Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot Cheese Twist

The other day I was searching through recipes, and discovered this favorite from our early years of marriage. It is so delicious, I'm not sure why I stopped making it, and it got buried in the piles of recipes. Maybe little kids and diapers and a overly  busy life had something to do with it? No matter, it is time to pull this recipe back to the top of the stack.

Hot Cheese Twist
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 TB. + 1/2 tsp. sugar
3 TB. butter
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3 1/2 cups flour

Hot Cheese Filling
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2-4 TB chopped, canned, hot peppers

Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/2 tsp. sugar. Warm butter and milk to lukewarm. Add to the yeast. Add remaining sugar and salt. Mix in the egg, yolk, and 2 cups of flour. Slowly add the remaining flour until a soft dough forms. Knead dough until smooth. Cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down and roll into a rectangle on a floured surface. Roll to about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with cheese and peppers, Roll up tightly from the long side. Pinch the seam. A little water will help the seam seal.  Coil the foll on a baking stone. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes. Bake at 400 F for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Six more to go.

I can't remember what all I've updated here about Tim's melanoma, so bear with me if I'm repeating myself. The second surgery went very well. It left Tim with another large scar, and a deep depression under his arm, but the most important news is they found no more cancer cells in the soft tissue that was removed there.

Interferon treatments are recommend following the surgery. The treatments started about three weeks ago. This has been an incredibly long month. I am so ready for it to be over. Tim is at the hospital every week day for about an hour to receive the treatments intravenously. Before starting treatments we had read that the side effects were flu like symptoms. "Flu like symptoms," well that could mean a lot of things, and we hoped for the best.

The first week was rough. Following his treatments, Tim first got the chills. Chills so severe that he was still cold in the ninety degree heat we were having that week. The chills were followed by the sweats, and it was all accompanied by body aches, nausea, and fatigue. We hoped the next week would be better.

The severity of the chills and sweats was a little better the following weeks, but the nausea, and extreme fatigue remain. The treatments also caused his triglycerides to skyrocket. The doctor gave him a prescription for this. The side effects of the medicine is more nausea. *sigh* He has lost over ten pounds, has little appetite, and has basically spent the month of June going to the hospital and staying in bed. Even the simplest of chores or task zap all his energy. It has been a very long month. He has six more of these treatments, and I think the whole family will be much relieved when this is over and done. 

When these treatments are completed, he will have another year of treatments at a much lower dose. These treatments are done at home three times a week. The side effects should be much less severe.

That is where we stand in this process. The treatments have been far worse than the surgeries, but we know that in the realm of cancer treatments it could be a lot worse. We're almost through the worst of it. Gritting our teeth and pushing through. 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

We'll be Saving on Shampoo

When it has not been raining this spring, it has been unseasonably hot. Long hair and heat makes for hot heads, and lots of pony tails. The girls have been begging me to go get hair cuts. Lydia and I have both donated our hair before. Lydia's was long enough to donate again, and Vivian wanted to donate hers this time too. Wednesday, we finally found a good time to go and get hair cuts.

Viv's hair has always been long. It has only been trimmed up here and there. I was a little hesitant to have her hair cut. In the last six months or so she has completely lost any vestige of baby chub. She has gotten tall and slender, and looks like a little girl instead of my baby. In my mind, keeping her hair long was an attempt to hold onto the baby just a little longer I think.

I was right. Cutting her hair did make her look even older. I can't be upset though. It is super cute and she loves it.

Lydia has had short hair before. So, cutting her hair again was not as dramatic. She has extremely thick hair. It was hot for her, and a lot of up keep. See how thick it is. That is the top of her pony tail where they cut it off. That is a lot of hair.

Both the girls' hair is stacked in the back. Funny how the same hair cut looks so different on each of them. Cute on them both, but definitely different.

Oh and I got a significant amount of hair cut off too. Guess you'll just have to see me in person to see how much.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Drama that is Nolan

All of my children have a bit of a flair for drama. It may be best if I keep my opinions of where that particular trait comes from to myself. Of all the kids, Nolan, by far, is the most susceptible to dramatic outbursts. Don't be fooled by that sweet little face. Even at seven, this kid knows how to throw a good fit. The latest example occurred Monday evening.

Nolan asked me if I would cook him two eggs for a snack. Normally, I would readily agree to this request, but it so happens that I was just about to start dinner at the time. A snack right before dinner is never a good thing. A snack I have to cook right before dinner is just down right a bad idea. I told him as much. Let the whining begin.

Seriously folks, I do feed this child, frequently in fact, but if you'd been in my kitchen at that particular time you may have thought he hadn't eaten for a week. I was having none of it, and swiftly sent him outside to complete a chore. I was feeling rather smug at nipping the episode in the bud and getting on with the evening. I set about getting things out for dinner. A few minutes later I heard a yell and crying. It was the kind of cry that says I'm hurt. Even Tim thought Nolan hurt himself so I went out to check.

When I found him he was sitting on the ground in the chicken run. At first he wouldn't answer me when I asked him what happened. I asked him to get up, and he said he couldn't. After a cursory inspection I could see no cuts, no scrapes, and no reason for him to be sitting on the ground, unable to get up, and crying. With some urging he finally told me he was crying because he was so hungry. So much for nipping it in the bud. I set him on his feet and got him started on his task while explaining that if he was really hungry he would do what he was supposed to so I could go cook dinner.

By the time I got dinner in the oven, he was back in the house whining about how he was so hungry. He literally threw himself on the kitchen floor whining and crying. When I told him he'd have to go to his room if he didn't stop the whining and crying, he was quiet, but he stayed on the floor writhing, as if in pain.

At this point in the story some of you are probably wondering why I was letting this poor kid suffer so. Why didn't I just get him a snack? How could I let him go hungry? Maybe I really am just that stubborn? Or maybe I'm well acquainted with the drama of Nolan? Whatever the reason, I was pretty confident that he would not die of hunger in the fifteen minutes it was going to take for dinner to be ready.

Blessedly, the timer finally went off. I sent Nolan outside with the task of finding Kellen to let him know dinner was ready. He wasn't happy about it, but he went, after I helped him pick himself off the floor. I got the girls and began dishing out dinner.

A few minutes later Kellen came in for dinner. I asked him where Nolan was, and Kellen told me that Nolan was outside playing with the kittens.

Did you catch that?

The kid that was so hungry he was in tears and could barely get off the floor decided that instead of eating he was going to play with the kittens! Really?! A few minutes later he came strolling back into the kitchen as if none of the previous drama had occurred. All he wanted to do was talk about the kittens.

That is the drama we live with. That is Nolan.

Monday, June 06, 2011

A New Repurpose Project

Re-purposing, recycling, and making do mean a lot of things to different people. Some are motivated to save the planet. Others are out to save a dime. Around here, it is a way of life. We simply can not go out and buy new every time a need arises.

Some time ago, on another blog, I shared some of our re-purposed items in Re-purpose Recycle and in More Repurpose Recycle. It is funny to look back at those posts from almost four years ago. Many of the items are still in use in the same way. Some of those items have been re-purposed again. A prime example is the storage shelves Tim salvaged from a previous employer. One of those is now in the chicken house with the bottom fenced in. It is our brooder pen.

Over the years there have been a lot of projects involving re-purposing of items. Sometimes it is a simple matter, like most of the items shared in the posts above. Other projects have involved quite a bit of time and physical labor. The biggest of these that comes to mind is the tearing down of a barn. Those materials were used to build a pig house, a chicken house, and various other building projects.

As you may recall, we have been working on getting our broilers out of the chicken house and onto pasture.  The first step of the project involved re-purposing some unused rabbit hutches to make them more suitable for chickens. Those pens worked wonderfully for the broilers. The problem was we had more broilers in the brooder that would soon need to be moved out. We needed another pen.

And now we have one. Tim built this over the weekend.

Can you see what the frame was in its first life?  Does this help?

It is the frame of a kitchen table. It is upside down and used to have a glass top. Everything in this project is re-purposed, save the wire fencing which we already had on hand. The metal roof may still be from that barn. Is that right Tim? The door is metal scraps from another project. The wood floor frame is scraps too.

We needed a new chicken pen. In the matter of a day, we had one for free. Alright, not free if you want to get technical, but we didn't have to run to the store to buy a single thing for it. That is my kind of project.

The chickens seem to like it too. Not that you can tell from this picture. The chickens were all out running in the grass and chasing bugs when I took this.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Homeschool Reflections

Homeschooling in our area seems to just be exploding. When we first joined our local co-op about five years ago, I would guess there were maybe fifty kids in the co-op. Then a couple years ago it just began to grow like crazy. Our numbers swelled to over 100, and we were forced to start a waiting list because we could no longer accommodate such a large group of students. At the same time, at least three new homeschool groups began in the area.

With the sudden influx of so many homeschoolers, I often find myself in the midst of conversations with new homeschoolers with a million questions about what curriculum to use, or how to get started, or how to handle a toddler while schooling an older child. Most of the time my answer is to just relax and enjoy the process. Not as easily done as said, and probably not the answer most people are looking for, but really, it is the best advice I have. 

It was in the midst of one of these conversations, with a complete stranger who stopped me because she thought we looked like homeschoolers, I realized I am no longer a novice homeschooler. I'm a veteran. I am not exactly sure when that happened. Quite, honestly, I still feel like a novice at about every turn. Every year there are new academic skills to learn. Kellen pushes me to teach, or facilitate his learning of, new things on a daily basis. The younger children may be learning skills that I've previously taught to an older sibling, but they learn at a different pace with a different set of talents and interests. I still feel like I am trying to figure out this homeschooling thing.

When we began homeschooling with Kellen in kindergarten, almost eight years ago, we were very much homeschooling in a school at home manner. In fact, we used an online charter school at home. In some circles, that isn't even considered homeschooling.

We moved here when Kellen was in second grade, and that kind of schooling was no longer an option. By the time Lydia entered the homechool scene, there were two more babies to care for, and the beginnings of the farm. Over the years there have been a lot of times when life has just gotten in the way of the book work of education. This last school year we may well have had more days without school books than we had days with the school books.

It is hard not to feel guilty about this. It is easy to feel like I am failing my children, and that I really need to get my act together. When I feel that tinge of guilt come on, I just have to remind myself that by any academic standard our kids are doing just fine. And more importantly, that education is not about how far we get through a text book. It isn't about how many facts my kids can spout off. A lot of the education I want my children to have for this life has nothing to do with anything you'll ever find in a text book.

Many of our best lessons come when we aren't using a text book. Someone will ask a question, or maybe we'll see something that sparks a conversation, and we are off on a educational moment. It is amazing to me how much education happens when I simply turn off the screens (TV, games, and computer.) The kids go outside and find things in the woods. They create clubhouses. They read. They play board games, and just yesterday Kellen and Lydia had a globe out. Kellen was quizzing Lydia on world geography. Education happens. It doesn't require a text book.

Even though I've been in this process for a long time now, I still don't know what I am doing. I still wonder how to challenge my gifted student, how to make math click for my child who struggles with math, and how to get a certain child to sit still long enough to learn the things he should. I'm quite certain they don't write enough, and I've yet to figure out a plan of attack to address that, and the big question looming over my head currently is how in the world I am going to add another student into this mix next year.

Despite all my shortcomings, despite our crazy life, despite all the things I've yet to figure out, these children are getting a high quality education. They are thriving. They are learning. So, my advice to new homeschoolers is also my advice to myself, "Relax, and enjoy the process."