Friday, May 30, 2008

Lemon Graham Freeze

This dessert is very frugal and it is great if you are watching your calories. Oh! And most important, it is extremely delicious!

Lemon Graham Freeze
(this is out of Taste of Home Magazine, but my Grandma used to make something just exactly like it, so I feel like it's in the family!)

1 5 oz. can evaporated milk*
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Yellow food coloring (optional)
6 whole graham crackers

Put milk in a mixing bowl and go ahead and put the beaters in the bowl as well. Place bowl in freezer about 30 minutes, until ice crystals start to form on the sides. Take out and beat with an electric mixer on high. It should start to fluff up like whipped cream. Gradually add sugar, lemon juice, and a few drops of food coloring.

Place five graham crackers in an ungreased 11-in. x 7-in. x 2-in. dish. An 8x8 pan will also work, but you will have to break up the crackers to get them arranged properly. Pour milk mixture over crackers. Crush remaining graham cracker and sprinkle over top. Cover and freeze until firm.

There is a way to make your own evaporated milk, and it works well for this recipe. Just reconstitute powdered milk according to the package directions, except use twice the amount of powder that it calls for. One 5 ounce can is approximately equal to 2/3 of a cup.

~~Edited 5/30 at 3:00 pm: Susan asked if you could use graham cracker crumbs. I think so, it might be a little messy. If you don't mind the extra fat, use butter and make a graham cracker crust. Once when I was "low-carbing," I made it with no crust at all. Then I just scooped it out with a spoon, and that was fine also.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Date Night Ideas

Every so often, for a special occasion, hubby and I like to go to a local university that has what they call Jazz Lab. It is a tiny little venue where you can go and listen to local artists and eat pizza. For a small cover charge, and the price of a pizza and drinks, we get a full night of entertainment. The bands are very good, professional groups. The atmosphere is very nice, and it is smoke-free! The downside is that, although the volume varies, you don’t get much conversation once the band starts. We usually arrive about an hour before the first set, so we have time to eat our meal and chat first.

So that’s a special night out. For an extremely cheap date, we love to go to the local bookstore and hang out. It is a smaller chain store, and they actually serve free coffee!

This summer, we are planning to take in a couple of free concerts at a nearby park. During the summer, there are often plays, music festivals, and various events that are excellent creative dates.

We are fortunate to have hubby’s cousin living close to us. She is 25, and a wonderful, trusted babysitter. Sometimes we do barter with her for her services. My husband helps her with car repairs, and she repays us with an evening or two of babysitting. In return for the next night out, I am going to help her decorate a cake for her best friend.

I would love to hear any ideas for creative and frugal date nights. Does anyone else barter for babysitting?

For more tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer

Friday, May 23, 2008

Works of God Weekend: Answers While Waiting

...God is not absent, even when we are waiting. Just in the past few weeks, we have seen God at work.

This is my first time to post a "Works of God" post. I have meant to before, but since it is the weekend, other things always get in the way. So I’m writing this on Wednesday to post later, and that way it will get done.

This is a low time for my husband and I. His mother was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Currently she is back and forth between different doctors to find out if the brain tumor is a primary brain tumor, or something from another cancer that has spread to her brain.

So there is a lot of pain, and just the anxiety of waiting. Waiting to find out how bad things are. We already know that it is bad, because she is so weak.

But God is not absent, even when we are waiting. Just in the past few weeks, we have seen God at work. Here are two very personal ways He has ministered to me, and my mother-in-law.

When she was first diagnosed, we came to see them for the weekend. They live out of town, but only about an hour-and-a-half drive. Saturday afternoon, 17-month-old Bubby was needing a nap. My mother-in-law asked if she could rock him. I gave him to her, but I was not hopeful. He still nurses to sleep most of the time. His other method for getting to sleep is the kick-wiggle-thrash method. I just prayed, “Lord, please just let him go to sleep for her. This is very important.” Bubby got still right away, and it took him about 60 seconds to drift off! She held him and rocked him for a long time, until she felt like he was getting sweaty and we decided to put him down on a pallet in the dark bedroom. What a simple, sweet answer to prayer. Praise the Lord!

The second answer to prayer was in a ministry that God revealed to me. My sister-in-law lives with them, but she her job requires four 10-hour days a week. She doesn’t get home until around 6 pm. Since my mother-in-law is not strong anymore, it is too much for her to fix dinner for them. My sister-in-law is a great cook, but she has to come home after a long day, and start dinner, which might not be done until 7 o’clock or so.

So I was able to put together a few freezer meals. Cooking a frozen casserole is the easiest thing in the world, and I wanted it to be super-easy. But I was worried because my father-in-law is not a casserole guy. I did make some mini-meatloaves and soup that would cook quickly, but I chose some casseroles that did not have weird vegetables in them. They were created with much prayer that they would be a blessing to the family. Since then, I’ve gotten two phone calls from him, just saying how great the casseroles tasted. He still admits that he is not a casserole guy, but he said, “I’m learning a new way to eat, and it’s pretty good!” Again, just a simple, sweet answer. Thank You, Lord!

Yes, I am still praying for a huge, enormous miracle. But I know that God is at work, even in the small things.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Frugal Friday: Cold "Frappucino" Drink

Once in a while, as a treat, I make a small pitcher of cold cappucino to keep in the refrigerator. It is easy to do if you happen to have an espresso maker.

Basic recipe:
½ cup of fresh espresso
2 ½ cups of milk (reconstituted powdered milk works fine)
¼ cup sugar (adjust to taste. This is pretty sweet.)

Place in refrigerator to chill. Adding hot espresso to 2 ½ cups of cold milk just doesn’t cut it. You really need to chill it. If you are in a hurry, you could serve it over ice, but it gets watered down a bit.

For a mocha cappucino: add a pinch of cocoa.
For a vanilla cappucino: add a few drops of vanilla.
For a mint cappucino: add a drop or two of peppermint extract, and a drop or two of vanilla.

Go to Biblical Womanhood for more Frugal Fridays.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Purse Tissues

I got this great idea about three years ago, but I think some importer stole it. I don’t know any importers, so I’m not sure when or how that happened. *grin*

My idea was this: Instead of carrying around a package of tissues in my purse, I use pretty little napkins instead. They are not as super-soft as a regular tissue, but I'm willing to compromise because they are so much sturdier.

The little napkins are the cocktail napkin size. You can use birthday napkins, colored napkins, or pretty ones like they sell at Hallmark stores and such. They do not have to be expensive. I found mine at Ross. I think they were being clearanced because they no longer had the matching accessories or something like that. This little package was $1.69 for 20 napkins. Look how cute they are! They remind me of an old-fashioned hanky, but they do not need to be washed or ironed.

You can fold them once and put in your purse. It helps if you have a little pocket. Or you can fold them and put them in a little handmade case like this.

(To make the little case, I followed the instructions that start here.)

Now you can get little packages of decorated tissues at various stores, although they are hard to find around here. My idea could possibly be cheaper, depending in how you shop, and currently the selection of napkins is much broader than the selection of tissues.

Go here for more Works-For-Me tips!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

AWANA Clubs as a Bible Curriculum - Part IV

I have not addressed the involvement of my husband and I yet, so I will do that now. We haven’t formally taken part in the AWANA leadership at our church at this point because we are involved in ministry on Sunday mornings and we do not have a chance to be a part of small group fellowship, which our church emphasizes. We do have the opportunity on Wednesday nights, during AWANA time, so that is what we have been doing.

My husband has been involved informally. He pitched in several weeks when they needed extra help. He was glad to help because it was needed, but he quickly decided it wasn’t for him. He felt like he was too strict with the kids. He just did not know what to do in a situation when someone else’s kids were disobeying and defying him. Belive me, he is plenty used to dealing with that at home, but there’s a comfort level with your own kids. I do think we would get more out of the clubs if we participated as a family, at least in some fashion. That is something we are considering, and if we do decide to continue, I think it will be with that additional involvement.

I will update when we make our decision. If we decide to skip AWANA, I will let you know what we decide to do instead.

(Reposted from my HomeschoolBlogger page 6/13/08)

Some Freebies I Made - Price Cards for a Money Game

These are just some little cards I made and thought I would share. They are small cards you can print off to play a game while learning about money. They have drawings of the item and a made-up price on them. The first sheet is prices under $1, and the second sheet is prices from $1 to $10.

We use Singapore Math 2B and this was one of the suggestions in the Instructor's Guide, but it would work for any curriculum. You could laminate them, but I didn't. I did print them off on cardstock. If you want, you can just set up to print them black and white, and they will still look okay.

There are several things you can do with them. The child can go "shopping" and add up his total cost. Or you can go shopping, buy one thing, and the child can make change for you. Just use your imagination. We have had fun with them.

When we play money games, etc. here is what we do: I have a change bowl where I empty out my change and "steal" my husband's change off the bathroom counter. (He really doesn't mind!) We use the real change from the bowl, but I did print out some play paper money from the Internet, because I never have enough small bills in my purse ready to go. We got our play money here, but there are lots of places to get it.

*Just as an aside, I noticed the other day while looking in an educational supply catalog, they were selling big containers of plastic coins for classroom use. The funny thing was, the pennies cost about 2 cents each! I thought that was so funny. I can see why in a classroom, you would want to use plastic coins, but it just struck me funny.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Web-link Wednesday - Topical Bible Site

This is my first time to participate in Web-link Wednesday. I have checked out everyone else's stuff, it seems like a great idea!

This site is so interesting! I have seen a few things like this online, but I think this is the most complete. An index of Bible topics that is very thorough. Here is how thorough it is: I was writing a science lesson about Big Cats. I knew there were some scriptures about lions in the Bible, above and beyond the Daniel story. So I looked under “Lion” in this index. There are over 70 entries! Wow. Just wow. Now, they are using the same scripture for a few of them, so it's not exactly 70 different scriptures, but I still would have had no idea!

Here is more Web-link Wednesday.

(Reposted from my HomeschoolBlogger page 6/13/08)

AWANA Clubs as a Bible Curriculum - Part III

This week I have been going over some reasons our family is re-evaluating our involvement in AWANA Clubs. I need to say again, that we do see positive aspects of AWANA, we are just trying to decide if we can use our time more wisely.

A third problem area is that AWANA is an outreach ministry. Wait, didn’t I already list this as a positive? It is. But I need to ask myself, do my children need an outreach ministry? I hope the Church will come alongside and help me with the task of discipling my children, but God gave the job to us as parents.

In my church, the emphasis is on outreach through AWANAs. We have a bus ministry that brings kids to AWANA Clubs who do not have Christian parents to disciple them. I think this is a great way to reach them, and it does bring in entire families from time to time. The negative side is that some of these children are not well-socialized. There’s that “S” word that we homeschoolers love, and these kids are definitely a good example of what “socialization” really means in a negative sense. We have had a couple of incidents where our six-year-old son was bullied, right there in the church fellowship hall! This is a major reason why my husband and I either need to be there helping with AWANA and watching our own, or none of us need to be there.

The fourth problem area is (and this may be just a local problem at our club) that the “fun” part of AWANA Clubs seems to be more important to the leaders than the Scripture memory portion. The last two years, my daughter has been disappointed that she did not achieve her goal of finishing her book. She did work hard at memorizing her verses, but time after time she was told that they didn’t have enough time to listen to her verses. It was time to go to “Game Time.” I knew there was at least one boy her age who acheived great things in the club, so I asked my daughter how this could be, since they have no time. She said that he had to be very aggressive and beg for someone to listen to him. He also would try to be first in line so that he could do all his verses. The other kids would have to wait while he did his ten or more verses a week, and often there was no time for anyone else to be heard after he was done. My daughter is the opposite nature, and there are times she needs to assert herself, but I cannot encourage her behave badly. (I’m not sure the club leaders should encourage it either.) I did ask her teacher if anything could be done. I wondered if there was a chance that she could stay a few minutes and be late to the game, but that was not possible.

Tomorrow I will address what our involvement as parents has been up to this point.
(Reposted from my HomeschoolBlogger page 6/13/08)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

AWANA Clubs as a Bible Curriculum - Part II

Yesterday I gave a little history of how our family has been involved with AWANA Clubs at our church. Again, let me say that I can only speak for the one program that we have attended at our church. The curriculum, I believe, is the same throughout the AWANA ministry. Today I will begin talking about the problem areas.

First, we as parents do not like the “bits and pieces” approach to Scripture memory. Many times, a few words out of one Scripture verse will be used as a kind of answer to a question. This sometimes takes away the context of what is being said. Here is one example: In AWANA, they memorize Hebrews 13:5. They are supposed to memorize this part. “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” This is supposed to support the statement, “Jesus will always be with those who have belived in Him as their Savior.” I do believe this, but does this verse prove it? Read the entire verse: “Keep your lives free from the love on money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrew 13:5) I wish they had used Matthew 28:20, which better addresses the statement.

A second problem area in AWANA Clubs is actually related to homeschooling. My children are rather young. My children do not have any close friends who are not being raised in Christian homes. There, I said it! We do not close ourselves off from the world, but it happens that most of their friends have church homes. We do know some kids who are not in church, just not closely enough that their parents would send them off with us for an evening. Yet one thing that has to be completed is bringing a guest to AWANA. My kids were able to get around this one year. We had some friends that were looking for an AWANA club, and we told them about ours. They ended up coming on the second night of AWANA and joining, so we were able to use their names as our “guests” that night, but I’m not sure that is what AWANA really wants you to do. I have also seen a couple of families “trade-out” nights. They were involved in AWANA Clubs at nearby churches. Family A chose one night to come as guests of Family B. In return, Family B came as guests of Family A on a different night. This way, they were able to get that requirement checked off, though it doesn’t sound like that is what AWANA is wanting to have happen.

(Reposted from my HomeschoolBlogger page 6/13/08)

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Eyebrow waxing

I used to carefully pluck out stray eyebrows with the tweezers, but I would always miss a few. It was very painful and it took a long time.

I am not a fan of over-the-counter waxing products, because I don’t think they work that well. I never could get them to pick up every hair. A few stray hairs would always be left over, which was the problem with tweezing in the first place.

The last thing I tried is a keeper! It is called Surgi-wax Brazilian Wax. I am sure I would never use the product for its intended purpose (*gasp*) but somehow I knew that it would be stronger than the waxes made for facial hair. It works very well. It is a very sticky, strong wax. It is microwavable wax that does not need cloth strips, you just leave a thick edge and pull on that when it has cooled.

This type of wax works very well for the area between the eyebrows. You have to be extremely careful while applying it, that you don’t get it on any hairs you want to keep. This is why I always apply with a toothpick. You can also use it on the outside edges of the brows, just be careful. It might help to use it only on the "unibrow" area a few times first, since it is easier to get it on the right spot.

If you have never waxed and are worried about pain, I will be honest and say that it does hurt, but I don’t think it hurts more than tweezing. With the wax, it is over with faster. Instead of, “pick, pick, pick” you just rip and you are done. Since the wax is so strong, it works the first time, you don’t have to try again. There is a desensitizing effect, so that the second time it hurts a little less, the third time it hurts less than that. I no longer have any pain waxing the area in between the eyebrows. The skin above and below the brow is a little more sensitive, but it has gotten better.

Surgi-wax works for me, because not everyone can be Brooke Shields! For more Works-For-Me Wednesday visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

AWANA Clubs as a Bible curriculum – Part I

When we first started homeschooling, my daughter was involved at church with AWANA Clubs on Wednesday nights. We had planned Bible curriculum with our year, but we scrapped the Bible memory parts to concentrate on AWANA, which requires a lot of Bible memorization.

When DS started Kindergarten, we were well into the swing of AWANA, so we just kept going with it.

Now our plan is changing. We will probably not continue with AWANA next year. AWANA Clubs are a great ministry, but we are finding it is not working for our family. Basically, we feel it is a commitment of time that could be better spent in some other way.

I’m going to discuss why that is, but I do first want to say that we have only participated in the AWANA program at one church, our home church. I can only speak for what I have seen there. Other programs may be run differently, but the curriculum and plan is the same across the board.

First the positive: We loved the fact that Scripture was the main emphasis of the AWANA program. There are some crafts and nature activities, but this was not really the point of the club. I do not agree with some who say that AWANA is like a Christian version of scouting. It is not like scouting at all, except that the kids can work for patches and the like.

We loved that AWANA is very sound, doctrinally. It basically presents the plan of salvation, and does not compromise on this.

We loved that AWANA is fun, and our kids look forward to it. It does not require a lot of sitting and being lectured.

We love that AWANA is an outreach ministry. At least in our church, this aspect is emphasized.

So these are some of the positive aspects of the program. Tomorrow I will begin to tell why our family is prayerfully considering dropping AWANA Clubs from our schedule.

(Reposted from my HomeschoolBlogger page 6/13/08)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On Crawling and Learning “Glitches”

A lot of you may not know this, but in my pre-homeschooling life, I was a Physical Therapist. Well, still am really, because I keep my license, I just don’t work as a PT very much.

Several times I have heard people discussing neurodevelopmental theories and how they apply to homeschooling. Last year, at our state homeschooling convention, we listened to Dianne Craft, who was so helpful at explaining some of the theories and how we can apply these things at home to help children who are struggling to learn. It is very interesting, and it helped me connect some ideas for my right-brained learner.

This past weekend, I went to the state homeschooling convention again. We had a speaker similar to Dianne Craft, and she was also helpful. However, she said something that I have heard thrown around from time to time in education, and I thought I would address it here.

Her comment had to do with the use of walkers, exersaucers, and jumpers for infants. She was against the use of these devices and said that they were actually bad for babies, as they discourage crawling, and crawling is important for brain development.

This is where I take issue. That is actually a very old theory, that babies have to crawl for proper brain development to take place. Research now shows that crawling is not really an important milestone, and many children in developing countries never learn to crawl. They are carried by their mothers and other adults in slings and other devices, so they never have to crawl.

I just want to say please do not feel bad for using a walker or such for your baby. Even if your child is now struggling in some area, there is no real evidence that it is because of some toy or device used when the child was small. A child that is having trouble in an area might skip crawling because it is too hard for them, but in that case, the problem was already there, and was not caused because they didn’t crawl.

There is a fault to these devices, but it is only for a very small population of children. If there are real physical problems, often a baby will like to be up in a walker because he can’t feel stable propped up on his arms. If you want more info about this, please comment me. I don’t want to say a whole lot here, because most kids do not have these problems.
(Reposted from my HomeschoolBlogger page 6/13/08)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Book Review of Little Lord Fauntleroy (with discussion questions and ideas)

**Edited 6/5/08 for layout and to make some passages clearer.**

Since I reviewed A Little Princess, I thought I would do another of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books. This one is a story I remember from childhood, though I never read it. I saw the movie with Ricky Schroeder. I do not see it very often on recommended reading lists, but it’s not a bad book. A little annoying at times, though, and we’ll get into that shortly.

Little Lord Fauntleroy is about a boy named Cedric, who is the son of an Englishman, but Cedric is growing up in America. It seems his father, who was the third-born son of the Earl of Dorincourt , went to America and fell out of favor with his proper British father by marrying an American girl. The father refused to have anything to do with him. They were still estranged when the young man died, sometime after becoming a father to a little boy.

So here is Cedric, growing up like any American boy in the city. He is a quaint little fellow, and his best friend is a grown-up man who owns the corner grocery. But he plays with other boys, too. He is an attractive child, with long golden curls and his mother insists on him wearing lace collars and velvet suits. Remember this fact, because you will need it later! We see that the child does not mind this style of dress at all. He takes it all in stride and runs around and plays like any other child.

His life takes a sudden turn when he is identified as the only surviving heir to the Earl of Dorincourt. Yes, it seems that the older sons were not nice boys and had met an unfortunate end because of their wild living. They left no heirs, so now the Earl has to make contact with Cedric and his mother after meaning to never have anything to do with them. So his solicitor makes his way to America to get the little boy, who now has the title of “Lord Fauntleroy,” and bring him back to England, where he can learn to be an earl from his grandfather.

The solicitor notices what a unique child Cedric is and makes note of it. It is not just because of his distinguished style of dress, but what he does when given a gift of a large amount of money. He chooses to help his friends, rather than spending any of it on himself.

Here is a good point for discussion. What would you do if given a large sum of money? Cedric was already aware of a few needs around him, and wished to do something, but as a child he was really powerless. He was given the gift of power, and chose to use it to make someone else’s life better.

The money was not meant as a test for Cedric, to see if he would do the good and right thing. It was to give him a taste of how it felt to have a lot of money, so that he would not give them any trouble about going to see his grandfather. What does that tell you about the grandfather?

So Cedric and his mother go to England. The mother knows that Cedric will be expected to live at the castle with the grandfather, while she lives in a house nearby. Cedric doesn’t like that at all because he has never been away from his mother. The mother still is not welcome at the castle, since she is an American and the grandfather does not like her.

The mother decides not to tell her little boy about why she is not going to live at the castle, so that he will not form a bad opinion about the earl. What kind of character does this show? We are beginning to see more clearly why the little boy shows such superior character.

The Earl of Dorincourt is prepared not to like this little American boy, but Cedric begins to win him over even on their first meeting. Their relationship steadily grows stronger.

Throughout the book, we have been hearing glowing narrative about Cedric’s looks. Remember I said that the book is annoying at times? This is the annoying part. There are multiple references to Cedric’s appearance, particularly his hair. It leaves us wondering if Cedric is a virtuous boy who happens to be beautiful, or if perhaps the author feels the two are one and the same. Cedric’s grandfather is definitely influenced by his grandson’s good looks, but it is unclear whether that is meant to be a character flaw.

One nice thing about this book is that though we have the main character who is of a high social ranking, we see that other people in his same class are shown to be very selfish, foolish, and we might say undeserving of their station in life. It is also clear that Cedric, though raised in a very different circle before he comes to England, is more fit for his position than anyone. He owes this not to his inherited title, but to his mother, who is not nobility, but has noble character.

Cedric often does not understand his grandfather, but always believes the best about him. Even though this is partly due to his childish innocence, it ends up having a positive effect on his grandfather.

This story does open some good topics in character, particularly looking at Cedric and his mother. That is the most positive aspect of the book.

Older students might want to research a different topic related to this book. That would be the “pop culture” aspect. When this book was first printed, young mothers fell in love with Cedric, and for many years they had the desire for their little boys to dress in the same style as Cedric. The “Little Lord Fauntleroy” look was quite the fashion for a good number of years, much to the chagrin of young boys everywhere!