Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Tombigbee Park

Memorial Day Weekend - A day at Tombigbee State Park

Monday, May 25, 2009

Medieval Feast

Today we had our medieval feast to wrap up our unit on the Medieval and Renaissance time periods. At each dinner for the time periods, we set out work that the kids have done. With this unit, the kids had lap books of rocks and minerals and the solar system. They put together a book of the middle ages and Raeley wrote a report of Joan of Arc. Raeley had a sample of her calligraphy work, the kids learned how to crochet, and the boys whittled a boat and a cross out of soap. They also put together a castle, which served as our center piece. While I was putting the finishing touches on dinner, they played an astronomy game the kids made. After dinner, the Jonathan and Uncle Sonny (Bob) played chess.

Our opening prayer:
A Grace for Children
Robert Herrick

What God gives, and what we take,
'Tis a gift for Christ His sake:
Be the meal of beans and peas,
God be thanked for those, and these:
Have we flesh, or have we fish,
All are fragments from His dish.
He His Church save, and the King,
And our peace here, like a spring,
Make it ever flourishing.

The entertainment:
The kids sang Be Thou My Vision as we covered several hymns in the unit. Molly, a friend of mine (Ally's mom, Cameron's best friend) taught the kids how to sing, as they have had no voice training on singing to sheet music. They sang a capella and did a great job!
They also played a little game on saying the books of the bible. Cameron did great, hanging with the big kids!

The Menu:
Pictured below - Ryc Lombard with Dragees (molded rice ring with ginger candies), Cherry Pottage (like applesauce only made with cherries), Farsure (pork and currant stuffing), Spinnage Tart (Spinach Pie), Eyroun(eggs) in Lentyn (almond paste in egg shells)

Not pictured:
Lombard Soup (venison soup)
Funges (mushrooms and leeks)
Farsure For Chekyns (Chicken stuffed with pork and currant stuffing)
Heron Rosted Sauce (ginger mustard sauce) Sauce Alapeuere (vinegar with garlic, pepper, and bread crumbs)
The recipes can be found at A Newe Boke of Olde Cokery and Medieval Feasts websites. A few neat things at medieval dinners: They would traditionally stuff birds with other types of birds, or an animals with another animal. We kept to the theme by stuffing chicken with pork. The eggs in Lentyn (served in celebration of Lent) demonstrated the tradition of making one food look like another. For instance, they would make bread in shapes of other food, one popular design is peas in a pod. We made an almond paste (white) with yellow colored paste layered in the middle to look like the yolk. They were served in eggshells. We also made "trenchers" from pizza crust dough. Trenchers are like bread crust or hollowed stale bread that people ate with instead of forks. Although the trenchers were available, I think everyone opted for the forks.

We had a great time! Martha and Mitchell, Mark's parents, Sonny and Nikki, his aunt and uncle, Hazel and Bessie, his great aunts, and Molly and Ally all joined us for the meal.

I had intended to, but just forgot, to have Gregorian chant music in the background, and have lots of candles burning. We did remember to dress the part!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday -baby birds

It has finally stopped raining!

And the baby birds by our front door have flown from the nest!
Goodbye birdies!

Monday, May 18, 2009

MHEA Homeschool Conference

This weekend Raeley and I went to the MHEA conference and it was a great experience. It was small and much less hectic or exhausting as the conference I am used to going to in Houston, TX. I was encouraged by the speakers - all of them, and took something away from every talk I went to. The Teen Track was led by a lawyer from HSLDA. It covered amendments and the teens went through the process used by our congress on making amendments. Raeley was fascinated with the process.

The main speaker was Doug Phillips from Vision Forum. He had great visuals and his talks were interesting.

I was not able to get all of my curriculum because the exhibit hall was small. I still do not know what exactly I am going to use for Raeley, but there are some great choices out there. I have a good feel for what she would prefer, and she is very excited about starting highschool on her own, totally independant.

I was able to visit with some families who mentored Mark and I in college, families who homeschooled, and watching their children when we were in college made us conviced that homeschooling is what we wanted for our children. I ran into some of Mark's buddies from college also.

Some valuable lessons that I took away with me:

Childhood is short. Make sure children live their childhood! Even if we say that childhood last till 20, and a person lives till 80, only 1/4 of their life is spent in childhood.

Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.

It seems simple that the verse would stick out to me more than anything else in Doug Phillips talk, but that's the power of the bible, and sounding nice is something I need to work on with my children.

Doug gave a talk on a woman's relationship with her husband, and he brought history in it, the strength and serenity of wedded bliss of our forefathers. He quoted from a man, , in the book The Family. I am reading the book now and I appreciate what I've read so far.

Being there made me miss the conference in Houston, the huge room with tons and tons of vendors, the speakers that come every year, ten or more choices an hour, running from class to class, finding time to frantically go through the exhibit hall. Big difference, I know, but still I miss it. I miss running into all my friends that I've known for so long, too. Melanie, Cindy, Crystal, Becky, Karin, Alisha, the Tomball crew, hugs to all, and have fun in two weeks without me! I miss you guys!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gumtree Festival

Robert Jonathan
Micah won second place overall!

Cameron ran all by herself! She did great! Raeley ran in with Cameron.

The Gumtree Festival was May 9th. The town puts on a festival with great artists, kid's activities, a stage for local groups to perform, and musicians. There is also a 10k and a 2k. The boys and Cameron ran in the 2k, and Raeley helped the kids in wheelchairs that were pushed by runners who ran in the 10k. Mark and I say year after year that we are going to run and we haven't yet, but the boys really want to run in the 10k next year, so we are going to train together. At the festival we bought some really cool yard art. Remember when we went to the Jerry Brown art festival in Hamilton, AL? We ordered a creamer and sugar bowl from an artist from Blue Mountain when we went to the Jerry Brown Festival. He has come up with some great new pottery that he had on display at the Gumtree. Our pottery has muscadine leaves on it, so we will get it whenever the leaves come into season. By the way, our yard art IS cool, nothing made out of wood. I'll show you when we have it displayed!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lollipops and Lipgloss

My twin sister, Kimberly, has started a blog! Welcome to blogging world, Kimberly! I want all of you to check out her blog. And, ya know, I think she is as creative as the name of her blog implies, lipgloss and lollipops.

While I am talking about my twin sis, here's a blast into my past for you. Can you tell us apart? In the top picture, I'm on the left, in the bottom picture, I'm on the right. (Right Kimberly? Is that what you think?)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Puddles!

It's been raining here alot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Tribute on Mother's Day

A friend of mine from high school recently lost her mother three years ago. Jennifer and her sister were close in age, so I got to know both of them and I always enjoyed being around their mom. She was a strong, wise, pleasant lady who exemplified Christ. Everyone whose life overlapped hers, she touched for Christ. This is an excerpt from my friend's blog.

Jennifer from All Sufficient Grace - about Mother's Day:
This one has been a hard one for some reason. I guess my life has changed in the last year drastically and I guess that is just a part of life, it is always changing. But, today as I went to see my mom's grave I was thinking of some of the things she taught me.

1. Never tell your dad to "Shut up"

2. Always go to weddings

3. Always go to funerals

4. Don't talk about someone with someone other than your mother.

5. There are people that will be nice/nasties.

6. Watch out for said people.

7. Always do your best

8. Keep your house clean. ( still trying to do that all of the time)

9. Laugh often

10. Serve others

11. Stand by your man

12. Never talk about your husband to your children...just your sister.

13. I will not know what tired is until I have kids.

14. Set the table correctly

15. Sing with your mouth open

16. Be your kids biggest Cheerleader

17. Leave work at work.

18. Be a woman of excellence and elegance

19. Be nice to your sister. She is all you have.

20. Take a shower daily.

21. Family is important

22. Hate the sin, not the sinner

23. Save money

24. Pay your bills

25. Buy nice things (on sale)

There are so many comments that I could leave beside each one because there IS a story there. But, that is between she and I. I love my mom so much and miss her like crazy. If you still have your NOT complain about her. If you don't...I know kinda how you feel. This is my dad 1st Mother's day with out his Mom and this is some of my friends 1st Mother's day as a mom. Life is funny and "Sucky" all at the same time. Good and Bad. Mom, Your legacy Lives on Forever!!! Thanks.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A quick visit on their worldwind tour of the Northeast!

My parents and my two oldest sisters (Karen and Denise) set out on a tour of the northeast to visit our extended family up there. On the way, they sacrificed a day of their trip to stay with us. It was so cool having my sisters hang out at my house, and it is always great to see my parents.

They came in on a Wednesday night a few weeks ago, stayed Thursday, and left Friday morning. I fixed dinner both nights since they would be eating out a lot, grilled pork chops one night and Enchiladas the next. I grilled all the meats on Wednesday so the chicken would already be cooked for Thursday. Before Wednesday dinner, we opened a few bottles of our Napa wine and had a mini wine tasting with them. I even broke out the sea salt chocolate with it! There were also lots of birthday gifts going around as they brought gifts for the kids (and me!) for missed birthdays. What a party!

Thursday we went to the gym to catch a quick workout, hit Fowerdale Cafe for lunch and showed off a few highlights around town - Jody's, Elizabeth Claires, downtown, Highland Circle, and Reeds, to name a few. Dad took the boys fishing.

Dad was so funny, he had the agenda and maps all printed out and put in a binder. Oh, to be so organized! How did I miss out on that propensity to be so well planned and organized? They are taking pictures at each stop. I wonder if he plans on keeping that binder and putting the pictures in it? I doubt it, he'll just probably hand it all over to our resident scrapbooker, my sister Kimberly!

Visiting the Huffmans

(Raeley and Vanessa)
(Cameron, Blue, and Julia)

(Jonathan and Jonathan - Too cool when best friends have the same name!)
(not pictured: Auggie, Robert, and Andrew)

After we got back from Napa, I got to combine work and pleasure and visit the Huffmans. Our good friends moved to Petal, MS in March and we have really missed them. It was great to get to drink coffee and chat just like old times, except we were sitting on her back porch which was bricked in with two fountains, or on her front porch overlooking her beautifully landscaped yard. We hardly saw the kids, they were too busy playing in their huge yard. I miss my friend dearly, and I know my kids miss her kids lots, but I am happy they have such a great house and acreage there. The man who built the house has beautiful views out of the large windows and had a great eye for landscaping. I couldn't get over all the gardens, roses, climbing vines, and flowering plants. He even had some rare variety trees and flowers. And wouldn't you know it, Carmen even had a ton of boxes unpacked and pictures hanging on the walls!

I spent the day we were there working at our Petal gym, and that was a great experience. It was my first time meeting and working with our staff guy there and he is doing a great job. I got to go back "home' to the Huffmans and celebrate with Carmen while Drew took all the kids out to pizza! So we even got a girls night out.

Auggie and Johnny came back with us and got to visit other friends, and they were troopers as I had to stop in the Meridian gym for a couple of hours on the drive back home. It was a quick trip, but worth conversations over coffee and a girl's night out!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Car Mirror

Raeley took this picture a few weeks ago on our way to visit the Huffmans. Can you tell that she was in the front seat using her visor mirror? Robert and Cameron are looking up from playing on the computer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Napa Valley Day 3

My Birthday!
We finally made it to a restaurant for breakfast that many different people had recommended to us. It was called the Boonfly, and as cute as the name sounds, it was! We spent way too long trying to decide what to order (and talking to well wishers calling me on my birthday), but we started off with homemade donuts and a cuppa joe. Best decision! We split a breakfast pizza that was very good. I still wonder what a few other dishes tasted like, and although we didn't make it there for another sit down breakfast, we did grab a few more donuts on our way to the airport the next morning.

We decided to drive up the other stretch of road that runs through Napa Valley after breakfast. It was a very pretty drive flanked by rows of grapvines. With fewer wineries off of the path and since it didn't directly run through the little towns like the other main road, it was more of a country drive. Our first stop was Stag's Leap. We didn't call ahead for a tour, but we heard the tour of the old barn was great. The wine was a little higher priced, and although it started out as a family winery, it is currently under a commercial label, I believe bought out by a french winery. We took a few bottles of white wine because although it is higher priced, you can definitely taste the higher quality.

After Stags Leap, we went to an organic winery, Honig. They use dogs to sniff out caterpillars and birds to keep insects off the grapes. We enjoyed their wine also, and got our most expensive purchase, a bottle of dessert wine, sauvignon blanc. It is not pure wine, so it should last indefinitely. I don't understand how that works, but I look forward to making a dessert with some of it added to homemade whipped cream.

Lunch was at Greystone. Again, Mark and I split a main course, and we got a bowl of soup that was different and very good. I wish I could remember what it was! Our main course was excellent, and had a great presentation.

Since it was tax day, even though it was my birthday, we ended up having to run around some that afternoon and find a place to receive faxes and then stick our tax payments in the mail. Ouch. Glad we were in wine country to relax our nerves after that news! I walked around the small town of St. Helena and got some coffee at a coffee shop(Blue Mountain freshly ground - the coffee from Jamaica - perfect!). Then we hit our final four wineries to end our Napa tour. Franciscan, Napa Cellars, Folie A Deux, and Consentino. All I can say is that I could have skipped Napa Cellars and Folie A Deux. Lower priced wines, which we went to some of the most expensive wineries on our tour today, so that kinda ruined it right there, but it was also after the Franciscan, and I fell in love with two of the wines at the Franciscan. They were $80 and $100, but they were outstanding. I understood the term "chewy red" a little after the wine tasting at the castle, but I understood it oh-so-much-more-clearly after this reserve wine tasting. The good news is Franciscan is sold at restaurants and in stores. As a matter of fact, I saw a bottle at a restaurant last week! I don't think I'll be buying one of those bottles anytime soon, though.

After we toured the wineries, we went back to the hotel, soaked in the hot tub for a while, then went into Napa for dinner. We ate at an Italian Restaurant that night, and Mark thought it was the best Italian food he'd ever had! After all the wineries and the bottle of wine we ordered at dinner, I don't remember the meal much. They did bring me out a cupcake with a candle, but we were soooo full after our meal, we each took a sample bite.

That pretty much wraps up our trip. It was lots of fun and I really liked San Francisco! Mark's favorite was Muir Woods. The Napa Valley was a great experience as well.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Napa Valley Day 2

Day 2 Tuesday
We ate breakfast in the room (bread and fruit from the farmer's market in San Francisco)because we had to be at a meeting that morning to get some info on the resort. In exchange, we got a package for either two for one tastings or free tastings at various wineries. Fortunately for us, they overbooked the presentation, so we got the package of free wine tastings and got to leave early! We started south again, going to Madonna Estates, one of the oldest wineries in the area, family run, and organic. We picked up quite a few bottles from there, and really enjoyed the reserve wine tasting. They had a piniot grigio variety, not a very abundant grape for the area, but one of my mom's favorites, so we got a bottle for her.

We went back to V. Sattui Winery and ate lunch outside. A few years ago, Rachel Ray featured this place on her show. There was a cute Hollywood actress and her spiffed up boyfriend there grabbing a bite to eat also. We split a sandwich and a few different salads and did another wine tasting. Their wine is a little more reasonably priced than other places we have been. Leaving there, we went to their sister winery, owned by the same man, which was a castle.

We toured the castle and enjoyed it more than I thought we would. The wine tasting there was very, very good. Mark got the reserve wine tasting, and sampled some very, very expensive wine. They even broke out some chocolates (one kind had sea salt in it- wow!) for us to see how chocolate and wine are pared and change the flavor of the wine. I was very impressed with this tasting. The setting was great! We spent quite a while there, and picked out a case to have shipped to us.

We also stopped by Peju winery which had some great sculptures on the grounds. The wine there was very good and a little pricier, but I really liked their cabernet sauvignon. We slipped in to St. Supery for a quick tasting and walked away with two whites - very fresh and not too sweet. After a full day of wine tasting, we headed out of Napa Valley to Sonoma to meet some college friends for dinner. What a treat! We went to college with Keoke (although we knew him as George. He was one of our Campus Crusade buddies) and he went on staff with Crusade after college. He has recently gone back to college as his life is taking a different path, and it was great to catch up and discuss our life's journeys after all these years. We had met his wife Chris several years back and it was great to get to know her a little better. She is as cool as I remember, and great to hang out with. They wanted us to try a restaurant called The Girl and The Fig. It was a very good restaurant, very California-ish. The food was delish! A memorable night, as it is always hearwarming to be in the presence of old friends.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Napa Valley Day 1

Day 1 Monday

Breakfast in downtown Napa at a little restaurant/juice bar. Organic food and fresh squeezed juice. Mark got apple, and I got carrot beet. I figured that counted as my nutrition for the week, so felt entitled to guilt-free eating the rest of our time here! Woo Hoo! I got an egg sandwich and Mark got the famous trio - scrambled eggs, sausage and pancakes.

We started at the wineries nearest the resort since we had massages at noon! The area is Carneros and it is at the lowest sea level since it is furthest south, and the weather there is a little cooler, so this region is known for white wines. It's hard to believe that just driving a few miles north would change the grapes so much! Our first is a winery known for it's champagne, Domaine Carneros. I recognized the blue and gold bottle, and this wine is available throughout the US. It was a beautiful winery with gorgeous grounds. It is the only one we had time for before our massage.

Our massage experience - we went straight to the spa at the resort where we were staying to spend some time in the whirlpool and steam room before our couple's massage. The spa itself is a cave with vineyards above it. The whirlpool in the ladies area was beautiful and soothing, with a stone wall that had water running down over it. The steam room was very pretty as well. After meeting Mark in the common area, another beautiful room, we went on to our couple's massage. There were chocolates and champagne by the whirlpool tub, which had lots of places for the bubbles to come out rather than a few strong jets. The bottom of the jacuzzi had different color lights that would shine through the water and the bubbles, very cool! We had a while to spend together before our couple's massage would start. What a great way to relax before our massage! Then our hour massage. It's funny how each place I have been to does things a little different, adding their own touch. The way they massaged my hands was different, and something that I liked was the way they wrapped the towel around my head when I was laying on my back. It kept my hair out of my face and felt snug. They took the towel and the bottom edge that ran under my neck was wrapped across the side of my head, over my ears and forehead. At the end of the massage, they twisted/pulled my hair in the towel which felt really good. It is similar to when you wrap your hair in a towel after your shower, only different. The lady who gave me my massage was very, very good. What a great way to start off this part of our vacation!

Then we went to Oakville Grocery for a quick, late lunch on our way to Robert Mondavi. We grabbed a coffee there, too! We ate on picnic tables on the grounds and shared a table with a couple from Mexico City. They had just arrived in Napa also. We told them about the tour at Mondavi, and to our surprise, they ended up going there also! The Mondavi tour was better than I thought, even with all the great reviews! I learned so much, the tour guide was funny, and the wine tasting included a bite of lamb burger. Lamb and wine, I didn't ever think about how well they compliment each other. After we left Mondavi, we went to V. Sattui. It was good, and we bought a dessert wine there. It had very pretty grounds as well. On to St. Supery and bought a red and a white there. My favorite white up until that point was at St. Supery. I'm not a big white drinker, but the buttery undertones at the end of the sip are very noticeable in Napa wines. Most of their wines were a little higher in price, but I really liked many of the wines I tasted there. Peju is next door, so we stopped in there also. They had some great art, a huge stained glass scene from a church, and cool sculptures on the grounds, too. It is a private, smaller winery, and a bit more pricey, but had very hearty reds.

We walked around Calistoga, a quaint little town in northern part of Napa. There were cute boutiques and a bookstore that had a nice selection of books you aren't used to seeing often. We were searching for just the right restaurant to match our relaxed mood. We left Calistoga and headed south, planning on stopping by a few restaurants our concierge had recommended. The first one we came to was 25 Brixs. We decided that was the one. The decor was very cool, modern, but rustic and cozy. Our table had a couch on one side,very comfortable. The windows had beautiful views. Our cute waiter was friendly and helpful on picking not only the right entree, but of course the wine to go with it. He also recommended some wineries he thought we would enjoy. The food was unbelievable! They paid close attention to quality and many of the items were organic. We started off with olive flatbread baked in the pizza oven - and made with very fresh olives. We split a beef dish that was awesome, and ended with an apple crisp dessert. There was plenty of food, and we lingered over the meal, so it was quite late when we left. The food was truly outstanding! Five Stars!