Pumpkin cake

After 3 pumpkin pie dinners in a week, I’m pumpkin pied out. Well tonight was our turn to host a “Thanksgiving” dinner and I had 2 cans of pumpkin in the pantry. I decided to do pumpkin spice cake instead. It was a big hit. Very filling.

Its a bit heavy but very good with cream cheese icing. Nuts and/or raisins are optional.

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 eggs

1 cup oil

1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

1 can (16 oz) pumpkin

mix well, bake 350 for 45-60 mins until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting: I mixed this with a fork. It was thick to mix and had very small cream cheese bits when finished.

8oz cream cheese (softened)

1/4 cup butter (softened)

1 tsp vanilla

1 c powdered sugar

Kindergarten math readiness

This afternoon I dug out the Math-U-See Primer video I use for kindergarten math. I was trying to decide if my daughter may be ready for kindergarten in the fall or if she needs to wait. I think she will be ready for reading but wasn’t sure about math.

She sat in my lap while we watched the first 10 lessons. Steve Demme sure makes it engaging for the kids. I had wooden blocks and we sorted and counted them by shape for the shape lessons. She understood most of it since it was counting (she’s been watching Winnie the Pooh 123’s all week). After we watched them she wanted to get the math blocks and start the books (after her nap 😆 ).

Richard observed that “She has the same math teacher as me, neat!” For him this was a fun review with lots of “I remember that”. Unfortunately, he quickly tried to add on more complexity than she could handle and wound up confusing her instead of helping. I can tell I will need to have him busy while helping her to keep them from distracting each other.

After watching these lessons together and asking her a few questions, I think she will be ready to do this in the fall. I e-mailed the homeschool program and they have restarted the $200 pre-k allotment which would allow me to get her own set of blocks and the Primer workbook as well as whatever non-CLE reading or other materials we may need. Watch out kindergarten, here comes Karen!

Here’s what kindergarten curriculum I plan to use for her:

Math: Math-U-See Primer & starter blocks $45

Reading: Christian Light Education Learning to Read $85

Writing: Abeka either ABC Writing Tablet $9.50 or K5 Writing with Phonics $10

That should keep us busy. We will add in extras like learning videos, library trips, and read alouds depending upon her her interests. She will probably also do some of her brother’s history projects.

Fitness update 2

I’m afraid to say I haven’t made much progress this week. First, I was sick and so didn’t feel like exercising. Then we ate out because we had many appointments in town one day with no time to go home and fix dinner. The end result of all this is that I didn’t loose any weight this week. However, I didn’t gain any either so I guess that’s good.

I don’t think this next week will be much better. Thursday was Thanksgiving. We went to the Pioneer Home where my mother in law lives and had dinner there with her.  Yesterday we went to a friend’s home and had turkey dinner with them. Today my husband is on his weekly trip to Healy for coal so I’ll make dinner at home. I have come down with a sick stomach and not eating much today. Tomorrow my mother in law and some of her friends will be coming up here for our turkey dinner.

Holiday toy shopping

It’s almost the crazy consumer holiday season. Are you ready?

Most kids (including mine) are making wish lists and parents are checking them and their wallets twice. Stores are sending out colorful catalogs and newspaper ads to show you what you need to buy. Shop til you drop has replaced family and religion as the focus of Christmas in America today. Sure, you may go to midnight candlelight service Christmas eve, but you really just can’t wait until the presents in the morning. You prepare, scheme, wrap, hide for days, weeks or even months to get the prefect gifts.

If your family has kids, those gifts will probably be some sort of toys. So what’s the best toys? Are they the latest greatest the toy companies say kids want? Do they have to be battery operated or connected to a video screen? Do they have to cost a fortune? Do they even have to be new?

NO! Most definitely not. Sure the kids will be very happy and play with them, but after the newness wears off these will likely be found in the back of the closet or broken.

Many of the popular toys this year are pretty expensive. Rather than trying to buy expensive toys for everyone, consider buying several smaller, inexpensive toys to each child then one large expensive toy for them to all share. Or try games the family can play together.

What about their motives for wanting them? Is it because their friends have them? Is it because their friends don’t have them and they want to be the first? Peer pressure and envy are huge parts of kids decisions. I’m not saying don’t give them some things they want, just be careful about why they want them and that they will be played with longer than the first week. To give a child every toy they want, is to cater to their greed and selfishness. They don’t learn modesty or the joy of giving that way.

Try to get toys that foster creativity that can be used in more than one way like dolls (even for boys), blocks of all kinds, art and craft supplies, and of course stuffed, plastic, or wooden animals. Cars, trains, vehicles of all sorts keep kids busy for hours. Sports equipment such as balls, jump ropes, bikes, and other outdoor toys encourage creativity and active play. Card and board games make good gifts as long as you are comfortable with the number of little pieces that are destined to be strewn all over. Also, they should be consistent with the interests and age of the kids.

Toys don’t have to be new. My kids actually enjoyed used toys from their friends garage sale left overs better because they new they were once loved by other kids. Thrift shops are a great place for used toys, especially stuffed animals. Used toys should be clean and in good condition. No one wants a broken toy.

Another thing, NEVER allow a toy whose purpose is violence. This includes but is not limited to video games, GI Joe and other action figures, toy guns including squirt and bubble guns, swords, rocket launchers. These toys only show that you approve violence and encourage it. Toys imitate life and vice versa. There are plenty of toys available that aren’t violent which kids enjoy. Boys won’t be wimps just because they aren’t allowed to play violence.

We do not allow our kids to have toy guns or play guns with sticks or other toys. This includes playing army, cops/robbers, etc. Guns are tools and dangerous, deadly weapons. Under no circumstance should guns (real or pretend) be allowed to be used as toys. If friends want to come over and play, we make sure they understand our rule. I also kindly request when they play at other kids’ homes that they not be allowed to play guns. Other parents have always been understanding in honoring this request. Its also a great way to witness to them Christian non-violence and non-resistance.

Yes, it is possible for kids to have too many toys. Kids with too many toys often want even more toys just to have something different. They are more likely to mistreat and break toys because they take them for granted. A few, well made toys are often better than many toys.

Anabaptists.org has a good article about toys and play. I’ve linked to it before, but feel it is important to remember and keep in mind while shopping for toys this holiday season.

Stores open at the unheard of early 4 or 5AM Friday to try to lure shoppers in on the busiest shopping day of the year. As for me, I’ve never seen the need to get up that early just to spend money. We don’t need anything that badly. I’m taking Friday off not to shop, but to relax with my family. Then I’ll get the My Little Pony, doll house, and ski poles later during the week when stores aren’t crazy busy.

School’s almost halfway over

Yikes! How did we get so much done in so few months? It’s amazing the amount of material we’ve covered so far this year. We started in mid-August and haven’t taken any of those one- or two-day holidays like the public and many private schools do. As a result, we’re almost halfway through the school year.

I like how we’ve been able to slip in bits about trusting God and other religious tidbits. While we do have a specific Bible curriculum, I don’t think religious teaching needs to be a segregated, separate subject at this age. There are numerous teachable Christian moments in other subjects, especially history and science. If Christian teaching isn’t integrated to life, then you aren’t living a Christian life. This attitude is best started when they are young. They need to see how what they are learning affects their lives as a Christian.

I’ve had a few sick days for me when I don’t care how much he gets done. Surprisingly, he got more done on those days than usual. He likes to work ahead in handwriting. Then he gets upset when we catch up and he has to do it again.

I’m still glad we changed to Christian Light Education for reading and language arts. I feel he is learning much better. They also share our strong work ethic, positive morals, and belief in individual accountability which are reflected in the lessons. I like how it’s paced and the review sections are great. Next week we will finish unit 4 of 10 for both of these. I never did the Abeka spelling. He’s doing fine with the words in the CLE lists. His main writing problems are motivation and self-confidence. I should add creative writing next year. Still, he’s doing more sentence writing and structure than Abeka would.

He has a problem with carefully following directions. His dad was homeschooled and had similar problems when he was that age.  At first I ignored it because it was new material he was having trouble with (and we were getting used to CLE). Now I know he understands but just is in a rush, so he’s not carefully reading directions. CLE has quizzes and unit tests. While we haven’t done all the quizzes, he’s done all the tests. He does well when he reads directions but I’m now marking answers he improperly followed directions as wrong. For instance he underlines when the directions say to circle or he put an X on the things that were supposed to be circled and vice versa. I’m not going to let him skate by on autopilot like last year. As a result, some of his scores are rather low.

For math we are over halfway. Yesterday he did lesson 17 out of 30. We do math 2 days a week. He’s not needed many review days this year so he often does 2 lessons in one week. I’m thinking he may need to take a test here soon. I’m pretty sure he understands the work. It’s more of a following directions test to be sure he correctly applies the directions (rounds to ten thousands instead of just thousands).

We’re enjoying the history. I’ve not done much of the native American stuff. Most of those projects I would have to finish instead of him. It’s supposed to be HIS history. I don’t mind helping, but he needs to do most of the work. We’ve been learning about the colonial period the last few weeks.

When we get to the Revolutionary War and later wars, we’ll talk about the problems of a Christian participating in war for any reason and conscientious objectors like the Mennonites. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” Matthew 7:1 and “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgived.” Luke 7:37. Participating in war is a huge judgement upon your fellow man. You’re judging to death! Not to mention Isaiah 2:4, “And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war way more.”

Little Karen is enjoying preschool. She’s learning colors and numbers. We should be finished with Doing My Best next week then starting Adventures with Books, the first in the next set of activity books. I think we will start CLE’s Learning to Read in the fall. I don’t want to rush her and she’s needing lots of help with this next set of preschool activity books. Plus her hand coordination isn’t quite good enough for writing properly. She’s starting to enjoy some of the manipulative learning games now.

Fitness update 1

OK, I know I just started Slim in 6 and posted about it yesterday. Still, today is Thursday so I’d thought I’d kick off the fitness updates.

First, the scale said 170 this morning. Yeah, 2 pounds lost this week!

I was rather sore when I got up this morning. By afternoon I was a bit better and I did Start It Up. My chest wrapping to my back and calves are the sorest. The routine was a little easier today but still left me sweating.

I cheated and ate a snack (cereal) last night. I haven’t had any snacks today. Dinner tonight is fresh baked salmon, herb potatoes, broccoli, and salad. Last night my husband said he didn’t mind splurging a bit more often on nicer (healthy) dinners like tonight’s since it’s still cheaper than eating out (even fast food). I’ve decided to buy a bunch of herbal teas to drink when I feel like a snack. It’s not the same as a satisfying salty crunch but better than water or nothing.

I’m still having beginners excitement. Plus the fact that I’m already starting to see results, doesn’t hurt. This coming week, I may switch to the next level, Ramp It Up. We will continue healthy eating choices. I have 2 “S days” to look forward to- Saturday and Sunday. I’m not sure what I’ll splurge with but will likely have less than I used to for sweets.

My husband called this afternoon from the gym. He sounded pleasantly surprised when I told him I just started exercising too. Is that a coincidence or what? Anyway, I told him I’m reserving from 4PM until dinner for exercise then making a healthy dinner. He seemed to think that was a good idea. I will still answer the business phone while making dinner but workout time is MY TIME. I get frustrated and sore if I stop in the middle for too long. So scheduling problem solved for now anyway.

Now I just need to keep up my motivation and stick to the plans I’ve laid.

Slim in 6, day 1

As the ticker says: one pound lost 46 to go. The trick is not to let myself get burned out and give up. I’ll post weekly updates. Well today I decided to start Slim in 6 for my exercise program.

It has 3 levels. The first is Start it Up. I’d forgotten how intense some of the moves are, especially at first. They’re really targeted. I’m tired but in a good way if you know what I mean. I didn’t do all the yoga/stretches at the end. They hold them way to long. Plus, I’m not that flexible to begin with so on some of them it was a struggle just getting into the positions.

I’ve lost a pound since Monday! However, with small loses like that it could just be a fluke. Sill it’s better than a small gain 🙂 Hopefully the combination of intense exercising with Slim in 6 and No S Diet eating plan will keep the scale going backwards. I’ll find out in a week when I get on the scale again.

One thing I remember from past intense exercise programs is they make me hungry. Your body wants to replace those calories just burned. The trick is not to give in. I want the metabolism increase to work for me. I’m hoping to time it so I finish about an hour before dinner like I did today. Then I’ll eat a sensible dinner because NO S = No Snacks. Tonight’s dinner is vegetarian rice stuffed peppers and cauliflower with perhaps a salad.

We just bought $150 worth of healthy groceries yesterday. Having healthy food on hand rather than junk when I’m making dinner will be great, not just for me but for my whole family.

Last time I did Slim in 6 I only managed to go 5 weeks. Still, I could tell the difference, especially in my arms and legs. I also needed a smaller bra. I don’t know what my overall change was since I wasn’t tracking weight. Beach Body recommends measuring yourself all over (arms, legs, waist, chest, hips) Then track those changes. That’s just too much like work.

They also recommend their supplements and diet program. I think that is going too far. While diet and supplements are an important part of an overall fitness program, it doesn’t necessarily have to be their diet and supplements. I already take One a Day Weight Smart and Caltrate calcium. The extra B vitamins helps with seasonal depression.

I’ll see you again next week for a fitness update. Hopefully there will be less of me then.

Chimney stack robber

No, someone didn’t steal our chimney. 😛 In September we ordered a stack robber. It finally came in. My husband installed it this morning.

A stack robber is a metal box about 16 inches tall that sits on the chimney. Actually, it becomes part of the chimney. It sits between two lengths of stove pipe. The smoke goes up through it. As it does, there are horizontal tubes in the box that a fan blows inside air through. As the hot smoke goes around the tubes they heat up. The fan blows some of the “waste” heat that would have gone up the chimney out into the room.

When this house was built, it was designed to have a stack robber. Hence, there’s an electrical outlet halfway up the wall behind the wood stove. It looked very out of place unless you knew why it was that high.

The stack robber has already made a difference on how evenly the house is heating. We had a fan at the end of the hall pulling warm air from the living room but the stack robber blowing extra “waste” heat down there works much better. It doesn’t change the efficiency of the woodstove.

One of the drawbacks of stack robbers is the chimney is cooler so more creosote can build up. This can potentially cause a chimney fire unless you clean it more often. However, our wood stove is a downdraft stove and normally produces little creosote so I’m not sure how much of a concern it is in this case.

Brrr, winter’s here

After a glorious long fall and snowy early winter, winter has finally set in with our first below zero cold spell starting this week. I don’t know why it is a surprise to me. It usually is below zero around Thanksgiving. Here’s the forecast for this week.

Mostly cloudy. Scattered snow showers. Lows zero to 10 below. Light winds.
Mostly cloudy. Scattered flurries. Highs 5 below to 5 above. Light winds.
Tuesday Night
Mostly cloudy. Lows 10 to 25 below. Coldest in valleys. Light winds.
Partly cloudy. Highs around 10 below. Light winds.
Wednesday Night
Mostly cloudy. Chance of snow. Lows 10 to 20 below. Northeast winds to 10 mph.
Mostly cloudy. Highs near 5 below.

No S Diet? Hmm, interesting

I read Anna at Veiled Glory started something called the No -s diet. She doesn’t talk much about what it is but has a link. I was curious (and still overweight) so I checked. Sounds interesting.

Here’s the quick of what it is. As the website of the creator says there are just 3 simple rules and one (sometimes) exception:

  1. No Sweets
  2. No Snacks
  3. No Seconds

The exception is easy to remember too, except on days beginning with S and other (personally) Special days.

Eat what you normally do. No calorie counting or label reading. No calculator needed. Sounds almost too easy to be true compared to most diets. Perhaps that’s why it works. Calories are restricted by the three rules rather than a complicated formula.

I would expect to be hungry while your body gets used to lowering intake and making new eating habits. i would also change rule 2 to allow fresh fruit/veggies (without dip or peanut butter) as small snacks if no snacks seems impossible. Fresh fruit and veggies (especially apples) are low in calories but high in fiber so you feel full longer after eating them.

It would seem by no sweets they aren’t talking about the spoonful of sugar in my breakfast oatmeal and tea. Unless of course you go overboard and heap it in so you’re drinking coffee flavored sugar water. But it does mean sodas, chocolate milk, and other sugary drinks as well as the regular dessert type sweets.

I would also change the no seconds rule to not apply to my homemade vegetable soup. It’s just vegetables. I (usually) don’t add meat. If I make borscht, we have sour cream with it that we add ourselves. I just would leave the “extras” out for seconds. Other soups like creamed soups, chili, and stew would fall under the no seconds rule because they have the “extras” in the soup.

Hey, the more I write, the more this sounds do-able! What do you think? Have you tried it or something similar?