Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Traditions ~ The Apples

Our bounty ~ a bushel of goodness!

Gideon had so much fun ~ especially being lifted up to pick his own apples!

Our local orchard has these great, old, metal wagons to pull apples (and children) along!

The crop of apples wasn't great this year ~ all were considered "seconds" ~ yet we thought they were still quite yummy!  No one seemed to mind, especially at $8/bushel!

Nothing better than your child so very happy!

Unless it's your father laughing hysterically!!

Isaac, ever my meticulous child, wanted to make sure the apples we picked were up to snuff!

Love the smiles!

Big hay bales even provided entertainment for the teenager among us!

Tali, enjoying the hayride!

Giddy & his big sissy!

Elijah Rock ~ waiting to try and pick an apple as we pass by the trees...
Luv this lil' boy!

**and lastly, my folks finally got their stove installed ~ along with our wood burning stove and the boys infra-red heater, ALL the levels of our home are ready for the long Michigan winter!


p.s.  coming up next ~ making apple butter & more family traditions (at Lowe's!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life beyond Facebook

I just went on a Facebook break.


I have been on Facebook, pretty consistently, since about - oh, I don't know, 2007 or 2008.  So.....that's a long time without a break!

I want to focus more on my family, my kiddos, their schooling, their behavior, my marriage, cleaning the house (well, I don't *want* to do that, but I probably should), and doing more of the "extra" fun stuff (sewing, crocheting, crafts with the kids, more experiments).

Isaac learning about long-barrel rifles and early American life.

Blue Waves baby blankie ~ yes, I'm STILL working on it....

Yes, I spend too much time on Facebook....

Me and my beautiful girls!

Plus, I'd like to focus a bit more on me and my needs in this season of my life.

I'm about to turn - *gulp* - the big 4-0, and I need to start paying better attention to my health & happiness, in addition to my family's health & happiness.  Yes, they mostly go hand in hand, but there are things I can - and should - be doing for myself that just aren't happening.

Mother's Day ~ by Tali

My Michigan winter slippers!

There's also this part of me that wonders how my emotions and self-confidence are affected by Facebook???  There's a lot of comparing, seeing how we measure up, wondering if we're doing things the "right" way or the "best" way.  Even if it's not done consciously, I wonder how the day in and day out viewing of other people's lives - and the NEED to share from my own life - is truly affecting me??

Enjoying the family!

Anyways, perhaps it's nothing.
But I want to take the break nonetheless.

My Baby ~ I miss her.....

So I'll try to keep up with the weekly blogging.  That seems a bit more do-able.  And blogging has always held a sort of journal or diary status for me.  I miss that.

So, here's to my Facebook break!

Selah-belle ~ my artist!

I'm excited to delve deeper into my life!
Ya know, IRL!!


***edited to add:  I'm going to go ahead and "share" this on Facebook, so my friends will know I'm blogging again.  Is that cheating?  Nah.....:)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Our Homeschool Lifestyle

Yup, that's us ~ we live life, we school, it all kinda gets mixed up.....whatever happens to us in life, naturally becomes a part of our education.  The kids are learning, and I am learning too!

As a way to record some of our day-to-day homeschool life, I'm going to post something weekly (more or less) about what we're learning.  This gives me a chance to sort through the collective chaos and see what we're actually learning, plus gives all of us a way to look back and enjoy some pictures of "school".

Most recently we have been studying some Jewish culture.  We thought we could start by learning about some of the yearly Jewish celebrations, or feasts.  Rosh Hashanah was just around the corner, and what a better place to start than the Jewish New Year!

I'm not sure where I picked up this book, but I've had it for a few years, wanting to learn more about the Jewish holidays with the kiddos, yet never seeming to find the time to make it happen.  So this year we just went for it!

We started off, Wednesday evening, at sundown - well, 18 min. BEFORE sundown, to be precise!  The girls lit the candles - one for each person in our home - and Rosh Hashanah officially began in our home.

Unfortunately, I do not believe I would make a very good Jewish wife.....ha!  I was having a hard time getting dinner on the table, and the natives were getting restless!  Luckily, Rosh Hashanah is all about having a *sweet* year.  They tend to eat sweet foods during this two day celebration - and my apple dessert was ready and waiting to go!  So the kids ate dessert first!!  Can I just tell you how excited they were?!!  Wait, really, Momma??  We can eat the dessert FIRST?!?  Yup ~ I'm officially "Awesome Momma"!!

When we did get to the dinner portion, it started off with our circle challah bread.  We have made plenty of challah, but never in a circle shape, so this was something new.  It turned out beautiful!  We tore hunks of the bread off, right there at the table, and drizzled them with honey.  Perfect!

A few more traditions we partook of:  we ate breakfast "cookies" as part of the sweet foods portion of the holiday.  They were actually a fairly healthy cookie - which is why I could justify serving them for breakfast!

We also threw bread crumbs into the Black River.  The crumbs represented the sin in our lives, issues we are each personally dealing with.  The River represents God's grace & mercy.  He washes our sins away.  He no longer remembers them, nor holds them against us.  They are gone!  It was good to watch the bread crumbs float away.....

Lastly, we learned about the shofar - the ram's horn.  This is the Feast of Trumpets!  Luckily for us, Isaac has been learning to play the trumpet via YouTube lessons.  He has only had a few lessons thus far, but he knew enough to blow some notes which represented our "shofar".  I told him the shofar was typically sounded 100 times each day of Rosh Hashanah in the synagogue.  He told me he didn't think he could manage that....ha!  I was impressed by his lung capacity when it came time for the final trumpet blast - whew!!  Can that boy BLOW!!!

In other hs'ing news:  We're learning about Ancient Greece, the Medes & the Persians, the Babylonians & the Assyrians.  The Persian Empire is about to go to battle with the Greeks!  We are all excited to see what happens next!  The Map Work is probably the favorite part of History around here.  Well, that and the stories I read from historical works & myths.

In science, we are studying habitats around the world, characteristics of each habitat and the animals that live there.  We are currently in China & Australia.  We have taken a LONG time with this curriculum, studying other things in nature, letting the kids' interests lead us.  Once we are done with this curriculum, we are heading into Astronomy.  I can't tell you how excited Isaac, my 13yo, is!

Math is math - some do Math U See, some do free printable worksheets, some are working their way through XtraMath.com, and we do have a few math workbooks, but those are mainly for fun.  Just when the kids are bored and are looking for something, ANYTHING, to do.

Isaac is learning trumpet, Selah is working her way through our library's art instruction books, while also keeping up with piano here and there.  Tali is working very hard at the piano - also with YouTube lessons.  She desperately wants to learn how to sew, so I try to include her in whatever I am working on.  I am learning patience.  Daily.....

The girls are starting a ballet class tomorrow - just four HS girls in their class.  The teacher is very local (right on our street) and the price can't be beat!  They are very excited, even though they realize they are a bit old to just be starting ballet - they don't care!  I hope they have a blast!!

The little boys....oh, where do I start?!  They are outside whenever possible and I try not to discourage that.  I have never seen a child so eaten up by mosquitoes as Micah Dean (5yo/K).  They participate in all our school lessons & discussions, usually coloring or working with shape pieces.  Lots of educational "busy bags" keep these two entertained - and I really do believe they are learning as well!  They are both working their way through Explode the Code phonic books too!  Lots of reading going on~

And lastly, the baby - well, Gideon is two already, not really a baby, I guess.  But he's OUR baby!


My crochet hobby is in full swing - that happens in fall, doesn't it?!  I've been trying a million new projects and pulling out a few old ones as well!

Flower Buttons

Pumpkin Coasters

Bobble Beard Beanie ~ perfect on my Elijah Rock!

And it wouldn't be fall without some Pumpkin Spice *something*, am I right?!?  Here are some pumpkin spice sugar cookies, with vanilla glaze.  Oh my....

Now I need a cup of coffee.
And maybe a cookie....

It *is* National Coffee Day, ya know!
Have a fabulous, fall day!!


Friday, September 5, 2014

Baking Bread ~ 3 lessons in 1

There are so many reasons why I love to bake bread:  it's healthier than store-bought (although we eat our fair share of that too, don't worry), it helps fill up those incessantly hungry lil' monsters that crowd around you at all hours of the day, crying "We're STARVING!!!", it rounds out just about any meal and fills up the tummies of your more picky eaters, it smells heavenly (or what I am gonna assume heaven to smell like) and makes your house smell like a home, and well.....dang it......it just tastes *so good*!!!

So around here, I have three bread staples:  Amazing White Bread, Honey Whole Wheat Bread, and Challah Bread.

No, they are not the healthiest options, but they're pretty darn good.  And dang tasty to boot!

As a side note, I own two bread machines.  I use these to knead my dough. (you could also use a Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook) Once the bread machine has run through the "dough cycle" (about 1 hour and 20 min), I take the dough out and form it into loaves.  Then I put the dough into standard, greased loaf pans and let 'em rise again - then bake them in the oven.  Delicious!!

So here goes:

(add to bread machine in given order)

1 1/3 c. warm water**
1 heaping Tbl. honey
2 Tbl. butter
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. dry milk powder
4 c. all-purpose/unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast

Set your machine on "dough" cycle, and start.
Watch your dough for the first 5 min. or so, just to make sure you don't need to add a bit more flour or a bit more warm water.  It should all mix up and form a nice, smooth ball of dough.  No sticking to the bottom 'cause it's too wet.  No dry, hard-to-knead dough ball either.  You'll get the hang of it.  And a little bit in either direction is not gonna RUIN your loaf of bread.  Remember this:  Butter makes everything all better!   It's my motto.

When the "dough" cycle is done, sprinkle some flour lightly on your counter.  Dump the dough onto the flour.  Knead it around a bit, just making sure to get most of the air bubbles out.  Then (hold on, here's the really technical part) just smoosh it around a bit, forming it into - sorta - a rectangle.  Seriously, don't stress about this.  Mine is usually more of a fat oval.  Then I just roll it (jelly-roll style, almost) into a loaf shape.  I tuck in the ends, and pinch the seam.  Then I throw it into the greased, glass loaf pan (metal will work too, it just may get a more browned crust) and place a light, clean dishcloth over the top.  Let it rise until it is just past the top of the pan.

{I have let mine rise too long many a time.  I just end up getting one big ol' tall, fat, delicious loaf of bread.  I have also run out of time and not been able to let it rise as long as I'd like.  I ended up with a smaller, yet still just as delicious loaf of bread.  Hear me:  it's all good!}

Once it has risen, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees - then bake for 35-40 min.  I like to make sure my crust is evenly browned.  Some people say to tap the bottom and it should sound "hollow".  Um, yes, go ahead, try this.  I *think* I've gotten the hollow sound before, but I'm just not sure......my oven is fairly consistent in temperature and I usually go for 35-37 min.

Take it out of the pan immediately!  Carefully place it on a cooling rack.  You may top with melted butter for extra yumminess - just be forewarned:  you'll be lucky to get your bread cooled before little people (and big people too) will be clamoring for you to slice and deliver them a piece of your homemade goodness.....it really does smell that good!

**Warm Water Temperature Confusion??  I just use the hot water from my tap.  By the time it goes into my measuring cup, into the bread machine pan, is covered by all the other ingredients and finally gets kneaded with the yeast - it is the perfect temperature.  Don't stress about getting it to a specific temperature.  As long as your yeast isn't too old (I store mine in the freezer), you're set.

(add to bread machine in given order)

1 1/2 c. warm water**
1/2 c. honey
1 Tbl. oil/butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. grains (I use old fashioned oats)
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. all-purpose/unbleached flour
2 tsp. active dry yeast

Add, set to "dough" cycle, watch for first 5 minutes.
When finished, plop onto floured counter, knead lightly, spread out into rectangle, roll up into loaf shape.  Then place in lightly greased (I use baking spray - like Pam) loaf pan and set to rise, covering with a light dishcloth.
When the dough is risen just past the top of the pan, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 min.  (mine is usually about 35-37 min. - just watch carefully).  This will obviously be darker and denser then the white bread - but oh-so fabulous!!  Great with a big ol' pot of soup!

CHALLAH BREAD - 1 braided loaf
(add to bread machine in given order)

3/4 c. warm water**
1/4 c. honey
1/2 Tbl. oil/butter
2 eggs
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbl. sugar
3+ c. all-purpose/unbleached flour (I have used part whole wheat here, but not too much, maybe 1 c.)
1 Tbl. active dry yeast

Add, set to "dough" cycle, watch for the first 5 min.  You WILL need to add more flour to this recipe.  Maybe another 1/2 a cup or more.  Just keep an eye on it.  Not sure why this recipe is like that, but - hey, it is what it is.  Flour can be tricky at times.  Depends on humidity of your home, humidity of your flour, um.....other.....stuff....

Anyways, once the bread machine is done, dump your dough onto your floured counter, and knead it lightly.  Then use a long knife to cut your dough into four, equal balls.  Roll each ball into a long rope/snake - perhaps 12-14 inches long.  You are then going to braid your snakes together.  If you have never braided four strands together, don't worry, I had never done that either.  Yet it's super easy!  Just google "how to braid 4 strand challah bread" and you'll get a bunch of youtube videos.  (or just braid three snakes together - it'll still look cool and it's all gonna taste the same regardless!)  There's also 6 strand, I just haven't ever tried it.  Sounds easy enough though.....I'll have to give that a shot one of these days!

(video:  Tammy's Recipes - check out her site!)

I transfer my braided bread dough to my baking sheet - usually lined with parchment paper and a spritz of baking spray.  You can brush with a beaten egg before baking if you'd like - even top it with sesame seeds, or sliced almonds.  I usually don't.  I may spread some melted butter on top afterwards.....mmmmmmm.....melted butter on challah......*drooling*

Ok, sorry, anyways....

Yes, put your braid onto your baking sheet, cover with a light dishcloth and let it rise a bit - doesn't take too long 30-60 min.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and bake for 30-40 min.  (mine is usually done by 30-32 min.).  Slide your beautiful braid onto a cooling rack, top with butter if desired, and try NOT to immediately rip it apart and eat the whole thing yourself.  Try.  Really hard.  I mean, it's just too hot.....wait a few moments, for goodness sakes!

And after you get the hang of these three breads, we can move onto rolls!

I LOVE pull-apart rolls!  And those three-leaf clover looking ones.....all fabulous!!

So there ya go!  Did you understand all that?  Do you have questions?  Do you doubt your bread baking ability?!  DON'T ~ just gather your ingredients and go for it!  Your family will *gladly* eat your mistakes and flops and weird looking braids and then beg you to try again tomorrow!  Baking bread is sorta becoming a lost art, so before you know it, you'll be one of "those" moms ~ the awesome ones who can actually braid and bake the most beautiful, delicious bread EVER!!

Do it.  Now.
You can thank me later.
Over coffee.
With some challah bread.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Life Lately - through pictures!

We're entering the last month or so of summer....

Beautiful tree I just discovered by the river in our small town park.

We've had LOTS of fun ~ enjoying baby brother's explorations!

Talitha (9) with Gideon (2)

Even the biggest brother got right in there!

Isaac (12 - almost 13, just a few more days....)

And Momma is learning to relax a little more and let 'em run a little more.

Elijah (7) on the swinging bridge.

We had plenty of ice cream :)

Gideon (2) at his first A&W experience.

And just enjoyed one another!

Sissies ~ Selah (11) & Talitha (9)

Time for reading and relaxing.

Isaac (12) who will read just about anything he can get his hands on!

And my heart sorta wants to explode when I hear the laughter during evening lawn tractor rides~

Gideon (2) finally enjoying this Butterfield tradition!

Lots of fun celebrations!
Everyone tried this hairstyle for the fourth, right?!?

I've been expanding my cake decorating "skills" (such as they are)
This is a character from "Sonic the Hedgehog".
I think......

Micah (now 5), is *slowly* coming out of his shell......but still my shy one.

And yes, even time for more crocheting!

The owl baby beanie never gets old ~ stinkin' adorable!

Trying to find a really good pattern for lil' girl slippers.

The Market Bag - from the Crochet Crowd on FB.

Just a regular ol' dishcloth ~ I need to make more!

And a sweet doll for a niece with one blue eye & one brown eye ~ Cool!

It's been such a cool, mild summer - we've had lots of opportunities for campfires & s'mores!

Elijah (7) is learning to roast marshmallows all on his own!
(and Momma is lovin' this season of their new found independence!)

But before long, we'll be lighting up the wood stove inside as well.
Here is our new (to us) wood stove & hearth!
We just ordered some replacement parts & needed tools & various wood racks.

Our new wood stove & hearth ~ updated photos coming soon.

We are also still cutting down standing, dead trees on our property in preparation of renting a log splitter ~ this is our first year preparing a woodpile that we hope will last all winter long.....it's a learning process, for sure!!

And of course, we'll be starting up with more formal education happening on a more regular basis.  We have been living and loving and learning all summer, but soon we'll break out some lined handwriting paper, math flashcards, reading lists, grammar & literature units, officially finish up our science book and start the astronomy text, and keep on keeping on with world history.....

Story of the World ~ I'm learning right along with 'em!

So that's where we are ~ enjoying these last few weeks, preparing for the months ahead, and asking God continually to be our focus, to join us in the every day, to lead us where He would have us go, be who He would have us be.  It's not always easy to live with the same 10 people day in, day out - face their faults, your own sins, everyone's quirks.....and yet love 'em all where they are (yes, even love yourself, right where you are!).

Me & 2 of my redheads ~ who have also inherited my need for glasses.
Elijah isn't wearing his in this picture.
They're broken.
I *think* he had them for a week......maybe.

This is where God has us.
Some days are really hard.  Some are really good.
I cry.  Sometimes, I cry a lot.
I laugh too.  And smile.  And wonder why God has chosen us for this life.
Why He has chosen us at all....

Aaaaaand now it's dinner time, so no more time for reflection or contemplation.
I'm making homemade biscuits for Sausage Biscuits with grape jelly!
And I think we'll try to play horseshoes for a while before it gets too dark.
Enjoy these last summer days, my friends~