Sep 28, 2010

Better than Grandma's

As promised, the picture and recipe of the apple pie I made for our Bible study group last night. This isn't your grandma's apple pie..................it's better. Yes, it's that darn good. This is what was left (there were only five people with a slice last night and it makes a huge pie). I may or may not have eaten most of that today since it was just me and the kids at home today. *blush*Tessa can't believe the large slice I just cut for myself.It's all about the unique crust. Follow the recipe exactly and you'll be going back for more too."Oooo! Mommy's going back to shovel in another slice. Maybe I'll get some of that second hand to stick on my thunder thighs."Oh my my! I love this pie. "Whoa. I can't believe Mommy just ate all that."Well, so much for the bragging blog post yesterday about how much weight I have lost already. I shot that to the moon today on that pie.

Here is the recipe. Warning: There are some cheater notes here which make the pie faster to make and while I don't know if Martha Stewart would endorse it, it doesn't affect the taste and it cuts down on prep time.

Not-Your-Grandmother's All American Apple Pie
(375 - 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes)

Crust:
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
2 to 3 Tblsp. cold water

Filling:
4 tart apples (I like granny smith)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Top Crust:
1 cup Bisquick or pancake mix (it could be the "just add water" kind as well)
1/4 cup brown sugar
dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 tsp almond extract

Crust:
Cut in until coarse crumbs appear. Stir in water to form dough and mix by your hands. Divide in half and form each into a flat round and chill. (OK I cheat and stick it in the freezer to chill quickly while I mix the rest of the ingrediants and then pull it out when the other two things are mixed). This crust is extra moist and flaky with the butter added to the shortening, so it doesn't roll out really well. No big deal. I just get dough chunks and press it by hand into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. That's way quicker and it has always worked out great doing that. One more point: This actually is enough dough for a top and bottom crust. But I like the other top crust SO much better. So you'll have extra as I have never figured out how to cut this down and still make it taste the same.

Filling:
Cut apples into wedges and peel (I use my apple corer which slices, cores, and cuts the peel off for me in one whack). Combine sugars and spices. Mix the apples and spices together in a bowl until the apples are thoroughly coated. Put mixture in your pie pan. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Top Crust:
Combine ingrediants until you get a gooey mixture (well mixed). Spread as best you can evenly over the top of the apples. This is the best tasting part of the whole pie and it's because of the almond extract.

Bake at 375-400 for 40-50 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and see if you can eat just one slice. Triple dog dare you.

Sep 27, 2010

Babies, babies, everywhere!

So I've been working hard on the whole "losing the baby weight thing." I make sure that I walk quite a bit everyday, and watch what I eat....This is the "before" picture taken two days before Tessa was born. Whoa Mama! And yesterday, with only 2 pounds to go until I am at the pre-baby weight. So close!


I dearly covet this dress. Yes, yes I do. It's from Ruche clothing and I think it's adorable. Also, I could nurse in it. It's pretty sad when clothing is bought and assessed on whether you can nurse in them. Alas! It does not fit the current budget. But with a cardigan and my mustard yellow flats....Oh man.
Yes, with the baby weight pretty much gone, I can shop for clothing again. Tone asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I actually asked for a shopping budget to shop at Plato's Closet.
It's a brand name, gently used, clothing thrift store. Yep. I'm a thrifter, with absolutely zero shame in that. I can fix my own clothing if it doesn't fit quite right, and I have never been one to turn up my nose at used stuff or only buy brand name. You can look quite good on a budget if you can do a little sewing.


So what did I gain besides weight in the last year to make this all worth it? A cute little bundle like these below.

Out of the six couples who have been in our Bible study group this year, five have had babies this spring and summer. Two couples had to drop this fall, and the four left have the baby girls. One was missing tonight when I snapped this picture, but mine is the hefty one on the bottom. The other two where both born a few hours apart in April.
Hah! This picture makes me chuckle. Happy, mad and serious all in the same shot. And then...we had to rescue Tessa. Ha ha ha!
I took down all the spring summer decor in the house the house today, and put up my fall decor. Hunter had so much fun "helping" me. I even baked the best apple pie for Bible study tonight. I would have taken a picture but it was mostly gone a few minutes after I pulled it from the oven. I felt very "fallish". I'll snap some photos tomorrow to share with you!

Sep 23, 2010

School Days

This is the post on where I explain my thoughts on homeschooling Hunter this year. This is not a judgement call on whether people should or should not homeschool. To each his own. This is why I am homeschooling this child, this year.

Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. ~John W. Gardner

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler
You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford
Education would be much more effective if its purpose was to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it. ~William Haley

We are in full swing around here with homeschool. Hunter is loving it and he is working hard (though as you can see by the picture below, printing is not his favorite).
I am loving it too. It gives me the chance to be creative with learning, and to draw out more in Hunter than he would ever get in a classroom. He has an insatiable curiosity and is so full of questions and thoughts as we are learning. It's so fun to be able to work with him one on one. This was his spelling list last week. Obviously we are working on short "i" blends. These are magnetic letters and he's sticking them to my cookie sheet. Yes, the sheet is clean. It just happens to be about 15 years old and doesn't get any cleaner than that. Yes, I am airing the condition of my cooking pans for all to see. No shame here.
Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire. ~William Butler Yeats

One of Tone's big questions for me when we were considering homeschooling is if I thought that I would be too easy on Hunter because he was getting one on one instruction from his mother. You know, his education would be spoon fed and Mommy does half of it. While I suppose many homeschoolers run their schooling like this, I prefer to do the opposite. Actually, Hunter probably works harder because he is homeschooled. He doesn't get away with anything, and he is forced to do it right the first time. Plus, there is a lot of dialogue. Since he is the only one answering the questions, he can't "hide in the back of the classroom" so to speak. But don't feel too sorry for him. He gets his work done in the fraction of the time that he would in a classroom, and he is soaking up all the attention. Actually, he is blooming.

As Rikki Tikki Tavi says in the book by Rudyard Kilping, "Run and find out!" That's what I make Hunter do. I expect a deeper level of understanding and comprehension and thought because one-on-one, I can. Hunter did really well in school last year, but I noticed some things that I would like to improve upon and develop should I have the chance. Also school was overwhelming for him last year and it was only half day. I didn't think he would do that well from 8:30 to 3:00 every day plus homework...in only first grade. It seemed unnecessary and silly to stress him out that much when I could do a better job in a fraction of the time. However, I think his teacher did a fantastic job last year, and I would do kindergarten there again if I was to rethink it.
Our favorite part of the day is Bible. We open with it every morning, and the questions he has and the thought processes he goes through would astound some adults. It's a precious time. I absolutely love the Bible curriculum we are using. I grew up on it, and it was also my favorite part of the homeschooling day. It also was very sound. It grounded me in something deep and meaningful which was a good anchor as I got older. I want the same for my children which is a major reason I am homeschooling.

I am using Bob Jones Bible Curriculum. Yes, it is old fashioned, but yes it is also fantastic. It includes the Westminster Catechism and hymns, but since God Word hasn't changed for thousands of years, the message is the same. God's love is a theme that runs throughout, and it gives a deep overview of the Bible. I memorized those hymns and catechism. When I got the teacher's manual in the mail, I flipped to the catechism. I was curious how much I remembered from my childhood. Though I didn't remember the rote answers word for word, I did remember the content. The content has been a guide that has followed me throughout my life. I know what the Bible says on most topics and can defend my faith. When I got to Bible college there were no surprises in my theology classes thanks to this curriculum, and the theology courses were very challenging for most students and breeze for me. I wasn't sure if Hunter would like the hymns, but he loves them and sings them throughout the day. By the way, I don't want Hunter to know the catechism as a legalistic type of ritual, but rather I want him to know the content as an anchor for living. Therefore, I am do not ask him to know the answer by rote, but in his own words.

The other book I highly recommend is the "Jesus Storybook Bible". The tag line is "every story whispers His name" and it is beautifully told and illustrated. I have found myself choked with tears while reading to my children as the simple truths hit home for me again and again. It avoids the legalism and moralism that are so prevalent in children's literature, but rather communicates the gospel to children in all the fullness of God's love and plan for them so very clearly and profoundly.

Ainsley sits next to the table or next to me while we school and quietly plays. She is listening the whole time as well and often pipes up when I don't even think she is paying attention. She is learning simple letters and numbers as well for some preschool.
She shockingly approved of one of the outfits I picked out for her. Whoa! She looks so adorable in her little cardigan and capris with cherries on them. How cute for fall! See. Being the person I am, you knew some sort of clothes fashion had to work it's way into this post, right? I made this little felt cherry clip to match, but since she preferred a headband, I just hot glued it to a white one she already had.
In totally unrelated news, I was working in the yard yesterday, and that's where I got the flower pictures from up above. Tessa needed to see me to be happy, so she got sat in her bouncer in the dirt next to me. Look at that little chunker. She is gaining some mighty thighs.
I went to Costco for diapers. Tessa was in between a size 2 and 3 and Ainsley is in between a size 3 and 4. So I bought one box of size 3. It totally works for both of them (Ainsley still needs a diaper at night). So...this is one easy way to streamline my life and save money. Costco diapers rock by the way. They fit better than Huggies and are cheaper (at least in my experience).
It's so sad when your 3 year old can wear the same diapers as your 3 month old.

Wonder



We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium this last weekend. It was so fun to look at all the amazing animals.
Boy, God sure thought up some amazing, beautiful, goofy, awesome animals.
Haha. This little guy completely cracked me up.
Hunter was off at full speed with my parents. I had the girls a lot.
It was fun taking pictures of Ainsley's face. She is looking up at the splash waves that crash over a window over her head.
Everytime they crashed, I got this look.
You could go outside and watch them crash as well. Ainsley was a bit afraid it would get her.
Once she found this little tunnel, it was very difficult to get her out. She wanted to hide in there with all the fishies.
Hunter liked the sharks of course. They had one very large shark, but he was too sneaky to get a picture. This one however, was enjoying swimming in circles by our faces.

These three little fishies cracked me up how they just kept swimming in a perfect line.

Sep 15, 2010

"A child sings before it speaks, dances almost before it walks.
Music is in our hearts from the beginning." ~Pamela Brown So we couldn't afford dance lessons. However, a friend of mine whose daughter is in this class offered to trade babysitting for dance classes so our girls could dance together. I adore her children so this was an easy "Yes please!" for me.
Since we made the plan the night before, I didn't tell her until she came in in the morning to get me out of bed. Sucking her thumb and trailing her blankie half asleep still. When told that she was going to ballet with Audrey in an hour, her eyes got huge and she was instantly awake!
"Mommy, I'm so BEH-CITED!" she crowed. (She means EXCITED!)Hunter was fascinated in spite of himself.So Ainsley had her first class on Monday and is absolutely loving it.

Obviously.

Look at her striking a pose for me. Ainsley's first question to me was, "Where is the stage?" when we got in the car to go. Haha! There was no stage, but she loved it.

Completely and utterly.

When she got home, Daddy asked her if she learned anything.

"Nope" was her reply.

I was just happy she followed directions.
Have you ever seen several 2 and 3 year old girls in matching black leotards and pink tights running like a butterfly in circles around a room?
Total cuteness.

Sep 12, 2010

The Carmen Shoes

"Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination."
~Mrs. C.W.Earlte, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897
The English garden at Oxford's Christchurch

photo: trenchardj@istockphoto.com

So I exercised my imagination and came up with these little shoes. I know, I know. It's not spring, rather it's fall. But my own personal garden is going crazy right now and it looks so lovely in the backyard that I had to create these while I had the inspiration. I just love English gardens and have tried to recreate the types of flowers you would see in an English garden in my backyard, complete with an arbor hedge. Of course, mine is the size of a postage stamp while I would love to wander the grounds of a large English estate, while of course, I pretended I lived there.
And if purple is not your color, you can always purchase these shoes with a rose colored flower instead. I had the hardest time deciding which pair to put on Tessa today.
Ainsley's favorite dolly right now she named, Carmen. So in honor of that, I named these the Carmen shoes in lilac and rose. Tessa wore the rose ones today with a little fall outfit to church, though the lilac ones would have matched just as well. This dress was bought at Old Navy by my sister-in-law. It also came with the cutest little pageboy sunhat in the same fabric. A-DOR-ABLE! I was rushing around so much today that I missed getting a picture.

At any rate, you'll just have to take my word for it that she was super cute!

Sep 11, 2010

They are Kinda Distracting....

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. ~Albert Einstein

So I've been a little distracted lately. I've got a ton of shoe orders that I have to get out, but I haven't been able to concentrate them as well as I would like. I think it is because of all those many small children running around my house. However, they constantly remind me to stop and be delighted by life just like they are. In fact, my life is nothing but a series of pauses in which I am being demanded by a little voice to stop and pay attention.
One must stop and take pictures of Hunter practicing riding his bike. Yes, we are still working on this. Today he was SO close to getting it!
However, the bike riding session ended in many tears and some scuffed up knees. I'm confident he'll get it soon though.
She wanted to hold her little sissy. I think this is a pretty good indication of how close they will be to each other.
And finally, here is a picture of my main distraction. Oh, looking at this picture, I just want to smoosh her with kisses! I heard her first giggle today right before this picture was taken. I was blowing raspberries at her. The sound caused me to pause in wonder and stand in rapt awe. It was just so adorable.
I do have some new shoes designed today. Photos of them will just have to wait until tomorrow. I was just a little bit distracted today.

Sep 7, 2010

Waste not.

No good thing ever goes to waste I guess. I took ballet lessons for a few years, and my mother would be proud to know that they did not go to waste. Well, I guess I am a bit clutsy, and I hate to think what I would be like without those classes, but beyond that, I have found another use. Ainsley has been asking for about a year to go to "bow-yay cwass". Translation: Ballet class. Daily. And she's only three. So checking around, I discovered the cheapest place in town was still out of reach for our check book. And then once you tack on the dollars for the leotard, shoes, recital costume...Ay yi yi! No way are we spending that on a three year old who just wants to have a little fun (as much as I would love to see her face light up) when we don't have extraneous dollars to be using right now. So mother, here is where your years of paying for ME to take ballet is getting useful.

I told Ainsley to pick out her favorite dance outfit. I was going to teach her a ballet lesson. That's right. Once upon a time, I was good enough to get to pointe shoes, so I guess I know a thing or two about ballet. At least enough for a three year old.
And Ainsley and I danced. We used chair backs for a bar, and I did some simple bar exercises with our hands and feet. Then I showed her how to twirl, and then we put on some music and did free dance. She sparkled the whole time. She couldn't do anything I showed her (even just pointing her toe out), but she loved it. It just magnified the fact that either: A. the clutsy apple doesn't fall far from the tree; or B. She is way too immature to learn anything from a real class anyways. Either way, it was very fun to dance with my daughter at home and watch her sparkle with that special dance class, one on one with mommy.

Sometimes I wonder how much of the pricey things we pay for for our kids is really for them or for us. Don't get me wrong, if we had the extra money, we would let her go to ballet class, but dancing with Ainsley today and seeing her very happy with something much more simple, brings me to stop and think about it. Do the sports, toys, and other pricey activities that we pay for for our kids really make them happier except for the moment? I have no problem with kids trying different activities and sports, and letting them discover what they really love to do. Actually I encourage it. However, sometimes I think we over extend, over pay, over commit, when sometimes all a three year old really wants is a little simple dance time.

Along those lines, as far as Hunter goes, I really could chuck all of his many many many different sets of things in the garage and he would never miss them. As long as he had his blocks, cars, and legos, he would be totally and completely happy. So why have we slowly allowed his room to look like Toys R Us exploded in there? I am guilty as charged.
Hunter got his Lego magazine in the mail today. Inside they always have pictures of kids who make creations and mail in a picture of them. Hunter wanted me to take a picture of his creation, so he could be in the magazine. Please don't ask me what it is. He makes several creations a day which are highly imaginative with weird names and I don't keep track anymore (don't judge me). I explained that just because you take a picture and mail it in, it doesn't mean that you'll be in it. Hunter thought that was OK, as long as I took a picture and he could cut it out and tape it in the magazine himself. So that's what we did. He was very happy and content then. Huh. Guess it's easy to make a five year old happy with their logic and I saved myself a stamp.

I realize I have included pictures of my other two. This one has nothing to do with this post rather it's here just for the sake of inclusiveness. Hunter was pretending to eat Tessa's chunky monkey thighs and she thought it was very funny and cooing away at him with her usual spit up running down her chin. We really do love her chunky monkey thighs around here. She has now almost doubled her birth weight and is three months tomorrow. She's not a petite little thing and is thriving despite her rocky start.
I don't know if this next picture is about being resourceful and not wasting things, or just plain redneck. I gave away the little activity play mat after Ainsley was born, thinking that we were done having children. I had to be an indian giver and ask for things back when Tessa was born, and somethings I just never rebought or reborrowed. So this is what I came up with today when Tessa was in an alert mood. She can't grab the toys yet or roll over into the chair, and so the stick wasn't going to slide off. I also considered taping patterned paper to the underside of the coffee table and sliding her underneath to look up at it.
Hey, I had a lot of shoes to sew, and a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do to keep the kids occupied for a little while. That being said, I'm off to sew...I gotta crank them out or I'm going to get so behind this month....

Sep 5, 2010

Ridiculous

We are ridiculous with the accessories around here. I mean, I think my children were doomed from the day they were born with my personality, but since their mommy runs an accessory shop, they are more than doomed. They are past escape.

Let's use today as an example. Today was just a normal day in the clothes department, except that since it was Sunday, we ramped it up a notch. Tessa always wears a little headband on her poor little bald head (actually the back is somewhat patchy since it all hasn't fallen out yet - I have considered taking scissors to it to help it out). But on SUNDAY, we put a big big pink rose on her headband. It is supposed to be slightly on the side, but she wiggled around until now it just looks like a ridiculous cherry on top. She looks thrilled with the whole thing doesn't she? Thrilled, I tell you! I know she secretly is deep, deep down.

And the shoes. Well, she doesn't fit the shoes I have lying around here yet as she's still in the newborn size. And of course when one certain shoe maker walks into Target and sees these peeptoes on clearance for only $4 and they are a perfect fit, weeeeeell, the tempation was too much. TOO MUCH I tell you! They came home with us. But a little white shoe is boring. So very very boring since I am used to seeing crafty shoes on overload around here. Ten minutes before we have to leave for church, I whip up these little pink flowers and leaves and hot glue them on. "Ahhh," I say, "Now we've got a shoe!"Mind you, we live in California. Our church is the kind of church where the pastor even wears jeans sometimes. T-shirts and flipflops are normal and expected in church. Look at poor Tessa's face, she's THRILLED I tell you to wear all this cuteness there. Mommy is taking every opportunity I can to dress her kiddos up. So what if her face is saying, "Yikes. Sheesh, mommy. Do I gotta?"

A mom's gotta do, what a mom's gotta do. Hey, I am taking every chance I get. Remember the fight last Sunday with Ainsley over her shoes? Well, this Sunday was not better. Instead of wearing her pretty white patent leathers, Ainsley wanted to wear dirty pink clonky maryjanes. She was wearing a pink dress, so since they were in the same color family at least, I let her. *sigh* She did let me put her hair in pig tails with little bows. Win some, lose some.

Knowing that this is the way we role, family members have now spurred on the addiction. Tone's Aunt Lisa picked up some old bow ties from an estate sale and sent them to Hunter in the mail. He was so excited to get them. Now you know that when five year old goes crazy over bow ties sent in the mail....the addiction to accessories has grown out of control! I only made it worse by sewing an elastic loop to the back so he could put the elastic under his collar and it would stay on and he could get it on himself. Yes, I am an "enabler".

But, look at how happy he is with it. Yes, he definately wore this dapper thing to church. I didn't even have to convince him. HE was the one who picked out an outfit to go with it, and ran and got it in the morning for me to put it on. My heart sang with pride. I am truly truly sorry for the nerdiness I am creating in my children. Truly. But like a true addict, I can't stop! No, no, nope. Hmmm, to what else can I stick a bow, flower, or ribbon? Thoughts anyone?