Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

I really, really, really wanted something sweet the other day and since it’s Autumn, that something needed to contain pumpkin. The only problem was that I really didn’t have a lot of time to start cracking eggs and warming the oven so I came up with a plan. I would make something quick, easy, and absolutely no bake. This is what I came up with …

photo copy

Here are the ingredients..

photo9

*missing from this photo: Pumpkin pie spice

So first up, you mix 1 large box or 2 small boxes of vanilla instant pudding with 2 Cups of cold milk and let set up for just a few minutes, then add in 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice and 1 can of pumpkin. Set it back in the fridge and let set until you’re ready for it.

photo6

Next, mix one, room temperature block of cream cheese with 2 cups of powdered sugar and half a container of cool whip and set that aside.

photo8

Finally, grab a trifle dish or in my case..a 7 x 9 inch glass Pyrex baking dish and line the bottom of the dish with Ginger Snaps.

photo7

(You could crush these up and make a more “crust-like” layer, but I was thinking it was quicker this way.)

Get all of your ingredients lined up..

photo5

..and start layering, starting with half the cream cheese mixture, then half the pudding mixture and then more Ginger Snaps.

photo4

Make sure when you are spreading the layers that you get them all the way to the edge so you have a very pretty layering effect on the side of your dish.

photo3

Start all over again with the remaining ingredients. On the very top spread the last half of the cool whip and sprinkle with some crushed up Ginger Snaps.

photo2

Pop back in the fridge for a few minutes and then you’re ready to serve.

It’s super simple and super yummy and really hits the spot with that pumpkin craving without all the baking.

photo copy

Happy Sunday.

Love,

Val

Monday, September 23, 2013

Homeschooling Week 1

Well, it’s been a full week and we’ve all survived Homeschooling. So here is my pros list so far:

1. So much less stress! – I find that many times in my life I am looking for ways to slow it down, to stop and smell the roses so to speak and this is definitely opened up a lot more time to do that. We can work at our own pace at our own times so there is no hurrying and rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off. I find I am nagging a lot less at Benjamin to hurry up and just enjoying him more as a fun filled little boy and not stressing him out by constantly rushing around.

2. I know what my child is learning. – I always felt a little bit in the dark when it came to school. You’d go in for an open house or a parent/teacher conference and you’d see all this work your child has done that you knew nothing about. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel the need to know every single little thing that was going on, but homeschool has changed all that.

3. Science, Social Studies, & History – I am able to spend more time on these three subjects than most public schools are allowed and capable of spending. Why? – What the public school system teaches is determined by the state and national levels. They have to meet a certain standard to get funding so therefore they have to teach what they are told to teach..and this year they are even told how to teach it in some aspects. I, on the other hand, do not have anyone to answer to except the school program I joined. My son really excels in Math and Reading so that opens up some time to spend on the other subjects every single day instead of only once a week or twice a month. These 3 subjects happen to be what he loves the most so therefore he is really loving homeschool.

4. Attitude is everything. – My son’s disposition was taking a plummet this year. Everyday when I would pick him up from school, he would be very nasty, hateful and mean. He would back talk at an alarming frequency and all I could think is, “what is this kid going to be like as a teenager?” Once again I am blaming stress. I think the kid was truly stressed out by school. …For the last seven days he is a completely different kid. His demeanor has changed, he’s sweet and loving again and way more respectful toward me. This tells me that perhaps we made the right choice for us. Only time will tell!

 

So now I’ll tell you the things that aren’t so hot about homeschool. Yep, that’s right, nothing’s perfect, sadly. I am not saying these are necessarily “cons” because they obviously haven’t made me change my mind, but perhaps they would be for you and I am here to provide you with information whether it be good or bad.

1. You are with your kids ALL the time. – Oh yeah, as much as I love him, by 6:00 pm my son’s voice starts to sound like Elmo on Speed. I often find that Dad has to take over in the evenings to give me a little break from the joys of being a Mother/Teacher otherwise he might see an alarming rise in the wine budget. The choice is his.

2. I have noticed my younger son acting out a little more. – I blame this on two things really. One is that he started preschool (I do not homeschool him yet) and for a toddler, whenever there is a big change like that, sometimes it manifests in behavior difficulties. Two, he gets really jealous of the time I devote to Ben when I am teaching so he does things to get my attention, and it’s not singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It’s things like taking the cushions off the chairs and stacking cardboard boxes on top and then climbing to the tallest point in the living room and plummeting down into the boxes to “crash” like an airplane. I’m thinking bubble wrap and duct tape might solve this problem.

3. Not getting things done when I want. – It’s like being the Mother of a newborn without the sleep deprivation. Sometimes the laundry sits for a couple hours before I can fold it. Sometimes the dishwasher doesn’t get emptied until we are ready to fill it again. That stuff just happens. Just when I plan on an assignment being really simple for my son and thinking he can handle it on his own so I go start something, I am proven wrong and find myself glued to his side. It’s a small price to pay really, but I have had to REALLY dedicate my down time to getting simple tasks done and doing them quickly.

So there you have it. Our first week in a nutshell. I can without a doubt tell you it has truly been a joy and perhaps I’m even a little surprise that I have enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. Our bonds as a family have strengthened and what more could I ask for?

One other thing we did this week was go to a Revolutionary War Reenactment on Sunday after Church service. Now that I am responsible for Ben’s education, I find that I am constantly looking for things like this to take him to. This did not disappoint and I recommend going to something like this if you ever get the chance. The information these re-enactors bestow upon you is better than any history book you could ever read. These guys (& gals) really know their stuff.

camp

This is a picture of the whole encampment. You walk along and each tent has someone(s) in it to talk about their job during the battles.

doctor

Here is a picture of Ben getting pretty grossed out by a doctor talking about what he does when a soldier is wounded. All I can say is EEEK!

tea

This was a man talking about the Boston Tea Party. He pulled out what I was hoping was a huge Hershey Bar but I was sadly mistaken. That is actually a replica of the bricks of tea that were thrown into the harbor when the ship was raided the night of the Tea Party. I had no idea that the tea was shipped in bricks from England to the Colonies.

…I still wish it was a Hershey Bar though.

flag

Did you know this is the flag that was flown during all the Northwest Territory Battles? Yep, I was amazed too. They commissioned a woman to make red and white striped flags for the whole NWT and she said she could only make red and green. So they said that was fine and flew this flag at all the encampments and during battles. It makes me feel like singing a Christmas carol.

fashion1

This is a women’s fashion show from the Revolutionary War era.

fashion3

One of the models decided that she made a bad career choice and made a break for it.

fashion2

They managed to catch her and finish the fashion show so all was right with the world.

quilts

The county park authority had a lot of local craftspeople demonstrating how to make things from back in the 1700’s. Above is a woman who is a world champion quilter. …….Actually, I don’t know that for sure, but her stuff was amazing!

spinning

Here are some ladies demonstrating yarn making and weaving.

candles1

We even got to make our own candles. You got a wick and stood in a circle and walked around while everyone took turns dipping their wick in the hot wax. The boys found this fascinating.

candles2

This picture was taken on the 3876th pass around the wax.

This kept them busy so long that I am seriously considering getting my own candle making kit.

silver

Here is some pretty silver jewelry replicas from the war era. These were used to trade to the Indians for pelts and supplies.

Fun fact: The Indians thought the crosses looked like dragonflies which were thought to be sacred. A lot of the Indians would wear them and the clergymen would take credit for converting them to Christianity even though they really hadn’t.

tomahawk

A Tomahawk throwing demonstration was the only thing that took the boys away from the candles. It was too enthralling to pass up. ….Sharp weapons being thrown at wood. What more could a boy ask for?

potato walk

Finally the kids all got to play games. Above is the potato walk race.

egg toss

This is a picture of the egg toss champion. It’s a good thing because he doesn’t take losing well. Failure is not an option at four years old and definitely not when there is a pumpkin on the line as the prize.

 

As you can tell we had a wonderful time visiting the Revolutionary War Reenactment. It’s a wonderful way to take learning out of the classroom and do something fun!

Happy Monday.

love,

Val

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homeschooling

This week my family and I began a new adventure and it’s something I never thought I would do in a million years. We officially became a homeschool family.
When I first began talking about homeschooling, not just to my husband and kids but to extended family and friends, I learned very quickly it can trigger very strong emotions in people. Either they are very supportive or very negative, but I find it very hard to find someone in between. I had to learn to handle the negative comments with grace and soak in the positive comments straight to my soul. I have yet to find one homeschool family that I have talked to that regrets doing it and that tells me a lot. The bottom line is that I have to do what I think is right for my children. It may not be what is right for someone else’s child and I, maybe more than most, am the first to say that not everyone should homeschool.
Since this is a brand new adventure for me, I am going to try as hard as I can to blog once a week about what it’s like to be brand new homeschoolers and some of the things I learn along the way. Maybe you’re someone who has always wanted to know more about homeschool, maybe you’re someone who has really thought about starting homeschool but doesn’t have a clue as to where to begin, or maybe you’re just curious and you’re hoping to see me go down in a blaze of glory.  …Hey, I’m not saying that it won’t happen. No matter what your motives are, I hope to shine some light on the subject of homeschool and I hope to help a few people along the way.
I think I’ll start with a few things I learned about homeschool so far:
1.   There are 325465432165432.5 different homeschool curriculums out there. Really. I counted. It can be mind boggling to say the least. I figured out very quickly that I am a person who needs a definite teaching guide and a stricter program to follow. Some people come up with their own teaching guides and pull curriculum from several sources to come up with their own mix. ….that is NOT me. The point is that you have to kind of jump right in and start swimming in order to figure it out. Because I am a control freak, and after reading until my eyes crossed, I decided to join an independent study program through www.K12.com . It’s basically like a teacher walks up to you and hands you everything you need to start teaching right this minute. It works for me because I don’t really have the time to look around for different curriculums and make sure they meet standards and all that jazz. Like I said, it’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
2.   My Son needs breaks. He starts vibrating like a cell phone if he has to sit still longer than about 15 to 20 minutes. I figured out that if I take him outside and we read on the porch swing or we practice spelling words in the grass that his focus improves. It’s awesome now, but I’ll definitely have to get creative in the winter.
3. I generally get a whole day of school done in about 3 hours. It’s amazing.
4. I start seeing the learning potential in every single thing we do as a family. I go to the grocery store and we’re talking about prices and money, we go to the park and we’re talking about trees or seasons, and we are driving in the car talking about… well… everything. Seriously.  What I like about this is that it takes learning into every aspect of life, not just in our little homeschool classroom.
5. Peace.
Ahhh… there is some sort of peacefulness that has come over our house from the moment we have begun. I’m not sure why or how, but the “stressed-out pinch” behind our eyes has faded and we can just take a deep breath and work at our own pace. I love it.
So, I hope to have a lot more to tell you in the next few weeks ahead. I imagine there will be struggles, but there will also be moments of great joy. Either way I’ll try to share them with you!
Happy Monday.
love,
Val
p.s. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask or contact me!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pumpkin Bonanza

I have been mindlessly staring at my computer this week for hours on end, it seems. In a matter of 7 days I have had 4 photo shoots which translates to a back log of major Photoshop time. You can imagine that more than a few brakes are needed so I don’t lose my marbles, so on one of those coveted brakes, I harvested some of my pumpkins…

pumpkins

 

The orange ones grew wild because a pumpkin from last year got carelessly tossed into the corner of the yard, but hey, it worked out for everyone. The white ones I grew along the fence line of my yard because I have a fetish for white pumpkins. Life just wouldn’t be worth living without them.

Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but I LOVE white pumpkins.

In honor of my pumpkin harvest and in honor of not having one moment of the day when I can actually cook and clean, I am putting together a recap of my three favorite pumpkin recipes from the last year and a half.

DSC_0494 copy

 

The Easiest Pumpkin Cookies EVER…

130

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies..

DSC_0326

All three of these recipes are super simple and super yummy. Now if we could just get some Fall-like weather here in Illinois, I would be more motivated to decorate with some pumpkins too. For some reason I just can’t make myself do it when it’s 90+ degrees.

Bummer.

Hope you enjoy these recipes and very soon I will have some new pumpkin recipes to share!

Happy Wednesday.

love,

Val

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Let’s Get Crafty For A Minute..

Today is my Grandmother’s birthday. Happy Birthday Grandma!!
It’s always hard coming up with gift ideas for her, but today I had a plan. You see, Grandma had commented several times about how beautiful my Lime Light Hydrangea bush had gotten this Summer, and she was right…
001
I have honestly never seen this plant get this big with such huge blooms on it. With all the rain we had and the cooler temperatures, it was just the perfect conditions for growing crazy huge Hydrangeas, I guess. Some of the blooms are bigger than my youngest Son’s head. I am not kidding..
002
..and this kid doesn’t have a small head. …or a clean nose, it seems.
Those blooms are unbelievable. So unbelievable that I knew this was the year to dry them. If you’ve never dried Hydrangeas, there is a trick to it. You MUST work with them when they are fresh blooms, put them in whatever arrangement you want and then let them dry that way. Otherwise, you get a huge mess on your hands because the dried blooms fall apart. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make my Grandma a wreath with those beautiful blooms she has admired all summer and since the flowers will dry that way, the wreath will last for quite some time.
I went and bought a Styrofoam wreath form and then went and cut a big basket full of Hydrangea blooms and went to work.
One tip for making the wreath very full is..
005
..cut the bloom with about 3 or 4 inches of stem left on and then remove all the leaves. Once the leaves are gone, cut the stem down to about 2 inches, but make sure it’s at an angle so you have a point to shove into the foam…
006
This will be much easier to get firmly into the wreath.
Once you start, just keep building around the wreath..
004
Fill it in tight and as full as possible. I tied burlap ribbon on to hang the wreath with, but I always hang my wreath up and look at it from every angle so you can make sure it’s good and full. Once you’re done, you should have something like this..
008
Once they dry, they will be a light brown, but still very pretty and something to enjoy all winter long while dreaming about summer. I also like to give them a spritz of glitter once they are dry just to sparkle them up a bit.
My Grandma loved it so I think I did a good job and I hope I inspired you to save those Hydrangeas!
Happy Wednesday.
love,
Val