Category: Photos

Saturday Photohunt: Important

(Yes, I have moved from Gracedbychrist.com to here. Welcome to my new home.)

I had a painting that I finished just in time to share but couldn’t get a decent photo of it due to poor lighting. Sigh. Instead I decided to share a most important event of this week, and one of my daughter’s most important dates so far–her tenth birthday. Yes, my oldest is now in the double digits and on her way to becoming a young lady.

She felt it was VERY important that we make a “Hummingbird Cake” for her birthday so we bought a whole Pineapple and dried the slices so it could be decorated just as she wanted. She was very proud of her heart shaped hummingbird cake. (The recipe is here.)

A frugal recipe: Spring Rolls

When I wrote about our attempts to stay home instead of going out to eat several people requested some of our recipes. As I mentioned most of the quick stay at home recipes are really convenience foods that I have found are cheaper than making from scratch (like Aldi’s Asian Style frozen veggies with sauce) but some of the foods, though worth it to avoid going out to eat still are expensive and with our eldest’s food allergies VERY expensive to get versions she can eat. Spring Rolls are one of those foods.

Aldi’s egg/spring rolls are roughly $3.50 a package of four making them nearly the same price as those at the restaurant. Problem is that they are kind of tricky to make and if you buy the wrappers to make them yourself they are still fairly expensive. Enter the spring roll wrapper recipe. It takes some practice but Rachel LOVES making them and then you can fill them with whatever your heart desires. (These take a lot of strength to roll to the right thinness–we have yet to get them there which means they are a bit to thick–you really need a pasta roller to make them thin enough.)

We use this recipe for the wrappers although we found that you don’t really need to refrigerate it to make it work (we don’t, it is hard enough to roll as it is without having it cold.) Because we can’t get them thin enough we make a quadruple batch to make 10 egg rolls, if you can get them thinner you can make a smaller batch and make many more.

For the filling:

I had used ready made broth that Rachel can eat (Swanson organic–I think) to make some soup

because it had been yucky out. We threw a 1lb bag of regular carrots, two leeks, and an onion in the food processor to be sliced and threw that in the broth while it cooked. That was our filling. In the future I would throw in some sliced cabbage and some texturized soy protein (we don’t eat much meat but you could throw in some left over pork or chicken.)

Once everyone was done eating soup I put a strainer over a bowl and let the liquid drain out of the veggies.

We then followed the recipe for the spring roll wrappers, quadrupaling the recipe.

First we put the eggs, flour, and water in the food processor (I LOVE my Bosch), putting it on high for about 12 minutes–you want the gluten to do its work and the dough should be hard to the touch but very elastic. Once it prepared you will want to separate it into 1-2 inch balls. If you can roll it super thin or have a dough press/noodle press then go with the smaller balls. We were hand rolling and it took a lot to get them as thin as we did.

Grab a ball of dough (cover the rest because otherwise they dry out pretty quick) and smash it as flat as you can with your hands (this was Issac’s job.) I use a silicone baking mat for all rolling–it is one of the few things I have found that doesn’t make a sticky mess and require tons of flour. Once flattened roll dough out as thin as you can, flipping and rotating every few minutes. This is a great job for kids who love rolling dough–the dough is not sticky and doesn’t require tons of flour. Hold it up to the light every so often to find thicker areas. Ours were too thick –you want them to be only a little over a millimeter thick, if that.

Once you have it as thin as you want moisten the top of the wrapper then add the filling (make sure the filling is relatively dry). Cover the filling with the side closest to you, pull wrapping it tightly then fold the sides in (very similar to making a burrito) then roll it over itself until the whole thing is wrapped. It is best to have it super thin and have several layers although ours only had one layer–this makes for a thicker shell though the kids liked it as well.


Finally, fry the rolls until golden brown. It is better to deep fry them though if you rubbed oil over them you can put them in the oven. This is where a thin wrapper is best as frying a thicker wrapper means you have to cook it longer to get the inner wrapper cooked through.

Yeah it is more work to start but if you get the kids involved it is fun. Plus you can freeze a whole bunch and warm them when you are in the mood for a quick meal. We also make all kinds of perogie/calzone style dumplings along this same lines–I make a biscuit or pizza like crust (usually I just make extra dough when I am making biscuits/pie/pizza and freeze it for when I have filling ready) then add similar fillings, boil or fry them then freeze for a quick, easy to heat, and VERY filling meal.

It saves us a lot of money and if the kids are involved they learn a lot about how their favorite foods are made, not to mention how to prepare healthy alternatives to ready made junk food.

Wordless Wednesday (or look at our new play shelter!)

Cool damp weather brings out the worst in me–this week I am taking it easy as I am relying on my herbal supplements, eating right, and wisdom to keep my arthritis from having a full-fledged flair-up.

So of course I would decide to help the kids build a new shelter today, this time out of wood and tarps instead of just bungee cords and tarps. 🙂

It is comprised of an old apple tree, an old wooden climbing toy, scavenged wood, tarps, lots of bungee cords, some nails, plus an old sliding board from the climbing toy. All aspects of this shelter were scavenged, nothing was purchased for the project.


Yes, this project included hammering, and sawing, and carrying heavy things. Yes, I know those are not wise things to be doing when you are already fending off an attack of rheumatoid arthritis.

(The kids helped a lot and did a lot of the planning though I had to do the sawing and some of the carrying and hammering.)

It was well worth it. I spent the rest of the day resting and playing Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, huddled in a pile of blankets trying to keep warm–which was nice in its own way.

I have actual work I need to do but was not up to that so just sat and rested.

The kids spent that time playing in their new shelter and discussing how the next one will be even better ( Rachel spent quite a bit of time perusing Issac’s new “The Dangerous Book for Boys” for how to build a tree house–I have a feeling that will be their next such project. :))

(This shelter is nice because it is out of the wind and when we do get snow will provide a place for the kids to get out of the elements without having to climb the hill to our house. 🙂 They can’t wait for snow!

A Day in the Life 3: Unschool vs Traditional School– a Reminder to Self

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This past few weeks have been a time of waffling in regards to various areas of our lives. Shamus and I both have been too easily tossed in the winds as far as our decisions have gone, making a decision we feel God pulling us towards only to second guess a day later. I long to work through them here but some of them I can’t because they are too personal or would border on gossip. The school question, however, I am willing to put out there although I know some will not understand and may even judge me because of it. Before I explain let me tell you that in all of these questions of decision we have been waffling internally yet God is keeping us head on–giving us instant reminders as soon as we begin to waffle. Today was just such a day.

As I have mentioned before, we have a classroom in the basement set up in the traditional classroom style. It is especially good for Rachel to know it is there–it is a reminder that we are responsible for her education and that we take it seriously–even if most of her learning does not occur there. In fact, we haven’t used it in a few months–other than as an art studio where they set up shop with oils and acrylics while I worked on an oil painting.

So, if they haven’t done their workbooks in a few weeks what are they doing with themselves all day? How can they possibly be learning if they aren’t taught? Shamus and I had this very discussion this morning because he occasionally likes them to bring him a workbook page so he can see what they are learning. He is very open to the new style of teaching I have taken on but is nervous because he hasn’t seen any evidence. I suggested he ask them what they are learning or listen to their conversations to see if they are learning anything new. He agreed and went in to have a chat with them. (Because I am under PA tutor law instead of traditional homeschool law I am considered their primary educator–it is because I have a teacher’s certification and 5 years of college that I can do this but it also means that Shamus is not considered their “teacher”. He recognizes this and holds me accountable instead of taking over teaching–though he will likely teach them programming and higher math as they show interest.)

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So what did he find out and what have they been doing?

They spent all of yesterday decorating their room for Christmas. I put up an artificial tree in their room with lights and Christmas balls and handed them reams of construction paper, glue, tape, and scissors. They spent hours cutting and pasting making tons of paper chains and other decorations and taping them around their room. While two were doing that the other one was playing Fate–a D&D type computer game with NO plot. If you have never played D&D and are a Christian you are probably nervous. Don’t be. Most of the game consists of trying to catch different types of fish, fighting evil creatures, and leveling up so you can get better stuff. You have to earn and save money, make wise spending decisions, choose different armor and other items based on percentage bonuses (yes, all three are reading what they need to do and understand percentages and how different percentages of different bonuses affect different functions of their character. Believe me this is tricky stuff that I can barely wrap my brain around–harder than figuring out percent off sales when shopping by a long run because you have to take in multiple affects.) They also had to keep track of how long each child had been on the game to decide who’s turn it was next and Rachel spent a long time helping Issac figure out the basic reading and how percentages work–this had him going around the house reading plenty of other things.

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They also wrote me a grocery list of the items they felt we needed based on what each child liked to eat. They looked in each of the cupboards for things that were missing or that we only had one of and helped me plan the list by making their own. They had to look up spellings or sound out those they were unsure of. And if they wanted it it had to be on the list. (I am talking my big monthly shopping list here–not even a once a week list.)

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We have also been reading about 4 chapters or so of the Elyon books per day–me reading aloud as they old laundry (we were a bit behind on the laundry and this has gotten us caught up.) Issac has also been helping me figure out the colors for a new painting and how they go on the paper. This goes far beyond “what color is this” and into “what color do I need to add to get this to the exact right shade of red.” Also, Rachel taught herself how to make pie crust by messing the first one up and then making the second one right because she didn’t follow the instructions the first time–she made a pie for herself and one for her brother and sister (small ones.) She also took on rice making and several other recipes because I was busy on a project I need to finish up.

Add to that them listening to old radio shows and my old records, playing board games (we played Where in the USA is Carman Sandiego yesterday which degraded into “how fast can you find the state”–I was amazed to see how many Issac knew.) They also watched “Mythbusters” online last night–Rachel just listened and we discussed their ideas of what would and should work and how they tested their theories. There have been many more goings on–including the girls playing Fate while Issac and I went shopping.

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Issac and I had a huge discussion about God’s love for us and whether He loves us even when He allows bad things to happen–for a 6 year old he has a better grasp of this than many Christians. He also helped me keep track of the grocery budget, decide how many of each item we needed to last us a month, and loaded and unloaded the cart. When we returned home the girls put away what we had and helped decide what items we just weren’t eating and those will go to the food cupboard. Putting a month’s worth of groceries away is a big deal (especially for a family of 5) and requires much ingenuity of stacking and storing. :)) We are now off to visit our final grocery store and my grandmother, dropping things off at the food cupboard and picking up some work for myself.

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Writing it all down is a wonderful reminder of how much they are learning and growing and living. (And don’t worry about the video game–they will be sick of it in a few days and have some other project they are working on–they always do. I write this up to them having the freedom to play for long periods of time without someone complaining about it–when you are free to do something as long as you like you get thoroughly sick of it. Believe me, I know. :))

Finally–you may be wondering how God reminded me that the kids are growing and learning a lot? After our discussion this morning I went out. When I got home I suddenly had a slew of unschooling sites in my feed reader with posts about the benefits, including one that linked back to my previous “unschooling” post.

Oh yeah, I forgot.

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*The photos are all from this year–I haven’t had time to take pictures this week but these all reflect things the kids have done this week. 🙂