Friday, October 30, 2015

Caramel Apples - Success!!!

We tried our hand at caramel apples this afternoon and I think we were pretty successful.  I did spend some time researching the best methods on Pinterest (of course).  My cousin had warned me that due to the waxy texture on the outside of the apple,  I may have a hard time getting the caramel to stick.   All of the blogs I read agreed that the wax was an issue.  A couple of the suggestions were to boil the apples for thirty seconds, wash them with soap and water, or sand them down with sandpaper.  That last one seemed a bit far fetched to me.  I decided to go with boiling each apple for 30 seconds.  Obviously this made the apples very hot so I thought it would be a good idea to place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.  I figured a hot apple may also cause the caramel to slide off. While the apples were chilling in the freezer, I got the toppings ready and began melting the caramel.  Now the obvious method for melting the caramel would be the microwave but we are currently a microwave-less home...  Gasp!  Actually, it hasn't been that bad.  We have learned we can live without a microwave and I really like having the extra counter space.  Back to melting the caramel, my first attempt was the old method of boiling water in a pan with a glass bowl on top.  This was taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!!  I lost my patience and placed the caramel squares in a sauce pot with a little milk, stirring like a mad woman so it would not scorch.  So even though this was a bit risky, it worked really well and fast.  I know what you are thinking.... She really knows how to walk on the wild side.... No???  Oh, alright then.  I never have been the adventurous type. :)
(This picture cracks me up.  It was taking so long they pulled up a chair.  Notice Ginger was also very interested.)

The next part moved super fast.  I called one child over at a time, helped them roll their apple in the caramel and then move it into the toppings.  I really wanted to get cute pictures of their excitement mixed with concentration but there really wasn't any time for that.  We were dealing with melted caramel after all!
(Our toppings included, crushed graham cracker, mini marshmallows, crushed peanuts, and mini M&M's.)

Another tip I found on Pinterest was to turn the apples upside down on a cooling rack (sticks pointing down).  This was a fantastic tip and helped us to really pile on the toppings.

All in all, it was a super fun activity.  I think this is now a Halloween tradition for our family.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Friday Night Lights and Homecoming Magic

When we made the decision to homeschool our kids, one of my concerns was regarding the various activities they would miss (especially in the upper grades).  When my husband and I were in high school we were both involved in extra curricular activities/sports.  My husband played football, threw shot put and discus, plus raised pigs with F.F.A. (which probably sounds really strange if you are not familiar with FFA).  I was on our high school dance/drill team and pretty much lived and breathed anything that had to do with dance.  He actually asked me to be his girlfriend after the Burning of the C (one of our homecoming festivities).  Which just so happened to be 19 years ago from this very day.  Which now makes me feel very old, so back to real reason for this post. :)  Like I was saying, the choice to homeschool did make me wonder if our kids would miss out on some of those experiences.  This is our fourth year to homeschool and I once again my pre-conceived idea has been proved wrong. We are very blessed to live in an area that has a large and very involved Christian homeschool community.  Last night, our homeschool athletic program was celebrating the homecoming football game.  The program is called W.I.N.G.S. (Winning in God's Service) and focuses on making disciples through athletics.  We decided to attend the game as a family and see what it was all about.  The program falls under T.C.A.L. (Texas Christian Athletic League) which allows the team to play other homeschool athletic programs, as well as, private schools from around the state.
2015 Varsity W.I.N.G.S. War Eagles - football players and cheerleaders

Like I mentioned earlier, my husband and I were both very involved in high school.  Plus, we went to a 5 A high school where athletics were a big deal and everything was done on such a huge scale.  I was a little unsure of what the homeschool program would involve.  Let me tell you, this program (W.I.N.G.S.) is a big deal!  Every little detail was obviously taken care of with so much attention and love.  In the homeschooling community, just about everything is volunteer/parent driven.  If you are a homeschooling parent you are involved 100%, which means every student's parents are involved 100%.  This makes for such a wonderful feeling and attention to detail at all events.  Just like in traditional school settings, parental involvement makes all the difference.
Having a great time with all of their spirit gear!

When we pulled up to the game I was surprised to see how many people were in attendance.  I bet there were at least 200 people, all stretched out along the sides of the field.  Everyone had chairs and blankets and most importantly, front row seats. :)  There was a concession stand with food and drinks along with spirit ribbons, team shirts, clappers, and pom-poms for sale.  The team had a great run-thru sign for their entrance onto the field.  The cheerleaders performed to the fight song and the crowd joined in with clapping and cheering.  There was also the mascot, War Eagle, which was pure entertainment for my kids.  I am pretty sure my oldest would like his future to be War Eagle!  It was such a special night.  The team won by a long shot :), the cheerleaders did a fantastic job during half-time, and my kids loved every minute of it. At the end of the game, all of the fans lined up in two rows on the field and cheered while the team ran through in victory.  My kids got such a kick out of
the players giving them high-five's as they ran through.  :)
This was our first experience with Six Man Tackle Football - it is really exciting and action packed!

Cheering and checking on the rules with Daddy

It just goes to show (once again) that the world of homeschooling offers so many opportunities.  Tonight, is the homecoming dance for the older students.  Which I must add, the parents have really gone the extra mile to teach them the proper etiquette for a dance.  For example, rules such as: 1.  Ask as many people as you can to dance.  Everyone came to dance - help to make sure they have fun. 2.  You may not decline an offer to dance with one person and then proceed to dance with someone else during that song (this is in response to how much courage it takes a young man to ask a young lady to dance).  These rules are so precious and necessary, yet rarely taught these days!  I love that little details like this are the expectations and the norm for these young adults.

We are #1! :)

Varsity Cheerleaders

Spirit!!! War Eagle and Cheer Captain

Again, I am so thankful we live in this homeschooling community and my kids will have the same opportunities in a few years.  God truly blessed our family when he placed us in homeschooling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Humming Bird Rescue

 I have to admit, when we started school this morning it felt as if we were really dragging.  As we went through our lessons, I just couldn't help but shake the feeling that we have hit the October rut.  We have been schooling since late July and will reach our 50th day this week.  We needed a pick-me-up that is for sure! After lunch the kids and I were making our way upstairs for our afternoon lessons when my youngest son screamed.  Somehow he was still downstairs (not really excited to read) and heard a thump at our window.  Then he discovered it was a small hummingbird.  My first response as I was running down the stairs was to keep the dogs inside.  They would have had way too much fun with that poor little bird.  My second response was a plea to God that it had not died right in front of my son.  All of my kids are huge animal lovers and pretty much live for any type of animal, vet, or rescue show on TV.  In fact, they play "animal rescue" all the time around the house. As we watched the tiny bird, it was obvious he was a bit stunned.  I decided to call my mother-in-law who is also a big time animal lover.  She rushed right over with syringe and hummingbird food in hand.  The kids watched in great concern as she picked up the bird and began to feed him.

This was the little bird when we first saw him.  He was not doing well and was very much stunned.
Here is my mother-in-law feeding him from the syringe.  We were able to see his long tongue as he ate.  As concerned as we were it was also so cool to see a hummingbird up close and still.

He was so pretty.  The kids guessed that he was a ruby throated hummingbird because he had a tiny red patch under his throat.  Because of this, they also guessed that he was a male.  
Due to his tiny size, my oldest son decided he must be a juvenile and not fully grown.
Our plans for the afternoon (to go the movies with friends) were derailed with this little guy.  We called a local non-profit animal rescue center called the ARK.  They said they couldn't send anyone out to our house to pick him up but that we could deliver him (45 minutes away).  Well that was a no brainer - road trip!!!!  The little hummingbird stayed in my mother-n-law's hand all the way there while she continued to feed him with the syringe.  The kids made several references to how they were on a real life animal rescue.  :)

Here is our little guy at the ARK in the hospital building.  

From this point, we said good bye and then visited some of the other patients.  Oh, and yes, the woman at the ARK confirmed that he was a juvenile, male, ruby throated hummingbird (proud momma moment right there). :)

It was an extra special day.  I don't think they will be forgetting any time soon.  After all, they saved a life today. :)

P.S.  We also lost a life - "George" my youngest son's whale shark stuffed animal which he got at the Georgia Aquarium this summer.  Apparently, while we were in the backyard with the hummingbird, the dogs entertained themselves by removing George's eyes.  

"George" may he rest in peace
So, in the middle of the bird emergency I was also dealing with this tradegy and an overly upset 7 year old.  I will be placing a call tomorrow to the Georgia Aquarium and having a new one delivered....

I really should not ask for excitement - ever- again.... P.S.S.  Update on George.  Just a few minutes after I posted this, my mom stopped by.  With her magical touch she will be able to fix both eyes and now George will also be a rescue. :)