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...........


  • 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.