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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cooking on a hearth

Last weekend my sister and I learned how to do hearth-side cooking at Pioneer Farms.

The cabin we volunteer in has an outdoor kitchen, with only a stone hearth to cook on. You can see the 'kitchen' behind me, it's the roofed structure on the right. Can you imagine cooking in inclement weather?! Even the kitchen table is would be so hard to keep the food clean...imagine chopping veggies on a windy day. Yikes!

I was a bit disappointed at first, only because it seemed much easier and sophisticated to cook on the big cast iron stoves in the other cabins. Our little cabin is the only one on the farm with a hearth kitchen. This class helped me appreciate what an ideal kitchen it really is! I wouldn't mind having one in my own backyard.

 We also learned how to cook on a cast iron stove.  Cooking on the hearth is SO much easier than working with the iron stoves. I had NO IDEA that cooking on cast irons stoves was so labor-intensive. The stove requires a one hour preparation period and a one hour shut down period, and it must be waxed every time it's used, and 'blacked' every week. All for a loaf of bread? Yikes. No wonder people hired full-time cooks. Preparing a simple dinner would take at least 3-4 hours every day!

During the class the students were unanimous in thinking the hearth was much easier to cook on, which I wouldn't have expected. I'm looking forward to getting more experience with it. It's just fascinating to me to learn how our ancestors lived. It sure gives me a deep appreciation for how easy it is to cook on a 'modern' stove with gas burners. There's no need to feed the fire and tend it constantly. Just CLICK and the fire is ready. No ashes to deal with, and no cast iron utensils to lift.

After the class we explored the premises. I love the wooded path near the Tonkawa Indian camp. It's so beautiful and peaceful. This is my favorite spot in the farm.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Delights of summer

Here is our weekend in review:

We did a  family field trip to the Austin Nature and Science center and traded in our 'treasures' from nature with the Naturalist's Desk. Matthew redeemed his points for a new deer antler and a cow tibia bone. He's immensely proud of it because it looks like a caveman's club. Sarah is saving her points so she can eventually turn them in for a full cow skull. Yikes. We headed over to play in the fossil pits.

I love seeing little tiny toes playing in warm sand.

Even my sister Rachael had a turn.

We enjoyed a picnic in the shade before heading out into the heat again to explore the zoo.

The children were drawn to the little stream we passed over, so we stopped to splash our feet in the cool water.

Daniel ended up falling in the 2-foot deep part in the quick currant. The algae-coated rocks were too slippery for him to get a good foot hold and he fell back in several times. There was a bit of panic and drama as his shoes started to float away in the currant, but Matthew leaped to the rescue and all was well.

We enjoyed a wonderful summer party at Marti Gaye's home, who was a MOPS mentor for us last year. She is one of those friends that is a real gem. Her home was a perfect 'grandmother' home, and the children begged to stay forever. There was a large playscape, swings, sandbox, and a HUGE backyard for running. 
She set up 3 slip-n-slides in the backyard, which were a highlight.

She also let the children each make a pizza for lunch. The table was spread with all the toppings and they had so much fun building custom pizzas.

As if this wasn't all wonderful enough, she took the children over to her neighbor's house to play in the magical backyard. There we discovered a collection of tire swings, a zip line, fountains, and a  carousel of all things. There was also a bubble machine filling the yard with floating bubbles. The yard was dotted with antiques from zoos and colored glass balls. The music from the carousel added to the surreal atmosphere. The entire backyard was just so magical; the perfect place to have a childhood adventure hunting for fairies. The children were delighted and exclaimed that they've never seen a personal-sized carnival before. 

I remember drinking out of these fountains in my childhood at the Hogle Zoo. It was so strange to see it in a backyard.

The zip line was a favorite, and Marti was so sweet to help the children over and over again. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunny Moments

Here are some recent 'sunny moments' from my life.

Our barn swift family roosting over our front door had 5 chicks this year, and they ALL lived! This past week has been such a special treat to watch all the babies learn to fly. It was so neat to watch them exercise their teeny wings while they parched precariously on the window ledges. I've really loved watching them grow. The children and I often tell the birds 'good morning, chicks!' and 'good night, little birds!'.

On a recent date night, Nathan and I were treated to complimentary drinks and dessert from our waiter. Dessert at this restaurant runs a hefty bill of $32, so this was no small gesture. We were surprised and delighted with the addition to our meal.

Earlier this month our dishwasher stopped working. I was talking with the repairman when he worked on fixing our problem (which included completely dismantling literally every piece on the inside of the machine). When I asked for the bill, he said it was free since we were a home schooling family. I was speechless.

Nathan and I started talking with a frisbee golf team we met in the park. Upon asking where to purchase discs, an older gentleman immediately gave us two of his own (a long-range disc and a short range disc) and proceeded to enthusiastically tell us where the best local ranges were. He had only known us for 2 minutes. I was touched by the generosity.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


 I have another blog exclusively for face painting, but I so often forget to actually go OVER there to post things. (Part of the problem was the fact that I couldn't remember the username I registered with the sight....) 

This time I remembered. I have added a plethora of photos over there.  Check it out.

 Here is one of the pictures of a recent personal session with Shameka Isom. Isn't she gorgeous? It was so fun to paint her!

Head over to  Face Painting by Renae for more photos.

Here was the last face painting of my sisters before Lisa left to return to college. It was fun to paint these beautiful women!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good Things to Come

I've been feeling overwhelmed this past week.

Part of this is due to my heath. Once again my old companion the migraine has rejoined me. I spent two long days confined to my bed, wracked with pain so intense that I was rendered nauseous and incoherent. The pain was so consuming and powerful that I couldn't even comprehend what my children were saying to me. I admit, that is a frightening literally losing one's mind. When the pain subsided at the end of the day, my children recalled conversations they had had with me earlier in the day. I had been awake, but held no recollection of our interactions. I'm so very thankful that my sister was here to step in and take over the house those days. I don't know what I would have done without her. The days this week that haven't been destroyed with migraines have been still plagued by constant headaches, just not the completely debilitating sort. I used to get migraines frequently, but it's been a few months since the last one.

I have really enjoyed the long absence of this old acquaintance, and I give it no warm welcome, yet there is always a positive outcome of each of these interludes. During the pain, my spirit feels intolerably trapped in a defective shell, and my deepest desire is simply to set my spirit free from the pain. After the episode subsides, it leaves me contemplating my life and the gift of my body. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I even have a body, no matter it's weaknesses. I feel a renewed wonder at what a marvelous creation each body is. I think about what it would be like to be without a body; to be only a spirit without power to embrace those I love. I am always left with a deep desire to hug and hold my children, and relish the feel of their warm bodies wrapped in my arms, and smell their hair and touch their soft skin, and shower their faces with kisses. I am also left with a heightened desire to use my body to accomplish good things; to work while I am able and not waste time distracted with meaningless diversions.

Medicine does not help ease my pain, and many times just makes things worse by adding side effects without reducing the severity of the migraine. As a result, I've had dozens of faith-building experiences that have cemented my testimony of the power of the priesthood. Man's knowledge of medicine cannot bring me relief, but a priesthood blessing can. There have been many times where the pain and all symptoms where completely gone literally less than 5 minutes after I was administered a blessing. In one powerful blessing, I was counseled to bear this affliction with patience because the Lord had chosen this trial for me so I could learn from it. I have learned a lot about so many things, but it's the type of learning that fails to be adequately captured in words. All I can really say is that it really has blessed me and forced me to refine my stubborn soul in ways that perhaps wouldn't have happened in any other avenue of my life.

I keep trying to learn whatever I can from this affliction. I figured if I can glean knowledge quickly enough from this trial and grow from it, then perhaps the Lord will stop sending me the same lesson. I must be a slow student.

This video is what has helped me keep optimistic this week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chore Chart

My kids don't do well when they are presented with a list of chores to check off. Let me rephrase that: DANIEL doesn't do well when anyone is given a list to check off. He systematically checks off everything on the list as soon as he sees it, which drives Sarah insane. She happens to LOVE lists, in fact she even asks me to write lists of things for her to do. It really ruins her day when Daniel crosses off her chores before she can do them.

I've seen several ideas on organizing chores for children, but they all had problems in my book. I needed pictures of chores instead of words, and I needed something hands-on for Daniel so he was kinetically involved.

Here is my own solution:

(Okay, tilt your head to the left...the file refused to be flipped)

First I laminated a poster board. I picked one at the teacher supply store that was bright and colorful. I laminated it so (hopefully) it will last more than one year without getting ripped. Next I taped library envelopes onto the poster board. Each child has a different color. There is an envelope holding the 'To-Do' cards and an envelope to hold the cards of finished chores. There is also an envelope holding the cards of weekly chores, such as scrubbing the bathroom, doing laundry, and mopping.

The chores are on little squares of card stock. I had purchased these a few years ago with a book called 'Choreganizers'. It has a picture of the chore on one side, and the back side lists the steps required to complete the chore. I ended up drawing additional cards to customize my list. I drew them on card stock, Sarah colored them, and I 'laminated' them with packing tape. 

You really could make the entire set yourself, rather than buy the cards.

Each child has a list of daily chores they are expected to do before they can play on the computer or watch television.

These chores include:

Make your bed
Daily grooming- teeth, clean clothing, hair brushed
Tidy bedroom
Read scriptures 15 minutes
Home school workbooks for 30 minutes
Perform a Kind Deed of your choice
Put away the clean dishes

The children really enjoy sorting their cards each morning and deciding what to do first. They surprised me twice this week by waking me up by creeping into my room and asking with anticipation, "Mom, is it too early for us to start working on our chore chart? It's not? Let's go!"

For me, that's a true sign of a winning system. The Pros: It's cheap to make, it's easy to organize, switching chores or adding chores is simple to do, it's child-friendly in format.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Joke Journal entries

"Mommy, there's no ice cream on the moon. There's really not."- Deep thoughts by Daniel Kingsley.

Matthew asked me, "Mom, what does 'sexy' mean?" After a long and somewhat detailed explanation, he said in exasperation, "That doesn't make sense! Why would they put that on a box?!" It turns out he was looking at a random box label that said '6C'. 

Matthew ran into my bathroom to see his reflection int he mirror. His hair was spiky-looking. He sighed in frustration and said, "Ug, I don't want 'cool boy' hair!" Quickly combing his hair into a tidy side part and slicking it down a bit, he said with satisfaction, "Nice! Now I have 'smart-boy' hair!"

I was leading the music for the Primary children on Sunday. We were singing "I'm so Glad When Daddy Comes Home", which is a song with lots of hand actions. The children were watching me closely and copying my every move. In the middle of the song, I drew a complete blank on the lyrics and stood there with my mouth open in shock for a moment. The entire room of 30 children all imitated me and sat with open mouths for a long time while the piano music moved on without us. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lisa the Countess

I have a ball gown costume, so we had Lisa dress up and be painted with a masquerade mask. 

It was very lovely, and her eyes were so beautiful. Her natural beauty made my design look fantastic. I really enjoyed this one!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Family Night at the Austin Children's Museum!

On Wednesdays they are open to the public for $1 per person, so that is the night we choose to go. It was so much fun having Lisa, Rachael, and Meka with us! The children all had a buddy to play with.

The special exhibit this month is a collection of over sized games. We've never had quite so much fun at this museum before! It was a very big hit, even for the adults. 

Sarah and Nathan headed off to play chess immediately.

Matthew really loved playing a giant Jenga game. The tower ended up being taller than he was! It was colossal when it finally crashed at the end of the game.

Connect Four was very popular.

My favorite was Mancala.

Matthew and Dan also really loved the set of magnetized cogs.

I love going to this museum. There is so much opportunity for hands-on learning. Matt's favorite section is the TInker's Workshop. It's a room upstairs just packed with craft supplies. The children can cut paper and fabric, glue and tape all sorts of odd things together (like TP rolls, pipe cleaners, plastic shapes, etc), and video tape themselves explaining what their creation is. Matthew begs to go there right away, and he never wants to leave this corner of the museum. Keep in mind, that this is the boy who's heart desire is to create crafts and invent things literally every day. This room is perfect for him.

As far as Matt's concerned, it's pure heaven. 

Her Morning Elegance

I wanted share one of my favorite videos. It's so artistic and clever, but I couldn't figure out how to post the actual video on this site, so you'll have to watch it by clicking HERE.
I painted another friend last night. It was so fun to try my hand at a new pattern, and she said that she felt so beautiful. 
Her favorite color is purple, so I incorporated that into the design. I really have enjoyed doing these face painting nights lately....I have the leisure of having no line of waiting children to rush my work. It's nice to just take my time and enjoy painting for it's own intrinsic rewards, rather than catering to the demands of a client. Don't get me entirely wrong....face painting at parties and festivals is fun, but it also brings stress with it.

  I'm happy to paint what I choose and take my time to make it more beautiful.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Here is the latest face painting fun. We dressed Rachael as a fairy, it was so fun for her! 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Home School Field Trip in Pictures

We began with a stop at our LDS temple in San Antonio so we could pick up Nathan, who had spent the morning serving with the youth inside. It was so nice to let the children explore the temple grounds for a bit and enjoy the beautiful flowers and fountains, especially after being cooped up in the car.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the San Antonio Missions National Park. We visited the San Jose mission, which was built in 1690. I love visiting National Parks. They are such fantastic teaching tools for our children! The Junior Ranger Programs are so educational, but they are also fun. My children love getting the booklet and completing all of the activities. They have so much more fun at parks that offer Junior Ranger programs because the activities require the children to be more observant and think about what they are seeing. I love it! Last summer we had planned our summer vacation around visiting several national Parks in the Southwest, and it was so memorable for our kids. At the Grand Canyon they were asked so sit at the edge of the canyon and write down what they could hear, smell, and see. At Carlsbad Caverns they drew pictures of their favorite stalactite formations. It's so much fun.

On the way home we stopped in South Austin at the Big Top Candy Shop. It's a fun vintage-style candy shop with all sorts of old-fashioned sweets mingled with new trendy treats. It's very fun, and worth the trip. The strangest item we found was candied scorpions and cheese-fried larvae. The bugs are real. Hmmm. We settled on letting everyone select their favorite things from the bulk bins of 'normal' candy- gumballs, chocolates, taffy, etc. All in all, it was a long, but memorable day.