Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

At This Simple Home

  • Homemade Magic Shell - I remember having Magic Shell once as a child. The chocolate syrup drizzled over my ice cream magically turned crispy hard. Mmm... So I was rather excited t...

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Congrats to the winner of the Flip Along Fun giveaway!  Danielle, comment #21!  I hope you love it as much as we do!

If you are disappointed (and this is a great book!), don't forget you can save money when you buy it!
Coupon Code: L-01and save $3!

We have a cookbook giveaway for you, too!  It has three winners, so be sure to enter!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Big Book of Exclamations

A number of books help to encourage speech in young children (click for my recent recommendations) and many, many books can be used to help a child make sounds, but The Big Book of Exclamations is an incredible book with the soul purpose of encouraging and facilitating speech!  Author Teri Kaminski-Peterson is a practicing board-certified speech pathologist, and her love for her work shows in this book.  It's not just for children with speech problems, but for all children who are learning to talk and talkers, too!

If you have have been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that my 3 year old has a speech disorder called apraxia.  She now speaks in short sentences, but she was nearly 2 1/2 before she could really communicate much with words.  I share this to let you know that I speak as an experienced mom in the speech world.  Like many other parents who have concerns for their child, we have learned (from great SLP and special education teacher) how to help our daughter and have our own therapy at home.  

The Big Book of Exclamations is purposefully designed to promote speech and language through imitations of sounds, gestures, and words.  The description from The Big Book of Exclamations website says it best, "The Big Book of Exclamations is an educational children's book designed to promote speech sound development, and imitation of gestures, sounds, and words. Unlike most books, it doesn't have a story to read. Instead, along the bottom of each page, there are prompts which teach parents/caregivers how to act out the illustrations and interact with children using gestures, sounds, and words. This twenty-four page book is also filled with information intended to help parents understand speech and language development, and also provides resources for those seeking advice."  

Each set of pages is beautifully illustrated with the highest detail.  A child who likes to examine picture books will really enjoy this book!  From the missing sock to the steaming tea kettle to the overflowing tub, the pictures illustrate familiar objects in familiar settings like home and the park.  On each set of pages there are exclamations written (stop, sh-sh-shhh!, oh oh, up up up, whoops!,  bzzzz, weeee! and many more), but the paragraph is not to be read to the child.  Instead, the adult uses it as a guide to use motions, sounds, and words to encourage your child to do the same.  You can view a set of pages and the guide for yourself.  

The Big Book of Exclamations begins with waking up in the child's bedroom, goes to a scene at the breakfast table, preparing to leave, the park, bath time, bedtime, and ends with the family saying good bye to the reader.  You get a good feel for this family...and the fun and craziness they experience in their day to day lives.

I definitely recommend this book.  It provides a child lots of detailed illustrations and gives parents a "script" to help them encourage their young child to talk.  I wish we had had it a year ago for our daughter.  She enjoys it now, but doesn't "need" it now.  We do use it with our son, age 1, though he does not sit for the whole book.  I also want to add that this book is designed for children who are just beginning to speak, as evidenced in the words cited above.  Children of various ages will have fun with this book, but a regular developing 2 year old may not be able to use this for speech needs the way that a delayed or younger child would. 

Thank you, Teri, for providing our family with this book to review!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cookbook Giveaway-Three Winners

A Century of Flavor: Nielsen-Massey Vanillas is a beautiful cookbook full of recipes that contain top-of-the-line Nielsen-Massey vanilla!  Vanilla is not just for baking!  These recipes are for a wide variety of dishes, including steak and salmon which surprised me.   I look forward to trying the Not So Blonde Brownies, Cream Brulee French Toast, and a few others.  You can check out additional Nielsen-Massey vanilla recipes, too.

Though this cookbook may not have quick and easy recipes that I prefer, it would certainly be good to have handy on special occasions.  You can purchase A Century of Flavor at Barnes and Noble and on-line.  These specialty Nielsen-Massey vanillas are available at Williams-Sonoma.

Interested in winning a copy of A Century of Flavor?  Thanks to Wilks Communications, we have THREE copies to giveaway to a reader!  Sorry, but winners must have a U.S. street address.

To Enter

Go to Nielsen-Massey and tell me where you would buy their vanilla.  Please leave your email address so I can contact you easily.
Extra EntriesLeave a comment for each extra entry in addition to the mandatory entry.
Follow my blogs: 1 entry each  

Leave a comment below stating what your favorite dish with vanilla in it: 

1 entry
Blog about this with a link back to Live, Learn, Love: 1 entry

Giveaway ends 7 pm (EST) Friday, March 5, 2009.  Winner will be chosen by random. org.  Winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond. 

I received a copy from Wilks Communications for review purposes.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who Has Speech Issues?

I'm curious about my readers.  Who of you experience speech delays or disorders with your children?  Would you leave me a comment below or email me at derekannette (at) gmail (dot) com?

If you want to, you could also tell me about some of your favorite resources.  Thanks!

How to Sew a Button

Seriously, I wish I had learned to do so much more when I was younger.  I desire to be a better homemaker, but sometimes life gets in the way.  I am learning though.  

When I was in sixth grade I moved in with my bachelor dad.  Yep.  Great timing, if you know what I mean.  We got along great, but during those important years of learning how to cook and clean, well, I learned some, but really the expectations may have been a wee bit lower in my home than in others.  I still saw my mom, but it was not in a way that I learned homemaking, though I do make a great batch of no-bake cookies with her recipe.

My grandmother crocheted all the time.  But I never asked her to teach me anything but the simple chain.  When Gramma was no longer able to teach me, I wanted to learn.  And I did.  (Kind of.)

Since I married Derek, I have learned a lot from his mom and grandma in the kitchen.  They taught me to make applesauce, gravy, and pie crust.  And they share their favorite recipes, too, though much of what Grandma cooks is not really from a recipe.  

I taught myself to cook some things.  The internet has helped me to clean and cook, as well.  But there are some things in life that seem to be a lost art when it comes to homemaking.  Erin Breid, senior staff writer at SELF magazine noticed this too.  She wrote the book How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew.  She interviewed grandmothers that survived the Great Depression for inspiration for this how-to book.  (Click to read about the grandmothers!)
How to Sew a Button is truly a how-to book.  It explains (and sometimes illustrates) how to do 110 different things.  Some I already knew how to do (thankfully) and other tips I am excited to try.  There are a few that I will happily skip.  

I already know how to roast a chicken, can my own fruits/veggies (applesauce), hand wash dishes, make an apron (for a kid), build a fire, soothe a burn with a plant, swaddle a newborn baby, clip coupons, and enjoy the folks next door.  I picked one tip from each chapter that I already do...except entertaining.  Apparently, I need some help there!

Just for fun, here are things I don't know how to do.  I'll include one from each chapter again.  I have NOT filleted a fish (I don't eat fish), dried apples (yum!), spring cleaned (seriously, I never have), hemmed my fancy pants (properly), knit a scarf, perfect my posture, raise a good citizen, made a budget, start a book club, or sung in harmony (sit behind me in'll hear for yourself).  Obviously, some I will never do, but others are certainly right up my alley!  

I really enjoyed this book.  Mostly I appreciated the fact that Erin Bried showed great respect for women of an older generation who really deserve it.  This book is not about them, though she includes an introduction to each of the grandmas.  Also, before each of the 110 tips, she includes a quote from one of the grandmas.  Before "Clean More Stuff Naturally", Bried quotes Lucile Frisbee saying, "There was no man's work or woman's work.  There was only work, and anybody who was around was expected to chip in."

Bried uses a lot of humor in the book.  It's an easy read, though it could be very dry and boring, being a how-to book. The many references to alcohol did get a bit old for me.  I know she was just trying to be funny, but it was often enough that it turned me off.  For example, in step 8 of How to Roast a Whole Chicken, Bried says, "Pop your chicken in the oven, set your timer for an hour, go have a glass of wine or a gimlet, and wait."  Nothing offensive, but not what I expected to read (except in the sections of making dandelion wine and homemade beer).

This book was fun to read and very informative.  I do recommend it!

Ballantine Books provided me with a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Congratulations to Marci! chose comment number 52 as the winner.

Thank you to all my readers for entering!  Don't forget about the Flip Along Fun giveaway.  It ends Friday!  More giveaways coming soon!

Dish Towel Apron

 This is a repost from our family blog a year ago!  I am happy to share that she still loves this apron and it still fits her well.
Here is the dish towel apron pattern I made for M. You truly only have to sew a a couple of straight lines to make it.  To make it fit an older child, you could just leave off the folded pocket area. While shopping for the dish towel, she chose the blue stripes.
It has three pockets, though they are difficult to see. More obvious is her hippy headband that she likes to wear.

When I was making zucchini bread she came running as soon as she heard the mixer! (I shred zucchini in the summer and freeze it so we can enjoy bread all year.) She loves to help me bake. I have learned that she always enjoys it, but it is best for me to be prepared with all the ingredients ready at my side.
Mommy and Meghan (and a cluttered fridge). We use this step stool for baking, but most often it is used at the bathroom sink to help Meghan wash her hands easily.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More About Me

If you are interested in knowing a bit more about me, then head over to Adori Graphics.  Today I am featured in her Blogger Uncovered.

I answered questions that her readers asked about me.  This was a lot of fun for me.  Take a moment to check  it out!  FYI, Louise (AKA Adori Graphics) is the designer of the background and header of this blog.

Freezing Meat

I try to be frugal when it comes to groceries.  I try to spend two dollars or less per pound on meat.  (Last week my husband bought a beef roast that was not on sale.  I think he was hinting to me that he is tired of chicken!)

Since we buy on sale and stock up, we need to freeze lots of meat.  I'm sure you know that it's best to remove meat from the grocery store packaging before freezing it.  In the past I would place two chicken breasts in a quart-sized freezer bag, remove the air, and then make sure there was plenty of space between the breasts so they would thaw easily.  However, I decided I was wasting a lot of plastic bags and even a bit of money that way.

So I decided to go about freezing my chicken breasts and pork chops  in a new way.  Honestly, I think this is doing even better at keeping away the ice crystals that always form on my meat.

First, I rinsed and trimmed my meat.  Then I placed each breast on a piece of plastic wrap.  Then I wrapped it tightly.  I placed all of my wrapped meat into a gallon-sized freezer bag and labeled it with the type of meat and the month/year.

So far, I have frozen several family packs of chicken breast and one family pack of pork chops in this manner.  It is a bit more work, but I think I it's worth it.

I even took pictures.  However, I can't seem to find them on my computer at the moment, so please forgive me.

Next I need to organize my freezer.  Seriously.  It's awful!  Any suggestions?

(Don't forget to enter the giveaways!  One is for a children's book, the other you get to pick.  I am excited for both!)

Monday, February 22, 2010


Our 3 year old is not a bully, but she can certainly be mean, especially to her little brother.  This is probably more sibling rivalry than bullying, but it's still a concern. I'm sure what happens in our home is fairly normal, but it still bothers us, as parents.  I get a bit jealous when I hear from friends how well their children get along, because the reality for us is that our kids fight.  A LOT.

We now have a book that will be a good resource for us when our son gets a bit older.  As important as it is to try to stop a child from being mean, it is also important to help a child understand that others' mean actions can be addressed.
The book is Stop It! by Sally O. Lee.  In the book the brother, George, is a bully and mean to his sister, Anabel.  It isn't until George holds the cat Lulubell by the tail that Anabel has enough and yells, "Stop it!"  George sees the error of his ways and he apologizes by giving Anabel her wand.  She is forgiving and crowns him king.

This book and its message is sweet.  Though it may be very simple in the apology and forgiveness aspect, it shows how two children forgot the past and moved on from it.  These illustrations are quite adorable, too!  They certainly appeal to my daughter.  Sally O. Lee brings the story and pictures together beautifully in Stop It!

Thank you, Sally, for providing us with this book for review!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flip Along Fun Giveaway!

I have already shared how wonderful I think the Flip Along Fun book is.  (Click to read my review.)  It combines math and reading in a really fun and interactive book.

Just a reminder to you that you can use the coupon code L-01 to get $3 off until April 30, 2010.    Michael  J. Dowling, the generous author of Flip Along Fun, has agreed to give one of these great books to one of my readers!

Whether you win a copy or buy one, the author will autograph (and even personalize if you wish) the book!

The winner will not be disappointed!

To Enter: Leave a separate comment for each entry!

Mandatory:   Leave a comment below.  Please include your email address so I can contact you easily.
Extra Entries: Leave a comment for each extra entry in addition to the mandatory entry.
Go to Flip Along Fun and tell me something you learn: 1 entry
Follow my blogs with Google Friends Connect button: 1 entry each  
Blog about this with a link back to Live, Learn, Love: 1 entry

Giveaway ends Friday, February 26, 2010 at 7pm (EST).  Winner will be chosen by

Friday, February 19, 2010

Your Choice Giveaway!

Today I'm teaming up with CSN online stores to give you a really cool giveaway.  I'm really excited about this...because one of my readers will get something that I got to pick out for you.  I would love to have ANY of them!

Little Tikes Picnic Table with Umbrella for some fun picnics and playtime outside.
Dual Sensor Meat Thermometer to cook that meat properly!
Sling Bookcase to give your favorite books a bed!
50 Piece Block Set to build your house of dreams!
Which do you want?  I hope that there is something there for each of my readers!  You do not need to have a blog to enter to win, but you do need to live in the United States or Canada.  Sorry if that excludes you. 

To Enter
Mandatory: Leave a comment below stating which of the items you want if you win.  Please include your email address so I can contact you easily.  
Extra Entries:Leave a comment for each extra entry in addition to the mandatory entry.
Follow my blogs: 1 entry each  
If you left a comment on the teaser post: 1 entry
Go to CSN and tell me a different product you would love to have: 1 entry
Blog about this with a link back to Live, Learn, Love: 1 entry

Giveaway ends 7 pm (EST) Wednesday, February 24.  Winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond.  
I did not receive any product or compensation for this giveaway.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Encouraging Simple Speech Through Books

ANY book can encourage speech, and highly repetitive ones are great for filling in the blanks.  (Brown bear, brown ____, what do you ___?  I see a red bird looking at ___.)   We also use books to label objects and characters.  Colors and shapes.  Counting and rhyming.  Books have been a great help in helping M learn to talk, but not all children respond to books the same way.  Though our daughter has always enjoyed books, she did not respond to them with sounds (the way I spoke of above) until quite recently...the last six months or so.

We have a few books that M returns to over and over again that encourage speech...simple words and phrases that are enticing to her as a 3 year old with a speech disorder.  These books are great books, but especially good for anyone who wants to increase sounds and words from a child.

Zip! Pop! Hop! and Other Fun Words to Say (First Little Golden Books)
Zip!  Pop!  Hop! ($1.29 at Amazon!) actually talks about fun words.  It begins, "Elmo likes fun words.  Would you like to say some fun words with Elmo?  Say zipper.  Now stretch it out: z-z-z-z-ZIPPER.  Words with z's make your mouth feel fizzy."    M really likes this book, and did long before she could say any of the words (other than pop).  It's fun and cute.  Most importantly, it encourages speech.

Richard Scarry's Splish-Splash Sounds  is a great book.  It goes around Busytown and you see all sorts of labeled illustrations with their sounds.  You see things like "bang," "owww-ee," "ring," and tons more.  M really likes this book!  She labels the objects in the pictures and tells me the sounds.
Oink, Moo, How Do You Do? is a rhyming book of animal sounds.  It's quite cute.  It taught M the word "shoo!" when the farmer says, "Scat, shoo!  Away with you!"

You might remember quite some time ago when I was all excited to learn about the Speak With Me books.  (Click to see more of what I said and where to find them.)  These were the first books that I was aware of that were designed for speech development

We also the book Grandma Rabbitty's Visit that had a lot of fun words for M to say in it.  (Click the link to read my review.)

I have another book to share with you called The Big Book of Exclamations; it is a truly unique book, and it deserves its own post.  It is designed and written by a speech pathologist and is specifically designed to promote speech development and the imitation of sounds, gestures, and words!  I will share about this book soon.  We just got it, and I already think it's a great resource for young children or those who have a speech delay/disorder.


You may have noticed that we are doing a few more giveaways these days.  How do you feel about it?  Does it take away from the feel of the blog?  Does it annoy you?  I really enjoy it, but am wondering how my readers feel about them.  Do my readers like going to their mailboxes and finding something from a giveaway?

Readers, do you like seeing reviews and giveaways?  (Please note that the reviews I am speaking of here are ones that a company provides a product for me to review and share about...not ones I already have and share my opinion.)

Also, help me decide on a product for an upcoming giveaway with CSN stores.  Would you prefer a grown up item or child-related item?  You can even tell me which product you would like me to consider for the giveaway.

Please leave a comment will even give you an extra entry into an upcoming giveaway with CSN!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

French Onion Soup-Easy!

While Derek was away last week I made French onion soup and had it for lunch...several times.  It was my comfort food, and it was delicious!  Typically, if it is on a restaurant's menu, I order it.

It's easy to make with the recipe I found at

Below are my alterations to the above link.  Though I like to start with the original recipe, I didn't have everything on hand this time.  Do check out the original recipe!  It has additional goodies (and unsalted butter) that would make it better, I'm sure!

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 box beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 slices French bread, toasted
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a stock pot, brown onions in butter and oil, stirring frequently.  Add broth, thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.  Bring to boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Ladle soup into oven safe bowls.  Add cheese and bread, layering.  (If you have broiler-safe bowls, good for you and use your broiler.  I did not.)  Bake at 400 for 5-10 minutes until cheese on top is melted and slightly browned.  


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Flip Along Fun Review

We recently got a really cool, interactive book in the mail.  Flip Along Fun is a large and beautiful board book!  The illustrations are gorgeous, and the stories that are created unique and amusing!  Right away I was impressed with the quality and durability of this board book.

Flip Along Fun is an interactive book.  The 9x12 pages are divided into three flaps.  The child gets to determine the little story by choosing which flaps they want to match up.  The two flaps on the left will determine the last flap.  It's storytelling and math all in one!   The only con with the book is that sometimes the flaps are hard to turn, but I can't see a way to improve it since that is the nature of spiral bindings, and the spiral makes this book so much better than a traditional binding.  With the spiral binding, it can even stand on its own, which M thinks is neat!

Flip Along Fun really is fun!  M enjoyed creating the rhyming stories, and there are lots of variations of the stories so a child does not get bored.  As a parent, I like that I can introduce addition at such an early age.  As a former teacher, I think this would be a great asset for a  preschool, kindergarten, or first grade classroom.  Many children excel at  only reading or math, but not always both.  This would get a poor reader (but good math student) excited about reading and it would be fun for student whose strength was reading to have some fun with math.

Want to see more?  Watch a short video clip to see how it works!

Want one?  The author, Michael J. Dowling is offering a savings of $3 to Live, Learn, Love readers making the books just $14.95; just use the coupon code below.  It's a great idea to buy an extra for a gift (for teacher or child) since shipping is a flat rate of just $3.50 no matter how many books you buy.

Coupon Code: L-01and save $3!

Thank you to the author, Michael J. Dowling for giving us a copy to review!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Week Without Daddy

Last week Derek, my husband, was away on business.  Thankfully, this does not happen often.

I knew the week away would be toughest on M, my three year old.  I wanted to share some of the ways that I tried to help her through the week.  (My one year old son seemed fine, as expected.  I will post about what I did for ME another time.)  Little did I know just how tough the week would be with being snowed into our home and M missing 3 out of 4 days of preschool due to snow!

  • Daddy wrote notes.  Before he left, Derek wrote a note to the children for every day that he was gone.  I put them in their felt mailbox Sometimes I even wrote a note for a sweet surprise. 
  • Daddy recorded a video.  Before leaving, I recorded a short video of Derek talking to the children.  I waited as long as possible before showing the children, but both loved it!  (Derek did request that it not be put on the blog.  He knows me!)
  • We called Daddy during bedtime snack.  Every night we talked to Derek before bedtime so he could say goodnight to the kids.  E loved to hear his voice and laughed, but Meghan really talked to him.
  • We went grocery shopping in the evening.  So we spent the entire evening eating dinner and then shopping.  There was no time to miss Daddy!
  • We played with friends.  This might sound silly, but it was really good to see some friends, though most days we were snowed in.
  • We got out of the house!  One night we went to the grocery store (before the blizzard hit us), and another night we went to a generous friend's house for dinner.  M and E even got in some much needed rough housing with my friend's husband!  They loved it!
  • Mom played and  played and played.  I was probably a much better mommy this week than usual, giving LOADS of attention to the kids.  Frankly, I am tired of pretending to be the Wonder Pets saving the blowfish, but hey, it works!  
  • Mom was flexible.  One night M wore her dress to bed.  She also had "breakfast" (cereal) for dinner one night, in addition to some other things, I swear!  (I might not care if I eat fruits or veggies all day long, but I make sure my children do!)
  • Mom was silly.  I tried to be extra silly.  It just helped to lighten the mood.
  • M made a "Welcome Home Daddy" sign.  I waited until the morning that he was expected to make it, but M was extremely proud of it.  She also learned a new phrase, and used it to say welcome home!
I know there are amazing moms (and dads!) who go about raising children mostly or fully on their own.  It amazes me!  I am so thankful for my husband and all he does.  I'm not that strong...I need him to help with the children!

What do you do to help your kids overcome a parent going away?  I'd love to hear!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


The winner of a book by Tara is #10, Joann from Ten Kids and a Dog!  Congratulations!  Thank you all for entering!

Thank you Tara for a great book!

Look for another giveaway soon!

Owl Valentine's Day Card

When it comes to Valentine's Day, we are pretty cheap around here!  This year was the first year I ever got flowers for ♥ Day.  I love them, but know not to expect them again for a long time.
Please continue reading the details of how to create this Owl Valentine's Day Card over at This Simple Home.  You can also see my daughter's owl card there, too!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Children's Book Giveaway

Don't forget to sign up for my giveaway!  Even though I talk a lot about special needs children in the post, Tara's books are for any children!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine Cards~ Painted

Spoiler Alert: Grandmas and Grandpas may want to skip this post, at least if you are a grandparent to my children!

Don't forget to enter our book giveaway!

We're not big on celebrating Valentine's Day, but with M in preschool and grandparents living far away, we do "celebrate" a bit.  We made cards for some family members.  (I bought some for school.  I know.  I'm awful!!)

I really like the card on the left.

These cards are easy to make!
Paint small, white pieces of paper.  I showed M how to mix the colors of paint right on the paper and encouraged her to cover every part of the paper.  (Lots of white paint with bits of red and blue were used.)  By using small pieces of paper, it gave each card its own look and design.  We let these dry and then put them under some heavy books to flatten them.
Cut frames and heart shapes.  I went the easy route and used my Cricut.  If M was older I would have had her cut the hearts herself.  You could even make the frame out of a heart shape or four skinny rectangles.
Glue the frame on the painted paper and glue hearts inside frame.  Once again the paper curled a bit so I put them under heavy books again.
At this point decide if you prefer the rectangle to be the frame or not.  Trim extra painted paper as needed.
Glue new design onto a folded piece of paper, cardstock, or blank note card.  And again, I needed to flatten out the curls with a heavy book.
Write your message and give to your Valentine!

Unfortunately I am really late in posting this, but as you might guess, this was a multi-day project.  I'm sure it could be done in less time if you use paper that won't curl when it is painted.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Granola and Flax Seed

I have heard a lot of the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids for health...for everyone.  My interest was first perked when I read a lot about it related to M's speech disorder, apraxia.

Flax seed is one of those strange health foods that I have only recently learned about, and it is high in the Omega 3 fatty acids.  At the local Amish store, I saw it (ground), and figured I should try it.  I brought it home and had no idea what to do with it.

At first I just put the flax seed in my (and M's) oatmeal.  Some had suggested putting it in yogurt, but that just doesn't appeal to me.  Then I saw a recipe for granola that called for flax seed.  That recipe was not appealing to me, but I searched for others...and found one that is customizable.  Yea!!!  It has a base recipe and then you can choose what to add to it!

I made this recipe twice, but changed it up some.  I definitely recommend using rolled oats, as the recipe calls for it!  (I didn't the first time.)  I thought I'd try honey instead of maple syrup, but don't recommend that either!  However, I do recommend trying this!

You may think I'm weird, but I don't mix the granola in anything.  I just eat it from the bowl with a spoon.  This was fun to make with M...and good to eat, too!  

Blogger Uncovered

For the next few days you can visit Louise at Adori Graphics to leave a question for me.  Make sense?  Haha!  I didn't think so!

Louise offers a weekly feature called Blogger Uncovered.  She introduces a blog and the blogger, and her readers get to ask that person questions by leaving a comment on the introduction post.  Later, she will pass them along to me, and I will answer all of them!   Questions can be about anything you like...if I haven't shared it, and you want to know, just ask!

Louise offers great blog designs.  She will create you a new design (for a fee) but she also has great freebies, too!  Both this header and background were designed by her and are available in her freebies.   She also has a lot of good  blogging tutorials.  Be sure to check her out, even if you aren't interested in leaving a question for me!  

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

Applesauce.  Oh, the taste!  Oh, the smell!  I really only had it once or twice before getting to know Derek (or more importantly, his family).  Both Derek's grandma and mom make applesauce on a regular basis.  

Some time after we were married, Derek's mom gave me a food mill so that I could make my own applesauce.  We live far away and only eat with them a few times a year.  The occasional jar just didn't last long enough around our home!  Since then, we have been making applesauce every once in a while, and now it's the only type we use.  At first we would freeze it, but last summer I tried canning it.  And it worked!

Last summer I learned of a local Amish store where I could get LOTS of apples for a small price.  The price has gone up, but a basket (15-20 pounds) of apples last week was just $7.50.  These apples are seconds, so they  have some bruises and spots on them.  Perfect for applesauce...and the right price!

I also asked for a Kitchen Aid Fruit Strainer attachment for my birthday last year.  And my lovely husband got it for me.  (He knows how tiring the food mill can be!)  For Christmas I asked for a big bath canner.  Once again, he took care of me.  Can you tell he loves applesauce me?

Applesauce is so worth it!  To encourage you to try it yourself, I took some pictures on my snowy Saturday when I filled my house with lovely smells.

If you don't have a food mill or fruit strainer, I'm sure the blender would work just fine.  I have also heard of making individual servings in the microwave.  Just keep in mind the food mills remove the peel for you.  The blender does not.
  • First find your largest pot and put an inch or less of water in it.  
  • Gather up your apples.  Cut off any bad spots and slice and core them.  Place in your big pot.  Don't forget the lid!  Simmer for a long time! 

  • Keep slicing and coring apples until your pots are full or you run out of room on your stove. Cook them until they look like mush.  (Silly me, different pot, but it WAS as full as the photo above.)

  • Enjoy the smell of cooking apples!
  • When the first pot of apples are very tender (MUSH) and the skins are falling off, it is time to put it through the food mill.
  • Add sugar and cinnamon to taste, if desired.
  • Eat, freeze, or can it!
(I was keeping it "real" in the photo...all sorts of stuff on my counter...always.)

All those apples (well, except the four apples that I couldn't fit in a pot) from the basket of apples I bought this time made four and a half quarts of applesauce.  I canned it, but you can freeze it too.

It is certainly worth the time and effort.   I'm sure there are lots of ways to make applesauce, but this is how I do it.  If you make your own, let me know and tell me what you do differently.

Now that was a good snow day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

As a kid I read Encyclopedia Brown.  I could relate to him, but not because of his photographic memory and attention to details, but because he was a nice kid.  Every town needs one of him to help solve burglaries and crime!

When 5 Minutes for Books offered up a Children's Classic Mystery Challenge, I immediately knew I wanted to check out Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective from the library.  Written by Donald J. Sobol, it's a fun read.  Each SHORT chapter is a different mystery, but also moves the story along.  Encyclopedia Brown (his parents call him Leroy) is a fifth grader, and the son of the police chief.  He solves each mystery by the end of the chapter, but you have to turn to the end of the book to find out how he solved each crime.  

This is a fun read, and is even great as a read-aloud.  My husband and I read a couple out loud to one another.  There are always clues in the story to help you solve it, too.  (There was only one case I didn't know the answer to, but my husband did.)  

This book is less than 100 pages long and would hold most children's interest, even if they don't like to read.  This would be a great read aloud to school-aged children, too!  Getting to solve the mystery yourself certainly has perks!

(Which book did you select for the giveaway?  Check it out!)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Giveaway

As M's parents we have learned how to use her interests to facilitate communication and speech.  These days we appreciate the incredible progress that she has made and her rich vocabulary that is ever-increasing.  Now we have added another book to our shelf to help engage her in discussions, but more on that in a moment.

By no means are we the only parents who have become our child's "therapist" and teacher.  From my experience it seems that almost all parents seek to bring out the best in their children.  Recently I have gotten to know Tara, a former teacher and special educator. She is also the creator of Books by Tara.  She has a powerful story to tell.  (Click the link to read her account; below is just a quick summary.)

Tara's youngest son, Jake, has severe autism.  Jake also pays great attention to details in pictures...details often ignored by others' eyes.  They would look at a picture for a great deal of time, and sometimes he would respond to her casual comments about photos.  Each time he would say a word like, "box" or "head" there would be cause for celebration.  (Boy, I can relate to that!!)  Tara said, "An interesting photo can be a powerful interactive tool and language promoter if used in a fun, relaxed way. I wanted more."  

So after years of creating interactive books from magazines and calendars for Jake, Tara got a camera, and her first book, HOLES, was born!  (Click the link to see inside the book!)

Tara provided the book WATER for us to review.   Children love water!  Both our 3 and 1 year olds love to watch, touch, and play in water.   Even THIS water from the book!

This book brings water into our laps and lets us explore and discuss water in different, yet familiar environments...while staying cozy and dry.  Some of our favorite pictures are the washing machine, the hose, and the double rainbow!

Books By Tara feature 19 pages of 8x10 colorful pictures with great details.  I like the spiral bound glossy pages; it allows us to look at two pictures at once, or we have the option to focus on just one. The real life images are enticing to all.  WATER begins with a poem and then each page of the book allows you to just focus on the image.  (Not all books follow this format.)  Tara offers extension ideas and questions for her books.  Though I use it one-on-one with our children, the images are large enough to use in any classroom setting for story prompts and discussion.  

To see all the titles and purchasing information, go to Books By Tara!  

~Sign up for the Books By Tara newsletter.  (Click link.)  You will automatically be entered into a monthly drawing for a free book!  Leave a comment telling me you entered!  I get the newsletter, and have never felt the need to unsubscribe, but you could if wish.

After signing up for Tara's newsletter, you can earn extra entries.  Leave a separate comment for each!
~Tell me which book you would like if you win and who you would give it to. ~ 1 entry
~Follow my blog using Google Friends Connect (the follow button). ~ 1 entry per blog

Giveaway ends Sunday, February 14 at 7 pm (EST).  I'll post the winner on Monday! 

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