December Fun

December 14, 2014 at 8:14 pm (Family, Personal)

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Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the holiday season!  My parents and sister’s family came down to go to a local plantation’s Christmas day and the always wonderful ladies’ Christmas tea at our church.  It was a beautiful day to be outside, and the kids had fun at the plantation.  Sadly, I forgot to bring my camera in the craziness of getting out the door.  So I only got one poor quality pic on my phone.  But it’s a cute one!  None of the kids was too psyched about sitting on Santa’s lap, but we managed to get them all in the picture.  And it worked out well because Santa and Mrs. Claus were very sweet people!  The Christmas tea was another wonderful event of good food, awesome fellowship and amazing women.

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Other than that, I’ve been trying to keep up with my pre-Christmas baking.  I made some very yummy peppermint bark from this recipe.  This is one of the easiest and tastiest treats to make!  I also made some lemon cookies using this recipe that disappeared before I could take a picture :).  Those were delicious…very strong and tangy flavor with fresh squeezed lemon juice and zest.  And finally, the raspberry almond thumbprints…my favorite of the batch!

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I used this recipe, and it was delicious!  I think what I love most about doing cookies throughout December is being able to actually try out some new recipes and still have the tried and true favorites without completely overloading on cookies!  The fruit cookies were an amazing break from the chocolate, sugar and ginger cookies.

And then there the Elf on the Shelf…

The elf has been having a fun time moving from place to place.  I had so many fun ideas for elf, but I’ve found out two big things about this little piece of Christmas fun: 1) Elf has to go somewhere where he won’t have to be touched during the day.  We made that mistake on a couple of occasions, and elf had to conspicuously move while the kids weren’t looking! 2) Creativity is the lowest priority when you are routinely not getting to be until between 10 and midnight.  But the kids are enjoying him, and that’s all that matters!  I was also able to get my nativity and the kids’ nativity up.

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Since our house is largely a construction zone right now, my beloved nativity has to share the sideboard with other knickknacks, but at least it’s up and making me happy!

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My daughter has a habit of putting small toys in her plethora of purses and bags…the Little People nativity was no exception.  So alas we are missing one of the wise men.  But at least it’s not baby Jesus or Joseph and Mary, right?!

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My son has been working the engineering part of his brain regularly playing with his wooded train tracks!

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And last but not least, the beautiful deer that were frolicking in our front yard after we got home from church today!  I love living in a rural place!  Have a blessed week!

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Kicking Off December!

December 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm (Family, Personal)

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The reason for the season!  December has started out crazy but wonderful.  I just really love this time of year!  There’s nothing like Christmas decorations to brighten up even the dreariest of houses in the midst of major home improvements :).  It’s what’s keeping me sane right now with our living room, extra bedroom, entryway, porch, and hall bathroom torn up.  We’ve been enjoying our Christmas time traditions and adding some new ones.  The best thing so far is the Christmas tree, so I’ll start there.

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I spent almost every night this week at the church except for Tuesday.  So after I got home from work Tuesday, we bundled up for the cold rainy weather and went to our favorite place to buy our Christmas tree.  The kids picked one pretty quickly…probably because it was so cold!

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I really wanted to use a metal bucket for the base this year, partly for the look and partly because it keeps the water from spilling all over the floor.  So we stopped by Tractor Supply and picked one up on the cheap.  I’m loving it!!  Hubby strung the lights and the kids and I decorated.

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My son was all about the snowman ornaments…

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And my daughter was all about her horses!  The finished product less the angel topper…

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Hubby added that when he got home…

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This year, we also started the Elf on the Shelf tradition.  The kids are having a blast finding him!

I’ve also been baking cookies each week rather than waiting until right before Christmas to make a ton.  My son’s choice was chocolate chip, so he helped me make those.  They disappeared before I had a chance to take a picture.  But I did get a snap of my daughter’s choice, chocolate crinkles!

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On the baking plan for this weekend: raspberry thumbprints, walnut cookies, and peanut butter blossoms!  Mmmmm….and maybe some peppermint bark for me :).  Last night, we also celebrated one of my favorite traditions, St. Nicholas Day.  Every year, my parents get the kids ornaments and we put them in their shoes the night of December 5.  It’s a fun tradition, and it wonderful to teach the kids about St. Nick and his giving nature.

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My son got Curious George with a book…

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And my daughter got a pink pony…

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She woke up before everyone else, so she already had the pony on the tree by the time the rest of us got up!

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She also took the whole giving thing to heart.  I found her today wrapping some of her toys to give to her friends…too sweet!

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We took time today to make the gingerbread barn we picked up at Tractor Supply, too!  It turned out cute!

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And non-Christmas related stuff…I finally got one of my Pinterest inspired projects done, book shelves for the play room!

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It’s just plastic rain gutters, a 10′ piece cut in half.  I got some wood letters from Michaels and the had the kids paint them.  Then I found a couple of pictures to print for the two frames.  I love it!  We have our homeschooling books on the top shelf and our 24 books of Christmas on the bottom shelf (another tradition we love…reading a Christmas book every night of December until Christmas).  And that’s pretty much what’s going on here.  I hope everyone is enjoying the season!  God bless!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28, 2014 at 7:54 pm (Family, Personal)

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Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  I love the lazy low-key mornings and the wonderful family dinners.  I love that people actually really think about what they are thankful for in the midst of all the craziness of life.  For us, we started Thanksgiving out with some Belgian waffles.  I asked my son what he wanted for breakfast, and he said waffles.  And when he actually asks for something, he gets it!  So the kids and I set off to making waffles.  This is a recipe I’ve been using for years, and it always turns out perfectly yummy.

2 1/4 c flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4c butter, softened

1/4 c brown sugar

3 eggs, separated

2 c buttermilk

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Cream butter and brown sugar.

Bear in egg yolks.

Blend in flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk and ending with flour.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold egg whites into batter slowly.

Then just cook it up in a Belgian waffle maker until golden brown.

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After breakfast, the kids settled in to watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  This was always a favorite tradition of mine growing up, and it was so fun watching my kids enjoy it this year.  My daughter got so excited over some of the floats and balloons…it was adorable.  She would yell for her brother, “Look, it’s Super Man!!”  They enjoyed the Sesame Street float a lot, too.  I’m not a Sesame Street person, never have been that I remember.  So I admit they haven’t seen much of the show.  But they know the characters from books and such, so it was a fun float for them to see.

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Then we headed up to my parents’ house for family dinner.  My niece wanted to dress like a pilgrim and asked my daughter to do the same.  They were so cute!!!

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My niece also provided some beautiful musical entertainment.  She recently got compliments from a Juilliard instructor at one of her recitals.  This girl has a serious God-given talent on the piano!  She’s amazing!

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Then the kids played outside on the hammock for a little bit.  Thick as thieves these two are…

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I love how much fun they have together!  And my poor son just kind of tags along.  But he did get to almost flip his sister out of the hammock…

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When they got cold, the kiddos came into the basement my dad has set up with a tent and TV and watched a movie.

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Cuties…

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And then it was time for a delicious dinner.  My mom had the table set beautifully, as always!

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I’m so thankful for all of the blessings God has put in my life.  My kids, my husband, my family, the new house (much of a pain as it may seem right now), our church, the chance to lead ministries, the opportunity to go to school, the gorgeous weather.  It’s been a trying but wonderful year.  I hope everyone had a very blessed Thanksgiving!

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Count it all Joy

November 23, 2014 at 1:21 am (Family, Personal)

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“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” ~ James 1:2-3

That verse brings me great comfort in times of trial.  And this week has surely been that.  Work has brought the most difficult struggles I’ve faced in more than eight years at this job; all of our vehicles seem bent on breaking down at the same time; and the cold and sicknesses have just had us down and out lately.  This week, a lot of the stress and issues at work came to a head, so everyone is on edge.  Hubby has been dealing with heating issues at the house and trying to get the vehicles working well enough to get us from point A to point B.  So Friday was catch-up day for homeschooling.

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Thankfully, the kids were focused and made it through the extra work with flying colors.  They continue to amaze me every day, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to homeschool them.

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Our son has taken a particular interest in the Bible studies and is reading his Bible reader with joy and flair.  He’s also mastered the books of the Bible through Ecclesiastes…I’m learning along with him, to be honest.

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The fun part…more from last week than this week, but hey, you take the fun where you can get it…was putting together the Operation Christmas Child packages…

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This is something we enjoy every year, but it’s getting even more fun as the kids get older.  Now they make cards for the kids and enjoy shopping with me.

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Hubby knew it was a rough week and surprised me with some happy flowers :)!

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I’m so thankful for the times when he is surprisingly thoughtful!

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This week also brought our first experience butchering chickens. Now, I’ve spent most of my life dreaming of living the farm life, but I knew one day that would involve eating farm animals I had to participate in preparing.  But now that we actually live in a farm setting, my stomach is being put to the test.  Friends of ours had chickens that were past their prime, so they gave them to us…awesome that we got free chicken.  But that meant taking care of the chickens ourselves.  Thankfully, hubby took care of the nastiest parts.  I just had to prep them for cooking.  I can’t say it was a terrible experience overall, but it was a lot of work for some pretty skinny birds that were a little too old.  The meat turned out somewhat rubbery and we decided Chick-Fil-A it is for tonight.  Oh well, live and learn.  I can’t say this is something I’d want to do regularly, but it is a good skill to have in case things start going bad.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist or a zombie prepper, but the fact that our power grid is vulnerable and horrible natural disasters rock our land frequently, I think the better prepared you are to survive on your own, the better.  Anyway, that’s been our week.  I haven’t had much time at all to play around with my camera, but here are a few shots of my sweet daughter…

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And a blurry phone shot of my son and me…love those cuddle moments so much!

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Have a blessed rest of the weekend!

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Weekend Fun at Amma and Popple’s!

November 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm (Family, Personal)

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This weekend went by so ridiculously quick, but it was a good one.  Hubby and I took the kids up to visit my parents for a sleepover while we had a date night to the Marine Corps Ball.  The kids had a blast, especially tackling Popple in the leaves, another huge perk of fall!  Hubby and I got all dressed up…

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The ball was fun, but I have to say, once you’ve done a military ball once, you really don’t have to keep going back.  It’s less ball and more ceremony. But the food was amazing!!  And I have a great group of coworkers right now, so that helps.  On Sunday, I headed up after church to pick up the littles and get some fun pictures…

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Playing in the leaves!

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Walking on the garden border…

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And just being Katybug…

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And then, of course, there were tractor rides with Popple!

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My niece learned how to drive the tractor all by herself!!!

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And the others chased her down the driveway :)

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And I had to get a few shots of the beautiful foliage…

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Today, my daughter came up to me and said, “Look, I found a ladybug! Can I keep it in my room?”

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I told her the ladybug probably wouldn’t stay still in her room, so…

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…she then asked the ladybug, “Do you want to stay in my room?”  I’m not sure what the ladybug said, but it didn’t take long before dear daughter decided the bug was too “tickly” to hold :).

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Happy 239th Birthday to all the Marines out there!  Thank you for your service and fidelity!  God bless!

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Just Avoiding Getting Stuff Done :)

November 7, 2014 at 10:37 pm (Family, Personal)

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Tons of stuff to do…and so little motivation :).  Ah well.  It was a good time to break out the camera for a little bit to capture the last bits of fall beauty and hopefully work up the energy to clean up, get my school work in, make dinner, and decorate a cake I’m really not looking forward to decorating.  It’s just been one of those days when very little has gotten done.  My son is having bedwetting issues at night…ugh.  So he was getting rashes that went pretty much all the way up his left side.  That combined with a slightly elevated temperature sent us to the doctor today.  And that pretty much killed a huge chunk of the day.  But at least I got some fun photos in…

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I am really going to miss fall this year.  It just seems like the trees have been so vibrant.  Rich hues of gorgeous orange, red, and electric yellow.  The bare trees are going to look so dull in comparison.

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My daughter got a ton of compliments while we were out and about today since she insisted on wearing one of her hand-me-down princess costume dresses!

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It was so cute…she tried to teach my son to dance today.  She would grab his one hand and try desperately to get him to leave the other hand on her shoulder while she led him around in circles.  Typical female in my family…always has to lead :)! Too cute!!

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And I had to get some pictures of my son by the front door. Love the light on his sweet little face!

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Ok, begrudgingly I am going to get back to getting stuff done.  Have a blessed weekend!

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Fall Beauty

November 4, 2014 at 12:38 am (Personal)

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On my commute home today, the sun was in that perfect spot on the horizon, casting a gorgeous golden glow over the stunning colors of fall.  On the other side of the sky, a ghostly moon was just appearing amidst light cloud cover.  I would have totally rushed home and gotten my camera if I thought I would have made it back in time.  But those moments are oh so fleeting.  By the time I got home, the sun had dipped lower and the moon had hidden behind the clouds.  But I’m grateful I got to see that beautiful scene today.  I did take the camera outside and capture some of the beauty as the sun set into the blue hour…

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Loving the fall nights!

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A Nice Rainy Saturday…

November 2, 2014 at 3:49 am (Cooking, Family, Personal)

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The chill is in the air, and I can feel fall stepping one foot out the door as winter waits around the corner.  We’ve been so blessed with mild weather this year, and to make it through October without donning heavy jackets is pretty amazing.  But alas, the trees are getting bare and the air is getting chilly.  Today was a nice rainy Saturday, perfect for unwinding after the Halloween fun.  And since it’s the first day of November, it got me thinking about all that I am truly thankful for.  I’m thankful for the long, flat driveway walk to mailbox with two sweet little hands in mine.  I’m thankful for lazy, rainy Saturdays and comfy sweats.  I’m thankful for this thing…

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Our heater is on the fritz, and hubby set this little wonder up in the living room.  Wow does it heat the house!  If the fuel weren’t so expensive, I’d completely forgo having hubby fix the heater!  I’m thankful for the Pumpkin Spice Chai that arrived in the mail today and is keeping me warm and cozy…

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Most of the day we spent just doing stuff around the house.  I did make some yummy basil guacamole with the avocados that had just about outlived their edibility, paired with some homemade masa tortilla chips.

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I used this recipe for the basil guacamole…and added a clove of minced garlic.  Why basil, you might ask.  Because I’m not a huge cilantro fan…I do like it in guacamole, but I rarely have any on hand.  Basil, on the other hand, is my favorite, so that’s always at the ready.  The guacamole was wonderful.  The masa chips were just masa, water and salt tortilla pressed and baked at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes.  They were ok with the guacamole, but not too tasty on their own.  We also enjoyed some of the apple cider the kids and I made yesterday…

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I also played with the camera some today, of course.  A photographer friend of mine did a thing called ProjectLife, a photo-a-day challenge.  The challenge is long over, but the prompts were still on the website, so I’ve been using them to help me learn my camera better.  The November 1st prompt was “You Today”, so this is what I took…

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Me on a rainy Saturday with a warm cup of tea in my favorite mug.  The scarf is one I knit last year, and I’m loving finally being able to wear it!  It’s a beautiful pattern that I actually paid for because I loved it so much.

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Tonight, as much as I just wanted to stay in and veg, we had to go to hubby’s friends’ Halloween party.  Yes, I know, it’s after Halloween.  That’s what I was thinking the whole time, too.  It just doesn’t feel right going to a Halloween party in November.  But it turned out to be pretty fun.  The kids enjoyed dressing up again, and hubby talked me into both of us wearing white Hazmat suits because of the Ebola stuff going on…yes, we were those people.  I found an awesome recipe for apple cider cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream to make for the party, recipe found here.

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They were a big hit!  And that’s about all for today.  Happy November!  May your month be blessed!

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Halloween Fun!

November 1, 2014 at 4:28 pm (Family, Personal)

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Well, I got a really slow start on Halloween this year.  And I have to say, I was really missing all of the decorations I usually put out yesterday.  But Halloween day itself turned out to be really fun.  I felt completely energized, which is rare these days.  So I got up early and got all of my work requirements out of the way.  I made the kids some fun Halloween shaped chocolate chip pancakes (they had pumpkin pancakes the day before, so they wanted the chocolate chip ones…though the cutouts would have been even cuter in pumpkin)

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Then we knocked out homeschool, including some fun Halloween activities like a shape pumpkin and a pumpkin prayer mini-book :).  And then it was my turn to make myself a treat…fresh homemade crockpot apple cider…mmm…it made for a heavenly smell in the house all day!

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All I did was core, peel and slice the apples with my nifty $17 apple corer; set them in the crockpot with just enough water to cover the apples; add whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice and nutmeg to taste (I used four cinnamon sticks, about 20 cloves, about 5 allspice and a pinch of ground nutmeg); cook on high for about 8 hours to get the apples nice and soft; and I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar since I was using mostly the Pink Lady apples we picked.  It turned out delicious!

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Then we had pizza and the kids got in their costumes for trick or treating!  We live out in a very rural area, so we couldn’t trick or treat around our neighborhood.  We ended up driving over to a good neighborhood where the houses are fairly close together and it worked out perfectly.  The kids had a blast…and they got just enough candy…not too much and not too little.  A good selection, too!

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We kept it to a five pieces of candy maximum last night, because we learned firsthand what too much sugar can do to kids last year!

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and blessed Halloween!

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A Sick Day

October 30, 2014 at 7:45 pm (Cooking, Family, Personal)

Ok, to be honest, I completely overdid it yesterday.  Somehow I crammed work from home, homeschooling, a trip to the pumpkin patch, tea with a friend, making dinner, carving pumpkins and completing a grad school assignment that was due into one day.  So I woke up this morning and had to stay home sick from work.  I feel like I’ve been extra sick this year…which is really not fun.  What’s a girl to do on a sick day?  I’m not used to just sitting around doing nothing, so I only do that if I’m absolutely ridiculously sick.  So I decided to take advantage of the unexpected time home and put the apples and peppers we picked to good use.  But first I’ll start with our pumpkin carving last night…

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We didn’t get started carving until about 8 at night, so we were already kind of rushing to get done.  I have to say, I was a little cranky since I was thinking I would have to get up at 4:30 the next morning to go to work.  The kids drew on their pumpkins, but then decided they wanted me to design the faces.  Dear daughter picked Rainbow Bright on her horse, and dear son picked Curious George again.  So we got started drawing, scooping and carving…

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My daughter tried scooping for all of a second…I had to have her pose for this shot.  Apparently scooping pumpkin goo is a little too “yucky” for her :).

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Daughter’s and hubby’s pumpkins…

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Son’s pumpkin…

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I was helping the kids, so of course I haven’t had a chance to carve my own pumpkin…I have big plans for that tomorrow.  But now back to my sick day.  I did some work from home this morning because I really hate falling behind.  Then I helped out with homeschool for a bit.  But the best part was making homemade applesauce with the pink ladies we picked Monday!  I love my cheap little apple corer…

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This is one of those inexpensive gadgets that just makes life so much easier!  The other is my garlic press…best $5 I’ve ever spent, I’m sure :)!  My son is even able to help out with the apple corer though.  He gets a kick out of watching the little tendrils of peel drop into the bowl!

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The finished product…

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I usually use Jona Gold or Fuji apples for homemade applesauce, but the Pink Ladies actually taste really good with a little brown sugar added.  If you want to make your own applesauce at home, all you do is put your corer, peeled and sliced/chopped apples in a saucepan with about 3/4 cup water per 4 apples.  Add some cinnamon to taste and cook until the apples are super tender and you can mash them with a fork or potato masher.  For tart apples, I add a little brown sugar, but for the sweeter apples, you don’t even need sugar added.  It’s easy and delicious…way better than store bought!

We also got a ton of peppers at the orchard.  They were almost at the end of their life, so they were insanely cheap.  Hubby got two boxes full for $3.  What on earth are we going to do with two boxes of hot peppers?!?!?  I don’t eat them.  I decided to cook the red ones down into hot sauce for hubby to put on everything :).  Sadly, I couldn’t find my disposable cake decorator gloves, so I bare handed it…this may or may not have led to me smearing yogurt all over my nose to counteract the burning…  But in the end, hubby like the results, and that’s all that matters…

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Now to cleaning and folding laundry…some sick day, huh?  I miss the sick days when I was a kid and I could lay around, read, and get waited on :).

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