Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Craft Class

How do you repair a broken pumpkin?
Buy a pumpkin patch!

What did baby corn say to mommy corn?
Where's popcorn?

How do you keep a turkey in suspense?
I’ll let you know next week!

That’s a little taste of today’s crafty theme, “Fall Fun!” Students got an ear full of these jokes while decorating foam doorknob hangers, large leaves, and orange lunch bags (to carry everything) with an assortment of foam stickers and google eyes. At the end of class I handed out three kinds of candy and a printed sheet of the jokes to take home.

It was a great class, but students were unusually antsy by the end, a few asking to leave 5 or 10 minutes early! (While we were still cleaning up . . . Hmmm . . .) I wonder if it was excitement over the approaching holiday? I noticed more frazzled moms, too. Perhaps it’s just a very busy time of year for lots of us! (Certainly is for us!)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Stirrings

WARNING: Drinking this beverage may cause nausea, diabetic coma, or death by chocolate.

I’m not even kidding. The name is TOTALLY accurate. I made this one time and am not sure I ever will again. BUT, if you love chocolate or very rich desserts, you have got to try this just once. Seriously, it could be drunk from shot glasses (we don’t drink alcohol, but those would be the perfect size), it’s that powerful.

My grandma has a passion for chocolate unmatched by any I’ve seen. She polished off a full cup of this stuff and asked for seconds when most of us were beginning to feel sick half way through our first. This is the stuff legends are made of. I was in total awe and gained a new respect for an already wonderful lady. She’s one tough chocolate chocolate chip cookie, I tell ya!

Chocolate Thunder
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
chocolate whipped cream

1. In a big saucepan, add the cream, half-and-half, and salt.
2. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer (don't let boil).
3. Add chocolate chips; stir until melted.
4. Take pan off heat; add vanilla; whisk until mixture is frothy.
5. Pour into mugs and top off with a dollop of chocolate whipped cream.

Drink sparingly.

Now hop on over to Carol's for something a little safer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall In Our City

My sweet husband took off work early yesterday so we could capture a few fall shots before sundown. Normally Kylen doesn't much care for driving around, but this time he commented repeatedly that he was enjoying himself.

We feel very blessed to live in a fairly young, beautiful city where most folks do a fantastic job of keeping it looking nice. Our city council has developed laws to assist in this effort, such forbidding ugly and unsightly billboards. We have two large parks, four pocket parks, three golf courses, and over 25 miles of multi-use trails. We are also a tree city, which means that we meet four criteria proving that we effectively manage our public tree resources and work to heighten public awareness of the many benefits that trees provide.

Now without further ado, I’ll show you a glimpse of the scenery we are accustomed to in these parts.

From the parking lot where Greg works.

From our grocery store's parking lot. Notice even the undeveloped land in the background is taking part in autumn's show.

A small piece of one of our large parks.

Many streets are lined with trees.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Prepare to be Amazed!

Today’s Theme: Amazing Tricks!

Prep Work: A good part of Saturday was spent practicing on Hubby and Sonshine. “What do you think of this one?” "Mom, do I HAVE to watch another trick right now?!" Basically drove them crazy with my constant interruptions. Lol!

Opening Act: I entered the classroom carrying a bowl of hot water and gave a demonstration on Nitinol. While searching for optical illusions last spring, I discovered “memory wire” at an online novelty shop. You can read about this fascinating metal alloy and see a demonstration video here. I showed them the wire, which looked rather like a piece of junk since I had bent it out of shape ahead of time. When I dropped it into the water, SNAP!! It immediately jumped into the word “hot.” By far one of the most interesting and impressive items I’ve ever seen. Definitely worth every penny just to see the amazed reactions! (Possible gift idea for the guy who has everything?) I also gave them a simplified version of the description from the site. Warning: There are offensive items for sale at this site, as is often the case with novelty stores.

The Show: I gave them my “spiel” on magic (‘Tis a trick or divine intervention!) and had the students take turns retrieving quarters from all over the room. Next, I performed several tricks, most of which definitely “wowed” my attentive audience. I drew material from three different magic sets, so only a few had been seen before by a couple of students.

Final Act: I ended class with the common disappearing coin trick and gave each student his own to keep. Of course, they had their quarters to practice on and were very happy magicians!

Class Highlight: Perhaps the best part was at the beginning when one student handed me a VERY sweet card she had made thanking me for the class. I shan’t repeat its sentimental contents here, but it was one of those letters that makes the return on teaching worth a thousandfold more than what is invested. I was touched to say the least. How blessed I feel for the privilege of teaching these precious children! Thank you, Lord!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gladys Aylward, The Adventure of a Lifetime

This year we are using Sonlight’s history curriculum, and I have enjoyed the emphasis they place on reading. We just finished Gladys Aylward, The Adventure of a Lifetime by Janet and Geoff Benge. It is part of a series called “Christian Heroes.” I highly recommend this book for several reasons.

First of all, it was very interesting. Not having read many books about missionaries, I thought it was enlightening as to how one goes about spreading the gospel in a part of the world that has never heard of Jesus or even white people, for that matter. It was fascinating how she went from being considered a devil to winning the admiration and respect of the Chinese people. I am in awe at all that she accomplished in her life and all the dangerous situations she survived. When God is for us, who can be against us?

We learned numerous things about Chinese culture in the early 1900s and some history. It definitely gave me a better understanding of how Communism took over countries and some of the evil tactics they used to bring people into submission.

It should be noted that there were a few things I skipped while reading aloud, because I felt they were not age appropriate for my eight-year-old son: references to prostitution, rape, and a few extremely violent and graphic parts.

I can’t tell you how many times I cried. Too many to remember exactly. And then, in the evening as I told Greg about what we had read that day, I got to cry again! It was an excellent book.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Show and Tell Monday

Dear Parents of Just for Fun Students,

Next week’s class theme is SHOW AND TELL! Your child is welcome to bring something (or several things!) to show us if he likes. It can be a favorite toy, a pet rhinoceros, a craft project…anything interesting!

Looking forward to next class!!

~Mrs. B

That was the note I e-mailed and left in family folders last week in the hopes of boosting participation. Even so, only about half of the students remembered, but I gleefully made up for it by bringing TONS of my own stuff!

I was surprised and impressed by the children’s selections. Three talked about their Bibles (including two who had forgotten to bring something but happened to have their Bible with them), one picked his new baby sister (who is always one of the quietest students!), and one performed with hand puppets and singing! Another showed stuffed animals, and one girl even brought her live cat!

During my primary school years I had managed to build a small collection of novelties, including an assortment of puzzles and curiosities from the eighties. Anyone remember those necklaces from which you could hang charms? They came in an endless variety of themes and colors. Then, there’s the gigantic fake penny that I found at the fair when I was seventeen, a Rubick’s cube, and many other nick-knacks. At the end, my assistant compared the class to a toy store, which I thought was an accurate assessment. Lol!

The last ten minutes or so, I handed out miniature wind-up teeth chompers for them to keep. As I was exiting the room, a quick backward glance gave the blessing of a nice memory: two girls happily engrossed with their wild hopping teeth, one laughed hysterically as hers set off snapping towards the other. Have you ever seen those things? I have a picture at the beginning of this post. They are pretty funny to watch!

It really was a delightful way to spend an hour.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Saturday Stirrings

Welcome to my favorite apple pie filling! I honestly have never liked restaurant or store-bought apple pie, because to me they can’t compete with this recipe. But before you get too excited, keep in mind that it all comes down to what you grew up with. For example, my husband doesn’t see anything special about this version. To him, apple pie is apple pie!

A little tip: skip the crust and ladle over vanilla ice cream. Or better yet, skip that step and eat it straight from the pan. That’s what I do!

Apple Pie Filling (Ice Cream Topping)
6-8 apples, peeled and sliced
4-5 slices of white bread, lightly toasted
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
5 tbsp cream or milk
½ - 1 cup sugar (if using sour apples, use 1 cup)
½ tsp cinnamon
real butter for frying
¼ cup apricot jam
2 tsp vanilla
dash of nutmeg

Cook apples on stove-top over medium-low until tender, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whip the egg and add flour, cream, sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Fry slices of toast in butter on both sides. Cut them into cubes, and add them to the egg mixture, stirring until they are well coated.

Add jam, vanilla, and nutmeg to apples. Stir in bread and egg mixture. Heat until everything is cooked through.

Grab a spoon.

As if that isn't enough to get your sugar tooth rolling, Carol has a pumpkin roll recipe right here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Missing Teacher Mystery

Class went GREAT today! Or . . . at least that’s what I hear! You see, I was absent most of the time.

Students entered the classroom to find a magnifying glass at each seat and a mysterious message on the board reading: “Where is Mrs. B?” (My son told me afterward that seeing the message gave him the chills. Lol! Although, thankfully, he suspected I was hiding.)

It quickly became apparent that their teacher was missing. Having prearranged things with my assistant, she presumably did not panic. Hee-hee! She took attendance, had a bit of discussion (during which one student suggested I had shrunk, thereby necessitating a magnifying glass), and the students spread out in search of clues. One went left while the rest went right. Guess what! “Lefty” found the clue first!

Important Lesson of the Day: Dare to be different. Oh yes, I planned it that way. ;-)

Clue #1, predictably, was a map of the building with a prominent red “X” at the exact location of a small table just outside the hall. Clue #2 was sandwiched between the table and the glass on top. This one said, “Mr. Green, in the kitchen, by the coffee pots.” A bit of humor there that was probably lost on all the kiddies. Anyway, I had left a tiny plastic frog next to the coffee dispensers in the kitchen. Inside Mr. Green was a nifty bit of original poetry:

To the girl’s bathroom
You must go.
In the white cupboard
You’ll meet Joe.

Of course, they all wondered who Joe was, and the girls were delighted to have the boys excluded. Joe was a stick drawing with a friendly message about the cubby holes in the nursery: second row, fifth column to be exact. There they found a stash of lollipops, the kind with very long, plastic handles.

Next it was upstairs to my husband’s computer class. He had given one of his students a sealed envelop with TOP SECRET printed in bold letters on top and told him to hand it to anyone who asks, “Do you know where Mrs. B is?” After the inquiry was made and a good deal of memory-jogging-chair-nudging on Hubby's part, the clue was served: “Go see the soccer player downstairs.”

Yes, they found the paper attached to an actual soccer player . . . on a foosball table. This led them to an empty classroom with two clues to be found. One was a superhero canister with a padlock, the other a key and message: “The Superheroes can help!” I’ll bet you can guess where this is going. They had to use the key on the lock! Inside was a compass for each child and the next clue. It had step by step instructions . . . go to the exit, find chalk arrows on the sidewalk, go north 20 paces, that sort of thing until they came full circle with the last clue in the bushes: another map with the classic X. They found me inside an empty classroom with 15 minutes to spare! I told them The Invisible Man had kidnapped me.

The kids could not stop talking about how much fun they had! Praise the Lord! I only wish I could have seen them along the way. Instead, I was wringing my hands, saying silent prayers that all would be well. I had no idea how long it would take or if a clue would get accidentally moved. At some point, I got that feeling of reassurance from the Lord, and it proved true. It was well worth all the planning and running around we did in preparation.

Here I should take a moment to thank my assistant who will likely never read this. She is the sweetest lady and agreed to do this, knowing she might end up going it alone . . . keeping track of ten excited kids, running all over the building, up and down stairs with her newborn baby and young toddler in tow. Thank the Lord, after two rounds of e-mails sent earlier in the week with no replies, one gal stepped forward at the last minute and went with her. God is SO good!! He just worked everything out!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Little Trees

God ". . . calleth those things which be not as though they were." Romans 4:17b

When we bought our house seven years ago, we signed papers from the homeowner's association agreeing to a number of requirements, one of which was to plant trees every so many feet in our backyard. I have spent numerous hours poring over garden books and researching the internet to come up with a list of plants that I felt would work well in our landscaping plans. Three weeks ago we finally brought home three little trees, basing our decision on what they will become when they are full grown. It is hard for me to see them as they are, because I am excited for the time when they will fill the place in our landscape for which they were chosen.

So much potential.

Perhaps this is similar to how God sees us. I already love these skinny, crooked trees with their sparse sprinkling of leaves. We tend them carefully, making sure they have plenty of water, watching for strong winds that might blow them over. We may need to add stakes if they start leaning. One will require fertilizer in the spring and two will probably need pruning for shape and to remove awkward or crossing branches.

My favorite spring tree is the flowering cherry. They often need to be replaced after about twenty years, but that didn't discourage me from getting one! I am delighted to see that it turns orange in the fall, which it has already done. We planted it almost directly behind the kitchen window so I can see it as I do dishes or cook.

This is our crab apple. I really wanted a climbing tree next to the play area, and Kylen is anticipating picking its sour fruit.

Here is an evergreen that I thought would be nice behind our variegated red twig dogwoods in the front, since they drop their leaves for winter. It will be about seven feet tall and have a perfect cone shape. It's so cute! Reminds us of a tiny Christmas tree.

We plan to get more trees in the future, but this is a happy start!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Saturday Stirrings

Here's a nice, easy, yummy, one-pot dish for a nice, chilly, yummy, fall evening. Add some sort of bread, and you're set!

Southwestern Chicken and Rice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts; cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 can (15-1/4 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/2 cups thick 'n chunky salsa
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1-1/2 cups MINUTE White Rice, uncooked

HEAT oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken and onion; cook and stir until chicken is cooked through.

ADD beans, salsa, corn and broth. Bring to boil.

STIR in rice; cover. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes.

Go see Carol for a nice, easy, yummy, fall dessert!