Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Camp

Last week ended badly.  At the current time of the month for me, I was a little grumpy if you know what I mean.  We have a boy that we have been watching this summer.  It has been very pleasurable to have an extra little guy around.  He's one of my boys' best friends and the son of one of my best friends, so it's worked out well.  Then, another friend came for a play day, which turned into two play days.  Add into this that I did not have a vehicle because my husband's car was in the shop and he took our van to work each day.  Work is 40 miles away, so it wasn't an option for me to drive him and drop him off.  In other words, I was PMS-ing, with four rambunctious boys in the house, and NO vehicle!  Oh, did I mention it was raining???????


Yeah, my head popped off and rolled across the floor.


Well, in the midst of my crisis, my logical-husband spoke rationally to me.  Sometimes, this is not a good idea when I'm in a state, but his timing was pretty good this time.  We began talking about having more structure in the boys' days.  You see, part of why my head was popping was because I hadn't really planned any activities for the boys on these two days of four-boys-no-car-lots-of-rain-play-date.  I had let them have lots of free play.  We school the boys year-round, but I do give them days off when friends are at the house. 


So, we started to brain storm about how to occupy the boys during these last several weeks of summer vacation.  That's when it hit me...Summer Camp!  I spent one-week a summer at Church Camp from the summer before fourth-grade until I graduated high school.  I know how summer camp works.  Each year we got a little more free time as we grew older.  But most of our time was structured. 


So, that's what I want the rest of our summer to be!  I started my evil plan this morning.  Since it's just our regular charge (plus my two boys) we did have lessons.  Summer lessons are just bare-bones.  We do a page of math (we use Saxon), a page from our language arts/grammar workbook, and a page from our geography (geo-challenge) which only takes a few minutes.  Today, I peppered in one more activity.  We began a writing project using an Evan-Moore book I found that will take us step-by-step through a fiction story-writing project.  Since the boys got a late start, this took us right up to our 11:30 AM lunch-time.  Our charge for the summer has Juvenille Diabetes so we have to eat on his schedule. 


Over lunch, I read aloud to the boys.  We are reading "The Phantom Tollbooth."  After I finished the chapter, the boys worked on a poster each of them is making that maps out the trip our hero from the book takes throughout the book.  And then we cleaned up from lunch and went for a walk.  The road on which we live turns into a dirt-road dead-end.  Walking to the end and back is a little over 1 mile.  We took the dogs on their leashes and hoofed it to the end and back.


Upon returning and getting large glasses of water, each of us picked a book and I set the timer.  We sat in the living room and read for 10 minutes.  When the timer rang, the three boys scattered to the four winds!


So, as I type it's "free-time" at our summer camp.  At 3:30 it's time for a snack and then we may work on a science experiment after that to occupy their time until our charge's mother arrives to take him home.  The idea is to allow some free time but not a free-for-all, which leads to disaster!  At summer camp, we had classes in the morning (i.e. bible, nature, crafts).  We had to clean our rooms, after breakfast.  After lunch, there was quiet time before free time.  After supper, there was vespers, and an evening planned activity.  There was free time, but it was not the majority of our day.  I want our home this summer to be like summer-camp.  Actually, I'm thinking this plan should be carried out for the rest of the year.


I don't want to add to my work-load, so these will not be high-maintenance activities.  But here's my ideas:

-one day a week we should do a hands-on science experiment like the mentos in the soda-bottle or making goo from borax and glue.

-one afternoon a week we will go to the library.  We have been going every Tuesday for summer reading time, so we will keep that tradition going.  I've always utilized the library pretty heavily, but never on a regular day.

-one day a week we will have an outting, maybe someplace local, like the state park, or maybe someplace more grand like the science center in Harrisburg.  This week we're going to the Rennaisance Faire!

-each afternoon we will take a walk or bike-ride after lunch.

-each afternoon we will have at least a 10-minute quiet time to read.

-we will cook together.  My boys love to cook and we do it often during the traditional school year.  I want to add our charge into the mix (pun intended) and give the boys cooking assignements in the afternoon occasionally.

-we will craft together.  I have added some crafts into our days so far this summer, but now I will try to find one a week.  This week, we are going to work on posters for the poster-contest at the county fair.


And so, our summer-camp has begun.  Truthfully, I've "gone off" of the idea of summer camp for my boys, so this is as close to summer camp as they will get.  We do tell them that they don't need summer camp because their LIFE is summer camp!  Now, I'm really trying to make it that way!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


On the one weekday that I cook, the boys love it when I make Popovers.  I had never heard of popovers until I visited Northern Minnesota with my husband.  He was raised there.  On one visit, a friend of my mother-in-law gave me a church cookbook.  I have used that cookbook until the pages are falling out of the book!  If there's a fire in this house, we're saving THAT cookbook!


Popovers are a supper roll, of sorts.  They are very airy almost like a cream puff, but savory, not sweet.  If you do not own a popover pan you can bake these individual custard cups.  I was blessed enough to find a 6-popover pan in a thrift store a few months ago.  And we use it regularly. 


The recipe is quite simple, but you mus follow the directions exactly.  This recipe comes from the "Women's Fellowship of Union Congregational Church Hackensack, MN" cookbook, 1989 second edition.  There are two popover recipes here, but I used "Failproof Popovers" by Barbara Allen.  Enjoy!


Failproof Popovers

1 c. milk

1 c. flour

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

Put all ingredients in a bowl, stir until blended.  Disregard lumps!  Pour into 6 cold, well-greased custard cups.  Place in cold oven.  Set oven at 450 degrees and time for 30 minutes.  Don't peek!  Serve immediately.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Peanutbutter Cookie Oatmeal

Well, today is Wednesday and that means oatmeal.  I have really simplified breakfast in the past few months.  For a few years, I have been cooking a hot breakfast almost every day of the week.  Although we all enjoyed it, it wasn't good for our weight or for my grocery budget.  It gets expensive when you're going through 36 eggs and 4 pound of butter every 2 weeks!  So, I came up with a more simplified plan.  On Monday's I cook, sometimes French toast, or omelets.  We also love popovers for breakfast.  They are easy and inexpensive to make.  The rest of the week days go like this:


Tuesday:  Toast

Wednesday: Oatmeal

Thursday: Yogurt (and granola if we have it)

Friday:  Cold Cereal


Today was oatmeal day and I made the most delicious oatmeal that tasted just like a peanut butter cookie.  I'm going to try and give you the recipe, but I did a lot of dumping, so you may have to play with the measurements to get the taste you like.


Peanutbutter cookie oatmeal

1 C. old-fashioned oatmeal (I actually use 7-grain cereal)

2 C. skim milk (you can use whatever kind of milk your family enjoys, we're skim people)

1/2 C. white sugar (I know I's bad for me, but in this recipe it gets the taste I want)

1/3 C. peanutbutter

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a med. saucepan, heat milk and oatmeal on med-high heat.  Add sugar and peanutbutter before the oatmeal begins to boil.  Stir continually until it gets to a consistancy you like.  I like it thick so I keep it on the heat and I stir it continually for at least 5 min.  I also like the oats really soft, so going this bit of extra time helps in that process too.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.


This was just delicious and tasted just like traditional peanutbutter cookies with oatmeal in them.



Sunday, July 6, 2008

You have GOT to see this!

We were having a relaxing Saturday morning.  We had just finished breakfast, when I noticed that one of the hummingbird feeders we keep outside our "screamin" porch (the boys named our screened-in porch many years ago) was cloudy.  So I asked my husband, Big Dog, if he would go out and get them so that we could rinse and re-stock the feeders.

When he went outside there were a few birds hovering near Big Dog.  He took the feeder off the shepherd's hook and stood perfectly still holding the feeder.  I couldn't believe my eyes as I stood watching from the window at the kitchen sink.  A hummingbird came to the feeder suspended from my husband's finger!!  The amazement on Big Dog's face was remarkable.

He came into the house yelling "Did you SEE that?!?"  We quickly rinsed the feeders and replentished them with new nectar.  I grabbed the camera and snuck onto the screamin' porch while Big Dog stood outside the porch holding the feeders.  Below are the pictures.  They're not great but you can see the hummingbird at the feeder if you look closely.  This was truly amazing!

And here's a tip to keep your feeder's well stocked.  Yesterday, we rinsed and filled the feeders and then I immediately made more nectar and placed it into the regrigerator so that I'm ready for the next time I need to fill the feeders.  The birds like fresh nectar every few days, so I keep the refrigerator stocked.  The nectar is just 1 C. of sugar to 4 C. water.  I boil it a few minutes to dissolve, then let it cool.  Then I pour it into a plastic sealable container and let it chill in the refrigerator until I'm ready to refill.  I don't color it with red food coloring because now that they know where it is, the coloring isn't necessary.  One feeder is red, so that also eliminates the need.