Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day from Toad Hall!

We aren't doing anything particularly special this February 29th, but we're having a lovely day and I thought I'd give y'all a peek.

The Badger is mowing the lawn and doing various other yard chores with his newly de-winterized lawnmower.

The chickens are eating the lawn clippings.

The goats spent more and more time lying around resting the closer they get to their due dates (boy, I know how that feels!)

My Rabbit, who can't decide if she should dress for winter or spring...

...drew me a wonderful picture of a family of flowers. Love their hair!

Roo made me a paper fan which she decorated with a floral motif.

Bean finished his collage for Cub Scouts tonight. It's supposed to represent him. I asked him to make a list of five characteristics he wanted to express. Here is his list: Brave/daring, Strategist, Loves the outdoors, Old-fashioned, and Imaginative. I'd say that's pretty much Bean. Here's his collage:

I made my first diaper cover with fold-over elastic. It turned out great! I was worried that sewing the FOE would be difficult, but it wasn't. I just followed the instructions, which said to go slow and be really careful. The only part I had trouble with, actually, was sewing the layer of reinforcement to the front panel where the snaps were to go. Sewing two layers of PUL together was a pain. But look how cute!!

And I just popped some bread into the oven to rise (have I mentioned how much I LOVE the "Proof" setting on my new oven?)

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Hope you are enjoying your Leap Day!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chocolate-Coated Peanut

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A Happy Rabbit Birthday!

It's been FOUR years since my smart, funny, exciting little Rabbit was born. We needed to have a big celebration...

so we started with Hawaiian Haystacks...

...then moved on to chocolate cake...

...which we played with...

...and then finished up with a fun pile of presents...

I have always loved birthdays, but they're even more fun when you're the mom. Not only do you get to party, but you get to remember. You remember that amazing birth day that you were a part of in a way no one else can even begin to understand because only you went through the excruciating and exhilerating process of bringing this new someone into the world. And then you held them and gazed at them and realized that they were completely their own self, unlike anyone who has ever lived, and you loved them more than you ever knew you could love. Since then you have watched them grow and develop that unique self as you have given them everything they have needed to live and thrive. And yet you know that even though you gave them everything, you have not made them who they are. So on their birthday when you are looking at them and saying "Wow, look at that beautiful person" you are not just seeing them as they are now but as they were the moment you first held them, when you caught a glimpse of who they could become.

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Comments Again

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Colorful Flock

We love our chickens! I didn't realize before we got chickens how passionate one could get about chicken ownership. We get really excited about trying out new varieties. We got a new batch of chicks at the end of October and very recently incorporated them with the rest of our flock. Now we have quite a mixture:

This is the one rooster we have left (I think!) Bean named him Leppy when he was just a little chick (in last spring's flock) that looked like he had leopard spots. I sure wasn't expecting him to grow into this beautiful thing. He's not really big, but he definitely rules the roost.

Now we have what looks to be a matching hen-- the batch we got in October is all hens (well, at least it is supposed to be!) She is the most striking hen we have and the kids have been calling her Rainbow.

Look at that long, fluffy neck! What an interesting bird.

Our other stand-out is this black and white beauty that I named Matilda. (I don't have any problem naming hens because we're not going to eat them.)

This new batch should start laying soon and I'm glad. We've only been getting maybe a half a dozen eggs a day lately. We can definitely eat more than that, and I'd like to have a few to share! So, yeah, chickens are great. They're pretty, they're interesting, they're funny, they're useful. And I like the way they are shaped, especially when they are pecking at their food on the ground. I'm looking forward to many more years of having them around!
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I Remember When

So, I'm sitting here trying to decide whether or not to sign up for a Pinterest account. Everyone's been raving about them and they look really cool. The thing that is holding me back is this: do I really need another online time-sucker?

I really really love the internet. I always have. I remember when my parents first got Prodigy service clear back around 1990. My sister Pineapple was serving a church mission in Italy and we were amazed that we could get weather reports from Italy on the computer. I really remember how "WOW" the whole thing was.

I remember dial-up bulletin boards-- BBS's. You were so nerdy if you knew BBS lingo, but they were so amazing!

In 9th grade (about 1993) I remember my friend Kristel giving me a big long computer printout (the kind with lots of holes down both sides) containing a number of what we would now call forwarded email jokes. I think she'd got it from a BBS. One of them was a list of funny things to do in an elevator (like "greet everyone else who gets on with a handshake and a smile and ask them to call you 'Admiral.'") We laughed and laughed over these and it just seemed so cool to have jokes going around on the computer.

My high school in Minnesota that I went to for 9th grade had a state-of-the-art computer system in the library where you could search several different databases of newspaper and magazine archives. They impressed on us how special this was. It was all on a black screen with green letters-- but it sure opened up possibilities for research.

At home we had AOL for awhile, and for a long time we used Juno, a free dial-up email service. I didn't really do much with email until we moved to Utah and I wanted to keep in touch with friends back in Minnesota. But even that was a couple of years after we moved-- even after I got email most of my friends didn't have it yet or I had to send them messages at their mom or dad's account.

It was my senior year of high school (1996-1997) that I really got into the internet. I actually took a class that year called "beginning internet." I think I spent most of the time in that class waiting for pages to load (remember how sloooooow it all used to be?) but I learned a lot. I had a friend at work who was really into computers and she taught me some basic HTML. I got a Yahoo Geocities address and set up my own little webpage with a few pictures and some things about me. Do you remember Geocities? It was divided into all these little neighborhoods. You chose the name of a neighborhood that fit your personality or what you wanted to have a website about. It was free, which was pretty amazing at the time. I spent a lot of time creating my little Geocities address. It was a lot of fun.

I also liked to send ecards. That was big stuff in the late 90's. They were simple (no animations) but they were free!

How fast it all happened. I started college in the fall of 1997 and by then the internet was standard. Everyone had email. I spent a lot of hours online in college-- I have always had a hard time leaving the internet alone. I had a brand-new iMac with an internal modem (ooooh!) I was still dialing up (Earthlink!) but it was getting faster. I remember visiting my sister in Massachusetts and using her computer that had a cable modem and being blown away by its speed (and by the fact that it wasn't tying up the phone line!)

Online shopping was still a mystery to me at this point. Why anyone would want to buy something online and then have to wait to have it shipped to them (and pay extra for that!) was beyond me. Except when it came to plane tickets. That made perfect sense. was my friend (I traveled a lot in those days!)

I remember for our wedding the Badger's aunt, who lived out of state and couldn't come, sent us a copy of The Joy of Cooking that she bought and had sent to us with a website call Amazon. I had heard of Amazon, but this was my first dealing with it. I thought it was cool that she did that (and I am so grateful for that book!)

After I got married and we moved to Idaho, we were so poor for quite a few years that we just ran free Juno email on our dinosaur computers. I spent a lot of time on there emailing my family though. Sometimes I wonder if I damaged Bean by having him hear that "modem connect" sound that the dialup connection made (you know, the really screechy one) a billion times during my pregnancy. It was so nice to have a way to connect with my loved ones though. I missed them a lot.

I think it was about 2004 or 2005 when we finally got to the point financially where we had a decent computer and DSL internet access and I know it was 2005 when I got my digital camera. At that point I was a little behind the curve in terms of what was going on in the online world. But it wasn't long before someone clued me in to the concept of a blog. I've been blogging and loving it ever since.

It was about that time that I started banking online and shopping online for some things, like stuff from mail-order garden catalogs and clothes from Land's End. I started to wonder how we had ever lived without the internet. I'm still wondering that.

I joined Facebook in 2007 or 2008. I have found it to be an incredibly powerful website and I have tried to use it very carefully and not get sucked in to wasting a lot of time on it. I love being able to connect with so many people that I've known throughout my life and share my big happenings with them. I love reading about their big happenings. But I don't really like wading through a lot of trivial details and "forwards" to find the stuff that it worth my time. I have heard many safety concerns about Facebook and there have been times when I have considered getting off, but there are too many good things about it. For one thing, there are certain people that you just can't get ahold of any other way. For another, it gives me an opportunity to be an influence for good in a very unique and widespread way, especially since I don't get out much.

I will tell you an interesting story about Facebook. Last night I was at the church for Cub Scouts. I was walking the halls with Peanut for awhile (the cubs were painting and I wasn't letting her near that!) I needed to use the restroom, so I asked someone I knew, Cindy, to hold Peanut for a minute. When I came out of the restroom, Cindy was sitting on the couch in the foyer with Peanut. There were several other women sitting there. I did not know any of them-- they were all from the other ward. I thanked Cindy and took Peanut from her, then I decided to show Cindy how Peanut is starting to walk. I stood Peanut up on the floor there and had her take a couple of steps. Everyone exclaimed how cute she was, and then one of the women (again, who I did not know) said "That's funny-- I just now saw a picture of her walking on Facebook." I was totally startled-- I'm thinking "who are you and why is my baby on your Facebook account?" Turned out we had a mutual friend who had commented on the photo of Peanut I had put on Facebook the night before. My friend's comment and the photo showed up on this woman's feed. She had *just* been looking at it on her phone. It really startled me and made me realize I need to be more vigilant about my Facebook security settings.

But anyway, back to my dilemma. I know that I am very prone to spending too much time on the internet, so I try to make sure I spend most of my time online doing "productive" things. I enjoy being online and it relaxes me, so I try to not just let the time go to waste. I research things for homeschool. I shop for things my family really needs. I learn about stuff I am interested in and skills that will help me with my family and homestead. I get on Shutterfly and make photo books. I blog. Blogging is awesome because it is useful or helpful on several different levels and yet it's really fun for me at the same time. But Pinterest? It would be fun, but I don't know how truly useful it would be, at least compared to some of the other things I do online. And I know how tempted I would be to let it suck up a lot of my time. And I just don't have a lot of time.

But, darn it, Pinterest is really cool!

I wonder what other really cool things are coming our way in the fascinating world of cyberspace. And we will look back to this time and say "I remember when..."

Spring Planting

I went out this evening to plant some lettuce and radish and stuff in my garden. Awhile later, I sent Bean in for my camera. Unbeknownst to me, he took this picture:

Note the Rabbit climbing around on the stable fencing, Peanut watching from the stroller, and the goats hoping I will feed them some chard (I always do!) I'm glad he took the picture-- I don't get enough pictures of me, which is okay for me right now but not as okay from a family history perspective.

Here is the picture I was fixin' to take:

The kids LOVE LOVE LOVE to help me plant seeds. It's so fun to work in the garden with them! You can also see my somewhat haphazard garden methodology. I gave up on the square foot gardening grids. Now I just sort of plant wherever. I still love my long and narrow raised bed though. I think there are as many ways to garden as there are gardens!

And I love mine! Especially in the spring, before the heat and insects come and destroy everything. I'm looking forward to a wonderful next three or four months. After that, I'm not getting my hopes up for anything.
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Playing With Daddy

Peanut was fussing while I was teaching school this morning, so when the Badger got home from work mid-morning he took her upstairs for me. I peeked in awhile later and saw this:

Words cannot begin to express how much I love this picture... especially the puppy dog on the Badger's head!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Toad Hall Valentine's Day 2012

At the end of school today we had a family Valentine's Party. When I think about Valentine's Day during my early childhood years, I think about my Mom and how she did little things to make the day special for us: simple things like paper valentines and maybe an extra-nice meal-- it made me feel happy and loved. I want to do that for my kids, so I try to do a little something extra for them on February 14th. Sometimes it's very simple and sometimes it's a little more elaborate-- I think this year was probably the most festive V-Day we've ever had and I really enjoyed it.

I decided to make heart-shaped cinnamon rolls. The kids had a blast helping me shape them and before they went through the rising process they really looked like hearts. Afterwards, not so much. But they tasted amazing. Especially with cream cheese frosting. You really can't go wrong with cream cheese frosting.

While I was serving the cinnamon rolls I sat the kids at the table with the markers and a stack of paper heart doilies and let them go to town. Roo and Rabbit decorated doilies the whole rest of the day. They made valentines for everybody and their dog without me having to do anything. This is new for me. With the boys when they were that age I would have to sit on them to get them to finish a valentine for anyone. (Though this year Bean did take a heart and very sincerely write "I love Flinch" on it to give to his cat!)

Anyway, after we had the cinnamon rolls I handed out some small gifts. Roo and Rabbit's Primary teacher had given me some little bags of candy to give to them on Valentine's Day, but I knew that would cause problems with the boys. So I made them up some little bags of cookies. I got some extremely nice chocolate for the Badger. Then I was at Walmart yesterday and found Hello Kitty hoodies on clearance for $3. I couldn't pass that up, so I thought I'd give them to the girls for Valentine's Day. Well, then I really needed something else for the boys. Luckily a package came in the mail this morning-- calendars I'd ordered on Amazon. One for the boys' room (Alaska wilderness) and one for the Badger's office (lovely scenery.) I decided to make them into Valentine presents. Why not? I didn't originally intend for there to be a bunch of presents, but it just turned out that way. Then, after we'd opened everything I'd gotten, as well as the paper valentines from Grandma and Grandpa, Roo went upstairs and brought down a whole pile of "presents" wrapped in notebook paper. She'd gone throughout the house and found random things and wrapped them up for each of us. Sure, they weren't anything new, but it was very sweet.

Here is the Badger showing his enthusiasm at unwrapping his package and finding Rabbit's blue stuffed monster:

At that point I got out some paper and we started writing down what we loved about each member of the family. This was a nice idea, but everyone was so sugared up at that point that the discussion quickly devolved into absolute silliness. So it didn't quite work out the way I'd intended, but it was a lot of fun!

I love my family! I feel so blessed to have such a nice Badger as my perma-Valentine, and a whole heap of darling kiddos to show my love to as well!
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Coming Down for a Landing

Next on Peanut's agenda this morning, right after the walk, was a snuggly nap with Fish on the couch.

I love to see these two together. Fish had a hard time with the Rabbit when she was a baby-- he didn't think she liked him very much (a lot of people thought that about baby Rabbit!) Most of that was because he wasn't old enough when she was born to know how to make her happy. I talked with him a lot about how to love and care for a young baby and got him all ready so that when Peanut was born he took her into his arms and made a special bond that melts my heart every time I see it.

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Taking Off

This morning I was doing school with the kids. I was actually singing "Jesus Loves Me" with the Rabbit as part of her language lessons. We were sitting on the couch. Roo and Bean were sitting in the dining room doing math (I think Fish might have been AWOL-- there's always at least one kid who's not doing what he's supposed to!) Anyway, things were going as good as they ever do and I was feeling very happy. Peanut was playing on the living room floor. All of the sudden she stood up and walked to me!

We've been watching her for weeks, expecting her to start walking at any moment and it was so exciting when it finally happened! Look how excited she looks with her arms stretched out, ready to take off! It must have been all the good vibes in the room. Or us singing about Jesus. Something propelled her forward!

She is nearly 15 months old. That is exactly the age that all my other babies have started walking. I don't know what it is-- they have all done everything else on dramatically different time tables but every single one of them hasn't started walking until about 15 months. And no matter how many kids I have, it's still a wonderful and thrilling moment!
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Monday, February 13, 2012


One of our favorite toys around here is the Wahoo we got Peanut for her first birthday back in November. The first one we got was defective, but they quickly shipped us a replacement and he's been up and running ever since. He was advertised as the "perfect puppy" and I have to say that's pretty much true: he doesn't bark, shed, chew on shoes, or "misbehave" (as the Victorians put it.) And he doesn't mind when the kids pull on his ears. Or sit on him, for that matter. Which they do. Constantly.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Best Tuna Salad Ever

I recently discovered how to make the yummiest tuna salad ever, so I thought I'd share.

Start with a bowl of greens. Add two cans of tuna. Then make this dressing and stir about half of it into the bowl:

Avocado Salad Dressing

1 ripe avocado, pitted
1/2 c sour cream
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (please use fresh!)
2 large garlic cloves
2 tsp fresh pepper (yes, this is a lot, but it works!)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Blend everything in a blender until smooth. Salt to taste.

On plain lettuce, this dressing is too strong-- too much lemon, too much pepper. But when you add the tuna, something magical happens. I never thought I would rave about tuna salad, but here I am. And it's healthy, too!
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Our Puppet Theater

I've been wanting a puppet theater for my kids for years. I was always seeing them in catalogs and I almost bought one several times. The thing that held me back was their bulk, especially with all the moving around that we do. The last thing we needed was some big wooden thing to have to try to squeeze into the moving truck. Then I saw one that could be hung in a doorway with tension rods. Perfect! And then I said, "I could totally make one of those."

Remember how last Christmas we were focusing on homemade gifts? I bought the fabric to make a puppet theater for the kids and that was supposed to be one of the homemade gifts. Remember how I said we only got a few of our many projects made?

But I did get it made in time for Roo's birthday! I kept the design very simple-- I had to because I ended up throwing together most of it the day before. But it turned out just great, mostly because I used awesome fabric that looks like real theater curtains and doesn't have to have the edges finished.

They are so happy with it! They've spent hours already creating puppet shows. Right after I took these pictures they came up with the idea of hanging it in the closet doorway of the boys' bedroom. Then they made the boys' room into a Theater. I went in there this evening for a Performance. They had the window darkened with a blanket and a bunch of chairs set up. Music was playing on the CD player while we waited for the show to start (the overture to HMS Pinafore, actually...) Then one of the boys sat up on top of the bunk bed and ran the spotlight (flashlight) while the other boy ran the puppet show (later they traded places.) It was so creative and clever.

This is exactly the kind of thing I like my kids to spend their time doing!!!!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bountiful Happiness

One of the things I was sad about leaving when we left Utah was the Bountiful Baskets food co-op. I had just discovered it-- it was fairly new back then-- and I was so excited about it.

I found when I got here that, like in Kansas, it was hard to find affordable organic food, bulk food, and bulk produce that wasn't revoltingly expensive (for instance, finding apples in any quantity or quality for less that $1.00 a pound is really rare here and I was used to being able to buy an entire box of apples for quite a bit less than that.) And food prices are just generally higher here as well. I missed my Bountiful Baskets so much that when we went back to Utah last fall to visit I actually put in an order with them while I was still in Oklahoma that I excitedly picked up right after I got to Utah.

Well, I am not the only person out there who is madly in love with Bountiful Baskets. The organization is growing like a weed and has spread to many other states, including Oklahoma!

Last Saturday I got my first Bountiful Basket in Oklahoma. Wow! I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of my haul. In addition to 12 organic fruits and vegetables for $25 (try that at the health food store!) I bought a 25-lb bag of juicing carrots and an entire box of apples (for far less than $1.00 a pound!) Oh, and a gallon of organic olive oil.

The Badger started munching on stuff right away-- pea pods and radishes and apples and oranges. Then he looked at me with his happy Badger face and said "I feel nourished." Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Hooray for food co-ops! I'm very much in favor of them. And it looks like Bountiful Baskets is rapidly gaining popularity in Oklahoma. Which is good. Oklahoma is one of the least healthy states in the nation. I love to see that starting to change!

Happiness Is....

...having a Rabbit! A Rabbit that thinks she's a puppy. It tickles when she licks my face!

Our friends Shane and Shannon from Kansas visited recently and when I laughed at something someone said Shane remarked that he'd never seen me laugh like that. He commented that I seemed a lot more relaxed and happy than I had when we lived in Kansas. Shannon agreed strongly. I was rather surprised because I really don't remember being particularly unhappy in Kansas-- I don't feel like I am significantly more happy now.

So either I've just gotten better at expressing the happiness that I felt inside all along, or else those early days of stress and sleep deprivation with high-maintenance infant Rabbit took more of a toll than I realized. In any case, it makes me think about working on how I express myself and come across to others.

But even though she turned my life upside down, there was never a moment when I did not just LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE my little Rabbit-girl. I always knew she was going to be a really talented and fun-to-be-around person, and the older she gets the more true that is. I love you, my Rabbit!
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Red Mush

When I was a child, my mother sometimes made a treat called "Red Mush," which I later learned came from her Danish grandmother. I absolutely loved it served warm with a little bit of cold milk. I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. I close my eyes and see myself sitting in the cozy kitchen of our house on Crestwood Drive with a big bowl of red mush and then this wonderful feeling of contentment and nostalgia sweeps over me. Oh yeah.

When I grew up I asked her, "what in the world was that stuff, anyway?" As a kid I had no idea. Luckily it didn't turn out to be anything like head cheese. It was just stewed plums sweetened and thickened with tapioca.

At one point when I was living in Idaho (several moves ago now!) I learned how to can plums. I would run them through the food processor and then can them as "plum sauce." This stuff was perfect for Red Mush and we got to enjoy it again several times. All I had to do was pop open a quart of plum sauce and cook some tapioca and a little sweetener into it.

Oh, those were happy days in Idaho. There was always so much bounty from garden and orchard and I was always canning and freezing. I did a little canning in Oregon and Kansas, but I haven't done any since I moved here. I have not yet ever been able to get my hands on anything in a sufficient quantity to can.

I recently found my last few jars of home-canned food and we have been eating them up. These few remaining jewels included one jar of plum sauce. I smiled when I saw it and thought of my kids enjoying bowls of red mush on a cold winter night.

I didn't have any tapioca, so I went to go buy some. It was hard to find: some grocery stores aren't carrying it anymore. I finally found some organic tapioca at the health food store. I was pretty excited.

So tonight we made and ate Red Mush. The kids loved it. It was great. (I meant to take a picture but it disappeared too fast!) They asked me if we could have it again sometime. I told them that we could but not until we were living near a plum tree again.

I do hope that won't be too long from now!

Country Wisdom

The longer we live out here, the more we learn about how to do this country thing right.

We have learned that some varieties of chicken mature much more slowly than others. Brahmas are one such variety. So we thought this was a hen:

But it turned out to be a rooster. We actually had two of them and they both eventually ended up being roosters. And they both eventually ended up being enchiladas.

The Badger has finally figured out how to dispatch chickens and prepare them so that the meat is actually very tasty. Truthfully, these guys tasted like a good Thanksgiving turkey. Much better than the last rooster we ate which was tough and stringy and tasted... odd.

The third bit of country wisdom I am learning is that it really is quite disturbing to eat something you have named. I have always loved naming things but I haven't named too many of our chickens. The Brahma roosters had names though-- it's kind of a long story but they were essentially collectively named "Mr. Wong." When the Badger came over and popped a big piece of tender juicy chicken meat into my mouth I said "ooh, tasty-- wait! I AM EATING MR. WONG!!!!" And it felt really weird and uncomfortable. But I got over it. The enchiladas were really good.
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