Thursday, October 30, 2008

Documentaries and Old TV Shows

This is a call for suggestions! We volunteer with our local library and I've recently requested that they get more documentaries and shows from the 70s and 80s. They're gratefully asking for more requests! Yay!

Please post ideas in your comments--here's what I've come up with so far with the help of some in our homeschool group:

Electric Company
Little Bear (the Elsa Holmelund Minarik variety)
Paddington Bear series
Hatchy Milatchy
Old Sesame Street Videos (when they used to teach kids how to READ!)
Dr. Who series
Planet Earth Series
Mad About You
Brady Bunch
Cosby Show
Yogi Bear
Old Jerry Lewis Movies

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I have a very low tolerance for cold. I'm the kind of person who gets cold in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. And I'm like that kid in A Christmas Story. Randy? "I can't put my arms down!" I'm 5'2, so bundling up means I usually can't move. And I can't stand cold toilet seats. Is that TMI? And images of hell always being red and fiery? I don't buy it. I think hell, if you get into that sort of imagery, should be depicted as a cold, blue freezer.

The one drawback of our beautiful, 1850s farmhouse is that it's a beast to heat. And we heat with oil. Yikes, right? (The good thing is it stays pretty cool in the summer). And the other good thing is that these awesome cast iron radiators (when they're heated) hold heat really well.

We have natural gas in our townhouse and our heating bills were SO CHEAP, so moving here has been a big adjustment that way. We knew it would be, but since we couldn't run our clinic in our townhouse garage (the HOA frowns on that), it's a good move for us just the same.

Electric's going up in a year, so we're taking advantage of it being cheaper this year and using energy-efficient space heaters in one or two rooms and pretty much making ourselves stay in those rooms. Thankfully our clinic and bedrooms are electric heat which means we don't have to heat the whole house to be warm at night. In fact, we let the house get pretty cold at night, but our rooms stay nice and warm. I'm very, very happy about that.

Oh, and we're all about electric blankets. One of my favorite things each night is to climb into our preheated beds. Soooooooooooo cozy!

We're in the middle of caulking (anyone else think that's a funny word?) windows and weather stripping doors and even replacing one window (it's the only one the previous owners didn't replace and since it has a big, old crack in it, it's got to get replaced--we can feel the outside wind when we walk by it). We're even getting some fabric/material and compression rods to put in some of our doorways to help hold in heat. If anyone has any ideas on how to not make that look totally tacky, we'd appreciate it. We keep doors closed, too. We have A LOT of doors in our house. We're bleeding the radiators and have turned off several of them so as to not heat rooms we don't really use a lot. We haven't yet turned on our heat. As I type this, I'm wearing a scarf and socks and long johns and our house is at about 58 degrees. Brrrrrr.

Eventually we'll turn on the heat, but for now, we're counting on how it's supposed to heat up a bit more this week (low 60s), so why start now? (We do the same with our window A/C units in the summer). Mark and the kids seem fine. I'm the one who's always freezing.

We keep hoping oil prices will keep dropping so we can store up for the winter. We have some, but we haven't filled up totally for winter yet. This past year, we had a guy come in and give us a free estimate for what it would cost to convert to natural gas heating. Since we have no duct work, it involves a lot of work. I read online that it's not as expensive as you would think and that it's worth looking into. Well, the estimate was $15,000. Yeah, that's WAY more expensive that I was thinking, so that's out.

Sucky thing about the economy being so awful . . . you talk yourself OUT of buying stuff you were planning to buy. For us, that's a wood stove. I really don't have a lot of wants, but I do want a wood stove. We know exactly where we're putting it. And the cost of the stove isn't so bad, it's the hearth and the pipe thing that goes up and over the roof that make it add up. I love the smell of a wood stove. And it's so warm and cozy. And bonus, when you lose electricity, you can keep heating your house (and cooking, if needs be!). This past year, we had a couple of ice storms that knocked out power for most of the day. We kept warm at our friends' house up the street huddled by their fireplace. We have no back up heat source when we lose power, so that's how the idea of the wood stove began to form.

We were considering getting the wood stove (with blower) this year, but we've decided to hold of and watch how things are economy-wise first. Plus, I just did the math the other day and figured out that by paying the minimum (we hope to be paying more than the minimum eventually), we're poised to finish paying off our student loans when we're 64. That's right, one year before retirement age. Cheerful that, isn't it? (Thankfully, though, since we've recently switched to a 15-year mortgage on our farmhouse and since, during residency, we've paid extra on our townhouse mortgage when we've been able to, our mortgages will be paid off before we're 50, so that oughta expedite the whole student loan thing (which is, essentially, another mortgage). But I digress. We're talking about heat).

So, two questions:

1. What were you thinking of buying that you have now decided NOT to get because of the economy? (We've told the kids that even Santa is dealing with a recession-though we ARE celebrating Christmas big time joy-wise given that this past year was a strange and difficult Christmas dealing with my Dad's death).

2. What kinds of things do you do to save on heat in the winter?

And one more thing--I've read and heard conflicting thoughts on whether it's cheaper to keep your house at one constant temperature or if it's cheaper to let it get cold at night and heat it up during the day. Anyone know for sure?

Updated to add: By the time I finished writing this, I couldn't feel my fingers and my nose was like a mini ice cube. It's too cold to not have heat on, so we've turned it on. Wimps.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Creativity

It's not anywhere near my favorite holiday and there's a lot I don't like about it, but I *do* like creative costumes, trick-or-treating at our friends' houses, the kids' excitement, fall, fun foods, and fun traditions. We make our Halloween costumes and it's fun to see how creatively we can do it. Here are pictures of our costumes over the years:

Our first Halloween with a baby--what to do, what to do. We couldn't decide whether or not to dress her up. So, on the day itself, I was feeling sort of lame for not doing something, so we noticed she was wearing all blue so I picked off a piece of fake plastic plant, put it in her hair (so much hair!), and called it a blueberry costume. Yay us.

The next year, she had a bit more interest in the process, so we all dressed up as doctors. Not too much of a stretch for Mark. This was his third year of medical school.

The next year--a gumball machine!
I *love* this picture!

So, the next year, we started enjoying REAL fall weather in beautiful PA (after having lived in the desert of AZ for over 4 years). Unfortunately, I was dealing with horribly debilitating depression, but somehow I managed to sort of dress the kids like farmers.

The next year, the creative juices were flowing more and I dressed K up as a fridge. M would have no part in dressing up as the bag of groceries that I made. So he wore a pumpkin jacket and we called it good.

I was doing significantly better the next year and pulled off homemade cat costumes!

Aren't they the most adorable kitties?

The kids requested homemade Batman and Ladybug costumes the next year, so we obliged:

And this past year, they requested these--A Mummy and "Raining Cats and Dogs" (poor K had just twisted her ankle--it was NOT easy to hobble with the unevenly weighted umbrella)!

So, Food.

Every once in a while, we make mummy hot dogs (these are from K's Archaeology Birthday Party):

But every year, we make these DELICIOUS recipes--soup in a pumpkin and dinner in a pumpkin. DIVINE! And so so pretty.

Monday, October 27, 2008

4 New Posts Today

I wrote many of these days ago but I've been away from the computer for the past several days. So, I posted them all today, because I'm really trying to catch up around here. :) Hope you enjoy!

Why Republicans Vote for Obama

After so much discussion on our blog about Democrats vs. Republicans and people asking questions like how can a conservative person possibly vote for a Democrat and things like that, I've found a short video that sums it up well--there are a variety of remarks on this short video and if you watch this, you'll get an overall picture of why we support Barack Obama.

I'm sure that those who have already made up their minds to convince themselves that he's some kind of socialist sociopath will roll their eyes at this, but I believe that if you listen with an open mind, you'll at least understand why so many conservatives and Republicans are voting for him.

I don't particularly see myself voting Democrat or Republican, but rather voting for a leader and for me, that's Obama (I very much agree with the line towards the end about Reagan and Clinton, with their different ideologies, and how they've galvanized our nation and helped us believe and then made things happen).

(And for the record, I've reached the point where I'm tired of talking too much about it. By now, with the election in one week, most people have made up their minds. I'm ready for the election to BE and move on. May the best man win. And may God protect him.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Movie and Ice Cream Party

We've recently given out a couple of birthday gifts that were more about doing something than giving "stuff." I tire of "stuff." Some stuff is good, but too much clutters the house and mind. Plus the economy stinks. So, we got creative.

We gave one friend a fairy princess jigsaw book with an invite for her and her sisters to come to a movie party at our house to see the new Barbie movie that came out on her birthday.

(And by the way, can I just say, not being a Barbie fan that their movies are PHENOMENAL?? I was so skeptical but they are really, REALLY good. And I haven't yet met a single person who disagrees--girls AND boys love these movies, they're well-done, classy, have great stories, great morals, great music, they're so good! Swan Lake, Rapunzel, Fairytopia, The Princess and the Pauper, and more! We highly recommend them. They're wonderful!).

We gave the other girl (someone we don't know quite as well) a night out for ice cream. I checked with the parents about these first and they loved the idea. So, we decided to combine the girls and the gifts into one big movie and ice cream party and it was great!

K really got excited to welcome her friends--she's very thoughtful and loves to give notes and pictures and stories to people. So she made each one an invite and taped it to the TV!

What's a movie without popcorn?

The girls watching the movie

M likes to hang out with teenage girls, have I mentioned that? (Sorry, Sierra, your eyes are closed--I'm sure you love that, eh?). Sierra is a sweetheart and lives down the street (remember the homeschool family we met at the Gardens?) and is never "too old" or "too teenager" to join in the fun and we love her!

Make your own ice cream sundaes (lots of toppings!)!


Little brother runs in with a light saber for this picture!
(I know--it's dark and the red eyes can be fixed, too. Someday I'll teach myself all those things).

Good friends

Kids Get Out The Vote!

I'm proud of our kids for caring and being excited about the democratic process. They didn't have to help me (I volunteered with the Obama campaign to help people register to vote . . . for EITHER party, for the record--it was a non-partisan table) that day . . . they wanted to. They often say that they wish they could vote. And that's what they yelled out to passing cars:

"Register to vote! Final week! Don't miss it! If I were 18 I'd vote!"

And look how cute they are! I could just EAT them!

C'mon everyone, register to vote!

Cute little activists :)

We had a playdate the next day and that was fun, too.

And this is what I call "What Happens When You Take Things One Day At A Time" . . . it works REALLY well and stress and anxiety decrease. But sometimes, you get to oh, let's say you're business anniversary, and you try to order a cookie bouquet with same day delivery only to find that they need 2 days notice for your area. So you research other sites. Same thing. So you call your local bakeries (because you want to do something different than flowers) and hey, they need a day's notice, too! So, you use your friend's idea (mother of kids at said playdate) and go to the grocery store and buy a big cookie and have them write something on it. That works.

Thing 2 is Thinking Ahead

Thing 2 (5 years old) has presented me with a list of movies he can watch when he turns 13 so that we don't forget:

More cute kid stories:


Mommy: If I could make my own world, no one would die
Kate (excitedly): Shangri-La!
(We’ve been studying Tibetan history) :P


At the suggestion of several kids in the group, our homeschool group just started a government/geography club. We get to learn all kinds of fun stuff about government and politics (with cool election information and a visit from our local representative!) and geography and we get to do all kinds of neat projects. Yet another of the dads is heading this up--a lawyer whose undergrad is in Political Science.

The kids are excited to create their own countries and laws and militaries and so forth (like a giant Risk game!). Some of the boys are especially excited about strategies and conquering other countries and stuff like that. I've told our kids about it. They're very excited. This is our sweet, 8-year-old daughter's response:

"Oh, I know! I'll make my own country where people are different colored crayons! Or a country where animals talk!"

"That sounds very creative, honey! I think they group is doing more of a real-life approach without imaginary creatures."

"Oh." (Pauses, thinking). "Well, can my country have states?"


"Then I can make up state flowers for each one and state birds like the make up bird!"


10/07/08 - (overheard while the kids were cuddling on the couch)

Our son M (5 years old) to our daughter K (8 years old): Kate, when you marry someone someday, I’m going to marry you back!


I really love being a Mom and enjoying the great personalities in our family!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Favorite Book Club Books So Far?

Since my previous post talks about our book club, I thought I'd quickly list my top 10 favorite books of all the books we've read so far as a group (click on them for more info and the menus):
I love classics and my all-time favorite genre is the Gothic novel. Classics aside, my top 2 favorites from that list are The Shadow of the Wind (a recommendation from my MIL) and The Thirteenth Tale. Cane River and The Kite Runner and The Chosen are vying for third place.

Of the classics, Jane Eyre and To Kill a Mockingbird definitely claim the top 2 spots.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Our Book Club

This post is a perfect example of when writing takes over and takes you in a whole new direction--so exciting! I was going to post a bunch of random stuff including a fun picture of a recent book club display of food. I was going to post about various other things as well. But writing took over and it turned into a post solely about our book club and I'm enjoying sharing these things--it's so fun to blog and record the daily stuff you could take for granted. Hope you enjoy the post. Oh, and I was only going to post one picture of book club food, but I've decided to add some old ones, too. You'll see why when you read the post.

Our book club meets once a month and we read the best stuff (you can find our book club website here: We read a lot of novels and classics and other books, too. Anyone can suggest anything. The "About Us" picture could use some updating--some people have moved, others have joined, etc. There is a list of books on the left, too--all the books we've read. When you click on each book, you can see our accompanying menu. We have a fabulous group of about 12 or so adults, men and women, and we discuss the book for about an hour and then we EAT!

Funny story--our very first meeting to set up our book club and how we'd function as a group (basically, we read pretty much anything and all take turns), I made some light refreshments but said unequivocally, "I am not the kind of person who believes you have to have food at everything! We do NOT have to do food."

Well, I'm not sure what happened after that but that totally went out the window and our book club is equally a food fest as is it a literary discussion. And we love it! Not only do we do food, but we get creative with it--our foods have something to do with the book. We either make something we've read in the book, something from that time period or location of the book's story, or we pick one little thing and get really creative with it (one of my favorites is when one of our members brought "Smoores" (instead of Smores) to represent the Moors in Wuthering Heights. We have so much food that we've moved our book club discussion up closer to meal time since it is pretty much like eating a meal. Most of us have learned to either not eat dinner or eat lightly before book club. It's a feast! Hence our name.

Our basic book club meeting format is this. We meet and discuss the book for about an hour to an hour and a half or so. Then, we all share what we've made for food and how it relates to the book (this part is really fun!). Then we eat! And while we eat, we all share what other books we're reading, and then we pretty much socialize and visit and enjoy one another while we eat and eat and eat. SUCH good food. Mostly it's finger foods and stuff we can eat on a paper plate, you know? But still, it's often fancy, rich food. The fanciest we ever did was when we read Jane Eyre--we did a HUGE sit down British Feast! We had prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, and wonderful sides and desserts (trifle, anyone?) and it was fabulous! But mostly, we sit around the living room in our book club circle and eat and visit and enjoy.

We always know the next two books that we're reading. And at Christmas time, we have a holiday book club party instead of all reading a book and discussing it together (that tends to be a busy time of year for everyone, plus we have some university professors in our group and they're usually swamped with finals). We do a Yankee Swap with books where we all wrap a mystery book and quickly stick it in a big red bag when everyone arrives. We draw numbers and go in order--you can unwrap a book or switch with someone in the group. This is a lot of fun and we all get to keep a fun, new book to read at our leisure. I love books!! We also vote on our top 2 favorite books of the year (those are called "Food for Thought Picks" on our site). And we traditionally make everyone a really nice laminated bookmark keepsake that has all the books we've read over the year on them. And the food for that event? Anything goes! No theme.

We love our book club and are grateful for our friends who enjoy it with us. We have lively discussion, varied opinions, and good learning and fun. We've been going strong for over 3 years!

Here are some pictures of the yummy food we have at book club from various meetings--remember, I was only going to post a recent one, but what the heck--this is fun!

This was the food for our recent book, Ernest Hemingway's posthumous work, A Moveable Feast (apropos, eh?) That cheese on the left is a brie and pesto spread . . . so good! That's also homemade bread and peach jam, fresh, organic tomatoes and basil drizzled with olive oil, pigs in a blanket with different mustard dips, green olives, some "bubbly," and chocolate-covered cream puffs!

This was one of my favorite appetizers for how fun it is (I love fun food)--appetizers on the round loaf
(This picture is from back when we lived in our townhouse)

There is a woman in our group who has a lot of fun getting creative--this is one such example. She made pyramids for when we read The Alchemist.

We also did a Brazilian feast of feijoada (yum!) as well as many other delectables.

Most of the time the food is much simpler than this, but I don't always take pictures of those--mostly, it's the combination of fun things everyone brings that's a total delight! Books and food. YUM.

Debate Party!

Our friends had us over to watch the first presidential debate and we had so much fun. We laughed so hard that it hurt. They're great friends to laugh with and we love that we can have intelligent conversation with them. Plus they make a mean queso dip (SO SPICY!!).

Poor Shawn is so outnumbered at these things.

And check out that TV -- Mark gets to go over and enjoy some good BYU football with Shawn. It's been years since he's been able to do that--he usually get the score online and reads about it. He and Shawn have a good time.

Hey look, it's the debates!

Playing Video Games is part of good political discourse, right?

This picture was taken at 12:31 AM. We had just started to leave and then we started talking more and Shawn suggested we sit. That was it. We left about 2 hours after that. The good thing is we all homeschool so sleeping in a bit the next day is an option. The bad thing is . . . not for Rebecca. She gets up at 5-something in the morning to drive a school bus before coming back home to homeschool her 4 kids! (But she took a nap during the debates and got a second wind). :P

The kids don't mind staying up once in a while like this. No complaints at all. We paid for it with some grumpiness the next day. Staying up until 2:30 AM is NOT our norm. Of course, Rebecca's little one conked out at some point (that's him sprawled out asleep on the floor next to the video gamers). I know we come across as highly responsible parents in this post.

Physics Class

This post is a shout out to my dear and wonderful husband who makes sure he has time in his schedule at least a couple of times a month to attend many of our homeschool group activities. Not only that, but he's teaching a Physics class to about 26 kids of various ages (ranging from 5 to 17) and he does SUCH a good job! People often say they picture Mark as the professorial type. We both love to teach and we love what we do. This is so fun!

He writes the curriculum, emails everyone the lesson to do as families at home, does a quick review with the kids when we meet, arranges cool labs to do, and helps the kids (with parents' help) at various Physics "stations" where they get to do experiments together, discuss and learn more.

Here are some pictures from our first class--The Scientific Method and Measurements:

After that class, a few of us went out to lunch together and then attended a local art exhibit at the local university--all about church steeples and fall in PA. Kind of an odd exhibit, but fun just the same.

After that, we had our first Religious Studies group--once a month, we study a different religion and attend their services. It's a wonderful way to study world religions and foster an appreciation and respect for various belief systems. I'm so excited that we're doing this. The first month we studied Mormonism at our house and then that next Sunday, several people in our group attended our ward with us. It was the first time for all of them. This month, we've met together to study Quakerism and make a peace flag (that was a fun craft). This month we're attending our friend's Quaker meeting. Next month, we're attending a Buddhist Monastery. I'm SO EXCITED! I haven't ever done that before. I've only ever read about them. It'll be fascinating. This past weekend, there was a community lecture about Tibet that some of our group attended. I really love learning.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Old Colonial Days

So we have this great place in the beautiful nearby Amish Country that is like a mini Williamsburg, VA. About 70 of us attended their "Old Colonial Days" and learned from their blacksmiths, leather workers, farm hands, inn keepers, and residents. We got to ride the horse-drawn wagons. And we got to play old fashioned games and visit their old farmhouses and barns and animals. We also attended an old-fashioned school lesson in their one room school house. My my, were they ever strict back then. Dunce caps and all! It was a fabulous field trip!! Such a great throwback in time!

Learning from the Leather Maker

Wagon Rides! Our group is so big that we were all in different areas the whole time.

Learning bits of trivia at the various scarecrows

Enjoying the Women's' Garden

Friends who just fed a giant pig together

Seeing what the houses were like

Learning from the people who lived at that time

A true family bed! Look how many kids we can fit on it!

Visiting the Farmhouse

The woman in the first picture shared with us her amazing quilt--she's been working on it for years and it chronicles her life growing up on a farm. It's gorgeous! Then we enjoyed the wild turkeys for a while and toured the barn. Then we visited the schoolhouse--boy was the teacher strict! The kids got a lecture about behavior and then were led in, girls in one line, boys in another. You can see them practicing their recitations. They had to stand by their desks whenever they answered a question. After that, we went on a horse-drawn wagon ride. So fun!

This next series of pictures is great! It shows the kids leaning old-fashioned chores and children's games as well. They got to try starting a fire with flint and steel--K got some sparks! M and I played in the extra room with toys. Great fun. Great friends. Great field trip! We really enjoy doing these as a family.