Wednesday, November 30, 2011

History With a Twist

Sierra has a small part in a Christmas play at a local theater and opening night is this week. That means she has rehearsals every night this week and since she's one of the younger cast members and everything is set up to accommodate the older cast members (with bigger parts), she is doing a lot of staying up past her usual bedtime. When she's awake, she's doing a lot of worrying about remembering to say her line at the right time.

Fortunately, it worked out to be a pretty relaxed week schoolwork-wise. For history, I had planned to make pretzels this week. According to Days of Knights and Damsels*, kids in the middle ages were given pretzels as a reward for learning to say their prayers correctly. They were also used to make wishes (like pulling a turkey wishbone).

I had never made pretzels before, so we just followed the recipe in the book and gave it a try.

Sierra mixed sugar and water And sprinkled yeast on top to proof Then we mixed in salt, oil, an egg and flour and kneaded the dough The recipe said to make 16 pretzels, but they would've been teeny tiny pretzels, so we made 10 instead. We both had trouble at first. I think you can probably tell which pretzels were made first and which were made last After they baked, we talked about how the historically accurate thing to do would be to brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle them with some salt.

Then we slathered ours in butter and sprinkled some of them with salt and some with cinnamon sugar, because, well, why not?

*Affiliate Link

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Always Check The Forecast

So I lost my motivation on the whole posting every day thing (obviously). Partly because of our internet situation (we are making do with a really cheap, but really slow connection because I refuse to support the only cable internet provider available to us), but also because things are just starting to ramp up and get a little crazy around here for the holidays.

But for today, I have a hard earned lesson to share with you. A lesson that you'd think I would've learned years ago.

Always check the weather forecast.

I knew it was going to get cold, but I didn't take the time to actually look at the forecast. And then I went out to the garden yesterday morning and discovered we had dipped below freezing over night.

How did I know that? Well, my tomatoes looked like this:
And my green beans looked like this:
And I was as sad as those sad, sad little plants. This was not unavoidable. Nearby tomato plants--as in, in the same garden bed, just slightly more sheltered--looked fine: Which tells me we only hit 32 or 31. Just enough to kill off those warm weather loving plants. Had I checked the forecast and taken the time to go outside and cover up those plants with a sheet or two, they probably would have been fine. But they're not.

And I'm losing out on food I could have been harvesting.

Which sucks.

Lesson learned.

At least the cold weather crops are loving life

The broccoli is going to be ready before we know it
The first few peas are ready as well, just not enough for a meal yet. I think the cauliflower is starting to produce too, but it still has leaves folded up, so I can't see. I'm curious for it take off because I've never seen cauliflower growing before. I know you have to cover the cauliflower with the leaves so it will stay white, but I'm not sure yet what that will entail.

But remember kids.....check the forecast!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

How Blogs Make Money

It's only been fairly recently that I've realized a lot of people don't know how blogs make money. Some people don't even realize that blogs can make money (not all do).

Chances are a fair number of the blogs you read, especially the bigger ones, make some amount of money for their writers. Once you know how that happens, you can actively help a blogger make a little more if you choose to do so.

So where is this money hiding?

First, ad revenue. A lot of blogs have ads on the sidebar. In some cases, those ads are placements that pay a per week or per month fee. The blogger accepts payment, puts up the ad and then takes it down again when the agreed time frame is over. In other cases, ads are shown on a pay per click basis. That means each time you view an ad, a few pennies go to the blogger. You don't have to click on the ad, just by opening the blogger's site and seeing the ad (some people have ad blockers that prevent them from showing, or read only through site feeds, where the ads don't show), you are helping them make some money. Each time the page reloads, you are giving the blogger a "click". So if you click a link that opens another post in the blog, that's an additional click (and more pennies). For small bloggers, this might add up to enough money for a book or a fancy cup of coffee each month. For a very few, very big bloggers, it can add up to a more than respectable full-time income (think, 6 figures).

Second, reviews and sponsored posts. Some bloggers get paid in cash or product to do reviews or write posts sponsored by certain companies. Their post should tell you if this is going on. Some bloggers also specifically point out when they are NOT getting paid to do a review so you can know they are doing the review just because they want to and not because of a relationship with the company.

Last, affiliate links. This is where you can really help a blogger you like make some extra bucks. I'll use Amazon as an example because I use the Amazon affiliate program and know how it works. If I link to something on Amazon and you click on that link, your price will be the same as it would be if you had just found the page on your own. However, a percentage of the price gets kicked back to me. In addition, anything else you buy on Amazon also pays a percentage to me, you don't have to actually buy what I linked to. Your session will stay "tagged" to pay me until you place an order, 24 hours elapses, or you click through someone else's affiliate link (whichever happens first). It's a small percentage, but it adds up. Like sponsored posts, a blogger ought to make a note that these links are affiliate links (I do this by putting an asterisk by the link and leaving a note at the bottom of the post). Amazon is probably the biggest, but there are several companies that have affiliate programs.

Other money making opportunities come along, but those are the common ones. Moral of the story, if there are bloggers you want to support, let their ads show and click their affiliate links!

Happy Thanksgiving

I didn't post yesterday because, well, NaBloPoMo or not, Thanksgiving is a family day. But I plan to make up for it with two posts today! Look for the next one later this afternoon or evening.

Josh smoked a turkey in his new smoker. We had issues on the timing and ended up eating dinner instead of lunch, but it was SO worth the wait. That was the best turkey I've ever eaten in my life.

A few pics of our dinner

Sierra wanted the drumstick and then gleefully said, "I'm like a viking!" as she ate it. The big surprise with her was that she actually like the stuffing.
Sedona snacked on green beans as she picked them out of the garden and then dug into the food at dinner time too. She kept asking for more "red stuff" (cranberry sauce) and "marshmallows with mashed potatoes" (sweet potatoes). She ended up with second servings of just about everything We made Secora a tray with a little bit of everything on it. She picked up the green bean and waved it around and touched the rest of the food with one finger Then she wiped her hands off while looking disgusted and yelled until we gave her freeze dried yogurt.
All in all, a good meal! I think I may need to stock up on turkey before Christmas though and put Josh to work smoking them for turkey pot pies!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Autumn Activities

This post was ridiculously hard to get up (uploading issues), so I hope someone out there appreciates it!

I’ve been trying to find fall-themed activities for the girls to do this week. Both of these ideas are things I found on pinterest.

First up, fall trees. I drew bare branch trees on white construction paper, then the girls decorated them with red, yellow and orange “leaves” by dipping q-tip in paint and putting dots on the paper.
Next, we made fall themed cookies. I used a regular rolled sugar cookie recipe and added food coloring after all the wet ingredients were blended, before I added flour. Again, I made red, orange and yellow After the dough had chilled in the refrigerator overnight, I broke it into chunks and laid out a mixture of colors on a well floured surfaceAs I rolled the dough out, the pieces started to come together. I stopped and pushed them all closer together (just by pushing on the outside of the circle) a few times and added in smaller chunks of dough where there were bigger gaps that didn’t look like they’d close up Once it was all rolled out, we had multi-colored dough to work withThe girls cut out the cookies using leaf shaped cookie cutters We (okay……I) drew “veins” on the leaves with a toothpick Then we baked as normalThe leftover dough could be rolled a second time and still get a similar effect: After the second rolling, I let the girls just play with whatever dough was left. I even set Secora up in the middle of the table and let her join in (of course, I stayed right next to her as well as reminded the older girls that they were NOT allowed to sit in the middle of the table).She seemed to enjoy the sensory experience. Given her eating issues, I found it rather interesting that she didn’t really want her hands dirty, but didn’t mind the rest of her being covered in flour. Mostly, she seemed happy to be getting to play like one of the big kids though.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I have a great post for you with some fall activities to do, but none of my pictures will upload and the post doesn't make much sense without any pictures.

Maybe later tonight or tomorrow it will happen??

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Dinner Roll How To

Yesterday afternoon, a friend and I had a discussion about dinner rolls on facebook. I realized I haven’t ever blogged my dinner roll recipe, and with Thanksgiving coming up, now seemed as good a time as any, so here ya go!

¾ c warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
2¼ tsp yeast
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil (I use olive oil, vegetable oil would work)
2 c flour (or less)
1 tsp baking powder

Put the warm water in a bowl and add sugarStir together and sprinkle yeast on top. 2 ¼ tsp is one packet of yeast, but if you’re going to be making bread on a regular basis, it is much cheaper to buy your yeast in the one pound packs (look for it around where the yeast packets are in the store, it's a plain white wrapper with blue writing, vacuum packed). Keep the open package in a ziploc in the freezer and it will stay good for years.Wait for the yeast to “proof”. You just want it to get foamy to be sure you haven’t killed it with water that’s too hot. I will usually go ahead and make the rolls when it looks like this
But if you wait it out, it does get all foamy Next, stir in the salt and oil Add one cup of flour and the baking powder and stir At this point, you have to use your judgment about how much additional flour to add. It will probably be somewhere between ½ and 1 cup, it depends on exactly how much water you used and how humid it is and how you measure your flour. Just trust your fingers. Start with ½ cup: Then mix a bit more in by hand. It will still stick to your fingers a little bit, but shouldn’t be a big mess Normally, you would dump it out on the counter and knead it, but that would give you a messy counter to clean up and also necessitate mixing more flour into the dough (making tougher rolls), so I just knead it in the bowl. Punch it down, fold half of it over, smoosh it down again, and keep repeating until the flour is mixed in. Pull off blobs of dough and put them on your pan. I use a stoneware pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Usually, as I pull off dough, I find the “inside” is still pretty sticky, so I may sprinkle on a little more flour just to make it easier to handle. You should get somewhere around a dozen rolls. Once they’re all on the pan, turn the oven on to 350.

When the oven is preheated, your rolls will have had a little rising time and are ready to go in. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Tada! Dinner rolls in about an hour (prep and cook time).
You can double the recipe easily. I’ve tripled and quadrupled it for holidays, but I usually have to add a bit more flour than expected for bigger batches.

If you want to prepare ahead of time, make up the dough, but put the rolls on a foil lined cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen through, pop them off and store them in a ziploc freezer bag. Sometimes I will make up several dozen rolls and store them this way so I have them ready whenever I want them. To bake, take them out of the freezer and put them on your pan before turning the oven on. They will start to thaw and be ready to go in when the oven is preheated. They may need to cook a little bit longer depending on how much they thaw before they go in.

If you’re looking for something a little fancier, try out the soft garlic bread sticks I wrote about last year (those can also be frozen the same as the rolls)!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fall Is Upon Us

You might not know fall is here by the temperatures (which are still hovering in the low 80's). Everyone is complaining about the lack of cool weather except me. I will gladly take a Texas winter in place of a Montana one, but I'm also quite content to stay in shorts and t-shirts for a little while longer.

My kitchen is ready for fall though. With Thanksgiving coming up, sweet potatoes have gone back on sale for 20 cents a pound, which means we went out and bought about 30 pounds of them. We will be eating sweet potato pancakes and have also canned enough to last us the year. The picture is the first canner load we did. For some reason, I had written down that about 2 pounds of sweet potatoes were needed for each quart. In reality, it's more like one pound. Sweet potatoes are a little more advanced than things like jam and applesauce. They are low acid vegetables and need to be pressure canned (at 11psi for 90 minutes if you are doing quarts at sea level), but they're not tricky once you know how to work your pressure canner safely. We've finally gotten the hang of getting the correct head space too, which we couldn't quite figure out last time

So far, we've canned 14 quarts and 7 pints. We will probably can another 6 or 7 quarts tomorrow.

Our neighbor's very large pear tree is also ready to donate fruit and they are kind enough to let us pick from it, so we will be making pear sauce here soon too!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Contractions are(n't) Tough

Sierra's got her verbs, nouns and adjectives down now, and her grammar workbook has come back around to contractions. She was introduced to contractions last year and had a heck of a time figuring them out. She uses contractions in her daily speech and writing, but when you ask her to tell you what two words the contraction stands for or give her two words and ask her to make the contraction, she draws a blank almost every time.

So, we could do worksheets until the cows come home, but games are so much more fun, right? I cut apart some paper plates we had leftover from Secora's birthday (you could just as easily use notecards or plain paper) and wrote the contractions and what they stand for to create a memory game for her.
Once she gets a little better at recognizing them, I plan to step up the difficulty a notch and do a 3 card memory game where she'll have to match (for instance) "you're", "you", and "are".

And while we're here, we've reached the knights and castles segment of our medieval history curriculum, so she made this princess hat this week

To make the hat, I cut a piece of string about 12-13 inches long. I tied each end of the string to the middle of a pencil, then I held one pencil at the corner of a piece of posterboard and pulled the other pencil around in a circle. When we cut the shape out, we had a large quarter-circle. One poster was big enough to make two hats. The girls sat down and colored their hats the way they wanted them, then we rolled them up and taped the edges. There was still a little hole at the point of the hat, so we put some ribbons (which Sierra later braided) in there and taped them down on the inside. You could put the hat on with bobby pins, but Sierra wanted elastic on her hat, so I punched two holes and we used some elastic thread I had to make a chin strap.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankful Children

For the most part, we live in a very entitled society. Things like cable, or television at all, and smart phones with data plans have suddenly become a "necessity" somehow (for the record, they're not). When children see everyone around them, including the adults they look up to, lamenting how much they don't have, it can be difficult to help them understand just how much they DO have and how fortunate they are.

With Thanksgiving coming up soon, I was looking for some fun activities for the girls to do and came across this idea on pinterest.

The foot of the turkey is a tracing of their hand, the body is just a toilet paper roll fancied up, then they colored the back of a paper plate orange and we cut out some tail feathers. I had Sierra write one thing she was thankful for on each of the tail feathers. Sedona took a little more work because she didn't quite understand what "thankful" even meant. She finally figured it out though and I wrote her's down for her.

Sedona said she was thankful for her home, music, momma, caterpillars and butterflies, being alive, cake, sisters, daddy and cats

Sierra's picture came out a little blurry, but she wrote that she was thankful for playing, school, Sedona, her bed, having people to take care of her, momma and daddy, Secora, having food, and her friends.

It was a fun little project and they've enjoyed having their turkeys out on the table for everyone to see!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Adventures in Food

We spent several hours this morning working in the garden, so I took the time to take some pictures of things out there:

The broccoli plants look great and are starting to actually make broccoli
This little "volunteer" plant showed up unexpectedly. Looks like a sunflower, I think?

The peas have started to bloom and form little pods, but they're not big enough to harvest yet

The tomatoes are still happy. We've had some colder nights, but we could go a few more weeks without a hard freeze, so I'm still hopeful they'll make it

The green beans are producing like crazy. Here are the ones we harvested today ( and saved from Sedona--she ate plenty straight off the vine and then stood up and yelled, "I am the queen of vegetables!!")

While I was weeding, I found a tiny toad the girls enjoyed looking at

We did our best to handle him (her?) gently and then return him where we found him

Then it was time for our other adventure. The girls and I bought Josh a smoker for his birthday a couple days ago. He was thrilled to smoke bacon wrapped chicken for dinner

It was definitely a success. Looks like we'll be having smoked turkey for Thanksgiving!


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