Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring is in the air!

The days are (slowly) getting warm, the sun is brighter and the days are a little longer.  Spring is slowing showing up every where we look.  This past Sunday, Brent was working and a few of the kids were sick, and we were back in Wisconsin, early for the week, and missing our church family back in Illinois.  So I decided we needed a little Spring activity to make us all feel better.  We decided to dye some eggs.  I do very much enjoy doing Spring activities with the kids.  We try to embrace every season and enjoy the change. 

I have been wanting to experiment with natural dyes for a few years now, and usually, grandma dyes eggs with the kids, but this year, it was just us, so I decided it would be a fun experiment. 

Our favorite was the ground tumeric.  It made the most beautiful yellow eggs.  Also we used tea bags and then a bag of dried cherries, which we thought would  make purple eggs, but ended up with dark brown.  What didn't work was spinach, cabbage and green bean.  I also had a bag of frozen tomato cherries in the freezer and it made the brightest, red water, but didn't dye the egg at all.  I had sick kids, so I just used what I had on hand, as I  didn't want to run to the store. 

We had a really fun time!  Only two of my kids (girls) were interested in helping dye the eggs, and the others all had fun decorating.


In the end, we ended up with some bright, fun decorated eggs.  We had so much fun (and we almost ate all the eggs), so I think we might make some more tomorrow!

♥  Shannon

Monday, March 25, 2013

Homemade French Bread

This is my all time, absolute favorite kind of bread to make!  I found this recipe in GRIT magazine a few years ago, and it's been a favorite ever since.  My kids absolutely love it, right out of the oven.  I tweaked the recipe just a bit.  I use raw honey instead of sugar.  I also, have been cooking with unbleached flour for a few years now.  I have never tried using whole wheat flour, but that's next!  I may start with half white, half wheat and see how that goes. 

Recipe for Homemade French Bread (no sugar)

5 1/2 cups white unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of honey
1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 tsp yeast (or 2 packages of yeast)
2 cups of hot water
2-3 tablespoons melted butter

Using upright mixer, combine all dry ingredients.  Using dough hook, mix to distribute yeast throughout flour.  Turn off mixer.  Add hot water and honey.

Turn mixer back on and allow dough hook to knead about 5 minutes.  Depending on humidity in your flour you might need to add a little more flour if dough is sticky, or water to acquire the perfectly smooth elastic bread dough.

Turn mixer off, remove dough hook.  Cover dough and let rest about 10 minutes.  Divide dough in half.

Using rolling pins, roll out half of dough into approximate 10 x 15 inch rectangle.  Roll the dough into a tube about 8" long and fold/pinch ends under.  Place seam side down onto baking stone sprinkled with cornmeal or flour to keep dough from sticking (I use a baking pan, lightly sprayed with oil and sprinkled with flour).  Repeat with other half of dough and place on pan about 2-3 inches away. 

Make 4 (or 5) diagonal cuts on top of each loaf using a sharp knife.  Brush the top of each loaf with butter.  Let rise in warm, draft free place for 35 minutes.  I like to let it rise in my oven. ( Before I start making the bread I turn my oven on 200 degrees for about 5 minutes, then I turn the oven off. By the time the bread is ready to rise, the oven has cooled down, but is warm and draft free.  I then place the bread in the oven to rise.  DO NOT let rise in oven on 200 degrees).  After the bread has been rising for 35 minutes, take the bread out of the oven and turn oven on to 400 degrees. When the oven has reached 400, place bread back in oven and let bake 25-30 minutes.  The recipe calls for making the bread in a 425 degree oven, but that is too hot for my oven and burns the outside of the bread.  I usually check the bread after 20 minutes and it is usually, really close to being ready.  I have never baked it the full 30 minutes.  When it's done the outside will be nicely browned and a bit crunchy.  The inside soft and delicious!

♥  Shannon

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

School Days!

I don't post about school that often, because I'm not that experienced.  We are only in our second year, and I feel there is so much more to learn.  This year we started a few "electives" in our classroom and the kids (and I) have been having so much fun with it. 

I have read some great things about SongSchool Spanish, so I decided to try it.  So far, I LOVE it!  It's very easy to follow (for me, the teacher).  It is by Classical Academic Press, which means, there is a lot of music and singing.  Our family loves music, so this was a great fit.  It comes with a CD and every couple of lessons there is a new song to learn, and workbook pages that go along with the lessons.  I have been teaching this to my K, 2nd, & 3rd grader.  My 6th grader sits in periodically and catches up rather quickly with the lessons.  I can't say enough good about this and how well it's working for us.

I also started the kids on Typing Instructor for Kids.  They are all addicted!  It's become a competition to them. (we don't do video games, so this is as close as it gets :) 

Marykate gets up right away in the morning and comes straight down, to get the computer first!  They are all doing really well, and it's a nice break from book work. 

For fun the kids have been doing some looming.  My kids love to finger knit, and I was so tired of finding finger knitted pieces of yarn all over the home, that weren't good for really anything.  Even my boys love to do this.  Then one day as I was browsing pinterest, I read about looming with finger knitting.  I had the kids gather up all their pieces from all over the home and we set out to make a small rug, decoration or piece of art. 

This is Max's, and it turned out pretty good.  I think he's going to enter it in the fair.  We used a hula hoop loom and followed the instructions in Family Fun's magazine. 

These are the two most recent.  One is finished and now hanging in the newly organized school room and the other is still being worked on.  The actual directions call for cut up pieces of t shirts, but we found finger knitting works great and is so soft. 
So those are just a few things that have kept us going during this long winter.  I'm looking forward to Spring and getting outside in (hopefully) a few short weeks!
♥  Shannon

Monday, March 18, 2013

A little organization goes a long way!

So, as I sit here and type, once again it's snowing!  No signs of spring here just yet.  I think being inside so much has started to get to me, and I'm itching for some spring organization and cleaning. We have been organizing and working on a few projects (my favorite thing to do). 

First we pulled out the kids baby quilts that Brent's aunt made for each child when they were born.  They have been in storage for about 5 years.  In fact my youngest's quilt was never hung up.  It was fun to pull them out and show the kids, who had forgotten about them.  The problem was, we didn't know exactly how we were going to hang them.  We went to the store looking for ideas.  My husband is the one who came up with this great idea!  I love it and think it's genius :) 

We found some clearance curtain rods and wanted to use them, but didn't know how to attach them.  After looking a little further, down a few more isles, we found these little round hangers with clips on the end, designed especially for the curtain rod.  They were perfect.  This way the whole quilt can be displayed and hangs away from the wall as well.

We have a nice long wall off our playroom in our basement, that is finished.  We hung them in birth order.  It's really fun to have them back up again.  I almost can't remember what it was like having that many little ones in the house!

Next up, school room!  We have been living in WI since November, and really everything has been an unorganized mess in that home.  There isn't enough closet space and we have no book shelves.  The dining room became our school room on the first day of moving in and ever since then, things have been piling up.  I had enough and declared a weekend day, full of organizing this space.  My husband agreed to helping me and I was so grateful! 

We purchased the cube shelving units at Menards.  It took 4 of them to fill a 12 foot wall.  I loved the curtain rod for the quilts so much, I thought why not use that same idea for art work.  We have so much of that around here, and the fridge just isn't big enough :)  Also a few months ago, each child painted a white canvas and they have just been laying in the corner waiting to be hung.  The two round loomed pieces of art on the end are finger knitted and then loomed.  I love having a place for all the kids stuff.  They each have their own set of 3 cubes.  One for their school books.  One for their level reading books, and one cube for misc, pencils, markers, mini whiteboards, etc.  I love having their artwork all over the room.  I also have all my teacher manuals, tests, and supplies in the cubes.  I function so much better when everything has a place and everything is at my fingertips.  Today was our first day in the newly organized school room and it went great!  We were all very motivated.  It's just what we needed to make it to the end of the school year!
I have one more fun find to share.  Over the weekend we visited the local antique shop looking for Abraham Lincoln memorabilia.  We did find a few books and a large framed print, but also laying on the front porch of the store, behind a bunch of framed prints, I found this:

A large old print of George Washington.  It wasn't priced and the owner of the store saw us looking at it.  He said it came out of a local old school house.  He said since we were purchasing some Lincoln books, he would throw this picture in for free.  I LOVE finding treasures like this, and when they are free, that makes it all the more better :) 

Overall it was a very successful weekend, and I look forward to organizing other rooms of the house as well.

♥  Shannon

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Waiting for snow

As I sit here, early this morning (in Wisconsin), the snow has just started to fall.  We have been waiting, for another storm to hit our area.  Bringing up to another possible 10".  I woke early and started a fire, read my Bible and am enjoying the peace and quiet of early morning.  Flurries have just started to fall, but will become heavier as the hour goes on.  I LOVE a good snowstorm and have been able to enjoy quite a few this winter.  I am one of the few who is not anxiously waiting for spring.  I love Spring, but will enjoy every bit of winter, while it is here.  There is something so beautiful in newly fallen snow, and tree's covered in white.  We still have a blanket of snow (about 12") on the ground, so this could get interesting.
Max and Mary enjoying the 14" from last week's storm

 Over the weekend, we invited the youth from our church out for a sledding party at our home in Illinois.  It was warm enough to stay outside for hours, and when the sun went down, we had to start calling the kids in.  They had so much fun, they didn't want to stop.

It was a beautiful day filled with fun and fellowship!

♥  Shannon