Friday, May 30, 2008

It's HERE!

Yes, I'm typing to you from my new laptop!!! WOW, this is FUN! And I even checked out Webkinz already. It's amazing how much faster this machine is - the Wheel of Wow would spin for a full 5 minutes on my old I see that it's supposed to actually spin for all of like 15 seconds. I hope when I wipe and reload the desktop, that it will run faster for the kiddos.

I do miss my big ergonomic keyboard but I will remedy that soon. Maybe a trip to Best Buy is in order this weekend. ;) The other problem is that I need a desk area. The kids will have my old desktop setup but I need a desk for my docking station and monitor, etc. So at the moment, I'm just trying to figure out how to have three desks on the main floor without looking like an office building. ;) Hubby has his roll-top mail desk and the kids have my old desk (that doesn't have room for my new computer stuff). So I need a desk, a space to put it, a chair, a monitor (for either me or the kids), keyboard and mouse. It seems really silly to have three desks but it is necessary. And because the kids are so young, I need to have their computer where I can monitor their online sites (yeah, that's a little un-unschoolish of me but you know I'm not a radical) so I can't very well put it in one of their rooms. So for now, we'll just look officey. If anyone has any great ideas (ahem...Jean2!), please...I'm all ears!

I didn't opt to install MS Office. I just couldn't justify the expense when there's a *free* look-alike that supposedly works just as well, if not better, than MS Office (and you all know what a cheapskate great bargain shopper I am!)...Open Office. I love to support freebies for home users!

My only problem now is which new toy to play with first?? GPS...laptop...GPS...laptop...decisions, decisions.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I find myself thinking, "My next blog post will probably be from my new computer" a lot these days. For the last few days, it's been sitting in customs. As Jen so eloquently put it, "Customs? In Kentucky? I didn't know they had declared themselves an independent country!" I hadn't been notified either, Jen. However, it seems the laptop shipped directly from China to Kentucky. While that seems like a very odd flight to me (and since Hubby's shipped from China to Alaska a few months ago), I have never tried to understand postal routes so I'll just leave it to the experts to figure out. But this morning, I see that it's "out for delivery", which sounds very promising. I'll be sure to take pictures. :) I feel like a 5yr old on Christmas morning.

The weatherman lied. He gave us that beautiful forecast for Memorial Day weekend and it didn't turn out nearly that nice. As usual, Memorial Day was hot and sticky. Very sticky. But it wasn't as bad as it has been in years past so that's something. However, just to show that Spring wasn't over yet, she decided to give us really fierce thunderstorms all night long and give us a high of around 60 the next day. It was very unexpected but, in my opinion, nice. ;) So we got our BBQ and roasted marshmallows and we even got to complain about the heat...a bit. And I even got to see Indy whip the bad guys into shape.

I blogged a while back about geocaching and my new GPS (my birthday gift from Hubby). Very long story short, the Magellan GPS just wasn't up to snuff. There were issues with the order, the price and the 'items included', as well as the item itself having many issues and the final straw...the software wouldn't load on Hubbys new souped-up laptop (or my ancient one). So, after returning that, I used the extra birthday money I got from other family members and upgraded to a Garmin 60cx. It's a breeze. Batteries fit, my ancient PC had no troubles installing the hardware or software, and the functions on the unit just seem more intuitive to me. I'm really happy I switched. Now to find some freebie maps for it...teeheehee. I'm psyched to get back to geocaching again. :)

Several of you have asked me about the recent Subway issue, knowing we're homeschoolers. I have to bring up this point alone. As homeschoolers, we eat 3 meals a day at home. We do not spend money on school/work lunches every day. So we have a bigger variety to choose from when we do eat out, I would imagine, than non-homeschooled families. Our family doesn't frequent Subway very much at all anyway simply because I can build the same sandwich for pennies comparatively (and more healthy as well, utilizing veggies from my garden and non pre-packaged meats). However, I do believe that homeschoolers frequent Subway more often than non-homeschoolers simply because our lifestyle doesn't demand that we eat 'on campus'. I believe it's a very bad move for Subway and in our house, we'll continue business as usual, making our sandwiches at home. I'm just glad that my 5 and 7 year olds can probably spell the words, 'United States' and 'basket' better than the Subway PR people can. 'Nuff said.

The high yesterday was 68F, I believe. Today is supposed to be 78. Such is life in Missouri. So the kids and I ran to the zoo yesterday. One, most people wait to do the zoo on really hot days (I have no idea why either!?!). And Two, some schools are still going for maybe another week. So we went. It was a very nice day and we really enjoyed it as it was our first trip of the year. Usually we go much more in the spring but it's just been too wet. Some pictures of the day...

First the kids wanted to check out the new amphibian exhibit. We saw a metamorphosis area where tadpoles were turning into frogs. Very cool. The woman running the exhibit started by talking down to my kids but was quickly corrected when Matthew started telling *her* more about the chytrid fungus than she was supposed to be teaching that day. I was quite surprised myself at all the information spewing forth from him especially since I've never heard of it. He said that he'd read an article about it in a magazine a while back. Hmmm...

Jade was quite proud of herself that she touched this boa in the Children's Zoo

Here are some more pictures from the zoo:

Jade's baby elephant (also named Jade) sure has grown since this time last year!

Next...wait. just. a. second. There's a KNOCK. at my door. Maybe it's the worlds only May Santa Claus?? Gotta Run.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BBQ leftovers

Review of last week's menu:
Breakfast for Dinner was a huge hit, as was the tomato soup (as always).
The kids really liked the Tuna Helper so I might look up some tuna casserole recipes to try out (I really hate buying packaged foods if I can help it).

The "Chicken and Carrots and Onions" - can you believe I've improved upon a great mogul of my childhood?? While my mom spent a couple hours over the electric skillet making fried chicken every Sunday afternoon (and worrying that it was burning), I decided that it was just too much trouble. So I've never really made fried chicken for my husband in 14+ years. I think I attempted it once but that experience not only confirmed the trickiness of making it but also brought to attention the MESS involved. But a few months ago, we had dinner at my MILs house. She made fried chicken too. It wasn't nearly as greasy as my moms (sorry, Mom), and she wasn't stressed about the issue at all. I asked her what she did differently. Here's what she does...
Heat oven to 425, wash and flour chicken pieces. Place a stick of butter on jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil and let it melt. When butter is melted, place chicken pieces on pan. After 30 minutes, turn chicken pieces. After 30 more minutes, it's done. And it's pretty much *THAT* foolproof. I've done that a couple times and wow, it's easy, not much mess and fast (in the regard that it requires little of me and leaves me room to concentrate on sides).
So, I decided to try to incorporate my mom's awesome "chicken and carrots and onions" recipe with this other method of fried chicken. I did everything the same but at the 30 minute mark when I turned the chicken over, I added cut up carrots (I leave them in circles about 1/4 inch thick) and onions. Moms recipe called for yellow onions but I was out so instead, I reached for a leek. If you've never had a leek before, it is very much like a green onion in taste (it just requires a bit more cleaning). So after I turned the chicken, I placed the carrots and leeks (also cut up in pieces about the same size as the carrots) on top. I started to worry that I put the onions on too soon when some started browning but decided I was stuck at that point. I'm so glad I didn't mess with it! Sometimes (albeit rarely), the worst mistakes have the best outcomes!

It was SUCH a delicious dish! I really LOVED the leeks in there as opposed to the yellow onions my mom always used. And I loved the less greasy, no fuss chicken. The only thing to improve on next time is maybe find a way to still steam the carrots a tad - they were a bit dry. Maybe I can put some aluminum foil on top for a few minutes with a splash of water underneath. Regardless, we loved it and it was devoured quickly. :)

So, the menu for this week (of course I'm late again!)...
Monday - I BBQd pork steaks, turkey hot dogs and turkey sausages (akin to brats). Made potato salad, deviled eggs, waldorf salad, baked beans, corn on the cob [too early for good ones though :(], roasted marshmallows and pound cake with strawberries and blueberries for dessert. YUM!!
Tuesday - leftovers
Wednesday - pork stirfry, rice, potstickers
Thursday - Honey Chicken Legs, salad, green beans
Friday - spaghetti & meatballs, bread, salad

Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Memorial Day weekend to my US friends!

I know I have a couple Aussies who read my blog so I'll wish them a nice weekend too. :)

But here in the States, it's Memorial Day weekend. Most people have Monday off in observance of the holiday to remember those Americans who have died in military service for our country.

What sticks out in my mind the most about this holiday in the past is that it's miserably hot. Growing up, it seemed that our family tradition was a pork steak BBQ followed by a good blockbuster movie in a cold theater...and maybe some ice cream too. I never could understand the people who went camping in weather so incredibly hot and sticky (of course, I naturally prefer cold weather to hot). I definitely preferred the cold dark movie theater. I have fond memories of spending Memorial Day weekend entranced with Star Wars episodes, Deep Impact, The Mummy, Twister, Spider-Man, Back Draft, Indiana Jones fact, many Lucas & Spielberg films. Some were obviously better than others but I have very fond memories of them.

Many church services remember our veterans in some way on Sunday morning services. Many families have BBQs this weekend at some point. This is the 'official' beginning of summer as schools will be ending this week or next (for most schools) and all of our public swimming pools will open this weekend. So many kids will be splashing around and doing belly flops and cannonballs. It's also a big camping weekend. There will be local parades and events to honor all of our vets as well. Many families will frequent Home Depot or Lowes in order to get their landscaping fixed up for the summer. Float trips are also a big hit on this weekend...lazing around in a canoe as the river takes you miles downstream (except for those party bums who bring loads of 12-packs) is just a great way to beat the heat.

St. Louis events:
*May 21 - June 15, Shakespeare Festival
*May 23 - 26, Rib America Festival
*May 24, Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration
*May 24, Memorial Day Ceremony
*May 26, First Annual Southside Rib Cookoff and Barbeque
*May 26, 36th Annual Gypsy Caravan

Gypsy Caravan?? Annual?? Hmmm...

This weekend, as with most of our Spring weather this year, is surprising us. The high is forecast to be 77F tomorrow and 87F Sunday and Monday. Not too shabby. I would prefer something in the 60's myself but it could be a lot worse.

This weekend, we have a birthday party for our niece. Hubby has been busy as a beaver since last weekend working on totally disassembling our master bath shower and re-caulking everything. Apparently the people who built it didn't do a great job and that's why it's been a nightmare for me to clean...and combined with recent leakage around the seals, he decided to pretty much start from scratch. I only wish I'd taken pictures for you. So he's close to being done now but he'll finish that project up this weekend, if not before. Grammy's coming over for BBQ on Monday afternoon and I'm sure Hubby has mowing on his list of weekend to-do's, as well as some landscaping.

And who knows? Maybe I'll even get to catch the new Indiana Jones flick.

However you spend it, I hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm late...

but I need to start doing this so I'm just going to jump in today.

This week's menu is quite unusual for me but I've been feeling pretty non-imaginative since I'm still getting over being sick. I bought a lot of convenience meals for Grammy last weekend so she'd have it easy watching the kids and she didn't end up using them. So since I'm not feeling great, we're using them up. I typically do NOT use this much pre-packaged stuff, though it's been a nice break to have an easy week.

Monday - Pizza Night (made our own with store-bought crusts)
Tuesday - Breakfast for Dinner! Pancakes, eggs/egg beaters, turkey bacon, oranges
Wednesday - Rachel Ray's Quick Creamy Tomato Soup & Soup Toppers, fruit variety
Thursday - Tuna Helper (I have a MOPS meeting & dinner so this is fast for me to cook before hand), corn, tomatoes, waldorf salad
Friday - Chicken and Carrots and Onions (below), applesauce, edamame, pudding
On weekends, we usually do leftover buffets and occasionally eat out so I don't typically *plan* meals for the weekends. But there's always something around here I could throw together pretty quick if needed.

Chicken and Carrots and Onions
This recipe was one of *the* favorite meals of my family when we were growing up. I didn't learn to appreciate it until I was old enough to start eating onions. ;) Basically you make fried chicken. Towards the end, you add sliced carrots and onions to the pan and let them get nice and golden (or darker) brown. During the last minute of cooking, you add a little water to the lid and dump that in the pan and cover and let it all steam (to soften the carrots a bit). It doesn't sound like much but it's the epitome of comfort food to me now. ;)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rain, reading and...laptops?

Our cold is *still* hanging around. Lovely. Mine went into sinusitis with a cough that has left my lungs and stomach sore and tired....let's not even start on the whole trying-to-sleep-with-this-cough rant. Let's just say that we're all sick so I haven't felt like blogging or doing much of anything for that matter.

But I'll give a quick run-down of news worthy items for you.
1. I ordered my new laptop last night!!!!! After much much MUCH deliberation, I went with a Thinkpad T61P, for those of you who are interested. I was debating between that and several others for a few weeks when I came up with a good idea. I have been itching to play Oblivion since it came out 2 years ago and I wasn't sure if I'd like the glossy but high-color screens that are so popular today or if I wanted the matte non-glare but not so high-color screens that Lenovo has. So dear sweet Hubby bought Oblivion for me to try on his Thinkpad. I was hooked. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the mouse nubbie on Lenovo's laptops and the screen was bright enough to satisfy me. I think, in the long run, the glare on the glossy screens would have driven me to so something really evil. ;) I'm not a heavy gamer at all but I did absolutely love Morrowind and I'm excited to play its successor. It's Hubby's fault. We spent our very first New Year as a married couple haunched over our Windows 95 playing Myst. My brothers liked Traveler and D&D but it was Hubby who finally hooked me on games.

2. Rose is READING!! And I'm not talking about 3 letter words. She's reading words like "everyone" and "prancing". She's reading VERY well. When did this happen? I'm not sure. As unschoolers, you know I don't have a set curriculum. So how do the kids learn? I answer questions. Hubby reads to them...a lot. She plays with when she feels like it. She has a few toy/gadgets that talk about word sounds. When she has asked me in the past what a word is, I will sound out the letters slowly as I say "ssss tt arrrr tt". She has been working on writing so much lately. She writes very phonetically but she's doing it and correct spelling will come with more reading. I'm already seeing a vast improvement in her spelling. We're all so very proud of her and it's so great to see her self confidence grow!

3. Matthew has been a little unsure of what to do with himself lately. I see him wandering around seemingly bored quite a lot these last few weeks. It was never a statement of "I'm bored" but just his demeanor that told me. I think a lot of it has to do with the constant rain we've had this season. He's always anxious to ride his bike but the allergies have been bad and within an hour, he's inside practically crying over incredibly itchy eyes. I understand that! So yesterday I talked to him about his seeming out of sorts and he agreed with me. I asked him if there was something he'd like to focus on studying about. Being mostly a science guy in the past, he surprised me with answering (after a minute of thought), "Presidents". Immediately my stomach started churning while I thought of boring dry 'history' but I kept my game face on. "Would you like to start with the first one and work your way forward or start with the current one or someone else?" He said he'd like to start in the front and work his way chronologically. OK. Guess I need to head to the library...see what I can find online. Wonder where I can get Schoolhouse Rocks episodes? :) So that you can get a picture of how they learn without curriculum, I'll try to remember to blog the details.

4. Jade is loving the new room arrangement. Sleeping with her sister and being a 'big girl' is definitely a new high for her. But it's hard to tell with her...she's always been a very happy person. Even as a baby, she was always all smiles. If she wasn't crying (for a very good reason), she was smiling. It's still very much the same way with her. Even though she's in the "terrible threes", it's barely noticeable due to her overwhelming always-sunny disposition.

5. Linnae is not such a happy baby. At almost 14 months, she is still the baby of the family and waits for everyone else to do things for her. She wants to stand up but decides to cry and hope that someone else decides to come over and stand her up instead. If you stand her up, she's as happy as a clam for a while...until she wants to sit down again and then proceeds to cry until someone puts her down or she gives up and falls. It's hard being the baby (I know because I was one too).

I should have some pictures up soon and I hope to catch Rose reading on video so I can post that too!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Road Trip!

We've all been sick with a nasty cold this week. And it started last weekend with a combination of allergies from us being out and enjoying the dry yet cool weather. So we've not had a lot of energy and there hasn't been too much to blog about.

But we have big plans for this weekend. Hubby's grandmother is getting a great Mother's Day surprise! Hubby, Linnae and I are going to surprise her with a visit. Other members of our extended family are also traveling up there to surprise her and I think it'll be a great weekend. But it's a very long trip. About 10 hours or more each way, when all is said and done. And forcing my older 3 to sit in a car all day, then spend a day visiting family and "being quiet", only to ask them to sit in a car all day the following day...well, that seems almost inhumane to me. Nana has met the other three and they'll be much happier at home with Grammy watching them for me. Nana hasn't met she's the hardest to care for because of her young age so we'll be taking her with us. She travels well and will probably sleep most of the weekend away. Send prayers for a safe trip and extra stamina for Grammy. ;)

I'm sure we'll have some exciting stories to share on Monday. Until then, have a great weekend yourself!

Friday, May 02, 2008're it!

OK, here's the plug in your answers to the questions in Google Images and then choose a picture, since a picture does speak a thousand words. ;)

1. Your age at your next birthday:

2. Place I would like to travel:

3. Favorite Place: (Mt. Zion Nat'l Park in Utah, where we honeymooned)

4. Favorite Object:

5. Favorite Food:


6. Favorite Animal:

7. My Nickname:

8. State I was born in:

9. Bad Habit I have:

10. Favorite color:

Consider yourself tagged. :)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

What we really did for Earth Day

So nobody commented on our Earth Day excursions. In reality, maybe I was pmsing a bit when I wrote that. ;) But we did actually have the exterminator out that day to spray for ants outside. I have never had a bug guy out to my house. You might say that even though the gov't says it's safe, I'm a skeptic and I'd rather not have all that stuff around the house. However...

Every spring, we get ants in here for a few weeks while it's quite wet in March/April. This year has been flood city. We're just drowning here in the midwest. It makes me sad that we can't send it all out to my brother in CA, whose favorite hiking grounds have gone up in flames this week. I'm not sure of the source of this photo or I'd leave a link but I think pictures really do speak 1,000 words or more.

Anyway, so we're flooded out here...and apparently so are the ants. They've come to my home for refuge (I mean, come on...I have 4 kids under the age of 8. I obviously have lots of cheerios and crumbs all over my floors! It's ant heaven!). I was willing to work with them for a while and then they just took over in a major way. Usually when it starts drying out each spring, they leave. But not this year. So we called Ant Man. Bless his soul, they were gone almost immediately...I certainly didn't expect THAT quick of a response. But I'm glad. I have one trail left open and I put down some Terro stuff and they are soooo happy to have it. [evil mode] All my little worker monkeys are doing my bidding...and they will have very bad tummy aches tonight! mwahhhaaaaahaaaahaaaaaa... [end evil mode] But even doing such evil things to the little pests, we did learn a lot about ants. Ant Man told us many interesting things about them. Did you know that when they sense a sick ant, they will grab him and drag him away from the colony to die alone? It sounds cruel but it makes sense. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" I suppose it's similar in thought to leper colonies of ancient times. But, true to form, a couple days after Ant Man came, we did find our driveway lined with piles of dead ants.

However, we did do our part for Mother Earth as well on Earth Day. Hubby and the kids did a lot of dividing and transplanting our larger plants outside. They moved a lot of plants to the front garden to weed out the back. And on our trip to the Botanical Gardens last week, I did get some herbs to grow and potted those as well. So all in all, maybe we evened out?? ;)

This afternoon, we're headed to a super big annual used book fair. MECCA for homeschoolers!! :) I guess tomorrow's post will be about our finds. :)