Monday, November 30, 2009

25 Days to Christmas: Lighting the Advent candle

So much fun, so little time to record it

Whew. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Thanksgiving Day rocked. My sister Lindsay surprised us by showing up for the weekend when we thought she had to work! Lots of play time with the zombie boys. Frisbee. Monopoly. Leaf painting. (Leaf painting?) Empty box-cum-anything you want. More Frisbee. More Monopoly. Lots and lots of picture taking... And dinner was delicious, if I do say so myself.

Waiting oh-so-patiently for dinner...

My mother set a beautiful table with the silver-rimmed dishes my grandmother used every Thanksgiving we spent with her in Los Angeles.

And then... Saturday night was date night with Scott to celebrate our TWELFTH anniversary! Yep, we've been married a dozen years. I'm counting on a few more dozen with this awesome man 'o mine. I don't know what I'd do without him. He loves me so much more than I deserve, and I love him so much back.

And Sunday... the start of Advent, and a very busy day at church. Hurry up and slow down, people! It's time to prepare our hearts for Christmas!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

We've been busy getting ready, and now it's time for a day of giving thanks and feasting!

I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart,
I will enter His courts with praise,
I will say this is the day that the Lord has made
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.
He has made me glad,
He has made me glad,
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.
He has made me glad,
He has made me glad,
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gratitude: Harvesting pecans, and a little lesson from the birds

Last week, when we wandered outside looking for material for our Thanksgiving banner, we realized the pecans from my parents' huge tree had all fallen to ground. They were begging to be gathered -- and eaten!

The boys quickly figured out they could crack the shells with a short stomp on the cement.

We brushed aside the fallen leaves to find the nuts, filled our pockets, and emptied them on the patio table. Then we filled our pockets again... and again...

Some of the pecans were still encased in their husks, either green and unripened, or withered, blackened and easy to peel off. Because pecans are "drupes," not true nuts, the husk is the same part of the fruit as the sweet flesh is to a peach. The nut we eat is inside the hard inner shell.

Check out this awesome harvest! (After collecting pecans, we picked the last of the apples and the first of the citrus!)

As we poked our way through the dying leaves on the ground, we found nearly as many half-eaten pecans as whole.

Earlier in the season, we could sit outside and hear the birds cackling as they crunched and munched and dropped their leftovers from high in the pecan tree.

Chatter, crunch, clatter. Chatter, crunch, clatter. What fun they seemed to be having -- and how they seemed to be laughing at us down below!

The birds take what they can, and don't worry about wasting the rest -- it all decomposes to feed the tree again, anyway, right? They enjoyed the feast, and fed God's providence back to the earth -- or whatever ground critter might happen by looking for a morsel.

It made me think... Sometimes I get discouraged because I feel like I'm not "making the most" of the resources and opportunities around me -- there just isn't time or energy.

But that feeling comes from a sense both of inappropriate responsibility and scarcity. The truth is that the reason I can't do it all is because of the abundance of this life!

So, next time I feel guilty because I'm tossing yet another bunch of uneaten organic produce from our Abundant Harvest box, I will remember the birds. And instead think how blessed I am to have more than enough.

And I will plan to get more creative next time. Not out of guilt, but out of gratitude.

"I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly."

Anyone have a good pecan pie recipe? :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ready for T-Day?

Do you have your Thanksgiving menu planned? I am overwhelmed with the possibilities for deliciousness...

There's the turkey, of course. Store-bought, heritage, gift from work, or Tofurkey? Wet-brined, dry-brined or unbrined? I want to try dry-brining our heritage bird this year. Which means I need to pull it out of the freezer tomorrow. I'm going to try Ina Gaskin's Garten's (Oops! I always do that! LOL) garlic/mustard powder/dry herb rub, but I'll stuff it with orange, lemon and fresh herbs from the garden ala Giada. Think that's overkill?!

I love good ol' garlic-mashed-Yukon-gold-potatoes. But as it happens, we have no Yukon golds this year. We do have a few turnips, white potatoes, sweet potatoes (yams), acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots and pumpkins! But how many starches does a Thanksgiving meal need? What would you make...

Garlic mashed turnips and white potatoes or
Roasted sweet potatoes or
Honey-thyme acorn squash or
Butternut squash lasagne or
Dilled carrots or
Pumpkin soup?

And what about greens? I could roast broccoli, sautee spinach with garlic, steam green beans, or keep it cool with a spinach salad with cranberries, candied pecans and blue cheese.

And then there's the stuffing... in the bird or out? I'm for out, most definitely. In which case, shouldn't it be called "dressing"?

I have a favorite rosemary pecan cornbread stuffing recipe. But my grandmother may come this year, and she can't eat nuts... so, Ina Garten's sausage apple stuffing is really tempting me!

If those choices aren't enough, check out Food Network's menu list! (Do I have to wait until Thursday to start cooking?!)

Dessert will be simple, at least. I'm baking two of the best apple pies you'll ever eat, and my mom's picking up pumpkin -- unless I decide to make that myself, too.

Having your own Thanksgiving 911? Amanda and Merrill are answering tons of great questions about Thanksgiving dinner at Food52!

(And Mom, remind me to take some pictures of the food this year! I have no visual record of past feasts!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mrs. Weasley plans for college

Savings, schmavings, I've figured out how we're going to pay for college -- Quidditch scholarships!

Already, 226 colleges have joined the Intercollegiate Quidditch League. My alma mater, as well as teams from Harvard, Princeton and MIT competed in the 2009 World Cup, which Greg Gumble reported on CBS Sports.

I figure, in 10 years, the Rowling Fund for Literate Athletes should be well established. The (Muggle) Quidditch World Cup will be a well-respected international collegiate sporting event.

And my kids will have plenty of experience in the sport, because I'm going to start a local homeschool league! (Well, what else can I do? They're begging to play!)

But first, somebody's asking for a broom for Christmas... or maybe I should get him a helmet first.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A nature-inspired Thanksgiving banner

We were inspired to do a little Thanksgiving craftiness yesterday. I found this great idea for making a Thanksgiving banner out of natural materials glued onto construction paper. It was perfect for my boys, who aren't always crazy about cutting and pasting, but love nature.

They searched through our nature display for sticks, leaves and pine cone pieces and seeds, then went outside and found lavender, pecan leaves, and rosemary. We also had some corn husks and orange peels laying around, so they snatched those up, too.

Isn't it sweet?! Find lots more Thanksgiving craft ideas here. And more Friday Nature Table at the Magic Onions.

Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One,
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now, let the weak say 'I am strong,'

Let the poor say, 'I am rich,'

Because of what the Lord has done, for us.

Give thanks.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Family Game Night

After months of jam-packed weekends, we slowed way down on Friday to enjoy...

Leftover homemade split pea soup and bread -- the perfect it's-Friday-and-I'm-too-tired-to-cook meal.

Popcorn and hot chocolate to go with Game Night, declared by Eldest and Middlest, who pooled the last of their allowance to buy Monopoly.

Two three-hour long games. (Half that time I spent in jail.)

Peanuts' holiday specials on DVD -- "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," "The Mayflower Voyage," and "I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown." (I have to say, I do appreciate the newer specials, simply because the kids are less likely to use the word "stupid" in reference to their friends and siblings...)

Repeat twice. Try not to get so distracted by Snoopy that the banker takes your Monopoly money.

A little Christmas knitting in between turns!

And, of course, a few headstands on the couch for good measure.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Moon Study

We've been studying the moon a bit this month. Observing it when the night sky is clear (which it hasn't been this week, but it was a new moon anyway), learning about its phases and position in relation to Earth.

I bought a copy of Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy, and I wish I could say we've been using it! But it's been a little more random and serendipitous than that.

We've also been reading G is for Galaxy, which we found at the library. And, of course, we read Owl Moon.

A few night's ago we stumbled upon an episode of The Universe on the History Channel which was all about the moon's effect on and importance to our planet. I can't find it on the site now, but it was pretty fascinating stuff.

Then we got together with friends to make moon crafts! (I copied Goose and Binky's creative ideas.)

The kids enjoyed using Sculpy clay to make their moons, and then we had a glitterfest while making the moon phase mobiles! (I got so into it, I forgot to take photos.)

My boys love trivia games, so I used this moon quiz to get them started. Enchanted Learning has so many great resources, I finally became a member. We're going to track the phases of the moon using their calendar over the next month.

I know, really original post. But bear with me, and hopefully I'll find more time for blogging soon. :)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dinos on Ice

Obviously, I don't mean the kind in costume and on skates. ;)

I have mentioned a few times how much my boys love dinosaurs. I ordered a new book a few weeks ago to add to our collection and to go along with what we're reading in "The Mystery of History." I love how the author of "Mystery of History" works a chapter about dinosaurs into the section on the Flood and the Ice Age. Even if it's all a bit speculative.

Knowing we were getting close to that section, I was inspired by Bona Fide Mama to ice over a little surprise for the boys...

They LOVED this project. What's the only thing better than playing with dinosaurs? Digging up their fossils, of course!

We got to do a bit more of that a few weeks ago when we spent an afternoon at our local natural history museum. It's not a fancy museum, but it does the job when you're in the mood for a little prehistory!

Back at home... Do you think we have enough dinosaur books?

Nah. Thankfully, my friend Christina doesn't either. Her girls are finished with dinos, so she keeps passing on more to us! She gave us a few new ones last week, along with the Dinosaur Land game, which the boys broke out as soon as breakfast was over.

Nearly all of our dinosaur books are hand-me-downs or gifts. We have quite a few nonfiction tomes, which the boys can't get enough of, but the picture books are my favorites. I love the illustrations in Jane Yolen and Mark Teague's "How Do Dinosaurs...?" series. And Dinosaur ABC has been read many, many times. And how would we have survived toddlerhood without all of Sandra Boynton's dinos?

Now, if we were actually doing unit studies, I could say we "finished up" our prehistory lesson by watching "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," which finally came from Netflix yesterday.

But we all know that'd be a load of coprolite. ;)
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