Saturday, April 5, 2014

Delivering Papers

My children have always found ways to make extra spending money.  Several have mowed lawns, babysat, tutored children and delivered papers.  When Joe got his job at Dairy Queen last year, Madelyn took over his paper route.  Most of the customers are pleasant and during this winter, Madelyn frequently received tips because of the extra work involved in walking through the snow.

One elderly man is unable to shovel his sidewalk.  He lives on a corner lot and the sidewalk in front of his house is impassible.  Someone keeps his driveway cleared, but the path to his mailbox is untouched.  During most of the winter the snow came up to Madelyn hip or higher. 

There was one week when Madelyn was unable to deliver papers, due to an ankle injury.  I drove through the route with Madelyn sitting in the front seat to give direction for which houses to deliver.  Paige and Alison ran the papers up to each house.  The house that never removes snow was on Allie's side of the street.

Allie is light enough to walk on most of the snow drifts.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

I pulled a ham out of the freezer a few days ago.  We've enjoyed various ham meals, but it was finally time to finish it.  I searched the internet for different recipes and decided that I should try to make scalloped potatoes.  After 27 years of marriage, this was my first attempt at this dish.  I found a recipe, but tweaked it to fit our family's tastes and food allergies.  We had two extra mouths to feed the night that night, so I doubled the recipe.  There was one extra serving for someone for lunch the following day.  Keep in mind that the bulk of my family is adults or teen-aged boys.

Scalloped Potatoes

1/2 Cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cups milk
3 cups chopped cooked ham
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
5 cups washed and thinly sliced potatoes, not peeled

Melt butter in pan and add flour and seasonings.  Cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and heat until thickened and bubbling.  Remove from heat.  Add cheese and ham.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour over potatoes in a large bowl and mix well.  Butter 13 x 9" casserole dish and fill with mixture. Cover with foil. Place in preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional hour.

Serves 6-8

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tree Removal

Due to the friendly critters wanting to move into our attic, Mike and I decided to cut down some trees next to the house.  The trees provided a convenient climbing tool for the critters.  Mike used the chainsaw, while the three younger girls and I pulled on the rope to make the trees fall in the right place. 

The picture is taken from the top of the terraces in the "Secret Garden" area of the yard.  The pine tree was about 20' tall.  This is after Mike cut it in two for easier hauling.  We also took a huge limb off of a maple in the area.  I hated to cut a maple tree at this time of year, but the thought of critters climbing it to try and gain access to our house was a greater evil.  The maple is pouring sugar water where the cut is so we now are collecting the water during the day to make maple syrup.

A few days later, Amy, the younger girls and I hauled all the branches and logs out near the wooded area. We have a wood burner out there and will enjoy an evening bonfire when the wood dries out.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Winter Pictures

During the winter doldrums, Mike called me one morning before the girls had got out of bed.  He told me to get in the car and drive to the river to get some photographs.  We had had freezing rain the night before and where the sun peeked through the clouds, the trees were beautiful.

I enjoyed my early morning time alone playing truant to the normal responsibilities.  Thanks Mike for sending me out the door.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Practicing Out Skills

We're nearing the end of our school year.  The girls worked really hard during the long, cold, snowy winter and only have 4 English lessons and 40 math lessons left for this school year.  Our school days are short, which leaves plenty of time for other activities.  I love when we are able to spend most of the day outside once the weather warms up!

For Christmas, Paige and Allie received bows and arrows.  It's been difficult to wait until they could use them.  After supper, Mike and I spent some time coaching the girls on shooting.  Paige picked it up quickly and consistently hit the target.  Allie struggled a bit.  Part of the problem is that she is trying to aim with her head a foot away from the bow.  The other issue is that her arms got tired quickly.  She persevered and was delighted with her progress.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Carrot Pancakes With Cream Cheese Topping

Madelyn and I were wasting time on Pinterest and discovered a recipe for Carrot Pancakes.  Everyone in my house loves pancakes, but normal, sugar-laden pancakes leave us hungry a short time later.  Our family of 9 also eats a triple or quadruple batch.  By the time everyone is full the kitchen is a disaster and the small people are climbing the walls.

Madelyn wanted to make these pancakes and I decided to let her.  We also served boiled eggs and apple sauce.  Mads made a double batch and everyone was full.  No one complained of hunger later in the evening.  They tasted unbelievably delicious and are loaded with carroty goodness.  I'm not saying that these are health food, but they are a great alternative to traditional pancakes.  We made a few substitutions and this is the final recipe.  Unfortunately, they were eaten too quickly for photographs.

Carrot Pancakes With Cream Cheese Topping

1 1/4 Cup Wheat flour
2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts (the original called for pecans, but we were out of them)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 Cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
2 Cups finely grated carrots
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 beaten egg
Butter to grease pan

Cream Cheese Spread

4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/3 Cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In large bowl, combine flour, nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger.  Set aside.  In small bowl, mix together brown sugar, carrots, vanilla, and egg.  Add carrot mixture to dry ingredients in small batches and mix until moistened throughout.

Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto hot, greased griddle.  Cook on one side until bubble form and pop.  Turn and cook other side. 

To make the topping, the blend cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and cinnamon in small bowl with electric mixer.  Drizzle over warm pancakes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Snow Ball Cheer Competition

Madelyn's cheer organization recently underwent training to be able to compete in other organizations.  The coaches had to take several classes and learn about the different ways the squads are judged.  Only the top elite levels are able to compete outside the organization.

The first outside competition was Saturday.  I had planned to drive Madelyn, but the wheel bearings need to be changed in the back of my Mountaineer, so Mike took the day off of work and drove us.  I'm glad that he was able to see the competition.  He doesn't get the opportunity to see the children's performances very often.

The team met in the lobby of a hotel attached to the venue. Lots of team photos were taken and everyone managed to relax before arriving at the actual competition.

The competition was touted to be huge in this organization.  There were tons of divisions and only about 50-55 teams competed.   Madelyn's team was in the larges division.  The team had 5 practices to learn the entire routine.  There were a few bobbles, but overall it was a solid routine.

Madelyn had a great time and the team placed third.  The only other team from Madelyn's cheer organization took 1st place.  The coach said the score sheets contained lots of great comments and that the team will do even better next time out.  The team also qualified for the competition in Chicago and New Orleans in April.  I'm thankful that they will not be attending those competitions.  The trip to Nationals in Las Vegas will wipe out our cheer budget for the remainder of the year.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fighting For Territory

A few nights ago, Mike and I awoke to the sound of little footsteps in the attic above our head.  The feet scampered from one side of the attic to the other and kept us awake for several hours.  I don't like any kind of critters in my attic and made sure Mike knew how important it was to get rid of whatever was up there.

Mike set and baited a live trap the next morning.  On his way home from work, he stopped at the store and picked up some rat traps to place in strategic spots throughout the attic.  That night, we heard more animals clunking around.  There was obviously more than one critter up there and it was bigger than a mouse.  Mike kept reassuring me that it was probably some squirrels, but I didn't believe him.  The thumping was loud.  It finally quieted down and we went back to sleep.

After about 2 hours, there was lots of noise from above and the sound of an animal growling.  The thumping moved from one side of the ceiling to the other.  I was afraid that whatever was up there would end up coming through the ceiling.  Mike was pounding on the ceiling and shining a flashlight.  I grabbed a comforter and my pillow and headed downstairs.  Brave is what I am not in situations like this. 

I sprawled out in an recliner and tucked the comforter around me.  Mike ran through the upstairs of the house, shining the flashlight into various sections of the attic.  All the lights are on in the house.  Mike is pounding on the ceiling and walls in our room, trying to scare the critters out into the night.  It seemed like a long time had passed, but it was probably 1/2 an hour later, Mike came into the living room and asked me to come back upstairs.  He thought that the animals had left the house.

We returned upstairs and tried to settle back down to sleep with the overhead light on.  I had just started drifting off when we hear a loud howl above our head and the sound of a creature running towards the front of the house.  The animal slid down the slanted part of the wall and we heard him climb out the soffet at the corner of the house.  A short time later, we heard a second critter slide down the wall and out the same soffet. 

Two hours later, we had to get up to drive Madelyn to a cheer competition.  We were both exhausted!  It was a long day and there was lots to do when we returned home.  Mike nailed wood up in the area where the soffets were damaged.  He also reset traps.  He went through the attic thoroughly to make sure that no creatures were there. 

That night we slept fairly soundly.  Around 2 a.m., we heard something trying to get through the soffets in the front of the house, but Mike ran outside with the dog and nothing got in.

Last night, they returned with a vengence.  We have raccoons who are fighting turf wars in our attic.  The are climbing up a pine tree next to the house and scampering across the roof until they find a spot where the soffits or facia isn't in good repair., then entering the attic.

We ended up several times last night trying to scare them outside.  Amy heard them fighting next to her room.  Eventually, they quieted down around 6:00 this morning.  Mike tried to keep them out with Dudley's help, but we know that they are in there.  It's important that we kick them out and get everything tightly closed up before we have one give birth up there.  Mike will be purchasing more live traps to set up tonight, installing motion detecting lights all around the house and tightly closing up the house.  We will also be cutting down a pine tree next to the house Tuesday. 

Needless to say, I'm feeling discouraged and tired.  I'm also planning to skip taking my blood pressure this week.  The numbers are probably through the roof.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

More Rennovation Projects

The master bathroom hasn't had much done to it yet.  Mike did get the toilet fixed, so that neither one of us would need to traipse down the stairs or hall to reach a bathroom in the middle of the night, but that it the only thing that has been done.  Until this week.  Mike has almost completely gutted the master bathroom. 

The set up for the bathroom was strange.  There was a wall separating it into two sections.  One section contained a window, the toilet, vanity, closet and linen closet.  The other was a dark scary area that contained a huge bathtub.  The tub was cracked, so it had to be replaced.  Mike decided to pull out the tub and haul it to the garage.  On it's side the tub is over 4.5' tall.  The tub snagged on something and Mike gave it a sharp pull, which snapped a pipe.  Water was spurting out in the bathroom.  Mike was on the side of the tub away from the door.  He ended up jumping over the tub and racing down the stairs, shouting at the children to get out of his way.  Upon reaching the basement, he turned off the water main and trudged back up two flights of stairs to survey the mess. 

Bless his heart, he cleaned up all the water and shoveled up all the dry wall chunks that were soaked.  We were all thankful that the tub was fiberglass, so it was fairly light for its size.  Madelyn helped Mike carry it out to the garage.

During a wonderful dinner date later that evening, Mike and I figured out how we want to configure the new bathroom.  The wall will be removed; the tub is moving to the opposite wall; a shower will be installed where the tub was originally, and the vanity will be in what was formerly a closet.  We still need to measure out the various elements, but if it fits as we imagine, the bathroom with be light, airy and user-friendly.  It will be a few more months before we put the bathroom back together.  With the weather finally warming up, we need to get the outside of the house sided and painted and put in the garden.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Physical Activities in Winter

This winter has been particularly cold and snowy.  We did manage to do some tubing/sledding and take a few walks.  The three homeschooled girls all take dance classes and Madelyn is heavily involved in cheerleading,  but overall the kids have been cooped up too much..  Mike and I purchased the girls a gymnastic mat as part of their Christmas gifts.  It's been a huge blessing.  The girls have been stretching several times each week to work on their flexibility.  Madelyn has even added neighborhood children into the stretching class.

I also allowed the girls to bring the gymnastic mat upstairs into the family room.  It's warmer upstairs and their is enough room without running into furniture.

Our poor puppy who has reached his full adult stature still has tons of energy.  When we run laps through the house up one staircase and down the other, the dog chases after the girls.  Allie particularly likes running with Dudley. 

In the afternoon and evening, Allie and Paige have been playing hide and seek with Dudley, our puppy.  One of the girls throws the ball into a different room.  Dudley chases the ball and the girls hide.  When he returns to the room carrying the ball, Dudley can't find the girls.  He is definitely not a scent dog.  It's so funny to watch him search the rooms, looking for the girls.  Frequently, he walks right past them and doesn't notice them unless someone moves or makes a sound. 

Now that the spring is slowly making its arrival, we're all hoping to spend lots of time outdoors soaking up the sunshine and fresh air.