One more full day of school (Tuesday) and two more half days (Wednesday and Thursday). That’s it. Then “Mayhem” is officially OVER for us!
So here, at the BEGINNING of summer are the:
No more crack of dawn alarm clocks!
No more struggle from bed to shower to breakfast to car every morning!
No more car line!
No more packing lunches the night before!
No more laying out clothes the night before!
No more packing backpacks the night before!
No more permission slips!
No more fundraisers!
No more check writing for this and that, and this and that.
(FirstHusband calls it the death of a thousand paper cuts.)
No more multiple trips to school in one day.
No more HOMEWORK!
Every summer, I like the kids to tackle LEARNING something. Because – if left to their own devices – they would completely VEG in front of video games and television while constantly complaining about how BORED they were. So here are:
Minimum of 1/2 hour of LEARNING every day
PinkGirl has decided to continue learning computer keyboarding and math everyday. We like online typing games. We also got our own copy of her 2nd Grade math book last summer and we are ordering our own copy of her 3rd Grade math book this summer.
FavoriteSon has decided to continue learning to play the guitar. I think he should learn something else too. Poor guy. He doesn’t know yet.
Minimum of 1/2 hour of READING every day.
PinkGirl has decided to start with her BoxCar Children books.
FavoriteSon has no preference so FirstHusband and I have picked some out for him to start:
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel and Slaying the Dragon: How to Turn Your Small Steps to Great Feats by Michael Johnson.
Minimum of 1/2 hour of physical activity every day:
PinkGirl has the redneck pool (photo HERE), so that’s not usually an issue, except for rain.
FavoriteSon has some sports camps, but on the days he doesn’t, he has committed to strength training and basketball. I’m committed to getting back to a two minute plank before he can do one. He knows I can’t do any strength training until after June 16th, so he’s slacking.
So, learning, physical activity and reading. What else? Any ideas?
I’m thinking I might “strongly encourage” each of them to plan and cook a meal or two, or four per month. It rains every afternoon in the summer anyway, it’s not like we’ll be in the pool at that time of day.
Let’s finish up with a preview of a few GOOD things about summer being OVER:
I will be able to complete a thought.
I will be able to hear clocks tick in the solitude I will have been deprived of for nearly 3 months.
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer
There are certain songs . . .
The great Satchmo, singing “What a Wonderful World” on Thanksgiving Day.
The Walt Disney Candlelight Processional Choir singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” at Christmastime.
And Sandi Patty, singing “We Shall Behold Him” at Easter.
Growing up, my mom often made an Easter Bunny cake like this one for Easter. (page down for more photos)
Easy, not too crafty (thank goodness), I think I’m making one this year. Judging from the number of available photos on Google Images, I’m not the only one. Check it out:
Bake a cake, any cake, in two round cake pans. Mine will be chocolate. There is no reason for me to eat cake unless it is chocolate. Let it cool and then cut it like this:
On the serving plate (my mom always used a piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil), CAREFULLY arrange it like this:
Then, frost and decorate! My mom always frosted it white and covered it with coconut shavings as a base. Dark chocolate cake with coconut – mmmm – just like a Mounds bar. But CAKE!
That does it. We’re making this cake.
Here’s a video and some more samples:
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer
If you’ve got a few minutes, check out my previous chocolate posts.
For years decades, we’ve made something special for my dad for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s his sister’s recipe for Cranberry Salad. I remember making it as a kid, as do my sisters, but since we grew up and moved out, my mother – who fondly calls this dish “cranberry crap” – took over the job again.
This year, since my mother is in Arkansas, my father asked me if I would make it. Actually, my mother also asked me if I would make it for him and offered to give me the recipe. My father thought it would be nice if I called his sister, my Aunt Margie and ask her for it. I hadn’t spoken or seen my Aunt Margie in over ten years – not because of any problems, just logistics and lack of effort. It was a great impetus for renewing my relationship with my Aunt.
We easily fell into a very nice conversation and as she gave the me ingredients and instructions, I realized. My mother had a different version of this recipe. We had not been making my Aunt Margie’s Cranberry Salad all these years. I’ll explain and show photos as I go through the recipe.
2 bags of cranberries
2 apples (peeled and cored)
1 can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1 cup of sugar
walnuts to garnish
Wash the cranberries and discard stems and rotten berries.
Now here’s the pragmatic twist. My father delivered a hand grinder to me when he asked me to make this recipe. A hand. grinder. Serious flashback. I remember hand grinding the fruit and cranberries. Every. Year. What a mess. Cranberry juice everywhere. Seriously. A MESS. As soon as my sisters got old enough to use the grinder without losing a finger, I gladly passed the job to them. In their young naiveté, they thought it would be fun. By the time they realized it was a sticky and disgusting job, the cranberry crushing baton was completely out of my hands. When my mother took over again, I think she switched from hand grinder to blender. So over the years, the whole thing went from cranberry goo (in the grinder) to cranberry soup (in the blender).
Although resistant, I tested the grinder and my memory on the apples first. Yep. Just like old times. Applesauce anyone?
So I pulled out my handy dandy Oster chopper attachment.
And I tried again. MUCH better.
The red pieces in the applies are from the cranberries.
I chopped the cranberries, the apples and the pineapple using the “pulse” button on my chopper. Filling the container multiple times allowed me to chop in different . . . textures? Sizes? Basically, there are three different textures of cranberries and apples, ranging from finely chopped, medium chopped and barely chopped. I didn’t have to chop the pineapple very much since it started out in small chunks anyway.
That leaves the oranges. I made two changes which were a HUGE difference from how I made this as a kid. First, I zested the orange. We NEVER did that. NEVER. Didn’t even have a zester in the house growing up. I don’t own one now. I had to use a small grater. I got the sweetness and the taste, but not the texture. I’m buying a zester for next year.
The second difference with regard to the oranges? My Aunt Margie strongly emphasized removing the “white stuff” from the orange. It’s called the “pith” and while it is actually good for you, it tastes a little bitter. There are a few ways to remove the pith, but I just rolled the orange on the counter, peeled it and then cut away the white layer that remained. I also removed the inner white stuff – I’ve been calling it the “cartilage” of the orange. It’s hard and crunchy and bitter and it is THE reason I would never eat this cranberry salad. I hate that stuff. yuck.
Here’s the finished product sans the walnut garnish. I wasn’t serving any at the time of the photo and I didn’t want to waste the walnuts. I actually prefer pecans, myself. This can be made ahead and I’ve been told it freezes well too. Panara’s got nothing on my Aunt Margie.
My dad said he could tell the difference before he even tasted it, just from the way it looked. So could I. I tasted it, my younger sister tasted it, our dinner guests tried it – all with positive reactions. None of the kids would touch it. Big chickens. My dad took most of it home. I understand it’s great with vanilla ice cream.
I’m wondering, if I retain some of the fruit juice, heat it up and thicken it with cornstarch and stir it into the fruit mixture – would it make a good pie? I may test it next year in a Pillsbury pastry.
As always, I’m providing a print friendly version – CLICK HERE.
When I was in high school and college, I sang at a few madrigal dinners. If you’re unfamiliar with madrigal dinners, here’s a sampling. (and no, I’m not in this video).
One thing was a constant in every madrigal dinner – wassail. It’s a kind of warm cider drink my choral director would make every year. I’ve made it on Christmas Eve for years. It’s a family favorite and a longstanding tradition. And it only takes about 5 minutes to prepare!!!
1/2 gallon apple juice
2 cups pinapple juice
2 cups orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons whole cloves
Pour all juices in a pot or crockpot.
Float Cinnamon sticks.
Place cloves in a coffee filter and tie with a twist tie. CLICK HERE for an UPDATE to this recipe.
Simmer for AT LEAST 30 minutes or more
(when it the smell starts to waft, you know it’s gonna be GOOD)
I know some would cover an entire orange with cloves and float it in the wassail. My hat is off to you, but I can’t find my thimble. Actually, I haven’t looked. But you go ahead. More power to ya.
The bonus is the way the house smells while it’s simmering.
For a print friendly version CLICK HERE.
Shannon at Works for Me Wednesday is on a blogging break, but check out her past issues for more great tips, tricks and recipes.
FirstHusband is the head chef in this house on Christmas Day. He genuinely enjoys it! And he has a plan. It’s a serious plan. We all follow it. Wanna see last year’s plan? Click the link.
Did I mention he’s an engineer? We all just follow directions and the meal is always WONDERFUL and NOTHING is cold when it’s supposed to be warm or warm when it’s supposed to be cold. HE says the spreadsheet was necessitated after the year everything needed to be “plated” at the exact same time and we couldn’t pull it off. (I know he just wanted to build a spreadsheet.)
He literally FILLS the smoker with meat on Wednesday and gets up every 4 hours to tend to it Wednesday night. He comes back to bed smelling like mesquite and I could care less. It is SO worth it. He always smokes a turkey, but in past years he has also smoked pork loin, ribs, beef, lobster, prawns and brisket. This year, there’s a ham and a lamb shank in the freezer waiting their turn. It is going to be very, very good. He refers to it as “A Feast.” And he is correct.
So my contribution to Kitchen Tip Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday? FirstHusband’s plan. And my contribution for Works for me Wednesday? Being married to a man who enjoys cooking. yep. That DEFINITELY works for me.
We went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see the Osborne Family Light show Saturday night. These 2007 videos are good, and they give you some idea of the number of lights and the work that goes into the light “choreography” alone, but there’s just NOTHING like standing in the middle of all those lights, surrounded by the music. It always gives me goose bumps.
Some find it too loud, but to them I say, plug your ears and complain somewhere else.
This is a video from this year, but the camera man tends to move around a little too much, so if you get motion sickness, be forewarned.
I read, therefore I quote.
Today’s quotes come from Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season (I’m quoting the 1982 edition.)
“At first, some people have a hard time explaining exactly what’s wrong with Christmas because on the surface everything looks fine. But when they take a closer look, many of them realize that their celebrations lack depth and meaning. It’s not enough that Christmas be a family birthday party or the biggest social even of the year. They want to be moved by the celebration.
When they decorate, they want the result to be more than a beautiful house. They want to look around them and be filled with an air of expectancy . . .
. . . At Christmas, people want to reach down inside themselves and come up with feelings that are better, bigger, more joyful, more loving and more lasting than their everyday ones . . .
. . . But for most people, the real problem with Christmas isn’t that they’re spiritually bankrupt or that Christmas is devoid of meaning. It’s simply that they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves what’s most important about Christmas . . .
. . . While they have planned the details of their celebrations right down to the kind of cranberry sauce to serve at Christmas dinner, they haven’t stopped to ask themselves the all-important question: Why am I celebrating Christmas? They rely on habit, other people’s priorities, commercial pressures, or random events to determine the quality of their celebrations. But this is rarely successful. People need to make conscious choices, because Christmas offers them so many possibilities. It’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the pleasures of family life, the importance of friendship, the delight of creating a beautiful home environment, the need for world peace, the desire to be charitable, and a host of other important values. When people don’t sort out which of these ideas are most important to them, the celebration can seem fractured and superficial . . .
. . . When people haven’t resolved these larger issues, they find it hard to make the dozens of small decisions that confront them every day of the holiday season . . .
. . . we’ve been encouraged by how quickly and easily people can decide what’s most important to them. All they need to do is to become more aware of the need to make choices, have some sense of what those choices are, and set aside a little time to reflect on them. With just a few minutes of prayer, meditation or conscious decision-making, most people gain a much better sense of how Christmas should be.”
The authors included an exercise at the end of this chapter to help readers take a look at all the values competing for our attention at Christmas. For a print friendly version of this exercise in PDF, CLICK HERE.
“To complete the exercise, read through the following ten value statements . . . cross off those that have no importance to you and add any equally important ones that we have not included. Then decide which of the remaining values is most important to you. Put a 1 beside that sentence. Then find the one that is next important to you and put a 2 beside it. Continue in this manner until each statement has been assigned a different number. Even a value that has a low priority to you can still be important. Remember: 1 is the highest and 10 is the lowest.
Christmas is a time to be a peacemaker, within my family and the world at large.
Christmas is a time to enjoy being with my immediate family.
Christmas is a time to create a beautiful home environment.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Christmas is a time to exchange gifts with my family and friends.
Christmas is a time for parties, entertaining and visits with friends.
Christmas is a time to help those who are less fortunate.
Christmas is a time to strengthen bonds with my relatives.
Christmas is a time to strengthen my church community.
Christmas is a time to take a few days off from work and have a good time. “
I’m going to get FirstHusband to work this exercise with me. I’m also going to ask FavoriteSon and PinkGirl to do it too. I think it will be an interesting and helpful process. Hope it helps you too!
“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.
Need help making your link look pretty in the comment? Copy and use this code.
It’s just not Thanksgiving without this song. It’s tradition for me.
And it HAS to be Louie Armstrong.
FavoriteSon has been begging/nagging for days and Sunday night, FirstHusband finally made the long awaited jack-o-bread. It’s pumpkin bread made from our jack-o-lanterns.
First, PinkGirl scooped pumpkin guts on Halloween. (If you carve your jack-o-lanterns too early, you may want to use canned pumpkin.)
Then, the pumpkin gut fairy cleaned up.
FirstHusband/BestDaddy cut up the jack-o-lanterns the next day. (You’ve got to move fast on this, the inside of the second pumpkin started to rot the next day.)
Poor “Jack” was boiled like potatoes.
My copy of “The Tightwad Gazette” was opened to the wrinkliest page – the one with the highlighted pumpkin bread recipe.
FirstHusband did the honors.
And it appears I’m too slow with the camera.
A number of years ago, I insanely – and I do mean INSANELY – made four batches of pumpkin bread – from FOUR different recipes. It took me ALL day and I forgot to wear shoes, so my back and legs and feet were KILLING me when the last oven timer went off. But at the end of the day, the taste tests revealed the winner was a recipe from “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced “decision”). The recipe is in the original book, page 127. There’s a The Tightwad Gazette II and a The Tightwad Gazette III. Now there’s even The Complete Tightwad Gazette
For a print friendly version in PDF, CLICK HERE.
4 cups sugar (we use half brown sugar/half white sugar)*
1 cup oil
1 16oz can pumpkin (we use 16 oz of “Jack”)
5 cups flour (we use half wheat/half white flour)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 Tbsp cloves or nutmeg
1 cup applesauce (we use sugar-free)
You can add:
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup dates or raisins
Mix in sugar.
Mix in oil and pumpkin.
Combine dry ingredients and add to moist batter.
Mix in applesauce, nuts and raisins.
Grease and flour five 1 lb coffee cans. Fill with batter over 1/2 full.
(We use regular loaf pans.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.