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January 9, 2014

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Surfing Sunday–Cake, Haiku, and Hats!

March 24, 2013

Here are some results of exploring the web lately:

Apple Pound Cake from Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate–If you want to find a new recipe, it’s hard to go wrong with something from Christy Jordan. I made this apple pound cake for a potluck dinner, and it was wonderful. I followed the cake recipe exactly as written, but I did make a brown sugar glaze to put on it instead of powdered sugar (1 cup brown sugar, 4 tablespoons margarine, 2 tablespoons milk, stir together over medium heat and boil for about 3 minutes). If you like apple desserts, this cake is definitely worth your time!

Teach Your Child How to Write a Haiku at Imagination Soup came in handy in our homeschool this week. We are doing a poetry unit that I purchased from CurrClick called The Lyrics of Our Soul: Poetry Fun.

Finally, take a look at Simple Stitches, an etsy shop with great hand crocheted items. There are hats, blankets, dishcloths, scarves, hair clips, baby shoes, and more. I can vouch for the good quality of the products and the honesty of the shop owner–after all, she is my sister-in-law and my kids love the hats she made for them! Right now there is a coupon code posted, as well as some items in her clearance section, so you can get a good deal!

Have a wonderful week!


Cake Decorating Help–Frozen Buttercream Transfer

March 22, 2013

Have you ever had a picture or design that you would like to put onto a cake, but you aren’t artistic enough to copy it freehand? Some of you may have done this before, but for those who haven’t I want to share this Wilton blog post about frozen buttercream transfer. There is a video on there that makes it very easy to learn this technique. I watched the video all the way through first, then watched and paused it as I actually tried this for the first time.

I have only done this twice now, but it opens up so many possibilities. Here is the first cake on which I used frozen buttercream transfer:

The lamb (except for the legs, which I just added later) was made with this transfer method. I did not put the extra layer on the back as described in the video, but made sure the lamb was thick enough without it.

The other way I have used frozen buttercream transfer is for lettering. My friend Amy printed her daughter’s name in the font she wanted. I outlined and filled it in using the frozen transfer method. After placing it on the cake, I used a star tip to fill in the letters on top.

This method worked well in both of these situations–for adding a picture and for lettering on the cake. It really expands the possibilites for those of us who do not do freehand drawing or lettering well!

If you have used this before, feel free to share links to pictures or blog posts in the comments, and if you try it, let us know how it goes!


Making Quiet Books

March 15, 2013

My sister-in-law Nikki showed me some wonderful quiet books she has made, and the kids and I decided that would be a nice winter sewing project for us to work on. So, now that winter is almost over, we are actually sewing some! Yes, that’s the way plans often go around here. We did pick out designs and buy supplies earlier, but are just getting to the sewing part. Jacob has his pieces cut out and is hand stitching as I type. I will post pictures as we make progress with these, but I wanted to share the blog that Nikki showed me and where we found our ideas: Imagine Our Life. The dinosaur page linked is the one that Jacob is working on. Skylar chose an ice cream stand, and JonDavid picked out a forest scene with an owl in a tree.

If you are interested, take some time to look through the designs and the instructions given. I let each of my children choose a page to make, then made a list of supplies that we needed and made a trip to Hobby Lobby. I plan to help each one of them work on their pages according to their abilities, and I will do what they can’t. If we enjoy doing it, we can add pages until each one has a whole book. Hopefully these will make nice handmade gifts!


Surfing Sunday: For Homeschoolers

August 12, 2012

With August comes the first day of school for many children. If you are a homeschooling parent beginning a new school year, or even if you go year-round and just need a little mental boost about now, here are a few articles that you will appreciate. I have found them to be good reminders as I gear up for another fun year!

A reminder of the importance of what we are doing:

Bona Fide Manner, at Homeschooling and More

An encouragement to do things your own way:

Homeschooling is Like Making Pancakes, at Homeschool Creations

And for those who worry about having to constantly “occupy” toddlers:

Homeschool Question: What Do Little People Do During School?, at se7en


Teaching Preschoolers: The Basics

June 2, 2012

Are you anxious for your children to learn and do all sorts of wonderful things? Sure, you want them to be smart, and to have every advantage in life. You want them to be ready for anything, to develop good character, and to be healthy and strong. You want them to read well, speak well, and write well. And you have always heard, the earlier you start the better. So, it’s time to get started! Do you begin applying to the best preschools in your area? Do you scour catalogs and websites for the best preschool curriculum? Do you spend hours searching for ideas for fantastic educational projects to complete?

I am going to give you some advice—some unsolicited, shameless advice. This is profound, so get ready. If you have toddlers and/or preschoolers, the best thing you can do for them is: play with them and let them play.

We all seem to understand that babies learn by playing, but for some reason many of us think that once kids turn two, we need to begin lots of structured activities to make sure they learn everything we think they should learn. In most people’s minds, structured activity and “education” is equivalent to workbooks and activity sheets.

As children develop, they learn through play. I am using play in a broad sense, as you will see from the list of activities below. The point is that learning for preschoolers should be based more on fun than on paperwork. There is a place for adult-directed play, in which you set up an activity for your child and have certain objectives that you want him to learn. However, toddlers and preschoolers need to spend much of their time in child-directed play. They need to explore for themselves and use their imaginations!

This is a general list of basic activities for preschoolers. Try to think about ways you can incorporate the learning of basic skills into these types of activities. You will find that your preschoolers will learn many things that you do not even realize you are teaching or they are learning. They will surprise you over and over again!

  • Play with them (whatever they want to play).
  • Let them play. Provide basic toys that they can do things with, like blocks, balls, cars, dolls, and plastic animals. Dress-up items are great, too.
  • Talk to them. Even before they can talk back, you must be talking to them!
  • Go outside, play, and take walks. Talk about what you see and hear around you.
  • Involve them in your daily tasks, like laundry, cleaning, and preparing food.
  • Get out art supplies—paper, safety scissors, glue sticks, crayons, washable markers, coloring books, old magazines. Let them draw what they want to draw. Or let them scribble. Let them make the trees blue and the sky green if they want to. Use the art supplies to make cards to send to relatives.
  • Sing songs. Listen to music.
  • Read to them. Talk about the pictures, colors, and shapes in the books you read.
  • Let them look at books independently.
  • Go to the library. Get more books.

That’s it. Those are my profound ideas. These are just the general concepts, the foundation for your preschool education. There are plenty of ways that you can teach specific skills through playing, art, music, books, and daily tasks. A follow-up article will give some examples in these areas.

Everyday life provides education if you just look for the opportunities. Yes, it is helpful to read and see ideas other people have, and to find craft and science projects online. I have done that many times, and I am glad I did. My caution to you is that you don’t spend more time looking for things to do with your preschoolers than you do actually playing with your preschoolers;  that you do not think that something elaborate is required to educate your children well; and that you do not think that a lot of money is required to educate your children well. Have confidence in yourself as a parent and teacher! Talk, read, play, draw, and give them plenty of time for free play. You will see them thriving right before your eyes!



Scalloped Potatoes With Ham

June 1, 2012


In using leftover ham in the past, I have tried various versions of potatoes and ham. There isn’t much I like more than potato soup with ham in it, but as far as a casserole version, I had not found that perfect one–until now. This one is creamy, tasty, and not difficult to prepare. I serve it with salad (lettuce and and raw veggie/fruit tray), and that is all you need!

I am going to give the recipe here as I made it, but I based this on the Scalloped Potatoes & Ham on Gooseberry Patch.

6 cups sliced potatoes (peel if desired, but I leave the peeling on)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4 ounces cooked ham, cubed or diced

Place sliced potatoes in a pan and cover with water. Cook just until they are done (can be pierced with a fork). Drain the water off the potatoes. In a skillet over medium heat, saute onion in butter. When onion is tender, stir in flour, mustard, salt, and pepper ( using a whisk can help prevent lumps in this step). After flour is blended in, gradually add milk and water, stirring constantly until thickened (keep using your whisk). Mix in 1 cup of the shredded cheese and stir until it is melted. Remove from heat. Add potatoes and toss to coat in the sauce, then add ham and gently stir until everything is coated. Pour into a greased 13″x9″ baking pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 6.

A couple of notes:

  • You could probably use 2 cups of milk instead of 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup water. When I made it the first time, I started with 1 1/2 cups milk, but the sauce seemed too thick. So, I threw in 1/2 cup of water and it was perfect.
  • Most of the changes I made were for nutrition reasons–leaving the peeling on the potatoes and cutting back the amounts of cheese and ham. The original recipe calls for  1/2 lb. of ham (8 oz.), which I cut back to 4 oz. to reduce the calorie content. I cut the ham into small pieces, and the 4 oz. is plenty.

What Is Your Parenting Style?

May 15, 2012

If you have no idea what I mean by “parenting style,” then you are probably better off than most of us who are bombarded with philosophies about parenting. Over the years, discussions have moved from Diana Baumrind’s parenting styles of permissive, authoritarian, authoritative, to opposing camps of Attachment Parenting and Baby Wise, to the loose descriptions presented by Parents magazine of planner, optimizer, and freewheeler.

So, do you have a parenting style? Do you follow a certain philosophy? Can you point to a list of tenants that you follow as you raise your children? Let me suggest that if you do, apparently you are in vogue. If you don’t, you probably have more common sense than most of the world seems to think is possible these days. It might be more accurate to say that you don’t follow an established parenting style—you just have your own!

Personally, my husband and I don’t follow any particular book, list, or philosophy of parenting. I have read a lot of books, lists, and philosophies about parenting, but, other than the Bible, I don’t hold to any of them completely. I have gotten good ideas, and have implemented advice from them, but I don’t “follow” any particular one. We have also gotten advice and ideas from other people, such as our own parents, which has been more valuable than what we have read from the “experts.”

There has been a lot of discussion lately about parenting styles, but I want to present my own suggestions for determining how you parent.

Parent your child. You do not have your friend’s child, Dr. Sears’ child, Gary Ezzo’s child, your pediatrician’s child, your sister’s child…you get the idea. Even more important is that among your own children, each one will be different. From day one I could see differences in the sleeping and feeding patterns of each of my children. Different personalities quickly emerge, different language development, different motor skill development—there are a lot of differences. If I cannot follow exactly the same procedures with my three children, what would make me think that I can follow the same procedures as someone else entirely?

I realize there are certain principles that can apply to all children, but there are some very specific ideas that go along with certain parenting styles. If you try to force things onto your children just because you have adopted a certain philosophy about parenting, you are not parenting your child. Use your mind, your instincts, your sensibilities, and your values to make decisions and care for your child. Your own parenting style must fit your personality, and your family’s needs.

Parent with your spouse. It is imperative that mothers and fathers be on the same page about their children. I think there is a tendency for mothers to spend a lot of time reading and researching parenting techniques, and they may think they are following a style that their husbands don’t know anything about! Mothers, particularly stay-at-home moms, do spend more actual time with their children. We have to make the day-to-day decisions about their feeding and other physical care. We have to implement the teaching and discipline that is needed. However, the values and concepts that form the basis for these decisions should be discussed and agreed upon by parents together. Some couples try to focus on spending time alone together and talking about something other than their kids. Sure, spouses need to talk about other things, too, but what is more important to discuss than their children?

As a mom, I need to be doing the same things with my children that my husband will do when he comes in from work. We need to have rules that are enforced by both parents. We need to have “philosophies” that are shared by both parents. I do not just tell my husband what he is going to do or how he is going to treat our kids. He is the leader of our family. If I try to control our approach to parenting and force him into it, I am simply not respecting the role God gave him when He said, “ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). God does not say that fathers take a backseat to whatever mothers want to do. He also does not say that fathers have all control and mothers have no say in how the children are raised. It must be a joint effort. I realize this is sometimes easier said than done—husbands and wives have different personalities that influence the way they look at raising children. But, if you have a good marriage, you should be able to figure out a way to compromise and work together for the benefit of your children. Talk to each other. Work together. Support each other.

Parent with confidence. Believe in what you do, and do it. You do not need accolades or lavish praises from your friends to feel like what you are doing is good. You also do not need to feel intimidated by people who do not like what you do, or who do things differently. Confidence in our parenting skills should not be based on someone else’s parenting skills, but on the results we see in our children. Are they happy? Healthy? Pleasant to be around? If your expectations for your family are being met, then who cares what someone else says about it? I do not need approval from others for my every decision because I have confidence in my reasoning, my instincts, my understanding of my own kids, and my Bible-based values which guide those decisions. If you are constantly seeking affirmation from others about your parenting, then you lack confidence! If you feel pressured to follow a certain parenting style because that is what all of your friends are doing, then you lack confidence! Peer pressure among moms? Yes, it does exist. Do not fall prey to it. Just because something is popular does not mean it has to be done. It might not be best for you or for your child. Do what is best for your family, do what is right in God’s eyes, and feel confident about it.

Parent with humility. Make sure your confidence does not morph into arrogance. You will make mistakes, and humility allows you to admit them and make changes. Sometimes we even have to admit mistakes and apologize to our children! We can show them the value of being humble when we are not too proud to say that we are sorry for something. Most importantly, we must maintain our humility before God, and be willing to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.

Humility allows you to listen to other people who have valuable advice. There is a difference in trying to cave in to the whims of everyone you know, and in listening to those who have experience and who have proved themselves by raising their children well. Accepting correction, listening to ideas and advice, and seeking help when we need it requires humility. Parents seem to forget that we are not self-sufficient, and we do not know everything.

Humility will also prevent us from trying to force our ways onto other people, thinking that we have all the answers. If we expect other people to respect our family decisions, we should do the same for them.

Parent according to the word of God. The Bible has a lot to say about parents and children. In addition to what is specifically stated, the principles of God’s law should be lived out in our family lives every day—love, forgiveness, obedience, kindness, peace, joy. If you read the principles of a certain parenting style, and you see things that are contrary to God’s word, then you must reject it! All the experts in the world do not equal the knowledge of our Heavenly Father. Let me give you an example. One of the 8 principles of parenting on the Attachment Parenting International website is “Practice Positive Discipline.” The statements in that section clearly state that spanking “can create ongoing behavioral and emotional problems” and that any physical punishment is harmful to the child. God, in the wisdom contained in the book of Proverbs, says that physical punishment is beneficial in correcting a child and driving the foolishness out of him (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15). So, do you listen to the attachment parenting gurus, or do you listen to God Almighty?

I realize that spanking is only one part of the overall discipline and training that we provide our kids, and I am not trying to emphasize that over other biblical principles. But this is an example of how the ways of human thinking are contrary to the ways of God, and we must not let ourselves get drawn away from doing what is right.


There are some good concepts in the established “parenting styles” that are promoted today. You may read the Attachment Parenting principles, or the “Baby Wise” book, and identify things that you want to do and that will work well for your family. But there is a danger in identifying a particular style and deciding that you are adhering to that style. If you develop a loyalty to a parenting style, then you feel obligated to follow it entirely. If you have a problem, you consult that one resource, and you miss out on differing opinions that are out there. You may even take the advice of the people who promote that style over the wisdom given by God—lots of people do.

Don’t follow a parenting “style.” Don’t follow the crowds. Just parent your child, with your spouse, with confidence and humility, and base it all on the word of God. If we spent more time studying God’s word than we spent studying the websites and books of men, we would be much better parents.

Bible Class Worksheet–1 Peter (Preschool and Early Readers)

April 15, 2012

I know that teaching small children from the New Testament epistles can be a bit more challenging than teaching about events from the Old Testament or the life of Christ. Though we need to make sure that we make applications for our children from all Bible stories, when we teach from the epistles we have applications with no story! When you search bookstores and the internet, you can find plenty of coloring sheets and activities for a lot of Bible stories, but not very much about the epistles for young children.

Our lesson today was about 1 and 2 Peter. We are using the Shaping Hearts for God curriculum, so we did have a lesson with a few questions. The main points we focused on were obeying God even when it is hard, the devil as a roaring lion who wants us to sin, and the endurance of the word of God.

I made up a simple worksheet about 1 Peter 1:24-25. The first part is the verses printed out with some blanks to complete. Then there are 2 questions asked. The first one is, “What withers away?” and the second is “What lasts forever?” I had a few pieces of grass available, and I had a print out of an open book with verses from 1 Peter on it. The children chose which item went in which space and attached it to the paper (we used tape for the grass and a glue stick for the Bible cut-out).

I have four children in the class, ages 3, 4, 5, and 6. This activity worked well for all of them, so I thought I would share it here as an idea for anyone else looking for some help teaching 1 Peter! If you have younger children who do not write letters yet, you can just fill in the words for them. Just use the activity as a way of reinforcing what the verse says. Also, I recommend showing them where the verse is in the Bible and reading it from there first so that they see it really is the word of God!

Click on this link for the PDF of this worksheet:

1 Peter 1:24-25

Each child will need one copy of page 1, a piece of grass, and one of the Bible pictures on page 2. I just put 2 of the Bibles on the page to save paper when you are printing them.

Trying Some New Recipes

February 16, 2012

At my website It’s All Homework, this month’s “Featured Site” is Once A Month Mom. Though I am not getting into full-fledged once a month cooking, I am really hoping to get several meals into the freezer to have on hand for sick and extra busy days. I think I can save some “eating out” money by having a few meals available that are easy to get out of the freezer, heat, and serve. I have always put leftovers in the freezer, but it seems I never have something when I really need it! So, in an effort to make freezing meals a more regular habit, I am trying out some new recipes that I found atOnce A Month Mom.

Here are links to the recipes I have tried that we really like:

Easy Ranch Chicken

Creamy Sausage and Tomato Pasta (To clarify, this recipe is on another blog. However, it is listed as part of one of the OAMM menus.)

Tangy Beef Stroganoff

All three of these were tasty and not difficult to prepare. The Creamy Sausage and Tomato Pasta made a large amount, and my family of 5 ate about half of it. Happily, I put the other half into the freezer, so I now have one meal ready to go! It’s a start, right?

If you are interested in cooking for your freezer on any scale, take some time to browse the OAMM site. There is a lot of helpful information about freezing in general, and these ladies really seem to have the experience to back up their recipes and tips. And if you are interested in trying once a month cooking, they provide monthly menus with seasonal recipes, and there are a variety of menu types from which to choose. I look forward to trying some more recipes, and getting some more meals into the freezer!