Saturday, March 24, 2012

Farewell Party and CFS Logo

Thursday was the last day for one of the CFS staff members. She's the one who basically kept everything running smoothly and Mr. LH and I were sad to see her go. We were invited to a farewell party for her Friday evening at a downtown restaurant, the Tree Haus Bistro.

It's really a nice place renovated from an older home. Soon after showing up, we got a personal tour of the place. I was especially impressed with the "wet chalk" painting that dominates one end of the main hall.

Since it was a beautiful Spring evening downtown, we all sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the company, the food and the weather.

The day before, Mr. LH asked me if I could possibly-if-you-have-the-time make her a cut-out of the CFS logo similar to the silhouettes I made previously. I suggested that IF I could make one, it might be a good idea to get all of the faculty to sign the mat around the logo. So with all that in mind, I pulled out all my crafting stuff and got to work. I didn't have time to run to the craft store so I had to work with what I had. I think it turned out rather nicely - and quite unique once we got everyone to sign it.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

"Favorite Book Character" Day

The Girl announced Wednesday afternoon (while she was stalling with her homework) that Friday was "Dress Up As Your Favorite Book Character Day". There is no telling how long she has known about this. I'm sure an announcement was made that said "Don't forget...this Friday...".

She wanted to be Laura Ingalls. This didn't surprise me since we've been slowly reading the Little House series since last Summer. It's something she looks forward to every night at bedtime.

We are currently reading These Happy Golden Years. I was concerned she would lose interest as Laura grew older and the stories became less about little girl and more about a young woman. The Girl has actually been more interested since she has been waiting all this time for Laura and Almanzo to get together.

When The Girl made this announcement, I felt both happy and helpless at the same time. I was happy she would choose such a book character. Laura was probably my favorite book character when I was young. I felt helpless because here we were with only a day and a half to put together some sort of costume.  She said if we couldn't do Laura, she wanted to be a wolf...Laura it was.

There was not enough time to make a dress, though The Girl insisted I could (never mind that I'd have to buy the pattern and material AND make it in one day) so I took a chance and went to the thrift store to see what I could find. As luck would have it, I found a dress in her size that could pass for "homestead" though it looked too fancy for Laura. She was worried people would think she was the snooty Nellie Oleson. I assured her that without the golden blond curls and the bad attitude, people wouldn't think she was Nellie. We decided it would be Laura's Sunday dress. I also found a cream colored skirt that she could wear under the dress as a petticoat. She also opted to wear leggings under her dress so people couldn't see up her skirt when she was on the playground. Too bad we didn't have any pantalets :)

Thankfully, she already had a bonnet to wear. We bought the bonnet for her when we attended Christmas In The Soddies at the Plains Conservation Center in 2010. She wouldn't be allowed to wear the bonnet on her head in school because of a no hat rule, but we decided that having it hanging down her back was better anyway because that's what Laura always did. Besides, with the bonnet down her back you can see the ribbons in her braided pigtails.

Mr. LH mentioned the possibility of putting her lunch in a tin pail. I thought that was a great idea, but we weren't able to do that before it was time to leave for school.

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Their First Cooking Lesson

Although she was looking forward to it, The Girl wanted to know why I designated one day a week for each child to cook dinner with me. I explained when Elder Boy moved out of the house, he could only make a few things without panicking - Spaghetti, Ramen Noodles, Mac & Cheese (from a box!) and a handful of sandwiches. Baking anything was out of the question. I told her when she grows up and moves out of the house, I want her to be able to cook anything she wants.

This past Wednesday was The Girl's first cooking lesson. I wanted them to choose what they would be preparing and she chose to make a stir-fry with rice (she loves rice) and crab rangoon. She has helped me prepare crab rangoon before but the rice and the stir-fry were new to her.

The Girl especially liked the idea of finally being able to use the knife. The Girl wielding a knife made Mr. LH quite nervous but I told him I would be responsible for teaching the children how to cook and use a knife in the kitchen if he took over the responsibility of teaching them how to drive. Seems fair to me...

The added bonus to The Girl learning to cook is the math tutoring she is unknowingly receiving. She didn't realize when I had her adding 1/2 cups together to make 2 cups that she was adding fractions.

Crab Rangoon - made with The Girl's help
On Thursday, The Boy chose to prepare a meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy and broccoli. He was also excited about using the knife...

but more excited about mashing the potatoes. I only wish I had been able to get a picture of him mixing up the meatloaf ingredients with his hands...

The Boy's verdict..."It was a lot easier than I thought it would be!" And very very tasty...

I didn't expect them to choose meals that were so involved for their first go-round. Frankly, I didn't care if they chose grilled cheese sandwiches and soup as long as they got into the kitchen and learned something. But with the cooking lessons worked into the schedule as a weekly event, they'll be exposed to all kinds of different foods and techniques. The good news is they are both looking forward to next week's lessons.

The Girl hopes that by Christmas she'll be able to cook meals all by herself. I'm not quite prepared for that, yet.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beautiful Blossoms

March has been unbelievably mild this year. It's hard to believe March averages the highest snowfall totals for the area. We haven't seen any measurable snow yet this month (and with our trip to the mountains coming up next weekend, I don't WANT to see any snow this month).

Two weeks of gorgeous weather reaching up into the 70's really got the plant life going (or growing). Even with a short cold spell threatening the budding trees, the cherry tree in our front yard suddenly blossomed.

One day it was bare...the next day it was WOW!

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Sunday, March 18, 2012


Strawberries must be in season right now. All the area grocery stores have them on sale and I couldn't help but to get a couple pounds of them.

The Girl stood right beside me as I washed and hulled them and ate several before I had to stop her. The Boy even had one sliced on top of his cereal. He has been our "strawberry hater" but he must have gotten a good one because he has been eating them ever since.

I added a bit of sugar to the rest of the berries and made Strawberry Shortcake for dessert one night. good!

I think I might have to start growing strawberries in the back yard...

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day

We don't usually do much for St. Patrick's Day. But we do wear our green. And when we can, we make Corned Beef and Cabbage. Our Corned Beef and Cabbage isn't the more traditional dish with potatoes and carrots. I've always found that dish to be rather bland. The recipe I make is one my mom used to make when I was younger.

Mom used a pressure cooker to speed up the process, but I just put it in my crock pot. I still have the recipe on the same piece of paper I wrote it on - I had been on the phone helping a friend with her college algebra homework and then called Mom to get the recipe. I wrote it on the scrap paper I had been using to work out the algebra problems.

It's been splattered and stained, but I still haven't gotten around to transferring the recipe to something else.

The corned beef brisket is boiled on low heat for hours (and hours and hours) until it almost falls apart. Then it's transferred to a baking dish, dotted with whole cloves (or you can add 1/4 tsp of ground cloves to the sauce which is MUCH easier), coated with a tangy sauce and baked. The cabbage is then cut into wedges and cooked in the water that was used for the corned beef.

Corned Beef with Mustard Glaze
  • 1 corned beef brisket - flat cut or point cut  (about 3 - 3 1/2 pounds - flat cut will have a lot less fat but is more expensive)
  • 2 TBS salad oil
  • 1 TBS mustard
  • 3 TBS vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
  • 5 TBS ketchup
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • Whole cloves (or 1/4 tsp ground cloves)
  1. Rinse brisket under cold water. In a large pot, cover the brisket with cold water. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove the scum that rises to the top.
  2. Continue boiling for 4 - 6 hours (the longer, the better). When boiling time is almost up, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F then prepare the sauce.
  3. To make the sauce, combine salad oil, mustard, vinegar, ketchup, light brown sugar and GROUND cloves (if using) in a small saucepan. Mix to combine and cook over medium heat until it starts to bubble, stirring occasionally.
  4. Spray an 8x8" baking dish with cooking spray. Pull the cooked brisket out of the boiling water (do not drain the water - you will need it in the next step) and place in the baking dish. If you are using WHOLE cloves, dot the top of the brisket with the cloves. Pour your prepared sauce all over the brisket. Bake uncovered for 35 - 40 minutes. Slice and serve.
  5. Cut your cabbage head into wedges and place into the boiling water. Boil until the cabbage reaches desired tenderness. Serve with corned beef.
We serve the dish with rice and spoon the extra sauce all over everything. (I make a double recipe of sauce because there is never enough).We keep thinking we should use leftovers for Reuben sandwiches but there are never any leftovers, either.  We also don't have this dish only on St. Patrick's Day. Since corned beef briskets usually go on sale in March, we buy several and freeze them for later use.

This St. Patrick's Day, we got an extra treat. One of The Girl's friends came by and surprised us with a plate of "Pot 'O Gold" Cupcakes with Rolo's on top.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Scooby Doo Shrinky Dink Jewelry

After all the Monster High Shrinky Dink Jewelry (The Girl's pair of earrings and about 5 other earring sets for her friends and a necklace for the one friend that didn't have pierced ears), I moved on to Scooby Doo. I thought I'd try to make a bracelet for Elder Boy's girlfriend and she LOVES all things Scooby. I started it a month ago but put it off for a while to tackle other projects.

I started out by making several small charms with the Shrinky Dinks - both Scooby and Scooby's dog tag.

I learned that the brown colored pencil was much better than the brown sharpie for this project. The colors get darker after they shrink.

The rest of the bracelet was made up of "Scooby colored" beads.

I must have changed around the order of the beads a dozen times before I finally had to just stop and be happy with what I had. Turns out it was about the same as the first time I put the bracelet together...

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Pin"spiration - Chore Magnet Board

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.

I had been thinking seriously about a chore chart for a year now (yes...a whole year) ever since I realized how unprepared Elder Boy was for the world beyond home and high school. In that year, we have made small steps. The "Pickles" now wake themselves up (though The Girl still needs some pushing to actually get OUT of bed), they make their breakfast and their lunches, they automatically do their homework (though they still need reminding when they get distracted), put their laundry away and set the table for dinner when asked. I even bought a canister of Clorox wipes for each bathroom in the house which made the "Pickles" much more willing to help clean the bathrooms. The Girl has always been my helper in the kitchen but starting next week each child has one day in the kitchen with me to plan and prepare a meal. Like I said...little steps. But it is a big difference from last year.

On one of my many sessions on Pinterest, I came across a printable sheet on Etsy for making chore magnets. Well, the chores on the sheet didn't fit what I needed and it was only the paper printout (and I only have a B&W laser printer but to print the sheet you needed a color printer). You still had to actually make your own magnets. Still, I was interested in making some chore magnets. I could print out the chores myself and customize them to what I needed.

Instructions for the bubble magnets were gathered from a combination of  a "walk through" on Not Martha and a thread about them but I later found some short instructions (and supplies) at Craft Supplies For Less. I have never purchased from them so I don't know how they are, but if you can't find your supplies anywhere else it's an option.

I wanted to print out the chores on scrapbook paper so I needed to figure out how small to make the circles and text. After several tries in MS Powerpoint, I was able to get just a tad larger than my 5/8" circle punch. This was fine because the outline of the circle would be left behind when the circles were punched out.

Materials for the Magnets:

E6000 silicone glue - I got a "mini" tube for $2.49 at Hobby Lobby before I found a much much larger tube for $6.49 elsewhere.
Magnets - I initially got  two sets of 8 extra strong 3/4" disc magnets at Lowe's for $2.79/pkg. I had forgotten to look for them everywhere else. I later found a package of 50 3/4" magnets at Michaels for about $7. I would prefer 1/2" magnets but I haven't found any yet.
Clear Glass Gems - Michaels was the only place I found a large bag of these in the smaller size. It was $6.99 for a 2lb bag. The bag also had quite a few regular clear marbles in them but plenty of the flat bottomed ones as well.
Scrapbook paper - 8 1/2 x11 size if you plan to run them through your printer
5/8 inch circle punch

I used a toothpick to spread the E6000 glue on the magnet. Then I pressed one of my punched out paper circles to the glue and let it sit. After going through about 20 magnets like this, I went back to the first magnet and squeezed a dab of the glue onto the center of the paper circle.

I then immediately placed a glass gem, flat side down, on the dab of glue and pressed down making sure to center the gem on the magnet. The harder and more evenly you press the less likely you are to have air bubbles in the finished product.

The chore board took a bit longer to complete simply because I couldn't find the materials I wanted (cheaply). I kept searching thrift stores for something I could attach the magnets to - sheet metal I could cover with fabric or something similar. I finally came across a stack of magnetic dry erase boards similar to these at Goodwill (still in their shrink wrap!) for $1.99 apiece. They not only had magnetic faces, but also included magnets for the back so I could display the chore charts on our refrigerator.

With a black Sharpie (yes, permanent ink) I divided the dry erase board into 2 columns with 7 blocks each that were 2" high and 5" wide leaving a space at the top for the heading. I wrote the days of the week down one side and "To Do" and "Done" across the top. Then using colored Sharpie markers, I added "Chore Chart" to the very top and colored in some color along the side where the days of the week were.

The chores for the day are in designated boxes on the "To Do" side. When the chore is completed, the "Pickles" can move their magnet to the "Done" side. At the end of the day when I check off their chores, I move magnets back into position. Things like "Empty Trash" which they do once a week on Wednesdays will go back into the "To Do" section for Wednesday. Other things like "Homework", "Make Lunch" and "Book Bag" are moved to the next day because those are done Sunday through Thursday for school (and while they are technically not chores, I find myself constantly reminding them to finish their homework, make their lunches for school and get their book bags ready for the next day).

Some of the chore magnets are not yet being used. I want to see how the system works before I start adding in additional chores to the board. Day one was crazy. They kept forgetting about the chart. Day two went well. I only had to remind The Boy once to check the chart before asking if he could play on the computer. Now we're on day three...

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Summer Fun on a (not quite) Spring Day

Although we have been having beautiful weather off and on (more "on") for the past 2 weeks, Tuesday brought with it a gorgeous 74 degree day. The Girl came home from school asking to play in the I let her:

The Boy set out his army men camp in the dry, parched area called our backyard.

He then created a "dust storm"...

so the army men could later experience the "flood" when the heavy rains of the sprinkler started.

After The Girl mentioned how cold she was (in a swim suit, wet, evening breezes starting to pick up), The Boy laughed and said it wasn't that bad (though he was dressed in jeans and a hoodie). To prove it to her, he ran through the sprinklers himself...still dressed in the jeans and hoodie. Sigh.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dinner Out

For our anniversary dinner last Saturday night, we had planned to try someplace new. There are so many restaurants around here that although you could have just about anything you're in the mood for, choosing one thing is next to impossible (especially for indecisive people like Mr. LH and I).

On a whim, Mr. LH went online to check out the menu for The Tavern Lowery and found out that (thankfully) they returned the Buffalo Latke Reuben Sandwich to their lineup of offerings (they had removed it from the menu back in May when we took my dad there to try it).

Buffalo Latke Reuben Sandwich pictured here with my Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread
Our last taste of the delectable sandwich was back in October 2010 so we jumped in the car and headed to The Tavern for dinner. So much for trying something new...

The sunset always catches my breath and it was no exception this night
One seated, The Boy chose his huge meal for the night (he can definitely eat) then watched The Girl color her kid's menu (I think sometimes he wishes he could still get one)

He suddenly picked up one of The Girl's crayons and the rubber band that was wrapped around them and, with Mr. LH's help, started shooting them across the table at his sister.

It looked like such fun that The Girl had to try it herself. The crayon almost flew over onto the table behind us but thankfully did not. (yes, we are "those people" - the ones other people don't want to have sitting next to them in public places)

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"Pin"spiration - The Story of Us

My "Pin"spirations are things I have found on or through Pinterest that inspired me to try something new, whether it's a new craft, a new project or a new recipe.

On the first day I started using Pinterest, I came across a template for a custom eye chart by The Cheese Thief and immediately wanted to make one for Mr. LH for our 13th wedding anniversary.
The template is downloaded as a .doc file and with a little bit of patience (trying to figure out how it's formatted) you can create your own "story of us". You can even change the font, colors and borders if you want. Since I wasn't sure where this would hang once we moved, or what the room colors would be, I just made mine all black.

I chose to do the 11x14 template and had it printed out on Zazzle on premium canvas (they had 50% off all posters at the time). I then picked up a large black frame at Michaels (with my 40% off coupon).

I'm really pleased with the way this turned out! I especially like the dates running down the side. And to quote one of my friends, "That's awesome...and as you get older, you'll know when you need glasses, lol!"

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

13 Years...And It's Just The Beginning

It's hard to believe Mr. LH and I have been married for 13 years. That's a lot of years...but still not very many.

June 2000 (about 15 months after we were married)
October 10, 2002
I sometimes feel as though I've been with him all my life...

June 21, 2009
And at other times I think it can't possibly have been 13 years already!

Christmas 2009
April 2, 2011
But then I think, Elder Boy has grown up and moved on...
The Boy is almost a teenager...
And our baby...our turning 9 in a few months...

So much time has passed...but we've still only just begun...

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