Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bears on the Beach and Cake Parfaits

On Friday we had a beach theme. We went to the beach in the afternoon/evening and made another blue Jello dessert called Bears on the Beach.

Blue Jello (ocean)
Crushed graham cracker or light colored cookie (sand)
Whipped Topping (frothy water from the waves)
Gummy Bears or Teddy Grahams (beach patrons)
Drink Umbrellas (sun protection)

A few shots at the beach. My girls all have matching bathing suits that I bought on clearance at Target last year. It makes it easy to keep track of them when we are out.

When we came home from the beach the kids showered, put on their pajamas, and then we assembled our Bears on the Beach. I had no idea it would be as entertaining as it was. They all assembled theirs differently, and they insisted that they had to explain what was going on in their Jello scene. I think the biggest novelty for them was the drink umbrella. George refused to remove his from his cup while he was eating, despite the fact that it was annoyingly in the way the whole time.

Group Shot
 (minus George, who is off to the side)

My favorite was George's which looked like his bears were bear-ied under a couple feet of snow in a winter wonderland. (bottom left). A couple of kids had a bear drowning in the water too. Or maybe they were just scuba diving.

I also had a great plan to make some homemade moon sand to go with our beach theme, but I was tired in the afternoon and instead chose to rest in my bedroom for an hour before we went to the beach. I think I made a good choice. The kids will have to take a rain check on the moon sand. Maybe we will have a space themed week sometime this summer.

....So that was Friday.

On Thursday we made cake parfaits. Just a little concoction of our own. I don't even know if cake can officially be labeled as "parfait", but it was an idea that popped into my head and it sounded yummy and pretty.

We made a box cake mix, divided it into six bowls, and dyed it the colors of the rainbow. 
We baked them in empty and cleaned tuna cans (well greased and floured).
We baked them.
We sliced the rounded tops off.
We took a biscuit cutter and cut off the browned edges so the pretty cake colored showed in our layers.
We sliced each color in half, so we could make two parfaits.
We layered them in rainbow order with Cool Whip in between each layer.
We ate them!
(We had leftover batter that we layered into two 1 cup mason jars and also baked. I forgot to take a picture though. Shame on me! It was really cool though because the layers did not bake evenly so it was kind of swirly and psychedelically groovy looking.)

Cakes in the tuna cans. Thankfully they did not taste like tuna.

The rainbow cake parfait.

Each kid got to eat the cake top to the color they mixed.

I am pleased to say that Jason accomplished his cleaning on Thursday (with a lot of coaching) and was rewarded his chocolate parfait. He ate it instead of the rainbow cake parfait.

As I proofread this post, I am beginning to think that my readers might be thinking that all we eat is sugar in this house. I promise we get a good share of fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, cheese and other nutritious stuff. But I don't think to take pictures of my kids eating carrots, turkey sandwiches, apples, bananas, oranges, or watermelon. You'll just have to believe me. Right now my kids are reaping the benefits of having a pregnant mother who feels like eating just about anything and everything.

34 weeks prego with a farmer's tan. And those extra pounds from the anything and everything that I've been eating are mostly on my thighs, which I conveniently cropped off the picture. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Word of the Week: PARFAIT

[Ok, I stopped counting my 21 days to habitual blogging. My husband called me out on it last night, and he said that the days had to be consecutive. I was cheating.]

The Word of the Week is "Parfait". Monday we had Sky Parfaits. Today we made chocolate parfaits. Did you know that the the French word "parfait" is translated to "perfect"?

I have to say this parfait was very close to perfection.

It was a chocolate Oreo Parfait. Here's a brief recipe of it:

Layer One: Crushed Oreo Cookies (2-3 tablespoons)
Layer Two: Chocolate Pudding (We used Great Value instant)
Layer Three: Chocolate Mouse #1 (instant chocolate pudding mixed with fresh whipped cream or Cool Whip. We used fresh whipped cream and it was kind of bland. Cool Whip would probably be better.)
Layer Four: More Crushed Oreo Cookies
Layer Five: Chocolate Pudding
Layer Six: Chocolate Mousse #2 (I tried this recipe, and it was good. I omitted the extract and food coloring.)
Layer Seven: Whipped Cream
Layer Eight: Crushed Oreo Cookie

Basically it's just a pile of chocolate yumminess. You don't really have to do two types of Mousses, but I was experimenting. My second one was much better. I have a bunch of old Christmas Hershey Kisses that I want to use up. They still taste fine, but they are taking up space. So I found a recipe on the Hershey website that used 36 Hershey Kisses.

Poor Jason didn't get to enjoy any parfait. He's in hard core cleaning training. He didn't do his cleaning job today, so he paid the consequence. There were tears, as there should have been, because he really did miss out on a delicious dessert. However, I made him one and saved it for him. He can have it tomorrow IF he does his cleaning job. Part of me hopes that he doesn't clean so I can eat it.

We didn't really do a fun activity or lesson today. I stubbed my toe on my nightstand this morning and it is EXTREMELY sore. I also bumped the sore toe three more times throughout the day which made me shout in pain and cry. So Mommy was a bit grumpy today from the annoying injury. I've also been VERY tired! All I wanted to do was sleep today, but I did the responsible thing and only took a 20 minute nap for a moment this afternoon.

In perfect homeschool world, I would've had a lesson on the different layers of earth and talked about sedimentary rocks and stuff like that. Then I would've followed it up with making the parfaits. But today was a not a perfect day, and we simply indulged in chocolate. It made my toe feel better.

I finished staining our benches today. I should be able to post a picture of our new table soon. Like, hopefully tomorrow! During the process I had to use steel wool to sand down between staining and polyurethaning. Wendy asked, "What is that?"
I said, "Steel wool."
She said, "Does that come from a goat or sheep? Sarah said it comes from a sheep."

I love kids. This is the sheep where the wool comes from.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 7 - Clouds

My plans for Fun 'n' Fattening Week for last week were postponed until this week because I was busy getting our kitchen table finished and it was unusable for most of the week. I still don't have a picture of the finished product to show you, because I have two more benches to stain this week. Originally my husband and I were going to sit in chairs on each end of the table, but we decided to build two more small benches to match the large benches. You'll see. Probably this weekend. It's looking pretty awesome though and we are enjoying using the table.

Anyway, we kicked off Fun 'n' Fattening week THIS week. My kids were frustrated with my flakiness, so Emily created a Google Doc and emailed it to me last Friday. It was a list of seven fun activities and seven desserts to make. I thought it was funny that four of the desserts included Oreos. Do you think she likes Oreos?

I modified the list a bit to help create themes and make it educational. Today's theme was "Clouds". This is what we did:

1. We started some Sky Parfaits with blue Jello.

2. While we waited for the Jello to set we read library books about clouds.

Sarah reading to us.

Wendy reading to us.

As you can see, the audience on the couch was very attentive to the reader.

Bradley reading to us. Emily read to us too, but I didn't get a good picture of her.

3. Then we went outside and looked at the real clouds. According to our reading we decided they were cumulus and perhaps some cumulostratus clouds, because some had gray in them, but they were not rain clouds. I think classifying clouds can be quite confusing.

4. Then we took a bar of Ivory soap and microwaved it for almost two minutes to make our own cumulus cloud.  

By the end of the afternoon Emily said she had a headache because of the scent of the Ivory soap hanging in the air.

5. The kids ate their Sky Parfaits for Family Home Evening dessert. This is also a sneak peek of our new table. I made sure to quiz Jason during dessert by asking him, "So, Jason, what are clouds made of?" I was thankful that he answered, "water droplets," and not "Cool Whip" or "soap". He actually WAS paying attention this afternoon while we read our books.

They certainly did not turn out as pretty as on the ones on the website where I got the idea, but they were yummy. All it is is Jello and Cool Whip. Not exactly a "fattening" dessert, but we will have enough fat added back into the menu later this week to make up for it. Plus, we cooked some Fried Zucchini last night for dinner, so a light dessert tonight was good for us.

Last night's Fried Zucchini.

George felt the need to lick every droplet of Jello and Cool Whip off the table. He had a spoon, but sometimes it's just more fun eating like a dog.

**Disclaimer** This day is not representative of a typical homeschooling day. "Cloud Day" was an unusually thought-out and planned day, and the weather miraculously produced cumulus clouds for us to match our project and dessert. Don't let us fool you into thinking that we have organized homeschooling every day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 6 - Pine Cones and Peanut Butter

This will be a post full of pictures and captions.

This post is about something the kids and I did at the end of April. Today was rather boring. I spent three hours doing yardwork. In the afternoon, the kids and I cleaned out the bicycle quadrant of the garage (we have our garage divided into quadrants: bikes and recreation, yard and garden, storage, and 'clubhouse', which is a carpeted play area for the kids. Notice there is no car/van quadrant because we park both vehicles outside.) We also cleaned out the fridge and snack cabinet. It was a productive day, just not very exciting and I didn't take many pictures.

Back to the pictures. So in April I was cleaning out a kitchen cabinet and came across some peanut butter with a 'use by' date of 2009. I wasn't willing to try it, so I thought I would put it to good use and make pine cone bird feeders with the kids. We got the pine cones at our church, where there are lots of pine trees, so that was convenient.

The pine cones. (That almost sounds like a band name.)


With seven kids putting peanut butter on pine cones, it was inevitable that I would step on a glob.

Even George joined in the fun.

Group shot. 
As homeschoolers, I always felt bad that my older kids missed out on some of these preschool/ early childhood activities because I was lazy when they were younger. I'm making up for it now and Emily is doing them as a middle schooler. She's kind of like my teacher's assistant. If I had been super prepared, I could have made the activity more educational and discussed pine cones in more depth and gone over the anatomy of them and the difference between male and female cones and where the seeds are produced, etc. But I didn't have that much foresight because I was anxious to get rid of the peanut butter that was taking up valuable space on my kitchen countertop. 

Jason. I was surprise how they really got into it and peanut buttered each scale.

Emily got serious about her peanut butter.

Then we rolled them in the seeds.

George enjoyed playing in the seeds. Some good sensory play.

The finished product.

Wendy thought it would be fun to cover her hands with peanut butter and bird seed. At this point I couldn't help think of the song "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins.

Then we put the pine cones on the porch railing and waited for the birds. I had visioned red robins and blue jays and all sorts of interesting birds coming to visit our bird feeders. We waited for an entire week. I never did see ONE bird feast on our feeders. Birds must not like rancid peanut butter either. So it was kind of sad, but a fun project.

While we waited for the birds, we fixed our burst hose.  It burst one night from a weak spot and watered our sidewalk for who knows how long. This is Wendy cutting it just below the spot where it burst and me being extra cautious that she doesn't cut off my left thumb.

Bradley screwed on the hose mender.

I examined it. It leaked. We tightened it some more, and now it works like a charm, It's just about 5 feet shorter than it was.

While we fixed the hose, George was picking blackberries growing by the fence and eating them.

That was fun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 5 - Thrift Store Shopping

I took the kids out this afternoon so we didn't kill brain cells while the first of three coats of polyeurethane was drying. We went to the post office, library, park for a peanut butter and jelly picnic lunch, and Goodwill. I was proud of myself for bringing a load of junk to get rid of, but then we came home with an equal amount of stuff. (It's not junk yet.)

 I got...

...a new pair of shoes ($3);
My feet were killing me this morning after walking around in cheap foam flip flops all day yesterday! I thought I'd give this pair a try. They are comfortable so far and really highlight the nice puffy veins in my feet.

...a new summer purse ($3)
I like my current purse but it's more of a huge bag and things get lost in the bottom of it. I wanted something more compact with more pockets.

...a bag to take to the pool ($3)
I definitely did not need this, but I thought it would be handy to keep our goggles, suntan lotion, camera, phone, snacks, etc.

an awesome red bag with fur to use at Christmastime ($3)
I did not need this, I just loved it. 

a purse for Rachel ($3)
And if you happened to notice that I bought four purses/bags, I'll let you know now that I'm a sucker for purses and bags. Some women like shoes. Not me. I could be happy living off one pair of comfortable shoes, but I love purses, especially ones with lots of pockets. My favorite places to get purses and bags are Target Clearance and Goodwill. There are often brand new or very gently used purses at Goodwill, that women clear out of their closets, all for only $2.99. I gave into Rachel's request for a cute little pink purse. How could I say "no" when she tilts her head at me and says, "Mommy, I get this?" I had already told her she couldn't get a pink dress and a lavender shirt with a stain on it. 

a brand new electric citrus juicer ($4)
The electric citrus juicer was totally unnecessary, but I thought it would be a fun activity this summer to make some fresh squeezed lemonade. Jason also keep asking me, "When can we make fresh squeezed orange juice?" This might help satisfy that desire and get him to stop asking.

two new dresses and a bathing suit coverup for Emily ($3 ea.);
three kids books ($0.49 ea);
a set of sheer white 84 in. curtains for my bedroom or somewhere else in the house ($3);
a plain white queen flat sheet ($3);

I don't really have a plan for the flat sheet, but I couldn't pass up nearly 3 yards of plain white fabric in new condition. The craft and sewing possibilities are endless...or I could just use it as a flat sheet for the girls' bed.  

So I got my thrift shop fix today. And the exciting part was I even got 25% off my total because I had been earning points on previous purchases. That was fun. I got all that stuff for $30. And to think some women pay over $100 for a single pair of shoes or a single bag.... Those women must not have discovered Goodwill yet. 

Day 4 - Mother's Day

**NOTE** I wrote this post on Monday, but fell asleep mid-blogging, so it's being posted today, Tuesday.

So I'm wondering if during my 21 day goal of blogging, the days must be consecutive? Because I've skipped a couple days, but I still feel successful. Yesterday was Mother's Day and by the time my Blogging Hour came around, I was just kind of lazy and tired.

This is how I spent most of my Mother's Day....

...while my kids waited on me and brought me slices of cheddar cheese and lemon water. I did eventually go to the dinner table to eat soup for dinner, which was a bad choice because it made me sweat like crazy! I am constantly hot. I usually keep the thermostat set at 76 degrees, but husband cut it down to 72 degrees for me after dinner. Wasn't that a sweet Mother's Day gift?

I also got breakfast in bed which was unusual. Since we usually get up at 7am to get ready for church, most years my husband and kids forget, or don't get up in time to serve me anything. But this year on Saturday night they must have felt extra motivated, since they did not have time to fulfill my request for them to grocery shop for me. (We were busy building our tabletop most of Saturday, so we ran out of time to do regular grocery shopping.)

On Saturday my husband went to bed before me. When I went to bed, I double checked to make sure he set the alarm, because he is notorious for forgetting. It is usually set for 7:00am, but when I checked, it was set for 6:40am. That was my clue that I might be getting breakfast in bed. I knew it wouldn't be much, but I looked forward to it. When I heard the alarm go off, I was wondering if he would actually follow through, or forget and just hit snooze. To my surprise my husband did get out of bed and wake up the kids. I could hear little feet pitter-pattering down the hallway and it made me smile. I could hear clinking dishes downstairs, and cupboard doors slamming while I pretended to be sleeping. About 15 minutes later I heard a stifled stampede coming upstairs. Seven kids walked into my bedroom and exclaimed, "Happy Mother's Day!" I was served a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal with milk, whole wheat toast with jam, and a banana.  It made me happy and I enjoyed every bite of it.

I felt slackerish this Mother's Day since I have no living mother or grandmother of my own for which to buy Mother's Day cards. It made me kind of sad. (However, looking on the bright side, I guess I saved about $10.) I went through some old scanned pictures and found this one of the three of us when I was seven years old. 

Aww. I love my mom's 80's hair, my grandmother's bra strap, and my huge bushy bangs.

The kids and me on Mother's Day. Not the highest quality picture, but I take what I can get when my husband is behind the camera. It's amazing that that you can see all seven kids' faces, six of them with smiles.

To spread the Mother's Day cheer, I cut one of my gladiolas from our garden, and the girls and I brought it to our next door neighbor to wish her a happy Mother's Day.

Isn't it pretty? I love the dual tone. Our neighbor loved it too.

Me planing our new table top on Monday. Now look whose bra strap is showing! My arms are sore today from all that planing!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 3 Furniture Building

Yay! Day 3! I know I technically skipped yesterday, but it was Friday (Date Night) and I don't feel obligated to blog on Date Night. Yesterday pretty much consisted of me trying to get my kids to clean the house, and me using "it's Mother's Day weekend, and all I want is a clean house for Mother's Day" as a good excuse to encourage my kids to do a REALLY good job.

We detailed the family room on Friday. Here are three kids organizing the game cabinet. We have a "Game Piece Lost and Found"  which is an old empty mayonnaise jar where we put pieces of games when we find them in random spots in the house. It was filled, so they went through it and put all the pieces in their correct boxes.

Today my husband and I finally built our new kitchen table top. We built some benches last weekend. Just so you know, carpentry is not something in which my husband and I are very skilled. So it pretty much seemed like a miracle that we were able to produce something like that in one day.

We currently have a table that seats about eight people. It was getting to be a tight fit and we've had a couple chairs break. New tables and chairs are terribly expensive so we decided to see what we could DIY. After perusing the Internet, we designed a way to make some benches and a new table top to fit on top of our existing table legs. (Our current tabletop easily comes off its legs.) By building a new tabletop we are able to extend the table nearly two feet and widen it about ten inches. It should be able to seat between 10-12 people.

Now going back to my statement about my husband and me not being skilled carpenters and a little story from our history:

A little over 12 years ago, a week or two before we got married, my husband was determined to build a bookshelf for our new apartment we were about to move into. He went to the lumber store and bought all the lumber, had it cut to his planned dimensions at the store, and also bought all the hardware to put it together. One evening we went to our future apartment and began to assemble it. We didn't have our electric turned on yet, so we were working in the twilight. He screwed some boards together to create a frame, and when it came time to insert the shelves, they didn't fit! They were too short. Since we didn't have a square to check our angles, we assumed they must have been off. At this point, we were using a flashlight to try to see what we were doing. He tipped the bookshelf frame on it's side and had me sit on it to try to get the sides of the shelves to fit into the frame. Nothing was working. We used a tape measure to measure our pieces of wood. That was when we learned that a 2 X 8 isn't really 2 inches by 8 inches. It's really about 1.5 inches by 7.75 inches. Who would have thought? So since my husband was going by what he thought were the dimensions, nothing fit together.

To make a short story shorter, he had to go back to the lumber store the next day and get new pieces of wood cut, so that we could complete his bookshelf project. The second time we did it in the daytime. And I must also mention that we were very poor, so buying new lumber was a BIG deal. We used the unused scraps to build a makeshift shelf that was very poorly constructed. We still have the nice bookshelf. However it does not reside inside our home. It is in the garage with cans of paint and tools stored on it.

My husband is a computer programmer. He doesn't deal well in the physical world. It frustrates him that he can't "Control Z" (delete) when something goes wrong or "Control C" (copy) when something goes right, and he wants to do it quickly again.

Anyway, we felt triumphant today when we finished the construction of our table top. It's made out of five 2in X 10in X 8ft lumber. The thing is HEAVY!! We debated using a nice birch plywood, which probably would've been a lot lighter, but decided against it. We wanted a farm table look and our current table was also made from 2 inch thick lumber. It's definitely not perfect craftsmanship, but it's sturdy. We still have to sand and stain it, so there are no final pictures of it yet. They will probably be ready next weekend.

Here's some in the meantime:

This is us securing the 3 middle planks together. These are the ones that fit nicely on top of our existing table base. 

We attached the outside planks with wood and metals strips. They actually worked nicely, but I think the use of so many metal strips takes away the "old-fashioned farm house table" effect. But the metal is all underneath. My husband said I shouldn't post a picture because it spoils the illusion of our carpentry craftsmanship.

This is the underside. All 5 boards are securely fastened. It took some engineering to flip that tabletop, but we got it done with minimal effort and lifting. I think we spent more money on the metal hardware than we did the lumber. But it was was still cheaper than buying a new table.

That's all for now. Time for bed.