Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meijer Butterfly Garden

Mike took several days of vacation this week and was able to go to the Butterfly Garden and Sculpture Park with us today.  The weatherman had given a forecast for temperatures in the 60s.  But fell far short of his estimate.  It was 39 degrees.  Madelyn decided that the temperature was mind over matter and wore shorts. She was a little cold, but we all had fun anyway.

Part of my goofy family while we wait for the rest of the group to arrive.

Love the plants.

Paige the butterfly.

Allie the butterfly.

Some of the butterflies.

Looking around fro butterflies,

We see this face sometimes during our school day

Madz catching up with the Meijers.

Huge sculpture of nap time.  I could use one of these.

I love this. 

Allie calls this Two-Face.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Maple Syrup Time

It's been several years since we made maple syrup.  So long that Paige and Allie don't remember ever making it.  In our effort to eat more natural and whole foods, we decided to make it this year.  We have about 8 trees that could be tapped, but my schedule is so crazy that we decided to just tap two this year.  I'd hate to have the sap go to waste because I don't have time to cook it down.

Last weekend, Mike and I tapped the trees and began collecting sap.
Drill hole about 2-2.5" deep at an angle.  Use a sharp drill bit to protect the tree and get better sap production.

The sap began running immediately.

We purchased our spile at a local farm store.  Some people make their own from piping.

Hammer into the drilled hole.

The sap should begin flowing down the center of the spile.

We added clear hose, so the children could watch the sap flow and so we could set the buckets on the ground.

We purchased buckets with lids from the Home Depot.  Mike drilled a hole in the top for the hose, then we washed and sanitized the buckets,

The sap collecting is underway.  It flows best when the daytime temperatures are in the 40s and the night time temperatures are in the 20s. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Paige's Baking Powder Biscuits

Paige made the best biscuits from scratch yesterday for dinner.  They were light and fluffy, moist, and delicious.  We definitely will be having these again.  Here's the recipe.

Paige's Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2/3 cup milk

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl.  Cut in shortening.  Beat egg and milk, stir into dry ingredients, until moistened.

Roll out on lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/2" thickness.  Cut into circles.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degree for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cheer Competitions

Alison, Paige and Madelyn had cheer competitions in January.  Regional competition went very well and all three girls made it to the state competition.  Between regionals and states there were several changes that happened to both teams.  Paige and Allie's team had two girls not show up for the state event.  One of the missing girls was a flier and the other was a front spot.  Allie was thrilled when she was given the opportunity to fly for state.  There were a few stunts that she wasn't able to perform because of the missing front spot, but it was a good experience for her. Although she had a good experience, the team didn't place at state.

Paige and Allie are on the far left.  Paige in the middle;Allie second in the front.  Madelyn helps coach the team and is wearing the green shirt in the back right.
  Madelyn's team had two girls quit 4 weeks before competition to do high school cheer.  One of the girls was kicked off the high school team and wanted to come back 2 weeks before competition.  (She wasn't allowed to return until next semester.)  Mads team came in third at state and qualified for national competition in July, which takes place in Grand Rapids. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sky Zone

We recently had a Sky Zone open in the large town nearby.  Due to the cold, snowy weather, the homeschool girls have enjoyed a few afternoons there getting in a little homeschool PE.  The girls come home exhausted and they all get to work on some of their tumbling skills without crashing into furniture at home.  It's been so cold that they haven't wanted to tumble down in the basement on the gymnastic mats, so trips to Sky Zone have helped to keep their skills.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Music Throughout our Day.

We've been listening to Vivaldi's Winter as part of our homeschool day the last few weeks. I love listening to great music as part of our day  Today while searching for the Vivaldi music on youtube, I ran across this combination of Winter and Disney's Frozen.  It was fabulous!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Michigan Winter

After an unusually warm December when we almost had a green Christmas, the cold temperatures have returned with a vengeance.  Joseph has had more days off than days in the classroom, since classes resumed this month.  Most of the children's activities have been cancelled due to winter storms or -20 wind chills, but this morning classes were held.  It was -12 when we left the house at 8:30 the morning.  Roads were slick on the country roads we take to co-op on Wednesdays, but the slippery roads were worth enduring because of the beauty of the scenery.

A thick, glittery, white frost covered all the trees and bushes.  Steam was rising out of the creeks and rivers.  I love seeing the frost and snow contrasting with the dark bark of the bare trees.  The girls finished their classes around 10:30 and we headed back home.  The sun hadn't burned the frost off most of the trees yet, so when we reached home, everyone grabbed their cameras for an hour of photography.  I decided to call it photography class/art in my planner.  We drove around town and walked short distances to get photos, because it was too cold to walk for very long.  Here are a few of my photographs.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Whole 30

Mike and I have managed to stick with the whole 30 plan so far this month.  The kids are eating better, but no longer following the plan.  We're allowing them to have occasional whole grain bread, milk, peanut butter and some condiments.  The kids were really struggling with the loss of milk and bread, and we decided that nutritionally it would be good for them to have some of those foods. I'm not keeping milk or bread in the house all the time like I did in the past.  They are enjoying them about three times a week.

Mike has lost 15 pounds so far this year and is really loving the food plan.  His energy is through the roof and his enthusiasm is boundless for Whole 30.  I've lost 18.5 pounds and feel better.  The lethargy is gone and I am calmer and more interested in doing things.  Unfortunately, I miss my International House Caramel Vanilla coffee each afternoon.  Tea is lovely, but doesn't provide me with the same feeling of comfort and relaxation that the daily cup of coffee used to give me.

I'm exercising almost every other day and can feel myself regaining stamina that I had lost over the summer.  The plan is to now exercise two days in a row, then take a day off and repeat the pattern.  By the end of the month, I'll be working out 6 days each week. 

My blood pressure is in the normal range, so our health insurance premiums should go down this year.  The penalty for not being in the healthy range was quite expensive.  Maybe we should put the money we're saving in premiums aside each week and then take a wonderful trip next summer.  Hmmmm.

We started writing down some of the recipes that we're developing that were well received by the masses.  My crock-pot chuck roast with tomatoes, carrots, celery, thyme, onions, and parsley was delicious.  My prepared a paprika chicken breast that was full of flavor, but not spicy.  I enjoyed it so much that he's going to make it again this week.  Tonight's main course is turkey-beef meatloaf prepared with ground chuck, ground turkey, eggs, grated carrots, diced onions, parsley, and thyme. 
Mike prepared a vegetable-chicken soup using spaghetti squash, bok choy, carrots, and onions that was a good replacement for chicken noodle soup.

The kids are enjoying the wide variety of vegetables that we're eating throughout the day.  We've always enjoyed roasted asparagus in the spring, but now we're getting it in January. Acorn squash is being prepared in a variety of ways and NOW the kids like them.  Mike tried to serve cranberry sauce, but it was simply to sour without any form of sweetener.  Kale has received mixed reviews.  Some of the kids thought that it was okay, others really disliked it.

I've realized that my children are less fussy about foods than I am.  It's something that I'm going to need to work on, but try as I might, I just don't think squash and I will ever be best buddies.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Beginnings

Over the last several months, it's become apparent that my kids are eating too much crap.  Not intentionally, because I do plan healthy meals.  The problem is that the schedule keeps us from eating together or even at home several meals each week.  Fast food three days a week during a quick break from scheduled activities out of town, ordering pizza when I'm exhausted at the end of the week, and picking up a quick snack has created children (and parents) who no longer crave real, fresh food. 
This especially became obvious when I realized that my normally healthy grazer only wants carbs.  Not good things like fruit or whole grains.  She wants refined sugars,white bread, junk. 

I've been mulling over the situation during December, hoping to find a solution to our meal problem.  The goal was to break everyone's junk food desire and get us back to better nutrition.  A pin on pinterest helped me with an idea.  Whole 30 is a thirty day plan where participants eat no grains, dairy, legumes or processed food. When I mentioned it to Mike, he thought that it was a great idea.

We began the program as a family on January 1.  The kids have had a few complaints.  The main one is that they want more variety, especially for breakfast.  After the first day, they loved the fresh fruits and vegetables that are always available.  My huge sweet eater is thrilled to eat pears and apples in the afternoon and for breakfast  The first day, I let the kids eat up a ton of yogurt that was in the refrigerator.  The second day, one of my children (not naming them to protect the guilty) went to Taco Bell.  Other than those events, we've done very well with the plan. 

Yesterday, the youngest girls were playing at a friends house and the mother offered them a snack.  My girls explained that "they could only eat fruit, vegetables or meat".  I was proud that they were trying to stick with the guidelines.  We do realize that the minor children have special dietary needs with additional calcuim and we don't want them to lose any weight.  With that in mind, we will probably pick up some yogurt and some whole grains for them during the 30 day period.

Overall, it's been working out fairly well for us and we're eating much more variety in our diet. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Lots Happening in 2015

Our family had a great 2014.  I spent some time the last few days, looking over some of the things we achieved individually or as a family and was surprised at how busy we were.  As I worked my way through my new planner, I realized that 2015 will be another year of changes.

Katie changed her wedding date (again) and is now planning an August wedding.  I'm happy for her, but was a little surprised at the change.  She and George are busy trying to get facilities and other things organized for their big day.

Joe will be graduating in the spring. He's been ready to graduate for the last year, due to boredom at the public school.  The race to get paperwork in to all the colleges is a challenge.  Joe isn't the most organized person when it comes to meeting deadlines and I'm forcing him to handle this alone.  Hopefully, the experience will help him with his organizational skills before he leaves in August for college. He doesn't want an open house for graduation, but instead, requested a hiking trip to the U.P.  He's making plans on places he wants us to go, so it should be an adventure.

Joe tried out for a part in the school musical, The Adams Family.  He won the part of Mal, who is Wednesday's future father-in-law.  He has some solos to sing and is really enjoying acting.  It's hard to believe that he is the same shy young man from 5 years ago.  It does my mommy heart good to have watched him grow and develop more confidence in himself.

Paige and Allie have been taking cheer classes and dance classes.  The spring cheer competition is the same day as the dance recital. When offered the choice of one, they decided to do the cheer competition this spring.  Next year, the dance studio will be putting on a full ballet, so they are planning on doing the ballet recital next year. 

Madelyn, Paige and Alison will all be heading to the state competition in a few weeks.  Madelyn is also looking forward to participating in the national competition in July.  The competition will be in our state, so Mike and I are thrilled with the lower expenses this year.

My etsy shop is doing fairly well.  My sales are consistently growing and a steady pace.  Mike doesn't need to worry about retiring on my income any time soon, but it's nice to be earning a little extra doing things that I enjoy

Now that the siding is finished and the holidays are past, we've started more projects on the house.  The goal is to have it completed before Katie's wedding in August.  Mike is currently installing more insulation in the attic of the house and I'm stripping the varnish and glue from the large curving staircase in the center of the house.  He's going to put in a new ceiling over this staircase next.  We plan to carpet the hallway next to the staircase, but have been waiting until the mess of mudding the walls and staining the wooden stairs is finished first. 

After that, the tub/shower needs to be installed in the upstairs bathroom and the master bathroom needs to be completed.  I also want to get the flooring in the entry dining room and kitchen redone.  The entry is currently tile, the dining room is wood block and the kitchen/laundry room is laminate.  I'd like to make them the same flooring to have better flow from room to room.