Cooking and Food Family Ties

Fun With Popcorn–Cinnamon, Caramel, Creative

We love having a popcorn and movie night! Below, I’m sharing our two favorite popcorn recipes. And while I’m at it, if you’ve never turned your children loose with their own bowl of buttered popcorn and your spice cupboard, then you’re really bypassing the whole cornfield! 

Microwave Cinnamon Popcorn

  • 4 quarts (16 cups) air-popped popcorn (3/4 cup unpopped) or 3 bags microwave popcorn
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick margarine
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup red hot candies
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Place popped corn into a brown bag (paper); set side. Add all other ingredients, except soda, in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 1 ½ minutes. Remove and stir; continue until all red hots are melted. Add soda and stir. Pour over popcorn, roll top down and shake bag. Microwave for 1 ½ minutes. Shake bag and repeat 2 more times. Pour onto a cookie sheet and separate.

Microwave Caramel Corn

  • 4 quarts popcorn, popped and placed in large brown paper bag
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick margarine
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Combine caramel ingredients in a 2 quart microwavable bowl and cook, uncovered, on high in a microwave for 5 minutes. Remove and stir in ½ teaspoon baking soda. Pour over popcorn in sack. Stir well. Roll top of sack closed. Place in microwave for 45 seconds on high. Do this 4 times. Shake and rotate sack each time, then tear open sack and let cool. Add peanuts if you wish.

Come on, pull the sleeper sofa out and crunch together! It’s slumber party time!

Canning Cooking and Food

Peach Lemonade Concentrate–Another Canning Recipe

This recipe is the brain child of my friend. The originial recipe came from a Taste of Home magazine and was for Strawberry Lemonade. Just substitute strawberries for the peaches if you’d like. Strawberry Lemonade makes beautiful Christmas gifts…especially if you give the jars dressy labels…either way, this concentrate mixed with lemon-lime soda makes for a very schmancy drinking experience!

Peach Lemonade

  • 4 quarts peaches, peeled and pitted
  • 4 cups fresh lemon juice (16 lemons) or 32 oz. ReaLemon
  • 3 quarts water
  • 6 cups sugar

In a blender, puree fruit. Place in a large (very large!) kettle; add lemon juice, water, and sugar. Bring to 165 degrees F over medium heat, stirring occasionally (do not boil). Remove from the heat; skim off foam. Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/4 ” headspace. Adjust caps. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. To serve: Mix about 1/3 concentrate with 2/3 lemon-lime soda or ginger ale. Yield: 6-7 quarts concentrate.

Next way we’re planning on tweaking this recipe: Cherry Limeade…mmm!

Cooking and Food Writing

Canning Up Peaches

Writers everywhere agree that real life produces the best fodder to nourish our creativity.

The day I wrote about my housekeeping skills, I decided it was time to clean off that countertop (can’t find the dryer now, but that’s beside the point), mop, and sic my kids on their bedroom. I wanted to dust, honest, but something more important came up!

Yesterday, the sun dawned to a brisk fall breeze…don’t you love watching curtains billowing, feeling that almost foreign blast of refreshment after the kind of summer we’ve all had? It set the tone for a wonderful day.

My friend and her 3 children came for lunch and to spend the day playing. As we moms slid pizzas in the oven and covered my counters (you knew there was a reason for all that cleaning, didn’t ya?) with canning supplies, the kids were romping with delight, lost in the spirit of play, best of friends separated too long.

Soon we had them all outside on a queen-sized comforter in the shade~picnic style, enjoying jigglers, fruit, pizza and lemonade. Meanwhile, we moms put off our own “chaw and glutch”, in favor of peeling peach skin and pureeing peach chunks. After we finished the noisy part, toddler went down for her nap and the older kids hopped in the pool.

Having the windows open was magical. It’s hot work, canning, and the children’s laughter floating in on the chill breeze could almost take you back in time…to a dirt floor cabin surrounded by tall pines, with no window panes and only a hide tacked to the doorframe. That fresh, fresh country air. That kinship of women at work.

With the blender turned off (back to the twenty-first century), we carried off a great conversation including but not limited to the progress of friend’s new home (they’re building it themselves), ways to encourage our two beginning readers, planning our upcoming orchard field trip, and brainstorming great things for this year’s Operation Christmas Child boxes.

While the pureed peaches simmered up to 165 degrees, we took a lengthy lunch break, conversation flowing uninterrupted. Eventually 14 quarts of peach lemonade and 4 pints of peach preserves stood pinging on the counter. Clean, dish-towel dried pots and canners were put away, while all other dishes drip-dried precariously in my dish drainer. 6 happy kids played outside with puppies and goats (yes, we have goats again–two nannies and 3 babies). My friend and I got online to research apples (Orchard trip again)…Honey-crisp, Sun Crisp, Macoun, Rome Beauty, Empire, Fuji…mmm, the taste descriptions made our mouths water! And now we know which ones are the best for eating “out of hand”, for pies and for applesauce!

Both our husbands worked late last night, so farewells didn’t need to come till 8 P.M.

And if all goes according to plan, I’ll be seeing her again early next week. She’s got access to some Honey-crisp apples and dairy fresh “peaches and cream” flavored milk! And she’s picking some up for yours truly!

Food and fellowship, they go hand in hand.

Christianity Culture Parenting

About Swimwear–What Do You Think?

I’ve already posted in the past that I’m against bikinis on toddlers (or anyone else for that matter). Why put them in something for ease and cuteness only to take it away in a couple years when it “becomes immodest”?

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to some modest swimwear she is sewing for her girls–take a peek, they are SO adorable. In the same email, she mentioned that they’ve decided against going to public pools anymore.

To be honest, if I had little boys, I’d probably be more aware/conscientious of what their little eyes were taking in at the pool. Am I being naive to think that as long as *we* are modest, my girls won’t be affected by what they see?

We love swimming. A visit to the pool isn’t that necessary, as we have our own 3’x12′ inflatable in the front yard. But our nearby town has an acquatic center with huge slides and a lazy river for tubing. And I’m a water fanatic…LOVE water parks! (It’s the west coast in me…smile)

So I’m curious as to you all’s opinion on this. Tell me what you really think. Btw, the modest swimwear I linked to is bathroom accessible (winking at those of you with girl toddlers!).

Cooking and Food Family Ties

Thoughts on Homemaking

The homemaker in me really comes to life with the arrival of fall. The pantry must include extras of the following essentials: cinnamon, brown sugar, ww/white/bread flours, instant vanilla pudding, quick oats, choc. chips… My butter and cream cheese supply morphs into overstock, because to run out is unthinkable! You see, the arrival of fall at my house means baking! Cheesecakes, pies, cookies, breads…today, cinnamon rolls. It’s like an addiction.

If only the addiction would overflow into fall cleaning. You won’t read much on my blog about my housekeeping skills. True, that I get a little insane when the clutter level threatens to topple any visiting adults, and true that I get to claim somewhat of an exemption because we homeschool.

Still, I painted a small plaque and hung it just inside my kitchen doorway…it reads: My house was clean yesterday, sorry you missed it!  

Dh is more comfortable with the “lived in look”. What, honey, you enjoy having to search all surfaces for the elusive remote? See, I used to be obsessive about the remote always being on the top righthand corner of our coffee table. Before kids. Before homeschooling. Talk about free time. Back when I washed the walls regularly.

I do make our bed every day. And the girls and I keep up with the dishes. Dirty bathrooms really yank my chain, so ours (we only have one, thankfully!) is usually decent. Dust…you’ll find it. My back porch aka “mud room” is usually heaping with “stuff”. One of the long counters in my kitchen is usually hiding under the kid’s crafts and schoolwork. And mail. The toaster is back there somewhere.

Please don’t send me to Flylady. I think she has great ideas but I’ve been obsessive about cleaning  before and I’m really not looking to revert!

I’d rather be obsessive about things that interest me…my family, my friends (including you all here in the blogosphere)…and baking. After all, I truly love a clean house, but it lasts only an hour tops around here.  And I really don’t want my children to remember their mom as someone who killed herself, and all her time cleaning house.

I really don’t want them to remember me as an internet junkie either. But at least they’ll remember my kitchen full of good tastes and smells!

Family Ties


After brushing teeth together this morning, my toddler put the hand towel in the sink and got it thoroughly wet.

“Hey! Don’t do that!” I grabbed the towel and shut the water off.

“Kean sink, mommy, keen sink!” she protested, continuing to swab at the basin with the towel.

She usually brushes teeth at the same time as my older two. Guess she’s picking up on the “clean sink rule”…

“Always leave the bathroom cleaner than when you found it. Toothpaste sink slob is disgusting.”

One last toddler-speak: the kids sang “If You’re Happy and You Know It” during children’s story at church today…and when the song was over, toddler demanded (noisily), “Happy-nose-it song again!”

Home Schooling Writing

Writing Games

I have here before me a squarish red book titled, Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye. I’m so excited about the games in this book that I just had to plug it.

Here’s a novel idea. Writing is about writing, not spelling. (I’ll admit, I blinked when I read that.)

You all know by now my mantra: Learning needs to be fun whenever possible! Handwriting for the K-3rd graders isn’t exactly a love affair. Why else would there be options out there such as Handwriting Without Tears?

This book is full of fun/easy ways to make the hesitant bold, to fan the flame of imagination gone shy, to reinstate the FUN of wribbling. (Read the book to find out what wribbling is, or use your imagination)

The book is divided into five parts. Below I’ll share one idea from each part to whet your curiosity. Keep in mind that some of her game ideas sound even better than the ones I’m sharing…they’d just take too much explanation on my part! The writing games are all aimed at grades K-3:

Part one is titled: Just For Starters:

  • Make alphabet letters out of pretzel dough (we’ve actually done this and it’s a blast!)
  • Play obstacle course: Take a blank piece of typing paper and at the top write HOME. At the bottom write ZOO. In between the two fill the paper with short 1.5 inch lines slanted every which way. Your beginning writer gets to practice controlling their pencil as they weave in between lines to get from home to zoo. (Easiest of all home drawn mazes!)

Part two is called: Stress Busters:

  • 15 minutes of silent written conversation. Teacher and child may not talk, but instead write questions and answers back and forth. If anyone talks during the 15 minutes, they get points against them for each spoken word. Words do not need to be neat or spelled correctly. (We’re trying to instill a love of creative writing here, no corrections!)
  • Monster Cafe–Boys will love filling in a menu that you’ve labeled “appetizer”, “main dish”, “dessert” and “beverage”. Remember, spelling isn’t important. The boy she worked with in the book used “Slime guts with cklt cockroaches” (cklt=chocolate). Don’t forget to have the child put a price by the item! And if they ask for help spelling, help them. We’re taking the pain out of handwriting.

Part three in the book deals with Spelling, Handwriting and Grammar:

  • Speed contest–give them a page with a challenging spelling word written at the top. Have them study it a couple minutes, then write it as many times as they can in 45 seconds. If they are able to write it (correctly and legibly) enough times, they’ve won the contest.

Part four–Writing With Style:

  • “She is so silly”…have your child write a story about the silliest woman on earth…three or four sentences. She is so silly she wears slippers for mittens. Or “He is so hungry” etc.
  • Have your child dream up a main character. Give them a fact sheet to fill in–name, favorite color, fave food, favorite activity on a Saturday, what they really love and really dislike…

Part five ends the book–Made With Pride:

  • the author gives templates to make a cat shaped book. If your child loves to draw tractors or horses, they could make a shape book out of these shapes and put a three word caption under each page’s picture
  • Make your own board game. Disclaimer: the author makes a game board based on witchcraft (I know…) my girls and I made a board game based on the Spanish facts we were learning last year. We had as much fun making it as we had playing it.
  • Make their own alphabet book…a page for each letter, a word(s) for each letter…they could illustrate it themselves or find a magazine picture to paste on the page.

As you can see, this book is 225 pages chock full of ideas. I got it last week at the library, and will probably end up buying my own copy!

Home Schooling

True Confessions: Today at Our House

It took me and my six year old an hour just to dictate/write ten spelling words, review phonagram cards/spelling rule cards, and to read two “early readers” together. We may have overdone it as I had to bring her down from the verge of tears twice. Her attention tends to wander, she thinks by guessing she’ll save herself time, etc.

My toddler was watching “Miss Pattycake” the whole time we worked, and my oldest was outside playing with her puppies.
I did snag her eventually and we got her school work mostly done, and finished with six year old’s other subjects by lunchtime (including laps around the house on foot and on bike–does that redeem me?). 

Six year old is SO close to reading fluently, I’ve just gotta stay on top of it. Her tears totally demotivate me. She would have been reading last year (kindergarten) if I’d been consistent with sitting down and plodding through the early readers. Sigh.

My biggest confession: I’ve discovered how motivating watermelon licorice is.

Bad mommy, slapping my hand as I hit publish…


Home Schooling

Homeschooling: The Floor Game

Gina asked a while back if I’d give more details on how to play the floor game.

The floor game is a board game played all over the house, or even outdoors. You and your kids design the game, the board and your kids are the playing pieces.

Using poster board for durability, make “spaces” to be hopped on by the players. You can make your game all about a certain subject (history for instance), or like I’ve done…questions about everything for review purposes. Make up your rules (decide if you’ll have a penalty for wrong answers or an extra turn for correct ones), make a few bonus spaces (“hop 3 spaces forward”, or have one space be a “mystery question” that mom thinks up on the spur of the moment), and construct a large cardboard/posterboard dice.

Here are some questions I put on our spaces for my girls aged 6 and 8:

  • How many planets are there? Name as many as you can.
  • Spell the name of the month in which you celebrate your birthday.
  • How many digits in 1,002,200,333? Hop to the next space if you can read this number correctly to me.
  • Say a Bible verse and reference. (Or put the reference there and have them quote the verse)
  • Name 5 internal organs.
  • What’s the world’s largest desert?
  • Name the 4 oceans
  • Do 5 jumping jacks

You get the idea. The fun part is when you take these spaces all over the place…up and back down the stairs, in and out of the bathtub, around hazards like dirty laundry (gasp, yes, it exists!!), up onto step stools, etc.

This game is so flexible. If your children need to work on their multiplication tables, your younger ones can still play by adding the numbers instead of multiplying.

Store all the spaces in a labeled gallon sized ziplock in your game cupboard! Incidentally, this is a good way to store all your puzzles…just cut the flat picture part out of the box top and store in bag with pieces. Saves a lot of space!

Home Schooling

Why I Homeschool

There are many reasons we chose this path, the most important that my husband and I knew without a doubt that it was God’s will for our family.

My biggest fear when homeschooling, is not that I’ll fail to pass on the 3R’s or that my children will be societal empty-heads. My fear is that I’ll fail to make the education experience a rewarding one.

I want them to love everything about it.

To that end, I encourage learning without calling it “school”. Never fear, we do our allotted “schoolwork” but we follow creative tangeants all the time, and my girls are having so much fun they don’t realize that it’s “school” in its best form!

Yesterday, my oldest got up early so she could hurry through her cursive practice, math, spelling, etc. She’d packed her backpack the night before for a “morning adventure”…she prolonged her adventure so she could be a part of our “toddler school” and songtime, but then she was out the door. She had a blast, and even got to “play” archaeologist! She actually found two bones jointed together–and excitedly told me, “Maybe God wants me to be a Christian scientist someday!” (Smile) That afternoon she spent over an hour reading a book on backyard adventures that I’d conveniently picked up at the library our last visit. (note: get fun-looking educational books and leave them lying around to tempt curiosity!)

Last night, (who says school can only be done during the day?) my oldest worked feverishly on a flip book about North Dakota. She has a good friend that lives there and wanted to check out a library book about it. We’re turning this newfound interest of hers into this year’s geography project. My plan is to buy a big map of the USA and see how many post cards we can get from the different states as we study them/make flip books about them. As the post cards arrive we can tack them to the state on the map. Her flip book has self-illustrated pics of the state flower, a pic we copied of the state bird, another pic of the badlands, and one of Indians running buffalos off a cliff (historically, that’s how they hunted them). We’ve learned some fascinating things about ND. Did you know that lightening strikes can crack the ground open in the ND badlands which catches the underground coal on fire? That coal can burn for years, hardening the ground and turning it brick red…

The teacher in me wants to pipe up and suggest certain things, but I have to be really careful how I do so or it quenches her excitement. She takes it so much further when it’s “her idea”…

Another reason I love homeschool is the fun we had yesterday at the piano singing Wee Sing Bible songs with my youngest…an hour flew by as we did toddler activities together. We played a toddler version of “Simon Says”, “Follow the Leader”, sat on the floor with our feet together and holding hands we “rowed” to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. We read a dozen (literally) library books together, and sang a few hymns out of the hymnal.

Another wonderful homeschool day.