Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I is for Images of Christmas Past

Join me as I reminisce....

 {1999}



{2001}




 {2002}




{2006}




{2007}




{2011}



{2013}




{2015}


Happy memories with my favorite people.
Time flies. Savor every moment.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

H is for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health

Some of you might know what Head, Heart, Hands, and Health mean.

They are the Four H's of 4-H.

So in this post I am going to share how our family has benefited from 4-H.



We joined 4-H in 2009, at the suggestion of my friend. I had never heard of 4-H before, but had seen its benefits in her family, and so we joined.

We wanted an animal project so we started out that year in rabbits.



 {County Fair, May 2010}



After a few years and quite a few projects later, we have now settled comfortably into our goat and sheep projects.

4-H is SO helpful to our homeschooling, as you will see.....



Presentations

Each year, I require my children to do a 4-H Presentation. These are not small ventures; they are a 5-10 minute Illustrated Talk that they have to prepare and recite from memory.



The younger ones use foam boards for their visual aids, and the older ones do Power Point.

 {County Presentation Day, 2010}

These presentations are judged by adults using a rubric, and if they score high enough, they can move on to sectionals and state competitions.


{County Presentation Day, 2015}



Community Service

4-H has so many opportunities to serve others. We participate in canned food drives, letters to soldiers, clean ups, and most recently, a pajama drive for a Children's Receiving Home. I am grateful for all of the ways that we can help others.


{Food Bank, 2014}



Public Speaking/Leadership

Each month we have a club meeting. The last two years Mr. Lego was our club president, which meant that he planned the agenda, gave officer instructions, and led the meetings for our club. He has now aged out, and all three girls are officers: Bookworm is Secretary (she needs to keep notes through the meeting and type them up each month), Dasher is Attendance Secretary (she keeps track of the attendance at our club), and Nutsy is Sergeant at Arms (she keeps order at the meetings and helps to lead the salute). All of these positions help them to gain confidence in leading others and in public speaking.


 {2011 - Mr. Lego is Secretary [in the Pirate's hat], and Bookworm is giving a project report}



The older three have also been Teen and Junior Leaders for different projects; this means that they have to actually lead portions of the project meetings each month. This year, Bookworm is the Sheep Teen Leader, and Dasher is the Goat Teen Leader. They have to prepare and lead the other members as we learn in the projects.


 {Leading a project 2013}



 Knowledge

The amount of knowledge these kids have to learn is amazing. They have participated in Bowl tournaments over the years; most notably in 2013 Bookworm was part of the 2013 California Junior Champion Poultry team. They beat out all other junior teams in the state. Mr. Lego's team was the Senior Champion Poultry team, and they got to go the the National competition in Kentucky. They did a great job and got 7th place. 



{Junior Team}



{Senior Team}



Work Ethic

Each year, the children have raised animals for the county fair. This is not a small commitment, but a serious, time-consuming one. Currently we raise both goats and sheep. We can't have them on our property so, from February through May, we keep them at a friends house, and go multiple times a week to feed, water, train, and clean up after them. One year I tried to keep count, and including time at the fair, we spent over 200 hours with our animals in four months!

{Fitting a lamb, 2015}


We raise these animals to be sold at a livestock auction, so they are learning how to humanely care and raise optimum meat for the meat industry. They also need to form relationships with potential buyers, and to maintain those relationships year after year.

I am amazed each year, as my young girls bravely go up to complete strangers in huge cowboy hats, and ask if they would be interested in buying their animal.

 {Talking to buyers, 2014}



They learn confidence in the show ring, and how to win - and lose - graciously.


 {Goat Showmanship, 2015}



4-H has taught so many great lessons. Public speaking, poise, competition, a sense of community. Honestly, I could not imagine homeschooling without it! I am a project leader, and frequently use what I am teaching in 4-H in our daily schooling.

I really do encourage you to check out a local 4-H group near you!


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Friday, December 18, 2015

G is for Garlic

So I love the stuff. Seriously, garlic can make any mediocre dish great. (Well, almost any dish.)

So here are my thoughts on the Stinking Rose......

It is best in its pure form

 I have tried the minced stuff that comes in a jar, and it just can't compare to the real thing. I do own garlic powder, but am very selective when I use it. The best ways to use garlic is to either mince it fresh in a garlic press, smash it with a chef's knife, or slice it.



The longer you cook it, the more mellow it gets

This I have found by trial and error. I was experimenting with chicken in my slow cooker, and put in about ten cloves of garlic along with basil, rosemary, and pepper. And after about eight hours on high, I really couldn't tell that there was garlic in there at all.

Another thing that cued me into this was roasted garlic: take a head of garlic, chop of the top third, drizzle with olive oil and the wrap in foil. Place in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes, then you squeeze out the delicious, soft cloves. These are mild enough that they are yummy spread onto a toasted baguette. But it is a mild flavor.




So if you want that pungent, garlicky goodness, wait until the last hour of your slow cooker dinner to put it in. In my stir fry's I also put it in with my sauce at the end, and don't saute it with the veggies.


It is healthy 

Lots of people know this. One way that I use it is for ear pain. I make a mixture of warm olive oil and crushed garlic, and put a couple of drops into the ear canal. You can also just place a raw piece of garlic in the canal, but be careful not to go in deep at all. 




I have also cut a clove in half and rubbed it onto insect bites for quick relief. The main thing about medicinal garlic treatments is that the raw form is best.


It is smelly

Have you ever handled garlic and then, that night in your sleep, woken yourself up because your hands smelled like garlic? I have.

And the cure is very easy. I can't remember where I heard this, but believe me, it works. The next time you handle garlic, afterwards rub your hands on your stainless steel faucet. And I promise you, the odor will disappear instantly.  



To get rid of garlic breath you can use the same ammunition: rub a stainless steel spoon all around your mouth. Eating apples or lemon juice also works well. 

But, as my husband says after we have had garlic in our meal, if we all have garlic breath then we won't bug each other.

So instead of using other spices, or opening a jar of finely chopped white stuff, get the whole garlic head at the store. 

It's good for you, and tasty too.


 

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

F is for Financial Peace University

For the last couple of years, my husband and I have been listening to Dave Ramsey. He has a fun radio show, where he gives financial advice to those who call in. He also has a great plan for getting out of debt.  For the most part we follow his ideas and each month have a written budget, plan out all of our monetary goals, and use envelopes and sinking funds to save for the future.

We have really benefited from doing this. Seriously, the words financial and peace usually don't go together, but when you have a plan, sit down with your spouse and both make decisions, it takes a lot of the guessing work (and disagreements!) out of your money issues.

So a couple of months ago we decided to hold a Financial Peace University class in our home. We opened it up to our church, and have 5 other couples that are going through this nine-week series with us.



And let me tell you, it is never boring. It is DVD based, so most of the class is listening to Mr. Ramsey. And he is hilarious and on point with so many things. We also spend time discussing questions, case studies, planning budgets, and figuring out goals for the future. We also encourage one another to take control of their household finances, and plan for their future. We have had a blast each week, and I have enjoyed getting to know these families better.

Mr. Lego is taking it with us too; we are requiring both him and Bookworm to have a written budget each month, and so they have decided to use the online tool Every Dollar. Each month, they literally tell every dollar what it is going to do. They also have an emergency fund, and create sinking funds for larger purchases. Mr. Lego has been disciplined and bought both his car and laptop with cash, and Bookworm is saving up for her first car, and plans to buy it with cash too. (Scary, she is planning on getting her license next summer.)


 {Envelope System}




Written budgets really work. And it is work, and you have to be disciplined. But it really does pay off in the end.

So these are just my thoughts, on what we have learned so far. I have not been asked for my opinion or have reviewed anything by Dave Ramsey; I just know our family has been blessed by these ideas and I wanted to share them. I encourage you to think about your finances. There are other great financial speakers out there; most with good things to say. It is so important to care for the money God has blessed us with, and to manage it wisely.


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Friday, December 4, 2015

My Week In Images



This egg......


 because it made me laugh when I went to get one yesterday morning. (And I didn't use it.)





This tree......


 because anything goes with our decorating, because I let the kids be in charge.





This caramel apple......



 because it is a necessary thing to eat in the fall.





This beautiful bread.......





because I am blessed by my children.






This front yard......



because others might see a mess, but I see beauty.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

E is for Egg and Dairy Free

For a long time, Nutsy has had headaches. They were sporadic, but consistent enough that I started keeping track of them. And they were bad enough that she would be laid out on the sofa for a few hours.

This last year we bit the bullet and started trying to track down what was going on. After lots of questions we were told that it could very likely be an intolerance to dairy. I was skeptical; we don't really have any food allergies in our family and I didn't like the idea of changing how I prepare food.

So for a couple of months we kept a food diary for her, and tracked her symptoms. And guess what, each time she had some form of dairy, the next day she had a headache.

We tracked it down to even eggs in baked goods being the culprit.




 How did this happen? Well, it could be two different issues. First, she could have damaged her gut at some point. Dairy is one thing that can aggravate the tummy and is usually a culprit for stomach issues. The other issue could be that she is lactose intolerant. She is a quarter Japanese, and Asians do have a much higher rate of not being able to tolerate lactose. And talking with my Japanese mother-in-law recently, she shared that she also has an intolerance to dairy, although not as extreme.

Either way, we needed to make some changes. And needless to say, giving up ice cream, cheese (we do have pizza every Friday night), and yogurt was hard on her.

So what have we been using?

Milk

In place of milk she has been drinking rice milk. She did not care for soy milk, and almond milk tasted too sweet for her. We are not big milk drinkers anyways, but she will have milk with her breakfast sometimes.

Ice Cream

For a treat we will get coconut ice cream, but that can be pricey. She also had a slight headache after a coconut ice cream bar, so she is leery to try them again. But what has worked best for her are Tofutti Cuties. So we stock those in the freezer for our Friday night dessert for her.


Butter

We do get sticks of vegan butter that I have baked with, but she mostly replaces butter with coconut oil. When we make popcorn I use coconut oil (which gives it a lovely flavor) and she makes a mixture of coconut oil, cinnamon, and a little sugar to put on toast.

{Popcorn balls made with vegan butter}


Eggs

This has been the one hard thing to replace. Our family has eggs almost every morning for breakfast, and I have had a hard time finding replacements for her. I made a batch of these Carrot Muffins that she liked and they were super easy to make.

Until recently, we were making desserts that didn't require eggs. (Popcorn, pies with coconut oil in the crust) But then I found what I call Vegan Eggs. (An oxymoron, I know.) These are actually very easy to make - you grind up flax seeds, add some water, and let sit for 5 minutes. Then add to any recipe in place of eggs.

We made these vegan brownies a couple weeks ago and they were so yummy. These Funfetti Vegan Cupcakes were such a big hit that the whole family ate the whole batch one night. And I am going to try to make this Epic Chocolate Cake soon.

In a lot of these recipes they are not only vegan but gluten free; I just add equal parts of my ground whole wheat and white flour to equal the same amount.


Cheese

This was another hard one. The first thing we tried was soy cheese. That did not go over well; the cheese didn't even look melted on her part of the pizza. Almond cheese did a little better, but rice cheese behaves the best when it comes to melting.


We found that she really doesn't like cheese substitutions, so I make a quarter of a pizza without cheese and put extra ingredients to hide that it is missing.

Has it worked? Well, a year ago we were dealing with two to three headaches a week. Now, she is having maybe one every three weeks to a month. She is also taking some homeopathic pills to help her gut, and is on probiotics as well.

This has been a hard lesson for her. She loves cheese and ice cream, and has had to learn to have self control with those things. She has cheated, and paid the price the next day. But God works all things for our good. Through this she is learning the hard lesson that life isn't fair. That sometimes God asks us to walk a more difficult road then those around us. We have had talks about being content with what God has given us, and how His plan is perfect.

But there are still lots of yummy things she can eat, and each day we are exploring her options. 


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