Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pioneer Woman Test Kitchen ::: Cinnamon Rolls

If you have ever read the PW's blog or even heard of her, the first thing (at least for me) that I think of is her cinnamon rolls. They have been on my list to try for months, but it took being snowed in this weekend to actually put the wheels in motion to get them made.

In a word: unbelieveable.

In many words: I really think the key to her cinnamon rolls in her icing. It has maple flavoring in it, with just the tiniest taste of coffee. It kind-of makes you go a little bit nuts once you taste it. And it is incredibly sweet. I only ate one and didn't have any desire for a second one - I hit my sugar limit!

Noelle asked to eat her cinnamon roll without icing and she pronounced it delicious and better than the ones that I normally make from the can. (Ha!) Travis thought they could have been cooked a little bit longer and I agree with them. They were done, but they were a little more dough-y than a perfect batch would be. I left the second batch I baked in a few minutes longer and we'll see how those turn out after we break into them.

This recipe makes a HUGE amount. I was able to fill one 9x13 pan and three additional pie pans with rolls. We polished off one pie pan this morning, leaving me the three other pans to pop in the freezer. I'm going to take the 9x13 to Bible study on Thursday so we'll see how well they heat up after being completely cooked and frozen.

A few miscellaneous thoughts after this experiment:

  • These are definitely do-overs. Super, super yummy, and I think they will just get better with the more practice that I have making them.
  • I need to try something a little different the next time with the rising process. I put my batch of dough in what I thought was a good spot for it to rise the first time, and I think it was too warm. The dough didn't rise well at all, but that didn't seem to cause a problem with the rolls in the end. After all the ingredients I had used, I just pressed on and hoped they would turn out because I didn't want to waste the dough. And it worked!
  • This makes a HUGE mess in my little kitchen. I was constantly washing as I was preparing these and I still had stuff strewn everywhere in my kitchen.
  • This is not the recipe to throw together at the last minute and without ample time to prepare it. I might even try making it in two stages next time - dough the night before, letting it rise in the fridge overnight and completing it the next morning. It is a super easy recipe, it just takes a while.

Recipe #2 from the Pioneer Woman's cookbook is another keeper. You can find the recipe for her cinnamon rolls on her blog. Next up, her meatloaf (a cookbook exclusive) and her grilled rib-eye steak with onion-blue cheese sauce. Yum!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Project 365 ::: A Few Snapshots from our Week

Janaury 25


The results (after approximately 60 hours):

My creation

January 26


You saw our Janauary 27 photo here. : )

January 28


January 29


Friday, January 29, 2010

Yet another addendum...

Several of you commented on the Amanda Bennett unit studies that I mentioned in this post. I just thought that I would let you know that she is having a $5 Friday sale at her personal website and you can check out one of her studies at a great deal! These studies on her website are 4 weeks in length which I think is neat as you are gearing up to a big event/holiday or it's a meatier topic, like her unit on the American Government.

Anyway, this would be an inexpensive way to get your feet wet with one her studies so I wanted to pass it along!

I'm not making any kind of kickback on these studies by the way ... I just really like them! : )

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

1. The girls and I have been thoroughly enjoying The Brady Bunch as we have time to watch an episode or two here and there. Some of the things that the kids say to each other are so dated. In a recent episode, Marsha and Greg called Bobby a "stinker" and Carol got all upset because she really didn't like that word!

2. I haven't done any kind of homeschooling update in some time, and I don't know that this will really be one, but I want to mention that we have REALLY enjoyed using some of these unit studies over the last several months. We have done Amanda Bennett's Autumn study (last fall), her Christmas one, and I just downloaded her Winter Olympic study which looks great. (I have her Easter one, but we haven't used it yet). On this page, you can see some of the upcoming ones that she has set to publish over the next 4-5 months ... some that I have my eye on: George Washington and Spring Surprises. Some of the things that I love about these:

  • they are downloadable so I can use them over and over.
  • they are geared for a broad age group. Noelle and I barely scratched the surface of the Christmas unit this year, so we'll probably pull it out again in a year or two and there will be stuff that we can add in with her, and I can do the basics with Natalie.
  • they can be supplemented with lots of reading aloud and stretched or shortened to cover any time period ... and I feel like I can do as much or as little as I want.

Anyway, they might be worth a look for any homeschoolers out there.

3. This blog post on February burnout for homeschoolers is going in my notebook to refer to over and over.

4. We are doing the infamous carnation and food-dye experiment that, I think, is a requirement for every child at some point, is it not? : )

5. This week is cah-razy. Way too many things on the schedule, but they are all good. Our last few weeks have been mostly empty, so I'm not dreading this week as much as I could be, thankfully. On the agenda, two homeschool field trips, one tae qwon do class (Noelle is visiting a friend's class), one girl scout leader's meeting, one Bible study, one night of Awana, one dr. appointment, one birthday party for our almost 4-year-old, and one birthday day!

6. I managed to get 4 pages scrapbooked last week. I don't know when the last time, I've gotten that many done at once.

7. I have to admit grilling food is not my strong suit at all, but I managed to rock a chicken marinade last night for dinner. (Which we then threw over a southwest chicken salad). Lots of worchestershire, garlic powder, Lawry's seasoning salt, and some barbeque seasoning. Yum. Hoping I can duplicate that again because everyone loved it, including the picky eater.

8. The final season of Lost starts in one week. Do you watch it? I am always on the edge of my seat and nervous, but I love the mystery of the show.

9. My sister is on her way to pick up her kids from me right. now. and bringing me a Route 44 Diet Coke from Sonic. That's the best kind of sister.

10. I have crazy girls. : )


Monday, January 25, 2010

Pioneer Woman Test Kitchen: Cheese Grits

I mentioned in my first post of the new year that I had some fun cooking goals for myself. Not necessarily the most healthy, but one that I was going to enjoy. I received the Pioneer Woman's cookbook for my birthday and have now flipped through it several times ooh-ing and aah-ing over both the recipes AND the photos of her ranch which are scattered liberally throughout.

First of all, it is obvious I am not a food photographer. : )

Second, we made her cheese grits on Saturday morning. (Unfortunately, this is one of the recipes that is exclusive to the cookbook so I can't hook you up with a link on her website). Yum. Grits, cheese, and some garlic ... these were really good. Two of my girls even tried them and they both liked them as well. Her recipe in the cookbook serves 8; when we made it, we reduced it quite a bit and made only one-fourth as much as she suggested. There was still plenty for me, two munchkins, and a healthy serving left over. Safe to say, a full batch of this will serve a lot of folks.

My review, two thumbs up. Definitely a keeper.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Daddy & Daughter

This past Saturday night was the Girl Scout daddy/daughter dance. Noelle felt so bad on Saturday (you all know where we spent Sunday morning). She had been running a fever and sick to her stomach, so the prudent parent would have said no to the dance, right? She was so disappointed, so we let her get dressed up and she and Daddy went to the dance for a few minutes (literally). After 15 minutes, they turned around and came back home where it was back to the couch with blankets and sprite. Poor girl.

However, didn't I get a great picture of my guy and girl out of it? : ) When the other girls saw Noelle getting her picture with Daddy there was much shrieking and a few tears that needed their picture with Daddy, too.

You will note that Natalie is wearing quite the fancy ballet outfit in her picture. We are in the midst of the dress-up stage with the her and Betsy-Boo. One, if not both, are usually dressed in some form of ballet or princess attire. Ready for any social situation that might be thrown at them. : )

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

1. Travis took had Monday off and used it to study, study, study for a Microsoft computer something something exam that he is taking on Tuesday (today). He offered lunch out at Cracker Barrel and we said, "um, yes!" I can count on one hand the number of times that we have gone out to eat in a restaurant with the girls as a family of five. (Not counting restaurants where you don't leave the car (Sonic) or that are sweetly nicknamed Old McDonald's.) A fun treat. I love Cracker Barrel. Yum yum yum. : )


2. N2 discovered how tasty ice cream cones are yesterday. Before then, the girls and I had a good ice cream cone arrangement. They ate the ice cream, and I ate the delicious sugar cone. However, in her dilemna at getting all the chocolate ice cream out of the cone, she took a bite out of it. Then another. Rats.

3. I got a surprise package in the mail today from my Dad ... a brand-new cast iron skillet. A whole world of cooking has opened up to me. As well as the ability to really make some of the Pioneer Woman recipes out of my new cookbook. Now to choose one.

4. Today was National Popcorn Day. I had good intentions of making some with the girls today, but time totally got away from us. Tomorrow will be our makeup day on this one.

5. We are having a little birthday party for a certain almost 4 year old in less than two weeks, and I haven't made a single list to prepare for it. Must. get. cracking.

6. Do you have blogs that are comfort reading blogs for you? I've noticed recently that there are a few blogs that I gravitate to for comfort reading ... like I turn, on occasion, to time in Mitford or Avonlea. Whether it's because I need a kick in homeschooling pants, or because the person has the ability to make me laugh outloud while reading their posts, there are a few that have been that for me of late. What about you?

7. I've decided to try and do a 365 photo-a-day project again for this year. I started one last year and made it about 3-4 months, but this year I've got a new strategy. Over on the right (-->) is a little graphic of a camera. If you click it, you can check out my 365 photo album over in flickr (if you are totally bored on a Friday night or something). : ) I'll be uploading the pictures I take to that album every few days.

8. We had to take our bunny to the vet again today for an ear recheck. Three girls + bunny + one parent = an adventure. And by the way, bunnies are considered an exotic animal to our little regular vet. They do mostly dogs and cats, so when we called to see if we could bring the bunny in because of an ear infection, it caused quite a stir. Today, all three of the vets in the office came in to look in the bunny's ear. I think he was feeling a little self conscious from all the attention.

9. We've been reading lots of books on snow and penguins and winter weather and such of late. All sorts of cold weather goodness.

10. And speaking of books, tonight I ran into Barnes & Noble for all of about 15 minutes. (It's educator's week which means 25% off my purchase - yay!) I was looking for a couple specific books for N1 that I wanted to use in school over the next few weeks and I have to say that as much as I love browsing and looking in the bookstore, I couldn't find any of the books that I wanted. (And they were by a fairly popular/current author). Amazon is definitely easier and quicker in the long run for me right now, but I really miss going to the bookstore more often. Must make a note to do that sometimes / occasionally / when I have the rare opportunity to run out by myself.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Thoroughly Modern Patient


The thoroughly modern patient watching a video while we wait to see the doctor. We ended up at the walk-in clinic on Sunday morning with a diagnosis of strep. Catching it again exactly one month after she had it in December. I hope this isn't going to turn into a pattern.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Felicities ::: 1.15.10


Things that are making me happy this week ...
  • hot showers for me and warm baths for littles (a reminder that to me that isn't a given for everyone)
  • coffee with a shot of eggnog in it
  • losing 10 lbs in spite of said coffee with eggnog (!)
  • good rest times for the girls as they have been hard to come by of late (a certain two year old is thinking about dropping her nap, but not if I can help it) :)
  • 60* degree days in January
  • brownies and ice cream and Fridays and weekends all rolled into one!

For more Felicities, see Becky's blog!

Friday Felicities is a meme created by Nattie – now a resident of heaven. This meme is all about creating a list of things that make you happy and Nattie knew that when you concentrate on your blessings your sorrows are not as overwhelming.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Click to enlarge if you can't read the writing at the bottom of our piece of paper. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


As part of my Inspiration Defined class that I'm taking, it was suggested that we walk through our homes and take pictures of the colors that surround us.


I did this on Saturday morning and this is a little mosaic of what I found. Lots of red throughout our home, a little orange and yellow, hardly any green or blue (a direct correlation, I believe, to the number of boys v. girls in our home!), and lots of pink. This also reminds me how much I love color. Surrounding myself with it, writing with it, and looking at it.

And, I think we'll be getting a few indoor plants come spring to help out with our lack of green! :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ten on Tuesday

1. The girl scout cookies season is already almost over for us. Lesson learned: I don't like peddling things ... even things that are delicious and wonderful like girl scout cookies. That said, I think N1 (and I) did fairly well this year selling cookies. She's just over 100 and for first a first-time-selling-kindergartener, I'm okay with that.

2. I am slightly addicted to Farmville on Facebook ... I hate to admit it. My sister kept telling me how fun it was and I have to agree, it is. My farm is small - fits the amount of time I have to put into it - but it is silly how fun it is to plant my virtual pumpkin seeds and come back after the girls have gone to bed and see them ready to harvest. Maybe it's a little bit of instant gratification that I need because there are one or two little unfinished projects sitting around. :)

3. I'm a little excited about dinner tonight. It involves my crockpot, chicken, and sweet potatoes. Yum.

4. We went to the library today. I would love to be able to fit a weekly trip into our schedule. Right now, we aim to go every other week to pick up books that I've reserved for school and to browse the shelves. They have some computer that the girls can play on and I told the N's that they each had to pick out as many books as they were old before they could get on the computer. N1 came back to me with a bag FULL of books (I think the grand total was around 20) and it looks like she picked out some interesting ones. We also (thanks to a tip from Elizabeth) picked her out a couple Nancy Drew Clue Crew Books. She has been asking to read my Nancy Drew books and while I think she can read the words, I don't think she'd really get (or enjoy) the story yet. These are little chapter books that seem to be right up her alley.

5. I am super excited about the upcoming Olympics. We are big Olympic people in our family. Especially the winter ones. My mom is an expert with a capital E on figure skating and can rattle those Russian ice dancing names off like nobody's business. All that to say, I'm hoping to plan a fun family night around the opening ceremonies on February 12. I have many a fond memory of watching the Olympics. We would all sit around our huge coffee table and eat something warm and filling like potato soup or stew, eat popcorn, and put together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Can't wait to share those memories with my girls.

6. Who would have thought that it would be next to impossible to find a white cardigan for my 6-year-old? She and her Daddy are going to the Snow Ball on Saturday ... a girl scout Daddy/Daughter dance on Saturday and the two fancy-schmancy dresses that I have for her could really use a sweater over them. We made a couple stops tonight and struck out. Take two will happen tomorrow night.

7. I am making a little scrapbook for my N2 for her birthday. My goal is to take a picture a day of her this month and put it together into an album. I think she will be tickled by it ... and I have a feeling the other two will be asking for one in the near future.

8. I've been reading through Julia Child's cookbook and it is pretty intense. :) So far I've read through lots of sauces, aspics (ewww), and am now into egg dishes. I'm think I may try a quiche or souffle first from the cookbook. Some of them sound pretty fabulous.

9. I'm also getting ready to dive back in to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I love books that are based around letters and journal entries. It's the reason that Anne of Windy Poplars is my favorite Anne book ... the first 3rd of the book are letters between Anne and Gilbert.

10. I think Chuck is hilarious. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The New Moody Bible Atlas

I don't think I could be any later on publishing this review, but I didn't want to forget to thank Moody Publishing for sending me a copy of The New Moody Atlas of the Bible.

Long a trusted resource for scholars and Bible students, this terrific atlas has been updated and expanded to reach a broader audience. The new Bible atlas contains more graphics, 20% more maps and an additional forty-eight pages! Barry Beitzel has blended the topographical and historical in multicolored maps that accurately reflect evangelical Christianity. Pages of timeless information aid in sermon preparations, Sunday school lessons, or personal Bible study. The unique high quality maps, fact-filled text, and new additions make this the best Bible atlas available today.

This is something that I think is going to be invaluable to our family for years. As a social studies education major, I loved my geography class ... and to this day, I enjoy maps and globes. (Little known fact, my grandfather was a geologist and a map maker! It's in my blood. :)) This resource is a wonderful addition to our library. Every time I read about Paul, I love having my Bible open to the back, trying to figure out Paul's missionary journey routes. And several years ago, when my women's Bible study went through Genesis, a good map was invaluable as we studied about the land God promised Abraham or where the 12 tribes of Jacob eventually ended up settling.

If you are looking for a good Bible atlas for personal use or to add to a homeschooling library, I heartily recommend this one. Thank you to Moody for the copy to review and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

(Half of) Ten on Tuesday

1. We are expecting a heap-big snow on late Wednesday night/Thursday. We are a wee bit excited about that. I am making my list of all the things that I can't live without in that 24 hour period and anticipate rushing to the store with all the rest of the state in preparation.

2. It's girl scout cookies time! N1 is selling cookies for the first time, and done a pretty great job of it, if I say so. I'm looking foward to placing an order for my private stock of samoas and hoarding them for the next year.

3. After our three week break, we re-instituted our plan of no TV or computer time until our school was done for the day. We got into a bad habit of enjoying a little PBS in the morning and sometimes watching something Christmas-y later in the day. Nothing terrible, but not condusive to a good school day. We did great yesterday and didn't turn it on once. Day two is also going well (for the most part) but we are looking forward to watching a little Brady Bunch this afternoon after rest time. :)

4. Need some fun and funky kids music? My girls have been listening to this CD over and over and over again. The parents like it to which is a big plus.

5. I'm having a hard time coming up with ten things today ... probably since I actually blogged yesterday. And, I have laundry calling me so we'll go ahead and wrap this list up. I did have a couple requests to post a pic of the invitation that I put together for N2's 4th birthday. I was trying to come up with something we could do for her that wouldn't break the budget, was winter friendly, and would fit both boys and girls since her class has a fair number of each. (i.e., no princess parties because she wanted to invite the boys as well). We are ending up with a faux-slumber party-type party. Guests are invited to wear warm jammies and we're going to eat pizza and watch a movie. It's simple, but she's excited about it ... she has requested party hats for everyone so I do need to add that to my list for the big event!

Happy Tuesday. :)

Monday, January 04, 2010

January Daybook

Outside my Window ... it is COLD! The temperature at this moment is 21* (and it started at 12* this morning). I'm loving it.

I am thinking ... that I haven't gotten nearly enough done during the girls' rest time today.

I am thankful for ... Mondays. A return to routine. Cold weather. So much.

In the learning room ... we are visiting Russia this week via Another Celebrated Dancing Bear. Next week, we start a BIG winter study (well, big for a kindergartener) and are going to be bouncing around winter weather, penguins, polar bears, and all sorts of cold-ish things.

From the kitchen ... making a chicken/rice/broccoli casserole tonight, with a salad. Warm, comforting. See: COLD above.

I am creating ... several things right now and I'm enjoying it. I put together some invitations for a little winter birthday party for my almost 4 year old ... I actually had them printed at Costco so I didn't have to try and hunt down the right size envelopes and such for them, and I'm excited how cute they turned out. Also, need to wrap up the last few pages of my December album. I didn't get everything captured or hit every day, but it did capture our month simply which was my goal.

I am going ... to have a fairly quiet week. I've been spoiled by our three weeks of Christmas break and I'm going to try and keep that simple schedule in place. Granted, activities are starting back up (which is a good thing) but I have enjoyed our low-key evenings. I have a girls-night-out on Friday which I am looking forward to, but other than that my week looks very quiet.

I am wearing ... black yoga pants and a yellow t-shirt.

I am reading ... um, floating through a few things right now ... a Nancy Drew book is sitting next to my chair, as are a few other things. Nothing is jumping out at me right now so I'm just reading in bits and pieces as I have time. I mentioned on Facebook that my husband and I watched Julie and Julia on Saturday night, and he was inspired to order me Mastering the Art of French Cooking and is eagerly anticipating some fabulous meals in the future. I'm sure there will be some blog-worthy disasters to share. :)

I am hoping ... just hoping.

I am hearing ... the sounds of little noises while the girls are resting in their room, and an episode of Mythbusters playing on the computer (via Netflix).

Around the house ... Not too bad. The girls have done a good job helping me pick up their play messes this morning, but I do need to run the vacuum and put laundry away before T gets home. I would love to do some organizing of a few books shelves, but that is a project best saved for another day, I do believe.

One of my favorite things ... my family. I was spoiled rotten by them this weekend on my birthday. Some folks that have Christmas-time birthdays bemoan the time of year because they feel slighted because of the fuss of the holidays. I have never ever felt that way - my family makes a huge deal out of my birthday (and, really, birthdays in general) and I love that about them.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... again, not much. :) A little schoolin', a little homemakin', a little girl friend time on Friday ... shaping up to be a well-balenced week in my book. :)

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you ... ignoring the fact that I look just like a red pear in this photo, this is the coffee cup my BIL got me for my birthday. It holds exactly one pot of coffee! Not that I will be drinking out of it ... I don't think I could lift it if it were full. :) I need to decide what I'm going to do with it - probably put my pens in it or something fun like that!

My birthday mug

Friday, January 01, 2010

Hello 2010

Happy New Year! As much as I usually enjoy writing a resolution/goal type post for the new year, I just can't wrap my head around it this year. Partly, I think, because November and December of this year kicked. my. tail. So, instead, a little list-y of some big and small things/ideas/plans - both the frivolous and the important - that I'm looking forward to in 2010.

1. Reading the Bible through in a year. :) Again, I'm going to try that this year. Each year, I get a little closer and with my 2010 birthday (NOT the one that I celebrated yesterday) being one that I switch to a new decade, I would like this to be the year that I get this done.

2. Be inspired. I have let myself become dull to things that inspire me and get me excited creatively. To kick off 2010, I am taking this class (Inspiration Defined) at Big Picture Scrapbooking from one of my favorite scrapbookers (Elizabeth Dillow). I want to do more scrapbooking and creating and sending of birthday cards and making goodies and am EXCITED for this. Shameless plug: if you are a scrapbooker and not acquainted with Elizabeth, (1) check out her book, The Scrapbooker's Almanac; and (2) visit Write.Click.Scrapbook. which she helped launch. Both excellent sources for inspiration!

3. Have you read the Pioneer Woman's cookbook yet? Wow. Yum. Etc. One of my 2010 goals is going to be to cook quite a few of the recipes in this cookbook. Seriously. Maybe even all of them ... unless they include seafood and then I just can't do it. (And, yes, this would fall in the frivolous category of goals). :)

4. For ye olde blog. Last year was super heavy on the book reviews and that burnt me out on reading big-time. I think it's safe to say that it will quite a while before I pick up any Christian fiction. (And, please hear me say it's not because everything that I read was horrible. It wasn't. There were some wonderful books in there!) This year I'm going to read for me and who knows where that will take me. :) There will definitely be more time spent with classics - N1 has asked to read Peter Pan as our next chapter book, after we finish The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I'm looking forward to that since I've never read it either. That said, there will definitely be less book reviews 'round these parts and more memories which is what I started the blog for.

5. A few things that I anticipate participating in:

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

My niece was gifted with the complete Anne series for Christmas and I'm going to read Anne of Green Gables along with her in January and participate in Carrie's challenge. I'm thinking there will be a viewing of the movie after, too. :) (If you have a Kindle, there is a TON of L.M. Montgomery stuff for free on Amazon right now!!)


I have the complete hardback (yellow spine) collection of Nancy Drews and it's been a while since I've revisited. I am going to unofficially play along and just see where I end up.

Well, there's a start. I'm sure I'll hit publish and think of something else I wanted to add, but so be it. Welcome, 2010!

ETA: Heehee. Already thought of something that I was going to put on here ... I am going to see how long I can go in 2010 without eating pizza. No big reason other that I am just tired of it! :)