"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Saturday, January 29, 2011


We finally got snow (our first few storms haven't been enough to cover up all the grass).  So we went sledding!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Report: Twenty Boy Summer

     Frankie, Anna and Matt are childhood best friends.  They are next door neighbors.  Frankie and Matt are brother and sister.  After a cake fight at Anna's birthday party, Anna's dream comes true and Matt kisses her.  They keep their romance a secret, not wanting to hurt or exclude Frankie.  Matt promises he'll break it to Frankie easily when their family is away for a few weeks at the beach, but just before they leave, Matt dies.  Anna is forced to continue keeping the promise she made him, that she wouldn't tell Frankie, her best friend.  Now a year has passed and although their friendship is strained by the tragedy, Anna has kept her promise, and they are still close.  Anna has been invited to come to the beach with Frankie and her parents.  Along with this, Frankie challenges Anna to meet 20 boys while at the beach and to lose her "albatross" (aka virginity). 
     I loved this book.  That being said, I still had some issues with it.  [Spoiler Alert!]  Mainly that Anna "healed" her grief my losing her virginity to a strange boy, a summer fling.  And I was shocked when she isn't furious with Frankie for basically tricking her into losing her virginity.  Argh. 
     I believe there was some bad language, but nothing horrible.  There was teenage drinking and (safe) sex. 

(I was about to review it for RatedReads.com but there's already a review up from someone else.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Little Guy!

Today my baby turns three! 
left: Newborn Little Guy, top: 1st Birthday, bottom: 2nd Birthday

The birthday boy this morning opening presents.

 With his donut cake.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Report: Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie

I loved this book.  The main character is an 8th grade boy who begins by complaining about his little brother and how annoying he is.  But then his life becomes a nightmare when his little brother is diagnosed with Leukemia, and it turns out he's actually a great older brother.  This book was a family (while still struggling) handling the situation much better than the family in My Sister's Keeper.  This book was great.  It's clean.  The sadness in it is well balanced with the humor.  And while my tears welled up often while reading it, I never actually sobbed (like I did through most of My Sister's Keeper.)  Sonnenblick is a great story teller.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Kids' Jobs

Jed came up with a list of jobs the kids need to do each day before they can watch TV or play on the computer.  I like that it's getting them in the habit of doing things they should already be doing.

Princess Sparkley:
  Practice tying shoes
  Brush teeth and hair
  Read a book to Little Guy
  Piano practice*
  Clean bedroom
  Make bed
  Clean up downstairs
  Get dressed

  Practice tying shoes
  Brush teeth
  Read aloud (to Mom, Dad or Little Guy)
  Piano practice*
  Clean bedroom
  Make bed
  Clean up downstairs
  Get dressed

Little Guy: 
  Look at books
  Clean up room
  Clean up toys downstairs
  Use the potty

We haven't been super strict about this every day because there are some days when they are awake and demanding a movie when I'm still 75% asleep and I let them watch a movie.  But then there are the super successful days when the first time I see Buddy (even though I'm still in bed asleep) he comes in to tell me he's done everything on his list, including tying his shoe by himself for the first time (which he's holding an inch away from my eye to show me).  And the piano practicing* hasn't really happened yet because our "piano" is a keyboard stored away in our coat closet and I haven't wanted to deal with the mess of it being out all the time.

Excited to finally make these...

photo credit: Bakerella

Princess Sparkley and I have been wanting to make these for awhile, but were waiting for the availability of pink M&Ms.  Then yesterday I realized that Valentine's Day means pink M&Ms!!  Yea!  Of course, Jed pointed out that we could have made these with regular colored M&Ms and we could have, but then they wouldn't have been CowGIRL cookies.  I'm off to the store to buy some pink M&Ms...

 [Added: These were super yummy.  Although I had to pick out the red and white M&Ms from the Valentine M&M bag to get the true, pink only, Cowgirl Cookie look.  This made a smallish batch of cookies, which was good because I only ate 7 or so... not 15.]

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We've been laying around seemingly lazily for the past month.  Jed's classes ended before Christmas and don't start up again until next week.  So once we survived the craziness that is Christmas and all that accompanies it, we've just been recovering, relaxing and gearing up for getting back on a schedule.

What we've been working on since Christmas:
  •    Eating less (portion sizes and sweets/desserts)
  •    I've knocked out soda (although it's only been a few weeks)
  •    I've knocked out candy (mostly... I still have a stash hidden away for emergencies)
  •    We've been trying to get the kids hooked on some good habits (more to come on this later)
  •    The big kids have been learning to tie their shoes
  •    Little Guy has been working on using the potty
  •    We've been cleaning, organizing, and decluttering
  •    Reading (and writing up reviews for here- although I've only done two out of ten or so)
  •    Lego building (we built all of Buddy's sets to make sure the pieces were all still there)

Next on the to do list:
  •    Buy the kids new pants
            (they are either too tall for their pants now- PS &LG,
             or have holes in their knees- Buddy)
  •    Buy Valentine fabric for a pennant/bunting project PS and I have
  •    Decorate cakes/cupcakes w/ PS (for an upcoming Homeschool talent show)
  •    Plan out our next homeschool semester (that starts Monday!  Ahh)
  •    And tonight's dinner (Gyros - because I got an electric
              griddle for Christmas and am using is a lot!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Golden Birthdays

I had this brilliant idea awhile ago.  Next year, in 2012, Princess Sparkley has her Golden Birthday.  She'll turn 10 on August 10.  This is not only her first double digit birthday, but her golden birthday, so it should be celebrated accordingly.  I decided that for her golden birthday, we should surprise her with a pet.  The kind of pet is up to Jed and my discretion, her preferences, and our home situation at the time.  Right now, she'd prefer a hamster.  We'd prefer a guinea pig (if we had to pick).  Higher up on her list are cat and dog, but we'll have to see how things are in 18 months. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cookie and Cupcake Decorating

Princess Sparkley has wanted to learn to decorate cakes and cupcakes for awhile now.  Unfortunately, this is not an area where I excel.  I make a lot of yummy desserts, beautifully decorated (let alone frosted) is not on my list of skills.  For Christmas she got Hello, Cupcake! from Santa and this cookie and cupcake decorating set from my parents.

I haven't used a frosting tip and a bag since I was a teenager and I decorated a tiny cake at a church activity, so I'm not an expert here, but I liked the bottles rather than bags.  Especially for kids.  The tip kept popping off the one accordion like bottle, but only when Princess Sparkley was using it and I think it's because she'd forget to squeeze the accordion in... she'd just squeeze like it was the normal bottle, or a tube of toothpaste.  So, that aside, I think we did pretty well for lesson 1.

 The other night we started frosting bear shaped sugar cookies just to get the hang of the frosting tubes and tips.  I won't tell you which are mine and which are hers since it's a bit embarrassing that are skill level is about even. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of potty training.  When Princess Sparkley was a little girl, it was somewhat simple.  She was a girl, there wasn't a whole lot of fuss.  She earned stickers on a little chart and when that chart was filled, she earned a small toy (about a billion My Little Ponies).  With Buddy, it was a different story.  For one, he was a boy.  Add to that delayed speech (which is oddly connected to late potty training) and I was just telling myself that he wouldn't leave for college wearing a diaper.  And now number three.  I thought Little Guy was going to be hard like Buddy was.  But then he had some success around 2 1/2 years old even going #2 which was always the hold up with my other kids.  And then he totally lost interest.  With his upcoming 3rd birthday (and the fact that he keeps telling the nursery leaders at church that he needs to go potty so they'll bring him to us, even though he isn't potty trained, doesn't need to go, and is using it as an excuse to get out of there and never go back) I got him this book from Borders (please don't go out of business Borders, I love you!) for Christmas.

Pirate Potty (there's also Princess Potty)
It comes with a pirate hat and pirate themed stickers to put on the hat.  The hat is only to be worn ON the potty.  That was a big selling feature for Little Guy because he wants to wear the hat... so he'll sit on the potty.  We just got around reading it to him Saturday night and he's already had some successes on the potty and earned a few stickers.  Yea Little Guy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Greatest Sugar Cookie: Cookie 5

 I've been slacking on my search for the greatest sugar cookie ever.  Here's cookie #5:

(the picture is mine... her pictures are WAY better)

I've had this recipe lined up to try since before Thanksgiving.  But I had to get through all my apple desserts, and squeeze in all those pumpkin desserts first.  I made these a few days before Christmas.  They were delicious.  Although, you can tell from the picture that mine got a little crisp around the edges.  The recipe has you bake them at 400 degrees for 7-8 minutes... I would check them sooner than that.  The only other adjustment I made to the recipe was using more vanilla and no almond extract.  I'm not a fan of almond extract and even though I planned on using it... I couldn't find it in my cupboard and it wasn't worth pulling everything off the top shelf to find one little bottle.  The frosting was divine tasting, disastrous for me though because I was doing like 80 things while preparing the frosting so I read the directions wrong (pay attention), and then just as I'd solved that fiasco, I realized midway through I'd stopped halving the recipe.  So it tasted good, but was a runny goop that we ended up just dipping our cookies in.  Hence the no pictures of actual frosted cookies.

Thoughts on this cookie:  This cookie was soft (once I started checking on them and pulling them out of the oven before they got crisp edges) and thick with just the right amount of crumbliness as you took a bite.  The frosting (had I not made disastrous mistakes) may make this cookie.  It was yummy, even runny and weird.  And the cookie was delicious even with a strange frosting dip.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Secret Fly Badge

Before Christmas, I blogged about how I was trying to figure out how to create this Secret Fly Badge (based on the now non-existent, but supposedly being written Ruby Redfort series of children's chapter books written about in Lauren Child's Clarice Bean books).

I went with option 2 minus the Modge Podge.
My right wing got tweaked when I ironed it, but otherwise... not bad.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Watch Out

This article, Things Babies Born in 2011 Will Never Know is fun.  Some things I would gladly see become obsolete (fax machines*, travel agents, etc.).  But others, I love.  T

Things I do love: home and work being separated, watches, paper maps, handwritten letters, mail and books.

But about watches...
About 6 months ago my trusted Fossil watch (a gift from my parents 10+ years ago) broke.  All that broke was the clasp, but it was old and scratched and it was going to cost $40 some dollars to be fixed.  So I bought a $6 clearance watch at Target that promptly fell apart (literally) the next week.  Since then I've just depended on my cell phone like everyone else.  But I LOVE having a watch.  I've worn a watch every day since I was 10 or 12.  Maybe younger because I remember having one of those stuffed animal watches when I was 8 or 9.  The kind where you lifted up the stuffed animal's head to see the wrist watch.  But moving on, my parents got me a watch for Christmas this year at my request.  When I called to thank them for it, my dad commented that no one wears a wrist watch anymore, was I sure I really wanted one.  My mom (because parents are always both on the phone line when we call- at least with my parents and my in-laws) chirped in saying of course I wanted a watch, I ALWAYS had a watch.  Exactly.  Jed wears a watch because I was so shocked when we got married that he didn't own/wear a watch that I bought him a really nice one for our one year anniversary (a Skagen titanium one that always gets a lot of compliments).  That's how much I love watches.  And my kids have watches.  Well, Buddy does.  Little Guy doesn't yet.  And Princess Sparkley used to but I think we left it at the hotel in West Virginia on the way to Thanksgiving in Ohio.

Are there things on this list you don't want to see become obsolete?  Watches?  Or books?  Jed has boxes and boxes of paper maps, so I think we're safe in that department.

*Fax machines are not among my favorite things.  I could go on and on about how annoyed I get each time a rental application or job application requires me to fax something to them. 

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