Jul 17, 2014

Everyone Deserves a Good Book

I'm happy to report that the summer reading lists (see this post) have been a smashing success.  Judging by the number of books read, this has been the most relaxing summer we've had in years.  We're a family who loves books, but over the last year busy schedules and tougher academics with our two teenagers kind of killed our "reading for pleasure" mojo.  This has been a much needed re-set, a reminder of how much we love reading and how valuable it really is.
The summer reading printable inspired us to take a spontaneous early morning trip to downtown DC to check off "read by a monument".  We rarely go down there in the summer- too many people and miserable weather conditions.  But we got up early, scored FREE three hour parking and staked out some benches in the shade near the Lincoln Memorial.  It was lovely and relaxing, none of that niggling, "I really should sweep the floor/ weed the garden/ finish my homework."  Just dedicated reading time. 
A few days after that we had our first ever "Merrill Family Literacy Night".  We'd made a late afternoon trip to the library, and it seemed unfair for mom to have to make dinner when we got home while everyone else dove into their books.  So we stopped at Whole Foods and picked up a few things for a continental picnic.  For three solid hours we lounged around on the couches and read, while munching on brie and apples, salami, crackers, olives, and gjetost.  Occasionally someone would get so excited about what they were reading they'd read a passage aloud to the rest of us.  Around nine pm we said a family prayer, put on our pajamas, and all retired to our beds to read some more.  If I had my way, every night would be literacy night!
A peek into our library bag
P.S.
Given our family culture of book love, I'm so proud of my thirteen year old daughter for choosing to share that love through a service project.  She's working on building a Little Free Library that will be strategically placed on the grounds of a local charity that works with homeless families.  She's put in a lot of work so far, co-ordinating with the charity and hashing out the particulars.  Now she's ready to build, and as part of her project she's set up a GoFundMe account to solicit donations.  (The GoFundMe page says "created by" me, her mom, but she did all the work.  GSUSA just requires the actual "ask" for donations to be done by an adult.)  
You can visit the page and read about her project here:  http://www.gofundme.com/bl72o0
We even discovered that we have a Little Free Library in our own neighborhood!  Hooray for book-loving neighbors!  Isn't it adorable?

Jul 4, 2014

Summer Reading Fun with Printable

(Update:  Click here to read about how we've used these lists and printable)

Putting together my kids' summer reading lists finally migrated to the top of my "have to do" list a couple of days ago.  Something about June turning into July brought a sense of urgency to get it done. Last night I found a really cute printable on Pinterest, and I printed it up along with a list of recommended books on the back, and boom, I was done with my daughters' lists.  I was proud of myself for not laboring over it and making it harder than it had to be.  This morning I buckled down to complete my son's list.  But...even though there was nothing wrong with the printable I'd found there were a few things I wanted to change.  So I decided to design my own.  This is what I came up with, and I'm pretty happy with it:


I had intended to print this on the front of a sheet of paper, with suggestions for each category on the back.  But I felt badly that I'd made just one reading list for both girls- don't they deserve to be treated as individuals?  So I started combing through our bookshelves for individualized suggestions for each kid.  After I combed through all of the fiction shelves (I completely skipped non-fiction, dang!, that's the whole dining room) I went through my library emails to see what I've checked out over the last couple of years that might deserve to make the list.  Then I had to sift through my Amazon orders- digital and print- and THEN I decided now might be a good time to update my Goodreads shelves and I started adding in everything from Amazon.  When I got to the 2011 orders I caught myself, realized how far off track I'd gotten, finalized my kids' lists and printed them.  Done, finally, and it only took four hours.
.
Here are the lists I made for each kid, with the disclaimer that these are very hit and miss.  I mostly stuck to what we have on our own shelves, and I didn't include things they'd already read.  Given another week to work on it I'd probably come up with totally different lists, but I knew if I didn't finish it today summer would be over before it got done.

(Click to print the 15 yo girl list)   (Click to print the 13 yo girl list)   (Click to print the 10 yo boy list)

15 Year Old Girl List

Picture books:

All the Mamas by Carol Gandee Shough
At Break of Day by Nikki Grimes
Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman
We Were Tired of Living in a House by Liesel Skorpen
Beaten by a Balloon by Margaret Mahy
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Marianne Meyer

Mystery novels:

The #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series
Anything by Allen Bradley
Any of the Sherlock Holmes
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Hugo Award Winners:

Dune by Frank Herbert
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Dragonquest by Anne McCraffrey
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Once & Future King by T.H. White
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Foundation by Isac Asimov
2001 Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Short Stories:

Fidelity by Wendell Berry
That Distant Land by Wendell Berry
Impossible Things by Connie Willis
Remembering by Wendell Berry
Short Stories of O. Henry
Firewatch by Connie Willis

Non-fiction:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community by Wendell Berry
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Eighty Years and More by Elizabeth Cady Staunton
Abigail Adams by Natalie S. Bober
101 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen by Patrice Hanon
Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear
Women in the Material World by Faith D’Aluisio
Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer’s Search for  American Music

Classics:

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott
Anything by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Historical fiction:

The Shakeress by Kimberly Houston
Ludell by Brenda Wilkinson

Other:

The Girl of Limberlost by Jean Stratton Porter
Anything by Terry Pratchett
An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aiden
Searching for Caleb by Anne Tyler

13 Year Old Girl List

Picture Books:

All the Mamas by Carol Gandee Shough
At Break of Day by Nikki Grimes
Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman
We Were Tired of Living in a House by Liesel Skorpen
Beaten by a Balloon by Margaret Mahy
Bimwili and the Zimwi by by Verna Aardema
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson

Mysteries:

Anything by Agatha Christie
The #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series
Anything by Allen Bradley
Any of the Sherlock Holmes
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Hugo Award Winners:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Dragonquest by Anne McCraffrey
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Once & Future King by T.H. White
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Foundation by Isac Asimov
2001 Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Short Story:

Tales of Edgar Allen Poe
Short Stories of O. Henry
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
Fidelity by Wendell Berry
That Distant Land by Wendell Berry
Impossible Things by Connie Willis
The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engel

Non-fiction:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Ratio by Michael Ruhlman
Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community by Wendell Berry
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Lemmon
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
Eighty Years and More by Elizabeth Cady Staunton
Abigail Adams by Natalie S. Bober
101 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen by Patrice Hanon
Women in the Material World by Faith D’Aluisio

Classic:

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
Anything by Jane Austen

Historical Fiction:

Quest for a Maid by Mary Hendry
The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle
Far Traveler by Rebecca tingle

Other:

Anything by E.L. Konigsburg
Anything by Jerry Spinelli
Anything by Madeliene L’Engle
The Narnia Series
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Khadota
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Outlaw by Stephen Davies

10 Year Old Boy  List

Picture Books:

Pied Piper’s Magic by Steven Kellog
At Break of Day by Nikki Grimes
Noah Builds a Boat by Pippa Goodhart
But No Elephants by Jerry Smath
We Were Tired of Living in a House by Liesel Skorpen
Beaten by a Balloon by Margaret Mahy
A House for Peter by Elsa Beskow
Septimus Bean and His Amazing Machine by Janet Quin-Harken
Socks for Supper by Jack Kent
Christopher’s Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow

Mysteries:

Hardy Boys
The Boxcar Children
The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
The Mysterious Benedict Society

Hugo Award Winners:

The Once & Future King by T.H. White
Foundation by Isac Asimov
2001 Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Short Story:

The Big Book of Burgess Nature Stories
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
The Celebrated Jumping Frog and Other Stories by Mark Twain
Stories of Paintings from the Story Hour Series

Non-fiction:

George Washington by Edgar D’Aulaire
Benjamin Franklin by Edgar D’Aulaire
Abe Lincoln, Log Cabin to White House by Sterling North
The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz
The Orphans of Normandy by Nancy Amis
Popular Science Encyclopedia
Brooklyn Bridge by Lynn Curlee
Mathematicians are People Too, by Luetta Reimer

Classic:

Anything from the E. E. Shelf (Edward Eager, Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes)
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Phantom Tollbooth
Anything by E. Nesbit
The Borrowers Series
Rascal by Sterling North
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Historical Fiction:

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth Spear
Ben and Me by Robert Lawson

Other:

Artemis Fowl Books
Anything by Lloyd Alexander
Anything by L. Frank Baum
Anything by Jerry Spinelli
The Overlander Series
Anything by Roald Dahl
Redwall Series
Leven Thumps Series
Anything by Rick Riordan
Fablehaven Series

Jun 28, 2014

Watch out ladies, the next wave is coming!


A few weeks ago this article caught my eye- "Why These 'Mean Girl' Apps Should Frighten Women, Too".  What I read there about 'mean girl' apps did frighten me, but what really changed my outlook on life was the following passage:
Right now, the users of these apps are young, yes, mostly under 24 years old. But if ...they're growing up considering the behavior they enable to be common practice, what does that mean for the future? To me, it's a harrowing thought, that the next wave of women, girls just a few years away from entering the real world—dating my friends, sitting in my meetings—will be ones who were weaned on both Seamless Web and Secret.
I guess I'm slow.  I knew that in a few years the girls in my life will grow up, but I'd not yet made the connection that when they do, we'll all just be women together in the same category.  About the time my kids are grown and I'm entering the workforce, these teens will also be entering the workforce.  The girls I roll my eyes at for spending Sunday School texting and giggling with the boys in class will be in Relief Society, serving in  a Primary presidency with me, or assigned to me as a visiting teaching companion.  That completely changes the level of responsibility I feel to do everything in my power to help them become decent people.  It's not just about investing in their future, my future is at stake here, too.  (Isn't long-term self-interest really the surest motivator for altruism?)

Luckily, my daughters and their friends are fantastic young women who give me much hope for the future.  To give one case in point, last week our Girl Scout troop held an end of the year Court of Awards ceremony.  These 13-17 year olds planned the food, made food assignments and planned and executed their "Pinterest Country Wedding" decor theme with minimal adult involvement.  Even more, completely on their own, they made beautiful 'Thank You' cards for every adult who had helped the troop that year, pooled their money, and bought gifts for the adults who'd helped the most.  These are girls who have schedules and pressures that would make any of us cry, but they still made time to honor and appreciate the adults in their life.  It makes me teary to think about it, and I would be honored to share office space, serve on a board, or serve in church with any of them.

P.S. While I'm bragging about these girls, the younger girls in the troop started a blog this year- "Let Them Know"- to discuss media stereotypes.  I've really been impressed with the range of things they've written about, from negative portrayals of food allergy sufferers, to the harmful effects of images portraying only airbrushed perfection, to a shout out to Lego for finally coming out with a female scientist minifigure NOT dressed in pink, and a post highlighting Fords brilliant ad response to the horrible ad Cadillac played during the Olympics.  I'm proud of them for taking time to think about what's being thrown at them instead of being passive consumers.  Maybe next they'll take on GSUSA itself for their horribly misguided partnership with Barbie.


Jun 16, 2014

Hungarian Potato Casserole - Rakott Krumpli Recipe

This post was scheduled before I decided to stop blogging. 

This is a comfort food and really easy to make. Although it does require a lot of slicing. Basically it is a meat and potatoes dish.




Only has 4 ingredients and salt and pepper for seasoning.

Hungarian Potato Casserole

3-5 lbs russet potatoes
12-18 hard boiled eggs, sliced
3 lbs polish kielbasa, sliced
sour cream (1-2 cups)
salt and pepper

Wash potatoes, cook in boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. You want them almost all the way cooked. When done, drain water, rinse in cold water and slice. Grease a large baking pan, and start layering first the potatoes (sprinkle with salt and pepper), then the kielbasa, and finally the eggs. Repeat layers one more time, finish with potatoes. 

 Spread sour cream on top.

Bake at 450 F for about 30 minutes, until sour cream sets and starts browning. Easy! And delicious!


Jun 12, 2014

Make it Do, or Do Without

 I can't say that I'm anywhere near as thrifty as the people who coined that phrase, but I've always loved it.  Awhile ago my family was on an extended road trip and my 13 year old put holes through both knees of her jeans.  I this great idea on already cued up on Pinterest and I'd just been waiting to use it:


I liked how it doesn't try to hide the hole, but just adds some color and makes it interesting.  I showed it to my daughter and she liked it, so I made a pit stop at Joann while the rest of the family went next door to the Guitar Center to ogle the instruments.  

I always like to put my own spin on things, and I was working on my lap in the car rather than in my sewing room, so I made a few changes to the above tutorial.  I decided to knit patches rather than buy fabric. I didn't have my fabric scissors and somehow it seemed easier to make my own fabric out of a long piece of string than to buy fabric and cut it.  I figured that a knitted patch would offer more give than regular fabric, making it less likely that she would put her knees through the new patch immediately.  I also didn't want to patch her jeans with a single color that she would feel like she had to co-ordinate her tops with, so when I found some rainbow crochet thread that fit the bill perfectly.  

I cast on and knit two swatches about twice the width and length of the holes in the jeans, placed them behind the holes, and then sewed little stars all around to keep them in place.  It was easy and a totally manageable on-my-lap-in-the-car project.  My daughter was thrilled with how it turned out, she even knit a few rows and sewed a few stars herself.  Have I mentioned how great my teenage daughters are lately?  I am in awe of how willing they are to try projects like these, how unworried they are about the latest fashion fads and fitting in.  I wish I'd been as confident and un-self-conscious at that age.

The finished project:


A couple of close up shots:



Jun 11, 2014

Using What You Have

Yesterday during a Girl Scout meeting the girls were doing their usual awesome job of running the business portion of the meeting all by themselves, and they brought up a recent event they'd hosted at our church. Somebody mentioned that we should send the bishop a thank you card.  Now I'm really not the kind of woman who carries thank you cards in her purse just in case one is needed- just ask me about the thank you cards I sent out after my wedding, or on second thought, don't.  But I had some very few supplies on hand for an activity we were going to do for badgework.  Brown paper grocery bags, plain white copy paper, scissors, a pen, and an assortment of sharpies.  I decided a pop up card would be fun, so I googled "diy pop up cards", and found this excellent tutorial on Oh Happy Day.  I went to work with my scissors and by the time the girls were done with business I had this card ready for them to sign:


Here's a side view so you can kind of see how the pop up parts work, but if you want to make your own you should really check out the above linked tutorial because it's beautifully written with lots of great pictures.


It's not a big thing, but it was a very satisfying little project.  I'm so over projects where I go to Michaels and spend $50 on supplies and then the leftovers sit around cluttering up my house.  It made me so happy to be able to sit there and whip this up without special die cuts or fancy paper or expensive rubber stamps.  Just my scissors and some markers and done.  Oh, and below are the notebooks the girls made.  I didn't have my good camera, so the photo quality isn't the best, but I loved seeing the different ways they decorated their little notebook, and they had a blast afterwards writing funny little things in each other's books.  The older girls were just finishing up Mission Sisterhood, and the younger ones are working on their Book Artist badge, so this last minute activity was perfect to combine those things and end the year.


Jun 3, 2014

Why I Decided To Stop Blogging

picture is from here

I have been flirting with the idea of not blogging for a while now, but Rachel always managed to convince me to continue. First of all my reasons were not the best. Usually it stemmed from feeling sorry for myself about not being good enough or creative enough and comparing myself to others. That's not a good reason to stop blogging.

Wanting to be a better mom, a better wife is the perfect reason to stop blogging. To clarify, I don't think that you or your favorite blogger is a bad mom or wife.

It's me, not you or them. I am having trouble balancing all the different roles I have in my life. Blogging is a constant temptation for me to push myself at the expense of fulfilling my other responsibilities. I have developed some habits that are not the best and interfere with me being the best mom I could be. I love blogging but this is a temptation I have trouble resisting.  And I have been taught to turn from temptation.

As I told Rachel this morning, after asking her to kick me off the blog, blogging is like the icing on the cake. Problem is, when the cake is a hopeless mess, where are you going to put the icing? I need to work on the cake first before working on any kind of icing. If I focus on making the icing the best I can, before I can make the best cake, that's going make for a low quality cake no self respecting baker would spend time on.

What is the cake?
Focusing on my family first. Getting laundry done. Making the bed. Going to the park when the kids want to instead of when the light is favorable. Taking time to learn something well instead of taking shortcuts for a post. Stopping to smell the roses instead of taking a picture of them.

I was going to write more, but it is time to go. I'm sure you get the point.

What about this blog? Rachel will be around. And after some much needed detox from blogging and after I get rid of bad habits and replace them with good ones, I hope to start blogging again.

 Take care,



Jun 1, 2014

DIY Jute Rope Wrapped and Painted Cans






This is a project I did a while ago and  it will published in Lark Crafts' new book "Craft Camp" due in stores May 2015. 

However, if you cannot wait for the book to come out, no problem. Wrapping cans in jute rope is very easy. Here is an excellent tutorial on it:http://sweetparrishplace.blogspot.com/2013/02/trashtastic-tuesday-soup-cans.html

And then you can decorate it however you wish! It is an easy enough craft for kids to make and give as gifts. Great for Father's Day, Mother's Day or maybe as a summer craft project. 



Note: The original post was edited. 

May 30, 2014

Hungarian Trifle or Somlói Galuska Recipe

 Somlói Galuska is the most famous Hungarian confectionery. In the late 1950s, the legendary Gundel restaurant's head waiter came up with this dessert that Bela Joseph Szőcs pastry chef made possible.    

Hungarian Trifle Recipe
Plan ahead, this dessert needs to be refrigerated for 24 hours or at least overnight.

First of all, you will be making 3 different sponge cake layers, a custard filling, syrup, chocolate ganache and whipped cream.

Basic Sponge Cake (make it 3 times, please note additions for 2 of the cakes)

4 eggs, separated
3/4 c flour
3/4 c powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

3 Tbsp cocoa powder
3 Tbsp ground walnuts

Beat egg whites with the pinch of salt until stiff, slowly add powdered sugar. Next add egg yolks and flour mixed with baking powder.

For the next layer repeat the basic sponge cake, and add the cocoa powder.

For the third layer, repeat the basic sponge cake and add the ground walnuts.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place parchment into 9 x 13 or jelly roll pan. Sprinkle it with flour. Spread sponge cake batter on it and bake for about 20 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the layers. Cool.


While the layers are baking, prepare the syrup.

Syrup ( I always double the syrup, in case I need more.)

1 c water
3/4 c - 1 c sugar
2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange

Mix all in a pan, bring to boil over medium heat while stirring, reduce heat and cook for about 3 minutes. Cool.

Filling

You can use vanilla pastry cream (here is a great recipe) or whip up a large box of instant vanilla pudding. I use pudding and it works great!

Topping For Layers

1 c ground walnuts
1/2 cocoa powder

1 c apricot jam (optional)

To Assemble

Start with the basic sponge cake layer, place it pan it was baked in. Pour 1/3 of the syrup on top, slowly. You may need more to be able to cover it well. 

Spread 1/2 of the vanilla pudding on top. 

Place chocolate sponge cake over pudding layer. Pour 1/3 of syrup on top, spread rest of the vanilla pudding on top. 

Add walnut sponge cake, pour rest of the syrup on top. 


Spread apricot jam (optional) on top. Sprinkle with ground walnuts, 

 and cocoa powder. 

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight or 24 hours. I usually test it after a few hours by tasting to make sure the layers are moist, and add more syrup if needed.

To Serve

Heat 4 oz good semi-sweet chocolate chips or baking chips with 8 oz of heavy cream in double boiler. Mix well, allow to cool to room temperature

Cut into 1 inch squares, top with freshly made whipped cream (or store bought), drizzle with chocolate ganache. 


It is very rich, so you only need a few squares. But because it is a time consuming to make, it is worth making a lot at once. Enjoy!




May 27, 2014

Homeschool Conference at the Beach

I got to spend most of last week here:

{the actual view from my hotel room balcony}

 This is why I was there:

Highlights (I couldn't muster up much in the way of grammar and syntax, so you get the cryptic version)

33= number of states and provinces represented at the conference
330= number of amazing young people attending the youth conference
340= number of adults attending the conference
42= number of speakers at the conferences
3= number of people I ran into that have started homeschooling since I last saw them
1= number of times I speed-walked to 7-Eleven to buy a 9 volt battery for a speaker's dead microphone
140= number of stairs between my ten story hotel room and the ground level
7= number of times I dashed down the stairs because the elevator was too slow
0= number of times I gave up waiting for the elevator and walked up ten flights
2= number of times I managed to slip away for forty-five minutes to play in the waves with my daughters in the middle of the day
2=number of people in my family who got sunburnt playing on the beach

incalculable {number of friendships formed, number of glowing smiles and friendly greetings, number of ah-ha moments felt, number of hearts that burned with joy and conviction for homeschooling and for the gospel}

things i loved about the conference
-watching dads wrangle small children so their wives can attend classes; they're clearly the B team, but they're doing their best and it's sweet to see this homage of respect they pay to the women who are educating their children
-youth who cheer at everything, smile and look you in the eye, and don't complain about sitting in classes all day with the beach and the ocean in full view through the floor to ceiling windows
-the family dance; such amazing energy when parents, teens and little kids all let down their hair together
-listening to my daughters' excitement about the things they were learning
-surrounded by other LDS people who are also homeschoolers, it's the one time of year I feel somewhat normal

things that made me teary
-watching a disconcerted grandpa reassure the grand-kids he wasn't mad at them after he'd cautioned them on a point of safety; a grandpa who was also a dad, there to support his daughter, making himself relevant in her life and the lives of his grandchildren
-walking into a class already underway where the speaker said something that answered a question I've been fervently praying about before I even reached my chair
-watching the good, good women who plan this conference from all over the country through emails and conference calls come together and see the fruits of the literally thousands of hours they volunteered to make it all happen

If you're LDS and you homeschool, or you're thinking about homeschooling, plan now to come to the conference next year! (Delayed gratification, I know, a year is a long way off.)

For instant gratification, visit our audio library here and stream or download talks from the last nine years of conferences!

I'm not paid to advertise this conference.  I'm just over the moon impressed with how amazing it is.  But I have helped out with the audio library and website, so admire my handiwork while you're there.  That's what I've been doing this year instead of all the other crafty things I usually do in my spare time.  

May 25, 2014

Teach Children About RESPECT FOR OTHERS - With A Fairy Tale Retold and Making Clay Gems


This week I chose to focus on Respect from our Family Values, but specifically respect for others. Respect encompasses so much, I wanted to break it down and talk about how we can show respect for people to begin with.  As I thought about how I can make it fun and memorable for my younger kids, I remembered an old fairy tale, which I changed a bit and shortened to focus more on respect and help the younger ones be able to relate to it better. 

TOADS AND DIAMONDS

A  widow had two daughters. The youngest treated everyone with respect and kindness. Her older sister however was often rude to others and refused to listen to her mother.

One day when the youngest went to a nearby well for water and had just filled her pitcher, when an old woman came to the well and asked for a drink. "With all my heart," replied the youngest girl. Glad to show respect and kindness to one old and weak, she held the pitcher while the old woman drank. 
Now, this was not a trembling old peasant woman, as she appeared, but a fairy who rewarded good deeds. 
"Your heart is gentle, and you have shown me respect" said she. "For your kindness to a poor old woman, I will make you a gift. Every time you speak, from your mouth shall come a flower or a jewel."

When the girl reached home, she called for her mother and sister. As she spoke, some pearls and diamonds poured from her lips.
"What is this I see, child?" asked the astonished widow.
The girl eagerly related her experience with the old woman at the fountain, while, with her words, dropped precious stones. The widow immediately called her oldest daughter to her.
"Daughter, would you like the same gift as your sister?" asked she. "Go  to the well and fetch water. And if an old woman asks you for a drink, mind' you treat her with respect."

The eldest girl grumbled and complained for a while, but finally she took the pitcher and sullenly obeyed. No sooner was she at the fountain than from the wood came a lady beautifully dressed, who asked the girl for a drink from her pitcher.
"I have not come here to serve you," she rudely replied, "but take the pitcher and help yourself. I will only help the old woman who can make me rich!"
The lady was the fairy, who had taken the appearance of a princess to see how far the girl's disrespectful attitude would go.

"Instead of the old woman, I will make you a gift,"said the fairy, "to equal your rude and disrespectful attitude. Every time you speak, there shall come from your mouth a snake or a toad."


After the tale, I asked them to pick up their room. Right away, I heard grumbling and complaining. I told them to think about if their response was respectful. (And I told them they did not actually have to pick up - right then and there.) Then I asked them if it would make a difference if Batman came here and asked them to pick up. After some laughs, they said of course they would listen without being disrespectful. Then I asked how they would respond, if it was a firefighter, a police officer, their teachers from Church, our bishop and our Prophet asked them to do something or just wanted to talk to them. Of course they said they would treat all of the before mentioned people with respect. So we talked about how we need to treat everyone with respect, not just people we like or feel that are important. How we may meet people who look and act different from us - yet, we still need to show respect. And that we need to show respect to each other as well, in our family. Which is often the hardest. 

To help them remember our lesson, we made clay gemstones from white Sculpey clay. Me and my older boys cut facets into clay balls the younger boys made.




Then we put them on  paper and baked them on foil pans at 275 degree. I read somewhere to put the clay in the cold oven and not preheated one to prevent cracks.

And I also covered and secured another foil pan on top to contain the fumes.


After the recommended baking time, we let them cool and painted them. 
Each of the younger boys have a few gems to remind them to treat everyone with respect. And when we catch them being disrespectful, we tell them," Look, there is a frog and a snake coming out of your mouth!" Which makes them laugh and so far they pretty quickly changed their attitude to be more respectful.

Note: the silver and copper clay gems were painted with Liquid Silver Leaf and Liquid Copper Leaf, found HERE and HERE





This post was published on my Hungarian blog as well  HERE

May 23, 2014

Hungarian Curd Dumplings or Túró Gombóc Recipe

To continue with Hungarian recipes, I decided to post these curd dumplings, even though mine always turn out looking kind of shaggy, flat versus round - however they taste just great. I have been waiting and hoping that one of these day I will make perfect looking curd dumpling and take pictures...after waiting for a few years, I realized it is silly to wait, and wait and wait, hoping to capture picture perfect dumplings. They are traditionally made with Túró, if you want to make some here is a previous post on it LINK HERE. I did make some with Queso Fresco, which is different from Túró, but has similar texture, although it is much drier. I made adjustments to the recipe to accommodate for the different cheese.


Ingredients:

500 g  Túró or Queso Fresco cheese ( I have tried using Queso Fresco, and had to adjust the recipe slightly, I will note adjustments in parentheses.)
120 g semolina flour
3 eggs, separated
pinch of salt (skip this is using Queso Fresco)
1-4 Tbsp sugar to taste)
pinch - 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest to taste
(1/4-1/2 c sour cream - only with the Queso Fresco)

10 oz plain bread crumbs
1 stick of butter

powdered sugar
cinnamon sugar
sour cream

If using Queso Fresco, crumble it in a bowl (picture below). If using Túró, just add it to the bowl.


Add semolina flour, pinch of salt (omit for Queso Fresco), egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, (sour cream for Queso Fresco) and mix it all.

If using Queso Fresco, add the sour cream a little at a time. The texture should be spreadable, not dry and not too wet.

Cover and let the mixture rest in the fridge for a couple hours in order to soften the semolina flour. While waiting, brown plain bread crumbs in the butter, stirring constantly to make sure it does not burn. Set aside. Start boiling water in a large pot, before taking out the curd cheese mix. While water is heating up, beat egg white until peaks form and gently mix in the egg white to the curd cheese mixture. 

Now for the messy part. You have to form balls from the curd cheese mixture - which is pretty soft. You can do this by using your hands - just make sure you wet your hands. It is still going to be pretty messy. Or you can do what I do, use an ice cream scoop with a trigger and it is mess free! As you form the balls, drop them in the boiling water a few at a time. It takes about 5-10 minutes for them to be done, depending on the size. Take them out one at a time with a slotted spoon and put them in the bread crumbs. Gently cover them. While warm, the dumplings are pretty fragile. Chill in the fridge, and they will become firmer.

To serve, dust with powdered sugar, or cinnamon sugar or a dollop or sour cream.

Next week, I'll post one of the most famous and complicated desserts from Hungary.

May 20, 2014

Easy And Elegant Graduated Wood Necklace (a quick how-to)

This post is not so much a "how-to" as a "where-to", simply because the necklace is quick and easy to make - however where to find high quality wood beads is more what this is really all about. I have used wood beads bought from Hobby Lobby and Joann's and they worked just fine, I thought the necklace I made from them looked good, price was very nice, so nothing to complain about. Until I bought Ebony and Sibucao wood beads from Beads and Honey. Not sure I can look at wood beads the same again. Even though there is a difference in price, I think they are worth it. Just a note: I am NOT getting paid or did not get free products from Beads and Honey. I just really loved the beads! And customer service. More on that later.

To see the difference, I took pictures. On the left are the wood beads from Hobby Lobby, on the right the Ebony and Sibucao beads from Beads and Honey. The colors are more intense and the higher quality of the wood is undeniable. 

Here is the simple but elegant beauty I made for a friend. 

 I used a strand of graduated ebony wood beads and a strand of 6-7 mm ebony round beads and about 24 inches of 1 mm leather cord.
The pattern is simple to see from the pictures. Basically I started with stringing the biggest bead from the graduated strand ( I used most of the beads, did not use the smallest 4 beads), added a 6-7 mm round bead on each side, then got the next to largest beads and added 1 on each side and just kept going until I ran out of the graduated beads and simply divided up what I had left of the 6-7 mm strand.




Tied a double square knot, added a dab of G-S Hypo Cement and pulled the cord back through the first beads from the knot. Cut off the extra cord and done. 

I made the Sibucao necklace shorter, therefore I added a clasp. 


Only used the 7 largest beads, with the 6 mm round beads in between, and simply divided the leftover 
6 mm beads and strung them until I ran out. To finish this necklace, I used fold-over cord ends, jump rings and lobster claw clasp. Simply put the cord on the fold-over cord end, using pliers fold one metal flap over the cord, then fold the other flap over the on top. Attach jump rings to cord ends, with lobster claw. They are super simple to use. 


Now, a bit about the costumer service....Lynette, the owner of Beads and Honey included some candy with the beads! Yes, I am easy to please. But even something as simple as surprise candy included in an order can delight someone!