Monday, February 28, 2011

Topographic Maps

Paradise Island

Dancer is studying physical science right know.  The first lesson talked about what a topographic map is and how it shows the terrain changes even though it is two dimensional.  A topographic map has contour lines, the progression from one line to the next represents a change in terrain height.  On Dancer's map if the distance between lines was 10 meters the volcano on the lower left would be over 60 meters, or over 200 feet higher than the water.  Other features are shown with colors or symbols; the yellow beach around the lagoon lower right and the marshy estuary between the middle and right points of land.  Some parts of the island have nice easy slopes where many games or sports could be played, other areas are too steep to be of much use.

Dancer, who loves fishing, has taken notice that lake depth maps work the same way.  Fishing is a big deal here so there are lake maps available for all the lakes in our state.

The island map shown above is here first one, Paradise Island (the name was part of the assignment).  She has enjoyed making these maps so much she has made over a dozen detailed maps of various islands and land masses, each one more detailed than the last.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Basketball Tournament Win!!!

Warm up with a few free throws

Get those rebounds!

Run up and down the court

Play good defense

Pose for pictures for your proud parents

Show off your medal!  This is the first medal Spark's team has ever won and they were so super excited!

Table Bread - Restaurangakademiens Brod

Restaurant Academy Bread or
Restaurangakademiens Brod
This is a bread from the book "Swedish Breads and Pastries" by Jan Hedh.  It is an excellent book and I recommend you should check it out.  I made it last Sunday because we were having a blizzard and I didn't have anything else to do.  Here is the recipe to make two loaves.

2 cups water
3 tsp yeast
3-1/2 cups plus 2-1/2 tsp white flour
2 1/2 tsp sea salt

Dissolve yeast in water with a whisk, pour over the flour.  Add salt.  Knead at the highest possible in a machine until the dough loosens from the bowl, which can take 15-20 minutes.

I used the Kitchenaid mixer and a dough hook, I kneaded at the fastest speed I dared.  It took about 20 minutes and really sounded like the mixer might take off from the counter a do a few laps around the kitchen.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled plastic container, cover and let rest for a hour.  gently place the dough on floured surface.  Divide in half and very gently shape two loaves on a baking tray.  Let them rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

I used a baking stone.  The point of being gentle is you really want to avoid breaking any bubbles in the dough.  I probably needed to knead it a little longer (or faster).  The dough was a little sticky so I lost some gas bubbles.

Preheat oven to 480 degrees.  Put the loaves into the oven and squirt some water in with a squirt bottle.

I put in about 1 tbs of water.  The water steams up and simulates the humidity in a wood fired brick oven. 

Bake for 10 minutes then turn the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes.  Let the loaves cool on a rack.

This bread was really, really good.  It had a delicious crispy crust and a sturdy, chewy crumb.  I  enjoy baking these different breads, or changing my old recipes to see what I can make.  It's like a cool, edible chemistry lab.

By Dad

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wii will be fit update

January 7th was when we started our big Wii Fit workout plan and I tell you, I was hoping for big results but expecting what I usually accomplished when I start such things, nothing.  We all started out pretty good and then I dropped the bike riding part and the kids, for the most part, dropped the Wii Fit part.  All of us dropped the lifting weights part.  I did manage to loose, with my minimal effort, five pounds in January.  I think most of that came off from lack of Christmas goodies.  

Along came February and I decided kick the exercising back into gear and work on our diet.  I started burning off 400 calories a day, up from the 200 in January, on the Wii Fit using the free step game.  I like this game because you set it up on the Wii and then can turn back to the t.v. and do it in 30 minute sessions while watching t.v.  For a little over 400 calories I needed to do an hour and a half every day but I  watch at least an hour of news so it fit well into my schedule.  I also made sure that the kids were consistently riding the bike.  We were having great success the beginning of the month and then I needed to go into the doctor.  A doctor who had lost forty pounds.  Tell me your secrets I asked her.  She said a protein breakfast, no sugar and no snacking at night.  Sounded simple enough and she lost forty pounds, gee, I want to lose forty pounds.  Turns out she had great advice, I have now lost 18 pounds since January 7th, Dancer 6 pounds and Spark 2 pounds.  Dancer and Spark aren't near as strict with their diet as I am but they have cut way back on the sugar and are drinking a lot more water.  Dancer has also been sick the last week and so she hasn't been doing to much except blowing her nose.    One thing I realized was that we snacked a lot and not on good choices.  Also with Dad working nights, and being use to eating his lunch at about 2:00 a.m., that he is on a different eating schedule than we are.  The nights he was home I would snack with him again even later in the evening.  Actually, it wasn't usually a snack, it was more like a mini meal on my part.  The only sad part is I can really see that Dancer is firming up and her clothes fit differently, but me, can't tell I have lost a pound.  Well, except in my feet, but who looks at someones feet and says "Wow, your feet look great, have you lost weight?"  In real life no one ever sees my feet, it isn't even sandal weather for another three months. 

Tonight I just didn't feel like doing the free step on the Wii so I pulled out this DVD.

We got this last summer and when I tried it I couldn't even get through the five minute warm up.  Yes, pathetic I know.   I just wanted to see after all the stepping I have been doing if it has made any difference.  Tonight I made it through not only the warm up but also the first 20 minute workout and the cool down.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do the weights very long before my muscles were screaming out "What are you thinking!!!!" and I dropped them like hot rocks.  Spark did it with me but he was able to do the whole workout last summer.  All that stepping on the Wii Fit has paid off. 

I see this is a six week program so I hope to be able to use the weights the whole time, add in the other 35 minutes of the workout and get Spark to do it with me everyday, maybe even Dancer, by the time six weeks are up.   I plan to add this most days and keep up 200 calories burned on the Wii Fit.  All this while crossing my fingers the scale keeps moving the right direction.  Maybe I can even be like the lady that lost 80 pounds.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's a big night!!!

Spark finished his AWANA book, got his new one and at the AWANA store he had enough points to get a sock monkey.  He has been saving up points all year to get this sock monkey and tonight was the night.  He worked really hard the last two weeks to get his other book finished, every spare moment he was working on it and reciting the verses to anyone who would listen.  This afternoon he had his shirt on by 2:00 and was out waiting in the car before 6:00 to leave for church.  We are so excited for him!

Hood Ornament

We had two trips the doctor and one to the dentist today and so we were in an out with the car.  Since we were going to be leaving again to go to church tonight I just left the car out of the garage.  We looked out and Kacheekers was snuggled up on the hood taking advantage of the heat from the engine.  If you look on the other side of the hood you can see all the "popcorn" prints I always have all over the hood from them walking on it in the garage.  It is easy to find your car a parking lot, just look for the car covered with the cat prints.

French Bread

Since we seem to be on a baking theme this late winter, here is a French bread, or long roll, we made last Friday.  Notice the aluminum loaf pan.  I had a hard time finding the pans at any local store and these aren't quite what I wanted.  My parents have a couple but the pans are 700 miles away.  My brother, who is a cook, has one but it is too big to fit in a residential oven.  This pan cost eight dollars.  The pan is important for maintaining the shape.

1-1/2 c. 120 degree water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 1/2 c. flour

I mix the ingredients, as noted below, in the bowl for the Kitchen Aid mixer, I use the dough hook for all the mixing.

Add sugar and yeast to warm water, mix and let rest 10 minutes.  Mix in salt and egg.  Add flour and mix, knead on medium speed for 10 minutes,  add more or less flour to have a workable dough.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl, let rise 1 hour or until doubled.  Punch down the dough and divide into  two pieces.  Form each into a round loaf, roll between hands to make along skinny loaf almost as long as the pan.  Place into lightly oiled pan and let rise until doubled.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Score top of loaf with a sharp knife, it's decorative and keeps the top from splitting (the bottom loaf in the picture got a little dry while rising and fell a little when scoring).  Bake about 30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from pans and cool. 

We ate one loaf warm and made the other into an anvil sandwich to take with to Spark's basketball tourney.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tzatziki - Yogurt and garlic dip

Spark whipped up a dish of this as part of our Greek history unit. 

2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 TBSP white wine vinegar
2 1/2 cup thick creamy yogurt

Finely dice the garlic.  Add to yogurt all ingredients and stir well.  It takes a little while to get the olive oil well mixed with the yogurt.  Chill and enjoy on breads or veggies.  Diced cucumbers can be added if desired.

This was really good.  I think I will bring it to the next pot luck kind of thing we go to as it has a nice new flavor compared to the dips we eat all the time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fiesta Lounge Pants

Spark wanted a pair of lounge pants, however, no matter how hard we searched we could not find a suitable pair for him.  The only option was to make him a pair.  We headed to the fabric store and found pattern Simplicity 9499 and headed to the fabric racks.  After a few minutes he choose this fabric.  I thought it was a little wild but I told him he could pick out fabric and so we bought it.

Now that they are all done they don't look near as crazy although they are much brighter than this photo shows.  He calls them his Mexican Fiesta pants.  The pattern went together really easy, cutting them out and sewing them took about an hour and half and that was with flat felled seams.

The Polar Bear

In about the last 18 hours we have had at least 18 inches of snow and drifts up to three feet tall.  The  yard, trees, east sides of buildings, everything is white, white, white.  This whiteness spurred this exchange.

Dad:  Oh look, there is a polar bear out there.
Spark:  Where?
Dad:  Right out in the yard.
Spark:  There is no polar bear.
Dad:  He moved over to that side of the yard now.
Spark:  Dad, there is no polar bear.
Dad:  That is because he is blinking.
Spark:  Dad, there is no polar bear out there.
Dad:  Oh funny, now he is eating popcorn.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dill Pickle Bread

This is a special bread that is extra moist and has a savory pickle like taste.  You can use any basic bread recipe, today I was using a our all time favorite pizza crust dough. 


2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour


1.In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water, and let sit for 10 minutes.

2.Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2 1/2 cups of the flour.

3.Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Add a 1/4 cup pickle, 1/4 cup onion and 2 Tbsp. dill weed  Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until double; this should take about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, and form a tight ball.

 When the dough got to the kneading stage I added finely chopped onions and dill pickle, about a 1/4 cup of each.  In the glass bowl are 2 tbs of dried dill weed (not seed).

After the kneading the bread has interesting look, speckled with dill, you can also see a couple pickle pieces sticking up.

The loaf I made is rather flat as I let it rise on a baking stone instead of in a bread pan or basket.

The bread tastes great toasted with cream cheese,  other good topping choices include salami or ham.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good Deeds

I have been just blown over the last 24 hours with the good deeds that have come our way.  The news  on t.v. has been so dismal lately that it is good to see that there is a lot of wonderful people and things going on in the world.

Spark is going to be part of the AWANA Grand Prix this spring.  He got his kit for the car and it was a block of wood and four wheels in a bag.  Never  having done a Grand Prix before we really had no idea how to go about making this car.  Sure we could have come up with something that would roll down the track but we knew no tricks of the trade.  At the church where the kids go to AWANA a man set up a workshop so the kids could work on their cars and he would help them.  We heard that last week no one went to the workshop so this week I brought Spark up in the afternoon to the workshop.  Turns out that Spark was the only one who showed up this week, perhaps everyone else knows what they are doing.  The man at the workshop spent the afternoon helping Spark design, cut out, sand and make his car the right weight for the race.  I am sure he had other things he could have been doing but instead he took his time to help with Spark's car.

When AWANA was over Spark didn't come out of his classroom, in fact, he came out about 15 minutes late.  Spark wanted to finish a couple more discoveries, that is the activities they do in their books, and asked his teacher if he could work on them for just four more minutes so the teacher could sign off on them.  It took Spark longer than four minutes, I don't know how he picked four minutes anyway.  He said to his teacher, "I am sorry this is taking me so long I am sure you want to get home to your wife."  I am sometimes amazed at the way he thinks at 10 years old to come up with that line.  But anyway, the teacher said, "No, it is more important to me that you learn about God than me getting home on time."  Well, that clinched it, now I am totally impressed with his teacher.

Our next good deed was today at the grocery store.  We stopped at the store to pick up tooth paste, we were out and we either had to buy more today or not stand to close to others.  While we were there we stopped at the deli so the kids could pick out sandwiches for lunch.  There were ham salad buns that Dancer was interested in but she doesn't like Miracle Whip only real mayo and so I didn't want to buy them if they had Miracle Whip.  I asked the deli lady and she looked up what they were made with.  That was nice enough, but then she said to Dancer, "Do you want me to make you another kind of sandwich?"  Dancer picked out turkey from the deli case and the lady cheerfully made her sandwiches.

During the time the kids were at the YMCA, Grandma Pat came to visit with me while I waited for the kids.  She brought Nikki a little dog sweater that she crocheted for her

and for us, a pan of lasagna and a cake for supper so I wouldn't have to make anything when I got home.  Do I have a great mother-in-law or what?

We have truly in the last day been blessed by the actions of others.  Now we need to try and find ways to pay it forward.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Does your fire detector work?

Last week we checked out the fire detectors and found out that one of them needed a new battery.  New battery installed, pushed the button and it sounded it's alarm.  It always sounds when the button is pushed but will it really work if there was a fire?  Something else for me to obsessive over in my spare time, until today.

In the winter I keep a lot of frozen food in the car to expand our freezer space.  One thing we had in there was a huge turkey, that bad boy was 18 pounds.  One of the local grocery stores starts a turkey card in early November and though the end of December every time you spend $10.00 you get a stamp and after a certain amount of stamps you get a free turkey.  Well every year I don't have room for the behemoth in the freezer, especially so close to just having frozen all the garden produce a few month before.  All winter this works great, expect the last few days we have had temps in the high 30's and 40's.  Mr. Turkey was thawing there in the baked of the van so he needed to be baked up.

I don't have a roaster big enough for a 18 pound bird so I put him in the bottom of the broiler pan and shoved him in the oven.  The broiler pan, while large enough for him, wasn't large enough for all the juice he had in him and it spilled over to the bottom of the oven.  It was late when he got done and so I didn't wipe up the spill after I took him out of the oven.  Oh, who am I kidding, I never wipe up spills in the oven.

This morning Dad was making bacon in the oven.  Lay it out on the broiler pan, pop it in and it makes the best, flat bacon ever and you don't have the mess on the stove top.  This morning while he was making it he went in to check on how it was doing and when he opened the oven door huge billows of smoke came wafting out.  The turkey fat on the bottom of the oven had started on fire.  It was quite good sized, big enough to roast a marshmallow.  I didn't want to put the fire out because last time I had a fire in the oven I poured salt over it and it ruined the heating element, so instead I just let it burn itself out.  Yes, I would have put it out if I thought we were in danger.  All the while it was burning itself out, more and more smoke was filling up the house.  Thankfully it was warm enough to open all the doors and windows today.

During all of this, much to my delight, the smoke detector went off!  Now I can quit obsessing if the thing really works.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hard Water Fishing a.k.a. Ice Fishing

This was the biggest fish we saw all day and he was the bait.  Actually, except for the bait, we didn't get any fish.

We sent that big sucker fish down this hole on the tip up with high hopes that he would attract a big, big fish.

 Checking the tip up doesn't make them bite.  If it did we would have had quite the fish fry for supper.

The most important part of ice fishing - a Blow Pop from the hardware store.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Bonfire

In an attempt not to do the same old, same old, for Valentine's Day this year, we had a bonfire.  The temps have been spring like in the upper 30's for the last couple of days so the kids dug around the bonfire pit yesterday so it would be melted enough for us to use it. 

While we were at it we roasted some hot dogs.  It sure didn't smell like it was winter time in our yard. 

We had no lawn chairs or table out so we just roasted them and ate them sans bun and condiments right off the roasting fork.  While we had a roaring fire it wasn't enough to keep us warm so we didn't last more than about half and hour out there.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's my party

Birthday party that is.  My family showered me with gifts and a wonderful day. 

I started the day with some lovely gifts; a purple water bottle, a tripod for the camera, Tetrus for the Wii, an indoor/outdoor thermometer, large punch needles and a new needle punch kit.

Instead of a cake we had a meat and cheese tray, which doubled as our breakfast. 

Dancer had a 4-H Jr. Leader meeting this afternoon so Dad, Spark and I did a little window shopping while we waited for her.  We went to one of those unclaimed freight places, what a lot of stuff I wonder if anyone is ever going to buy. 

Tonight we played some Wii Party and that was it.  The kids kept saying that we should go and do something and I kept saying that we should stay home and relax.  Relax we did, and I did it without guilt that I should be up and doing something else.  It was the perfect day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Don't jump!.......He jumped.

Last night I went into tuck Spark into bed.  When I came back out, and was walking through the kitchen to the dining room table, I saw this purple thing flapping under a postcard that was propped up by the check book.  It was extremely creepy and once I got over my initial shock I ever so carefully, while standing a good distance back, lifted the postcard up.  Under it was our beta fish.  Quickly, I snatched him up and deposited him back into his bowl. 

Once back in the bowl, he swam around and then started tilting to one side.  I thought that would be the end of him.  Dancer came out to have a look and thought he had a cut on his side.  There really isn't much, actually this isn't anything, that can be done for an injured fish, we would just have to wait and see how he was going to do.

Dancer and I looked around the counter where his bowl is.  There was a greeting card sitting about eight inches away from where I found him that had some of his purple color on it and then it was wet over to the postcard.  We suspect that he thought he saw something, charged at it and got himself flipped out of the bowl like a freak accident. 

The odd thing about him getting out of the bowl is that most of the time he lays on the bottom so still that we tap the bowl to see if he is alive.  We have been thinking that he is on his last fin for sometime now and expect to find him dead.

In case he was planning on jumping again in the future, Dancer took about an inch of water out of his bowl and put a piece of paper on top of it to make his suicide attempts more difficult.

This morning found him alive and well, swimming up-right with no tilt and more active than ever.  


Friday, February 11, 2011

dyson DC33

I got one, I really got one!  I can not begin to tell you how giddy I am over getting a good vacuum.  Our last vacuum was so horrible I quit using it.  It never worked well from day one.  The kids and I, for the last few months, have been crawling around on the floor with our hand held Dirt Devil vacuuming the worst parts of the floor. 

We have had to wait to get a new one until we could afford it.  Dad cashed in some of his vacation days to get a check so we could buy one.  The check came today and we rushed off to get the vacuum.  As soon as we got home Dad put it together and I started to vacuum.  So far we are up to about three cups of dirt from the living room floor.  Gross, I know. 

Guess what I am going to do tomorrow - vacuum!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

He's playing with the big boys now

Well, the big boy's half time anyway.  The 4th grade boys played at half time during the varsity game.

Spark sitting with all his team mates before the game.  I think he thought it was pretty cool to be at a game with friends.  We only go to the one game every year were they play at half time.  I would guess that is all the other boys too.

The boys looked so small out there after watching the varsity team play.  At their tournaments they only play with half a court so this was a lot of running for them.  They did well but they spend a lot of time tackling each other.  Basketball is not suppose to be a contact sport.  Ten year olds think otherwise.

After the half time, right away all the boys ran up to their parents to get money for the concession stand.  I think snacks is what they find the most important part of going to a game.

Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck

Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck
Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck
Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding

Hurry, hurry spray the water
Hurry, hurry, spray the water
Hurry, hurry, spray the water
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding

This was a song I use to sing with the kids when they were little.  We would keep singing the song and doing the motions over and over and faster and faster until the words just came out in a jumbled mess and we would all collapse laughing.  This week I feel like this song sums up our life.

Sunday was the 4-H winter party.  There was the meeting, a pot luck, the kids traded Valentines (which we brought this year, the first time ever) and went sledding.  I didn't make anything fancy for the potluck.  I dumped a bag of meatballs and a bag of little hot dogs in the crock pot along with a jar of chili sauce and a can of cranberry sauce.  Four minutes and our dish was done except to heat up.

Monday was doctor's appointment, bowling, shopping, the library and back to the pharmacy for prescriptions.

Tuesday we went to Minneapolis to a program by the U of M called Physics Force.  They put on a show of different extremely cool physics experiments.  The show was downtown Minneapolis where I have not been to for several years and do not know my way around one iota.  Thankfully Dad was with so he could drive and watch traffic while I navigated.  Spark is very good at spotting road signs so I would just tell him what we were looking for and he would yell out when he saw the sign.  He can read what they say way before I can.  Young eyes I guess.

Wednesday Dad got his temporary crown put on and filling filled.  That took a couple of hours and the kids and I tried to get a little school work in.  In the evening the kids had AWANA and so we ran back and forth for that.  Dad was in a lot of pain with his tooth as he had broken his off below the gum line so when they were drilling there was a lot of blood and bruising.  Today, thankfully, he feels better.  He has a couple of weeks not to think about it until his permanent crown comes in and he get it on.

Thursday, today, we had our taxes done.  This is always fun as the man who does our taxes was the accountant at a place I use to work and we got to catch up with what was going on with him.  It is odd that you can see someone every day for years and then as life changes you only see them every now and then.  That appointment was done at noon and then the YMCA gym doesn't start until 2:00 so we had a couple of hours to burn.  We went to the mall and walked around a few times.  Dad wanted to get a baking pan for French bread but we couldn't find one anywhere.  Not the kitchen store, or Macy's or Penney's, or Sears.  Doesn't anyone bake French bread anymore?

Tonight we off again and tomorrow we have more goings on.  I don't know how people keep this kind of schedule up every week and all of the day to day things that need to get done.  Thankfully for us events one right after another only fall in clusters once in a very great while.  Whew!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We are number one?

How Spark keeps busy while Mom and Dancer are pouring over the yarn selections at the fabric store.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sliced Apples, "Dancer Style"

When the kids are looking for a late evening snack, or a "bednight snack" as they said when younger, we encourage them to have something healthy like fruit.  Apples are a frequent choice and they usually ask to have them cut up.

The next question is, "How do you want them cut?"  The typical answer is "Dancer style".  This means the apple is cut into very thin slices, about a sixteenth of an inch thick.  When cut  that thin, one apple makes a heaping pile on the plate.  I guess it makes it look like a bigger snack and they can be eaten like chips.  The things we do for our kids.

The opposite of this is having an apple "Barbosa style".  Named after the character on Pirates of the Caribbean who ate apples whole, taking huge bites and letting the juice run down his chin.

Cheeseburger and Fries Hotdish

Cheeseburger and Fries Hotdish

2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cans of cheese soup
1 bag frozen french fries
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Brown ground beef, add chopped onion.  Cook until onion is soft.  Mix first 3 ingredients and 1/2 of the fries in a 9x13 inch pan.  Place pan in a 350 degree oven.  Place remaining fries on a cookie sheet and place in oven.  When the fries on the cookie sheet are crisp, place on top of the hotdish.  Sprinkle with cheese, return to oven and cook until cheeses is melted and begins to get crispy.  Remove from oven, allow a few minutes to set up.  Serves 12.