Thursday, November 12, 2009

The annual what-to-do-with-all-this-extra-pumpkin-puree" question

We started our weekend cooking up our Luna pumpkin. We pureed the sucker and made our two pies. Next we roasted our seeds. Now what? We made the worlds most yummy chocolate chip pumpkin bread, six loaves to be exact! Believe it or not we still had puree leftover from our lone pumpkin. So. We had a lovely dinner of creamy pumpkin soup and hearty bread. Wow what you can make with just one pumpkin!

Here are those recipes. Enjoy.

Completely Yummy Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread


  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 15 ounce pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 1 pound size coffee cans, or three 9x5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Fill cans 1/2 to 3/4 full.
  3. Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from cans or pans. 

    Deliciously Creamy Pumpkin Soup


    • 3 tablespoons margarine, softened
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 4 slices whole wheat bread
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 4 minced garlic cloves
    • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
    • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream


    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F(200 degrees C). Combine butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Spread butter mixture evenly over one side of each bread slice. Place bread, buttered side up, on a baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until bread is crisp and topping is bubbly. Cut each slice of bread into 8 small triangles or squares.
    2. Saute onion in butter in a medium saucepan until tender. Add 1 can chicken broth; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
    3. Transfer broth mixture into the container of a blender or processor. Process until smooth.
    4. Return mixture to saucepan. Add remaining can of broth, pumpkin, salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground pepper; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally..
    5. Stir in whipping cream and heat through. Do not boil. Ladle into individual soup bowls. Top each serving with Cinnamon Croutons. (we just dip a hearty bread....have never tried the croutons)

Good Ol' Banana Nut Bread....the great steady

  • In normal households people use the bananas that have been fully ripened, that aren't so pretty any longer for this recipe. Not a possibility in this house. As this picture indicates, I had to mark our bananas "don't eat me" insuring the successful ripening to sweet perfection. Yes food disappears fast with two teens under one roof. We made four loaves of this yummy staple. Enjoy... the recipe follows.

    Gotta love it Banana Nut Bread
    • 1/2 c. oil
    • 1 c. sugar
    • 2 beaten eggs
    • 2-3 bananas (ripe)
    • 2 c. flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 3 tbsp. milk
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 c. nuts (optional)


      1. Beat oil and sugar. Add eggs and bananas; mix well. Mix together dry ingredients, then add to wet mix. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add nuts if desired.
      2. For a sweet change substitute 6 ounces of chocolate chips for nuts - the kids love it!
      3. Pour into greased floured loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Let cool and wrap in saran wrap or foil. Tastes even better the next day.

  • Thursday, November 5, 2009


    Take time to think –  thoughts are the source of power.
    Take time to play –  play is the secret of perpetual youth.
    Take time to read –  reading is the fountain of wisdom.
    Take time to pray –  prayer can be a rock of strength in time of need.
    Take time to love – loving is what makes living worthwhile.
    Take time to be friendly – friendships give life a delicious flavor.
    Take time to laugh – laughter is the music of the soul.
    Take time to give – sharing brings joy to your heart.
    Take time to work – work is the price of success.
    Take time to dream  dreams show you what is possible.
    Take time to do your work well – pride in your work nourishes the mind and the spirit.
    Take time to show appreciation – it's the frosting on the cake of life.

    This poem is based on an old English prayer adapted from a Bible scripture (Eccl 3:1), and the original author of this version is unknown.

    The Serenity Prayer

    "Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference"-.Reinhold Niebuhr
    "They say happy parents make for happy children. So go ahead, be the mature one, set the mood"-unknown

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    "There is a joy in the journey, there's a light we can love on the way. There's a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey......." Michael Card

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Enjoying our Wednesday

        With this years crazy schedule we hold our Wednesdays in close regard. We get to stay home in our PJ's all day long. We get to rest in the quietness of a day spent alone...together.
       Aghh English class in the hammock. History out on the boulders. Math laying in bed. Hiking up and down the hillsides, drawing and cooking up great concoctions these are the signs of Wednesday. Time to do all our school unrushed and/or undisturbed.  Time to do those extra projects.Time to sleep in just a little. Time to rest in God.
       As I sit here typing Ricky is practicing his man skills in the back yard (archery & throwing knives). Billy playing his drums upstairs. I just finished correcting writing assignments. In a while we will all gather in the living room for a movie and a quiet evening...still sporting our PJs. shhhh hee-heee
       For now I sit in silent contemplation. I am in a season of waiting. Waiting and wondering. What does God want to do? What will he do? When will he do it? Is he doing it now? I know I have been placed here for a reason. Here I will remain until he says otherwise. I drift in eager anticipation. I stop in quiet reflection.

                                         A day to reflect. A day to breathe. 
                                         A day of refreshing restful ease.

    Caramel Apple Crunch Pie

    For all those who wanted to know...........


    • TOPPING:
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • PIE:
    • 6 cups peeled, sliced baking apples
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pastry shell
    • 28 caramels
    • 1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk 

    1. Combine flour, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon; spread into an ungreased 8-in. square baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool; crumble and set aside. Sprinkle apple with lemon juice. Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon; toss with apples. Place apples in pie shell. Cut a circle of foil to cover apples but not the edge of pastry; place over pie. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F; bake for 35 minutes or until apples are tender.
    2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over low heat, melt caramels with milk, stirring frequently. Remove foil from pie. Pour caramel mixture over apples. Sprinkle with topping; return to the oven for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

    mmm, apples.....pickin' em, peelin' em & coookin' em!!!

       While on our trip through "Gold Country" we stopped at a road side apple farm. We gathered a box of heirloom apples. That box has been staring up at us from the counter ever since then.
      So it was that last weekend we chained ourselves to the kitchen. Billy, Ricky & I began first thing Saturday morning making completely yummy apple butter. Since this is such a long, and at times boring process we decided to make an caramel apple crunch pie to boot! I will never make a regular apple pie again
      Jeff called home to ask if the kitchen staff would like him to bring home dinner. Hmmm, that is an offer I won't refuse. We played a challenging game of Settlers of Catan while munching on pizza and pie. Oh, and waiting, waiting, waiting for apple butter to cook.
      After church on Sunday we met up with an old high school buddy of Jeff's. We had lunch at..wait for it..yep, Applebee's.  After that we drove back up into the hills we call home. 
       We closed our apple-filled weekend by making fabulous caramel apples and playing a crazy game of Apples to Apples.
      I found the answer to my apple pie woes. I finally got around to making apple butter. I was able to play two long rousing games with my guys. Yes, it's cup runneth over!

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    "Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself" George Bernard Shaw

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Our journey's to the center of the earth

    We started our day driving up the 49 , spiraling down the crazy path between Mariposa & Coulterville. You know the one that takes you down a mountain side real fast....real steep. That animal must have a name, but we don't know it.
      Our four-pack was in route to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Our first agenda was to *hopefully* happen upon an apple farm. Happen we did, we have a nice sized box stuffed full with yummy heirloom apples for apple butter makin' and caramel apple crunch pie bakin'!!!
      After arriving at the park & pulling out all our stuff, in effect campifying the joint, we toured the museum. This is where I got the answer to my question. You see I was hit with an acorn while coming out of the bathroom by a squirrel (I presumed). The ranger on duty warned us about the flying squirrels stating they were rascals...known for throwing acorns at passers by. Contrary little things!

      We also walked the North Grove loop (well Jeff & Billy ran a good chunk of it) I love the pictures of the boys in this grove. However I must say they don't really capture the size of these trees.

      We then headed to the South Grove section of the park. Here we hiked down to the Stanislaus River. Although back in the foothills we just left it was hot, Calaveras was pretty darn chilly. So we welcomed the sunshine pressing into us as we rested on the boulders. Bravery took over for a few minutes as we dipped  our feet in the ice cold river water, just to feel to the strength of the current.

      Apparently it was ladybug mating season because we saw hundreds and hundreds of them dancing all around us here and then later back at the camp ground along the meadow clinging to each other trying to stay warm.
      Before leaving this side of the park we drove down to "Roads End" this was at Billy's request. It seems he has caught that bug from his Dad! Beaver Creek was reached by a short hike from the Roads End parking lot. Ricky took a dive...not the rest of us. (Ricky is the splash..he jumped before I was ready)
       Ricky learned to make a fire with only a magnesium stone, knife and a few twigs. Billy was his biggest supporter.  Ah, what you can do with patience, tenacity and a really great cheer leading team! We loved our fires most especially this trip, as Autumn camping (cuz it really was Autumn there) is really chilly!!!
      After dinner we enjoyed story telling by the campfire. Whittling, knife sharpening and rough housing. Finally calming down to sipping herbal tea with honey, munching on cookies and candy (yes we took a break from smores & cocoa)
      I woke up to a warm fire Jeff built. I busied myself preparing breakfast for the day. Only packing the ingredients for lunch as it was much too cold to bother with at this point.
      After warming our hands with mugs of hot tea and a love-built fire. As well as eating a yummy bowel of oatmeal to warm us even greater. We finished our morning routine and packed into the car.
      Our first adventure of the day was Sutter's Gold Mine. Jeff & The boys took this tour. According to the brochure they went 620 feet below the surface and 1850 feet into the mine. They rode the "Boss Buggy Shuttle" which is a jeep looking vehicle. They hiked part of the way down. Then a second Boss Buggy returned them to the surface. Ricky said it was awesome, that riding down a cave in a jeep was his favorite part. Jeff really liked  the WALL of quartz with gold running right through the middle of it. Billy said they learned a lot. As a matter of fact he excitedly rambled on for quit a while about Gold Rush History and the geology of California. I sat this one out while I  made the lunch I hadn't made back at the campsite. We ate our picnic lunch here.
      Then we drove on to Black Chasm Cavern. Jeff sat out of this tour, while the boys and I took it on. There was no warning here, no gentle grade. It was an immediate steep narrow staircase going down, down, down. However I'd climb it again in a heart beat. It was an absolute jewel case. Billy practiced his picture taking skills on the beautiful helictites this cave is famous for. Ricky tried to scare the wits out of me. He spotted a clear turquoise lake WAY WAY down at the bottom of the cave. He leaned over the very narrow planked walkway to point it out. Geeezzzz boy!!! Jeff was glad he didn't see it.
     Our last expedition of the day lead us to California Caverns. All four of us went on this tour. As with most of the tours we again sported hard hats and sweatshirts. Everyone liked this cave because there were so many twists and turns and fun little spots. Oh yes, we had many bend over to get through there, watch your head here, lean this way...okay now lean the other way. Yes, we had many directional commands from our guide.  Billy again worked for photography credit getting just the right picture of this caves splendor. (Billy & Ricky are in the picture above Ricky bent down, I know its hard to see....)
      The evening was welcomed, we were all ready for a comforting fire (made by the hands of Billy), resting by the moon lite mountain glow. As well as a quick warm meal....and bed.
      The lure of a winding rural road is powerful. Beautiful varying scenery with each gnarly turn. Often, though of course impossible, I find myself wishing I could stop in the middle of the road. I just want to take it all in. This happened several times today. My sweet Jeff pulled over on the side of the road several times for me to take pictures of lovely bits of this and that. My favorites are the GIANT radio wagon Billy is standing in front of and the incredible red tree, a blissful example of Autumn.
      Our first planned stop of the day was Mercer Cavern. Here we walked another very steep, staircase 16 stories underground.  The staircase was not only steep and narrow, it very was low at certain points. Even I hit my head once, oops! Having said that, this was great cave. As with every tour, there is no better way to learn the history of the area. Billy worked his photography skills here by catching shots of the rare and famous cave flowers. ( Ricky is ducking down to fit through this section of the cave & Billy is on the staircase behind him in the picture)
      Next we moved on to Moaning Cavern. This place sends you down a very tight narrow staircase. The walls of this section are NOT for the claustrophobic. After that you descend a 284 step, rusty, rickety, spiral staircase. This cave was massive. It was impressive by its scale alone. We were told the Statue of Liberty could easily fit inside the cave. Our equilibrium was thrown off as was our depth perception making for an interesting climb back up that crazy staircase!
      Before we left Ricky had his 15 second thrill. He jumped in a truck driven by a wild teenager up a hillside to a tower. Here Ricky climbed up to get  harnessed for a massive zipline. Ricky, not tall enough to reach the wiring, pulled himself up with his arms. The attendants, after recovering from their shock grabbed him and attached...the ugh attachment's?? Then they sent him on his way down the hill. Billy & I sat at a table watching his midway descend. Jeff was at the base to see him land. Ricky waved to all as he "flew through the air with the greatest of ease"
      Our very last journey was to Natural Bridges Cave. *Note to all, this place is free. We parked our car and hike about 2 miles down to the mouth of the cave. The boys climbed around and we all explored it a bit. Ricky swam in. We had a picnic snack here and then headed back up the hillside to our car. (Billy is sitting on a "shelf" & Ricky is swimming in these photos)
       This was another wonderful road trip with my guys. Yet we were all ready to go home and releave ourselves of our camp-nasty filth!

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    REAL Mustard Greens

    Mustard Greens are amazing. They offer us vitamins A, C, Calcium and Iron. Not to mention they are easy to make & easy on the wallet.

    Over the years I've seen people serve up some very creative mustard green recipes. However I prefer to eat them in a simple, more traditional  manner. Aside from the very basic just dump it in recipe of chopped bacon, diced onion, salt, pepper and of course the greens themselves, I have found very little I enjoy.

    That is until I discovered this recipe.

    Rachel Rays Braised Mustard Greens
    4 slices bacon, chopped
    3 bunches mustard greens, trimmed and chopped
    2 tablespoons white vinegar
    2 teaspoons sugar
    coarse salt
    2 cups chicken broth
    In a large skillet over medium heat brown bacon and render its fat.
    Add chopped greens to the pan in bunches and turn until they wilt, then add more greens.
    When all greens are in the pan, add vinegar and cook a minute.
    Season greens with sugar and salt.
    Add chicken broth to pan and cover.
    Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

    The two ways I've mentioned are both great options, supplying so many nutrients without over powering the greens......give either a try. I hope you like them as much as I do.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing"  -Socrates

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life"-Confucius....or at least you can work with a spring in your step!

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    "You Know You're In Love When You Can't Fall Asleep Because Reality Is Finally Better Than Your Dreams" -Dr Seuss

    Eighteen years ago today I stood in a garage and said, "yes" to a question that would change my life forever. What was that question? He asked me to be his girl. Yep, we were "going steady". Now? After all the ups and downs, lefts and rights, over and over's plus again and agains? Well lets just say I have a real soft spot with his name written all over it. Yeah I've got a certain partiality toward him, a twitterpation that cannot be overcome. Let's just say I would live on a deserted island with him and leave it at that....I love you Jeff.

    Summer turns away and Charity Smiles

    .......yep its Autumn at last. Cooler weather, brisk clean air and all the beautiful colors (well in some parts of our area...if you go looking you can find the beauty of Fall)

       Thank you for this quiet rest as I sit (windows open) with views of hillsides, fluffy white clouds and mmmm, the smell of burning leaves. Thank you God for this view.

        Fall has an unexplainable stranglehold on me, I don't want it to leave. I want to linger in this day forever. As I sit watching the leaves gently fall to the ground I exhale and acknowledge Autumn makes me smile to my core.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    So what are they doing in 8th and 10th grade anyway?

    mmmm, I love the smell of newly cracked open school books. My basket of pink erasers and a truck load of mechanical pencils is divine. It's just what I needed to get all tingly and excited about teaching my children.

    Some of the subjects listed are merely for our personal use...not a complete credit. Our family studies, contenders projects such as cooking and oral reading are examples of that concept.

    Other subjects will be listed on the boys transcripts as these show a completed course. Example are Physics, Algebra and Latin.

    10th Grade (Billy)
    • Geometry
    • British Literature/Composition
    • Physics
    • Spanish 2
    • Newspaper/Yearbook
    • World Percussion
    • Photography
    • Contenders/Congressional Award
    • Penmanship/Typing
    • Oral Reading
    • British History
    • British Theology
    • Logic 3
    • Physical Fitness
    • Character/Philosophy(intro)/Doctrine/Faith
    • Art
    • Drivers Ed./Training/ Health
    • Youth Group(s)
    8th Grade (Ricky)
    • Algebra 1/2
    • English (Grammar & Composition)
    • Spelling
    • Physical Science
    • Latin
    • Newspaper/Yearbook
    • Guitar Lessons/Piano Lessons
    • Choir
    • Boy Scouts/Contenders
    • Penmanship & Typing
    • Oral Reading
    • Ren. & Ref. History/Literature
    • Logic
    • Art 
    • Physical Fitness
    • Character/Philosophy (Intro) /Doctrine/Faith
    • Youth Group (s)

    Its gonna be a gnarly ride, but as a team we can do even this!

       After a long discussion, making sure every voice was heard, united in purpose in the promise of new beginnings Billy Ricky & I sat around a table in Barnes and Nobles. We were sipping ice cold tea as we filled our day planners with all sorts of fun happenings for the months to come.
       We have made a balanced choice of priorities, with a little of this and a little of that and oh..a little more of that over there. So much is available to our children these days, it can be overwhelming to choose, yet choose we must. Of course there are so very many factors that go into making the final cut.
       In example, I know both of my boys are very disappointed in not taking Bonnie Nyberg's Literature class. (the lady who taught the Drama class) You know, truth be told, I was bummed as well, after they say "they've been Bonnie-fied"! (you got it's to a great teacher!) We just don't have a need for literature supplementation..we are avid readers in this house. So it wasn't worth adding her into the schedule.
      Many "things" gobble up our time, especially in this season (residing in Coarsegold while living in Fresno). We made a commitment to these endeavors. Yet we've had to be extra careful to include space for free time as well as time to fulfill educational pursuits.

    Tons of work. Insane schedule. Bring it. Its gonna be a gnarly ride, but as a team we can do even this.

      A typical H.O.T. summer day in Fresno, the thought of  a cup filled with Stone Cold Ice Cream was mesmerizing to my boys. They brought their own money along. So I told them when our pencil pushing got us to January on the calendar section in the day planner they could march on over to their chosen bliss. They brought me one as well, such sweet guys.
      Then it was back to our favorite little cubby with renewed energy to finish our task. I sat down with each boy , purposefully poised and together we prepared their classically eclectic academic section of their day planners in preparation for the first week of school. Well of T.H.E.E. School (the name of our little school) anyway.
      As you already know Billy had been in Physics and Ricky in Choir prior to this date. Actually things like the newspaper and blog never did stop...they went right through the summer.
      For that matter the knowledge of our decision to release Dish Network from our monthly costs and freedom of schedule coming to a close (because Mom dramatically tones down the brain numbinizer during the school year) Billy soaked in as many "That's Impossible", "Lost Treasures" and "Myth Busters" episodes as he could. During breaks from his story/book writing frenzy.
      Meanwhile Ricky consumed a steady diet of "Man vs Wild", "Fight Quest" and "Human Weapon". All the while getting inspired in his knife throwing-spear tossing-pick axe swinging-while barefoot and wearing an ipod skills. Good Heavens! What will I do with him in city? hmmmm...Oops, I got side tracked, from my side track! Hee-hee! My point was...does learning aka "schooling" ever really stop?
      Well...back to my tale....this meeting, at Barnes and Nobles, happened a month ago today! We have pretty much settled into rhythm of the scheduling frenzy-even after a major set back causing me the need to pour myself into the routine and prop myself up at the table. (I hate head colds!) Monday Mayhem is the tricky one, yet we WILL tame that beast as well. (Becky has been a real trooper in regards to this)
      The First-Day-of-School Mega Breakfast was well received.  The Homeschool Spirit week Month was wonderful yet again. It's great to gather together in a general celebration of the freedom, joy and strength of our shared homeschool-hood!

    Here's to many more fun times!   Let's all WORK hard, so we can PLAY hard!...and RELAX in peace.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Off to church we go....

     Finding a church home can be a challenge these days.
      We are all human, with human frailties, therefore none of us will ever be perfect. Each of us has different ideas on how "the perfect" church conducts itself. Having said that, Jeff & I have drawn a line in the sand of biblical issues our family will not bend on and the church issues that are of less importance to us. Some ideals are merely opinion, or more clearly stated, they are tradition. Some areas God clearly lays out in scripture. God has taught us not to box Him in. To truly define what belongs in each of these categories. Pastor George Posthumous and Mrs. Carol Mckercher have been very  instrumental in helping us come to terms with this. The funny thing  is, I'm sure neither one of them are aware of that.
      Searching (through trial and error) we have found a lovely church we can call home.  We made the decision to leave a few years ago, not because of some terrible catastrophe rather due to the 45 minute drive it took to get there. We began searching for a church closer to our home. We did indeed find a church, unfortunately that church fell apart. In the return of the mountain folk we now find ourselves driving 45 minutes yet again. We are back at Riverpark Bible Church where the teaching is sound and the worship is delightful. Where child and adult alike are biblically, scientifically, historically, theologically and philosophically challenged. The Pastor here is going deaf. He has shared his deepened desire to give the congregation all he can before his time runs out...what a neat man to sit under.
      We have many wonderful opportunities available to us via this church such as the Crown Financial seminar Jeff & I attended last weekend. All four of us have found our little spots. Ricky is in the Jr High Sunday School, Youth Group & Small Group. Billy is in the High School Sunday School, Small Group and Youth Group. Jeff & I are in a multi age Sunday School class and Small Group together. Jeff is in a Men's Bible Study and I am in a Women's Bible Study. Once a month I will be attending a Homeschool Moms Meeting sponsored by the church. I hear there are around 40 families that homeschool attending this!
     The world...and the church have a tendency to push fragmentation of the family. I suppose most people seem to be okay with that. I'm of a strange breed who disagrees. Now, don't get me wrong, I want my boys to do things on there own...I encourage it. However this type of splitting up of the family I cannot stand behind. I am not going to make a big stink about it, for the most part I will play the game. However we will take a stand and sit TOGETHER and worship our Lord Jesus Christ as a family in the sanctuary! Again, there is no perfect church.
        I choose to ask my self where this lines up in light of eternity.

    Photo's another Back-to-School Tradition

      A few weeks ago we headed on over to Fashion Fair in hopes of hunting down two shirts for school pictures. It wasn't the best of days to embark on such a journey being that cat fights tend to break out in the heat of "Autumn". However this would be our only chance to deal with it prior to the picture date.
      Ricky's wardrobe was fine as it sat due to previous shopping trips (although in the end he wore the same shirt from last years photos...nut!) It was the dreaded Billster we had to shop with. FYI teen guys do have strong opinions about what they are wearing...its not just a female issues. Nuf said.
      At any rate we shopped and shopped until teenage finickiness finally met with parental money choice. Ahhh, sweet relief, and so it was shirts for both CHEFA, which happened last week and BEST which happens next month were acquired. Ta-da! Budget and fashion meet.
      I go through this activity , in which my head explodes, for the Grandma's most especially. Yet the kids do need their pictures in the yearbook as well as an updated version for our wall. The ID cards are kind of a joke. We've never really needed them, at this point its more of a collectors item then anything else. Although we did use them when we first started homeschooling around ten years ago. This was during the curfew law drama. Who knows , maybe a need will arise this school year....playin' it safe. Affidavit filed, check. HSLDA membership updated, check. BEST, CHEFA & CHEA memberships updated, check, check, check! and last but not least ID cards ordered, check.
      *Oh, this year we had to fake our annual "1st-day-of-school-photo" because I was not much more than a lump of snot due to a bad head cold. I didn't even think about it until well after the day had come and gone, darn! Oh, and yes they cooperated with me on this and also with the photographer last week.

    *Happy thought* At least we have moved beyond the little guy stage of this endeavor. I heart cooperative children!

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    When parents get sick...and kids don't

     Oh boy....Jeff & I were sick, I mean really sick for over a week. The worst part was that I woke up to all this yuck the first day of our school year. So besides stealing a glance every now and then, I was of no use to my students. "Son I'm sorry I cannot access my brain today, I have the duhs"

     I do have to make you aware that each boy knows what is expected of him, even on the first day of the new school year. This is because individual calendars and day planners are reviewed each weekend...before the school week. So this was done before I knew I was sick. I also need to give props to my guys. They cleaned, they cooked and they did as much of  their school work as they could. They really did try their best. Wow, that's awesome! Just when I think I'm going to put them in a box in front of the grocery store (free to a good home) they come shining through. You gotta jump, even if just internally, at times like that!

     Now some silly people have said, "oh but you homeschool so what's the big deal...just bump it forward". As nice as that sounds, its not that easy! We have a schedule and try very hard to stick to it, there's always going to be lots of life going on and we do have sick days set aside, but come on!  All mom's everywhere want to yell out "sorry, I'm too busy to get sick, call back later".... it's no different for the homeschool mom. We are needed, that is that. When we are down life doesn't run as it should...the end. It's just not the best way to start off the year.

     What really stinks is this makes the second year in a row this has happened. I've had it suggested "its because the public and private school have been in session for about a month before we start. They have that time to spread germs all around and let them trickle down to us as we begin to start our own schooling".  Whatever the reason it must stop!

     Now, two weeks later I am still dealing with the aftershock of it all.  I'm adrift in a sea of to-do's. It's amazing how far behind we get when missing just one week of the chaotic game called life. I've been realigning the school work that was clear as mud to the poor guys trying to work it out on their own (with no direction while I was out of commission) and so it didn't get done. As well as correcting and filing school work that was completed during that same time period. I'm finally finding some post-sickie relief and a little zest is back in my step.

     As a family we rock! We cleaned this whole house! Wall, cabinets, sofa's, bathrooms...everything got sanitized! I've been pumping the vitamin cocktails into everyone and heavily pushing the hand sanitizer! B&R seem to have been able to skip over this virus. Thank you Jesus!

     On to better...healthier days we march!

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    "Part of life is learning to accept the limitations of any given situation" Susan Shaffer Mucaulay

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    The Back to School Picnic

    This was quite the learning experience. Bringing an interesting test of character and strength. Shedding light on who people "really" are & where they "really" stand.

    I was able to draw strength from the godly people around me in the school group and in my own home. I really enjoyed getting to know a new mom to the group. As would be expected, this was my first time working with her. I was just hoping I didn't need to micro-manage her and that she didn't get the wrong idea about how homeschoolers conduct themselves. She brought much more than I ever asked of her to the table...WOW, thank you Brooke.

     After much drama and grief the day finally arrived. The weather was nice, for summer in Fresno. Especially once the sun went down and the gentle breeze picked up. We had a decent turnout, I guess. The food was plentiful and all seemed to have fun with the root beer floats and cookies. Brooke & I played old fashioned picnic games such as water balloon toss, over under sponge relay and sack races with the little ones. Meanwhile Kelly oversaw a volleyball tournament and Jeff manned the giant home made slip and slide.

    Oh and yes, we did try it out at home before we brought it to the party. We were told to pour dish soap to make the slide more "slippery"...well I guess I put too much on the first time because Jeff & I flew right off the other end of the slide. Yep...right into stickers and dry wild grasses ( we have the giant scratches to prove it!) Thanks for the idea Jacki!

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    "Back up the pineapple this luau's over!"

    Though we have enjoyed our wonderfully, lazy, much needed 3 months off, we have succumbed to emerge from the fog of the summer lifestyle where calendars mean nothing and clocks are ignored. We move into the responsibility of it all, joining the ranks of all those already "in" school. Which means I will be on somewhat of a computer sabbatical. I know that is going to be hard, because I have been playing on F.B. so much that people look for me there to inform me of this and that. Note to self, realign communication avenue.

    The school year has been trickling upon us. Billy began physics at the beginning off August, he really likes his class by the way. Ricky began choir two weeks ago. Which was like going to a giant family reunion-what fun for everyone! Next Billy will add Bembe and Ricky will add Boy Scouts to the schedule (in about a week). Both boys will start Art Appreciation/History with our homeschool co-op. Each guy also begins a youth group at the church we were going to in Fresno & have now returned to. As you can see the momentum is picking up fast.

    We've cut hair, bought clothes, school supplies and curriculum. We have a nice & orderly school space. We spent a few weeks getting our bodies and minds acclimated to our new schedule and completing our final preparations. It is now time for mind-work and routine physical endurance. So look out we come!

    Oh and to all those apposed or puzzled by my delaying our start date, I have this for you......

    Back off Jack, your not the criterion in this town! I enjoy milkin' summer, squeezing every last drop. My boys have in the past and will continue to have a solid education-complete with 180 hours of each subject taught. I take their education quite seriously. More importantly I take their whole person into account. So....Labor Day to Memorial Day it shall remain. Please, please think before you assume neglect! I really am paying attention. I really am being responsible.

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Kings Canyon according to Ricky, a guest blogger

     I know my Mom and my brother have already written about this trip, but I don't care because this is my version. We went to Kings earlier this month. There were no camp sites left for us, so we reserved one in Sequoia. We hiked around in our campground which had a couple of mapped out hikes leading off from the main road. We choose a hike that lead to a giant grove of Sequoias and the next day we went to another giant sequoia grove. This one was more famous, its called Grants Grove. Then we drove into the canyon of Kings Canyon, it was really cool!

    Ricky V.

    Drivin' on up to the East Side

    Well I woke to a misty gray morning . I sat in the muted light & sipped my freshly brewed coffee, enjoying the silence. I had already surrendered to the inevitable. I was okay, it's a happy day in Charityland when I've seen clouds, and that was the view out my window. The neatly gathered pile sitting on the kitchen counter was not going to be used, well not today anyway, or that's what I thought.

    However as Jeff came down the stairs he said, "why not? What's a little rain gonna do?" So it was go-time, off we went on our great adventurous return to the Eastern Sierras. We went through Yosemite, Over Tioga Pass. We stopped to check out the beautiful Tenaya Lake for a bit of inspiration. At Olmsted Point we took the short hike to check out the amazing view of the backside of Yosemite's Valley and the canyon below, promising a certain death (in the rain), it's just so beautiful, we risked it none-the-less.

    We then exited onto 395, we exhaled with a nice view of Mono Lake as we made our way a little further down to the June Lake Loop in June CA. We like to enter through the north side of this incredible area. You are entertained by viewing high desert, an aspen forest and then a pine forest, returning to high desert as you leave this secret jewel. Yet not before passing four pristine lakes and a quaint little village. We had our lunch at the beach of June Lake in our 4runner, because it was raining pretty good.

    As we sat there looking into the clear/ turquoise water and beautiful pebbles below,  Ricky began his campaign in getting us to let him swim out to a boulder in this alpine ICE COLD glacier gem. Remembering, of course the rain & cold, COLD wind. As I circled my head around the Switzerland looking snow capped, heavily misted high mountain peaks. As I looked at the steam rising from the lake, I found myself saying...fine...go ahead. The rest of us readied towels, underneath our clothing to keep the rain off, while Ricky swam out to a boulder he set his eyes on. He Climbed out, stood up & shouted his victory! He then  swam back to shore, where we wrapped him and stuffed him the car.

    After a quick stop at the visitor center for some literature  for a newspaper article we drove on to Mammoth. On this route we spotted snow along the highway. We had never been to this area before, but knew there was quit a bit to it, so we just picked one destination.We hiked the amazing Devils Postpile Monument trail. (both in front and overlook). On the way back we stopped at the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. Very clear. Very cold. Very beautiful. I was humbled to realize how far up we were & that this very river cuts all the way across Fresno, out by 99. Wow. oh, and yes, it stopped raining so we could take our hike. Absolutely incredible.

    We had to ride with the bus service from the town of Mammoth all the way down the Red Meadow Canyon because only certain privileged  few were allowed to use the road. Summer road trips usually bring roads we crawl on carefully passing over hairpin turns on steep mountain roads, but this was two way traffic on a one way road, on the side of a buses!!!. I was clinging to an arm hold the whole time. The good news is we lived! Hee-hee. Actually, the good news is we had two drivers that really wanted to share their knowledge of the know me, I took plenty of notes! Let us not forget the most excellent news of all...there was August! Thank you Lord Jesus for the respite.

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Goodbye Summer

    Oh how I adore quiet mornings and lovely lazy days. How I wish it would stay this way a bit longer.
    I hate the heat, as everyone knows, but even I can admit that the clear blue mountain sky, golden (burnt) hillsides and a good portion of Valley Oaks make for a striking display-like a child's picture book.
    Yes, summer has its charm. I will miss summer, but not the heat. I will miss the free time to read for hours on end. I will miss feeling the sweet, gentle mountain breeze as I sit out late at night star gazing. I will miss actually watching movies all the way through on a regular basis. I will miss listening to waves hit the beach and soaking in sunshine after a bracing swim in an alpine lake or river. I will even miss facebook as it has become a fun time waster.
    Alas, Jeff & I finished making our schooling decisions under a canopy of trees at a picnic table along the shores of Bass lake. We have attended two of the four fall homeschool meetings. Billy began his Physics class last week and is preparing to take the PSAT. Ricky will start choir, guitar and piano soon. Yes, the school year is creeping up on us. Though we have no choice but to submit, I anxiously await my dear Autumn, which brings a different kind of exhale in a most busy schedule.

    Exploring the Kings Canyon (said to be the deepest in the US)

    Unfortunately when we went to reserve a campsite, there were NONE available in Kings Canyon, so we opted to stay next door in Sequoia. We landed in Dorst Creek, which was a nice spot. We played around in Dorst Creek for awhile and then took to the majestic Muir Grove Trail . Billy and I had a wonderful long, sweet, funny talk. Something I will always treasure. On our way back we soaked our weary feet in Cabin Creek. These are the only two creeks we visited here. However we hear that there are many more that run through the area. As we were leaving Sequoia we stopped at the Lost Grove and were able to witness a bear at play.
    Of course we did get to visit the Kings Canyon as was planned. After stopping at the Kings Canyon visitor center museum, we walked through Grants Grove. Then it was down the STEEP canyon all the way to the Cedar Grove area. Here we braved the South Fork of the Kings River. Of course Ricky was the bravest of us all, he swam all the way across and climbed out to sun on the opposite bank. It was a little scary watching the river under tow carry him off to the side a ways, but he is a very strong swimmer and did just fine!
    Jeff felt the need to drive all the way to the end of the road. The area called "Roads End" has such a name because of the impassable gargantuan mountains in this u-shaped spot.
    We also hiked the breath taking Zumwalt Meadow Loop. The boys were walking a bit faster than J & I. When we looked up we saw Ricky hanging from the suspension wires on the pedestrian bridge that lays across the river. We, of course made him get down, but secretly wish we got a picture first.
    We stopped at the Roaring River, an off shoot of the Kings to take in the Roaring River Falls. Here Ricky swam in the pools below the falls. Jeff waded in a bit.
    After a quick stop at Knapp's Cabin we were on our way back up the canyon and onto home.

    My boys have a blog

    So if you want to read what they have to say about our adventures and other such happenings in the lives of two teenage guys head on over to

    Thursday, August 6, 2009

    Adventures in Moro and Pismo

    Moro Strand State Beach Campground is a great place if what you want to do is use it as a jumping off point, as its right off highway 1. It is most especially convenient because this is one of the stops for the local trolley system. However if you are looking for a great outdoorsy experience, you may want to look elsewhere. The parking lot feel is inescapable. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the few steps it took to get to the beach, not to mention seeing the ocean from our campsite. Sinking into the sand, vs hard earth was wonderful, as it contoured to the shape of your body. The sound of the tide as we sat by our fire, fell asleep and especially in the early morning as we woke made it all worth it, but I don't think we'll stay here again.
    After setting up camp, we made our way over a bit to Moro Bays Natural History Museum & Observation "Hill". We had a good time and got a few great shots of the saltwater marsh.
    We visited Spooner's Cove in Montana de Oro State Park. This place has the coolest rock formations and a huge diversity of colored pebbles on the beach. It has exceptionally nice tidepools as well. We have passed by this park many times. So before we left home I asked some fellow stupendous goal setting creatures, you know people starving for some time among nature, what ONE destination we shouldn't miss, this is where they sent us. After realizing this park is of such colossal proportions we've decided we simply must camp here for some more in depth exploration.
    After swinging back by Moro Bay to take in Moro Rock Preserve (here we saw a family of otters playing in Moro's Estero Bay) and bird watching at the Moro Estuary Channels. We ended the evening with the usual rituals and then took in the sunset on the beach, just lovely.
    Sunday, as I already stated we arose to the sound of the waves hitting the beach. We were up early, and so we had an early start. We enjoyed an air of quiet activity in the Blue Heron Rookery, El Moro Elfin Forest and the Los Oso Oaks Preserve (where I collected some poison oak on the back of my knees).
    Before noon we found a parking spot and spent the rest of the day at Pismo Beach where we soaked in the sun. Jeff and I took a long walk collecting shells, sand dollars and sea stones. Billy & Jeff went scim boarding. Ricky and Jeff went boogie boarding.
    Our last stop was to our favorite funky little fish & chip spot in shell beach. We got our dinner to go and had a picnic over looking the ocean and tide pools below craggy cliff sides. We all came home with sun burns.