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...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Container Strawberries

I tried a garden a few years ago.  It didn't work.  Or maybe I didn't work (weed) hard enough.  The weeds grew like crazy, and the fruit and veggies didn't.  Grass still doesn't grow in the garden plot, just weeds, despite Derek's hard work.

Even though we know strawberries take a lot of work, and they don't fruit until the second year, we're trying something new.  We have a Topsy-Turvy strawberry planter.  We bought twelve strawberry plants from one of our Cub Scout friends.  And we filled.
 After less than twenty-four hours, I was impressed that the little buds had already opened up and were lovely little leaves.
 Unfortunately, we do NOT have a single place to hang this from.  We bought a shepherd's hook, but it is not nearly strong enough.  (We do not have a porch or deck.)
For now, we are watering daily and turning the planter daily.  Hopefully it works.  Anyone want to take bets? (Not that I am a betting girl...)

If you have any advice on a strawberry planter like this, please do share!  I've heard to be careful not to over-water, and I've heard you cannot water it too much.  (There are drain holes at the bottom.)  

Monday, May 30, 2011

Giveaway...Last Day

We're enjoying this day as a family.  We are ever thankful for the men and women, and their families, who have given their lives in service to our country and our freedom.

Tomorrow is the last day for the Pearl in the Sand giveaway.  It was an AWESOME book, and I fully recommend it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank You Gift

It's that time of year again...the end of the school year!  As a former teacher I know how much personal notes are appreciated at any time of the year.  Friday is actually M's final day of preschool until fall.  (She'll be 5 in October.)

I wrote a note to M's teacher, and M also made a card and dictated a thoughtful note.  (She mentioned Mrs. S's "great forgiveness" which tells you that M is not a model student-or even average when it comes to behavior-even for a 4 year old).

We gave the teacher the notes, along with an edible thank you and a gift card.  I made sugar cookies, and wrote T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U, along with some shapes in frosting.  (This was my most successful attempt at doesn't usually go well.)  I lined a box with tissue paper and then tin foil, and placed the cookies inside the box.  Nothing exciting, but hopefully appreciated.  (Not all teachers like edible gifts...I have no idea if Mrs. S. does or not, but it's worth the chance for me.)
(In making the sugar cookies, let me tell you what torture it is to have scrumptious cookie dough in the fridge that is strictly off limits!!  UGH!  The only time I don't eat cookie dough, due to the raw eggs, is during pregnancy.  It was pure torture.  However, on baking day I made up for it.  I'm not certain of the number of cookies, but I think it was under ten.  These are my really irresistible sugar cookies...the kind I can't walk by without eating one...or more.)

How do you say thank you?

(The photo of M above shows her wearing a long necklace with graduation caps on it.  It was given to her when we went to a graduation party last year.  I don't think she equated her "closing day" ceremony with graduation, but when she asked to wear it, we said yes.  In case you are wondering, she has pony tails and wanted to wear her headband.  Then she added her sunglasses to the top of her head...all before heading off to school on Thursday.)

Cooking Flops

Just because I  like to share recipes on this blog does not mean I'm a good cook.  Nor does it mean I can always follow a recipe.  I'm sure you know that some recipes just aren't meant to be duplicated.  I wish I was talking about them, but I am talking about my own human failures.

In the past I've had some problems.

I burn things.  A lot.  Too many to count.

*first time I made the chocolate chip cookie pie that I love so much, the recipe called for 1 1/2 sticks of butter.  I put in 1 1/2 CUPS instead-twice the amount called for.  It never hardened, and was really rich, but pretty good.

*I forgot blueberries in blueberry coffeecake.  Our company arrived as I was about to fold them in to the batter.  They were rinsed and in the sink-out of sight.  It wasn't until I returned to the sink to clean up that I realized my mistake.

*I've made the occasional loaf of bread that wasn't completely cooked in the middle.

Recently I made cinnamon rolls.  I couldn't figure out why I didn't like the icing (though I'm not a huge fan anyway).  Derek realized the cream cheese was too strong.  The original recipe called for one 3 ounce package of cream cheese.  I didn't notice the 3 ounces, and used a full brick of 8 ounces.  It was definitely still edible though.

The worst mistake I probably made when I forgot to add brown sugar to apple crisp.  I couldn't figure out where I went wrong, but Derek certainly did.

This weekend I had another butter issue with the chocolate chip cookie pie.  I only use 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick).  When I was preparing to make the pie, I set the butter outside to soften.  It is such an easy recipe (1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, flour, butter, 2 eggs, and 1 cup chips) that I don't need the recipe.  Well, I didn't think I needed it.  But this weekend I forgot the butter altogether.  I added extra chips, so I thought it seemed thicker than usual, but blamed it on the chocolate and peanut butter chips.  Oops.  We ate it the first night, but ended up throwing it away because it was SO hard!

Derek and I were laughing at all of these when he brought up how he recently doubled the Crisco in the chocolate chip cookies he was making.  They weren't exactly good.

When Derek and I were dating and first married, I lost a few quite a few pot holders or kitchen towels to hot burners.  Since we moved into our new home almost three years ago, I have not had this problem.  We now have a flat top stove, which seems to help.  It has an indicator to let me know when it is hot.

See, I have experienced some improvements, or at least one!  What has been your biggest cooking disaster?

(* Indicates that others had the blessing of eating it, instead of just my family.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Must Read: Pearl in the Sand, by Tessa Afshar

I just read an absolutely fabulous book called Pearl in the Sand.  It's the first book by author Tessa Afshar, but you would never know it.  May I suggest that you reserve this at your library, order it, or do whatever you need to get this book in your hands?  It is that great of a book!

First, I have to tell you that this is biblical fiction.  Not everyone likes to read biblical fiction.  Because really, the Bible is our only real source for knowledge of the events and people.  Biblical fiction uses the few facts that are known and creates a story.  But what I love about Tessa Afshar is she says the following in the introduction.

"The best way to study the Bible is not through a novel, but simply to read the original.  This story can in no way replace the transformative power that the reader will encounter in the Scriptures.  For the biblical account of Rahab, refer to Joshua 1-10, the book of Ruth, and Matthew 1:1-17."

That's right, this incredible book is about Rahab, the well-known prostitute from Jericho.  Tessa Afshar brings to life the fictional story of how a prostitute living in a land of child sacrifices and idol worship could come to live in Israel permanently and even marry an Israelite man of position.  Later she mothers Boaz, and is also an ancestor of Jesus.

When I read through the Old Testament, I often wonder how in the world these people lived, especially during the forty years of wandering through the desert.  Pearl in the Sand was extremely well researched to help a person understand such things.  It was a story of real characters with depth, emotion, and conflict.  I appreciate this work of biblical fiction, not just as book that explains what may have happened with Rahab and Salmon, but as a book that spoke to my heart and mind.  This is another book that shows me how a person can become trapped in a bad situation that is foreign to me.  For that alone I like this, but really, I like this book for the story telling and even how it taught me about the Israelites and especially the main character, Rahab.

I know I am not really saying too much about the plot of Pearl in the Sand.  If you know the story of Rahab from the Bible, then you know the main summary, but the book is SO MUCH MORE.  Why don't you go and read the first two chapters for yourself?

As I said, get your hands on this book.  You won't regret it.  I'm certain it will be one of my favorite books of the year and will not be forgotten!  I have some great news for you, too!  Moody Publishers is offering a giveaway copy to one reader!!  

To Enter: Leave a comment telling me another book (fiction or nonfiction, but not the Bible) that has given you insight to something in the Bible.  Make sure I have a way to contact you through an email address or your blogger profile.  This is open to any resident in the US.

Extra Entries: (Leave a separate comment for each.)
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Giveaway runs through Tuesday, May 31, 2011.  
Giveaway is now closed.  The winner is #12 Michelle!  Congratulations.

(This is my own copy, not provided for review.  After reading so many positive reviews, I knew I wanted it for myself and am thrilled that Moody is offering you a copy, too.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Party!

Now that summer is almost here and my daughter will be home from preschool, we will looking for EASY ways to fill our days.  When it's too much of the same thing, the children bicker and fight.  (Okay, they fight daily, but monotony makes all of us that much crankier.)

One way I love to have some fun with the kids is with a book party.  I gather up lots of books, and even have the children bring some, too.  We put the books into a pile.  Then the children take turns picking books!  A book party also encourages me to read lots of the library books at one time to the children.  (We tend to take so many out at once that I sometimes a book or two get ignored before our next trip to the library.)
Our first book party was in April of 2009.
Sometimes we get lots of pillows and sit on my bed surrounded by books.  Other times, we pile the books on the living room floor and relax on the couch.  Either way, it's enjoyable and just by calling it a party makes it fun.

You could even take it a step farther and have a special treat.  (We don't typically do this, but this summer we will, but not every time.)  Creating bookmarks is a really easy and fun craft.  I just cut some paper or cardstock to size and let the kids "at it" with markers and stickers.

A book party only lasts as long as there is interest.  Sometimes we only get through three books, but other times we read many, many books.  I hope you consider your own book party!

(If your first book party isn't full of books and reading, don't be discouraged.  For our first book party, we read a book or two, and then a diaper desperately needed to be changed.  Once that happened interest was lost, but we have had many successful parties since then.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Homemade Stamp

A while back, we had a 55th birthday to celebrate in the family.  We made a homemade card to give.  We made a stamp, and used handprints to make the card.
To make a stamp for the number five, first draw a block-style 5 on paper. Then turn it backwards and trace it on sticky foam. After cutting it and removing the backing paper, I placed it on a wooden block. I made a stamp pad from a folded paper towel and paint. Then I had my child stamp away on the inside of the card! It wasn't until hours later that I realized that there are eleven fives...fifty-five!
I thought two five-fingered hands would be a nice representation of 55 as well, so I painted hands and attempted hand prints for the front of the card.

Homemade stamps are easy and fun!  Give them a try for yourself!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smells Like Dog, by Suzanne Selfors

Smells Like DogSmells Like Dog is adventure, mystery, and even treasure hunting!  Homer is a rather ordinary boy-though deemed weird by his classmates, neighbors, and even his family due to his day-dreaming and treasure-hunting obsession.

All is normal on Homer Pudding's family goat farm until the day they learn of the death of Homer's uncle.  Homer inherits Uncle Drake's most treasured possession-a droopy dog that has no sense of smell with a unique coin hidden on Dog's collar.

Homer and his sister, Gwendolyn, head off to The City on an adventure to follow their dreams to the Museum of Natural History.  They run away from home after a devastating disaster in town that Homer was partially responsible for.  They meet good guys and bad guys, but also learn that not everyone is as they appear to be, and some people will stop at nothing, even death, to get what they want.

What I like:
I love the adventure and true suspense in Smells Like Dog.  Though written for middle graders, the mysteries remained true to the end for me.  This is a clean book without language, though one character saying a few lines of "What the devil?"  The characters' names are rather amusing.  Law Offices of Toe and Jam, Madame la Directeur, and Mr. Twaddle are a fw of them.

What I didn't like:
I didn't care for the role of Homer's parents, though it did play into the story for Gwendolyn and Homer running away.  His father seems to not just be indifferent, but to squelch the interests of his children.  He is concerned that since Homer is a overweight and only speaks of treasure hunting that his son will never fit in.  Mr. Pudding is also so focused on goat farming that he thinks of little else unless he is criticizing his children.  Homer's mother, on the other hand, overcompensates for his father's.  She goes overboard with the coddling, and doesn't really consider the consequences of that either.  I was extremely frustrated with the family dynamics while reading, though I suppose they are rather realistic of too many situations.  The good news is by the end of the story, Homer learns of something about his father that gains new respect-and sheds new light on his father's situation and love of farming.

Overall, I did enjoy Smells Like Dog, and would recommend it!  There is even a follow up called Smells Like Treasure.  I think it's a great choice for middle school readers-and older!

I have to add (after a couple of comments) that if your middle school child is looking for some adventures to read about, I have a few more recommendations!  Check out The Strictest School in the World (linked to my "review"), The Mysterious Benedict Society (the three books for $13.09 total!  WOW!), and The Penderwicks!  Each of these are a series (yes, read them in order!), and worth the time in my opinion!  We own all of the Strictest School and MBS books, and some day we may own The Penderwicks, too.  Yes, they are that good.

Read Alouds

Classic Bible StorybookLast week we finished reading The Classic Storybook Bible.  I really felt that my 4 year old learned a lot from these stories.  No, not all stories were included, but it is very well-written, by Kenneth Taylor.  I definitely recommend it!  (We're now reading the Jesus Story Book Bible which is also excellent...and all stories point to Jesus!  This is our first time reading it straight through, though we've read most of it here and there.)

M seems to be reading a lot more on her own.  She's willing to read words and some sentences to us from books, though she doesn't want to read BOB Books to me right now.  (I think she doesn't want the responsibility of having to read the entire book on her own.)   I'm sharing here about some books that she was able to help read...but please don't think I'm just sharing to brag, though I'm very pleased and surprised.
Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! (Cat the Cat)Go, Dog. Go!: P.D. Eastman's Book of Things That GoIt's Not Easy Being Big! (Bright & Early Books(R))
 From the library, I have been amazed at how much she can read from Go, Dog. Go! (this may be familiar because of school though) and a Sesame Street book called It's Not Easy Being Big.  She is somehow reading long vowel words, though some are words that are familiar from other books, and memorized instead of sounded out.  She seriously read the whole book of Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep to herself (I was in the kitchen) until she got to the end where she couldn't read the word "checkers."  Granted, the book is extremely repetitive, and the pictures help with the animal names.   I am loving the simple words of Mo Willems and his ability to create a fabulous story that is another great beginning reader book (though some are more complicated, too).  As much as I write about Willems, we need to get some of these books for our own library!

The great thing about all of the easy readers above is that our 2 year old is just as interested in them as our 4 year old!

To see what others are reading check out Read Aloud Thursday and What My Child Is Reading.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Child's Tote Bag

 M was invited to a birthday party of a classmate.  When it comes to gifts, I am fairly low-key.  Though I'd love to give handmade gifts all the time, you never know how someone will respond.

We love books, and we love to give books.  However, I only had one book that was appropriate in our gift stash.  I thought I might make something.  (The only other birthday party we've been to I made name pillows.  I knew I did not have time for that!)

Since M loves little bags and purses, I decided to make one for her friend personalized with her initial.  It's big enough for a couple of books.  Looking on-line, I didn't find any tutorials that were of a simple tote bag.  (I didn't want to fuss with a lining.)  I created my own little bag.  I won't pretend this is a real tutorial...because it isn't.  However, I will share how I made it.
 I cut the tote bag's fabric about 22x9 inches.  I used pinking shears for the sides so it wouldn't fray after it was sewn.  It will be folded to 11x9 to make the bag.

The handles are about 2 1/2x 12.  I would recommend going 3x12 if you are not used to making little handles.

For the initial, I used coordinating fabric  and cut a rectangle.  Then I followed the directions for Wonder Under which is great for appliqué.   After the Wonder Under was attached to the fabric, I cut the C freehand.  At this point, I also ironed the C to the tote bag using the directions for the Wonder Under.

I kept it as simple as possible.  Since there was no lining, I folded the top of the bag more than an inch to keep it looking good (plus another 1/4 inch tucked under).  This is pictured to the right.  Then I sewed along the bottom inch as well as a top stitch at the top of the bag to make it appear more finished.

Though I used the Wonder Under, I also sewed near the edge of the C to make sure it would hold up to washing the tote bag.

I turned the bag inside out and sewed the sides.  The bag is basically done now!

To make the handles, first I ironed a crease down the center of each.  Then I turned under the edges just enough to leave room for sewing.  Ironing these are so important!  Then I sewed along the edges.  Attaching the handles was rather easy.  I used the seams that were already visible from where I had folded down the top part of the bag to know where to attach the handles.

To complete the gift, we added a book, and M made her friend a bookmark.  Appropriate, we thought!

M absolutely loved this bag and was proud to tell her friend I made it.  She requested her own for her birthday.  It's not made yet, but when I cut out the fabric for the friend, I cut for M, too...including her own "M."  I just need some time to sew it.  Somehow, it's not a priority.

I have some sewing to do for M before her birthday in October...and the baby's arrival (and E's birthday).  I have a pattern and fabric to make a dress, and I may make a Statue of Liberty costume for M for Halloween.  (Though I like her using her dress up dresses to be a princess, I planted the idea of the SoL a long time ago on purpose.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Plastic Bag Kite (AKA Instant Giggles!!)

Be careful.  Trying this activity will produce Instant Giggles.  Seriously!  

I took two grocery bags and cut a length of string for both bags.  (I gave my older child a bit of a longer string, but both strings were about my arms width or less.)  Tie the handles together with one end of the string.  Give to your two children.  Have them hold the other end.  Run!
Then I showed the children how I to make the bag kite fly by running with it behind me.  Then let the kids run wild!!  My children did not tire of this at all.  
Even after they stopped running, they still took the bag kites down the slide and on the swing.  

A word to the wise: If your children might fight over whose is whose, you might want to use different grocery bags.  Yeah, I learned the hard way.

A second thought:  If you recently planted tiny blueberry bushes (which are literally twigs) and they are not protected by a fence, your child might be so focused on the fun plastic bag kite they may not notice the blueberry twig...and SNAP...when you go to water your blueberry twigs later, you'll find one broken off below the soil.  Yeah.  It's a bit sad.  It's even sadder to know that you already ran over a different bush with the lawnmower's wheel, and there is only one left.  Yep, two out of three bushes-gone!

This is not my original idea, but I have no idea where I saw it whether in a book, magazine, or a friend's blog.  Edited: I suspect it was from Almost Unschoolers, a fabulous and creative blog!  (It may have been a year ago; I'm not sure...)  But this is a must-try activity!  NOW!  Go!  Do it! You will love the giggles!  I think we'll do this once a week all summer.  It won't get old that way.

I'm linking up with ABC and 123...check it out for other great ideas for kids!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Biographies for Children

We have a few Joy Cowley books (linked to review) that we have really enjoyed, and continue to enjoy.  They are fun, colorful, and great for early readers.  Published by Hameray Publishing Group, these books are early readers that have been used and enjoyed by teachers and students for many years.  When Hameray let me know that they have a new biography series out, I was eager to read some of these high interest books!

Underwater EncountersUnderwater Encounters

Hameray sent me three biographies including Anne Frank, Sacagewea, and Barack Obama.  They are, generally speaking, for grades 3-8.  However, Hameray has very specific applications of reading levels, with several per grade (and various labels as well).  Anne Frank is guided level R (proficient reader, grade 4), Sacagewea is guided level N (fluent reader, grade 3), and Barack Obama is guided level P (fluent reader, grade 3).  All of Hameray's books, including the biography series can be used with small (or large) groups.  These books are meant to be high interest for all readers.  Many schools like to use Hameray books for reading, and they have a fabulous reputation.  I was happy to read and review these three biographies.

Having read the 1,400 page book on Sacagewea over the summer of 1999 (maybe into the fall, I'm not sure), I do know a bit about Sacagewea and the Lewis and Clark expedition.  (Oh, how sad was I when I loaned this book to one of my students...who did not return to the school the following school year.  I just hope she read it and passed it on!  That was a good book, though long!)  Though there are other children's biographies available (that I have not read), I thought Sacagewea was a well-written book for an elementary aged child, especially for grades 3 and 4, and even some second graders, and older children would still have interest in it, too.  Though I disagreed with the pronunciation the book gave for Sacagewea's name (I believe most sources use the /j/ sound), the book itself gave great information-and much more than you would find in a third grade history book.

Most people are familiar with Anne Frank-The Diary of a Young Girl, and fourth grade is probably about as early as some parents might want to introduce some of the details of the brutality of World War II to their children.  Homeschoolers may consider this book for a younger age and guided closely by a parent.    Hameray's Anne Frank would be a good way to get an overview of Anne's life and how it was cut short.

Our current President (and past President Ronald Reagan) also has a biography by Hameray.  Known for his powerful and persuasive speeches, it is no surprise that the book Barack Obama includes several quotes.  As with the other books that I have highlighted here, this gives a brief summary of his life.  It tells of his upbringing and education.  It shares why Obama got involved in politics and eventually became president of the United States.  I didn't think this was an unbiased biography, and though that wouldn't be surprising if it were for an adult, this is a book that will be used in classrooms.   As with all the books, vocabulary words are included, with a glossary in the back.  One of the words to describe Obama is "open-minded."  Some may agree, but most conservative people would disagree with that statement.  My much larger disagreement is in the way the vocabulary word "liberal" is defined.  Based on author Adria F. Klein (and Hameray's?) definition in the glossary, liberal means "beliefs that are more open-minded and willing to include all sides."  WHAT?  Gee, can you imagine a child going home from school and asking his parents if they are liberal and being shocked when they say no because that means they are not "willing to listen to other view-points"?  If that is the definition for liberal, how can a fair definition be given for a conservative politician or voter?

I would be very disappointed if my child's school used a book such as this to educate children about the President.  Let me clarify.  I think educating our children about our current President, no matter the political party is just fine, and even beneficial.  However, in a classroom setting, words such as conservative and liberal should be properly defined, and the books a teacher uses to teach should not be politically slanted-to any view.  You may think that this review is a bit unbiased in itself, but when a publishing company asks for a review, it will be an honest one here at Live, Learn Love.  Politics can be taught without such strong bias in any school, and should be!  (As a former teacher, I know how important it is to be neutral in these situations.  I also know that a teacher should be careful of how they present their views-and the books we share with our classes have the capacity to be very influential.  Many children believe if they read it, it must be absolute fact, especially when presented as fact such as in a biography.)

Overall, I would definitely recommend the Sacagewea and Anne Frank biographies by Hameray and would even like to read others in the series.  However, I cannot recommend the Barack Obama book for the reasons stated above.  I hope some changes are made to Barack Obama to make it less biased to uphold the reputation of Hameray.

These biographies were provided for review purposes by Hameray.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Wall Hanging

I love personalized items-note cards, pillows, key chains, wall hangings...and even if I have not made a personalized wall hanging for my son yet, I have made a few as gifts.  Above is the most recent one that I made for a newborn baby of a friend.  (Isn't Felicity a beautiful name?)  It is really basic with just paint for the background instead of scrapbook paper.  (I didn't want to clash with nursery decor.)  For the lettering, I used a brown behind a green print that had brown and pink in it, though you would need to click the photo to enlarge it to see all of that.

You might notice the shiny glare...the Mod Podge I used was glossy.  Next time I will use regular matte finish.  The photograph shows just how imperfect it is...if you have any tips for keeping lettering straight while using Mod Podge, please share!  I'm glad it was appreciated despite the flaws!

If interested in how to make a personalized wall hanging or changing it to a barrette holder, you can click the links.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My BEST Homemade Pizza

For well over a year I have been on a quest to find a homemade pizza that we really can enjoy.

Let's see.  To have good pizza, you must have good crust.  That's basic, common knowledge.  I have also learned that freshly shredded mozzarella cheese is important.  Do not purchase shredded cheese for pizza.  And the third thing for our family is homemade pizza sauce.  I have an easy recipe.  I like to double it, and then freeze it (once cooled) in baggies in the freezer.  An extremely important tip is to put the sauce on very, very lightly!  Many swear that the hot oven and pizza stone are crucial.  They probably are.  Since the oven is SO hot when I use it, I have learned the hard way (repeatedly) to keep my oven light on while cooking the pizza, and to check it after just five minutes.  Seriously, we have eaten too much burned pizza.

In the past, I have shared about grilling pizza.  That was very good.  I also wrote about pizza buns.  Not Derek's favorite, but still good.

When time is short, and it usually is, I use this recipe for my quick pizza dough.  It only takes about half an hour.

I know the best pizza dough should ferment overnight.  (I'm not sure if ferment is the right word, but that's what I'm using.)  I had tried this recipe a couple times.  I know I burned it once, and I think I did something wrong the other time, too, even though it was still good.  Well, this past week I wanted to keep at my pizza attempts.  AND I remembered the day before that I wanted pizza the following day.  It was time to try a brand new recipe!

The winning recipe that Derek and I both really liked comes from 101 Cookbooks.  It is amazingly detailed!  I truly think all those details are what made this recipe a success for me.  It gives instructions for hand-kneading and for using a stand mixer!  There are nine steps total, and wow, are they detailed...perfect for someone like me who really isn't a very capable cook past the basics.  Find the Best Pizza Dough Ever by clicking the link.  You'll have to scroll down a ways to get to the recipe, but it's well worth it.

Some things to know.

  • For this recipe, you need to prepare the dough a day in advance.  
  • It makes a large amount of dough.  The directions tell you specifically how to freeze the dough, too.  The directions suggest you divide it into six equal pieces, but I divided it into four.  We froze two pieces for future use, and used two pieces for our family, and that was perfect for us, with just a snack left over.
  • I have found that 500 degrees is hot enough for our oven and pizza stone.  If it's hotter, I seem to burn the pizza.  
  • I made both pizzas on the stone.  With only taking a bit more than five minutes to cook, it was just fine.
  • We're rather boring.  We prefer cheese and sauce on our pizza.  Nothing else.  (Though ham can be a nice treat on occasion, according to me.  Derek doesn't mind pepperoni and some other toppings.)  When testing recipes, try to be consistent in your toppings (or lack thereof) so you can fairly gauge the pizza dough.
  • We've only made this pizza one time.  It was very good.  It was also sticky.  Though I had learned to "knuckle" pizza dough when I was a teen working in at Roman Pizza, I struggled with using my fists this time.  Next time I will thoroughly cover the backside of the dough in still stuck to my pizza peel a bit, and my pizzas were NOT circular.  Despite the funky shapes, we agreed that this recipe was a keeper.
  • Is all the effort worth it?  Yes, I think so.  I would like to eat pizza every week.  Take out gets pricey, even with coupons.  And really, take out just isn't practical for us to do each week.  This is good pizza, and worth the effort...and though very good, nothing compares with pizza from your favorite pizza joint, though this is close!
If you like thin crusted pizza, I would definitely suggest trying this recipe.  Let me know what you think!  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Eleanor the Hippo Learns to Tell the Truth

About the time my daughter turned four, she started to occasionally lie.  Not about anything big, but a lie is a lie. And lying is wrong.  Though not everyone likes to call it a sin, that is exactly what it is.  In our home we discuss sin as sin, and the worst part is that sin separates us from God...whether my sin or my child's.

book title frontWhen I saw that Andy McGuire had created another book, similar to Remy the Rhino Learns Patience (linked to my review), I was eager to share it with my children.  In this newest story, Eleanor the Hippo Learns to Tell the Truth is just as well-written as Remy, but it's a brand new story!  

In the African Savannah, Eleanor likes to tell stories about all the other animals to make herself look good.  Really, the other animals like to listen to her tales, even though they know they may not all be true.

This all worked to Eleanor's advantage until she made a grave mistake: she told a lie about the king of the jungle!  She told the new zebras, "Our lion is a scaredy-cat..."  Wow!  What a dangerous lie!  Of course, Eleanor had to deal with this, but I won't give it was just too good how her friends found out that she had lied to make herself look good.

I love how Andy McGuire sums it all up at the end.

"The truth had overcome the lies,
Which shouldn't be a big surprise.
Since truth is strong and fibs are weak,
Eventually all lies spring a leak."

The illustrations are dear, as you can see from the cover illustration!  I love the rhyme and the story.  There is no Scripture (or God) reference, but the story is clear that lying is wrong. 

Thank you, Harvest House Publishers for providing this book for review purposes!

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