Monday, April 19, 2010

Jenny's Garden Party

My Cousin Jenny is such a "Cool Chick"! She is an unschoolin', nature lovin', peace promotin' Momma of 4 kids... I dunno how many animals... and a city yard full of GREEN! She has gardens covering almost her entire front and back yard. From vegetables to flowers to fruit trees to herbs to medicinal plants to chickens and quail. She cooks, cans, dehydrates, produces, and gives from her heart. It's so cool to see someone find their passion, and grow it!

She recently started her own business, Ellaberry Gardens. Check it out at for a look-see. She is hosting monthly classes right in her own yard, and she is offering guidance on garden planning, plotting, installation, and even some maintenance. She is a wealth of information and her passion for keeping it green shines through. I can relate to the "domestic" feeling that comes from harvesting, preparing, and feeding your favorite people freshness and goodness ~ especially when it's straight from your own back yard.

She came up with this cool idea to have a "Garden Swap Party" this spring. Everyone brought extra seedlings, plants, starts from their own gardens and beds, and even used books, pots, garden tools, etc. We laid it all out and swapped with each other! It was so cool! I came home with some vegetables, herbs, a thornless blackberry shoot, and a broken clay pot (I'm hoping a frog will make it "home" in my flower beds). It was a blast!

My 2 favorite parts about the party? 1.) The elderberry tea made from a homemade syrup Jenny harvests from her elderberry bush (add honey and tea). and 2.) the tour of her gardens while listening to all the other ladies asking questions and offering each other experiential advice and ideas.

This Thursday is her first official class and I can't wait! I love to learn this way... and I'm so excited for Jenny and her new business venture!

Okay ~ favorite thing 3.) Jenny's spinach dip! Here's the recipe:

1 fresh bunch, 1 fresh bag or 1 bag of frozen spinach 8-10oz
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise
½ tsp lemon juice
½ small onion, shredded
2 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 of dried parsley
1 tsp chopped chives, or garlic chives
¼ tsp salt, pepper
½ tsp onion powder and paprika

***For extra texture, color or crunch try adding a handful of chopped or sliced water chestnuts, and or a handful of thinly shredded carrot.

Remove any large steams on leaves, chop spinach thoroughly and boil for 2 ½ - 3 minutes. Strain and rinse with cool water; let sit in strainer for 5-10 minutes, and then blot with paper towel to dry. Add sour cream and mayonnaise, mix well. Add remainder of ingredients, then chill, serve warm or cold with crusty bread, crackers or use a vegetable dip.

If using frozen spinach, let thaw then gently squeeze out water, or strain. Pat to dry and mix as directed above.

Thanks Jenny for a great garden party!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Garden Goes In

We built the raised bed, added the garden compost, and plunked our little plants in the ground. Also we planted a bunch of seedlings for Charis to have lots of flowers to pick and arrange this summer ~ one her favorite pass-times.
We are going to add a few plants that are more mature, but it was fun to grow some from seeds.

Tiny Piece of Enjoyment

At the Homeschoolin' Mom's Retreat, I received a "Favorite Things" gift from my new friend Toni. She gave one of her favorite worship CD's, which I totally love! It reminds me a tiny bit of Silver Dollar City, and has a fun "country" kick to it. I'm really enjoying it. Great background worship music. Also... you know the big thick blue rubber bands that come on the bunch of broccoli from the store? Well... she put 2 of those rubber bands in her give-away, and said they are an awesome kitchen tool for opening jars! Place one rubber band on the lid, and one on the jar, and twist! Viola! Haven't tried it yet, but she said it works wonders.
And perhaps my favorite part... she gave a bag of Ghirdardelli chocolates. She said her special secret with the chocolate is that when she needs a little "pick-me-up" throughout the day (or even just for the Mommy-heck-of-it) she pulls out a couple little pieces of the chocolate, and enjoys them a few pieces at a time. Sounds great, huh!?!? 'Cept, I don't really like chocolate by itself, so I improvised. I made teeny-tiny little oatmeal, pecan, chocolate chip cookies, that I will freeze and hide and use for the Mommy-heck-of-it when I need it or want it. Love it! Needless to say, I've already had one today. Thanks Toni!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Our Town, America

Selah has been interested in how America was first established, so we've done some reading this morning and last week too about the early explorers and settlers of the United States. We've read some fiction from the American Girl Kirsten books, we've read in a heritage book learning about the early colonies, the Separatists (ie. Pilgrims), what the first settlements looked like, how they interacted and learned from the Indians, etc.

So today we were talking about how you can tell what your towns people like and are interested in by the things you see in your town. Duh. But I've never sat back and thought about it. Selah said, "Owasso has lots of restaurants, houses, churches, and banks." So yep. We pretty much value our families, like to eat, lots of Jesus fans, and places to keep our money. Ha! Then I started thinking about it. This is a "bedroom" community of Tulsa. There are many more houses than businesses or places to work. This town is highly centered around the kids, especially when it comes to sports and extra curricular activities (hence the need for all the place to eat ~ we are an "on-the-go" community with all the activities the kids enjoy after school). We do live in a highly churched community. Even within the public school system, Jesus is not a foreign word, and many many of the teachers and administration are Christians, allowing some of that to creep into the kids' lives, even while at school (hence, a town that is filled with mostly honest, good, people-loving, Godly men and women, and this results in not a lot of crime or danger).

It's really neat to sit back and think about the make-up of our country. Think about the towns that are more urban... lots of parks and gardens, running tracks, museums, culture, etc. Or the towns that are extremely business and higher education oriented, such as Chicago or Boston ~ you may not see as many kids, cars, soccer fields, etc. And what about the people down south? There is a lot of value in nature, people, agriculture, sweet tea and front porch sittin'. So you won't see as much "fashion" perhaps as you would in New York. Start paying attention to various towns. All over America there are "different people" in a sense, with very different interests and abilities. You can tell a lot about the people by merely observing the things that the town has in it. Kind-a cool, huh. I love 1st grade! I'm learning so much! lol!!! Yep, Owasso is good enough for me. As long as I can get away for some "enlightening" at least a couple times a year.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Weekend of Tri's

This weekend was a BLAST!!! As every weekend seems to be when the kids are busy and active with sports. Last night I had my Mom's Retreat, so I only got a few hours of sleep (tri).
All the kids played soccer games at 9:30am(tri)
Bryson scored 3 goals (tri)
Selah had a tournament and played 3 games (tri)
Alan ran his first Triathlon (tri)
And.... we ate out 3 times in a row (gotta get another tri in here...).
Yeah. Okay. Whatever.

Saturday was filled with soccer. I love this picture I snapped of Alan and Selah going over some soccer plays while eating lunch.

Alan ran his first sprint-triathlon early Sunday morning. Selah had a game early in the morning too, so the kids and I went to her game, then over to see him cross the finish-line. Luckily, as we were driving up to the Rec Center, the kids thought they saw him running along the sidewalk. So we quick pulled into a car wash parking lot and watched him jog by. I snapped this picture of him.

Then we waited at the finish line, and cheered for him as he finished!! Yay! He did so good! His goal was 1hr-30min, and he really wanted to finish in 1hr-15min. His final time was 1hr-17min. I'm proud of him. 400 meters of swimming, 12 miles biking, and 2 miles of running to finish up.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 Homeschoolin' Mom's Retreat

Last night we had our annual Mom's Retreat with Heritage Homeschool Group. 2 years ago when Selah was educated at home, we were a part of this newly formed group, and she and I both really liked it. This January when we pulled her out of school, and brought her home to learn again, she asked right away if we could join the group again. It has been so fun. We've met some new people and caught up with old friends from when we were in the group before. We've had a lot of fun on our Friday Fun Days, and we've been on some pretty cool field trips.

I jumped right in to help plan the annual Mom's Retreat. It was a night to remember!
We stayed in all night/over night at Tulsa's Indoor Urban Campout. The 3rd floor of a building downtown has been turned into an indoor camp site, complete with artificial campfires, turf grass, and tents. It was very cool, with a panoramic view of downtown. We voted to have a relaxing "night in" so we all brought appetizers and wore our comfy clothes. We even poured ourselves a little "somethin'-somethin'" and climbed the fire escape to the rooftop at night. The lit up downtown buildings in the open air was so refreshing and fun! We all brought in food and we had lots of "group time" to get to know each other better. There are some really cool Mom's in our group! One who use to do show business... one who has published a book... one who has played Belle and "kissed the beast" on stage... one who once walked into the kitchen **naked** trying to be all sexy for her husband, but instead it was her Father-in-law who was standing there (eye-yi-yi!)... a few who are entrepreneurs, several who have adopted their children... several who are trying hard to figure out their new walk with the Lord, and ALL who love their kids and are devoting their lives to giving them the best possible life experiences.
A really fun part of the evening is the "favorite things" gift exchange. Everyone brings a little basket full of a few of your favorite things to give away. We all take turns showing-and-telling about our favorite things, and then we give our basket away to another Mom.
And to end the night, we did a fun craft. We took our boring ol' brooms, and mod-podged them. Now we all have blingy brooms!
I'm a lil' tired today, but it was worth it. We had a really good time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Day Of Learning & Play

Here are a couple pics of how we learn and play at our house. We live... we play... we explore... we build... we read... we cook... we eat... and we are happy! Actually... we are happier than ever.

Today the kids did lots of building, playing, reading, and cooking. Selah asked if she could help make dinner today. Plus a dessert. She chose chicken tacos, and homemade salsa. I had been wanting to make the Pioneer Woman's Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares, so I showed her the recipe and pics on the PW's blog, and we spent a couple hours in the kitchen whipping it all up.
Last week she planned and helped me cook several of the meals. She's quite the little "foodie" so she really does get into the cooking part too. The past couple days she has been telling me she wants cookbooks for Christmas. And several times I will see her looking through the cookbooks she got from her Aunt Lydia or that I have bought for her.
So we made dinner ~ and it was "de-lish" as we like to say.

Something we learned a few weeks ago... did you know the tastebuds that detect "sour" are on the sides of your tongue? So we tested it out again just for fun ~ ewwwie!

Also... did you know that when you zest a fruit, you are suppose to hold the fruit in one hand, and with the zester in the other hand, rub the zester up and down over the fruit? Not the other way around. I've always held the zester still, and ran the lemon back and forth over it, but instead, the PW says you are suppose to hold the lemon still, and run the zester over it. I'm not sure if it worked better doing it her way ~ I couldn't really tell.

We don't do "school" in the conventional way. Kids are naturally curious. My kids are smart and they love to learn, and when they are interested, they soak it up and remember it! While we were at the store today, I picked up some "solar" lighting for the back patio landscaping, and it brought on a conversation on solar power. What does "solar" mean? How does the heat and rays from the sun actually give power? When they asked me these questions today, I didn't know the answers to all their questions. So I asked them if they wanted to learn about the sun and solar power and light, and they excitedly said "YES!!" So... we're about to learn all about it. I'll start gathering the facts, and we'll be on our way to learning something new. Hey, wait a minute, my kids are going to be as smart as me soon...

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Grandma Rada

My Grandma Rada. This is my Mom's Mom. She is 80 years old. And she is a hoot. I mean... so much so... that as a kid I didn't know WhaT to think of her. Ya know? She is so funny, matter of fact, and not shy at all. She makes the best waffles (served with peanut butter and syrup). She is very very silly, says dingy things, loves to sing, pops our toes, doesn't have the highest IQ so you have to explain some things to her several times... yet she is so keen on other things that she can put you in your place. She loves people and just wants to be in on whatever is going on. And more than anything she LOVES the Lord.

She ~ like all in this line of women that I come from ~ is incredibly strong. Since I was a little girl, I have only known her to cook, clean, garden, can (foods she grows), bake, take a short nap every single day, and then do it all over again. When she needs to take a break, she can be found sitting on the couch crocheting or reading.

During all the years I was growing up, they owned a 2000 acre ranch. Their house was on the top of a hill that overlooked it all. We called it "the ranch" and we always gathered there for holidays, and especially for 4th of July, my Mom's birthday. There was a pool just below their house on the hill, and there was a big balcony on the house that over looked the pool. The balcony had a porch swing on the end, several twin beds that lined the walls, and of course lots of chairs to sit in. The kids would all swim, and the adults would hang out on the balcony, overlooking the pool, as well as overlooking the ranch land for as far as the eye could see. Literally. They had cows, horses, cowboys, 4 wheelers, and horned toads (me and my brother and cousins liked to look for those little lizard/toad things along the gravel roads). And a unicorn, which we searched for several times, but never found. During the winter months when the pool was closed, all the kids would play ping-pong or pool in the game room downstairs. And at any time, we could be found playing Boggle with Grandma. That is a memory I'll always connect to her. She loved to play Boggle with us.

My Mom would take us kids to see her almost weekly, and for the first 8 years of my life, we would all go up on Friday night and spend the night. My Mom and Grandma would make fried chicken or catfish, potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, bread, and of course some sort of cake or pie. We would always sit and snap the beans together ahead of time, and I would usually help. Everything was from her garden. If I remember right, her garden was 100x200 feet in size. And she canned everything. Of course they had their own beef, and there were ponds for fishing. She had a store room in the basement that had shelves lined with jars of her food she had canned.

For the past 15 years they have lived in a small house with a regular sized yard on Grand Lake. While the yard is much smaller than the ranch, she has filled it with gardens. She still cans foods, and she bakes pies and breads all the time. She is 80 years old, yet she has a little table set up in the front of her yard, and 9 months out of the year is open for business. All the people that live at the lake stop daily for pies, breads, and canned goods. This is the beginning of April, and she told me she has already had her garden in since February. She said Grandpa is doing most of the gardening now, and she is still in the kitchen all day canning and baking. Wow. That amazes me. Makes me love her and makes me miss my Momma at the same time.

A woman who loves the Lord. A woman who respects her husband. A woman to takes care of her home, her body, her family. A woman who runs a business. All of this for her whole life, and all of this still, at 80 years old. Talk about the Proverbs 31 woman. Wow.

I haven't been to her house since my Mom died. Mom and I use to take the kids and go to visit Grandma together. But for the past couple years, I've only seen my Grandma Rada at holiday family gatherings, and we talk on the phone. I'm not sure I can remember how to find her house on the lake, but I decided that the kids and I are going to start making regular trips out there. Mostly because I want to be able to help her if she wants help gardening, cutting/slicing, canning, cleaning, or whatever. Also, I want to be able to learn from her. She is a wealth of information along the lines of the things I knew and know... and now want for my kids and our family. She can teach me the trades of gardening and canning and such.

It breaks my heart, but my kids don't have the kind of history with a Grandma that I had with my Grandma's. I saw both sets of Grandparents at least a few times a month. We spent lots of time at the Ranch, and my other Grandparents spent many many days out at our farm growing up. Selah and Bryson have a few years of memories with my Mom that I hope they can hang on to, and Charis says she remembers her, but I'm not sure how much. The kids love their other Grandma very much, but she lives a few hours away and with a busy life and schedule, so they don't get to spend much time together. I'm hoping that with what time we have left, my kids can watch and be a part of the relationship I have with my Grandma's. The kids already know and love and enjoy their Great-Grandma GiGi. After all, I'm a big believer in investing and planting seeds in their hearts while they are young. I want them to know the importance of family, and of their heritage. There's a window of time in which that can be made real, not just mere words.
Now that the kids are a little bigger and we can travel an hour to the lake and back, I want them to get to know my Grandma Rada better. I want them to learn about her life. How she gardens and cans and bakes and sells. I want them to have memories for how ever much longer she is around, of a silly lady who likes to hear about our lives and who will tell ya what she thinks about it. And I have been waiting for the right time... for Bryson, Selah, and Charis... to get to play their first game of Boggle.

Spring is here, and the time is near.

Great Grandma Rada's Secret to Long Life

Occasionally my kids and I will be talking about healthy lifestyles, making right choices for foods, exercise, or other things of that nature, and often times mention of my Grandparents will come up.

Both sets of my Grandparents are still alive, and into their 80's. It wasn't until I was a teenager and into young adulthood that my Great-Grandparents started passing away. I figured out early on that that was a bit rare. Good genes (and wrinkles, unfortunately) run in the family.

So my kids have began to realize this as well, and often will say things like "that's why PaPa Jim and GiGi are so healthy still! Because they always exercise every day, and because they eat lots of veggies."

At our family Easter dinner the kids and I were sitting on the couch chatting with my Grandma Rada, and I said, "Grandma, the kids and I often talk about how you and Grandpa are 80 years old, and are still so healthy! The kids will ask me to tell them about how you've managed to stay so healthy and active."

And her response was something very close to this:

"Well... (batting her eyes and smacking her lips) Charlie and I have always eaten very healthy. Lots of vegetables from my garden, and other healthy foods that are always made from scratch ~ not much junk food at all. We also exercise and go for walks. We work really hard in the yard and around the house. And I take a nap every day! Every single day I lay down for a short nap. And most importantly I talk to the Lord throughout the day. There is a verse in the bible that I quote out loud.... Philippians 4:6-7, which says "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Selah sat on my lap and listened so intently. Bryson and Charis were standing by and soaking it all in. They of course smiled at her because of the dramatization that she adds to her "story telling." At this point, Selah had a smile on her face as Grandma continued on:

"And even now-a-days when I'm trying to can food, or work in the garden, and my knee starts to bother me or slow me down, I stop and rest for a few minutes and say to the Lord "those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength... they shall mount up on wings, like eagles! They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint (Selah giggled at that part), help me Lord, help me Lord, to wait."
And then! I have another burst of energy and strength that comes from the Lord, and I get up and keep working and keeping myself as healthy as I can. That's how I do it!"

And then she did what every good Grandma would do, and she pulled out chocolate Cadbury Cream Eggs from her purse for the kids. Except this Grandma made them stand back, and she threw them at them and told them to try to catch it. She's one-of-a-kind, that's for sure!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter ~ He Is Risen!

(This egg was the hardest one for the kids to find!)

This morning the "Bush-y tailed Easter Bunny" had left eggs all over the front yard for the kids! So before church, they had a fun little egg hunt, finding eggs full of candy and money ~yeah! Thanks Kathy and Jessica. That was so sweet!

Worship was awesome today. As it is every Sunday. But Easter is a special occasion to remember and celebrate Jesus, our Risen Lord. Wow. Really great time of celebration. I'm so thankful we have a risen Savior who's in the world today. I love to see my children learning to love Him and celebrate Him too.

Then we spent the afternoon at Dad's. We had a picnic, hid eggs for yet another egg hunt (I think the 4th one this weekend), and went on a little hayride around the farm.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

PBS Young Writers Contest

Selah has been learning about writing stories. Often times when I say "what do you wanna do or learn about today? She'll say "let's do some English stuff! She has been learning all about the parts of a sentence, nouns, verbs, the different kinds of sentences, and now about writing a story. Perfect timing for the PBS Young Writers Contest.

She wrote this story this week, which is a true account of her life with her brother and sister. She spent 4 days, about 5 hours a day or more, working on the story. And 90% of that time was spent on the illustrations. Needless to say, we also learned all about "rough drafts" ~ ha. I helped her with a few fragment sentences and we worked on a few spelling issues, but overall these are her words, and it is her story.

She was driven by the fact that she was going to be able to enter her story in a contest, and by the fact that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes are really good prizes! Most of the time during the week I would remind her to work on her story, but she would quickly and happily get to work on it. Often times I would find her sitting at the kitchen table working away.

She did a great job. I scanned a copy of her story, but the color is much more vibrant in real life. Our scanner doesn't do it justice, but I wanted to post it on my blog. I'm really proud of her! She worked hard on it. She is hoping that she wins that laptop computer, but she understands that in the end, she wrote and illustrated a really neat story about her being a big sister, and that that alone is really cool.