Monday, August 30, 2010

Hiding Places

The school room, which has now become a school room/sewing room, is more often than not an eyesore.

When you walk in the front door, it is immediately to the left. No door. Just a lovely opening to greet you.

No matter how picked up the rest of the house was, this room was the first room anybody saw when they walked in my house. It's never completely picked up right now. More often than not it's a bit of a mess.

People don't come to visit when it's dark outside and you can't see the mess. So I needed to come up with a way to hide it.

Hubby was not in any way, shape, or form convinced that this was a good idea. He only likes it because I love it.

I found some tone-on-tone neutral fabric on clearance at JoAnn's. It's the 54" wide stuff for decorating. I can't come up with what it's called right now. I think it has a special name.

We have 9' ceilings on the first floor, so I had them cut 6 yards of fabric. When I got home I cut it into two panels.

I hemmed the bottom of both, folded under the top a couple of times to make it the length I wanted, and used black clip hooks on a regular drapery rod.

I tucked the sides in before I folded the top under twice. That's because I decided not to finish off the edges.

At least for now. I might have to go back and do a straight stitch down the sides to keep the pinned down. I'm going to live with it a couple of weeks first and see if I can deal with it.

I'm linking up with Metamorphosis Monday at Naps on the Porch.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

I recently (as in the last six months) made a homemade chocolate cake. It didn't look this chocolate-y, it didn't taste very chocolate-y, and it tasted like you would imagine a homemade cake to taste. At least like I imagined it would taste, which was not so good. I'm used to a boxed chocolate cake mix.

Funny thing is, just a couple of weeks ago I made a boxed chocolate cake I had in my cabinet and was thinking how I wished I had a good recipe for a delicious chocolate cake. You know, so when I wanted to have chocolate cake I didn't have to have all those preservatives and could just have all those homemade ingredients and lots of white sugar and white flour, which isn't supposed to be good for you at all.

But cocoa and antioxidants — they are supposed to be good for you. So maybe they cancel out all that white sugar and white flour. I'm just going with that.

Well, a week after I had my little "wish I had a homemade cake recipe" thought, our friends brought over chocolate cake for small group. They brought the recipe, which happens to be off the box of Hershey's Cocoa. Here it is, along with the frosting recipe, also from the box. Enjoy!

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups Hershey's Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Put water on to boil.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; removed from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting.

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

1 stick butter
2/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups.

  1. The batter was thin. Chatty said I should pour some of the water off the top!
  2. It took me about 37-38 minutes to cook, but I did open the oven at 30 minutes and 35 minutes to stick toothpicks in one of the cakes to check.
  3. I didn't add any additional milk to the frosting. I wanted to, but I went ahead and added in the vanilla first. It was okay then. But now that I'm looking at the recipe I think I might have made a mistake and added 2 tsp instead of 1 tsp to the frosting. I can't remember and I don't know why I'm thinking that. Maybe it's because of the cake. Oh, well, it was good, and you may or may not need a little smidge of milk.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Curly Hair

It's no secret that I've always wanted Marcia Brady hair. I think I've said it more than once. My cousin even made up an unflattering nickname for me when we were growing up that was completely related to my hair. CBFH.

Every person that asks me if my curly hair is "real" also asks if I've always wanted straight hair. Usually they have straight hair and have always wanted curly hair.

I didn't let my hair "go" until I turned 40. All those years of fighting it and time spent fighting it and little did I know that my Hubby would love it this way.

He likes to squish it up on the top by my scalp. About the only time he can get away with it is when he leaves very early in the mornings and I am asleep. Sometimes I wake up when he squishes my hair. That doesn't always make me very happy.

I think he has probably even made some analogies about my hair, but nothing that has ever really stuck in my mind. Until last night.

For some reason he squished my hair when he got home. One of the kids was standing there. They probably gave him a weird look. He said, "It's like a water hose. Or a straw."

I've even squished my own hair since then trying to figure out those analogies. I can't even come close.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This is what my refrigerator looked like just a couple of hours ago. I just got finished emptying it and wiping it out. This is what was left after just over 48 hours without electricity.

Storms rolled through our area Thursday evening. I thought Hubby was watching the clouds since we were under a tornado warning — you know, to alert us to run to the basement. He was actually birding. I thought he was joking until the kids confirmed it.

Right after the power went out the man who was to sign and notarize our house refinancing documents arrived. We did it by candlelight and flashlight. Four candles and two flashlights to be exact. It took a little longer than normal.

We are thankful there was no damage around us (the trees that took down lines that we think affected us were more than a mile away), that the temperatures are reasonable, and that we have a house standing, but the kids and I are still glad the power is back on tonight. We aren't very good at roughing it. They rough it camping, but not at home. I don't rough well at all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Slow Cooker Meatballs

This is the recipe for Sweet and Sour Meatballs that I got from Mama Bear right before New Year's Eve. I've used it a couple of times. I like it because it's so easy. I'm going to write it the way I use it, which is for a large group. If you buy a smaller bag of frozen meatballs, just use one can and one jar.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
from Mama Bear

1 bag of frozen meatballs (the kind with 100-120)
2 cans jellied cranberry sauce
2 jars chili sauce.

Stir the sauces together in your slow cooker. Stir in your frozen meatballs. Heat on high for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. I have found that stirring with a heat-resistant spatula keeps from breaking the meatballs.

Last night we had small group at our house. I had an extra bag of meatballs in the freezer, an extra large one. I decided I wanted to do something different than the Sweet and Sour Meatballs I had done a few months ago. I'll just call them Swedish Meatballs. I know I've done mini-meatloaves kind of like this.

Swedish Meatballs
an experiment that worked!

1 bag of frozen meatballs (the kind with 100-120)
1 large can cream of mushroom soup (50 oz), the kind from Sam's Club
2/3 cup water

Stir soup, water, and frozen meatballs together in your slow cooker. Cook on high 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. I added the water after mine had been cooking for an hour or two, but I think it would be fine to just add it in at the beginning.

These were a huge hit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Rocks Our Schoolhouse

Homeschooling is always an adventure. Every child has a different learning style and different strengths. Even twins. Ask me how I know.

Fun integrated into school always helps lighten the mood or an otherwise difficult subject area. Sometimes it's difficult to find just the right "fun" thing to implement, especially when it isn't necessarily conducive to crafting or your kids are over that age.

Years ago, as in maybe six, we saw a Schoolhouse Rock DVD set in the store. It had all the original Schoolhouse Rock songs on a couple of DVDs. Since Hubby and I grew up waiting with bated breath every Saturday morning for the cartoon breaks where they would show one of the songs, this was kind of a no-brainer. It was like Brady Bunch coming out on DVD was for me.

We wanted to show the kids all the fun songs that we would occasionally break out singing. What gave us cause to break out singing any of them is beyond me, but we find ways.

What we didn't realize at the time was that our kids would come to like them and how educational they were in such a little nutshell. This was to our benefit, especially the Grammar Rocks songs.

There have been times when we're working on our grammar and talking about parts of speech and one of the kids is struggling. I'll ask what song was about that part of speech, or I'll start singing one line so they can sing it in their head or with me. It has almost always gotten things moving in the right direction. Last school year we all sat down and watched all the grammar songs as a refresher.

We've put things to songs ourselves, like days of the week and months of the year when the kids were young, to prepositions and helping verbs as they were older. It helps to memorize lists, but it also helps to make things fun.

Schoolhouse Rock songs are fun and some are downright funny. You can check them out on YouTube. I can never pick my favorite, so here is one of them:

Menu Plan Monday — August 16

Monday — Clean out the fridge (leftover buffet), which I know will be much to my children's chagrin. We need a fresh start though.

TuesdayBaked Potato Bar. Small group at our house is starting back up, and this is always a busy evening before people arrive. We need something quick and easy.

WednesdayChicken Spaghetti. I already have some cut up chicken in the freezer.

Thursday — Grill some marinated chicken I have in the freezer from bulk marinating.

FridayPizza at a family friend's house and then Hubby and I are going to learn how to play Canasta.

Saturday5-Minute Southwest Layered Salad salad.

Sunday — Eat out since we ate in all week!

Visit The Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Evidence Of Boys

Tell-tale evidence around my house that I live with boys, ignoring occasionally scents that waft by and Peter Brady squeaks.

A doll chair swiped for a stuffed animal, for comfortable TV viewing.

The front of the refrigerator with some free meal toy.

My bathtub.

These are just in the last few days.

Do you have evidence of boys around your house?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WFMW — Stocking Stuffers For Your Baseball Fan

Currently Rite-Aid has their individual packages of baseball cards on clearance for 75 percent off. Of course there is one in our area where they are only 50 percent off for some reason. I also live in an area where there is a store about every two to three miles down the road in any direction.

We've been to about six.

Do you have a baseball fan in your family? A baseball card fanatic? Double checks for me a few times over!

These are great for stocking stuffers. We were able to purchase packages for 37 cents and 74 cents. You totally can't beat that.

Of course you'll want to check your local Rite-Aid to make sure they have theirs on clearance. The majority of ours don't have the shelves or the packages marked, so check at the counter.
You also will not want to go to any of the stores close to me...

Early frugal Christmas shopping works for me!

Check out other more
Works-For-Me-Wednesday at We Are THAT Family!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The School Room That Isn't

One of the most exciting things when we moved into our house was having a dedicated school room.

Yes, we only had two desks with the cubbies, but I assumed that when two of the kids were working quietly at the desks I would probably be teaching the others at the table.

Old habits are hard to break. They are still all at the table. I guess that's what happens when you homeschool for 10 years without a dedicated room and at your kitchen table. But at least we have a dedicated school room to keep all of our books stored and organized and easy to locate now.

And so I just sew on the desks that were intended for school!

When I originally had the room organized, here is what it looked like. It's had some tweaking since then.

I try to dedicate only three cubbies to one year of our Tapestry plus the books that go with it.

That's pretty easy to do since I'm getting rid of some of the 'youngest' books since I won't have any more children rotating through and I won't get the 'older' books until we get to each year plan with the girls. Plus there are books that overlap from year to year that stay with the current year we are working with. The current year we are working with usually takes more than that just three cubbies.

I have a dedicated spot for logic and math supplements.

I keep science type stuff together, geography books together, etc. We have some biographies that I keep in the school room that are specifically for the kids, but all of our other books (fiction and non-fiction) that are not dedicated to their curriculum is located in other bookshelves throughout the house.

There is a rolling cart for all of the school necessities.

This cubby is located in the living room right off of the dining room. It has two boxes for each child for consumables (math, etc.) and then some of my teacher guides. These are the things we access daily. And they need to be close to the table since I mentioned that old habits have been hard to break.

This lives in the middle of the table. We eat with it often. It's only not welcome when we have company. Right now it doesn't have many pencils since it's summer. Soon it will be more pencils than anything else.

These are the pockets I made for the backs of our chairs. Here's the link to the tutorial if you're interested.

This is our game cabinet that is right outside the school room, which should really have another name. The school room, not the game cabinet.

I've linked up to the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop. Click the box to visit other homeschool rooms that really are probably homeschool rooms.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Friday, August 6, 2010

New Goodies

I just put a couple of new items in my shop.

Ponytail holders for you or any girl in your life...

I also listed tissue holders, for those travel-size packs that get battered and beaten up in our purses and backpacks. At least they do in mine.

I've only got two of those done and listed right now, so if you love one you might want to grab it.

Speaking of grabbing, I'd love for you to grab the code for my shop button on the left sidebar and put it on your blog. I'm still trying to get the word out. Thanks!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Christmas in August

Although it could be Christmas in July, since these are a few of the ornaments we added to our collection when we went to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan, in July. I'm just showing them to you in August.

I opted to show you the glass ball ornaments today. This is the Bronner's annual ornament. I just thought it was beautiful. I don't typically buy dated ornaments, but this one was too pretty to pass up.

In honor of Hubby's 20-year military career:

In honor of our 25th anniversary we celebrated in June:

For more Show and Tell Friday, visit Cindy at My Romantic Home!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Closet Italian

When my cousin's family came to visit just a couple of weeks ago, they arrived in Detroit in mid-afternoon. Since they were attending a baseball game that night, it is an hour from the airport to our house, and another hour from our house back to the ball field, all in different directions and assuming traffic is slightly cooperative in the metro-Detroit area, they chose to eat a nice dinner and go straight to the game prior to spending the night at our house.

They ate at Giovanni's, according to reviews the best Italian in at least Southeast Michigan, if not the entire state. Jeff, Jennifer, and Meredith all spoke highly of it.

So we're talking about it the next day on the way to Frankenmuth, and Caboose hears us say the name of the restaurant.

"That is such a cool name. Now I have my fourth name. Luigi, Giovanni, Erica, and Whitney." Those are the names of the four children he's planning to have some day. He'd been struggling to find that fourth name.

See, it's been about a month since he told us he was going to have to find a wife that liked the name Luigi. Apparently the ones he's willing to fight for are Luigi and Erica. We told he might need to marry into a good Italian family if he had hopes for Luigi, although if he gets his way and you put it with our last name, he will get his fair share of strange looks.

Of course he is only ten years old. Planning his future, but still ten years old.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Menu Plan Monday — August 2

It's been several weeks since I've done a menu plan post. They seemed to be getting slightly boring since we were doing so much grilling of exactly the same items. We tend to do a lot of bulk grilling when we cook hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, then we're able to eat them for dinner for another day or so. I also marinate a lot of chicken in various marinades at one time (thanks to Life as Mom) and then we pull one of those out. They are especially good cut up and put on a fresh salad.

MondaySteaks on the grill. Hubby got them at the store the other day when he forgot we were having a Sunday dinner at church after the VBS program.

TuesdaySpecial Sandwiches. I don't know how big the steaks are that Hubby got, but sometimes we have a little left over. If we do, we'll have these. If we don't, we'll have to have sub sandwiches.

Wednesday5-Minute Southwest Layered Salad. This is one of the quickest and yummiest things we have in our repertoire.

ThursdayMexican Beef Casserole.

Friday — Leftover buffet/Clean out the fridge and pantry. The girls won't be home so it will just be four of us.

Saturday — Picnic with Mrs. Missionary, the chaperone from Sparky's Togo, West Africa, trip. They have it every year following a fundraiser for the organization. I'll take what has become my new go-to potluck dish, Cheesy Potato Casserole.

Sunday — Eat out since we ate in all week!

If you haven't had an opportunity to see my new shop, I'm going to be adding a few new items this week, so be sure to check it out!
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