Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Pioneer Woman Experience

Way back at the beginning of November we traveled for two weeks. We drove too much for the liking of some little kids, but we did get to see new sites.

The one that was most exciting for me was this little spot in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. This log cabin is a replica of Laura Ingalls Wilder's little house on the prairie. That was the first big book I read as a child, and I've worn out copies of the series from so much reading. They're still my favorite books as an adult. While this site was closed for the season, we were still able to walk around and see what was outside of locked doors.

I actually started to get emotional when we pulled up here!


Since we were headed to the Oklahoma City area from here, it wasn't too far out of the way to go to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, where Pioneer Woman (a.k.a. Ree Drummond, blogger extraordinaire and Food Network star) had just opened her new store, The Mercantile, earlier in the week. My kids watch her show with me on Saturday mornings, and my little girl (the middle one) really loves her.

Pawhuska is a little town, but it seemed hopping on that Saturday afternoon. You can see why in this picture. 

Approaching The Mercantile, the line to get into the store.


And on the other of the building, there was another long line.

I'm guessing this was the line for the restaurant.

At this point, my husband and I knew we'd not be stopping because seven children and a line that looks like it would take hours isn't my cup of tea. I'm also not into waiting in line to shop in a store of any kind. But I decided I wanted to take a picture of the lines for this blog, so we hung a left and turned around. While we were doing this, two children swore they'd seen Pioneer Woman's husband, Marlboro Man (a. k. a. Ladd). The adults weren't buying it. 

On our way back through town, we saw this:

This hand-held sign reads "Cool Stuff".

So we followed and went around the block. And wouldn't you know, cool stuff appeared. If we hadn't been driving for so long with little children, I would've stopped to look at the cool stuff more closely.


Metal bison and roosters qualify as "cool stuff."


On the way past PW's store, I did get some pictures (namely the ones above). AND see the fellow in the cowboy hat below? That's the husband the kids had spotted before, out mixing with the crowd. 

Ladd Drummond

So then we drove on out of town, into the eventual sunset. And there were many, many tears from my disappointed little daughter. I felt horrible. It was the one thing on the whole trip she was looking forward to, and I just couldn't make it right. 

However, on our way to the interstate from there, I saw some gorgeous scenery. I pulled out the camera to take a picture, rolled down the window to take a picture of it, but since we were driving the speed limit which is so fast out there, I clicked on this instead:


The Drummond Ranch

While I didn't plan it and don't actually know if that is Pioneer Woman's family's ranch, I thought it was a funny accidental shot. And the possibility that the vehicle we saw coming out of the drive might have been her beloved Pioneer Woman seemed to calm the crying girl down a little bit. But not entirely. Disappointment is a sad thing.

This was some of the scenery I was trying to get a shot of:







Not long after, we noticed this field.

Windturbines, oil, and cattle grazing 

We guessed that whoever owned that land was making a killing on one spot of land. Talk about maximizing potential!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Little Late or Early?

I'm not sure if this post is a little late for Small Business Saturday or a little early for Cyber Monday, but here it is anyway.

My friend Sarah recently opened up an Etsy shop. It's called MountainMamaBySarah, and right now she's selling baby toys. She is such a talented lady, let me tell you. Earlier this year she threw a tea party birthday party for her daughter that was so perfect in every detail. I wish I had her skills! Anyway, if you need to buy a gift for a baby, consider her.

I also have a talented family who I've highlighted in another post.

Alas, at the time of the last post, I didn't realize my cousin (the one who dethroned me as the only little one in the family and who was darned cute doing it) also had an Etsy shop. Not only does she sing and do all sorts of music-y stuff (she's a music teacher), but she can make just about anything, and she makes it all well! Anyway, her shop, KTsQuilts, features quilts (especially cute ones for kids) and other things (like little zippered totes that would be cute and useful for kids). There's also a range in prices--from stocking stuffer types of gifts to the more expensive (but well-made) quilts. Please check out her shop.

There. That's my little unsolicited publicity for friends and family. Have fun shopping!


Friday, November 25, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column--November 23, 2016

Narrowing down my 2016 gratitude list to make it small enough to fit in a newspaper column is no easy task. I’ll try anyway.

Last year our toddler boy began getting carsick regularly. He vomited multiple times even while going straight on the interstate. We could get to town and back, but anything else was a risk. Enter Sea-Bands. These little elastic wristbands press on an acupressure point and, for our little man, work like a charm. No vomit mess in a van equals an extremely thankful momma.

Also on the toddler front, I’m so thankful for Paw Patrol because that’s what I’m bribing my little one with for potty-training. Call it lazy parenting, but those cartoons make less mess in diapers for me to clean up. 

I’m thankful for food. I don’t need to feel hunger pangs to enjoy the basics. I love our fresh guinea eggs when they’re laying and a warm piece of homemade bread. I love a ripe peach and the first veggies from our garden. And unless you think I only eat healthy things, I’m also thankful for the occasional Coke and bag of Cheetos.

I’m grateful for the table that seats our whole family. I’m even more thankful the election’s over so that we can sit down to a meal without being interrupted by Donald or Hillary calling to ask for my vote. 

I’m thankful that we were able to go on a vacation. While driving halfway across the country with little kids has its own challenges, I loved seeing the scenery of Kansas and Oklahoma for the first time.  I’m thankful I was able visit the site of Little House on the Prairie because Laura Ingalls Wilder is my all-time favorite author. None of it would have been possible without Juleea, our kind neighbor who took care of the animals while we were gone. Thank you!



While I enjoyed our vacation, I can agree with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home!” I’m so thankful for my home and the walls that were painted this year. I’m thankful for how well insulated it is and how it keeps out the cold winds I hear blowing outside. 

More than any earthly thing, I’m thankful for the blessings of family-- church family, too-far-away family, and the family inside our home.  I’m so blessed by my husband who warms up a cloth bag of rice to put under the covers to keep my feet warm at night. I’m thankful for the son who crocheted a colorful bathmat out of cut-up t-shirts for me; the rug is slightly misshapen, but it keeps my feet off the cold bathroom floor.

I’m thankful for the son who begged to stay home from the auction he so badly wanted to attend because he thought Mommy would need his help. I’m thankful for the son who patiently sat in the bathroom telling stories to the potty-training toddler who didn’t want to be alone in the bathroom.

I’m thankful for the little girl who’s growing up into her role of big sister, kindly and gently fixing her little sister’s hair for church when Mom was busy with a fussy baby. I’m thankful for my preschool daughter’s cute little voice; it matches her sweet personality. 

I’m grateful for my toddler-boy who keeps me on my toes. His tantrums are fierce, but his hugs are even fiercer. I love those hugs.

And then there’s the baby who everybody adores. She’s been my clingiest baby, but I cling to those hours of nursing and cuddles and care-taking because I don’t know if there will be another baby or not. I’m thankful for those huge baby grins when she plays pat-a-cake or stands up all by herself without holding on to anything. 

And most of all I’m thankful for the Son I did not bear but who bore all my sins so that I can find joy in all my other blessings.

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I don’t mind the cold weather so long as I’m inside where it’s warm. I’m super-thankful for warm things in winter, especially soup. This soup recipe I found in my Oma’s recipe drawer years ago, and while I don’t remember her making it, I’ve made it a ton of times because it is delicious.

Pennsylvania Dutch Soup

1/2 cup dried white beans
1/2 cup dried kidney beans
1/2 cup dried pinto beans
1/2 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup dried split peas
2 Tbsp. salt
ham hock or ham steak
3 Tbsp. parsley
1 clove garlic
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
1 chopped onion
1 large can tomatoes
2 Tbsp. wine vinegar
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin

Put the dried beans in a large pot with the 2 Tbsp. salt and cover with water to soak overnight. In the morning, rinse and drain the beans. Add 8 cups water, the ham, parsley, garlic, 2 tsp. salt, pepper, oregano, and bay leaf. Simmer for 2 hours then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove the ham, dice it, and return it to the pot. 


Monday, November 21, 2016

Today's the Day

It was a little chilly in here yesterday, but I was determined to cook those chills away. I also asked my husband to get our wool blanket out of the top of the closet and throw it on the bed. I put the kids in footsie pajamas. I put on a sweater. And it all worked! Until dark. I waited and waited and waited until midnight. Then I turned on the heat. Today is the official 2016 Heat Day!

I didn't set a new record. I guess that's what happens when you try to cheat; you just don't win.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Turning on the Heat-- Sort Of

We returned on Monday from a two-week-long vacation. It was chilly in our house, and a couple of little ones were sick. I caved and had my husband turn on the heat.

However, we haven't used the heat since then. It seems all the hot air we generate keeps things toasty in here. So this year, I'll record two dates. The first one is November 14th--the one that wouldn't have happened if we'd been home the whole time. The second date will be ?-- when we actually need to keep the heat on for winter-- my official 2016 Heat Day. Is this cheating? Maybe, but it is, after all, my game and my rules. And I want to beat last year's record.

Last year we made it to November 23rd.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column--November 2, 2016

People are curious when they find out that we homeschool our children. Usually they wonder what is required of us to teach at home. The requirements are different in each state, but here in Maryland, we are required to regularly teach the same subjects that are taught in public schools and to have portfolios of each child’s work reviewed each year. 

We do that, but some days, it’s a real struggle to fit in everything between frequent diaper changes and nap times. The bad days find us still at math or literature in the evening hours. Because we don’t have a set-in-stone schedule, the only bell we have to pay attention to is the dinner bell.

Our schedule isn’t the only thing that’s different from regular school. Instead of sitting at desks, our children sit at the dining room table. But sometimes the dining room is too loud and the wooden chairs too hard, so you might find my students doing their work on their beds or sitting next to their teacher on the living room couch.

And just sometimes, my students escape altogether and head to the great outdoors. I call it recess. After about half an hour of good exercise and play time, I call them in.

But not last week. I couldn’t help myself. You see, the wind was blowing, and the autumn leaves were raining down on the children. The football lay forgotten, and the children ran to and fro, trying to catch the leaves before they fell to the ground.

From the vantage point of my rocking chair, I could hear their laughter and shouts, and I could see the pure joy on their faces. Such a simple game, the catching of leaves. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.

I wish I could honestly say I would’ve joined them if the baby hadn’t been asleep on my lap, but I know I wouldn’t. There’s too much grown-up in me, worrying about laundry and what’s for dinner and such. Sadly, I just don’t think I remember how to forget the time and be so joyfully carefree.

But I can sit in my chair, watch and appreciate, and put off school for a little while longer. In a worrisome world of drugs, violence, and elections, I can allow my students to chase leaves; I can give them a few extra moments of childhood.



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Childhood means nothing if not milk and cookies. My friend shared the following recipe with me just today, so I’ve not tried it out yet, but, trust me, she doesn’t make bad food! She also said they are best right out of the oven. If you don’t want to decorate them as pumpkins, I’m sure they’re just as delicious as plain circles.
Pumpkin Cookies

2 cups flour
1 cup quick or old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup solid pack pumpkin
1 cup chocolate chips
Assorted icing, candies, raisins, or nuts for decorating

Preheat oven to 350℉. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Cream butter; gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips. 


For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet; spread into pumpkin shape. Add a bit more dough to form stem. Bake 20-25 minutes, until cookies are firm and lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheets; cool on racks. Decorate, using icing or peanut butter to affix candies, raisins, or nuts. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chopped Up Pumpkins

We don't really do Halloween, but this year we did carve up some pumpkins. The kids had excitement, then frustration, then fun, then pride at the end.

First up, the one I made from a template I found online here.  I was impressed by how it turned out, and it wasn't really hard with the $4 carving kit my husband bought.

Lamb with lion


Next up is the pumpkin designed by the girls. I drew what they wanted, made a template and transferred it, and Daddy helped them carve it.


A tulip and a cross--simple and effective.


Finally, after way too much deliberation, the boys settled on Luther's Rose. Now, I was quite impressed with this one because they did it all by themselves. They started from a coloring sheet of Luther's Rose and had to pick out what they should carve out. It's not perfect, but they have ideas already for how to make it better next time. 


Luther's Rose, minus a few features