Friday, October 31, 2008

Carving Pumpkins

Carving pumpkins is a family tradition in our house. Some years we create our own designs, but usually we look online for free pumpkin patterns, and this year we found a couple of great ones. Amanda's African scene came from the World Wildlife Federation. Jason's Knight came from

We Love Our Soldier!

My oldest son, Alex, is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army and has been gone since the beginning of August. We all miss him. He is still in the U.S., but in a couple of months he will be heading overseas. I don't like to think about that much.

Well, Alex since you aren't around this fall, we decided to create a stand-in, in your honor. We love you and are proud of you. Please let the men and women you serve with know that we appreciate them. Stay safe.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Favorite Blogs: There Is No Place Like Home

Another of my favorite blogs is Kelli's "There is no place like home". Get yourself a cup of tea or hot chocolate, and prepare to spend a while looking through her back posts. She has tutorials on paper crafts and other simple projects - these caramel apple cards are the cutest thing ever! Her seasonal decorating ideas don't require a fortune or a professional decorator to pull off! I was inspired by her Autumn Front Porch , and actually decorated my own entrances as a result!

I love the warm, inviting look of her home AND her blog! She posts great recipes. And her photography is just gorgeous! ( check it out, Sarah). She is a homeschooling mom ~ obviously much more organized, creative, and disciplined than I, judging by the amount of crafting, cooking, and decorating she gets done! Reminds me of my friend Lea.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Apple Season & Cider Donuts

I grew up in Massachusetts, and I used to love stopping at the apple orchard in the fall. Taft Orchard was only a few miles from my house in Mendon, right in the center of town really. There was also an orchard on the road to my aunt & uncle's house in Oxford, and we would often make a stop there on our way home from one of our frequent visits. When Mark & I were newly married, we both worked 2nd shift for a couple of months, from Sept - Nov, on a circuit board assemby line at Digital Equip.Co. , and we stopped at an orchard on the way to work every afternoon to get a big, crisp Macintosh and some cider to eat at break time. Some of these orchards also had fresh apple cider donuts. Mmmmmm.
Well, I found a recipe for cider donuts so I tried them this morning. I'm not that great at deep frying, and a thermometer would have helped, but these came out really good, and taste just like I remember them! Yum!

Vermont Apple Cider Doughnuts

1 cup apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Crisco shortening
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk ( I used 1 tsp. cider vinegar added to 1/2 cup milk)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ( I used half white whole wheat flour )
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

vegetable oil for frying

1 cup sugar mixed with 2 tsp. cinnamon

Boil apple cider in a small saucepan for 8-10 minutes, until it is reduced to 1/4 cup. Let cool. In mixing bowl, beat sugar with shortening untll smooth. Add eggs and mix well; then add buttermilk and reduced cider. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Add to liquid ingredients; mix just enough to combine Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and pat to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with 3" doughnut cutter, or pinch off walnut-sized pieces and roll into slightly flattened balls for "holes".
Pour about 3" of oil into a deep saucepan or dutch oven. Heat to 375 degrees F. Fry several doughnuts or holes at a time, turning once or twice, until browned and cooked through. i made doughnut holes, and it only took about 2 minutes. Use slotted spoon to remove to paper towel lined platter . While still warm, shake a few at a time in a baggie containing the cinnamon -sugar mixture.

Friday, October 24, 2008

TOG Unit Celebration - Medieval Feast

Because of the Volleyball Tournament last weekend, we missed our TOG Co-op's Unit 1 Celebration, which was a Medieval Feast, complete with knights, fair maidens, a jester, and a king and queen! It looked like SO much fun!

You can read about it and see pictures here and here .

My Rhetoric class is in charge of planning the next Unit Celebration, which falls right after Christmas. It will be a Renaissance / Shakespeare theater theme - not quite sure how it will come together, but stay tuned.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Things are crazy busy around here these days. I've decided that throwing doctors appointments into the mix was not a good idea - but I guess there is no way around that.

We only pay for Vision insurance every other year, so this was the year for eye check ups and new contacts / glasses - I just shouldn't have waited until this fall to schedule all the appointments! Jason had one visit and Amanda and I have both had two. And just to vent - dealing with doctors and insurance is SO aggravating! The eye doctor scheduled two appointments for Amanda and I because of contact lenses - she has had them for a while and I was trying them again. He did the regular vision exam on the first visit, but said he would just wait until the 2-week recheck to do the dilation and photos. Well, come to find out, that decision changed the 2nd visit from a "recheck" to a regular office visit, which was NOT covered by insurance or a co-pay. AGH!!! Also, contact lenses require an additional "fitting" fee, also not covered by insurance. And after "trying" contact lenses again for a few days, I am throwing in the towel and have decided to just stick with glasses. My eyes burn and tear terribly with the contacts, and although there are some different things I can try, it is all just too much work!!!!! I need EASY. Glasses are annoying in that they get smudged and bumped and slide down my nose and I just don't look good in them - but at least all I have to do is pick them up and stick them on my face and I can see. No messing with solutions and saline and when you can/ can't wear them...

I have to go this afternoon and buy Amanda specially fitted basketball shoes ( high end New Balance ) so tomorrow the Orthotics doctor can fit them with inserts - hopefully to alleviate the pain she has in her left foot. She is still going to physical therapy twice a week to strengthen her left foot and leg- she actually enjoys that and hopefully it is doing some good. She has 2-hour basketball practices twice a week, with a LOT of running.

Mark went to see his regular physician last week just to get a prescription renewed, and mentioned how tired he his all the time. Really, for at least 10 years he has been exhausted! He gets up in the morning and says, "I'm tired", and plops on the couch or the bed after work and takes a nap almost every day. And he probably gets 7-8 hours of sleep at night, sometimes more! He doesn't yawn or literally fall asleep during the day ( except for naps ), but he just has no energy, and just tells everyone that he is "old". The doctor asked a few questions, and when Mark mentioned that I sometimes wake him up in the middle of the night and tell him to breathe because he holds his breath in his sleep, the doctor set him up to go to a Sleep Lab for an evaluation. He might be experiencing sleep apnea, and the doctor said that using a special device to help his breathing at night might make a world of difference! His appointment at the Lab is in 2 weeks. He has to spend the night there, hooked up to electrodes, and be monitored all night to determine how he goes through the various stages of sleep. I tell you, Mark is very excited about the POSSIBILITY that he might not be tired all the time! He's trying not to get his hopes up too high, but we keep running into people who tell us how they or their spouse were like "new people" after only a couple of days using this machine. Wow. The "Honey Do" list of projects around the house that hasn't been dented for years is dancing in my head!! Maybe, just maybe....

Other things on my plate at the moment -

I have to go order senior plaques for the Volleyball Awards Banquet in 2 weeks, and Amanda/I have to print certificates for all the players and get team pictures printed and framed for the coaches.

Create a Book Class is going well, I am spending several hours a week trimming paper and getting materials ready... we made the book jackets in class yesterday and will construct the book covers and the skeleton pages next week.

We start Unit 2 of Tapestry of Grace, Year 2 this week. Unfortunately, I am barely skimming through the material with Jason right now, which makes me very unhappy. Too much running to appointments and practices, and it is just eating up my days! I'm still working on "fixing" this problem, and would appreciate any and all prayers in this regard. For Rhetoric ( high school ) Co-op, we are spending the next 10 weeks studying Shakespeare, and reading 3 of this plays - I am trying to prepare fun, interesting material for that. We are also writing a 10-page research paper, and I have to pull together the details for that, so I can give enough instruction in 1 hour per week for 6 weeks. Then we move on to playwriting to finish the unit.

We are hosting another Fear Not Party on Oct. 31, and I have a long To-Do list for that - starting with cleaning my house and yard! Jason begged me to do this party again after our first one 2 years ago. I decorate the house and yard with fall decorations and white lights, the kids dress up as a hero of some kind - no spooky or scary costumes -, we play lots of games that have a biblical theme to remind the kids that God is greater than our fears and provides for all our needs; we have candy and yummy food like caramel apples and popcorn and pumpkin bread and cut out sugar cookies and hot cider; the kids bring carved pumpkins to display - again, no scary designs - and we have a bonfire in the backyard, and a friend will share a devotion or story about why we don't celebrate Halloween the way the world does. God sent the Light to conquer the Darkness - we should not dwell on our fears, but focus on the One who casts out fear.

Sarah and Eric were both just home for Fall Break, but I only got to see them very briefly. Unfortunately, their break coincided with the Volleyball Tournament, so we were gone for 2 of the 4 days they were home. But they are both doing well and keeping very busy with their studies. Busy is a theme here, I think.

Haven't heard from Alex in 2 weeks because of Army training exercises, but hopefully we'll get a call at the end of this week. Keep him in your prayers as he and his unit prepare for deployment in February.

Okay, that's the update for now. Got to go and DO some of those things on my very long list....


Monday, October 20, 2008

Homeschool Volleyball

Another volleyball season has come to an end. The NCHEAC State Homeschool Volleyball Tournament was held this past weekend at Wake Forest University, with middle school, JV, and Varsity teams from Fayetteville, Wake Co. ( our Eagles!), Orange Co., Greensboro, Forsyth Co., Asheville, and Cabarrus Co. Mark was assistant to the Tournament Director, so we arrived at the gym at noon on Friday and were there to clean up and put things away at the very end on Sat. evening! There were some very intense and exciting games throughout the weekend, and the final championship games for both JV and Varsity ended up with Fayetteville competing against Lighthouse (Wake Co.). These were very evenly matched teams, and the level of play was high. Our girls won both games to bring home two state championship trophies! Amanda played extremely well all weekend for our Lighthouse JV team, and was recognized with a certificate as an All-Tournament Team award winner at the Awards Ceremony.

Jason was color-guard for National Anthem before the Varsity Championship game!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Colonial Living Week at Alamance Battlefield

Every October, historic Alamance Battlefield, in Burlington, NC, holds a living history event called "Colonial Living Week". I have taken my kids several times over the years. As a matter of fact, I believe this was the very first field trip that Alex, Sarah, Eric, and toddler Amanda went on with Lighthouse, our homeschool support group, when we first formed back in 1996, and it is where I met my friend, Faye, and her children, Russ & JoJo. Well, this time Faye and I were there with Jason, Emma & Ethan, who were not even a gleam in our eyes back in 1996. Our friends Tammy & Nathan joined us this time as well, and we enjoyed a beautiful fall day watching and chatting with costumed interpreters demonstrating blacksmithing, quill writing, candle dipping, cider pressing, musket and cannon firing, and more.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ken's Corn Maze

Last night we joined 4 other families for an evening of fun at Ken's Corn Maze in Garner, NC. For the past two years, I have sat at a picnic table and drank hot chocolate with the other moms while dads and kids traipsed through the maze. But this year, the teen girls challenged the moms to see who could go through the maze the fastest - so Tammy, Angela, and I became a team! Now I have a whole new appreciation for how confusing it can be in there! Whew! 2 1/2 miles of path cut into a 6 acre cornfield, with the cornstalks up to 8 feet high in some sections... plus it is night and the paths are shadowy and dark even with the floodlights and our poor little flashlight...

The maze is divided into 3 sections - red, blue & orange - marked by colored tape lining the paths. Each player or team ( up to 6 people ) gets a flag attached to a six-foot pole and a game card. Within the maze are twelve stations, each marked with a different letter spelling KENS CORN MAZE, and a hole punch. The objective is to find each of the twelve stations and punch the matching letters on the game card in the shortest possible time. The game card is punched with the time when you enter the maze and when you exit.

Our time was 59 minutes! Amanda, Emily, and Ellie finished in 56 minutes. Mark, Jason, Rob, Nathan, and Owen came out just behind them in 57 minues.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blog Makeover

What do you think? I have long wanted a "pretty blog", but didn't have the time to learn HTLM nor could I rationalize paying a professional. But this template and many more are FREE from The Cutest Blog on the Block! And EASY EASY EASY to add!
I tried out a few, but this one feels warm and cozy for the colder months ahead and reminds me of hot chocolate... haha. I may do another Makeover in the spring... we'll see. Woo hoo!

Friday, October 10, 2008



I think this is my favorite month of the year. I love the cooler temps; the fat, orange pumpkins and striped gourds; the pots of yellow, rust, white, and maroon mums; the leaves that haven't yet but will soon start their transformation from green to gold, orange, and red. I love biting into crisp, juicy apples or spooning up a bowl of warm, spicy apple crisp. I love putting on a snuggly sweatshirt or wrapping up in a cozy fleeze or afghan. October brings the State Fair and Ken's Corn Maze and living history days. It also has the promise of Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Struggling with Time

Whew! I am struggling with time. Our family generally tolerates a fairly high level of activity, so our children have always participated in sports and music and church activities. But this fall we seem to be rushing here and there and I am constantly feeling like I have to "catch up"! Last night as I was tucking in my 10-yr-old, even he said, " I wish we had a day when we just could do NOTHING."

I have been homeschooling a long time. I know better than this. How did we get here?


One problem is that our homeschool basketball teams just started practicing last week. Amanda plays on a team, Dad coaches another team, and Dad decided that Jason should work out with the middle school team as a developmental player this year ( goes to practices but won't play in games - he's too young ). Volleyball season still has 2 more weeks, so Amanda now has v'ball practices and games AND basketball practices. Jason is playing fall soccer for a few more weeks, so he has practice one evening a week and a game every Saturday, AND basketball on Sat. morning before his soccer game. And hubby has practice with his team on Sat. mornings right now, which will soon move to 2 evenings a week.

Another schedule killer - doctors appointments. We are all pretty healthy, but Amanda has had a persistently sore left foot for 6 months, so we made another visit to the orthopaedist a couple of weeks ago and now she is going to 30 minutes of physical therapy twice a week ( thankfully here in town!) , and today we are driving an hour to an Orthotics office to have her fitted for an insert for her shoes. Monday, the two kids had eye doctor appointments, and Amanda has to go back in 2 weeks for a contact lens check, and I go next week.

Other additions to a full schedule:

We decided that it was time for Jason to start music lessons - that is extremely important to me, and especially for this kid, who can get obsessive about sports! So we added a piano lesson once a week, which he is enjoying very much!

I signed on to teach a writing/book making class at the homeschool bookstore/resource center once a week. It brings in some needed money to help pay those bills ( 2 in college!). I enjoy it, and Jason is in my class and is getting the benefit of learning something that I might not take the time to teach him without the accountability of a class - but it takes a couple of hours out of my week to plan and prepare, plus the actual 90 minute class.

I teach Rhetoric-level ( high school, for you non-TOGgers ) literature and writing in our Year 2 TOG Co-op. Again, I enjoy it, but it is challenging and takes several hours to read the assignments and plan the 2 hour class time every week.

Amanda was in 2 classes that met once a week, in addition to the Co-op. But we decided this week to drop one, not just because of the time, but also because she was struggling with the pace of the class and the amount of work required each week. We decided that we would just do that class at home ( with DAD ) and take it a bit slower and more laid back - one of the great benefits of homeschooling !

Jason goes to a friend's house for science once a week - takes it off my plate and he loves the regular play time with his best buddy. Amanda has choir once a week - again, that is her music, and she loves it. I create our homeschool support group newsletter on the computer each month - several hours of work. I go twice a month to the bookstore to help mentor other homeschool moms. I am trying to bake bread each week, plus I cook all the meals ( occasionally I pass that off to Amanda ) and do the laundry and try to keep the place somewhat presentable and basically clean - a sore spot, but let's not go there now.

Last year I taught art here once a week, with a couple of boys for J, and then a couple of girls for A. I can't figure out where to fit that in our week right now, which is making J very unhappy.

We are struggling getting school work done. Something has got to give.

Okay, I've vented. I'm sure some of you are shaking your heads and tsk tsking.... "Just STOP", you are saying. eliminate, simplify, slow down...

I'm just not sure where or how...

But something is going to give.