Friday, September 25, 2009


We have grapes. I have no idea what kind. I assumed table grapes, but they are a little seedy. So, are they wine grapes? I don't know. They are very tart. The wonderful husband climbed a ladder and picked bunches and bunches from where they hung. I brought the grapes to my mother's house, fully prepared to make grape jelly there while she corralled the children. She, of course, took over and made the jelly herself. Five cups of prepared juice, seven cups of sugar and one box of pectin later, we've got jelly. The boys and I had soynut butter and grape jelly sandwiches today. We loved it. It tasted nothing like store bought grape jelly. It tasted nothing like grapes. It was still tart and reminded me of cranberry sauce from a can. I don't really know what to think about that...
The husband mentioned something about taming the vines, creating a trellis or something and harvesting them. So, of course, off I go on the world wide web. Search, search, search. All the pictures of grapes were professional photos or photos of beautiful grapes. For some reason I was unable to find pictures of "wild" grapes that were poorly taken care of because someone just moved in and didn't really know much about them. Well, I became informed. Sort of. I found out that I should "Prune the vine so you will maintain a balance between vegetative growth and fruit productions. Where a vine is underpruned, (too many buds left) the vine will produce many small clusters of small grapes that may fail to ripen properly. If the vine is overpruned, (too few buds left) the yield will be low and the vegetative growth excessive. To "balance prune" a vine, the number or buds left is adjusted according to the amount of one-year-old wood removed in pruning." This is probably why the grapes are so small. This site also says to prune in the dormant season - March. But, in my eagerness to have bountiful grapes, I went out today and cut back all the pricky bushes surrounding the vines, cut back all the dead leaves, vines, branches and grapes and I'm pretty sure I annoyed the husband. "It's for the vineyard", I said. I got a raised eyebrow and then watched the back of his head shake.
He'll see next year when I'm selling jugs of wine by the side of the road, making my millions...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Body Painting

While Summer has left, the memories have been preserved for years to come. We recently painted our house. While we were busy painting, I needed something to occupy my almost-four-year-old. He wanted to paint. We let him help paint the house, but that didn't hold his attention for very long.

And it was probably best that we redirected his artistic tendencies...

I gave him acrylics and a piece of wood. I suggested he use his feet, but he used his whole body instead. The husband had to walk away. He cannot stomach the mess and craziness of it all. I loved it. This was such a great activity for him. We've done painting activities like this before, but this one can be saved forever. Or at least until it falls apart. I have plans to slather a water sealing solution over the whole thing. It's in my garden right now. He glued some seashells to it once it was done drying. It will serve as a lovely piece in my vegetable garden for years to come.

For that day, though, it served as a homemade Slip and Slide...

playgroup menus

I started hosting a weekly playgroup. I love having other moms over. I love having children running around amok. I love the variety of personalities and age differences. I love playing hostess. I ran into a snafu, if you wish, in planning the lunch. Snacks I can do. Cookies, fruit, breads. It's all yummy. My kids don't like lunchmeat. I refuse to serve mac and cheese from a box to guests. We have nut allergies, so no pb & j's. Last week I served Sweet and Sour Sloppy Joe's. Yum. Onion, garlic, red peppers, ketchup, bbq sauce and ground turkey/chicken. It's so easy and delish. Everyone BUT my kids ate it. This week, I made the mistake of going with a craving to relive my honeymoon and make a Costa Rican dish I haven't made in years. I didn't have 2 ingredients, but made it anyway. I ate it. No one else did. Oops. The kids tried it, but it was too spicy for them. Something that I didn't take into consideration while making it. I should have known as I was measuring out the Tabasco sauce. Also, it tasted nothing like the wonderfully flavorful Gallos Pintos I had every morning in the mountains of Costa Rica. Next week, maybe I'll just make grilled cheese and tomato soup...from a can.

bandaids and boo-boos

"Ow, Mommy, I have a bleed!!!" Is what I hear from the backyard. I lean towards a window and look outside. My two-year-old is pouring forth the drama over a bloodless scrape. A performance he has learned from his older brother, and thinks he has wittingly perfected. "A bleed", of course, is a boo-boo. Apparently, if you bleed, even the littlest bit, the world is over. However, if you apply a bandaid to it, the pain is gone and the world has been saved once again!

Depending upon my mood are the bandaids given out. If I'm extra cranky (that's crankier than usual) I will tell my poor children to move on with their day, bandaids don't make the pain go away and "I told you so..." regarding whatever act that caused them to get a bleed. If my meds are working correctly, my children will get a whole box of bandaids applied all over their bodies. In addition to those, the husband will decorate medical tape with skulls and crossbones. And if we've been drinking heavily, they get to paint and color on their bodies all they want.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Letterboxing Again!

I am in love with Letterboxing. Letterboxing is like a treasure hunt, but better. If you have not heard of this, click on the title above or go to Go to the site anyway. It's amazing. I love this quote from the website, "LETTERBOXING is an intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming "treasure hunt" style outdoor quest. A wide variety of adventures can be found to suit all ages and experience levels." I started doing this with my family last summer. We went on a few hunts and then life interrupted...again. I've been keeping it in the back of my mind recently. Then I found that there is a location within walking distance to my house. I took my son there today. I underestimated how close to us it actually was. His little legs made it, though. He only asked me to carry him once.
Here is the what you do. You get a notebook. I bought one of those "fancy" black, hardcover artsy books at Barnes and Noble. I wanted something my children can look back on and enjoy. I really, really like the brown leatherbound ones, but I'll stick to the one I have while my kids are still little.
Then you make a stamp. I use a store-bought one right now. I didn't want to go through the process of making a stamp only to use it once. And I wanted my sons to have a hand in making their own. Eli's almost four now and has decided what he wants his stamp to be. The husband is going to help carve it out of an eraser. Yes, and eraser. I love Letterboxing so much.

You also need a stamp pad and a pen or marker...something to write with.
Go to the website and search for your state and area. You'll most likely find Letterboxes in your area. Let's assume that you do. Click on one and read the directions. Print them out, unless you have a photographic memory. Then, off you go!

Follow the directions. When you get to the spot, which could be anywhere...literally, anywhere (we've been in parking lots, woods, stone walls, next to water)...find the "box". Sometimes it is a box. A plastic container to keep the elements out. Sometimes it's a Ziplock bag. Some are smaller than my palm and some are the gallon sized Ziplock. The box may be hidden under leaves, in a hole in a tree, in a stone wall. Once you find it, you need to leave your stamp in their book and their stamp in your book. You also write the date you visited the box, your name or some sort of "code name". You can also leave a message about the experience...was the box easy to find, was there poison ivy, did you need bug spray?...
My boys love pirates and anything pertaining to treasure (thank you David Shannon), so getting them to go on a treasure hunt was easy. To make it a bit more interactive, since they cannot read, I draw out the directions in a treasure map format. I think I may yellow the paper with tea bags or something like it. Perhaps I'll seal it with wax or ribbon or put it in a bottle, like it washed up on shore. Or maybe I'll seal it in a work of art...a la The Goonies. Make sure that you put everything back where you found it and keep it hidden. Also, if the box is broken or something is missing, you can email the person who hid in via I also take pictures of each trip and put the pictures in our Letterboxing book. I also write a little something about the trip. It's fun to look back on. If we ever manage to get out of this state and go on a vacation, we can most likely find a letterboxing site on the way or nearby our destination. They are everywhere. Have I mentioned how much I love Letterboxing? I LOVE LETTERBOXING.
As far as reading, physical education, reading, writing, mathematics...they all fit. AND some of these only take a few minutes to find, so you have time to do everything else you planned that day.

Oh, and it's virtually free.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Giving Up Paper

Over the past year we've been making the transition from paper towels and napkins to cloth. Yes, a year. We probably could have stopped cold turkey, but I didn't want to go into withdrawals. I started out by switching to the paper towels that are perforated into smaller segments, to use less. The husband had a hard time using less...king of ripping off several sheets to clean up a small mess. I swear there was feet of paper towel trailing behind him at any given time. A paper towel-like windsock of sorts, if you will. I bought more dish/hand towels. I bought some cloth napkins to see if we liked them. They were hard to get used to, especially for gross messes...and little kid hands. We always just wiped the kids' hands and faces with paper towels. If one got dirty, you just grabbed another...the paper towels, not the kids.
I have found, though, that napkins of one color show stains very easily. Greasy bacon, buttered biscuits, ketchup, bbq sauce... Our once pretty napkins look like something I'd normally throw away. But, the point is to reuse, so I keep them and use them. They are clean...they just don't look it. has some napkins in cute patterns. Mikabu, although a bit too pricey for me to load up on them, has really nice embroidered organic cotton napkins for kids. They are also made in America...always a plus! My favorite is the parade ones...gotta love animals all getting along. Cute. Molly, at the purl bee, posts directions for making your own. Hers are pretty fabulous. If I ever get the time, I'll make some. That might mean bringing the boys to a fabric store while I try to pick through rows of fabric...maybe i'll order some online. Okay, wait, I am totally interrupting myself...I just did a web search and found these Fabkins. How have I not heard of these before?! They have six different prints. The fruit ones are my fave because they are striped...less likely to show stains. They are reasonably priced and come in packs of five. And how great is it that Fabkins was started by two moms? I'm all for grabbing hold of a need and making a name for yourself.
Sidebar...I keep thinking of my million dollar idea only to find it's been done. ugh.
I think I need to make a list of things I want to do by the end of the year and add "make napkins" to it. That, and "make a volcano cake". Yes. Lately, while I am falling asleep, I have these strange "visions" of things I can do. Making a volcano cake was last nights. I wanted to make it for my son's fourth birthday, but he vehemently opposed it. He simply wants a Wolverine birthday cake. Um. Sure.

Old Sturbridge Village

Here is a place just about every school in Massachusetts visits on a field trip. I'm pretty sure I went there every year in elementary school. The only memory I have of the place is rock candy. Today we visited and I'm pretty sure I gave my boys that same memory. But I now have very different ones. Old Sturbridge Village hosts a homeschool day twice a year. Today was one of those days. They reduced their price from $20 to $7. How can you beat that? They hosted a vast array of activities throughout the day. It was a beautiful day...I couldn't have asked for a better one. We packed a lunch. I decided against the soynut butter and jam sandwiches and threw a pork roast in the crock yesterday and tossed some bbq sauce over it. We brought pulled pork sandwiches, carrot sticks, apples and leftover chicken tenders from yesterdays lunch. We dropped off the baby at my mom's and left an hour later than planned...but doesn't that always happen in my house?
We played Les Graces, or Flying Hoops. The boys loved it. Odin got distracted by the slate blue turkeys roaming around, but Eli and the husband played for a little while. We churned some butter, posed for pictures, visited the Cooper and the Potter. We ate lunch on the Common, watched the muskets being fired, bought some pistols and rock candy, milked a fake cow, made a tin candle holder and smelled a variety of herbs in the herb garden. Oh, and don't forget the baker and the candlestick maker...sorry, no butcher. There is much more to do than what we did. The husband and I plan on visiting without the children. Much as we love them, they have no interest in listening to someone talk about something they simply cannot fathom, like "a hundred years ago..." The boys love their pistols and ran around shooting one another all day. These are the first guns I've bought the boys... After I read an article on, I am not so reluctant to give my child weapons. Not that everything you read is right, but it makes sense. I make them fight now, pit them against one another. I'm joking...sort of.

Monday, September 14, 2009

House Transformation

We've been here almost a year. We're one family member more. We have a five-year plan and a more realistic ten-year plan. We have been fortunate enough to be able to do some moderate adjustments over the past year. We have begun to paint the house...finally! I love our home. It's small, but it's all we need. As beautiful as big homes are, they are just not for us. For one, I can't see me cleaning any more home than what I have. I also believe that smaller homes can make the family closer...not just physically but emotionally! We have one t.v. The boys, all three, share a small room. When one isn't there, the others wonder where he is.

It's great being close-knit. I'm not saying that in a large home a family can't be close. I just like the close-proximity and the feeling of emotional closeness our home provides us. The shakes are cedar, so the ones that are in good shape will last forever, if we take care of them.

It was white and old. The paint was peeling. There were blatant holes in the siding. The yard was overgrown and covered in reptiles, amphibians, insects and arachnids. Okay, so turtles, snakes, frogs, earwigs, spiders... still creating a little wiggy feeling when walking across the lawn. We mowed and cut back all sorts of foliage. I put in a garden and threw down grass seed. The husband put up a fence and built a new bulkhead door. We put in a sandbox, threw in some yard toys and added a gazebo - which acts more as a storage shed than anything else. I refuse to keep my stuff in the actual shed...rodents, rodents, rodents... the things ripped up our double stroller. I am anti-shed...which actually appeases the husband.

I love the home we have made for our family. It still needs a lot of work. It will take time, but we have a lot of it ahead of us, so it's all okay.

Yay! Pumpkins!

I love Autumn. It's my favorite season. When we planted our pumpkin seeds, I did not expect the pumpkins to take over the garden and spread out into the yard. The most amazing part is getting to watch the pumpkins grow, which I had never seen before. I always bought pumpkins from a stand or apple orchard. This has been truly fabulous and I will never buy pumpkins again. I love seeing the look on my children's faces as they witness the growth and changes of the pumpkin. We picked the first of the orange pumpkins the other day. My son was so excited. I let him pick the pumpkin, but he needed help because the stem is all prickly. The lone pumpkin is sitting in our front yard. The first great sign of Fall.

Menu Plan Monday

Menu Plan Monday - September 14, 2009

Sunday - breakfast - pancakes, bacon and fruit
lunch - smoothies
dinner - at parent's house

Monday - breakfast - muffins and fruit
lunch - homemade chicken nuggets, avocado and tomato
dinner - hamburgers, baked beans and baked potato

Tuesday - breakfast - toast and fruit
lunch - bbq pork loin on rolls (cooked in crockpot day before)
dinner - Crockpot Autumn Rice casserole (thanks, stephanie! and she's right, it does
taste like a bowl full of fall.)

Wednesday - breakfast - frozen pancakes (left over from Sunday)
lunch - meatball pizza quesadilla
dinner - sweet and sour sloppy joes, fruit salad

Thursday - breakfast - oatmeal and fruit
lunch - ham and cheese w/crackers, carrots and dip
dinner - sloppy shepherd's pie

Friday - breakfast - waffles and fruit
lunch - tomato soup (yes, from a can) and salad
dinner - Italian sausage and roasted red peppers, homemade bread and mango

Saturday - breakfast - cereal and fruit
lunch - Kid's choice (will probably be macaroni and cheese...from a box...blegh)
dinner - Lasagne and caprese salad

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Preschool at home

We started preschool last week. My son is almost four. Why start an official preschool? Well, he's starting to read and normal preschool activities bore him to tears. To start off the week I brought out sponges in the shape of the letters of the alphabet. Let's sponge paint! Nope. He spelled out M-O-M and then wanted to do worksheets. So, we did work sheets.
The second day, we did more worksheets and I read to him from an early reader book. The Now I'm Reading series All About The ABC's is what I'm using to help teach reading. I also use the Preschool Planner from The Mailbox. I also am a subscriber to their Preschool Magazine. It has some really great ideas. It's a magazine/site geared towards teachers with ideas from teachers and education professionals.

I had the first two weeks all planned out with activities and worksheets and themes and letters and numbers and shapes... On day three we began painting the house. No school happened. Day four and five passed by. We took the weekend off. "Off" if we had been working so hard...

Yesterday was a holiday, so we celebrated our labor and that of those who came before us and rested. Today we got back into the swing of things.

I bought a dry erase board. I also printed out a list of beginning sight words like "a, at, the". We started today with "the". It took a few tries before he caught on to just looking at "the". He really wanted to recite the words that came after "the", in trying to "read" the story. I wrote "the" on a large index card. I had Eli write "the" on the dry erase board.

My plan for tomorrow is to use another book and have him find "the" in the text.

I'm utilizing phonics, sight words and anything else I can combine into our lessons. Whatever seems to work for him I'll use. He's eager to learn and sucks in information like a sponge.

A couple of years ago I bought a CD-ROM set from Einstein Prep. I'm not sure if they are still in business. I can't seem to access the website. I also saw that the company is on MySpace when I did an internet search for the company, but there hasn't been any activity on the account since 2008. In any case, my son likes the CD-ROM's. The interactive games help him to learn phonics. The first cd has introductory math on it, which he enjoys as well.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cucumber Pickle Spears

I got this recipe from my friend, Dawn. This is her mother's recipe. I have never tasted anything like it. I usually adjust the amount of garlic and dill depending on how I feel that day. I just shove the stuff in. The jars look really pretty with the dill springs and garlic against the walls of the jar. I give them as gifts a lot.

4 lg. pickling cukes (about 1lb.)
2 tsp. salt
3 large dill sprigs
1 garlic clove, halved
1 c white vinegar
1 c water
1/4 cup sugar

cut cukes into quarters. Place them into a bowl, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 2 hours.
Drain in colander, rinse under cold water and drain well.
Pack into hot, sterilized Ball jar or whatever canning jar you prefer.
Add dill and garlic. Set aside.
Combine vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over cucumbers in jar. Cool completely, then cover. Marinate in fridge for 5 days.
Will keep up to 6 weeks in refrigerator.

Menu Plan Monday

Sunday - breakfast - pancakes, sausage and fruit
lunch - leftovers
dinner - Costa Rican beans and rice (Gallo Pinto)

Monday - breakfast - eggs and biscuits w/jam
lunch - soynut butter and jelly sandwiches, cantaloupe
dinner - mini meatloaves, steamed carrots, peas and sweet potatoes (left over from
the other night)

Tuesday - breakfast - yogurt, granola and fruit parfaits
lunch - chicken and cheese quesadillas w/ salsa and avocado
dinner - stir-fry chicken w/veggies and udon noodles

Wednesday - breakfast - pancakes (frozen from sunday) and fruit
lunch - bologna and cheese sandwiches, homemade pickles and grapes
dinner - chili and cornbread

Thursday - breakfast - cereal and fruit
lunch - chili over hot dogs, buns
dinner - crockpot chicken pot pie

Friday - breakfast - toast and fruit
lunch - hardboiled eggs, fruit, crackers and cheese
dinner - homemade pepperoni pizza

Saturday - breakfast - oatmeal and fruit
lunch - grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, homemade pickles, potato chips
dinner - seared steak w/olive relish, homemade bread and steamed veggies

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Of No Importance

Just found out Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise are filming next week at the Worcester Airport. I am not a fan of Mr. Cruise, but I would still be a little starstruck if I saw him crossing the street. Probably too much so to run him and his high horse off the road. I have to admit that I am a bit enamoured with Ms. Diaz. How someone so...smiley and Hollywood beautiful can pull off being so goofy and "the girl next door"- ish, makes me matter how forced and fake it may seem. She tries to perform outside her comfort zone. She has been in a variety of roles and still manages to draw a fan base.

Plus, not much goes on around here. Camera crews, celebs and drama is worth driving out to Worcester for an afternoon.

I'm above autographs, but not zooming in on their faces with my telephoto lens from my car and snapping a few shots. Maybe I could be paparazzi...