Friday, September 24, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Tomorrow is our 11th anniversary so to celebrate we sent the kids to grandma & grandpa's for the night and went out on a date. We spent a couple of hours visiting house in the fall Parade of Homes held annually. I LOVE exploring houses. We did a lot more of it when we had no kids but haven't done it in a long while. It was so much fun. You always find something in a house you like, something you don't and you try really hard to remember all the details as no photos are allowed. Well, since we are building sometime in the future, this touring became even more important. Using Jay's 6 foot arm span, we could easily measure the size of rooms. By being able to stand in a room of a certain size, I can much more easily picture the rooms in our next house. Very important! But the most thrilling part of the tours was finding an entire house I loved! The moment I walked in I could say, "This is our home!" If you want to see for yourself, check out 7 Hunterbrook Road in Bridgewater Forest in Winnipeg. It was built by KDR Design Builders and it is beautiful! Most houses nowadays are a little more modern, which is fine, but I am a traditional girl through-and-through! This house had beautiful brown tones on the walls, some dark and some lighter, with some white wainscot on the bottom half. The contrast with the dark walls is stunning! The flooring is a gorgeous multi-toned wood. It has swirls of darker and lighter brown throughout it which really made a statement. The kitchen had beautiful cabinets in a white color with cup pulls in a dark finish, just like I want! The range hood was a custom made wood hood in a dark wood finish, just like I want! It had a full fridge, full freezer, and a large island in that same contrasting wood finish, just like I want! The dining room was located adjacent to the kitchen and had beautiful square pillars framing it in the same dark contrasting wood as the kitchen! It was gorgeous! Then upstairs (yes, it was a 2-storey, just like we want!) it had 4 bedrooms! It was actually a family home! I have been contemplating using turquoise throughout our next house along with the dark brown and pops of red! Guess what I saw on a bed upstairs? A beautiful pillow with the turquoise and brown, just like I want (I told the lady I wanted that pillow - my inspiration piece for the next house - apparently, she got it at Home Sense!)! The doors and mouldings were just to my taste, a little more elaborate than plain without being over-the-top. The doors were white with the dark oil-rubbed bronze finish door handles. The contrast is perfect! And, I have already purchased our door handles which are oil-rubbed bronze levers! Oh, it was such a pretty house! It felt cozy and warm and inviting. It felt like a place you could relax and enjoy each other's company. A place you would love to linger with friends and family. A couple of minor changes I would make - there was no jetted tub in the master en suite which is a necessity (I realize that it is not an actual necessity, like food, water and air so just ignore my over-exaggeration!) plus I would like a more rustic fireplace - stone, maybe? But those are really minor! There is something so encouraging about envisioning something in your head and then seeing it laid out for you and YOU LIKE IT! So I am thrilled to have found this house and I may need to take another look or two before the parade ends on October 9, just to cement more of the ideas in my head!

Oh, then after the parade, we went to Red Lobster for never-ending shrimp. It is almost disgusting to think I ate 50 shrimp along with 4 biscuits, a salad and some mashed potatoes. Jay ate 60 shrimp. But it was good, oh-so-good!

Now, I gotta get ready for school as the kids are on their way home from the sleepover and time is wasting! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quick Cooking with Homemade Mixes

Life has been super busy around here with schooling taking a better part of the day (until 3pm)and the rest filled with household chores, cooking, cleaning, etc. It is at times like these I am especially appreciative of the homemade mixes I rely on to continue providing home baked goodies in a fraction of the time. These are three of our favorites.


4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda

For Pancakes:
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

For Blueberry Banana Pancakes:
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
3/4 cup blueberries

In a bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. YIELD: about 6 3/4 cups (6-7 batches of pancakes)

To Prepare Pancakes:
In a bowl, combine egg and milk. Whisk in 1 cup pancake mix. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle; turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Cook until second side is golden brown. YIELD: about 6 pancakes per batch

To Prepare Blueberry Banana Pancakes:
In a bowl, combine egg, milk and banana. Whisk in 1 cup pancake mix. Fold in blueberries. Cook as directed above. YIELD: about 8 pancakes per batch


  • I always make a double recipe of the dry ingredients, putting everything into an icecream pail, putting the lid on the pail and shaking until well mixed. You can label the pail with the directions for pancakes.
  • When I make pancakes for the whole family, I always make a double recipe of the plain pancakes and a single recipe of the Blueberry Banana. That provides enough for the meal plus a few extra! Hey, we are pancake lovers!
  • My personal favorite are the Blueberry Banana pancakes - they taste excellent!
  • My mix never lasts 6 months, not even 6 weeks, its that good! :)

When Pepe was only 5 months old, we made a trip to the West Coast to visit Jay's relatives I had not yet met. What a wonderful time I had meeting these delightful family members. I now wish we lived closer so we could see them more often as they have left an indelible mark on my heart! Jay's gracious Aunt L let us stay with her for a while and she always made these muffins fresh every morning. Although I believe they are called 6 Week Bran Muffins, I call them Aunt L's Bran Muffins.


2 cups Nabisco 100% Bran
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup shortening
4 eggs
1 litre buttermilk
5 cups flour
3 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups bran flakes cereal
2 cups raisins

Pour boiling water over 100% bran and let stand while creaming sugar, shortening and eggs. Add buttermilk. Add bran/water mixture. Sift flour, soda and salt in separate bowl. Add bran flakes. Fold into wet mixture until moist. Add raisins. Store in ice cream pail for up to 6 weeks in refrigerator. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes.


  • You can switch the amounts of the bran and bran flakes cereal if you so desire.
  • You can also substitute wheat bran for the 100% bran
  • These make excellent snacks throughout the day. I bake about 9 fresh in the morning and they are usually gone by supper.
  • These are really really good with peanut butter spread on top! Mmmmm!
  • Ideally, after these are mixed, wait to make the muffins until they have sit in the refrigerator for one day. If you make muffins right away, they tend to be really flat and hardly rise at all. Wait a day or more and they turn out much nicer!

Finally, fresh baked buns are such a treat around here but I rarely have time to mix a batch each time we want them! Welcome to the world of refrigerator rolls! Oh, these yummy buns sure hit the spot and take so very little time to prep. I can usually form them during morning recess and have fresh baked buns for lunch or I form them right after school and have fresh baked buns for supper. Now I just need to tweak them a bit to include some whole wheat flour and maybe some ground flax.


2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2 pkgs dry yeast (or 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup warm water
2 beaten eggs
7-8 cups all-purpose flour

Mix boiling water, sugar, salt and shortening together and cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in 1/4 cup water and stir into first mixture. Add beaten eggs. Stir in 4 cups flour and beat until smooth. Stir in remaining flour to make a fairly stiff dough. Place in greased bowl and cover then place in refrigerator. This dough will keep for up to 6 days. When wanted, roll into 24 evenly-sized balls. Place on greased pan and allow to rise until double in bulk, about 1 -1 /2 hours. Bake in a 400F oven for 15 minutes.


  • I make this recipe x 1 1/2 then store it in a large Tupperware bowl in the fridge.
  • I make 1 dozen fresh buns daily then whatever dough is left over at the end of the 6 days, I make into buns and freeze if necessary (which it hasn't been!).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We Survived Week One!

Well, we have completed our first full week of homeschooling for this 2010-2011 school year and what a week it was! It was a full week but a really great one! If the rest of the year could go this smoothly (which it probably won't), then it should be a breeze!

Some of the highlights of the week:
  • RJ is only 4. She turns 5 in February. She would only be going into Kindergarten next year according to all the government regulations. Well, I like to ignore those and do what I want when it comes to schooling. She started kindergarten this week with a bang! I bought a number of workbooks for her thinking if she was kept busy all morning she would want to play all afternoon, right? WRONG! She spent all Monday afternoon crying because I didn't have more school for her to do! So, we upped the amount of pages for her and that seemed to make her happier - at least until Friday when she insisted she was doing school in the afternoon just like the boys. So, I just may add some grade 1 books into the mix and see how she does with those!

  • The boys are enjoying both geography and science. For geography, they are studying Turkey and they look forward to those days. Yup, they actually enjoy it! And they love making the lapbooks. I did learn that their cutting-with-scissors skills are a bit wanting - the perfectionist in me has to work hard not to cut out the little books for them so they look perfect!

  • Pepe wants to be a zoologist thanks to science. He has taken to writing notes in little notebooks about the frogs he has been catching. Actually, we have now set up an aquarium in their room with 2 American Toads and 1 Leopard Frog. Turns out, you really do need to cover any small holes in the aquarium lid no matter how unlikely you think it is that the frog can escape. Cause it can. Just ask the boys! (When we left the house at 5:30 all 3 amphibians were present and accounted for. When we returned at 8:30 the frog was gone. Jay thought it was burrowed in the dirt. So I dug up the dirt. No frog. Yup, I spent the next 2 hours cleaning the house and searching for it while promising the boys the frog was not in their room and would not jump on them at night. It was found. I returned it to its home. I covered all holes and weighted down the lid! Trying escaping now, oh little jumping wonder!)

  • I was super excited to teach composition to Pepe this year, following the program designed by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I wasn't sure how he would do but after this week, I am convinced he will thrive! He is loving it so far and has given 3 oral reports about his work. He was scared at first to present the report to us but by the third time he was looking at us while speaking, smiling, raising his eyebrows and using excellent expression. I cannot help but be overwhelmed with pride when I see how well he is doing under my tutelage!

  • Lunch times are so much easier if you actually make school lunches for them either the night before or the morning of. I never thought I would make school lunches for my home-schooled kids but when I was reading this post by Mama Jenn I decided to give it a go. Now, she uses these really cute colored lunch dishes called Easy Lunchboxes that cost way too much to ship to Canada. (Sorry, Easy Lunchboxes!) I had to think of a more affordable alternative so I found perfect sized 2-compartment plastic containers at Dollarama. I also bought a few other smaller-sized containers for vegetable dip, fruit salad or jello or pudding, etc. These have come in so handy and make my day run that much smoother. Now I make their lunches ahead of time and label the dishes with their initials. They can get their lunch on their own and whatever they don't finish goes back in the dish and is handy for snack time! It really does save a tonne of time and they can use that extra time for more playing. I get to use that extra time for chores around the house or getting supper in the crock-pot, etc. I absolutely love making them lunches thanks to the extra time it saves and guess what? When you make the lunches ahead of time you don't serve KD! Imagine that! :)

  • Finally, I have been using the workbox system as Mama Jenn describes (Hey, what can I say? She has some great ideas!). I have no idea how you are "supposed to" use the system but I like what I am doing. Everyone knows what to do next and the day seems to go very smoothly. It takes a bit more organizing than usual but the results are worth it. I have all 3 kids working on their assignments and it is so easy for me to go around and help them as necessary. They know what to do when they finish one assignment and don't have to sit and wait for me to tell them what to do! So, I love this part of schooling as well! And, I use the planning sheets Mama Jenn has created also! They keep me organized and on-track at all times! My day would be complete chaos without them!

  • I love how we can be flexible with our schedule! We accomplished everything school-related we needed to do plus we attended a doctor's appointment in the city followed by some shopping, we helped my in-laws dig potatoes one afternoon and I took the kids to a bookstore one morning. A great, great week!

Well, that is the recap for the week. I don't have any pictures to show you since all 3 of my camera cards are full and need to get developed! That should happen this week! I hope your week was as good as mine and I hope this coming week is even better!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lapbook on Turkey

Merhaba! Hello (for all you non-Turkish speakers!). For geography this year, we will be studying a book called "A Child's Geography - Explore the Holy Land". I am really excited about doing this study but wanted to be sure the boys would be able to retain the knowledge they will gain. Enter lapbooks! If you have never heard of lapbooks, you are not alone. I had only heard of them for the first time just about a year ago when we were discussing what we would be doing at the homeschool co-op we are joining this year. A lapbook is a folder of information pertaining to a particular subject. This folder contains lots of mini-books of bite-sized chunks of information. At the end of your study of that topic you have a creative book filled with information that is presented in a lot more interesting of a manner than just a notebook filled with writing. That is a very simplistic definition but it gets the point across. You can find lapbooks all over the web for many different topics. I could not find a lapbook for this particular study so what is a girl to do? Make one! Now, A Child's Geography covers 6 different countries in the Holy Land area so we are going to take a full month to study each country. I have finally completed the lapbook for the first country, Turkey. I had to make a sample so I knew how all of it would be arranged. I loved doing it and the boys are excited about making their own. I made all the templates on my computer then printed them out on really colorful paper. The boys will fill in all the information and cut them out during the appropriate lesson. I read somewhere that colorful paper is a better way to retain the info plus it looks better so that is what I used. I also found a tonne of colorful file folders at the thrift store for a couple pennies each. They were already written on the tab so I just cut the tabs off. I actually like the slightly smaller size better since this way I can put each lapbook in a plastic page protector and put them all into a binder. Anyway, without any further ado, here is my lapbook on Turkey to accompany the first chapter in "A Child's Geography - Explore the Holy Land".

{This is how it closes. The front cover will be decorated by the boys - I didn't decorate mine}

{Inside - all the mini books are closed}

{Inside - some of the mini-books are open. There are a lot of fill-in-the-blanks but not huge amounts of writing.}

{The back of the lapbook - a map of Turkey the boys will have to label.}

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Am I Trusting God?

Ever since reading this post yesterday, it has been consuming my thoughts. Am I trusting God with the size of our family or did we make a choice on our own that seemed logical at the time? We can come up with many reasons for not having more biological children right now - we already have a "big" family (5 children in 6 years is a lot, isn't it? Especially with no twins. One would think we would want to be done), our house is full, my pelvis gets worse with each pregnancy - okay, those are the biggest ones. But then there is all the emotional toll new babies take on an individual and the family. When I think about that article and think about the choice we made to stop having more children, I wonder if I really consulted God? Or did I just say okay to please my husband? And did I, at the time, really think that we were done? Now? I don't know what to think. Baby girl Ari is 18 months old - the exact time a new baby would have been entering this family had we followed the same course of timing as the other kids. Is that the only reason I look at all other babies and wonder why we aren't having more? Is it just selfishness on my part to want more babies because I feel I have so much more to give and no one else to give it too? Is it just hormones causing these tears to stream down my face while washing dishes or doing paperwork or writing this blog? Do I really trust God? I know there is the whole school of thought that says that God gave us a brain and reason and the ability to make decisions for ourselves. Yeah, I do that a lot. I am good at taking control. But shouldn't God have that control? The part that bothers me the most is that I may have made a choice, a decision, without trusting God for the answer. That grieves me the most. So, I pray. I pray that my very gracious Savior shows himself to me in a clear way. I pray that I would trust in the many areas of my life that are lacking. I pray that Jay & I would be able to obey what God is calling us to do even if it goes against what we feel or think right now. I pray we would have unity. And I pray that I would find peace. I will leave you with the lyrics of a song based on Hebrews 11:1 that speaks what my heart struggles to voice:

"Seems like there's so much to hope for,
So many dreams I wish they all could come true.
But when I think about your ways, Lord,
It gives me so much faith in all that You do.
Faith to see beyond what I can see
Faith to know that you will do great things
I will trust you, Lord, I'll always believe
As I hold onto my faith, Jesus, you are holding on to me."
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