Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Music Sandwiched In - Cello Sonatas

Today, we were treated to cellist, Kathleen Foster and accompanying pianist, Allison Moore.  Both ladies did a wonderful job as they played Debussy's "Sonata Gendron" and Sergei Rachmanioff's "Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano".

Ms. Foster did a wonderful job providing background information on both pieces.  She walked us through each movement and described in detail the story it told.  The children enjoyed this. 

Enjoying lunch while waiting for the performance to start.

The audience was intrigued with the intricacy and skill of both ladies.  We were mesmorized while watching Ms. Moore's fingers run up and down the keyboard effortlessly.  Ms. Foster's ability to make the cello sing and groan during the pieces added to the drama of the music.  The way she would pluck the strings to give a fun air to the piece, delighted Little Man.

The music was very relaxing.  So much so, that Little Man finally succombed to it by the fourth movement of Rachmanioff's piece. 

The entire audience was moved by the perfomance and although time was up for the program, we all stayed and listened to the final movement.  A standing ovation was given at the end of performance.  Both musicians seemed to be shocked by the out pouring of gratitude.

We can't wait to to the next program!

MeeMaw's Fudge

My grandmother (MeeMaw) made the best fudge.  It is not a marshmallow type fudge that you can find in candy shops or on the back of the marshmallow puff jars.  It is a harder fudge that most people don't make.  The recipe has been passed down and I now make it for my children.  Hopefully, my children will make it for their children one day.

The fudge is only made in the winter months and typically served with popcorn.  I normally pick one of the colder weather nights to make this special treat. 

My mother will make the fudge for Christmas.  Everyone loves fudge!  The only problem is some like their fudge with nuts and others without.  So, the solution is to fix two batches - one with and one without!

MeeMaw's Fudge

3 c White Granulated Sugar
1 c Milk (2% or whole works best)
3 heaping tbs cocoa powder
1 tbs Light Karyo Syrup
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tbs butter
1 c chopped pecans (optional)
wooden spoon 

I forgot to snap a picture before the kids took their share.
Take a dinner plate and using stick butter, rub the butter over the entire plate.  This will keep the fudge from sticking to the plate.  This is job the kids love to do.

In a large pot, add the sugar, milk, cocoa powder, light karyo syrup.  Cook on medium heat and stir constantly with the wooden spoon.  (Not really sure why a wooden spoon, but that is what has always been used.  Keeping the tradition alive!)

The ingredients will liquify and slowly start to boil.  Make sure you continue to stir.  Slowly the mixture will begin to rise in the pot.  You may need to turn the heat down at this time, if the mixture is reaching the top of the pot.  Continue to stir.

Slowly, the mixture will begin to come back down and start to thicken.  As the mixture starts to thicken, you will need to do the water ball test.  Fill a small coffee mug with cold water.  Using the wooden spoon, collect a small amount of fudge and dribble into the mug.  If the fudge forms a soft ball in the mug, remove the fudge from the heat.  If not, continue to stir and test again after a minute.  Use fresh cold water for each test.  Continue testing until the soft ball is formed.

After the fudge is removed from the heat, add the butter and vanilla extract.  My grandmother and mother would then beat the fudge in the pot it cooked in.  (Beating the fudge means that you take the wooden spoon and angle the pot with the fudge mixture inside it.  Then slowly you whip the fudge with the spoon.  This allows the air to cool the fudge.  This takes time and is a great arm workout!)  I prefer to transfer my hot fudge into a large stainless steel mixing bowl.  This speeds the beating process to set the fudge.  The heat of the original pot is gone and the thin wall of the mixing bowl allows better heat transfer.

Add the nuts to the fudge at this point, if you want nuts.

The hot fudge has a glossy appearance.  As the fudge is beat, it looses its gloss.  You will know it is time to pour the fudge on the plate when the gloss diminishes and the fudge starts to thicken.  This is a learned process.  If you pour to soon, the fudge will not set well.  If you pour to late, you will not be able to spread the fudge. 

The best part of fudge making was getting to lick the fudge spoon.  My children love this part, so I always leave a bit of fudge in the bowl.  I give one child the fudge spoon and the other child the bowl.  This is what makes memories!

Yummy, fudge and popcorn for a cold winter night's treat.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I couldn't imagine a life without pets.  I have had numerous dogs during my life and a couple of cats.  I have also had hamsters, fish and turtles.   My husband has had his share of furry critters, especially cats.  My children have always known life with a pet.  We couldn't ever imagine not having a furry friend in our lives.

Sally B going for a walk.

Pets provide us with companionship and unconditional love.  They also make life very interesting at times.  We fuss over them.  They have their own beds, dog houses, favorite spots to lounge, treats to consume in moderation, etc.  Our animals are loved very much, but not as spoiled as my parents' and sister's dogs. 

If only our fur babies knew how their furry cousins lived, they would probably demand the same treatment.  My sister will cook her dog its own meal!  She treats it like another human in the household and Pita knows she ranks high on the list.  She is queen bee and enjoys every moment.

My mother's two dogs are no different.  They get special morning treats, scraps of this and that, evening treats, and other goodies here and there.  Lil' Bit is very finicky and demanding.  She rules the roost and will not give in when told no.  Fritz, however, is better behaved and will do as told. 

Fritz in his Santa suit.
Our own dogs, Sally B and Missy have much better manners.  They know their place is that of the loyal companion and protector of home and property.  They are loved, but they are not another human in the house.  I know for die hard pet owners that think of their furry companion as another child this must sound harsh.

Missy enjoying family time.

Both of our dogs know the furniture is off limits unless they are specifically invited to join us on the sofa, chair, or bed.  Now, when we are gone and leave Missy in the house, she believes it is her right of old age to be able to guard the house on the bed or sofa.  She is overcome with guilt when we arrive home and discover her on the furniture.  She slinks down or turns her head in shame.  She has quite a conscience for an animal.

Sally B is our rebel.  She had a rough start in life and ended up in the pound.  We rescued her and she has come to be a faithful companion.  She looks out for the children, when they are playing outside.  She takes her guard duties seriously.  She is full of personality and we often joke that she is a reincarnation of Hubby's dog (Rex), my dog (Tipper), and Hubby's cat (Bubba).  All three animals we had when we married twelve and a half years ago.  She looks a lot like Rex, has the idisyncraties of Tipper, and acts like Bubba.  We are so happy she picked us to be here forever home.

Our cat on the other hand believes we are to serve her.  She meows for her food, to be let out, to come inside, to have the door opened for her, etc.  She readily hops on the furniture to have her presence known.  Whether it is for someone to scratch her or just to snuggle with, she decides where she will be and how long she will be there.

Molly observing her domain.

I really can't complain too much about Molly (our cat).  She is an inside/outside cat.  She is trained just like the dogs to do her business outdoors, so I don't have to keep a litter box for her.  She lets the dogs know that she rules the house.  The dogs respect her and pretty much leave her alone.  Occasionally, Sally B just can't stand it and will chase her and nibble her ears.  Molly enjoys the ear nibbling, but not so much the chasing.

Our pets provide us with much entertainment.  I can't imagine life without them.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Music Theory and Piano Lessons

Today, we added music theory and piano lessons to our curriculum.  Egee has been dabbling with the piano for a couple of years.  I have taught her a few things informally, but I really wanted to delve in deeper.  Little Man has recently picked up interest in playing piano.  So, I decided the time has finally come to teach them both the basics.

I spent the weekend looking for a fun music theory book that we could all work on together.  I printed out copies for both children.

After our regular lessons this morning, I let the children take a twenty minute break.  I told them I had a surprise for today.  They both were ecstatic when I mentioned piano lessons.

We sat on the living room floor and discussed music theory.  I taught them about the treble and bass clef.  We learned about the different types of notes and how many beats they get.  We finished the lesson with naming notes and playing them on the piano. 

They did well on their first day of piano lessons.  We will dive in again tomorrow!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Monday night is usually spaghetti night in our house.  It is a quick and easy meal that everyone enjoys.


Spaghetti Sauce
Diced tomatoes
dehydrated onion
crushed red pepper
granulate garlic

Fill a pot with water and heat to boiling.  Add the onion, red pepper, garlic, basil and oregano (to taste).

When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti noodles.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, then drain.

In a separate sauce pot, add the spaghetti sauce and diced tomatoes.  Heat and simmer while the spaghetti cooks.

The children like the already prepared meatballs.  So, I just place them in a microwave safe bowl and heat according to the directions on the package.

Egee is my bread connoisseur and loves garlic bread with her spaghetti.  On nights that I do not have garlic bread in the house, I improvise.

Cheater garlic bread:

Use regular sandwich bread, spread with a thin layer of butter, and sprinkle with garlic salt.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 275 degrees for five minutes.

The entire meal takes fifteen minutes from start to finish.  Quick, easy, and delicious! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cheesy Taco Pasta

Here is another one of those, what can I make with leftover?.  Last night we had tacos and I had about two cups of taco meat left.  I wasn't sure what to make for lunch today, so I decided to toss a few things together.  The children usually eat anything with pasta in it, so I created cheesy taco pasta for today's lunch.


2 boxes of Macaroni and Cheese mix
1 can Rotel (drained)
1-2 cups taco meat
2 tbs butter
1/4 milk
1/2 cup grated cheese of your choice
crushed red pepper, salt, dehydrate onion

In a medium sized pot, boil water for macaroni.  Add salt, crushed red pepper, and dehydrated onion to taste.

Once water comes to a boil, add the dry macaroni and boil for 8-10 minutes until fork tender.

Drain the macaroni and set aside.

Add the milk, cheese sauce packets, cheese, butter, rotel, and taco meat to the pot.  Mix well.

Add the macaroni to the mixture and heat on low until cheese is melted and meat is hot.

The kids loved this!  It was a little spicy, but they went back for more.  Definitely worth making again, when I have leftover taco seasoned meat.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snap Circuits

I found a brand new (never been opened) snap circuit set at the Thrift Barn on Thursday.  I couldn't believe it!  I had been looking to purchase one, but really didn't want to spend thirty dollars.  I paid three dollars and fifty cents at the Thrift Barn.  Score!

Little Man quickly spied the interesting looking box in the shopping buggy.  He wanted to play with it and couldn't wait to get it home.  We had so many errands and Aikido practice that day, by the time we got home it was late.  However, he remembered it on Friday evening around 7:30 pm!

So, a tired Mommy reluctantly agreed to experimentation.  Now, I am not a physics person.  I have a degree in biology and have taken my fair share of chemistry course, however I never took physics.  Hubby is the computer and electronic person of the household.  Unfourtunately, he was not home to help.

Little Man and Egee were excited.  We cleared the coffee table and set the box on it.  I pulled out the manual and began to study it.  Little Man was taking out pieces and wanting to build the flying saucer.  I found the directions.  When the directions started talking about reversing polarities of something and refering back to another experiment, my brain locked up.  The children were insistant on trying this and that.  I decided to start with the experiment the directions refered us.

We were now in agreement that we would start out building the fan.  I showed them how to read the directions.  They retrieved the parts we needed to make the fan.  The excitement built, as we snapped the last piece on the board.  Little Man flipped the switch and the fan started.  Success!

Now on to the flying saucer.  We studied the diagram and compared it to the fan.  What was different?  The children looked and compared.  We found that the fan motor was turned in the opposite direction (reversing its polarity).  So, we switched it on our board.  Egee flipped the switch and the fan ran in reverse.  Wasn't it suppose to fly?  Then up it went!  The children repeated the experiment over and over.

Next, we had to make the alarm.  Then we had to make the LED light up.  The children were full of what if we did this.  Let's see if this will work.  Everyone was having a good time. 

Unfourtunately, time passed quickly and before we knew, it was nine o'clock at night.  Little Man wanted to do all 100 experiments before he went to bed, but I overrulled him.  We have to save some for later.

This is the best three dollars and fifty cents I have spent.  Maybe we will stumble upon another circuit set later.  Until then, we still have ninety more experiments to go!


My family loves meatloaf.  This is one meat dish that Egee will eat, so I try to fix it every few weeks.  It is a quick and easy meal.


1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 large onion diced
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs A1 steak sauce
2 tbs Honey bbq sauce
1 envelope onion soup mix
2 eggs
1 cup oats
1 can sloppy joe sauce

Using a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, diced onion, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, bbq sauce, onion soup mix, eggs, and oats.

Mix the above using your hands.  Make sure you have all the ingredients thoroughly mixed together.

Take a 9x13 baking dish and place the mixture into it.  Form the mixture into a loaf.

Place Saran wrap over the baking dish and insert into the microwave.  Cook for 15 minutes on 70% power.

After 15 minutes, remove from microwave.  Remove the Saran wrap.

Pour the sloppy joe sauce evenly over the meatloaf.

Place the dish back into the microwave.  Microwave the meatloaf for 15 additional minutes at 40% power.*

*My hubby and kids like the ends and edges very done.  If you like a more moist loaf, place the Saran wrap back over the meatloaf and only cook for 10 additional minutes at 40% power.

My family likes mash potatoes and corn for the sides.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sleet, School and Microscopes

We woke this morning to find that sleet was falling from the sky.  Normally we would have been completely enthralled with the fact of a shortened school day, if we still did public school.  Today, however we got to enjoy the weather without the worry of getting to or from school safely.  Or, the anxiety of an early dismissal.

You can barely see the pellets of sleet on the deck.

We did, however, have to catch up on school work instead of taking Friday off.  We are a day behind due to the basketball game on Wednesday.  So, Egee and I snuggled on the couch to work on math.  Today was the start of fractions.  She worked on fractions last year and we reviewed the material.  It came back to her in no time.

Little Man was busy keeping us informed on the weather.  He ran back and forth to various windows and doors to check the status.

We finished school work and I fixed clam chowder and crescent rolls for lunch.  Hot chowder on a cold day is a delicious treat.

After lunch, the surprise came.  I had ordered a microscope.  The children were thrilled.  I mainly taught Egee how to properly use the scope.  Little Man was only interested in finding things to look at under the lens.

AmScope 40x-1000x LED Cordless scope with digital camera usb.

Egee listened carefully and asked questions about the usage.  We had fun looking at various bits of paper, thread, yarn, a dollar, and paper towel.  The kids loved the fact it can be hooked up to the computer and everyone can see at the same time.

Looking at a dollar bill.

Paper towel

Egee working the scope.

Little Man's turn to try.

After we finished with the microscope, we headed outside to play in the sleet that had fallen.

A productive day at school and play!

Clam Chowder

I decided to make clam chowder today for lunch.  The cold, dreary weather outside just called for something hot and tasty for lunch.  Normally, I put all the ingredients in the crockpot and let it simmer all day on low for a nice supper dish.  Today, I just made it on the stove.


1 1/2 c Dehydrated potato soup mix  (any mix will work)
1 Can cream corn
1/2 tbs hot sauce (optional or to taste)
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper (optional or to taste)
1 can of diced clams (Do not drain)
5 cups water

In a large sauce pan, add the above ingredients and stir well.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn down heat to simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Everything added to the pot and ready to cook!
Chowder is ready and served with a crescent roll.
 Quick, easy, and delicious!