Saturday, August 27, 2011

Conversation with Drew

Jerry was talking to Drew about why he was smashing rolly-poly's outside.  Here's how it went:

Jerry: Should we be nice to rolly-poly's?

Drew: Yeah.

Jerry: Is it nice to smash them?

Drew: Yeah, it is.

Jerry: It is?

Drew: Yeah, if you do it slowly. (He slams his hand down on the ground to illustrate.)
We might have a bit of work to do with this one...
The new "cheese" pose...Not my favorite!

Friday, August 26, 2011


Have you ever looked at the ingredients on the back of your bag of marshmallows? With all of our food allergies, I sure have.  This is the list:
Corn Syrup, Sugar, Dextrose, Modified Corn Starch, Water, Gelatin, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Artificial Flavor, Artificial Color (Blue 1).

Because of our corn allergy, this is obviously a food we should not be eating. Plus, no one really needs to be eating chemical binders, modified food, and artificial flavors and colors. Anyway, it is not a food we ate a lot, but every now and then, a marshmallow or two would be nice in some hot chocolate or rice crispy treat, you know? So I set about to figuring out how to make them myself.  Of course, my first stop in a recipe search was with Alton Brown! His recipe for marshmallows can be found here. I'm sure they turn out great, but they still have corn on top of corn with a side of corn. ::sigh::  Then across my blog reader came this post from The Nourishing Gourmet! I got excited about trying these right away.  Not only is there no corn or artificial anything, I like using honey instead of refined sugar when I can.  I had never made marshmallows before, but I decided to dive right in!

First I assembled my cast of characters:
And of course, I gather my helpers, too!

Then we put the gelatin in water to soften.
Then we put the honey, water, and salt in a pan to start to boil it together.
It takes a while to get up to 240 degrees, but me and my helpers kept a close eye on it knowing it would have to come off right at 240 on the dot.

After it gets to 240, start the mixer on the gelatin and slowly drizzle the hot liquid into the gelatin until it is incorporated.
Then turn the mixer up to high.

After about 10 minutes, it looks like marshmallow fluff!  I'm wondering if at this point it could be used for a fudge recipe that calls for a jar of marshmallow fluff...

Pour it into a greased pan lined with greased wax paper, then let it sit for 3 -18 hours.  It took all night for mine to get firm enough to slice.

Of course, you have to let the littlest helper lick the beater!

I cannot wait to try these in all kinds of things!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Last week we had the privelege of having my sister-in-law, Stephanie, and my niece and nephew, Elise and Ian, here for the day! We don't get to see them as often as I'd like to, and we didn't get to spend much time with them this summer, so we were extra happy to spend the day with them.  They had a lot of fun playing Wii and Apples to Apples. I sure wish they lived next door instead of 4 hours away!

Andrew hasn't figured out how to do silly pictures yet!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mini Post Monday

Welcome to Mini Post Monday, "First Day of School" Edition!! I *LOVE* the first day of school! And yes, I know I am a geek. I've come to terms with that a long time ago! And this year I have been looking forward to it in a way I haven't in previous years since my children are old enough to really, truly get on each other's nerves! Summer's lack of structure really needed to end...

Aaron, ready to go!

  • Is it possible that Aaron starts the 3rd grade this year? I had my very first crush on a boy in the third grade.  I sat next to him at our "table" made from four desks pushed together, and thought he was so cute.  Boy am I thankful there are no little girls in Aaron's "class" at school for him to crush on...I am *so* not ready to deal with that! 
  • Ethan, excited about 1st grade!
  • Ethan has joined the ranks of "real" school in 1st grade this year.  He continues to amaze me with his zeal for life and love of learning.  I cannot wait to see what he does this year!
  • Does this look like a future 3rd grader to you? Where did the time go?
    Close brothers from the very beginning.  How much joy it brings me that they can continue to develop their bond every single day doing school together at home! We are so very blessed.
  • I am wondering how Andrew will do this year with school.  Last year he was really in the way, wanting to be involved with what we were doing and sit in my lap the whole day or look at our school books without us.  I am hoping that the maturity he has gained since the end of last year will allow him to play independently at least a little bit during our school day.
  • I know it must be very hard to picture him causing any kind of trouble during the day...
  • I am going to attempt to be a bit more scheduled with my days this year.  I started on this path last year, but Andrew made it hard to stick to it much.  However, with more detailed subjects to teach, I think it will be important if we want to actually get everything done.
  • A first day of school family tradition.
  • The boys made it through one more allergy treatment last week.  After this, they still have a treatment in early November, but after that one, they get to wait until March! Woo-Hoo! I cannot wait until we are down to only 2 treatments a year!
  • I have been thinking about traditions, and realizing that we don't have very many fall traditions prior to Thanksgiving.  What are some of your family's fall traditions?

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I stole this from someone's Facebook status, because it made me laugh and we can all use a good laugh now and then, right?

The economy is so bad that I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail. CEO's are now playing miniature golf. Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen. Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America. Motel Six won't leave the light on anymore. A picture is now only worth 200 words. They renamed Wall Street " Wal-Mart Street". Finally, I called the Suicide Hotline and I got a call center in Pakistan and when I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck.


Friday, August 19, 2011


"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."  Ephesians 4:2 NIV
Gee, that's not a tall order or anything! When I think about how I react toward and how I treat my family, one thought that comes up often is how I am not very patient.  I have to wonder, can I be truly loving toward my family without being patient? Unfortunately for me, I'm pretty sure the answer is, "No."

In their book The Love Dare, Stephen and Alex Kendrick propose that love is built on two pillars: patience and kindness. It is not their original idea - we are all familiar with the verse beginning, "Love is patient, love is kind." But knowing something and applying it to everyday life are two very different things.  This has made me think about how to show more patience with my family.  How would that look? How would I have to change? Again, the Kendrick's have much to say that resonates with me.

First, being patient means staying positive in a negative situation. Negative situations are part of life! Any time more than one person lives in a house, spending time together every day, negative situations abound! How will I react? Earlier today, Andrew was being his normal, very talkative self.  I was trying to read something very important (Well, Facebook can be important, right?) and he just kept saying the same thing over and over and over to me.  This isn't something that has to be a negative situation, but I quickly turned it into one with my lack of patience.  I became frustrated that he was interrupting me and annoyed at his repetition.  My lack of patience made it impossible for my son to see my love for him in that moment.  This is also an important thing for me to remember right now while Jerry and my older boys are going through an allergy treatment. No one would dare argue about whether that is a negative situation! Probably because so much prayer has gone into these three-day treatment periods over the last two years, I am able to be very patient with the negative aspects of these treatments.  When my children whine, vomit, and refuse to eat, I am saddened and I do get frustrated because I want them to do what they should to not suffer, but I also am patient knowing that it will end in a few days.  That patience allows me to have an internal calm regardless of what is happening around me.  Without it, I would have a hard time showing my family love in the way they need it on these days.

Second, patience makes us wise.  If I am not quick to rush to judgment, but allow myself to truly listen to the one I love in a difficult conversation or situation, I am able to respond in love. Proverbs had much to say about this, such as, "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." The Kendrick's put it well, "Patience is where love meets wisdom."

Finally, patience gives our loved ones permission to be human.  Everyone makes mistakes, falls short, and fails at times. I don't have to look very far to find numerous examples of this human nature - I can just look in the mirror!  When I am consistently patient, my family knows they doesn't have to be afraid to make these inevitable human errors in front of me. They can be confident of my love!

Patience doesn't come naturally to me, but it is a quality worth striving for. This is something in which the Lord has been dealing with me. What has he been showing you lately?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Kind Of Like That

Ever have one of those days that despite everything you do, you just cannot stay awake?  I was tickled to find Aaron in our school room one afternoon, sound asleep! He had been to day camp that day and the poor kid was just plumb tuckered out!

It's okay, Aaron.  I totally understand! ::yawn::

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mini Post Monday

  • About a month ago, we celebrated 14 years of marriage! My parents kept the boys overnight and gave us a night at the Westin Hotel at the Galleria in Dallas! We had Mi Cocina for dinner, walked the mall, had Haagen Daz for dessert, and actaully had a quiet evening together for a change! Wonderful! For my anniversary, Jerry got me a new camera. I cannot tell you how excited I am about it, although I still haven't learned how to use all of its features. The pictures in this post are a few we took while trying to figure out the new camera.
Just goofing off with the new camera...this is Drew on our way to a July 4th cookout.
  • I cannot tell you how excited I am for school to be starting next week. I am soooo tired of hearing the kids bicker and get on each other's nerves! I am also tired of hearing the words, "I'm bored." At least with tons of school work to do, they won't have a valid reason to say they're bored. Not that they won't still try it...
  • The Jr. High Grammar class I was so excited about teaching at our local homeschool co-op didn't make.  I was so disappointed I had a hard time gathering my things and getting out of there without crying in front of everyone.  But I know that there were many people praying that just the right students would sign up, so the fact that I didn't get enough to keep the class tells me God has something else for me to be doing instead.  I'm choosing to trust that his plan is better than mine, because, you know, it is.

One of the sillier features of the new camera - templates to put the pictures in - right on the camera screen! Crazy.

  • I am working through a Kay Arthur Bible study right now called, Lord, I Want to Know You.  It is a study on the names of God, and it has been amazing!! I am so thankful that I had already done the lesson on El Elyon before the co-op registration.  It is so amazing to me to try to understand fully what it means that God is Most High, fully in control of everything that happens.  I am not sure my human brain can fully comprehend it all, but to know that even when Satan attacks, he has to ask God's permission first - well that's comforting to me! That means that God has a purpose and plan to use each of those hard times for my betterment. His plan will happen no matter what because he is sovereign over heaven and earth, angels and demons, the good and the bad.  Wow.

Jerry took this one...I know it is a horrible picture as far as pictures go, but the effect of having the outside blurry and the focus only on Aaron's head is cool. I'm sure there's a technical name for this effect...

  • It's amazing just how cool 86 degrees feels after 40 days in a row of temperatures over 100 degrees. Saturday we actually had rain (!!!) and the temperature stayed so low - sitting in the house under the ceiling fan actually felt cold that day!

This picture doesn't show any special camera feature, but I love seeing Andrew really able to join in with what his brothers are doing now.  And I love that his brothers humor him and let him join the fun!

  • Jerry and the boys have another allergy treatment this week.  We all hate these treatments so much, but also cannot deny that they have made a world of difference for our overall health. With a treatment on Thursday, we are on much stricter eating now through September 9. It's no fun, but we also thought it was important to get another treatment in before the fall baseball season gets in full swing so that the kids aren't suffering after each practice and game.  The summer clinics they did, although fun and very educational for them, were horrible for their allergies.  With no rain, the dust has been unbearable.  Mix that with the tree pollen and the ragweed, and they coughed and sniffed after each night at the ballpark. Actually, all of us except for Andrew did! Remind me on Friday when both my older boys are throwing up and miserable that it is worth it, okay?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

One of my favorite foods *in the world* is a big loaded baked potato! Mmmmm, I am drooling a little bit just thinking about it. My family has trouble making a meal out of a loaded baked potato, so I get around that by making this soup that I posted a while ago on Mothers of Invention - also super yummy! Now, I found another loaded baked potato recipe that has another great benefit - it can be made ahead of time and reheated, or even frozen.  I enjoyed this dish just as much defrosted and reheated after a month in the freezer as I did the first time I made it, which is good, because the recipe makes A. LOT.

Doesn't that look amazing? I will warn you - I do not do low fat anything, and this recipe proves that quite well. You could probably substitute low fat varieties of these ingredients and lighten this recipe up if you desired, but I cannot say if it would change the final product!

To see the original recipe from Taste of Home, click here.  The nutrition information is also listed at the bottom, but I might recommend ignoring that part... :)
Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
  • 3 lbs. potatoes (about 9 sm - med), peeled and cubed
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 6 bacon strips, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, chopped
Boil potatoes until they are tender, then drain and mash them with cream cheese, sour cream and butter.  Add milk and seasonings.

Cook bacon (my favorite method is in the oven) and once it is cooled, chop the bacon into small pieces.

Transfer potato mixture to a 13X9 inch baking dish and sprinkle with cheese, onions, and bacon.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, or bake imediately. If you have refrigerated this, you'll want to remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before baking to allow it to come to room temperature.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 fro 40-50 minutes, or until heated through.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Johanna's Final Curriculum Choices

I cannot believe that school will be starting in just over a week!  I am ready, but my children would rather continue their days of lazy play...I guess that is to be expected! I already posted a lot about what I planned to do this year, but I finally got everything mapped out for the year, so I thought I'd share my finished plan! 

  • We did decide to join a local Home School Co-Op.  I am signing my boys up for art and PE together, then Ethan will take a Music Makers class while Aaron takes chess.  These classes meet just once a week for 30 weeks.
  • I purchased Sonlight's Core B+C which covers Bible, World History, Read-Aloud books that correspond with the history, and I purchased the Grade 4-5 readers for Aaron. I am using the Grade 2 readers I already had for Ethan this year, also Sonlight.
  • In addition to the Bible readings that are included in the instructor's guide with the Sonlight package (I did not purchase the full Bible curriculum), I got some Rod & Staff books to supplement the Bible lessons. 
  • For Language Arts, I bought the Rod & Staff Grade 3 English for Aaron and the Grade 1 for Ethan.  I also am continuing them in A Reason for Handwriting and adding Spelling Power by Curriculum Associates and Writing Strands 3 for Aaron.
  • For Science we went with Apologia Anatomy and Physiology, and I am very excited about this program!
  • For math, I am using Right Start Math level C with Ethan (but Aaron will listen in for review), and moving Aaron to Abeka's Grade 3 Math for a year to help build Aaron's math confidence and let him review the same concepts he did in level C last year but with a book that still says "Grade 3" on it!
  • For electives, we are going to be doing some cooking projects together, studying some composers, and hopefully doing some piano lessons.
Whew! I'm tired just looking at it, but I'm excited about all of my choices none the less!
I decided to include a picture of Ethan with some of his Lego creations so that this isn't an "all words" post!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Frozen Banana Treats

Over the last year I got in a kitchen funk.  The two years of figuring out how to cook for my food allergic family took its toll on my creativity and I started to detest menu planning and recipe searches, something I used to *love* to do.  I also got in horrible habits once we started to be able to add back some of our allergens and we haven't been eating well.  I finally got fed up with feeding my family too many allergens (and reaping the consequences), eating the same food all the time, and not having options for my kids when they asked for a snack.  Also, Andrew has started to show some signs of food allergies (boo!!) and that was the final straw that caused me to become fed up with my lack of planning and creativity!

Enter Frozen Banana Treats - a great snack or dessert during these hot summer days!  Here's what I used to make these tasty bites:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 c. chocolate chips
  • 2 squares unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1/2 c. almond butter
  • 2 TB coconut oil
  • unsweetened shredded coconut
You could easily alter these ingredients to suit your needs, using peanut butter, all chocolate chips and no squares or oil - it is very forgiving! I altered my ingredients from the original recipe, which I found on this blog The Spunky Coconut, by the way! It isn't one of her recipes, but it was in a link up there, and I cannot remember which blog it was originally from...

Anyway, melt all the ingredients together except for the shredded coconut, until it is just smooth, then allow it to cool.
While this mixture is getting cool enough to touch, slice the bananas into bite size pieces.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Dip each banana piece into the chocolate and set it on the baking sheet.  Once all the pieces are dipped, use remaining chocolate mixture to spoon over the top of each piece to make a thicker coating.  If desired, sprinkle coconut shreds on top.  Put the entire pan in the freezer for an hour or so until they are solid, then transfer to an airtight container.
These were a hit with my family! Next time I make them, I will leave out the chocolate chips (allergens) and use all baking chocolate sweetened with honey or coconut sugar.  With that change these will be quite healthy, and tasty to boot!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A New School Room

When we first bought the house we live in, we weren't planning on home schooling our children yet. That was almost 7 years ago! This house had a formal dining room in the very front of the house that we decided to turn into a playroom.  At that time, we only had Aaron, and Ethan was 3 months from being born.  The playroom was a favorite hangout spot until 4 years ago.  At that time, we put Aaron and Ethan in a room together and most of their favorite toys went in their room.  The playroom still got plenty of action because we were LifeGroup leaders at our church and when the LifeGroup came over, the kids in the group went like magnets to that room!  When Andrew was born, I found that we didn't hang out and play in the playroom with him like I had with the older two because I was doing school instead and Andrew had to be where we were or in the playroom by himself - which he didn't like! A little over a year ago, we stopped being LifeGroup leaders and the playroom stopped being used.  It became the catch-all room instead, which for a room at the very front of the house is a very bad thing!

Anyway, we decided to turn the playroom into a school room, and it was a great decision!  We got rid of a lot of our toys that weren't getting played with, moved the ones Andrew liked into his new big boy room, and left a few in there for Drew to play with while we did school.  We moved the giant bookshelf with all of our curriculum out of a hallway it had been in to the new room, along with a recliner that had been shoved in my office (and not used), and a table that had been my cutting table in my office and before that our kitchen table.  The result is a great school room! We can now all be working at the table, or one can work at the table while the other reads in the chair, all while Drew plays with his toys in one corner!

The view from just inside the front door of the house.  Actually a respectable room now!

The work table.  When I want to cut out a sewing project, which isn't very often these days, I'll have to do it in here - hence the large cutting mat between the table and the wall!

The reading nook, which is where I'll spend my days reading the boys' read-aloud books to them!  It has also become a favorite place for Jerry to sit and decompress.  Wow! We actually  made this a functional room! :)

I love my sign over the white board! I still haven't been able to collect on this, but I am holding out hope that it is my get rich quick plan...

The curtains I bought for this room weren't long enough, and didn't come in a longer size.  But I got creative and altered them!

Doesn't that look like they were meant to be this way? And yes, I did do the cutting and pinning right here on the table!  This is also Drew's toy corner.

Overall, I am so happy with the way this room has turned out! I am hoping that it also helps keep the school clutter out of the other rooms in the house! Maybe we can actually relax in our living room now!  Is that too optimistic?