said property for what you want to do with it. The soil may not support a commercial operation but would suit a home gardner just fine. Do the research.

The article has links to free property (lots) and several other good links for research. It's worth a read at the local library or a purchase.

It's in the Bible!

Yesterday, I told my 3 year old that I needed to comb her hair. She immediately threw a fit and ran away. She returned a couple of seconds later with an open Bible. "The Bible says not to comb my hair!"

Sigh. That's a new one. No other child has ever tried that one before. So I explained to her that she could look all day but she wouldn't find that in the Bible. (Besides the fact that she can't read.) But the Bible does say, that children are to obey their parents.

We got the hair combed, we discussed that we do not add things or change things in the Bible to suit our purposes because the Bible is God's Holy Word. In the end, I have decided to be pleased with the entire situation because at three years of age she realizes that the Bible/God is to be obeyed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hodge Podge Day

Well, yesterday I had quite the list to accomplish. I must say, I got everything crossed off of it except for the cupcake baking/decorating and the stitchery. I could have done the stitchery but I opted to flip through the items I purchased at the bookstore yesterday.

I purchased the current issue of Mother Earth News. ( I hate the name of the mag. but the info is always good.) I didn't actually read the articles last night and I'm hoping I get to today. There is an article on finding your dream homestead and some info on finding "free" land. There is also info on growing food in containers. (Great for me since I can't plant an in-ground garden where we currently are.) And lastly a guide to growing lettuce. I love lettuce. It is the one vege I can't live with out. The one article I did read was on dandilions and how to grow, harvest and eat them. I stand by dandilions as a defender of them. My husband sees them as weeds; I see them as useful plants. I don't eat them currently as there are plenty of other options for "greens" in our local. (Greens the husband will not gag at.) But if there comes a day, when food is scarce, I'm going to be picking those "weeds".

My other purchase was "Candymaking" by Ruth A. Kendrick and Pauline H. Atkinson. Again, I only skimmed the book but I'm anxious to put in a more thorough reading. My eldest has already picked out some recipes to try: cream cheese mints and sugared popcorn. (Oh, and lollipops.) I'm more interested in the jellied candies, cherry cordials and butter mints. I'll review the book in the future when I've spent a little more time with it.

Today's to-do list features:

1. Basic house pick up

2. Dishes and laundry work

3. A run to Costco to pick up new glasses for myself and DD1. Order glasses for DD2. (Of course they called to say the glasses had arrived after I was home from errands yesterday.)

4. School (We're starting a study of Medieval Europe.)

5. Cupcakes

6. Stichery or read or write

Of course meals and DH's work lunch must be made too. Lest you all think I'm super-pregnant woman... this would be an ideal day of accomplishments. It doesn't mean it will happen. Yesterday I felt really good. Today, I'm feeling kind of blah.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Needleworkin' weekend

This weekend the girls and I spent our time outside on our deck in the warm spring sun, working on our stitching skills. We were inspired by Crystal's post on redworking a few days ago at (Crystal's blog). We aren't officially doing redwork yet. I started the girls (and myself) with the more simple, basic embroidery stitch. It was quite fun to sit and chat while working. The girl's will save their work for their future hope chests.

While we girls were stitching, the DH was working on his fly fishing. (In the front yard.) The neighbors found this intriguing.

And the boy... he spent his time in the back field in the dirt and sand. Need I say more?

Today, while the DH is off fishing (it is steelhead time) I'm going to work to accomplish the following...

1. Basic clean up of house

2. Change bedding

3. Start the week's laundry

4. Take kids to park

5. Reorganize pantry (again)

6. Bake/decorate cupcakes

7. Go to bookstore and investigate books on candy making

8. Stitch work

9. Prepare DH's lunch/coffee for Tues. work

I'll be doing good to get through the top 5, the rest would be icing on the day. Well, number 9 is a must do. The DH needs his coffee at 3 am and I like to feed him healthy instead of having him eat Costco food. (Which is good for a treat, but not every day.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The creative mind of a 3 year old

I just had to laugh this morning. Jendi over at posted about her daughter's ability to make a doll bed out of anything. I had just left a comment about my daughter's ability to do the same thing and then walked into the kitchen to make breakfast when I spied some of her creative work: Some of her "friends", "sleeping" in their "beds". (Our shoe and coat area.) I couldn't pass up snapping a picture. (She of course insisted on being in it.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

This is what Michigander's do...

The first sunbathing of the season

Enjoying the swing set in a sweater instead of full snow gear

Digging a hole in the back field

... when the snow has melted, the day is sunny and the temp. has hit 50 degrees. It was a lovely day. Can you believe we had snow just last week? You southerners would be wrapped up in coats but we thought we were having a heat wave.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Writing News

Well, entries to Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner's writing contest are closed. She mentioned on her blog that she received 47 entries. Not a bad number to be entered in with. I have a 1 in 47 chance of winning. Those are good odds.

Her contest was two parts. The first part allowed us to send in up to 5 opening lines for a novel. The second part allowed us to pick one of the winner/runner's up first lines and write a first page for it. It was quite hard to take someone else's words and come up with a story/character from them. I think I did decent but could have done better if the entire concept from opening line on, was mine. It was also hard because I was writing about characters that I hadn't developed. Usually I do a very intricate character sketch for every main character before I ever write a word on the story. It was still a good challenge.

Brenda (my fellow pregnant blogger) over at does a weekly writing exercise. Last week's is actually still up because us pregnant ladies are in our first trimester and haven't been blogging faithfully. She asks what setting you would like to set a story in.

For me, I don't have a particular setting that I dream about writing on. But I do notice that I prefer country settings over city/metro settings. I like woods, country farms and little towns. I tend to pick Pacific Northwest locals as I grew up there. I also have fallen in love with Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and like to develop stories about these locations too. I have a work in progress in current day Australia. It takes place both in the "bush" and in Sydney. I also would love to set stories in the English and Irish country side. I'm a travel buff so anywhere I fall in love with is likely to be a story setting. I find Europe fascinating.

Lastly, Dana over at asked me, quite a long time ago (I confess) if I have ever used writing software to organize my thoughts and my writings.

I don't use software, currently. I tend to brainstorm and jot my ideas down in notebooks. After years of doing this, it still works for me. I have a knack for knowing what ideas/writings are in what notebook. I don't know how I remember this... I just do. My articles I have written (for newsletters/organizations and potential freelance) are all saved in the word section of my computer. Same with my works-in-progress.

When I start having many queries and submissions out in the market, I plan to have a computer spread sheet (excel) that will keep track of them. But so far I haven't submit to enough places to need such a thing.

I haven't needed a program for brainstorming. The Lord keeps me fresh with ideas. Developing characters come naturally to me too. I do use many sources to come up with names: The phone book, reading movie and television credits, looking up old documents on the web, visiting graveyards (yes, it's creepy) and just paying attention to people's names that I come in contact with. If I spy a good name, I'll jot it down in my current notebook.

Dana, does that answer your question? Or spur on more? Let me know and I'll do my best to answer.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The grounding

Well, daughters one and two were given a chance to put obedience into action yesterday. They are not allowed to bounce on trampolines. (The DH has made a final ruling in this.) Their friends are.
The girls came to me and asked if they could "sit" on the tramp with their friends. They were just going to be talking. I was dubious but decided that this would be a good time to see if they would be obedient. I said yes, they could sit on it.
Of course they gave into peer pressure. They jumped. I found out. They are grounded. No outdoors, no friends, no tv, no computer for a week.
I actually prefer it this way. This points them back to God, family and home.
It is scary to let them go and make their own decisions, bad or not. We had a good long talk. They thought I was wrong to let them go on the tramp at all. If I hadn't let them then they wouldn't have bounced, was their thinking. But at nearly 10 and 12, they have to start making right decisions on their own, all be it small ones. Hopefully next time they will make a wiser choice.
I plan to fill their time this week with cooking and quilting lessons.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Home made playdough

The DH was so good to me last week. I was exhausted and feeling blah, so he spent an afternoon (after a full day of work) in the kitchen with my oldest making five batches of homemade playdough because the oldest had been bugging me to for the longest time. He just stepped right in and helped her all the way through.

This playdough was my saving grace all last week. The kids spent hours with it. It gave me a wonderful time of rest. Thank you Lord, for small mercies. Here is the recipe:

2 1/4 cup flour

1 cup salt

1 tablespoon alum (my grocery carries this with the spices)

4 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 cup boiling water

food coloring

Combine flour, salt and alum in bowl. Add oil. Stir in water until mix holds together. Knead dough until smooth. Add food coloring. Makes about three cups. You can divide a batch into sections and color them differently or you can make one whole batch one color. My kids loved having so much of one color to work with.

This is safe to eat but, the salt makes its taste quite blah!

Easter Egg Hunting- For the Grandmas!

Reagan- Dress courtesy of Grandma Lewis

Seven with full basket

Gabrielle Hall and Grandma

Reagan with best friend Will Hall

Seven adding more to her stash

Andi Rose on the go- Dress courtesy Grandma Lewis

I know Easter was a week ago but I'm a bit behind. Here are the pictures I managed to snap in the midst of the chaos. As you can see, poor Rem didn't get a picture. He was moving awfully fast though. I think he pulled in the most eggs and candy. I also didn't get a good shot of Seven's dress which Grandma Lewis also made. I'm still planning on dressing the kids back up and taking posed shots. They'll just have to be Spring photos and not "Easter" photos.