Tuesday, December 29, 2015


A family we know is hosting an 11-year-old boy from China for 4 weeks, and the mom (Sarah) is doing a blog about it.  I thought I'd post it here, in case anyone is interested.  It gives you a peek at what it's like to host an orphan, and of course, if anyone is interested in adopting Long, I'd be happy to connect them with Sarah.  http://www.findingmy4ever.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Break

It's really nice to have big sister around when you wake up from nap.  Lydia's watching PBS kids, and Gyunay is just happy to cuddle when he first wakes up.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Garden Planning

Now, I know it's nearly Christmas, and I have a thousand things to do and all, but I can't help gardening planning and dreaming in my spare minutes.  Maybe it's this incredibly warm and spring-like weather, but I've been really garden-focused lately.  I do have some plants still going, such as carrots and herbs in pots in the sunroom and even some carrots growing outside.  I also have sprouted some plants that I'm going to try to harvest this winter from pots in the sunroom:
These are my Tom Thumb peas.  They look great!

And below is the start of kholrabi:  

I've never grown kholrabi before, but I really like to eat it, so here's hoping.  I also have a pot of lettuce going.  I'm thinking of starting some other things, too, since the weather has been so outrageously warm.  First, I'll have to harvest one of the pots of carrots, which we'll probably do this weekend.  Lydia loves pulling, scrubbing, and eating carrots, and the boys also eat them, so that is always a good thing.  Right now, I think the carrots that are ripe are pale yellow ones, although there could be a surprise orange or purple one in that pot, too.

Outside, I've spread some bunny manure on the garden.  I also laid an old swimming pool that doesn't hold air anymore on a section of grass that will be garden in the spring.  I'm hoping it kills the grass for me.  Grass is really my number one weed in the gardens.  Other "weeds" like dandelion, clover, and plantain, I usually let grow until they are crowding the veggies, then I pull them and feel them to the bunny and chickens.  It works out really well, actually.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gingerbread Dress

I made Lydia a gingerbread dress this year.  I got the fabrics on sale so cheap at JoAnn's, and I'm a sucker for a cute gingerbread print.  I think it turned out really nice, and it especially looks cute since she wears it with her brown cowgirl boots.

I made it really long, so she can hopefully wear it again next year.  She doesn't tend to grow too much, so there's a good chance.

One more picture, this time Nathaniel and me on our date to his company's awards dinner.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book Review - Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden

I've read and reviewed two other books by Elizabeth Camden, and I was eager to read this one as well.  It did not disappoint.  Set at the turn of the last century in the north east, this novel delivers historical fiction and an intriguing family mystery.  I loved many of the characters, including heroine Sophie.  She was well-drawn, with a deep faith despite many hardships in her life.  Quentin, the heir to the mysterious Dierenpark mansion, is an injured and driven man who puts all of his faith in modern science.  I liked both characters, and their backstories were interesting.  The historical details in this book were superb.  Camden weaves in details about the early weather reporting and the work of biologists, archaeologists, and architects just over 100 years ago.  The romance building between the two main characters was slow at first and then changed a bit abruptly, but it was believable.  The mystery of Dierenpark was really interesting, but I won't divulge anything here to spoil it.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

I received this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

More Family Pictures & etc

I don't think I ever mentioned that our latest post adoption report went really smoothly.  They are not a big deal, actually.  And I did manage to round up 10 family photos for Bulgaria.  Here are some we took with the automatic timer on the camera:

In other news, Midnight the cat is still here.  We went out of town for 3 days for Nathaniel's grandmother's funeral, and she was not here when we got back, but she showed back up yesterday morning.  She doesn't actually eat the food we left out for her, so she doesn't stick around for that.  Mostly, she just really wants attention.  Whenever we go outside, she rubs against our legs and purrs.  I've gotten rather fond of her.  Katie's still not sure about the cat (the cat did hiss at her a few times, and Katie got scared), but they seem to be coexisting fine now.  So it looks like we sort of have an outdoor cat.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Sunday night, a visitor showed up at our back door.  It was after the younger 3 were in bed, so I hoped it would come back in the morning.  It did, and Lydia and Gyunay were ecstatic.  
The cat is constantly trying to get into our house, but we've been able to keep her out so far.  Lydia has named her Midnight.

Midnight is friendly, but still a cat, so she nipped at Lydia when Lydia got too friendly.  Lydia is now unsure about the cat, although she still wants her around.  Gyunay sits inside and stares at the cat outside the window chanting "cat! cat!".  Malachi is worried about his sister and the chickens, not necessarily in that order, so he's not crazy about the cat right now.  Midnight especially likes Elijah.  She rubs all over his legs when he goes outside, and she purrs like a motorboat.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Easy Chocolate Granola

Chocolate Granola is very popular around here.  All four of the kids like to eat it as a snack, and lately Malachi has been eating it with milk for breakfast.  It's easy and fast to make, and then it cooks at a low temp for about an hour, so I really like to make it now, when having the oven on for an hour really makes the kitchen feel cozy.

Chocolate Granola
4 c oats
1/3 c cocoa
1 c sunflower seeds or nuts, optional
1/4 c ground flax, optional
1 T vanilla extract
pinch salt
scant 1/2 c water
3/4 c sugar (brown or white, your pick)

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Heat the water for a minute in the microwave, then add sugar and stir to combine.  Pour over rest of ingredients, and mix well.  It's not very wet, just barely moist, when well mixed.  Spread on 2 baking sheets (covered with parchment) and bake at 275 for about an hour.  

Gyunay is a big fan of chocolate granola.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Chicks and Kids

Lydia in "her" tree.

Gyunay has gotten quite good on the 3-wheeled scooter.

The kids were really enjoying playing outside today.  These pictures were taken before Elijah got home; he gets home about 45 minutes later than Lydia and Malachi.

The "big" chicks.  These three are in the coop with the lone hen.  They are currently petrified of going outside, but they seem very comfortable in the coop, even with the hen around.  It looks like 2 of them are cockerels.

The little chicks are still in the garage in their plywood pen.  They have gotten a lot bigger and are almost completely feathered out.  

Here Gyunay is cooing "oooh, oooh" at the chick in a calming voice.  It was really sweet.

Book Review - The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

I finished The Shock of Night, by Patrick W. Carr last night.  It is set in a medieval fantasy world, and at first, it took me a while to get some of the terms and characters straight.  Once I was into the book a bit, I adjusted, but it did take a little work to settle into Carr's world.  The main character, Willet Dura, is a compassionate man with a sense of humor, and I really enjoyed this character.  The setting held a great deal of depth, and many characters were intriguing.  I like Carr's style of writing, but I did feel that the book could have been edited a bit shorter, as some sections carried on more than necessary.  This book is the first in the Darkwater Saga, so I'm assuming that it will probably be a trilogy - because everything seems to need to be a trilogy for publishers these days - and although it is a stand-alone novel, it does not have a final conclusion, so there is plenty left for the next books.  It did have a climax and an ending, though, so I did feel a sense of closure to the book. There was a prequel novella that is an ebook, and I think it would help to get the reader oriented in The Shock of Night faster, but I didn't read the novella so I can't say for sure.  I honestly refuse to read ebooks, or I would have enjoyed reading a prequel.  I really did enjoy this book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy.  I'm looking forward to seeing what Willet does next in the second book.

I received this book from publisher Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Family Photos

As part of our post-placement reports that get sent to Bulgaria, we have to have 10 photos of the whole family together (along with additional photos of Gyunay).  Do you realize how hard it is to get all 6 of us in a decent photo?

We asked a neighbor to snap a quick picture of us.  Now, these were taken quickly, as she had a squirmy one-year-old toddling around the driveway, but even still, you can see my point.  And yes, Lydia wanted to be held that way, and I didn't realize how lovely it looked because of said hurry.

And did I mention that we need 10 decent photos?  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Outdoors in the Fall

We really love fall.  Malachi and Lydia were so excited to introduce Gyunay to jumping into the leaf pile.  He absolutely loved it!

Lydia is on the stump that has served as their leaf-pile launching pad for several years.  It is significantly smaller now, though, as it continues to decompose.

I've also done a little gardening lately.  First, my mushroom "garden":

Nathaniel cut down some trees that were either dying or in places where they couldn't stay.  We used a maple and a small oak for the mushroom garden.   Nathaniel then drilled the holes for me, and I "planted" shitake and lion's mane mushroom plugs in these logs. 

Lydia helped me cover the plugs with melted beeswax.  Now we just wait until next year, and hopefully we will have lots of home-grown mushrooms.  And I do mean lots; I put in 200 plugs.

I also planted garlic for the first time.  It's another "plant it and leave it" project that will hopefully produce garlic scapes in spring and actual garlic in July.  Oh, how happy I would be to have my own garlic and mushrooms.

I also planted some daffodil bulbs.  The squirrels and deer have eaten a number of the flower bulbs that used to be all over the front by the pond.  I hope they don't eat all of the new ones.  I do expect to lose a few, but I hope some of them make it and bloom this spring.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Double Chocolate Cookies

The kids had yesterday off of school, so during nap time Lydia and I decided to bake a treat.  I've been wanting to experiment with coconut oil in cookies, and we were out of butter, so it seemed like a good time to try it.  It worked really well.  These cookies use less sugar than "normal" recipes, because I regularly cut the sugar in half in recipes.  They would also be a good option if you needed a dairy-free treat, if you used dairy-free chocolate chips.  Here is the recipe:

3/4 c coconut oil, at room temp
3/4 c brown sugar (or make your own by mixing 2 tsp molasses and 3/4c sugar together)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c whole wheat pastry flour (you could use regular flour)
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 c chocolate chips, chunks, pieces, whatever

Cream coconut oil and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients, then chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes.

I used virgin coconut oil in this, so it gives it a slight coconut taste.  My coconut oil was solid but not rock-hard when I mixed it with the sugar.

I think it'd be really good to add some flaked coconut and nuts, sort of German-cake-like, but my kids don't care for flaked coconut.  I may try that in the future, though.

These cookies are a nice treat but are not overly sweet.  Everyone in the house loved them (well, Gyunay is not really that into chocolate cookies, but he did eat one, so I figure that he liked it ok).

This recipe only makes about 3 dozen cookies.  They are already gone.

I shared this recipe at the Homestead Blog Hop here: http://www.homesteadingongrace.com/2015/11/homestead-blog-hop-55.html#more
Homestead Blog Hop every Wednesday featuring real food recipes, natural health remedies, DIY, crafts, Gardening Tips, and more...
and at  Stangers and Pilgrims on Earth, here:
Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


The pepper plants did exceptionally well this year.  Before the hard frost we had a couple of weeks ago, I picked the rest of the green ones.  I cut up about 2 cups of the smallest green peppers, and used my dehydrator to reduce the amount to this size:

Tiny, isn't it?  These will be great for adding to soups this winter, and they don't take up any freezer space!  I'm still eating some of the peppers fresh, and some are slowly turning red.  I am beyond thrilled with how the peppers and tomatillos did this year.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween fun

We had a great Halloween weekend with my sister's family.  The kids had a blast together.

As promised, I did get a few pics of my green ninja.  He's not a very cooperative photo subject, though!

We enjoyed trick or treating for 2 hours.  The kids loved riding in the trailer on the hay.  Sunday was more low-key, with the kids playing at home.  Gyunay loves his Aunt Missa:

The chicks were a big hit, as we knew they would be:

Friday, October 30, 2015

The blond Harry Potter and a Big Surprise

Elijah's new glasses look very good on him.  He says that kids say he looks like a "blond Harry Potter," but he doesn't seem too put-off by that.  I pointed out that he loves Harry Potter, as do most kids, so he should take it as a compliment.

He's really enjoying band.  Nathaniel went ahead and paid off the clarinet, so it's officially his now. 
Now, the surprise: 

You should all know us well enough by now to guess what Lydia's holding.  Nathaniel has been searching Craig's List ever since the neighbor's dog busted through the gate and killed two of our four hens (including the favorite, Brave).  He finally hit pay dirt:
10 chicks - 3 that are 5 weeks old, and 7 that are almost one week old.  They are used to being handled, too.  Even better, they were free.  The kids are over the moon.  They can't wait to show them off to my nieces and nephew this weekend.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review - A Reason to Stay by Kellie Coates Gilbert

I just finished A Reason to Stay by Kellie Coates Gilbert.  The main character, Faith, had a rough childhood and has poured herself into her television career.  She falls in love with pro bass fisherman Geary Marin, and although both are in love, they seem to have problems from the start.  Faith is contemplating divorce when a tragic event lands her in the hospital and she is forced to reevaluate everything.

The story is told by alternating between the present and Faith and Geary's past together.  At first, the transition between present and past was a little jarring, but I got used to it fairly quickly.  Faith is a complex character who has never really let go of the past that still haunts her.  She assumes her way is the only way.  Geary, too, assumes that the way his family does things is the only way, and these assumptions play heavily into their marital issues.  I thought that the story was realistic, and the failure to communicate well is an issue that is portrayed well.  The details in both Faith's journalism career and in the hospital give the story great credibility.  I had a hard time putting down this emotional book, and I highly recommend it.

I was given a copy of the book by the publisher, Revell, for the purpose of writing a review, but all opinions are my own.

Fall Break

Fall break is over now, but it was very, very busy and lots of fun.  We started the break with our annual family reunion camping trip with Nathaniel's family.  It was Gyunay's first time to camp, and he loved it.  Of course, he kept us busy chasing him around, but it was a good time.  Then we came home for a couple of days, then back on the road to my parents' cabin on Lake Barkley.  My sister and her kids joined us, too. 

The kids enjoyed seeing the two worm snakes my dad found.