Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Small Town Living

I love a small town.

Every Monday the girls look forward to a special event - and, as Hannah tells me, "Monday is Trash Guy Day!"

Hannah and Abbo make it a point to always go out and say hello, and Hannah fills the guys in on what's going on around here - her birthday, how naughty Abbo has been, my hurt arm, whatever. I can tell from the looks on the guys' faces that they can't always understand what she's saying - I mean, they're right by that loud truck and her voice is quiet (um, sometimes, it is). But they are always polite, friendly and glad to see her. She's fixed them cookies and drawn them pictures on occasion....

Imagine our delight when, last Monday, they made a DELIVERY instead of only their usual pickup. They handed out two wrapped presents to the girls! It was such a surprise and they got such a kick out of it!! They could hardly stand it and had to come inside and unwrap them right away. Such shredding of paper you've never seen!

I don't know who was more tickled, me or them. I had planned to make them some cookies, but this deserved an extra treat in their Christmas bags.

If you're reading this - ANOTHER BIG THANK YOU - to Charlie, Tommy and Timothy - the Most Excellent "Trash Guys" in Alleghany County - You're The Best!

Christmas preparations

Even though I am not wholly ready, I feel a strange -albeit unsettling - peace about the whole thing! Kind of like when a hurricane is forecast but the skies are nothin' but blue, blue skies....
Yes, we had 22+" of snow on Saturday, and the reason I have no pictures to show is that I lost my camera battery recharger and had to order a new one. Its still not here yet. There are a few on our 35mm, but who knows when we'll get those developed.
I got the girls' presents wrapped two nights ago and stuck them under the tree. They are getting excited now, seeing the gifts. Hannah asked this morning why there were no presents in their "Stanta Bags" (stockings), and I told her Santa doesn't come for two more nights. What?! Two more nights! That sent a jolt through me that no swig of Starbucks ever could!
I still have to sew the girls' nightgowns. I'm deterred by the fact that there are several orange blotches scattered throughout the fabric that I've washed and ironed. I'm not sure if it was there when I bought it or if its a casualty of our washing machine and our hard water. Before we trek to th' WalMart tonight I'm going to cut out the patterns and see if I have enough to avoid the stains. If not, I'll get another yard or two.
Christmas baking? Well, its a staple of several presents and I guess I better get at it today and tomorrow. Its a false sense of security that I'm going to Tidewater the day after Christmas and I think that I'll have Christmas afternoon to bake. Mmmm, like I said. I better get at it today. I was able to gift our trash guys and mail lady with cookies and treats, and I'll set out a cake for the newspaper guy this afternoon. But after that, my supplies are low, so its back to the kitchen with my little "helpers". I just have to trust that the oven heat will kill any germs from repeated sneaky "tastings".
I want to post pictures of my homemade Christmas gifts, but the recipients may find it too hard to look away. I'll save that post for after Christmas!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Roaring Run Hike

We went for a lovely hike last weekend!
No, really, they enjoyed it!
It was at Roaring Run Furnace, just south of Alleghany in Botetourt. The hike to the falls was about 3/4 of a mile at an easy grade. Abbo walked most of the way up; Andy carried her some of the way because she was slow and her legs got tired. But Hannah made it the whole way.
The best part of the hike was that it is almost wholly right beside the creek (Roaring Run), so its cool, moist and pleasant, with lots to see and do.
(like threatening your parents with a stick while perched on a rock over the creek)
(or playing Indian in the cave)
There are two sets of falls - well, one cascade and one falls, I guess. There's also a special trout management area, and while we saw several fishermen, we didn't see anything in their creels. But we did see a couple fish in the deep holes.
(upper falls)

On the way back, we took the Woodland Trail, which is exactly what it says: a trail through a mostly deciduous forest with some piney sections, especially at higher elevations. There was one fairly steep grade with an overlook.

The rest was downhill from the falls back to the furnace and the parking lot area.

We'll definitely go back and do this hike again....but with more than corn chips for a snack at the top!
And afterwards to celebrate? The girls put Pull-Ups on their heads and said they were fire helmets....then dressed up all their stuffed animals with the same. Argh.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A meme for Andy!

Lookie what was in Tuesday's local paper!
It says,
"GRANT-Clifton Forge has been awareded a matching safety grant of $1,000 which was used to purchase two defibrilators for emergency use at town hall and the library. Andy Morris, left, community development direcotr, applied for the grant and said the units can save a person's life when used before the rescue squad can arrive. the units can also be used as a CPR device. A prerecorded message talks the operator through teh use of the units in emergencies. At right is Clifton Forge Town Manager Tracey Shiflett. (Buck Rumph Photo)
You go, Andy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween 2009!

The little princesses....

at the Clifton Forge Florist.....

checking out the loot that LeeAnna has....

waiting for the parade to start....

and joining with about 30 of their friendlies for a march through downtown Clifton Forge! (You can't see Abbo in this picture - she has her back to the camera behind the boy in the front rrow with the yellow helmet on. She was more fascinated by the costumes than the camera :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

why I will never, ever, have a hunting license...

Seeing this (below) down the road yesterday, I whipped the car around and made a beeline for it, thinking I'd seen the biggest gobbler in my life:

Turns out, I am the giant turkey in the story.....

Once again, by taking zoom shots of the neighbors' trash, I am confirming what many have long suspected....
.....I need to get my eyeglasses prescription filled.
That IS what you were thinking, right? RIGHT?!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

News Flash

Our homepage on the computer is CNN (dot) com, so whenever it loads, I get a quick glance at the headlines, and often I'm sucked in to read a couple stories. Like last week when it announced that Garth Brooks was coming out of retirement to rake in a few billion more dol... I mean, when he was coming out of retirement.....

But today, the headlines turned my stomach. I won't regurgitate them - maybe you were fortunate enough not to know about the despicable acts that humans perpetuate on one another here in the United States, or maybe you missed numbers that were added to the tally of our soldiers dying abroad - or terrorist acts perpetuated on innocents. Each time I read accounts of such vile and utterly base goings-on, inevitably it brings tears to my eyes, and, the proper response of "Why, Lord? When are you coming back to take us away from this?" But generally, I have no quick answer, except to pray for those affected and quickly navigate elsewhere.

Tonight, though, I have been immersed in a book suggested by a friend: What in the World is Going On? Ten Prophetic Clues You Cannot Afford to Ignore by Dr. David Jeremiah. I wasn't necessarily thinking about the distressing headlines, and instead was, through this text, examining a different horror: that of how "radical" Islam is perpetuating itself and growing stronger mainly in Europe, but also in our own country, the Land of the Free.

Like the title suggests, the book examines current events using the Bible as a yardstick to illustrate the prophecies found there that foretell these, the final days of Earth's history.

As He often does, though, God spoke to the immediate need I had in reference to what I had viewed on CNN earlier. In the chapter, "Vanished Without a Trace" Dr. Jeremiah writes about the Rapture, the event that will happen when Christians and those who are dead in Christ will rise up. Dr. Jeremiah writes that this event will likely be the immediate precursor to the seven years of upheaval before Armageddon. He also writes:

"According to Jesus, Christians are the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13,14). When all the Christians in the entire world are removed from the earth in one day, all the salt and all the light will suddenly be gone. The result is predictable. you may think the world today is degenerating into rampant greed and immorality, and indeed it is. But as bad as things are becoming, we can hardly overstate the horror that will occur when society loses the tempering influence of Christians."

Thanks, I needed that.

Because it will be getting worse.

And if you are alive and have not believed that Jesus Christ is who he says he is and have not accepted him as your Lord and Savior, you will be reading headlines much more horrific than those that were online today - except you will be reading them EVERY DAY. If you die before you acknowledge Him as the Son of God, you will experience unspeakable horror for eternity.

But if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are spared from the ravages to come. The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." So there is comfort to be had....and the promise of spending eternity in paradise.

I've already made my choice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alpaca Day with HEARTH

Yesterday the girls and I joined the HEARTH (Home Educators - A- R- The Highlands; I can't remember what it stands for, but doggone it, I am a member!!) group for a visit to an Alpaca farm up in Bath County. We enjoyed these beautiful animals up close. Hannah (and I) learned much about them....in anticipation, to be sure, of our future as Alpaca farmers :)

The farm is about 15 miles north of Douthat State Park. We were saturated in reds, yellows, golds and the deep browns of falls on country roads both there and back.
Once we got there, it was into the barn to meet the boys and girls.

The kids were encouraged to feed the animals by hand...did you know that Alpacas don't have upper teeth? Instead they have a tough palate against which they chew with their bottom teeth.

This one reminds me of a Mounds bar. Mmmmmm, chocoooolate and coco-nuts....

Yes, they will spit - especially the males. Just like any other domesticated animal, they each have their own personalities. Some are good-tempered, and some are bad. Tempered.

They like to make eye contact.

There was a llama who lives in the pasture with these guys who is their "watchdog." She was on a visit to the vet to care for a wound she sustained after a fight to the death with a coyote last week. The ranch manager found the flattened coyote in one of the outer fields.

Here the homeschoolers who attended the field trip surround a 3-day-old baby alpaca. Notice that Abigail is ensuring he feels well loved.

Friday, October 23, 2009

paper mache...papyay mahshay squash

Now, I'm no Martha or Amy Kachinsky (hi! Amy! you still read this?!), but I enjoy making things that look like things and I'm not so bummed out if they don't look JUST like things. But if you want to know how to make something that looks like a pumpkin, here's how:

1. Make paper mache goop. In this recipe, I used 5 parts water to 1 part AP flour. Bring 4 parts (in this case, 2/3 cupfuls because that's the measuring cup I grabbed first) water to a boil. In a cup, mix remaining 1 part water with the AP flour and whisk with a fork.

2. When water is at a full rolling boil, add the mixture and whisk well. Bring back to a boil and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat. Add a generous dose of cloves, vanilla, cinnamon or some other scent if the smell of the paper mache goo is too much for you. My 5 y.o. wouldn't touch the project until I did it, but I had some old ground cloves on the shelf that got put to good use.

3. While the goo is cooling, wad up some newspapers in the general form of what you want to make. Here, its going to be a pumpkin. Really and truly.

4. Pumpkins aren't exactly round, so to approximate their shape, kind of gather up the 4 corners of the paper and roll them on toward the center. Then take a wide strip of paper, roll it up for the stem. Tape it loosely so it will stick while you do the next step.....

whoops....this is going to be a Hubbard squash....

5. Once the goo has cooled to the touch (about 1/2 an hour), dip strips of newspaper in to cover thoroughly. Scrape off the excess by drawing it over the edge of the pot as you pull it out. In this photo you can see that it is still boiling - but don't do what I do...do what I say (famous parenting words). You can also ignore the lumps in the goo....its paper mache, not gravy, and your MIL is not coming to suppah. So ignore.

Helpful hint: Tear up a generous amount of newspaper strips BEFORE you start loading them on your form. They should be about 1-2" wide, with some narrower, and about 4-12" long, again, depending on the size of your project. For the pinata or a form with a broader shape, wider helps the coverage to go faster. For smaller projects like gourds or fruit, smaller, narrower strips will lay better and look better in the end.

6. Then just kind of drape your newspaper strips over the form. Your goo will be thicker than mine in this photo because I didn't get the ratio right for the tutorial and I ended up throwing it out at the end. But if you follow 5:1, it will turn out prefect.

7. Keep on keepin' on layering until you have the shape you want. Its a messy job, to be sure, but when was the last time you did something like this?? And Fall holidays are only the beginning! Check back for our Easter Egg tutorial in the Spring!
Dip newspaper strip, wipe, layer, smooth, dip, wipe, layer, smooth, dip, wipe, layer, smooth....

8. When you're satisfied with the shape, set the gourds aside to dry - at least 24 hours in a dry house. I put mine by the woodstove to dry overnight, and others I put in the oven at 200 degrees to dry for a few hours, turned off the oven, turned it back on, off, on, off....for 2 days and they dried out fine.

9. When dry, paint as desired....

10. Spray with Acrylic Sealer (I used gloss) to give them a shine....

Isn't that shiny?

And use them as a delightful addition to your Fall sofa table display. Really. Your MIL will be impressed.

letter practice/sensory practice bags

This was definitely not my idea - I saw it on another blog. But I thought it was so cool - and it is! - that I decided to do a tutorial so you could make your own.

I don't know what you'd call them, except sensory bags - but they're not really, except that they ARE squishy. Kids can practice 'drawing' shapes or writing letters with a light touch (preschoolers) or with a Q-Tip (kindergarten +). I wouldn't recommend these for older kids - especially pre-teen boys...sorry SM!....because they may be too tempted to pound on 'em good and then, SPLAT! with disastrous results. But you can always live on the edge, you know...both my girls love these.

1. Gather up your supplies. You always do that first, right? You'll need quart-size freezer bags, some paint - all I had was acrylic, but you could use tempera, too. Also needed is some good, wide, sturdy tape like masking tape or packing tape (not shown). I guess you could use gallon-size bags, but when I tried it myself, it seemed like an unwieldy size. So, just use what you have on hand. I had the giant bottle of paint because of my pumpkin painting project, but the smaller bottles are only about 50 cents at th'WM.
You'll want to go with a lighter paint. I like the look of the pink better than the red, and the orange better than the red, too. But just try it out. If your background (desk/kitchen table) is really light, then maybe a darker paint would work.

2. Open a Ziploc bag and squish some paint in. Now, I tried to eyeball it, and it looked to be about 3-4 tablespoons. I think that less is more, because I ended up having to squish some back out of the orange bag...not pretty. Of course, if you're using a larger bag, more paint goes in.

3. Mash the paint around a bit to see if it looks like it will cover the inside of the bag. You don't want it so deep that gentle pressure won't leave an impression, but also not so sparse that you can't tell what the impression is. This is the step where you get the amount right, because in the next step you will be....
4. Putting the tape on. I probably should have used masking tape for the tutorial, but I couldn't find it. The goal is to completely seal the top of the bag. I laid the bag on its side, put the tape just below the 'zip' and then turned the bag over, sealing the top down to the other 'zip.' There was overlap, and I cut off all but about 1/4 inch. Just for insurance.

5. OK, now you're done! Use a Q-Tip (ahem, a cotton swab) to make designs or practice letters. The bags withstood 3 days of homeschool use with my 5 y.o., who is by no means gentle. She practiced writing M, S, L and who-knows-what and she seemed to like them.

I even practiced my initials some.

Thinking about how this could be improved, I wonder if some other medium could be used like a thinned out version of the paper mache goop with food coloring, dish soap with food coloring or even old beef gravy or yogurt that you are so sick of eating but you can't bear to throw away....