Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pictures of our platypus lapbook!

I wrote about our platypus lapbook last night. We finished it today and we had a LOT of fun doing this together! The one thing I didn't think about when we made this, but that I'll be sure to incorporate into future books, is a reference page. Bad me. Oh well. It was our first learning experience and I think we are going to have a blast doing more of these in the future. Ethan has already expressed interest in doing other books on the solar system as well as the process by which paper is made. Should be interesting. For this first book, our focus was mainly on learning how to group information and deciding what should be in the book. For future books, we'll add more handwriting to them and other things. Here are the pictures of our book:

Tithe Rap

This was too funny to pass up!! I LOVE the message of this rap!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Our first lapbook!

Just want to give a shout to my friend Kristi for turning me on to lapbooking! I had heard of lapbooks before but never really gave them a try. She sent me a few links several days ago and the rest is history. I think we'll be doing a LOT more of these in the near future. They are RIGHT up Ethan's creative alley. You can find out more information on lapbooks here if you are interested.

Anyway... I went out and bought some file folders today. I thought we could start by doing a solar system lapbook since Ethan enjoys studying space a lot. But oh no... my wonderful son has been wanting to study something else for quite some time lately. Trucks? Space? Sports? No Way! My Ethan has had a burning desire to learn more about the duck-billed platypus!! Yes, you read correctly... the PLATYPUS! So our first lapbook is about that! We spent several hours this evening researching and printing. Our first book will be very simple. But I can tell you this... I know WAY more about the platypus than I ever wanted to. I can tell you where they live, about their diet, habitat, life expetancy, predators, and the interesting factoids that set them apart from most other mammals! I feel so enlightened! We will finish it tomorrow... then I'll post pictures!

Portuguese kale & potato soup

I made a huge pot of soup tonight. It was to-die-for! (If I do say so myself, anyway!) It was called Portuguese kale & potato soup. I got it from Chef Keith Snow of I really like that website and I've seen him make a lot of recipes. In fact, I found this particular one on a page with nothing but soups listed. Soup is such a great food for wintertime. The original recipe calls for chorizo but I substituted linguica so that the kids could eat it. Chorizo is too spicy for them. I made another loaf of my homemade bread and it went very well with the soup. If you've ever had the zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden, this was very close to that. Kale is such a healthy vegetable and it was great to find a nice way to incorporate it into our eating. I will definitely be making this soup again!

Here is the recipe, courtesy of

Portuguese Kale & Potato Soup Recipe
Chef Keith Snow.
Name: Portuguese Kale & Potato Soup Recipe
Description: Learn how to make a delicious comfort food soup with spicy chorizo sausage.
Ingredients: 1-1/2 cups chorizo sausage (substitute Lincuica sausage if need be)
3 russet potatoes
5 cups kale, chopped
1 quart chicken stock
3 cups water
kosher salt
black pepper
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Directions: Cook chorizo sausage over medium heat to well browned, drain on paper towels and set aside.

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat add oil, garlic and onions, saute for 5 minutes.
2. Season with salt and pepper
3. Add chicken broth, 2 potatoes and kale then cover and cook for 25 minutes until potatoes are soft.
4. Mash potatoes up, then add 3 cups water, season with salt and pepper, add previously cooked chorizo and diced potatoes. Cook for 15 more minutes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fingerprint and thumbprint art

Yesterday afternoon Evan fell asleep on the couch for an afternoon nap. So Ethan and I took the time to delve into one of his birthday presents. He got a book called Ed Emberley's Complete FunPrint Drawing Book. 24 out of 25 Amazon reviewers gave it five stars! It's SO much fun! It's a whole book about how you can use your fingerprints and thumbprints to create characters and objects. For most of the characters, it shows you how to do this, step by step. We were able to make all sorts of creatures! We had a blast doing it. We mainly used a red stamp pad and a palette of chalks. But the book says that you can also paint watercolors onto your fingers and thumbs so I think I will try that next. I happen to have a palette of watercolors that I haven't even opened yet. Now I want to get more stamp pads in fun, bright, colors. The possibilities are endless and I thought it would be fun to make cards and other things using this concept! The author has several other drawing books out and I want them all! Here are some photos. The frog and other characters you see were made by me. I actually took a photograph of my piece of paper. I had planned on scanning Ethan's into the computer but my printer is acting up. As soon as I can resolve the issue I'll scan it. Otherwise I'll take a photograph of it tomorrow in the daylight. I highly recommend this book!!

Fence repairs

On Friday, Mike took the boys out help him fix some parts of our fence that needed to be repaired. They love an opportunity to use daddy's tools!

Move over no-knead bread...

...Here comes a much easier, much better way!!!

So the other day (Thursday I think), I got into a conversation with a friend who said she had found a wonderful way to have delicious, artisan bread in five minutes a day. Of course I had to inquire about this. The skeptic in me figured she had utilized some no-no shortcut, like using store-bought dough or something like that. How wrong I was. It's all true... we really CAN have artisan quality bread with only five minutes of work!!! I didn't believe it until I was slicing it and eating the very best bread I've ever made. (And mind you, that doesn't say a whole heck of a lot... it's not like I've made a ton of bread in my life or I'm some sort of bread connoisseur. Nothing could be further from the truth!) But with this method, even my children can make bread... every single day! I made bread on Saturday and Sunday. And that DOES say a lot because I was doing all that baking in the middle of my 3-day stretch of 12-hour shifts. I typically don't do anything on my long work weekends but work and sleep.

The name of the book is called Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day, by Jeff Herzberg and Zoe Francois. I think these people have changed my life forever! The idea behind this madness is that you make up a big batch of dough, let it sit on the counter for a few hours, then keep it in the refrigerator. When you want incredible bread, you cut off a hunk of dough, let it sit at room temperature for 40 minutes, then bake it. That's IT. Did you see that I didn't mention kneading? Yeah... that's because you NEVER knead this bread! In fact, you handle the dough as little as possible. Your hands never touch the dough for more than a minute. I'm dead serious.

The dough keeps for up to two weeks in the fridge. It gets better with time. And it's forgiving... VERY forgiving. On Sunday, I woke up and was horrified to find that what was left of my dough was sitting in a couple of cups of WATER! Evan finally admitted that he had "helped" me. He didn't want the dough to get dry so he added water for me. (Thank you Evan... love you so much!) So I picked up the sopping, slimy mess and was heartbroken. I pulled it into two pieces and tried to sort of make a ball out of each piece. I set them both on my floured cutting board and covered them liberally in flour, hoping the moisture would pick up some of the flour. I flopped them into the oven and was shocked that they still came out perfectly.

So... each batch of dough makes four loaves (or two large loaves). These are boules... free form balls that you bake on a stone. No pan needed. I have made four loaves. And I now have a large bowl of dough in the fridge again for us to use this week.

My head is swimming with possibilities... cinnamon rolls, pizza dough, bread, and other things. My friend Kristi made another recipe out of the book. It's whole wheat sandwich bread. She said it's amazing. So I may whip up that dough next. Plus, I am dying to make brioche dough and peasant dough. All easy... all amazing... all very tasty from what I've heard!

Here are some photos from my very first experience making this!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sugar Noogies & No Knead Bread

Okay, let me start by saying that I sing the praises of no-knead bread! If you love the taste of good, artisan bread but hate all the work involved, then no-knead bread is your answer! Truly, it's easy enough for Ethan to make and comes out so wonderfully. It's like eating restaurant bread. I first learned about no-knead bread a couple of years ago from a New York Times article by Mark Bittman. I was so intrigued that I had to make it. I got my friend Kristi hooked on making it too. I've only made the plain variety, but Kristi spices hers up with herbs and kalamata olives and it gets rave reviews from those lucky enough to partake of its goodness.

The gentleman who wrote the article recently came up with a speedy method for making the bread. I thought I'd give it a try today. Unfortunately, my yeast was on its last breath and the dough didn't rise appropriately. Rather than toss the dough out, I opted to try and salvage it in the form of donuts. I had no idea if it would work, but figured I had nothing to lose. The worst that would happen is that I'd have to throw out the dough, which I was going to have to do anyway.

So I heated up some vegetable oil in a pot and broke off little golf-ball-sized pieces of dough and tossed them in the hot oil. I cooked them for about 7-10 minutes in batches of about ten. I think they made about 40 or 50 little donuts. I cooled them on paper towels, just enough to get the excess oil off and then rolled them in cinnamon sugar. To say they were hit would be an understatement! They are not like typical donuts. These are very, very dense... more dough and less air, unlike their store-bought counterparts. So just a few will fill you up quickly. But they are really good. Ethan affectionatly named them "Sugar Noogies". Mike and I liked it. I think we'll make them again... and I do believe we will continue to call them Sugar Noogies! They remind me of a cross between andagi and malasadas... either way you can't go wrong!

I give you... a plate of sugar noogies!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

44 Presidents Morph

I thought this was a cool video!

A new president - An inaugural speech

Today the 44th president of our country, Barack H. Obama, took the oath of office. I must admit, he gave a moving inaugural speech. I hope and pray that the words he uttered do come to pass. As this is a piece of our country's history, I wish to include the words of his speech here today:

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and ploughed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the fire-fighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: “Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fun with our cousins!

The boys had no school today so we spent a fun day with our cousins! First we went to Odyssey 1 in Tacoma so that everyone could play and work out some of their energy! We were joined by a classmate of Evan's. His name is Nathan. Nathan and Evan have become good friends and they play together with Ethan almost everyday after school. Nathan also brought a friend with him. So in total there were 8 kids! Evan's other classmate, Michael was going to join us too but he ended up not coming. Incidentally, Michael moved in to the area well after the school year started and he and Evan and took to each other right away. Imagine everyone's surprise when they discovered that they were also in the same primary class!

The kids played HARD at Odyssey. Then we enjoyed some lunch and said goodbye to our friends. Our group headed over to the Washington State History Museum, which was open all day for free! We were excited to find a free activity. We got lucky and found parking right next to the museum and then walked over to the entrance. I had no idea just how big the place was. There were FIVE STORIES to explore! It was crowded of course. Not only was it a free day, but it was also the MLK holiday and they had a lot of activities going on surrounding that. We didn't stay very long. It's hard to keep the attention of 6 children when they range in age so greatly. But that was the main reason I wanted to go on a free day.

The kids got to see a very cool train exhibit. We got lucky because that exhibit, which has been there since April of last year, will be leaving on the 24th of this month.

They also got to dress up in period clothing and had a lot of fun with that. They looked so cute! Unfortunately, they refused to pose for a group shot, so this is what we got. No flash photography allowed so it was hard to get pictures that were well lit but not blurry (the joys of moving bodies!)

When we were done in the museum, our plan was to head back to the car and go home. But a couple of the kids had other ideas. Ethan suggested we take a nice walk and Samantha proclaimed that she really wanted to go on a trolley ride. No problem. We still had an hour and a half left on our parking tag (we had to purchase a minimum of 3 hours). As an added bonus, I had heard that the downtown Tacoma trolley was free. It goes a really short distance, from the theater district over to the Tacoma Dome and back. So we hopped on at Union Station and took the ride. The kids LOVED it!

And here are some pictures of the beauty of downtown Tacoma: