Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Taking a Break

Just wanted to check in with you all real quick!!   We've been cleaning up from our Christmas celebration with family and today I've started getting the little boys' school things organized while Jeff and Aaron have started the preliminary work on getting our kitchen painted and tiled.  Apparently, it's a lot more involved than I thought.  : (  We will also be painting the cabinets and need to replace one wall of lower cabinets.  Water damage doesn't just get better with time, you know!!   Our work around here is never done and never easy, but we sure do learn a lot as we work together.  Hope you all had a very blessed Christmas and are looking eagerly ahead to what the Lord will be teaching you throughout the new year.  See you later!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Clanging Cymbal

Things are busy around here in the final days before Christmas.  Making Christmas goodies, gifts and freezer meals.  Last minute shopping and wrapping.  Cleaning.....and then even more cleaning.  With so much busy work and so many people living here things can get a little tense.  As I was trying to get my helpers rolling this morning this passage from 1 Corinthians 13 popped into my head....Ouch!!  I thought surely I am not the only one who gets a little  lot stressed this time of year.  Please, tell me I am not the only one!

1 Corinthians 13:  1

Thought I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

I don't want my children to remember me during the holiday season or any other time when they see or hear annoying sounds.  Ouch!!  I need to do some serious work on that!  How about you?  Is this a problem for you or do you breeze through this season in a calm and stress-free manner?

Raising Homemakers

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rendering Lard

When we recently had a hog slaughtered, we asked the butcher to save as much of the fat as possible for us because I wanted to try to render the fat to make lard.  My mom sent us home with this incredibly heavy three-legged cast iron pot that had a butane cooker made specifically to fit it!  That way were were able to set up outside to do our work and not have any unpleasant smells inside.  Jeff set up the equipment on our back deck and used a broken cardboard box under all to keep any grease from the wood.  It was a very nice day...sunny, a little bit of a breeze and not too cool.

Making up the first batch.

I used a 2 quart Pyrex measuring cup to hold the melted fat.  I first strained it through a mesh strainer lined with a flour sack.

Jeff cut the slightly frozen fat into smaller chunks so that it would cook down faster.

A large pan full of fat ready to go into the cooker.

Isn't that pretty ingenious?  We were able to get all the fat cooked and in jars in less than two hours...and the house didn't get filled with odors, either!

After cooking down and ladling off the fat you are left with the cracklings.  I left them in the pot until the last batch of lard was removed and then let all the cracklings cook down until very crisp.  This batch was cooking down.....It was NOT done!

The little  boys decided to build a little tent while we were busy working.

Mr. I've-Got-Personality

They came close a few times to see the was a family affair as Jeff and Kaelan poured the lard into heated cannning jars in the kitchen while I tended to the pot.

Yum!!  Our first taste of cracklings!!  A little salt and they make a nice little snack.  I think tonight's cornbread will have a sprinkling of cracklings mixed in.

And now we have 16 jars of lard to use in soapmaking and cooking this winter.  No, my lard isn't white!  That's because it was cooked up in an iron pot.  Can't wait to test it out soon!

Linking up with Jasmine at Above Rubies
and at Titus 2sday

Monday, December 19, 2011

Menu Plan December 19-25

Monday-hamburger steaks, rice, gravy, turnip greens, English peas, glazed carrots and cornbread

Tuesday-spinach macaroni and cheese, purple hull peas, broccoli, sauteed squash and onions, roasted potatoes, cornbread

Wednesday-bean soup and vegetable soup, salad, homemade bread

Thursday-spaghetti, salad, garlic and pesto bread

Friday-creamy green chili chicken enchiladas, Army Man rice, refried beans, salad, chips and salsa

Saturday-grilled pork ribs and pork chops, baked potatoes, sweet and sour green beans, grilled onions and garlic, rolls, salad

Sunday-baked chicken, dressing, squash casserole, apple-cranberry casserole, sweet and sour green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, fruit salad and rolls

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Jesse Tree

Our Jesse Tree

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2: 8

a camel and the stump of Jesse
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1

This little wire basket holds our Jesse Tree ornaments as they wait their turn to go on the tree.

Pick and Draw Giveaway Winner Announced

Congratulations, Kyodi!! You are the winner of the fun Pick and Draw Game. Please email me at ASAP with your home address so I can get your information to Rich Davis, game creator. Get your pencils and papers ready for a great time!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Multi-Generational School Day

Please don't forget to sign up for the Pick and Draw giveaway here. I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Blogger seems to be messed up this morning. Please excuse the small print.

Yesterday, Lauren, my oldest daughter, and her three children came to spend the day with us. We are blessed that she lives close enough to bring the gang over every other week or so to visit. Chase, my four year old grandson, loves to come and do school with us, so I had planned some simple activities to do using items from our craft cabinet.

First up after lunch and cleanup we made snowmen faces using paper plates and various foam shapes. I had originally intended to make entire snowmen, but sometimes when you have four boys ages 7, 4, 3, and 2 working together, you change plans mid-stream!! ; ) Here are some of the snowmen faces the boys made....some even have boots made from foam and leftover from Bible school crafts many years ago!

While I cleaned up the sticky, gluey mess, the boys took a sucker break. I am finding that you MUST keep them occupied at all times or things can get out of control very quickly. The suckers kept them quiet and as we don't let them walk around with them...kept them still as well.

Then we had Circle Time. When my older girls were little we began meeting together each morning to go over various facts, read a Bible story, work on Scripture memory, sing songs and read a book. Due to the HUGE age span of my children, I have not been doing Circle Time activities with my own little boys. We do the same things, but not during a set time. My days have usually been focused on the older children and the younger ones have tagged along and I have fit in their activities when able, but now that I will only have two older students, ages 12 and 15, I will be focusing more of my time with the younger ones. So, yesterday, Lauren and I gathered the four boys (and 14 month old Ashtyn Claire was in and out as well) and sat on the floor in a circle. We sang the days of the week, the months of the year, the name song for each boy, our phonics song and much more. As we sang we would either roll a ball to each other or toss a bean bag...trying to keep a little movement going is important for wiggly boys. We sang Christmas carols and finished up by reading a Curious George book. Whew!!

The boys spent some time outside on the trampoline and playing in the leaves. We took popcorn kernels, stale biscuits and cornbread out to feed the chickens and spent some time watching them gobble up the food. While the other boys were feeding, Kaelan took one or two of them into the coop to gather eggs. This is what she found. Do you see that teeny-tiny egg? Never have we had one that small! When the hens first begin to lay, their eggs are small and get bigger with time. The egg next to it is a very large egg.

After dinner we had another Circle Time repeating some of the same songs and activities to get them settled down before they headed home. My hat is off to those of you who have lots of littles with no older ones to help out. It can be exhausting and overwhelming! Planning some simple activities, though, to channel their energy helps to make the day more productive, fun and interesting for all! And this grandmother is so very thankful to have her own little boys and grandchildren to plan fun activities for!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Decking the Halls---Traditions

Don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win the fun drawing game PICK AND DRAW.

We have many family traditions especially around this time of year.  Today I thought I would share just a couple of them.  Every year since moving out to the country we have tried to decorate with some greenery from our property.  Early last week I asked the big guys to gather some for me, but Jackson (7) decided he would tackle the job alone.  He got a small saw and cut down two pine saplings.  Then he got the loppers and trimmed all the branches off, loaded them into a box and brought them to me.

Devin made two swags like this one with just one small branch, two cinnamon sticks, a rubber band and a length of ribbon.  Very simple and I am ALL about simple these days!

I put two large wreaths together by using a wire wreath form.  I tied the pine branches on the form with florist's wire.  Jackson then searched for small pine cones and we added those to the wreath as well.

Every year since our oldest daughter was born my mother has purchased each grandchild an ornament.  We have also purchased each of our children an ornament and we do the same for our grandchildren.  My mom started purchasing the pewter ornaments from Avon several years ago and they are gorgeous.  Jeff and I try to get ornaments that reflect an interest of each child or as a remembrance of a special trip or vacation.  Some years it is hard to find that one special ornament and when that happens I choose some of our favorites...for the boys...trains, nutcracker soldiers....for the girls....angels or snowmen.  Here are this year's selections.

Jordan got a pig ornament to help him remember the night we had to chase two hogs that had escaped their pen.  It wasn't a whole lot of fun at the moment, but later it sure has brought us many laughs!
 The snowman was this year's selection from my mom.  All seven of the children have one just like it!

Kaelan has actually selected several of her own ornaments and she tends to love bird ornaments.  This year I found this cute owl that is a huge jingle bell!

Jackson declared himself the "chicken tender", so this beautiful rooster was perfect for him this year!

As a young woman, Devin is at a time that she is making decisions that will affect the rest of her life.  This simple angel with the word FAITH will help her remember to have faith that God will lead her if she will follow.

This year Aaron recieved another nutcracker ornament to add to his collection.

Caedmon has loved dressing up in cowboy gear this year,  so this cute little ornament was perfect for him.

Lauren and her family will soon be moving into their new home and are not putting a tree up until then, so I haven't given them their ornaments for this year.

Our tree is full of beautiful ornaments that bring back so many memories for us.  As our children grow and leave our home they will receive their own box of ornaments to take with them.  Lauren treasures her ornaments as keepsakes from childhood.  When her home was destroyed by tornado earlier this year (they were on an overnight trip and were not harmed at all) the first things that she wanted to find were her ornaments and her books.  Her ornaments were fine, but sadly she lost most of her books.

What are some special family traditions that your family has during this holiday season?  Do you celebrate Advent, have a Jesse Tree, sing carols, have a special holiday snack?  I would love to hear about YOUR family traditions!

Hip Homeschool Hop Button 

Growing Home

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Plan December 12-18

Don't miss out on the giveaway that I have at THIS POST!

I just put on a huge pot of taco soup for dinner tonight and there will be plenty to freeze for another meal or two.  I love cooking large batches to have more than one meal with the same amount of work.  I know there are several recipes out there for taco soup, but mine is very simple and uses mainly "real foods" meaning no canned soups or mixes.  I brown about 3 pounds of ground beef with two chopped onions.  I added a gallon of the pinto beans that I cooked up late last week, two cans of whole corn and two cans of Ro-Tel.  I then added a gallon of tomato sauce.  I will add seasonings after this has simmered for a while...about 2 each of salt, garlic, cumin, chili powder and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.  Simple, wholesome and nothing artificial!!

Monday-taco soups with corn tortillas on the side
Tuesday-veggie night...stewed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, turnip greens, creamed corn, purple hull peas, cornbread and broccoli salad
Wednesday-bbq pork sandwiches, baked beans, coleslaw and oven fried potatoes
Thursday-Soup Night--shrimp gumbo and broccoli soup
Friday-chicken enchiladas, rice, refried beans
Saturday-spaghetti, pesto bread, salad
Sunday-pot luck with small group

Breakfasts will be baked oatmeal, granola, applesauce muffins, pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, grits or biscuits.

Lunches will be leftovers, pasta salad, cheese, crackers, fruit and popcorn.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The KING of Kings Salvation Brings

What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ, the King, 
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud, 
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

This, this is Christ, the King, 
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud, 
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
Come, peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

This, this is Christ, the King, 
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud, 
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Don't forget my giveaway for a Pick and Draw!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pick and Draw Review and Giveaway

The other day we received a fun package in the mail.  Rich Davis, the creator of Pick and Draw, kindly sent my family a Pick and Draw card game for review purposes.  Yesterday I gathered a handful of children ranging in ages from 3-19 for a quick test game.  Oh, I played too!

The card pack consists of cards divided into several catagories:  face, eyes, nose, hair, and mouth drawn in cartoon form.  The object of the game is to select a card for each catagory and to draw your own cartoon character.  We had fun doing this...especially my artsy son who already loves to create cartoon characters.

My final drawings!

Kaelan's cartoon man

Jordan's version....

Jackson's characters

Aaron's characters

Pick and Draw promotes motor skills and flexible/creative thinking
                                                 is engaging; relational and simple
                                                 develops diceision making skills
                                                 works on comparing and contrasting
                                                 is a great storytelling tool
                                                 is portable
                                                 and builds confidence!

Pick and Draw would also make a great stocking stuffer or even a hostess gift for a family with children!

Would you like to win a Pick and Draw card set for the children in your life?  Follow these easy steps!

1.  Leave a comment letting me know you would like to win.

2.  Follow Busy Hands Busy Minds and leave me another comment letting me know you did so....or that you already do!

3.  "Like" Busy Hands Busy Minds on Facebook and leave me another comment letting me know you did so...or that you already do!

You can also purchase your own Pick and Draw game or grab a few for some last minute gifts at!  Commenting will close at midnight,  Thursday, December 15.  A winner will be announced the next morning!

Giveaway Day 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Music

It's on the radio.  Christmas CDs are played in the car and in the kitchen.  Our violinists and pianists are practicing for a recital and for fun.  We gather to sing several times a week around the Advent wreath.  It is Christmas time.  Jeff misses much of his life as a church music minister and he tries to keep up his trumpet skills by playing in the local symphony and in church cantatas throughout the year.  The other day I encouraged him to play WITH the children, so last night he did.

Caedmon and Jackson joined Jeff with their bugles and Kaelan on violin.  Devin was playing the piano and then Aaron had a turn on the piano as well.  He needs lots of practice accompanying as he has reached a higher level in the hymn festival coming up next month and will be playing with the audience singing.

The little boys were doing a great job!  Of course, they couldn't play the melody on those toy bugles, but they did a great job with the rhythms!!

Caedmon needs a little help with his embouchure and needs to hold his bugle right side up!  But he was so cute!

See what I mean?

Fun time!

The boys were fresh from the bath and dressed warmly for bed.

Caedmon was so intent on playing along with "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly".

I'm ready for them to break out in Bugler's Holiday.  It may take a few years before the little guys are ready for that one!

Love those puffy cheeks!

Watching daddy for the cut-off!

A sweet time!
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