Saturday, September 29, 2012

New book finds ...

Neil and I ran into the Salvation Army yesterday while Rick and Nathan went to get the van washed. Neil was happy to see the Halloween stuff out and found himself a glow-in-the-dark skull. It's actually a plastic piggy bank, but he has a weird fascination with skulls right now, so he was happy.

I found these books above. I figured if they were brand new they would cost around $47 at a bookstore. The two hard covers on the top are $17 each, Magic School Bus books are $5 and Little Golden Books generally run for about $4 each. Considering I paid eighty cents, I'm thinking I got a pretty good bargain.

The Three Little Cajun Pigs is hilarious because it's written in a Louisiana accent. I'm going to have to practice with this one for awhile before trying to read it aloud. Ha! Instead of a big, bad wolf chasing the pigs around, this one features an alligator, suitably enough. I love varied versions of famous fairy tales, so I was thrilled to add this to my collection. My favorite is still The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.

I am pretty sure we didn't have Miss Spider's Tea Party in my collection, and even if we do, we don't have it in hardcover. For a quarter, this was a great find. The illustrations in this book are beautiful. And then of course, we have a large collection of LGBs, so I happily added these to it. We have some Magic School Bus books as well, but not this one on dinosaurs.

Not bad for 80-cents!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

MY chair!

In our classroom, we have two desks and two tables. The big round table is the one we use most for school work. The boys have these green chairs and then I pull up the big, green chair from our main computer desk. Well, every morning the same thing happens. Denny races me down the stairs, and usually comes close to knocking me over. Then he chases me through the family room into the classroom. There he will look out the door, jump in the window, or just goof off. As soon as he hears Neil coming, everything changes ...

He waits until Neil is right at the entrance to the classroom and then as soon as he sees him, he jumps in his chair! It's the funniest thing to watch. He does it all the time, too. It doesn't happen when Nathan walks into the room, although he has the same type chair. Denny only does it to Neil. He steals his chair from him every single day. Neil ends up on the folding chair that goes to one of our other desks. Denny, however, won't have anything to do with that chair. The back is too high and he sort of oozes out of it when he falls asleep.

I took the picture above this morning, right after Denny made his daily chair conquest. He may look quite smug and proud, but believe me, that look didn't last long. Within five minutes he was sound asleep and snoring. He's so funny when it comes to having Neil's chair. It is his chair or no chair! Right now I'm working on my yearbooks and the picture shows another chair with my laptop on it. So between me, Nathan, Neil, Denny, and my computer -- we sure need a lot of chairs!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

School Pictures

Neil is pictured above in red plaid. He's in 5th grade this year. Nathan is pictured below in blue plaid. He's in 8th grade. It's mind-boggling to me how old they've gotten already. I took these pictures today in the yard. Both boys have crazy-long hair right now. Neither of them have any interest in getting it cut for awhile, so we went with the slicked-back-wet-look. Neil picked the pose on his own, which I liked, so I had Nathan do the same. I suppose I could have them do school pictures with the local homeschool group, but to be honest, we have more fun taking them ourselves. If I had to theme their pictures, they might be -- Year of Attitude!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

That time of year again ...

Honeycrisp apples are in stores! Normally, I'm a Granny Smith girl. I love the tart, sour taste of a good Granny Smith. However, when Honeycrisp apples come out, I always break down and buy some. Our local market had them on sale for $1.59 a pound. I don't know if that's a good price or not, but some of the other markets have them for twice as much. I bought some pretty small ones today. Some of them were HUGE -- almost the size of large grapefruits or even a small pumpkin. Just one of those would have been close to a pound, so I ended up picking some of the smaller ones.

Honeycrisp apples were developed in Minnesota in 1960 and released in 1991. Originally, the project was supposed to be discarded. These days it seems the apples are in high demand. The Honeycrisp apple is a hybrid of the Macoun and Honeygold apples, and possibly the Keepsake apple as well. The Honeycrisp trees are not self-fruitful, which might explain their rarity and uniqueness. Love, love, love them!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall is here!

Since today was the first day of autumn, I decided to make a chowder in my crock-pot. It doesn't really feel like fall right now because our weather is still really nice and warm. The leaves however, are starting to change, so it looks more like autumn than it feels. Anyway, the chowder turned out really good, so I thought I'd post the recipe here in case you're interested or want to give it a try.


1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup corn
1 cup potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups water
diced tomatoes, 28oz can
tomato paste, 8oz can
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1-3 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a greased 4-1/2 to 6-qt crock-pot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-6 hours. For a thicker chowder, cook on low heat 8-10 hours. Makes 8-10 servings. Optional: serve in a sourdough bread bowl and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Note: The corn wasn't in the original recipe, but I added it because it seemed perfect for this recipe. I used frozen corn. Also, I cooked mine on low heat for about 4 hours and then another hour on high heat. It seems each crock-pot I've ever used was different, regardless of what times any recipes tell me to follow. I am thinking this recipe would also be really good with ground Italian sausage, or even ground turkey if you want to cut out some of the fat and calories. I didn't have fresh Parmesan, so I used the regular kind. Here's a picture before I put the cheese on.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Could Have Died!

Or in the least, I might have been seriously injured. This morning I was drinking my protein shake just as I always do. Today however, I was drinking it particularly slow because I was checking my email and Facebook page via my phone. Now normally, I have a lot of big chunks of ice in my shakes because my blender is really old. I'm talking really, really, really old.

Anyway, I get to the last sip of my shake and I hear something clunking around in my tumbler. Thinking it was just an ice cube, like usual, I toss the cup back to my mouth to get it. But right before it slid down, I saw something shiny. That wasn't an ice cube! Then I thought it might be a piece of glass. Nope! I pulled it out, only to find one of the blades from my blender. ACK!

I guess maybe my iPhone saved me because I was fussing with it and not drinking my shake as quickly as I usually do. I would like to think I would have felt this in my mouth before I swallowed it. Even so, talk about scary to think if I hadn't been paying attention. I can't remember when Rick & I got this old blender, but it was either before we got married or soon after. So, we're talking sometime in the 80s. 

Rest in peace old, ancient one. You've served us well and for many, many years. I forgive you for trying to kill me this morning, but it's time for you to go. We've already found your replacement. Meet Mr. Ninja ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mission Fire Lookout

We spent last night in the tower. It was a lot nicer inside than we expected it to be. It was fully loaded with dishes, utensils, pots, pans, cleaning supplies, and a lot more. It had a double bed and two fold out cots, which the boys slept on. The windows were amazing, especially at night. When we were in bed, all you could see were stars from every angle. I had the Big Dipper right behind my head. It was huge and looked like I could reach out and grab it by the handle. We saw a few shooting stars as well.

The boys had a blast. They brought their para-trouping GI Joes and they did some sky diving off the forty foot tower. That was fun. We also used that white rope (on the right side of the tower above) to haul up most of our gear. Those stairs were steep, but at least we all got a good work-out going up and down them.

We also took the boys geocaching for the first time. That was fun and not too hard or far from the tower. I'm sure we'll do more of that. Below are some pictures I took, including some creepy spiders that were living in the bathroom. We had perfect weather too and it wasn't nearly as cold as we were expecting. We only spent the one night, but we definitely want to do this again sometime.

Monday, September 10, 2012

All Along the Watchtower

Tomorrow we'll be staying in the Mission Fire Lookout Tower near Swan Lake. It's not too far from our home, but it is in the middle of the forest with not much else around. It's also 40 feet up in the air. As you can see from the picture, we're going to have some stairs to hike up with all our stuff. We're looking forward to it though. It's something we've been wanting to do for a long time. This place sells out every summer and the only available date we could get was September 11th. I don't think it's open too much longer. I believe it shuts down sometime in early fall.

Right now I'm listening to All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix. It's a great song. Before this, I was listening to the original version by Bob Dylan. It's amazing to me how different the versions are from one another. Anyway, with us staying in the tower, this particular song came to mind.

I doubt we'll have any Internet connection out there, but I'm planning on taking lots of pictures while we're there. If you want to see what the tower looks like, there's a video on You Tube of some people who were staying there. Just keep in mind that I do not know those people. It just shows the tower a little bit, as well as one girl flipping the cameraman off. Ugh. If you want to check it out, you can by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back-To-School ... well, soon.

Most of my friend's kids have started school by now, whether it be public, private, or homeschool. I know a few who school year round and others who have yet to start. We haven't started yet and probably won't for another week. The main reason was because of money and expenses. I've had to put off ordering my books until the last minute. I'm waiting for some of those to get in still. And the other reason is because I'm sick. It's a good thing we haven't started because I'm feeling pretty awful. Hopefully, by next week I'll be over this crazy cold thing. It's mostly head congestion with a nasty sore, and very dry throat.

This will be our 15th year homeschooling. It's far from a new thing for us, so it's pretty easy to start back up, even after a summer break. A lot of people ask me how and why I started homeschooling. I began with my girls in 1998. They started their schooling in a great private school, but it just got too expensive. We switched to a fairly new school our church had started, hoping to save a little money. That was a nightmare from the start. By October, I was at my wits end, and bought my first book on homeschooling to see if it was something I wanted to do. I haven't looked back since.

Both my girls are in college this year. Nicole is in Billings, which is about eight hours from here. Nichelle is attending the local college, so she can easily commute back and forth. So, it's just me and the boys now, kind of like when I first started with the girls. Nathan is in 8th grade and Neil is in 5th grade this year. We'll still do fun, and often corny themed-weeks with crafts and things, but the boys like that. They're getting into the harder academics now, so simple crafts keep it fun for them. Nathan is ready to start back up again, but I'm not so sure about Neil. The good thing is that my classroom is already cleaned up, so at least I don't have to deal with that. I just need to get all my books so I can work on the schedule. Even if they don't all come in by next week, I have plenty to start them up with. It's amazing what you can accumulate in 15 years -- egads.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Some YNP pics ...

Neil and Nathan in front of the East Entrance sign. You'll notice they have Bootcamp, the Sock Kitty. The boys make movies with that thing and were just about to film him by the sign.

Nathan in the Lamar Valley. If you look carefully, you can see a herd of bison behind him. To the left of those was a herd of elk. It was so smoky that day because of some fires in the park, as well as the ones in Idaho.

This was our campsite at Canyon Campground. Unlike all the other sites, this particular one is all by itself. It looks like it's set on an old service road. I'd definitely stay at this spot again because there was literally no one around us. I believe it is site #277.

The moon looked really cool when we were there. I took this one with my camera, but got some better shots with Rick's zoom lens. I tried to take some at night, but they didn't turn out well. By that point, the smoke was so heavy that the moon looked blood red.

We stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at dusk. I'd never seen it that time of day, so it was pretty cool. Obviously, I didn't take many pictures because it was getting dark. This is the sign as you head to one of the lookouts.

And of course, what would any trip be without our good friend, Mr. Yoda! Here he is telling scary, ghost stories by the fire. "So creepy, I am!"

Wherever Yoda goes, Woody follows! Neil is totally into Woody. He used a birthday gift card to buy this Woody doll. He takes it everywhere. Between Woody, Yoda, and Bootcamp, we always have a crowd!

Rick and the boys walking through the thermal features of Old Faithful. It was pretty windy when we were out, but that worked to our advantage because it cleared away some of the smoke from the fires.

Neil really isn't much of a hiker. He doesn't seem to enjoy it as much as Nathan does. He's okay for awhile, but gets bored. He's more of our shopper and would rather check out the gift shops. Here he is getting mad at me for picking on him, so he took off running. He's such a little goober!

This is just a simple clover flower, obviously. For some reason, I like taking pictures of them. This one was hard to catch because it was windy.

The picture above was actually taken on our way out of the park. The sun and clouds looked really eerie with the smoke from the local fires. I'll post more pictures of the thermal features next time. I took a lot of those this trip because we spent most of our time in the Old Faithful area.