Sunday, December 21, 2008

And since we've no place to go.....

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it Snow!Actually, we have a lot of places to go, but we've been slowed down quite a bit by two major snowstorms over the weekend!
Robert did get to try out the snowplow that we inherited when the Evans family moved to Oregon. It worked great and was a nice reprieve from the usual shoveling.

The chickens haven't known quite what to do with all of the white stuff, and have remained literally "cooped up." Today, I spent time shoveling the snow out of their yard and spreading fresh hay in the coop. This one (named Chocolate Bar) has ventured out of the coop once or twice to check things out. We are still getting eggs - around 5 or 6 a day. What else do they have to do when it's 25 degrees outside? Tomorrow is supposed to bring temps below zero, so hopefully their coop is now even cozier. (Robert calls it the Chicken Hilton.)

Christmas Happenings

December is always FULL of activity and this one has been no different. Kayla had her annual Christmas tea party. This was the fourth one we've done and Kayla says, "It's fun, fun, fun!" I think it's fun too - maybe a bit stressful to pull off in the month of December - but a really fun time for the girls. I can see us doing this for years to come. The crafts and stories and play time may change, but getting girls together for Christmas fun will hopefully not. We dressed up dolls and stuffed animals with Christmas ribbons, decorated gingerbread houses, made Nativity scenes out of clay pots, and had a REAL tea party, of course - complete with peppermint tea, hot chocolate, chocolate covered strawberries, tea sandwiches, cloth napkins, and grown up tea cups! And I have to mention that I could not have done all of this without the help of my friend Virginia - she goes to my church and is a student at UMass. She was so good with the girls and a huge help to me! Thanks, Virginia!
Kayla also got to perform in a Christmas Choir concert. She has been a part of this choir for a year and a half and has learned so much under the instruction of her director Craig. They even sang in Hebrew and Latin!
More singing with our homeschool group at a local nursing home. The kids sang 5 Christmas Carols and then spent time handing out hand-made Christmas cards to the residents. I am always amazed at how this small effort to bless these elderly folks is received. We got so many kind comments and thanks from our sweet audience.
And last, but definitely not least, was a day trip to New York City with our friends the McCullahs. I think we hit every major toy store in the city - even rode the 3- story ferris wheel inside of this Toys R Us in Time Square, saw the tree at Rockefeller Center, and window displays at Saks 5th Avenue. Would you believe that I've now been to NYC enough to actually be somewhat of a tour guide for others??? Never would have guessed this 10 years ago, but I love it!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gluten Free Friday - Pecan Pie

Here are a couple of pecan pie recipes - one using corn syrup and one using maple syrup. The first is my grandmother's recipe - which I have a copy of in her old United Methodist Church cookbook - and uses corn syrup. The second is one I put together from a couple of different sources after searching for a recipe that did not use corn syrup. They are both very good. And just in case you're wondering about the correct pronunciation of pecan, it's puh-cahn and NOT pee-can! (And I'm from Texas, so I should know!)

Pecan Pie I
(with corn syrup)


3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup pecans
1 tsp vanilla
Unbaked GF pie crust

Pecan Pie II
(with maple syrup)

3 eggs
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans
1 cup maple syrup
Unbaked GF pie crust

For both pies, mix all ingredients together and pour into crust. Bake 10 minutes at 425*, and then reduce heat to 325*. Cook until center is set - about one hour. Cover crust with foil if it begins to brown too much.

Friday, December 12, 2008

So Egg - citing!


Just had to report that we are FINALLY getting 3-5 eggs per day! Not the 6-8 we hope to get in the spring, but still a good supply, and I am no longer worried that my chickens are sick or disabled, or on strike or something! I never have to go to the coop to gather them since the kids fight over who gets to collect eggs each day. I am certain that this excitement will wear off some day though, and I will get my turn. The off colored egg is actually a bluish green color and came from one of the two Aracaunas we have. They are called the "Easter Egg" chicken because they lay eggs in shades of blue and green. They look and taste egg-xactly the same on the inside - Delicious!

Gluten Free Friday - Pizza!

This fall we started a new weekly tradition in our home - Friday Family Pizza and Movie Night. The kids absolutely love it! We put a tablecloth on our coffee table, turn off the lights and eat pizza while watching a movie. I was hesitant at first, wondering if we could really find a movie every week that was actually suitable for family viewing - we are SUPER SENSITIVE about what the kids watch - but so far we've been able to do it. Basically, if it was made after 1980 it's questionable in my mind - aside from a few exceptions like the Narnia movies, the American Girl movies, and Nemo! I tend to come home with The Love Bug, The Absent-Minded Professor, or Yours, Mine, Ours starring Lucille Ball (1968) - actually this one has a few problems. :) Lately, we've been watching the Planet Earth DVD's that we borrowed from my friend Aimee. They are wonderful!

I've been using the Whole Foods 365 Pizza Crust Baking Mix - it makes 2 large crusts and only costs $3.99 - and we've gotten creative with the types of pizza we make. We started out with the basic cheese pizza or pepperoni pizza, but now the favorites are Chicken Pesto Pizza and Mexican Pizza, which are each pictured here. (Actually, the pesto one above if half pesto, half cheese.)

For Mexican Pizza:
top the crust with a bit of pizza sauce or tomato sauce
season browned ground beef with chili powder and cumin
add corn and beans to the meat, and continue cooking until all mixed and warmed through
top crust and sauce with meat/corn/bean mixture
top it off with cheese - bake @ 400* until cheese is melted and crust is done
(I pre-bake the crusts a bit before adding all the toppings)

For Pesto Pizza:
brush pizza crust lightly with olive oil
Make pesto or buy it jarred - mix pesto with cooked & chopped chicken breast spread pesto mixture over pizza - on top of olive oil
top with feta or goat cheese crumbles
bake @ 400* until crust is done

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Houses and Harried Holidays

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

6am - Rise, Dress,Read Bible

6:30 am - Run 3 miles (only because I had not done it the day before, and would not do it the day after - early morning dr. appt and teaching geography class - and had to be somewhat prepared for the 5K on Sat.)

7:15 am - Head to grocery store (it opens at 7am) to buy food for tonight's house church meal (Krumrey's turn to cook!) Chili, rice, fritos, cheese, cornbread, salad, brownies. Also eggs and powdered sugar for gingerbread house making. (I was responsible for the royal icing and one gluten free house!)

8am - home from grocery store, unload groceries and make double batch of GF graham cracker dough for houses. Begin making cornbread and brownies for dinner. Make paper pattern of house while dough chills, and bread and brownies cook.

8:45 am shower and dress

9:30 am - leave for hospital to visit church family who just had baby #1. Look over Bible study material that I will teach tonight in truck on the way - Robert is driving, of course!

10am - arrive at hospital, hold and pray for new adorable baby. (Kory browns beef while we are gone - all 10 pounds of it!)

10:30am - leave hospital in order to get Robert to an 11am meeting (by this time we're really running 15 minutes late)

11am - drop Robert at coffee shop to meet with a man from church

11:15am - arrive home, roll and cut gingerbread house out of GF dough. Bake.

11:45am feed hungry children lunch

12pm wash/dry/tear lettuce ( Kory again) Add remaining chili ingredients to beef, stir, and cover

12:30pm gather up piano books, cooled gingerbread house pieces, mixer, eggs, powdered sugar, and bowl

12:40pm - leave for piano. Call teacher to say we will be late since I need to stop and fill a low tire with air. (light has been on for days) Listen to holiday music in the van. Discuss anorexia after being asked if the lady who sings "Merry Christmas, Darling" is still alive.

1pm - Arrive at piano lessons. Ask piano teacher if I can use her kitchen to make royal icing while she's teaching the kids.

1:45pm - leave piano, head to Cushman Cafe for weekly "treat" - and much needed coffee for mom. Piano teacher's house is just across the street - and it's a tradition.

2pm Arrive at Christina's house to make gingerbread houses. (This event has been planned and much anticipated for at least 2 weeks - definitely before the house church dinner duty was even a figment)

4:15pm Leave Christina's house. Stop at grocery store to get more tomato sauce for chili.

4:45pm Arrive back home. Finish chili and salad. Make rice. Cut up brownies and cornbread, put on platters.

5:30pm Feed kids chili for dinner and load all house church dinner items in car.

5:45pm - Leave for church in separate cars - my group always goes longer than Robert's.

6pm - arrive at church, warm and set out food.

6:30pm House church members arrive and eat.

7pm Bible study starts

9:15pm - my group is over, head back to kitchen to help clean up.

9:45pm Load dishes and leftovers in van and head home.

10pm arrive home, unload van, put food and dishes away.

10:45pm Think about Kayla's morning doctor appointment that I can not miss, because I did miss last time and this is the rescheduled visit. Think about non-existent Antarctica lesson that I will be teaching to the geography co-op tomorrow.

11pm Look at Antarctica map, jot down basic outline for lesson, decide I can fill in the blanks in the morning and head to bed.


Trying to reconcile:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
Luke 12:48

and

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hot Chocolate 5K Run

I had a great time running the Hot Chocolate Run again this year in Northampton, MA. Last year, I ran it with Kory, but I don't think he's run since - except for football practice, so he wasn't up for running this year. Instead, I got to run it with a bunch of wonderful ladies from my church! Two of these ladies are in my Five Aspects of Woman study on Wednesday night - Rachel, the tall blonde next to me - a senior at UMass (I was intimidated by those long legs today!) and Jenna, on the far left - a new Engineering professor at UMass. It was about 28 degrees outside, but not windy, so a bit better than last year's wind chills in the teens! Here we are with our reward mugs of hot chocolate - complete with marshmallows - and a photo op with a race mascot - Mr. Penguin!
I think I mentioned Jenna below - she was a huge help to me on Thanksgiving - cooking and cleaning! She and her husband have been such a bright spot in our lives and church recently - so fun to get to know her better over coffee and 5K races!

Thankful For....

Forgot to include the list of things our family said they were thankful for this year in the Thanksgiving post, so here it is.......

Kayla

stuffed animals, my family, Buddy, my room, footie pj's, Jesus, my clothes, Floppy Kitty, our chickens, my ice skates, my hair, our garden, my cousins, my church, rainforests, Vacation Bible School, my friends, hot chocolate, animals, Webkinz

Cooper

football, Switchfoot, my family, music, enchiladas, Lego football players, snow, friends, my fire (flame) cap, trips to Texas, Play Station Portable

Kory

football, God, Buddy, our cars, outdoors, computers, books, my family, our church, food, friends, sleep, the Bible, my new winter coat, the Today Show, homeschool group, trees, winter, Christmas

Melanie

Robert, my kids, hot tea, my house, my new bedroom furniture, my dad's continual generosity Jesus's sacrifice and His joy, siblings who love and walk with the Lord, trips to California and Switzerland, our homeschool group, a healthy family, fresh eggs!

Robert

sunshine, my 40th birthday party, long underwear, my marriage, Tazo Tea, Switzerland trip, a new furnace, my kids' artwork, Jesus

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Tree Time

It has always been a tradition in our house to get our tree the day after Thanksgiving. I even refused a free tree from friends that were bringing some back from a Thanksgiving trip to Vermont, since they would not be returning until Saturday, and I knew there would be a major revolt by children if they even had to wait one extra day. (I, on the other hand, could use that one extra day to recover from Thanksgiving!)
And we always forget that you can go to the tree farm as early as September or October to "tag" your tree - meaning claim one and mark it with a tag with your name on it. Then you can return when it is closer to Christmas to actually cut it down. If you don't "tag" then you end up finding "the perfect tree" only to discover that someone has already claimed it! Oh well.....it just means you have to look a little harder, and we always find a great tree. This year we are being really diligent to water the thing though, so that we don't repeat this episode from last year!

Thanksgiving

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, the kids started anticipating the day. One day Kayla said, "Mom, listen to me tell you the whole story of Thanksgiving at our house." And then she proceeded to list everything we do from the morning until evening time - wake up, eat breakfast, mom starts cooking, set tables, watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, make place cards, cook more, lots of people come over, drink apple cider, pray and say what we are thankful for, eat turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, green beans, have tea and coffee and lots of different pies, play games, watch football, people leave, eat leftovers, more pie, go to bed! She actually added a lot more detail with a lot more excitement, and it made me realize how much the kids look forward to these traditions and special holiday activities.
This year we looked at the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and discussed it before singing it together. Robert got to use his new birthday guitar for the occasion! We had quite a crowd, as usual, and I always think people are going to feel too crowded, but they never do seem to mind. I think we set a record with 26 total people this year. We had to have the kids (Age 15 and under!) eat in the basement! A new friend from church, Jenna, came over early to help out and I don't think I could have pulled it off without her. She and her husband even did dishes afterward while I played Scrabble with the other ladies. And we enjoyed having Josh's (from church) mom Lynda stay with us for a couple of nights all the way from Colorado.
This is only part of the living room crowd - sweet girls from church, our friend Tim, and his parents from New Hampshire. After the meal there was game playing and football watching and second rounds of pie and coffee. It was, and always is a fun day.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Gluten Free Friday - More Pumpkin!

If you browse through all of the recipes on this blog you will notice an abundance of recipes that include pumpkin. I guess I didn't realize how much I love pumpkin, but it is evident here. So, even though Thanksgiving is over, I'm posting a really great pumpkin recipe that I received via my Celiac Support Group's email updates. It comes from Enjoy Life Foods, but I altered it a bit since I don't usually have their granola cereals on hand. It was also intended to be a vegan recipe, so it will work with regular dairy or any of the alternatives.

Pumpkin Tartlets

Crust:
1 cup rice squares cereal, finely crushed
1/2 cup brown rice flour (or GF flour blend)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, or dairy free alternative
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Filling:
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup milk (rice or soy will work also)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown rice flour (or whatever flour blend you like)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

For crust: Mix rice flour, crushed cereal, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly. Grease muffin tin, or use muffin liners, and spoon crust mixture into each. Set aside some of the crust mixture to sprinkle on top of each tartlet before baking. Press crust down with spoon or fingers.

For filling: Mix together the pumpkin, oil, GF flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Fill each muffin liner with the pumpkin mixture and sprinkle remaining crust on top of each.

Bake at 350* for 15 minutes. Let cool in muffin tin for about 15 minutes before removing.