Tuesday, April 22, 2014

10 Tips for Stealing Candy from Your Kids' Easter Baskets

It's a few days after Easter and my defenses are weakening. I can stand it no longer...those candy-filled baskets are callin' my name and it's high time to answer back. I can claim more than a few years of experience lightening the candy load from my children's Easter baskets and I thought I'd share my knowledge for those of you who may be newer at this than I.
  1. Become familiar with the basket, or as they say in the big house, case it, like jewel thieves do on TV. Know which kind of candy lives within each plastic egg. This knowledge is vital for stealth missions.
  2. Have a working knowledge of which child enjoys which candy the least. Begin by eating the least liked candy from each basket. If they don't relish the candy, they'll never miss it...probably.
  3. After the theft, hide any candy wrappers skillfully in the garbage so that they don't discover your  crime.
  4. If you get caught with a mouthful of sugar, run to the bathroom as if you are having a digestive emergency and finish your prize in peace. (Don't forget to lock the door behind you.)
  5. Be prepared to lie, but only if its for a Cadbury Creme Egg, don't soil your soul over ANYTHING less, it's just not worth it.
  6. Only pilfer a Peep if you feel your window of time will allow for the cleaning up of all of the sugar that will remain in the basket, on the table and most unavoidably on your face.
  7. The easiest candy to steal = jellybeans. No noisy wrappers, no crunchy chewing, and if your are already a bit full in the cheeks, you can hide them easily if taken in small quantities.
  8. My favorite candy to swipe this year has been the Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs. Other than the pesky foil wrapper, it's perfect. Small enough to eat in one bite and they pack lots of sweet goodness in their small size. AND because of their very small size, if you get caught eating one, you only have to tell a little white lie instead of the big one required for the full size Cadbury Egg. It's just a good all-around set up.
  9. If all else fails and you need a late afternoon sugar rush, put all children in time out on trumped up charges and pillage those baskets at your leisure.
  10. Finally, the classic: bide your time...wait until after bedtime and dig in!

A FEW FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS: If you become too skilled at candy thievery, you will most likely experience eventual guilt and may be tempted to replenish the candy in the baskets of your little angels.

Fight that urge.

By now, the Easter candy is no longer in the stores, it sold out yesterday when it was on sale for a quarter per bag. You will find yourself paying full price for three bags of candy which will equal the proverbial arm and leg, the same arm and leg that have increased in size substantially as a result of of all of that stolen Easter candy you've been eating and that's just way too much to pay.

Trust me, you and your little ones will be better off the moment all of that candy is out of your home. The end of the obsession is near.

If your children bring your candy crime into the light of day and confront you, do the right thing and blame your husband confess. You may or may not wish to include in your confession that you were only seeking their best interests by saving them from painful trips to the dentist and from a life-long addiction to Peeps (I know whereof I speak). You may also find it helpful to have all Scripture references dealing with forgiveness of one's fellow man at hand for quick reference.

That's it. That's all I know. Happy hunting!


**Please note: the author of this post realizes that lying is wrong and does not plan on getting caught and being forced to lie. The author of this post does not necessarily feel the same way about taking candy from children, however {wink}.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cheesy Carrots and Apples for Your Easter Table

I've had a block of sharp cheddar in the fridge for a scandalous period of time. Child after child has begged me to cut into the plastic covering and give them a slice or two for a snack.


"I'm saving it for a recipe." I'd tell them over and over. Today the planets lined up and the rest of the ingredients happened along, and I finally made the recipe. I think it was worth all of the cheese-denial AND I think you may want to include as a side dish in your Easter festivities. It's the perfect take-to-someone's-home item if the feast is not at your place too because it can be served cold or at room temperature. I've given it to the teenagers in my world and they gave their hungry approval, I hope you will too.

If you have a food processor this recipe will be a snap. If not, a box grater and a body builder will also do the job quite handily!

Carrot, Cheddar, and Green Apple Salad
{adapted from Keepers by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion}
{Printable Here}

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon minced shallot, or garlic, or onion (optional)
salt & pepper
5 large carrots, peeled and shredded
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and shredded
parsley for garnish (totally optional)

In large bowl combine vinegar, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, water, honey, and shallot, garlic, or onion. 

NOTE: If you really enjoy the taste of shallot/onion up the amount a bit. If, like me you have eaters who do not enjoy the taste you can completely omit the shallot or onion or simply decrease the amount to a pinch. Whisk the vinegar mixture well.


In a food processor fitted with the shredding blade, shred 5 peeled carrots and add them to the bowl with the vinegar mixture. 


Core and peel apples and shred them in the same manner as the carrots, no need to clean processor between, it's all going into the same bowl! 



Add shredded apples to the bowl. 


Add the cheddar cheese after sending it through the processor for shredding as well if you began with a block of cheese like I did. If not, simply add the pre-shredded cheese to the bowl. 



Mix well and either serve immediately or cover well and place in fridge until ready to serve.


Isn't spring food just the BEST??

Don't forget to check out The Recipe Box tab (above) for more fun recipes!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not {Quite} My Grandma's Cookies

Is there a proper season for cookies like there seems to be for, say, banana bread (autumn) and strawberry shortcake (spring) and soup (winter)? I really hope not because if cookies DID have a season I'd guess it to be winter with oven on warming the kitchen where everyone is gathered cozily listening to Christmas carols or the like with batch after lovely batch hitting the cooling racks only to be taken out to combat the chill in the weather.

But...if cookies do NOT, in fact, have a season, then have I got great news for you!

You see, I've got this killer K-I-L-L-E-R chocolate chip cookie recipe...only, it's not mine to share...exactly. It belongs to my whole family, my mom and ant (aunt...story here on the alternative spelling), my cousins, my sisters and me. It may be the first recipe I ever made on my very own and it is absolutely the first recipe I memorized.

Do you memorize recipes? I do. I can't seem to help it. Recipes are the only time fractions have ever made sense in my mind. I have made these cookies so many times that I know the recipe by heart, in more ways than one, and as a result, I've been able to make these cookies anywhere my feet have landed.

But, like I said, I cannot share the recipe. If I could give you a sample though, I'd have my sister bake them for you because she has just the knack for it. My cookies are often great right out of the oven but loose their lusciousness upon cooling. Sudeana's stay crisp on the outside and soft and tender inside for as long as they last, which is never ever very long.

You may be wondering after these many paragraphs why in the world I touted good news up there in the early stages of this rambling post. Well, here it is...

I have figured out how to make my cookies almost as wonderful as my sister's...but it took a few changes and tweaks to the original recipe to achieve. Since this recipe no longer looks like the original, I am completely giddy with excitement to share it!

This was the last one from the batch. 
My kids thought that they were all gone...so did I.


Here goes:

Not {Quite} My Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies
{Printable Recipe HERE}
Ingredients:
1/2 cup shortening
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (not margarine, the real deal),softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips (more if you like)

Instructions:
When you think you might want to make the cookies, go immediately to the fridge and set out the stick of butter. It takes it a sweet forever to soften up.

Preheat oven to 350˚.

While waiting on your butter to soften, combine the dry ingredients: all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt. stir with a whisk and set aside.

Place softened butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix until the mixture is a fluffy light yellow. Allow the mixer to go for 2 or 3 minutes longer than you think. You'll want to allow enough time for the sugar to cut through the shortening and the butter very well.

Add the two eggs one at a time and scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl after each egg with a rubber spatula. Yes, it's a pain but it pays off in the end, honest. Add the vanilla allow to mix for a minute and grab your flour mixture.

WITH YOUR MIXER ON LOW SPEED add flour mixture in three or so separate batches allowing the mixer AND THE SPATULA to do their jobs between each addition. Finally, add the chocolate chips and give that mixing bowl a final spin to evenly distribute the chocolate goodness through out.

Spoon evenly sized mounds of dough onto the cookie sheet. The size you choose is completely up to you. Sometimes we do mini cookies and sometimes normal size and sometimes great big ones; simply add cooking time as you go bigger.

Bake (at 350˚) until they are just starting to get brown around the edges which will probably take 10-11 minutes. They may not look done to you but take them out anyway and let them rest about 3 minutes then remove them to a cooling rack. Note how long it took and decide after the cookie is cool enough to eat if it is to your liking. Then, simply adjust the time as you see fit. You are the baker, you are in charge.

Now, put on your game face and prepare to be hassled by children, spouse, neighbors...until you allow everyone to eat their fill of these soft and chewy and chocolaty and... {can we count them as healthy because of the whole wheat flour?} healthIER than before cookies!


“Think what a better world it would be if we, all the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap."

~Robert Fulghum~
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten


Monday, April 7, 2014

This is ONLY a TEST!?

{From the archives...this post, from April 2011, relates what The Wright Gang is up to today...sitting for our annual state-required standardized testing. I am, once again, administering the test to a group of first graders as I have for every year but one since the original post below was written. With all of these years of experience behind me I know that in the morning I shall be sure to eat my Wheaties, don my big girl pants, put on my game face, and march boldly into my little class of first graders and give them the first test that many of them are likely to have ever taken. By the end of the long day we'll share a memory that will last for years...and years...}


We survived testing day. Well, for all we know, we survived. The results won't arrive for weeks and that is a blessing because frankly we're too tired to care how we did right now!!  Cole and Meg sat for their annual standardized test yesterday and Kate and Molly logged some significant time in the nursery while I helped to administer the test to the group of ten first graders.

Administering a standardized test to a group of TEN first graders, most of whom have never taken such a test in their lives, was quite an experience. I had the advantage of knowing what to expect because I'd given the same test to last year's crop of homeschooled first graders, but there were fewer than ten of 'em and that made quite a difference.

Most of the children in our group were nervous and excited and had no idea what would be expected of them.  One asked half-way through the first Language Arts test if it was going to be time to play with the toys soon. I really hated telling her that toys wouldn't be involved in her testing experience today. Truth be told, but for a 30 minute or so break for lunch and as many stretch and wiggle breaks as we dared to build into the schedule, these first graders would not be involved with anything but their number two pencils and their test booklets for the next 6 hours.

In the public school system, (at least when I was a student) standardized tests are given over a number of days with students working on certain sections of the test for a few hours each day.  The tests in public schools are administered by the same teacher who has been teaching the students all year and in the same school room that the students have called their home away from home all year.

The logistics involved in the testing of homeschoolers does not allow for a similar testing atmosphere.

Testing for homeschoolers involves the following:
  • Registering for the test in January or February and sending $30/per test for the privilege.
  • Waking up early enough to remember to find your number two pencils and a self-addressed stamped envelope to hand in at the door and maybe brush your teeth and get dressed.
  • Hoping your mother/teacher packed your lunch and has it ready for you.
  • Leaving your home/school in a rush so that you have plenty of time to locate the testing site (which to many of the first-graders was a completely foreign building to them).
  • Entering a room full of other wide-eyed anxious kids, bursting with energy, waiting to be called to join the rest of your grade-mates and led off to a room with a woman or women you may or may not be familiar with (trained homeschooling moms who volunteer to be "testers" of kids who don't belong to them so that other moms are available to be "testers" of kids who do!).
  • Sitting at a table with other children you may or may not know and being given a strange series of directions about the importance of "completely filling in your bubbles".
  • Remaining at that same table hour after hour while focusing on doing your best because somehow your teacher/mom has communicated to you that doing a good job on this test thing is I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T and you really really want to make your teacher/mother proud.
  • Finally finishing the test and being released back to your mom/teacher who then grills you about all of the content on the test and asks you 17 or so times if you think you did well while she finishes your lunch that you were unable to finish earlier in the day because you were too nervous to eat.
You can understand the hesitation on the part of most of us homeschooling moms/teachers to put our kids/students through this process more than one day per year!

The first graders were a great group of kids who wanted to do their very best. One even reported "I am really wanting to make 100% on this!"  After the first 45 minutes or so the children had had enough and were ready for lunch. Unfortunately it was still well before 10 am and we had a long way to go. It was about then that we took our first of what would be many breaks. During this break, I attempted to impress the kids with a few short nonsense poems I had in my memory and was then bested by two little girls who had memorized a twelve stanza poem (4 lines per stanza that is!) back in December and proceeded to trot it out for us here in April!!!

During another break, a lovely young student showed us a ballet routine complete with a graceful finish. On still another break a little guy showed us some of his martial arts maneuvers. Most of the children endured their abnormal circumstances with manners and grace most adults couldn't muster even as they grew more and more exhausted as the day wore on. These kids were talent and brains and charisma all over the place. 

Most of the questions on the test were asked aloud by the other mom/teacher/tester and the children filled in their bubbles and we made sure with each and every question that the kids were filling out the question that corresponded with the number we were working on.  We watched many correct answers as they were filled in, we watched wrong answers occur, we watched with grins as the students were asked to measure a clown's bow tie to the nearest inch and used their fingers, pencils, and extra paper in many creative ways to get it right.  We watched each child deal with boredom, stress, irritation, excitement and confidence in his or her own unique manner. 

On one of our last "shake the wiggles out" breaks, one of the students asked me, "Do you know what my very favorite subject is?"

"What is it?" I asked.

"History!" she said happily.

"Ohhh, I like history too.  What are you studying right now in history?"

"Rome," she said as her weary eyes lit. "Did you know..." at that she was interrupted by one of her peers who said, "Have you ever heard about the Colosseum? They used to let animals kill bad guys there."

I looked to find a group of very young students gathered round all waiting to talk about ancient Rome. Unfortunately, I had to break up the little think tank so that these bright children could return to a test that sorely under-represented the vast amounts of poetry, dance, history, martial arts, social skills and who knows what else that had a firm place in their collective brains.

Luke 20:25 tells us that Jesus instructs us to, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" which is mostly how I've begun to view this whole tiresome process of annual standardized tests. Our state requires the test results from parent/teachers, and so we render them. The weightier matter is in that second part of Jesus' instruction "...and [render] to God the things that are God's." It is on that point where I am frequently stopped short. What exactly am I rendering "unto God" in the educating of my children, because they certainly fall into the category of "the things that are God's" don't they? And what is the test for that? Will there be time for lunch? And I wonder how I'm doing at filling in all of the bubbles? Will my teacher be pleased with me? How long does this test last?  Will it be graded on a curve? And when will I know the results?

     Has anyone seen my No. 2 pencil????

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Softball Accessories and the Girls Who Wear Them...

The new softball season has begun. Practices are in full swing for Kate and Molly who are playing on different teams this year. Kate is playing with the older girls and Molly begins her very first year with her young team. 

{Kate at bat.}

Molly has been anxious to learn the skills that she feels she needs to thrive on the diamond. So eager was she that on the day of sign ups in January, my Man and I opened the garage door to find Molly catching grounders from Cole. She was under the impression that she needed to know all about the game before signing up and badgered Cole until he agreed to spend time in the ice cold garage teaching her what she wanted to know. 

During Kate's practice last night Molly drafted more members to her coaching team and training began in earnest. 


Then finally, it was time for Molly's first practice...
Batting went pretty well once she figured out what to do with those elbows...but fielding brought with it an extra challenge, the face mask. Last year this extra piece of equipment was optional and we opted not to use it as Kate had a few years of experience in the field and we were confident that she'd fare just fine with her face exposed. She did, but she never forgave us for denying her the pleasure of another accessory to add to her softball ensemble.

This year, much to Kate's extreme delight, the extra accessory was a required piece of equipment. Today it was a piece of equipment that caused Molly no small amount of hassle. When the ball was hit to her area of the field, she bent down to get it and her face mask fell to the ground. She picked up the ball, tucked it under her arm, bent down and picked up the mask, put it back on her head, and THEN threw the ball to first base. 

It's going to be a season to enjoy friends! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

5 Books to Beat the Is-It-Really-Still-Snowing Blues

Use Grammarly's plagiarism detector because plagiarism is such a waste of mind!


One of my favorite ways to keep from sinking into a mental sludge during these gray winter months (it is supposed to snow again tonight!) is...to read. Surprise?! My favorite way to deal with anything is to put a book between me and whatever that anything is. This year especially, during the never ending line-up of sun-absent days these books have been my balm.  



This book hushed some insecurities that have been whispering in my ears lately about the choices our family is making regarding our use of time and energy. Tsh Oxenrider author of the blog,The Art of Simple writes in an authentic voice about what intentional living looks like in her world.  Focusing on topics that are important to her, Oxenrider visits travel, education, food, work, and entertainment in the books short chapters. This work is not a how to guide but rather an inspirational peek into a life lived intentionally.

I'm grinning abundantly at The Antelope in the Living Room and have been ever since I read the books endorsements just inside the cover page...the funny began even there. 


Author Melanie Shankle picks up the heart and the humor where she left off in her debut book Sparkly Green Earrings and delivers it again here in chapter after chapter.

A book I finished earlier this year is a memoir called Little Black Sheep by recording artist Ashley Cleveland. 

Of this book Michael Card says: “Little Black Sheep is not really about my friend Ashley in the end. It is not about her life as much as the One who gave her life and redeemed its brokenness. That she could tell such a complete and compelling story in so few pages is a testimony to a gifted writer.”  

I’m reading slowly through Kathleen Norris’ rich words in her book The Cloister Walk. Her theology and mine match on few points but there is something compelling about her experiences as a Protestant living in a Benedictine monk community. 


Some of my favorite words thus far...

"In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chews us up and spits us out with appalling ease. But the monastic perspective welcomes time as a gift from God, and seeks to put it to good use rather than allowing us to be used up by it."
"The monastic discipline of listening aims to still a body and soul so that the words of a reading may sink in. Such silence tends to open a person..."
"It is impossible for us to be surrounded by worldly honor and at the same time to bear heavenly fruit...to keep bearing fruit one must keep returning, humbly to the blank page, to the uncertainty of the writing process, and not pay much heed to the 'noted author' the world wants you to be."
As for fiction I've been reading a highly touted book from 2013 called Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter which is described by Amazon.com as the author's "funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later." 


Beautiful Ruins is my current treadmill book and it's making the miles much more enjoyable.


Up next in my queue are:

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Math with Molly

Some of my favorite books to read to the kids when they were young were the Franklin books by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark. Sometimes the books began, "Franklin could count by twos and tie his shoes..."

Molly has been enjoying Franklin books for some time now and she can count by twos and can usually almost sometimes tie her shoes. Counting by fives, however, has been another story. during his lunch hour my Man was drawn into Molly's challenge and the math lesson that followed was too fun to watch...




























"Molly could jump and jive and count by fives..."

When I was growing up, math was never THAT much fun!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shedding Tiny Tears... {a Guest Post}

Just a day or so after I posted the story of the doll hospital that my sisters and I used to run in our plastic kitchen (click here for that story), I received an email from a friend who graciously shared a special doll story from her childhood. After reading it and giving it to my Man to read and reading it aloud to my kids and my mom, it seemed only fitting to share it here. Happily my friend agreed to let me print her tale...

-------------------------------

Those baby doll stories of yours from years ago ---oh gosh! So well written that even the stiffest grump in town would break a smile! I was picturing it -- incubators and examining tables, you three little sisters jabbering...and all! 

But when a sister grows up with THREE brothers -- all very close in age -- the baby doll thing doesn't have much of a chance!! Mom kept buying me those things every Christmas. I usually threw them behind a chair or under my bed and played "cars and trucks" or "cowboys and injuns" with the boys. 

My best move in a final effort to convince my mom baby dolls just were not my ideal, fun Christmas present preference --- was when I ended up with, yet again, this dainty, lovely little "Tiny Tears" doll when I was about six.


This sweet little doll spent several months being very much unattended to, much less getting special nursing attention through those winter time blues! Come spring, when my brothers and I discovered we didn't have anything to "play ball" with in the neighbor's field...off to the house I went screaming, "I'll be RIGHT BACK! DON'T YOU GUYS GO ANYWHERE!!!" 

Us kids loved to play ball!! We would use anything!!! Baseballs were too hard and we didn't have any, anyway! We used rubber balls and tennis balls, which we could hit from Triadelphia (where we lived) into downtown Wheeling, it seemed. We even got so desperate other times we used my dad's roll of black tape--all wadded up into somewhat of a resemblance of a softer baseball. (Daddy was aghast more than once when he couldn't find his roll of tape!) And us kids used large ROCKS as our bases! It was the early 1950s! 

But on what later turned out to be a dreadful spring day, I had what I thought was a great idea!!! I knew of something me, Bill, Jim, Ronnie -- and a couple neighbor boys -- could take our wooden baseball club to!! I had ripped the RUBBER head off that "Tiny Tears" doll (she DID have the prettiest blue eyes)!!! For hours, we blasted that rubber head into what seemed like the far reaches of the neighbor's field, having the time of our lives laughing about every smack of the wood!!! 

Tiny's battered rubber head survived to play another day---so I thought. While we were gleefully outside playing, the "jig was up"!! Mom discovered a headless "Tiny Tears" doll on my bedroom floor!!  In my haste to rush back to the ball field before my brothers got sidetracked into some other shenanigan WITHOUT ME... I had neglected to "hide my deed" by giving the remainder of Miss Tiny a hard fling under the bed!! 

As it turned out, Mom did not take long in putting two and two together....as she stood over me with a decapitated "Tiny Tears" baby doll. (No "nursing techniques" were gonna work for her!) My mother's highly skilled  interrogation techniques resulted in a quick confession. Let's just say my rear end hurt when it was all said and done...and none of us kids were allowed to play ball for what seemed like forever. 

But one thing for sure, there were no more baby dolls bought for little Judy! 

--------------------------------------------------------------

Judy's love of all things sports lives on today! She sat through many a girl's softball game with our family this summer. Little did we suspect she was imagining the head of Tiny Tears flying off of those bats!!

I found the picture of a Tiny Tears doll on eBay. It is the 1950s edition like the one my friend used to hit in the head with a bat play with. I have no "after" pictures of Tiny Tears and that's a merciful thing...I'm confident our imaginations can paint the better picture as it is!! 

Thanks Judy, for sharing your hilarious story!

Happy Weekend everyone!!

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