Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back to School Pencil Tip

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Really, I thought, could #2 pencils be all that different? YES, yes they are!

 I've been buying the cheap pencils--officeWorks, but the lead seemed to break easily, even when sharpening in an electric sharpener.  My kids complained about the eraser, too, and that also would just break off.

What is a good home school mom to do?  I decided to buy the expensive #2 pencils--Dixon Ticonderoga.  They came in the package already sharpened, so I just stuck them in our pencil holder.  Didn't really give it another thought until . . . my kids mentioned how they LoVeD the new pencils!! 

officeWorks pencil is on top.  If you and your kids are having pencil troubles, too, here's what to look for the next time you are out.  The Dixon Ticonderoga pencil obviously has the logo on the side and has a shiny green band instead of a gold one.  The eraser is a light pink instead of dark pink.
Here's what my kids had to say:  the new pencils write more smoothly, they erase much better, and the lead doesn't break.  My 9 yr. old showed me on paper that the Ticonderoga also writes a little darker.

I couldn't resist giving the new pencils a try . . . and my kids are so right!!

Cheap pencils stink.  Dixon Ticonderoga pencils are awesome and work for us!
Get 96 pencils for a great deal!

{affiliate links}

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mrs. Smith, I Don't Need You Anymore!

Pin It Now! Updated: How could I have forgotten to write baking directions?? So, bake at 400° for 50-60 minutes. I cover mine with foil about 1/2 way through so the topping doesn't get too brown.

I make lots of apple recipes every summer because our 2 trees are so good to us!  But . . . I always save the home made pies for last because they're a lot of work, and they just never taste as good as the frozen, store-bought ones--at least mine don't. 

Not anymore!  I finally made a home made apple pie that I can be proud of.

I actually combined a couple of recipes to get to the finished product. While straightening the stuff under my bed, I happened upon a November 2008 issue of Good Housekeeping, which had a scrumptious-looking pie on the cover.  (Also the issue in which I was introduced to the ever-so-happy Jon and Kate Plus 8 family.)

Anyway, the recipe for apple filling looked promising b/c of the amount of cornstarch--I don't like runny pies.

Apple Filling:

2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
3 1/2 lbs. cooking apples
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice

*In large bowl, combine sugar with cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Add apples and lemon juice, and toss to coat evenly.  Pour into prepared crust.

French Crumb Topping:

1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped pecans
I added some shredded, unsweetened coconut - at least 2-3 TBSP - to these ingredients.

*I just mixed the ingredients to form a crumby mixture.  Sprinkle over pie filling.

I searched the Internet high and low for a crumb topping that sounded appealing and used brown instead of white sugar. :)  It was delicious!

I usually home make my crusts, but I cheated this time and used pie crust dough from the store.  My family and I loved the pie immensely, so next time I will go to the trouble to make my own dough!

So, sorry Mrs. Smith, but I don't need you anymore!!  (Unless I am in a hurry, or it's not summer, or I just don't feel like going to the trouble.)

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More Than Just a Picture

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I am sure most of you are familiar with the organization, Compassion International. I've known about it for years. My mom has sponsored a few children over the past decade or so, and I know I have heard about it at church before.

While I have always thought it was an amazing ministry, I felt there just wasn't room in our paycheck-to- paycheck budget for us to participate in such a huge commitment. Raising 3 kids on 1 income can be tough, really tough. It was challenging just feeding our own growing family.

Well, I felt the first real heart prickles when I started following Rocks in my Dryer and participating in her weekly Works for me Wednesday segment. She also posted about Compassion and her own personal experience. Though my heart had been pricked, our family had just moved to AZ and finances were tighter than ever! So, I tucked away all of Shannon's posts about Compassion deep in the recesses of my heart.

When the host, Shannon, passed the Works for Me Wednesday baton to Kristen from We are THAT Family, I began faithfully following her site. I totally wasn't prepared for the work God was going to do in my heart through Kristen's blog during the bleakest financial trial of my husband's and my marriage.

I couldn't help but be glued to We are THAT Family when Kristen chronicled her trip to Africa sponsored by Compassion International. I even shared her journey on my own blog. It was this video that completely severed my heart and left me weeping at my computer screen.

I knew I wanted to be involved in this ministry, but HOW. I didn't even want to bring it up to my husband ~ not after him losing a job, starting another job that didn't provide enough to make ends meet, being on SNAP and WIC for almost 2 years, and facing trial after trial after moving to the desert. I just didn't think it would be a good time, ya know. But, I did anyway. Because one thing I learned during our economic crisis was that even in our own great time of need, we still had more than so many others. We had families who helped us. Our government, even with all its faults, helped us. Our bank worked with us.

We were still so blessed. God opened my eyes. My suffering was minimal compared to some others' sufferings. I still woke up with clean water at my disposal. We still ate food everyday ~ not the most tasty, but we never went hungry. My kids still have no clue what it would be like to starve. We were able to stay in our home, safe from the elements. So many blessings.

So, when I brought up Compassion to my husband about a month or so before Christmas last year, I was surprised when he said to go ahead and pick out a child.

So, here is our Compassion child from Kenya. He is far more than just a picture on our fridge. He has a name ~ Livingstone.

I left the choosing mostly up to my kids.  We decided on a country first (Kenya), and then we all sat on our couch perusing all the kids from Kenya. We knew we were going to pick a boy so my own boys would feel compelled to write and be able to relate somewhat.
For once they all agreed on something.  They were all drawn to this little boy wearing such a forlorn expression.

For over six months now, he's been a part of our family, and he has changed us for the better!

Monday, July 18, 2011


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Back To School!

 I did have one very eager student this morning.  She even "dressed up" for her first day of First Grade.  Not exactly the kind of outfit I had in mind, but okay. Whatever makes you happy sweet girl!

Last night for a very special and exclusive audience, (me, daddy and brothers) she performed a celebratory dance recital including 3 outfit changes in honor of starting school. 

LOVE her enthusiasm.  :)

 My big Fourth Grader looks super excited, but really he just likes to be goofy

I think he's at least somewhat eager to start science this year since it has nothing to do with ZOOLOGY!  And I splurged and bought the note booking journal that goes along with Apologia Anatomy.  The notebooks are more fun than completing work on plain notebook paper!  He's pretty much on his own for science this year since all three of my kids are reading different science books.  I know he can do it!

Seventh Grade - are you kidding me?  I feel so old having a seventh grader.  I still remember Kindergarten like it was yesterday--waving flags and marching around our little Cordova living room to Wee Sing America.  *Sigh* 

He's already digging in to Apologia General Science.  He's completely responsible for everything, experiments and all.  In fact he did an experiment today all by himself.  So proud.  He's a great student!

I know it seems kind of cruel to be starting school before all of the other kids, as my kids like to point out, but we finished early May before all of the schools around here, as I like to point out! :) 

It's not all that bad since we sort of ease into school.  Our first week is pretty much less than half a load.  That way we can get used to being back to a strict schedule as painlessly as possible.  Believe me, it's just as much for me as it is my kids!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Elven Dress

Pin It Now! Spontaneousness usually doesn't occur while shopping.  Especially clothes shopping.  And especially when I am just my mom's sidekick for the day.  

Even though I have never been fond of a tight budget, I have always been very good at sticking to it.  So, it has never been a problem for me to accompany my mom or anyone else on their shopping sprees.  I enjoy the time spent with my mom or friends, and when I am with my mom, there is always hope that I just might get a frappuchino. ;)  (Now, I can't even leave the house to spend the day with my mom without my kids and hubby teasing me about this!) 

(And Mom, you know the frapps aren't what keep me coming around, I hope.)

Anyway, this past Saturday I didn't refuse my mom's invitation to help her find something on which to spend her hard-earned Kohl's Cash.  I nearly lost my breath as I was perusing the racks in the women's section looking for a shirt for my mom.  There before me hung the most beautiful dress I'd ever seen.  It looked so elegant--so elvish--I just had to try it on.  For fun, of course.

Magic happened in that dressing room.  I was immediately transformed from an ordinary, frumpy, home school mom into a stunning elven princess!  Well, almost.  I am probably exaggerating just a bit.

Have you ladies ever had a that-dress-was-made-for-me moment?  Well, that's what I thought standing in front of the mirror in the dimly lit dressing room at Kohl's.  (Okay, now I am beginning to wonder if the dim light was affecting my judgement--probably didn't see all the flaws.)

I looked at my mom and told her that I was going to have to seriously consider swiping the credit card for an unplanned purchase--an unplanned 40-dollar-something purchase. I just didn't think I could bear the pain of hanging this emerald gown, made just for me I might add, back on the rack.

I clung to it as we continued to shop for my mom.  I decided to send a text to my hubby to see what kind of response I'd get.  Text sent: "Oooh, just tried on a dress that makes me look like an elven princess. :)"

Minutes pass.  No response.  My mom was done shopping.

Decision time.

I couldn't do it.  I couldn't put it back.

Just as the cashier handed me the bag with my prized dress--oh, it felt so good to have a new dress--my phone alerted me that I had received a text.

Uh, oh.  I was hoping I wouldn't have to make an idiot of myself and return it right then and there.  I figured I wouldn't but . . .

His text:  "Get it"

I was elated.  I know it seems such a small thing about which to be so excited, but it has been quite a while since I bought something to make me feel pretty.  And this dress accomplished that for me!

And for my hubby. 

He liked it on me so much that he got on-line and ordered me another one in a different hue.  I await its arrival and hope the purple one possesses the same magical qualities. :)

The Magic Dress
Now if I could just find some pointy ears and the Evenstar to wear, I'd have the perfect Halloween costume, too!


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