Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Two Secrets for Successful Baking

If you know me, you know that I love to bake.  Cakes, cupcakes, muffins, breads, cookies, and even some pies -- I enjoy making them all.  And some people think that I'm pretty good at baking.  :)  I'm not sure that I am (and I'll explain why in a minute), but here are the two secrets for my successful baking:
  1. Find a good recipe.  Starting with a delicious recipe is half the battle to baking something scrumptious.  If you start with something good, you're likely to end with something good.  The converse is true, as well;  if you start with a poor recipe, you're likely to end up with something that no one wants to eat.  :(
  2. Follow the recipe.  If starting with a good recipe is half the battle, the other half is following it exactly.  I figure that the person who developed the recipe tried many different things and finally ended up with this product which works.  If I start tweaking, I'm likely to ruin the recipe since I'm not any good at tweaking.  (Since I'm not good at changing recipes, I don't think I'm a good baker.  Following instructions doesn't require too much creativity.) 
So there you have it!  My two "secrets" for successful baking.  If you follow them, you're likely to have wonderful success, too!

What are your secrets, ones that you're willing to share, for baking?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Books I Read in June

I love seeing my children read!

I decided this month to work more on reading books which are edifying, but I only got one finished (the first one in the list).  It was very good, though, and definitely worth another read in a year or two.
  • Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child  by Anthony Esolen.  Obviously written tongue in cheek, this book contains valuable information on how to cultivate your children's imaginations instead of destroying them.  It is easy to read, fast-paced, and filled with funny anecdotes.  If you have a child, you should read this book!
  • A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.  This wonderful adventure is based on the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses.  When Heloise's sister Evette disappears in the middle of a dance, no one even remembers that she existed.  Heloise has to figure out where her sister has been taken and how to free her with the help of Benedict, the son of the lord of the estate.
  • As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner.  I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I hoped.  When a child dies after being hit by a truck, his Jewish family reacts in different ways, each one blaming himself for what happened.  This book follows the family before and after the accident.  The hopelessness and blame each person feels is really sad.  I found myself thinking that they needed Jesus.  But it's only a book.  :)
  • The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse.  The idea behind this children's book was intriguing:  a girl has grown up with dolphins for so long that she thinks she is one.  When she is found, people try to rehabilitate her and show her that she's human.  This book was okay but also had a hopeless feel to it.  I wanted to read it before Sarah Beth to make sure it was okay for her, and it was.
  • Worlds Unseen by Rachel Starr Thomson.  This book is another Christian fantasy in which the true King has been forgotten, but He is working among the people to remind them that He exists and is coming.  A battle is fought and won, but the real war is still coming.
What have you read this month?

Friday, June 24, 2016

What I've Enjoyed This Week: Busy with Friends and Meetings!

I took this picture this morning after breakfast.  Do you think Mary has had a busy week, too?  :)

Whew!  The past couple of days have been busy!  We visited with some friends Wednesday afternoon and had a great time.  We always enjoy seeing them, and it doesn't happen often enough.  Yesterday, some new friends came over, and it was wonderful getting to know them.  Then last night I had the opportunity to tell other homeschooling parents about CC.

Here are a few things I enjoyed this week:
  • This recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.  Rachel asked me to make meatballs, so I found this recipe.  It was delicious, and I especially liked that I could bake the meatballs.  (I made my own spaghetti sauce instead of using the jarred stuff.)
  • Visiting with old friends.  Everyone except Sarah Beth has someone to play with, and I really enjoy talking with my friend.
  • Getting to know new friends.  This time there was someone for Sarah Beth.  Even though there was only one child, all five of them played nicely together.  Again, I really enjoyed talking and getting to know her mother.
  • Telling others about CC and how much we love it.
  • Visiting with friends at the meeting in-between telling others about CC.
  • The rain God sent Tuesday after I put out the pre-emergence.  I was thankful that I didn't have to water it in.  :)
What have you enjoyed this week?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Five Ways to Read More Books

If you've read my blog for even a short time, you know that I love LOVE to read.  Have you ever wondered how you can find more time to read?  Here are a few tips for doing just that:
  1. Read for a few minutes before bed.  While I don't have any research to support this, I find that reading for a few minutes helps me fall asleep more quickly.  And usually the house is quiet (or should be), so there aren't any distractions.
  2. Read a "good" book after reading your Bible.  I define a "good" book as one that is edifying, one that isn't just for fun.  These books are non-fiction, usually Christian self-help or theology.  When I finish reading my Bible, I pull out one of these and read for a few more minutes.  Usually, my children are still in bed, so I have a few minutes, and I get some quality reading done.
  3. Exercise.  What?  How does exercising help with reading?  I read on my kindle while I walk/jog on my treadmill, and I get a lot of reading done this way.  I try to have an engaging novel to read at this time in order to keep me going.  :)  You can also listen to books while exercising when you can't read.
  4. Have "quiet time" for your children.  I send my children upstairs several afternoons a week because I need a little time to myself.  This time is great for reading!
  5. When you find a few minutes, read.  I get a LOT of reading done during the few minutes here and there that I find during the day.  Even if it's just five minutes, that's a page or two read!
How do you find time to read?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: I Love You Just Because by Donna Keith

I Love You Just Because by Donna Keith tells the story of three cubs whose parents remind them that they love them just because they are their children.  They also tell them that they are special just because of who they are.  The message conveyed in this book is a wonderful one, but I had some problems with the book.

First of all, it's hard to read.  The cubs' names are Panda, Polar, and Brown.  With this book written as a poem, it's hard to read "Polar" without stumbling because it doesn't say "Polar Bear."  Maybe a minor point, but it's much more pleasant to read books to children when they flow smoothly.

Also, the parents are brown bears.  How did they get a polar bear cub and a panda bear cub?  All of the cubs look so differently; see the picture on the cover above.  I understand the point Keith is trying to make, but the pictures look very unnatural, and like the reading, are a little awkward.

I think this book could be a really good one with some tweaking.  I especially appreciated the Bible verses on each page, how relevant they were to the story.  As it is, though, I think I'll pass this book along to someone else instead of keeping it for my children.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, June 17, 2016

What I've Enjoyed This Week

After the excitement last week of evacuating our house because it might flood, mostly I've enjoyed being home this week.  :)  Here are a few more things I've enjoyed:
  • Getting back into our routine.
  • My new waffle maker.  After a little convincing, three of my four picky children now LOVE waffles.  
  • A trip to the library.  Yes, we go almost every week, but it's still so much fun!
  • Reading Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen.  Eye-opening!
  • My toy-free living room.  We moved all the toys upstairs to the playroom last week in case we flooded, and they haven't migrated back down yet.  :)
  • Having our flowers beds weeded and mulched and the rose bushes trimmed.  Our house looks very nice now, and I enjoy knowing that we hired a local teenage boy to do the work, encouraging his entrepreneurship.  
What have you enjoyed this week?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Five Tips for Getting Where You're Going on Time

Do you struggle to get places on time?  Does it seem like you're always late?  I hate to be late, but with five children it still happens.  It's hard to get out the door in time to be on time.   And getting out the door on time without running around the house like a chicken with its head cut off, yelling at my children, well, that takes some planning.  :)  Here are five things I did a few weeks ago, when we had CC Practicum, that you can do to help get you and your children out the door with the time you need to get where you're going.

1.  Figure out when you need to be where you're going.  For example, you can't arrive when church begins and get in the sanctuary on time, if you have children you need to drop off in the nursery first.  You need to get there a little early in order to get things done before it starts.  When we went to Practicum, my class started at 9:00, and I knew I needed some extra time to get my children to their classes, so I planned to arrive at 8:45.  And don't forget that it takes a few minutes to buckle children into carseats and unbuckle them when you get there.

2.  Do as much as you can beforehand.    Pack snacks, lay out clothes, stock up the diaper bag; all of these things can be done early to help get you out the door on time.  I packed our lunches the night before except for the cold things which I tossed in before we left.  Knowing that the diaper bag was ready to go every morning along with everything else we needed kept my mind quiet and settled, not worried about having to find everything in a rush.

3.  Make a plan for your morning.  Figure out how long each thing takes that needs to happen before you leave.  Add up all of that time, and you know what time you need to wake up.  If you really feel ambitious, break your morning up into time segments.  I did this and found it very helpful.  I knew that I needed to eat breakfast and finish packing lunches between 6:30 and 7:00, so that I could feed and dress Hannah at 7:00.  That left me time to finish getting ready so we could get out the door at 8:00.

4.  Add in Extra Time.  When I was doing all of this planning, I also built in some extra time just because.  You know how things go:  there are always unexpected things that happen when you have to get out the door in a hurry.  :)  I didn't think it would really take me thirty minutes to eat breakfast and finish making lunches, but with four children to feed, it did.

5.  Add in more extra time.  This extra time is for the drive because you never know what might happen on the way:  an accident, traffic, a detour.  Fifteen minutes is probably enough because you also don't want to arrive too early.  :)

Bonus:  Get household chores out of the way as much as possible.  If you're going to be out of the house for several days in a row, you might want to get some of your normal household duties done beforehand as well.  Since we were gone three days in a row, I washed all of our laundry the weekend before Practicum so that I didn't have to worry about doing any laundry those days.  And I planned easy meals so there wasn't much preparation or clean up.

So, did I make it to Practicum on time every morning?  Yes, I did.  And because I had spent some time planning ahead and getting ready, I wasn't ruffled and harried as we left the house.

What tips do you have for getting places on time?

Monday, June 13, 2016

My Goals for June

I love how much my older children love Hannah!

I meant to publish this post last week, but with the possibility of our house flooding, I just didn't get to it.  And since last week was fairly chaotic, I'm not sure yet how much it will impact what I'm able to accomplish this month.  But I'm going to try!  :)

May was a little busy with finishing up school and three days of CC Practicum.  While I did actually set some goals, they weren't too lofty or hard to achieve.  And I did!  Here they are:
  • Exercise on the treadmill four times a week.  Done!  I'm amazed at how much more energy I have now.  :)
  • Make Over Your Mornings.  I finished this course, and it was nice encouragement that what I'm already doing is good and effective.  I didn't learn much, but that's okay. 
  • Finish our school year well.  We did.  We finished well!  I set a goal during April, and we made it.  :)
June looks to be a little slower although we do have a few things planned.  I plan to take advantage of the extra time in the day that I have now since we're done with school to get some things done around the house.  Here are my goals for June:
  • Clean out the children's closets.  Daniel's was a mess since he just dumped everything in his bedside table out into his closet when John moved it for him.  I need to sort through the clothes in the little girls' closet:  putting things in order by size for the next girl who will need them.  And I need to make room in Sarah Beth's closet for some of Hannah's stuff since she will eventually move in there -- and I'm running out of room in my closet where I currently have some of Hannah's things.  :)
  • Sort through the playroom.  What a mess!  We have kitchen toys in the same box with bouncy balls along with race cars.  The kids can't find anything!  I want to dump everything out and sort it all out.  I think it's going to be a very big job.  :)
  • Work on my children's writing three days a week.  Sarah Beth needs practice putting her thoughts down on paper, Daniel needs to get more comfortable writing in cursive, and Rachel is starting to learn cursive.
  • Go to the pool at least once a week.  Hannah makes things a little more difficult, but my children need this time in the water to get comfortable swimming.  Besides, it's fun!
  • Start teaching Sarah Beth to cook.  She's ready and interested; I just need to make the time to teach her how to read a recipe, how to measure things accurately, and how to crack eggs.  :)
  • I also want to continue exercising four times a week.  I'm working up to run a 5K although I don't really have one in mind.
With the month half over already, I've already done some work on some of my goals which is wonderful!  I hope to get the rest finished.

What are your goals for the month?  How are you doing with them?

Friday, June 10, 2016

What I Enjoyed This Week

One of our neighbor's yards, not a pond.

This week has been absolutely crazy!  It rained tremendously in the Hill Country of Texas, overflowing the Brazos River.  Maybe you heard about the flooding in Houston?  Well, we live downriver from Houston, and our turn came this week as all of that water flowed down to our area.  While we didn't flood, we were afraid that we would, and several houses in our neighborhood did.  We voluntarily evacuated Monday evening, but we were able to move back in on Wednesday.

There was a lot this week that I didn't enjoy.
  • I did not enjoy seeing flooding so near us.  
  • I did not enjoy watching the Brazos River rise, knowing that it was making its way closer to our home.
  • I did not enjoy moving into a hotel for two days, fearing that our home would flood.
  • I did not enjoy seeing so much of our neighborhood under water. 
However, there was still much this week that I did enjoy.
  • I enjoyed knowing that God is sovereign over everything, even flood waters.
  • I enjoyed coming home to a dry house!
  • I enjoyed having a safe place to spend the night even if it was a little loud.
  • I enjoyed having my mother here for a few days.  She was willing to drop everything and fly out here to help this week.
  • I enjoyed knowing that many of my friends were praying for us.
  • I enjoyed watching my children help carry things upstairs cheerfully and willingly, for the most part.
How was your week?  What did you enjoy?  Or not?  ;)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hannah at Four Months

It's had to believe that Hannah turned four months old on Saturday; it feels like she joined our family much more recently than that -- although I also don't really remember what it was like when we didn't have her.  :)

Her brother and sisters are still infatuated with her, and I often have to tell them to leave her alone because they seem to think she's a new toy for them to play with.  :)

Hannah started rolling over last week from front to back and from back to front.  I think she's earlier than my other children!  It's still mostly accidental, but I know that her mobility is just around the corner.  I remember several of my children rolling across the floor.  :)

Friday, June 3, 2016

What I Enjoyed This Week

This picture is so cute, I had to use it again!

Here are a few things that I enjoyed this week -- besides this double-windowed, gap-toothed girl!
  • John had Monday off for Memorial Day, and it was wonderful having him home.
  • No school!  Need I say more?  :)
  • The lack of rain when the forecasters say that it's definitely coming.  I thank God that they've been wrong so often because our area does NOT need anymore rain for a while.  (I'm sure you've heard of all of the flooding in the Houston area.)
  • Working toward my goals:  clean, neat closets are so restful to look at and even to think about.  (Do you know what I mean?  Or am I just weird?)
  • The pool.  Yes, I took all five children to the pool yesterday.  Four of them had a great time, and the other one tolerated it very nicely.  I'll let you figure out which one I'm talking about.  ;)
  • Making plans to meet new friends.  :)
What did you enjoy this week?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May Reading

Rachel lost another tooth last week!  I think this gap is so cute!

I'm not exactly sure how I found the time, but I was able to get a good bit of reading done in May.  It was nice!  I'm sure it helped that I was able to read two of these books while exercising on my treadmill.  Everything I read was really good, too, except for two books which were just okay.
What have you read lately?