Saturday, November 29, 2008

I took these pictures Friday afternoon. We were all sitting on the couch in front of our large window to soak up the last bits of sunlight in the day.

Norah and I baked these after dinner on Thanksgiving and iced them today. These cookies are a lot of work and they make such a big mess, but I have to say, we finally found a recipe we all like, so much so that I think we may have only two cookies left out of the thirty we made about twenty four hours ago! I've included the recipe below, if you are interested. You can use other shapes and colors for different occasions, flowers for spring, stars for July 4th, etc.

Sugar Cookies for Cutouts

2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour

Beat butter with mixer on high for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, salt. Beat until combined. Now beat in egg, milk, vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat and/ or stir in flour. Divide dough in half. Chill for approx. 30 minutes for best results.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out half the dough until it is approx. 1/8 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes. Place them 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until cookies' edges are very lightly brown. *Bake times will vary based on the size of the cookies.

Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool before icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Approx. 1 tbsp. milk

1. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Stir in additional milk only 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until the icing is completely mixed.
2. Mix in food coloring now, if desired.
3. Drop icing into decorating bags, apply desired tips and pipe icing onto the cookies. Icing is the best consistency when it does not drip out of the tip on its own. If it is too runny, let it set some before beginning. But, the icing should not be so thick it won't come out with a little squeeze.

We made two batches of icing for the cookies shown above. One batch we died entirely green, the other batch we split and died yellow and brown. This is the first year I piped the icing onto the cookies and I liked the way they turned out.

In previous years, I tried to smear it onto the cookies with a decorating knife. But, to get the desired effect and keep the icing from going off the sides of the cookies, I knew from previous poor results that I had to bite the bullet and buy the icing bags and at least one decorating tip.
I bought a few tips this year, but ended up using only one of them: the tip with the tiniest round hole. I found that decorating cookies is a lot like coloring with markers. You outline the shape and then fill in its inside with color. And, the finer the point on the tip, the easier it is to control the details around the edges, just like with markers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Norah doesn't always show as refined a taste in books as I do. She's four, you know, so I try not to make myself too anxious over this. She'll often ask me to read those books with buttons on the side that make noise. Somehow we have managed to collect several of these, even though I've never actually purchased one. I read them to her, but it's a form of punishment to me to pretend to be excited when the train hoots or bird chirps... Below is a list of some of my favorite books to read with her. She can be funny about this. Sometimes she will roll her eyes and say with a sigh, "Ohh... kay." when I say, "Let's read _ or _!" I guess she feels like she's doing me the same kind of favor I am doing her, sitting through a book she'd rather not.

When I Was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Ox Cart Man by Donald Hall

There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
This was far and away my favorite book as a kid. I still know it by heart.

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Norah painted this rainbow some time ago at church.
It's been raining all day.

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth. -Genesis 9:16

With verses like the one above, I was taught that the rainbow serves as a reminder to us that God promised never to flood the entire earth again. (And I guess it could do this). But, I looked more closely at the verse above or rather, looked at it in context and noticed something that I hadn't seen before. In all the verses leading right up this, God is speaking in the first person. "I will establish my covenant with you..." He says. And "Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds..." Who else generally controls the weather but God? This verse comes right after those and God is the one who is still speaking. He says, "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember..." So, the rainbow is technically a reminder to God of what He promised us, not the other way around.

I think that's interesting. It makes me rethink how I use symbols in my own life. I used to think this kind of sentimentality was basically useless. You know, my wedding ring, for example. I never thought it may actually serve to help me keep my vows. Up till now, I thought its main purpose was to let all the restless men I passed know that I was taken. And, these days, Norah on my heels and my pregnant middle does basically the same thing. But, if God takes the time to look at something and then think about it and remember... like the rainbow, I guess my ring should actually do more of that kind of thing for me. And from now on it will. I'm more sentimental about it all of a sudden and I think that's okay.
I thought I'd share one of our favorite holiday recipes, while I am making my grocery list for the occasion. It's a cheesier (and in our opinion better) version of the traditional Green Bean Casserole. We usually hate Velveeta, but I tried this recipe once anyway and we ended up loving it. So, if you avoid Velveeta too, I still think you could consider it.
Later in the year, I will take left over turkey pieces (that I pick off our roasted turkey and freeze in zip lock bags after Thanksgiving to keep them fresh) and layer them on the very bottom of this dish to turn it into a entree. And, knowing this ahead of time, I'll buy double the French fried onions I need now, so I can take advantage of any holiday sale prices on that (usually expensive) item.

Cheesy Green Bean Casserole

2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
1 can French fried onions
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
32 ounces of French cut green beans- frozen or canned
1/2 pound processed cheese food (Velveeta), sliced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish.
In a mixing bowl, combine mushroom soup, milk, cheddar cheese, and half of the onions. Mix together.
Layer the bottom of the casserole dish with 1/2 of the green beans. Pour half of the soup mixture over beans, and add half of the processed cheese. Repeat layering, and top with remaining onions.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Mom. How do I draw a mermaid?"

Norah asked me this today while we were eating lunch. I realize it's all she's been interested in for a while now, learning how to draw this thing or that. I admit I am behind the eight ball on this, but it only just occurred to me today that I should really do something with all the interest and this natural bent Norah seems to be taking towards drawing.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine who home schools her kids recommended a book called Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes. She lent me her copy and I read through it when Norah was just an infant. Even then, I put it on my (then only mental) list of resources to use in the future, if the opportunity ever presented itself. I am excited that it seems like the time has come to use the book with Norah. So excited, in fact, that as soon as the library opens in the morning, I plan to go pick it up!

Of course, I'd like to just buy the book. But, if I actually purchased all the books we read or used, we'd have more books than shelf space. (We have to stack our books two rows deep on the shelves already and I refuse to let my house look like Forrester's apartment). Not to mention the fact that I'd break the bank with all the money I'd be spending.

We were at the library this morning for story time and I could kick myself for not picking the book up then. But, the red flags hadn't really gone up for me yet and the book wasn't on my list. These days, I really can't think off my lists.

From what I remember, the book is so practical and useful that any adult, even those who only draw stick figures, can use it to teach their children (and themselves) how to draw. It shows how to take any complex object (like a person's body) and teach kids how to break it down into smaller, simpler shapes to recreate the whole thing on their own paper. Genius!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This morning, I am thankful for my friends, even though they kept me up till past twelve last night laughing. I meet with a group of ladies from my church in the evening once a month. We bring food and talk. I am not positive how the group was organized or why I was even included in the first place, but these ladies have turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in my life and to my marriage and children. Do you know what it is like to sit in a room with several intelligent, funny, Godly women who respect and adore their husbands and who enjoy being a mother to their children? I can't even begin to estimate the value of what these ladies teach me by being real in front of me. Many of the things they say I just have to put away in my heart. Most of them have a lot more children than I do. And, I am also the youngest, so I benefit from their experience. As I was driving home last night, I was thinking of two verses and I had these ladies in mind. I glean from their wisdom and I am sure the home I am building is stronger because of their examples to me.

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20

A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears it down. Proverbs 14:1

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I guess I subconsciously save sewing projects for the winter, because now I am conscious that they're piling up on me. It's a natural thing to do since the sun goes down around four and it's too cold to do much else. The list is ever-growing, but repairing some of these things will make them last at least twice as long.
-Mend the hole along the seam of the collar of my swim suit cover.
-Sew a new button on my maternity coat.
-Mend a hole in one of the seams of my black gloves.
-Secure the button on my house shoes.
-Sew the Velcro strap back onto one of the mats on our kitchen chairs.
-Make a Christmas stocking for our new little girl.
-Mend the lining of Norah's clothes hamper.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wall-e came out on DVD today and I bought it for Norah for Christmas. We were at Target and I had to hide it under my coat inside the shopping cart, so Norah wouldn't see it. She doesn't have many DVDs, like I said before, so I am tempted to go ahead and open it. I enjoyed it so much it will be hard to wait to see it again, but I am determined to keep it hidden and wrap it up with the other gifts for her to open on Christmas morning.

Wall-e was the first (and only) movie Norah ever saw in the theater. We had been waiting to take her until she was old enough. And, we were also waiting until there was something showing that we felt would be worth watching. When it came out this last summer, we got Norah popcorn and candy and she sat through the whole thing and watched with interest. She even yelled, "They love each other!" and hugged my arm when Eve and Wall-e were dancing through the stars, summing up the entire movie.

Love is what makes life worth living. It's why we were created.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is the pile of Dwayne's old work shirts that I've been collecting for several years now. I've been saving these shirts in order to cut them up into patches to make quilts for our girls "so they can wrap up and have snuggles and hugs from their Daddy anytime." So, with the cold weather or this pregnancy... or both, I am feeling more domestic, the collection is big enough, and so, I am going to start cutting.

Some of the shirts were retired cause they got too small, others ripped somewhere that made them impossible to mend and others may only be missing a button, truthfully. I confess. This project may have made me too eager to retire his shirts without trying to fix them when I could have, so that I could just add more fabric to my collection.
We went to the gym this morning. I exercised while Norah played with friends. Then, we ran a few errands. Right now, Norah's watching The Little Mermaid, our choice of DVD from the library this week. I think the typical DVDs are way too expensive to justify unless there is some special occasion, like a birthday. And, Norah's only just now four, so our collection is still pretty modest. Her coming sister's birthdays will, no doubt, help with that. We haven't started Norah's lessons yet, but a day's worth of work usually takes her about an hour and a half, one of the many benefits of homeschooling. So, we still have plenty of time left this afternoon to start and finish.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Taco Soup

2 Cans Corn- water and all
2 Cans Black Beans- rinsed and drained
2 Cans Kidney Beans- rinsed and drained
2 Cans Diced Tomatoes- juice and all
2 Cans Chicken Broth
1 Pound Ground Turkey or Beef
1 Package Taco Seasoning
1 Package Ranch Dressing Mix
*I usually have to purchase a few packs of ranch dressing mix at a time, since I have only ever found it available in a box of a few packs, not in single packs like the taco seasoning.

Pour corn, drained and rinsed beans, tomatoes and broth into a large pot.
Begin heating it up on low, stirring periodically.
Sprinkle in taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix. Taste the soup's broth and add more or less of the seasonings to suit yourself and your family.
In a separate skillet, brown a package of turkey or beef seasoned again with some of the same taco seasoning package from above.
Drain the meat and pour it into the soup.
Let everything simmer on low for about 30 minutes.

*We had this for dinner tonight. Sometimes, I will cut the recipe in half to avoid having so much left over. But, even though our family is small, I usually just cook the recipe as it says above and we'll just eat the leftovers for lunch the following days. Originally, I got this recipe from a very good friend who served it to us for dinner over rice with shredded cheese and sour cream. But, it also goes well enough with saltines or warm cornbread muffins and butter.

Norah's drawing of a bird on her whiteboard.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chicken Cheddar Stuffing Bake

3-4 Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breasts
2-3 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
Half a bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing (8 ounces)
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
Half a Stick of Butter (4 tbs.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a large baking dish.
Line the bottom with chicken.
*Slice the breasts in half if they are too thick.
Sprinkle cheese over the chicken.
In a separate bowl, dump in stuffing mix and one can cream of chicken soup. Fill the same can with water and pour that in, too. Mix all this together. Pour this over the chicken and cheese. Shape it to cover everything. Melt the butter in a measuring cup with a spout. Pour it over the stuffing. Bake this for one hour.

*I got this recipe from a mom with five kids. She swears by it and serves it with cranberry sauce on the side, says her kids eat it right up. We don't like cranberry sauce, so we never do that. But, we always enjoy this meal. We eat it with a hearty side of green beans.
Tonight at dinner, we were talking about how the baby may come "early." Norah asked, "What does 'early' mean?" I didn't answer her. I was too disturbed by what her question implied about me. Instead, I asked, "Norah, what does 'late' mean?" To this, she said, "Oh. That's when, like, we're going to a class and we get there after the class is going..." My husband just roared in laughter. I didn't think I had a problem with punctuality... until now.
We stopped by the library so Norah could participate in story time today. Norah's curriculum comes with a suggested reading list and though it has been difficult to get my hands on all of the books, I found two and we read them earlier this afternoon. They are well worth recommending.

Please and Thank You Book by Richard Scarry

The title is deceptive. This book touched on much more than the appropriate times to say "Please" and "Thank you." It is full of short stories that teach manners to use around your house, while visiting friends' houses, attending birthday parties, etc. My favorite story inside this book was called, "Lowly Worm's Horrid Pests." In a lighthearted way, Lowly, a worm, explains the different ways kids can be pests: Selfish Pest won't share, Litterbug Pest drops trash everywhere... What was said about a few types of pests seemed to enlighten Norah to the things I've been trying to teach her about nagging, whining and throwing fits. We both giggled a lot while reading this and looking at the illustrations. What better way than laughter is there to get your point across? It's a like medicine taken with a spoonful of sugar.

The Web in the Grass by Bernice Freschet

This book is about the life cycle of a spider, but somehow, manages to be a beautiful, heartwarming story. I usually squirm when reading about insects, especially the ones I'd hate to find crawling by my foot, but not this time. The words and illustrations show things like: how a web is built, how a spider uses it to catch a meal, repairs it after each use, the dangers spiders face from natural enemies, their egg sacs and how tiny spiders will climb up then drop little webs to float away.
Our child can hear a song once on the radio and then she'll sing it to herself- in her own way, of course.

"On the single leg... On the single leg. On the single leg. On the single leg...

You forgot to put a ring on it. You forgot to put a ring on it."

This is Norah's version of Beyonce's new song "Single Ladies: Put a Ring On It."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Norah drew this cow on her white board. It's head is so small! But, I am impressed because she seems determined to figure out how to draw these things on her own. She says, "This cow doesn't smell... bad. Its spots smell like green apples. But, be careful where you stand 'cause you could get kicked!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm making an Egg Wrap for dinner tonight. I'd rather make this dish for brunch on the weekend, but I need to use my bacon before then.

I'm not involved in MOPS right now, even at our church, Walnut Hill, but I got this recipe from a lady at Ridgefield Baptist Church's MOPS group when I was involved there several years ago. Once I figured out how to shape the crescent part, I found this easy to make, always yummy and hard to mess up in big ways- as long as I didn't overcook it.

Egg Wrap

8 eggs
4 oz cream cheese (Half a block)
*It helps if the cream cheese is at room temperature.
½ cup milk
Sausage or bacon to taste
Slices of White American Cheese from the Deli
2 Packages of Crescent Rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a large cookie sheet with Pam.
Open the crescent rolls and arrange the triangles so that they make one large rectangle, pressing together at the seems.
Scramble eggs and milk in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into a warm skillet and cook, stirring with a spatula constantly, until half done, then add the cream cheese. Break it up and mix the cream cheese into the eggs, letting it melt and blend until everything is done. Pour finished egg mixture down the center length of the large crescent rectangle, making a more narrow rectangular shape with the eggs.

Cook sausage or bacon separately.
*Most often, my family prefers bacon. I cook approx. six slices until they are very crisp, otherwise, the bacon tends to become too soggy in the final dish. When the bacon is done and after it has drained and cooled on a paper towel, I break/cut it into small pieces using a large cutting board and a pizza cutter.

Lay the cheese slices over the egg shaped rectangle.
Sprinkle the bacon or sausage pieces on top of the cheese slices.
Take the long sides of the crescent rectangle and fold them into the center until they touch in the middle, even overlapping slightly. Press the shorter ends together, securing all the ingredients inside the crescent "crust."
*Don't let the crescent top overlap too much in the middle or it will not cook fully. Also, try and push the egg mixture, cheese and bacon pieces as far as you can to each narrow edge, otherwise you will end up with a slice of Egg Wrap that is mostly just crescent roll.

Cook at 350 for approx. 20-25 minutes or until the Egg Wrap is golden brown.
Let it sit for a several minutes before slicing.
*I like to serve this dish with fresh fruit like cold apple or orange slices or green grapes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today Norah asked, "Mom. Are meteors made out of meat?"

I thought it was a very good question, hilarious, and told her so. I love how kids try and connect the dots.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Christmas Tree Treat

Sugar Cone
White Icing
Green Food Coloring
Small Candies for Decorations

Dye the icing green. Let kids smear a thick layer of icing on the sugar cone then press on the candy decorations.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"The idea that a man who makes $100,000 a year should be forced to contribute ninety percent of of his income to the cost of government, while the man who makes $10,000 is made to pay twenty percent is repugnant to my notions of justice. I do not believe in punishing success. To put it more broadly, I believe it is contrary to the natural right of property... and is therefore immoral- to deny to the man whose labor has produced more abundant fruit than that of his neighbor the opportunity of enjoying the abundance he has created...

The graduated tax is a confiscatory tax. Its effect, and to a large extent its aim, is to bring down all men to a common level. Many leading proponents of the graduated tax frankly admit that their purpose is to redistribute the nation's wealth. Their aim is an egalitarian society- an objective that does violence both to the character of the Republic and the laws of Nature. We are all equal is the eyes of God but we are equal in no other respect. Artificial devices for enforcing equality among unequal men must be rejected..."

Today, I read this passage written by Barry Goldwater in his book The Conscience of a Conservative. Though written almost fifty years ago, I was struck by how relevant it is to today's politics.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We had wind and rain last night, so I woke up to find our Japanese Red Maple had lost most of its leaves in just a few hours. The leaves make a circle the size of the tree's crown and look like a bright red carpet a few inches thick.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices.
I need your help.
And I will be your president, too.

-President-elect Obama

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We're having another little girl!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Powder and artillery are the surest and most infallible conciliatory measures we can adopt."
-John Adams
"The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."
-Henry St. George Tucker

Years ago, we joked that this would be the only bumper sticker we would ever put on our vehicles. We usually hate bumper stickers. We also joked, "Who needs those little stop signs ADT and other security companies paste on the corner of home windows? Just send us a dozen NRA logos and they will do the job even better." Of course, we are still joking about that, to an extent. Dwayne is proud that he is finally a card carrying member... and that's not all he is proud to carry.