Friday, October 31, 2008

My First Giveaway ... We Have a Winner!

What a fun week this has been.  I have enjoyed hosting my first giveaway and meeting some great new blogging buddies.  You all have such great blogs.  I'll be visiting them all again.  

But now it's time to choose a winner for the one year subscription to 
Everyday Food Magazine ...

And here to help me is my trusty co-host, Tonka ...
(please don't notice that my coffee table is covered with scratches and ink marks, this is the very fashionable distressed look, courtesy of of one 3-year old.  I embrace it. )

I employ the highly scientific method of writing all the names on mini-flashcards that my kids are supposed to be using for Latin vocabulary words.  Then I toss them in a plastic pumpkin.  I was feeling festive.  

Some people received more than one entry because they became a follower of my blog or they referred someone else in my direction.  This created a great little math lesson for my kids on probability.  Does more than one entry increase your odds of winning?  By how much?  Can you generate a complicated math equation and prove that you are learning something of value?

To which my kids rolled their eyes ... Mom, can we just draw a winner already?  

Ok, are you ready?  My oldest daughter did the honors:

And the winner is ...

The fabulous Rhea from Texas Word Tangle!

 Congratulations Rhea!  Email me your address and I will get your subscription ordered for you!

And to answer the probability math questions ... yes, more entries do increase your odds.  Rhea sent many fine folks my way (she "tweeted" ... and I still have no idea what that is.  I am still learning all this blogging stuff) and earned bonus entries.  Woohoo

Thank you to everyone who stopped by, looked around, and entered.  I hope you'll come back!  I'm still working on that great new blog idea and I'll need some help, so you'll want to stay tuned.

Finally ... here's what we did today for a homeschooling art activity ...
it was very educational, I'm sure.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My First Giveaway!

I love reading other people's blogs.  

I love finding giveaways on other people's blogs.

I love magazines.

  I love cooking. 

That's a lot of love ...

 So where am I going with this?

I'm having my very own, very first giveaway!

Everyday Food Magazine is one of my favorites. 

Look at how many issues I have accumulated over the past few years ...

I want to share this love with you.

I am giving away a ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to
Everyday Food Magazine!

Here's what you have to do ...

1) leave a comment telling me what your favorite magazine is, and why.
2) tell me how you found my blog.

That's it!  

If you pop yourself into the follower thingy on my sidebar, you'll get another entry.  If you give this giveaway a shout-out on your blog, come back and let me know, and you can have yet another entry.  If a commenter mentions you/your blog in their comments, you both will get another entry.

How fun is that?

I'm curious to see how many visitors I will get.  Since it's pretty much just my BFF, my dad, and a few other kind souls that happen to visit here.  Another reason, I'm thinking about an idea for a new blog and it's going be good.  I mean real good!  So you'll want to stay tuned.

Ok, enter away ... contest will end Friday, Oct. 31st at Noon PST.  Check back to see if you've won.

Good luck!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Christmas Shopping

I've had my eye on this play kitchen for over a year.  My 3-year old would love this!  Isn't it the cutest thing?  I imagine hours and hours of fun, pretend play here.  

Only problem ... it's a bit more than we really want to spend this year.  Although I do think it would provide an excellent value in the long run.  I didn't like any of the plastic kitchens I looked at.  I think the wood kitchens are much more charming.  

But it kind of throws a wrench in my great idea to have a homemade Christmas this year.  I thought it would be fun and creative to make all our gifts.  

I have several ideas for homemade presents too.  I'll share some of those in an upcoming post.  After considering whether we could make a cute kitchen like this, I added up all the construction costs.  It really would be cheaper to just buy it.  

So share with me your ideas for some fun homemade gifts this year ... I'm making my list now!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Apple Time!

I love fall.  I love the changing weather.  I love the new menu possibilities.  We've transitioned from summer BBQ and salads to autumn roasts and root veggies.  

And Apples ... apples, apples and MORE APPLES!  We love baked apples, homemade apple sauce, apple butter, apple pies, and my personal favorite ... German Apple Cake.  

I remember our family driving up the mountains when I was a kid and coming home with boxes and boxes of apples.  We would spend the weekend peeling, coring, and slicing apples for an apple pie making and baking marathon.  The rest of the apples we would wrap in newspaper and store in the garage for the winter.  

Then my mom would always make this German Apple Cake.  Funny thing though, we're not German, so I'm not sure exactly where my mom got this recipe.  Mom?  Dad?  Any thoughts? 

Ok, let's make a cake ... first off ... peel, core and slice some apples ... 

Gather the ingredients ...

Start mixing ... I love mixing the eggs and sugar until it's all nice and frothy.  My mixer only works on high speed, so this step is really quick.  I love my mixer, it's a Braun, but I really need a new one where all 3 speeds work.

Then you mix all the other stuff in and I really meant to take photos of the entire process but I got sidetracked talking to my mother-in-law and forgot all about the photos.  So just imagine it.  And then bake it ...

Then the best part ...


And the ultimate ... EAT IT!

I promise you ... this will become your favorite fall cake too!


The Recipe:
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened, natural apple sauce
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups sliced tart apples (I use Granny Smith)

Beat eggs and oil until foamy, add applesauce and sugar and mix well.  Add vanilla.  Combine all the dry ingredients, add to liquid mixture and stir until well combined.  Fold in apples.  Spread batter in a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Bake @ 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes.  Let cool and frost.

1 8-oz. package cream cheese
3 TBS butter
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


What?  Did you say it was my birthday?

From this ...

To this ...

What a year it's been ...

Who knew life with a big bulldog named Tonka could be so much fun!

To celebrate ... you need presents ...

Toys and more toys ...

Until you get them taken away because you're getting way too hyper!

Ok, I promise to just chill ... after all, it's my birthday!

And every birthday girl needs a good nap after all that fun ...


Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Bookshelves in the Schoolroom, Part 3

What do you do when have a cold, are practically coughing up a lung, generally feeling lousy ... AND your in-laws are here for a 4 day visit?  I don't know about you, but I lay on the couch, goof around on the computer in between coughing attacks, and watch my mother-in-law make dinner and clean my kitchen.  I feel like such a terrible hostess.  But she's absolutely wonderful and insisted that I rest.

So I have time to tackle another installment of the contents of the never ending bookshelves in the schoolroom ...

Let's take a look at the second shelf from the bottom left ...

This shelf has some of my favorite photos all in one frame.  My hubby and I follow auto racing pretty close.  So close in fact, my husband used to work in the business.  We met so many great racers over the years.  But my favorite was Greg Moore.  He was awesome.  Such a nice guy with tremendous talent on the track.  He had a great career that was only getting better.  Sadly, he died in a crash at California Speedway in 1999 ... only one month after the photo of us together was taken.  I still get teary-eyed looking at those pictures sometimes.  Next to the frame is a book documenting his life and career.  Also some books from the last 2 years he was in CART.  I don't look at those books too often, but I'm glad I have them.  

Other books on this shelf:  My hardcover copies of Pride and Prejudice and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  I really think you need these 2 in hardcover.  They are books that will be read again and again.  

Of course the one book that I look at most frequently ... my Bible.  I like the New American Standard version.  I have several copies of the Bible, in several different versions, but this is the one I do all my Bible studies with.  

Next to my Bible is You Can't Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded: Strategies for Bringing out the Best in Your Strong-Willed Child by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.  A friend of mine from my homeschool group recommend this book.  Yes, I have a strong-willed child.  I won't tell you which one, but for those of you that know my kids, you already know who I'm talking about.  If you also have a strong-willed child you should check out this book.  It will help you to better understand how your child's mind is working and gives you ways to work with that strong-will instead of trying to fight it.  

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Shaeffer is such a gem of a book.  I don't even know how to describe it.  She shows that the role of wife and mother is a creative gift.  It's a nice little inspirational book.  There are a few other inspirational and devotional books in there that I haven't read yet.  And a great book called Amusing Ourselves to Death that addresses what television is doing to us.  I realize that I borrowed this book from my friend Kristen a few years ago and I still haven't returned it.  Hey Kris ... I still have your book ... sorry.

The Toy Cupboard is the cutest little pop-up, interactive, play-along book.  I found it at the grocery story on a clearance table several years ago.  I'm still waiting until my 3-year old is mature enough to play with it without ripping anything.

Exodus by Brian Wildsmith is a wonderful picture book about Moses.  Mr. Wildsmith has several other gorgeously illustrated story books.  I always keep my eye out for used copies in good condition.  I picked up Exodus for only $2 at Amazon Marketplace.  My 3-year old loves looking at the pictures.

There's a Writing Strands book stuck in there.  We use this program off and on.  Sometimes I like it, sometimes I'm not sure.  But finally, on the end, is Slow and Steady Get Me Ready.  It's a book full of activities to do with your child from birth to age 5.  Much of it is very simple things to do using household items.  Most times I find an activity and think, I could have thought of that.  But I didn't.  So it's great for those times when you're looking for something but just not feeling creative. 

Oh, and a couple of very handy jelly jars are sitting on that shelf.  One holds rubber bands and the other holds paper clips.  I happen to have a ton of jelly jars, and I haven't made jelly in the last 2 years, obviously, so I found another use for the jars! 

So that's it for this episode of what's-on-the-bookshelf.  Another 50 or so posts and we should be done with it!  ;-)  Hope you'll stick around.

But next time ... I'll be posting about a birthday in the family.  Cute photos guaranteed!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Backyard Biology

The beauty of homeschooling is that we can just go out in the backyard to do our science experiments.  It's especially gorgeous this time of year.  Just look at the changing leaves on the trees surrounding our pond ...

Ok, so that's not really our backyard.  We don't even have a pond.  And the leaves haven't yet begun to change in our neck of the woods yet.  But you can still enjoy that photograph.  It must be somebody's backyard, somewhere, right?

We did actually go to our local park recently to do a "pond life" experiment.  My oldest is doing high school biology and needed 4 samples of pond water to culture.  Then we could look under the microscope at all the cool, tiny living thingies.

Can you tell the difference between a Euglena and a Paramecium?  (I can see my friend Kristen raising her hand ... "pick me, pick me!")

Seeing these living organisms under the microscope was pretty neat.  Gathering the samples was fun too.  Here's my son with the homemade ladle-on-a-dowel-rod stick scooping pond water for his sister ...

Culturing the samples was, however, pretty disgusting!  One container had dirt in it, one had white rice, one had dry grass, and one had cooked egg yolk.  I'm sure I don't need to tell you which one about knocked us over when we opened it up a few days later!  Eeeee-gads!  The garage was one stinky mess.  All of the cultures had little thingies living in them, but the dirt sample had the most active and interesting creatures.

We always love it when we can take our homeschooling studies outdoors.  Everyone loves a trip to the park anyhow.  We always have fun watching the geese and ducks swim on the pond.

Here comes a group (flock, gaggle?) of water birds.  They all came to shore and waddled out of the water.  And then there was this guy ...

Wait ... is that a goose ... or a duck?

He sort of looked and honked like a goose.  But then his back was vividly colored like a mallard duck.  I'm still confused.  I think he is too.  We decided to call him a duckoose!  

Duckoose probably would have followed us home if we let him.  We're gonna have to go back and see if he's an oddity or if there are more out there like him.

But for now, I have to get my 3-year old out of the tree in the park.  It was the only place I could put her to keep her out of the water while the older kids were gathering pond samples.  Doesn't look like she cared too much, she was happy in the tree.

Next science field trip ... the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  My son is studying ocean life.  You know, I still want to be a marine biologist when I grow up, so I can't wait for this trip!

P.S.  For those that really, really wanted to know ... the Euglena is the first photo, the Paramecium is the second.  I looked it up.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Over the River ...

... and through the vineyard ... to Grandma and Papa's house we went.  

My son had a football game in my old hometown on Saturday.  So we all went along.  Hubby and son did the football game, while us girls (me, oldest daughter, youngest daughter and the dog) hung out at my folk's house for the afternoon.  

Here's the view from the driveway of my parent's house ...

It's so beautiful on a clear day, with a few fluffy clouds in the sky.  

My parents live on 10 acres in the country.  They have peach and nectarine trees on their property.  But the acreage across the road is all vineyard.  Not the wine kind, the raisin kind.

The raisins have already dried in the sun and are now rolled and waiting to be collected.

Although, some of the grapes dry right on the vine ...

My bulldog just doesn't know what to make of it.  This was her first adventure out in the country.  She loved sticking her nose in the dirt!

Here's a half grape/half raisin bunch from my Dad's backyard garden ...

The vines wandered all over the place and even along the fence ...
This stone marks the grave of my cat, Calorie.  Gosh, I miss that cat.  And I really miss the country too.  There's just something about going home that makes me yearn for country life again.  I keep telling hubby if we can't move out of town I'm going to get some chickens and a cow for the backyard.  Now I really think I need to plant some vines too.

Here's some of my Dad's raisin crop drying in the sun.  I came home with a few bags of raisins that I will make into oatmeal raisin cookies and rum raisin pie during the holidays.  Yum!  Stay tuned, I'm sure I'll blog about it when I start baking.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Wall (update on schoolroom project)

Remember these? ...

Here's what I did with them ...

This is "The Wall" in our schoolroom (formerly known as the living room/dining room).  It's the only available wall in the entire room.  The other walls are busy with either bookshelves, a huge hutch, or windows.  So this is really the only wall that I can hang stuff on.  There used to be a beautiful painting there that my mother-in-law gave us.  Once we started our homeschooling journey that painting no longer fit the mood of the new purpose for the room.  So it now hangs in the family room.  

What this wall really needed was a chalkboard.  So I painted one.  Directly onto the wall.  Then I made a cute little frame for it.  It worked but I still wasn't quite satisfied.  I needed a spot to hang the abundance of artwork from my 3-year old.  The fridge just wasn't cutting it.  What I needed was a CORK WALL!

So I stuck a bunch of those cork tiles up there.  Then added a nice little rope border around the edge ...

Gosh I love my hot glue gun.  It has to be one of my favorite tools!

And here is the end result ...
(see it way over there?)
It wouldn't be complete without a cat on the table and tons of school books.  This is what the school room looks like on a typical school day.  

Here is the wall close up ...

Here's my 3-year old pointing out the letter A page that she did.

See the big ol' A full of a bunch of other A's?

And on the subject of the letter A ... I think we're in our 3rd week of working on A.  That's ok, we're in no big hurry.  We have a fishing line strung across the top of the entryway into the schoolroom and we've clipped photos of things that start with A and wrote the titles of 2 books that start with A that we love to read.  

I can only imagine the fun we're going to have with the letter B!

Ok, gotta run ... here's my son waiting for someone to help him with his school work.  I don't think the cat  really cares so I better go lend a hand.