Monday, June 27, 2011

Faith Object Lesson - FHE

This is an easy object lesson to teach children about faith.  Here's one of my favorite scriptures on faith, found in Alma 32:21 -

"And now as I said concerning faith - faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."

Faith is an action word, it is something that you have to exercise.  This object lesson illustrates the importance of keeping your faith strong.

You will need:

a small bowl
a box of cornstarch

Pour about a cup of cornstarch in the bowl, then slowly add water a little at a time until you have a gloppy mess.  Test the mess by putting a small amount in your hand and then constantly kneading it.  If you have the right consistancy then the cornstarch/water mixture will hold together as a solid.  As soon as you relax your hand the cornstarch will return to the liquid state and run through your fingers back into the bowl.  Add more cornstarch or water, depending on the consistancy of your mess, to get it right.

Now for the lesson.  Explain to your children that faith requires work, in order to maintain it or increase it.  If we are not doing the things that help increase faith, it will stop growing or weaken.  Have a conversation bringing out some of the things we can do to increase our faith, i.e., read the scriptures, pray, sing hymns, fast, attend our religious meetings, serve others around us, keep the commandments, give offerings and thanks.

Allow each child to have a small amount of the mess, after explaining to them that they need to work the mixture with their hands to keep it solid.  (This requires pretty steady work).  Then show them what happens as soon as they stop kneading the cornstarch.  They will think this is pretty neat, and want to repeat the activity a few times.  Help them to see the correlation between your lesson on faith and the object lesson, basically that faith is something that requires constant attention.  Try to make this lesson age appropriate.  For small pre-school age children focus on the simple things they can do to show faith, like pray, go to church, obey their parents, etcetera.  For older children you can add more according to their knowledge base.  For teenagers and young adults, add more scripture references and share some personal stories regarding your own faith. 

Your kitchen may get a little messy with this activity, so be prepared and have fun!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Dryer

Many years ago we lived in a little house in Herring Cove, Nova Scotia. We only had two children at the time, Jason and Justin. I think I was expecting Sarah at the time, because Jason wasn't quite five at the time, and Justin was two. Those boys kept me on my toes, I can tell you!

One day I was busy putting laundry away and I was lost in thought. This is not a good frame of mind to be in when you are in charge of little boys! One must be on orange alert at all times. To quote Mad-Eye Moody - "Constant Vigilance!".

Well, there I was in la la land when Jason came running down the hall crying "I killed him, I killed him!". He seemed pretty sincere. Then I heard a series of loud, steady thuds coming from the corner of our kitchen where the washer and dryer were kept. I moved pretty fast for a pregnant lady. Pulling open the dryer door, I found Justin upside down in the dryer, his little legs and arms braced against the walls of the drum. I pulled the little darling out of the dryer, hugged him, kissed him, cried a little, hollered a lot, and was much more alert for the next little while.

Lessons learned - if your children are quiet they are getting in trouble.

Moral of story - Constant Vigilance!

Inkheart Trilogy - Cornelia Funke

I recently read the Inkheart Trilogy, by Cornelia Funke. My daughter, Sarah, loves these books and has been encouraging me to read them for years. I'm so glad I followed her advice!

The series is set in Northern Italy, and the main characters are Meggie, her father, Mo, who is a bookbinder, her aunt Elinor, her mother, Resa, and Dustfinger, the fire breather. Meggie and her father have been living a vagabond sort of life, traveling for his profession. Her mother has been missing since she was a baby. During their many travels, Mo has been looking for a book - Inkheart. Many years before, Mo discovered that he had a special talent, whatever he reads out loud would come to life. However, if he read something out of a book, something from this world would go back into the book. While reading Inkheart out loud, some of the characters, namely the villain Capricorn, and his henchmen, and the fire breather, Dustfinger, came out of the book, and Mo's wife, Resa disappeared into the book. Mo and Dustfinger have spent years trying to find the book. Mo wants his wife back and Dustfinger wants to go home.

Then trilogy - Inkheart, Inkspell and Inkdeath, follow Mo and Meggie as they fight then villain, Capricorn, find Resa, and with the help of the author, Fenoglio, transport themselves back into the book.

I loved this series. Funke has created a literary world that draws you in. All the characterizations are wonderful, but my favorite is Dustfinger. He's very complex, fascinating character.

This is a YA series, but reads like a great classic novel. Cornelia Funke has done a wonderful job of creating her own world, full of flavor and color. it's really hard to put down!

Sprouting part 2

I would like to adress some concerns about sprouting. My mother is a little freaked out about the possibility of contamination, so I did a little research. There are some websites recommending that people stop sprouting, but that seems to be mostly out of fear. The seed that seems to be of the most concern is alfalfa, so I would suggest that if you have serious concerns,choose another seed to start sprouting with. Some good choices are broccoli, radish, onion, fenugreek, or mustard. Remember to use clean equipment, and drain the seeds really well. It would be a shame to miss out on the benefits of sprouting because of the recent events in Europe, it is a great, easy, inexpensive method of growing your own food and being self sufficient.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I've been going through recipes lately.  I go through recipes all the time, but this was a specific category.  We're planning some summer camping, and I've been reviewing and looking at old and new recipes for outdoor cooking.  Yum - O!  Nothing tastes better than campfire food! 

This is an old scouting recipe that dresses up the basic s'more. 

You'll need:

a campfire with nice coals for roasting
a toasting fork
graham crackers
chocolate or nutella

Place the marshmallows on the toasting fork, and also add a caramel on the end of the fork.  When the marshmallow is done, slide it off the fork, enveloping the melted caramel inside the marshmallow.  Stick in between two graham crackers, with chocolate in the middle as well.  Sometimes I like to use nutella, it's already melty.  (You could use any chocolate, but I like plain old Dairy Milk.  Other variations include Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Caramilk bars or any of those bags of mini chocolates that are so popular right now.  York peppermint patties are good, too.  If you can find those cookies that are made of marshmallows rolled in coconut, those are a good substitute for plain marshmallows.)  The melted caramel inside the marshmallow really kicks the s'more up a notch.  Give it a try over the campfire this summer, you may never go back! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reducing Waste - Swiffer Sweepers

To continue in my series of posts on reducing waste, I'd like to talk about my little Swiffer Sweeper.  Despite my usual aversion to disposable products, I did succumb and buy a sweeper a few years ago.  The power of advertising, I guess.  I liked that it did a quick job of mopping the floor, although not as thorough as getting down on your hands and knees with a bucket of soapy water, of course.  I got through the first box of disposable cloths that go with the sweeper, and balked at buying replacements.  Cheapness reigns supreme!  I was also a little turned off by the waste of throwing away those cloths.  You have to understand, I have five kids, so washing the floor isn't always a weekly chore.  Sometimes it's daily, especially if someone drips something sweet and sticky across the floor.  (Names will not be mentioned.)

My little sweeper sat in a corner of the broom closet feeling abandoned and forlorn for quite a while, while I returned to my previous method of washing the floor.  It haunted me, though, this impulse buy of mine.  What to do with it, I wondered?  There must be some way to adapt the sweeper in a more economical, less wasteful way. 

One day as I was going through a drawer full of cleaning cloths, I had a lightbulb moment.  I picked up a j-cloth, and thought, this looks a lot like those throwaway cloths!  I grabbed my old sweeper and attached the j-cloth (folded in half), and it worked like a charm.  I then threw the j-cloth in the laundry, and washed it - ta da!  Re-usable sweeper cloths!  Since then I have used the sweeper a lot more for a quick mop through the kitchen, and I'm doing it guilt free with no waste. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Teaching children about money - FHE

Many years ago, when our older children were much younger, we realized that they didn't really have a good concept of money.  Particularly, about our household finances.  We realized that they thought money might just come out of the wall we stick that card in.  And that maybe there was an unlimited supply.  Hmmmm, what to do?  My husband came up with a great Family Home Evening lesson to deal with this issue.  He grabbed a big pile of Monopoly money, a piece of paper, and a pencil.  Then, once the children were gathered around the table, he put a rough approximation of our monthly income in the middle of the table and told the kids that's how much money we had to spend every month.  Boy #2 shouted out "We're rich!"  (Anything over $20 impresses a seven year old).  Scott then explained that it wasn't that simple, took paper and pencil and started writing down our monthly expenses.  First came taxes and tithing, of course, then mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, etcetera.  At the end of the lesson, two little boys had very serious faces.  Boy #1 said, "I'm never going to ask you for anything ever again."  This, of course, was not exactly the message we were trying to send, so we patiently explained that the main purpose of the lesson was to explain that families have budgets, and that money doesn't grow on trees, darnit!  Playing budget with your kids is a great lesson in money management, there are great board games out there, like PayDay, that are a fun way to teach these principles as well.  As they get older and can make their own money, it's important to teach them principles of money management by helping them set goals and develop budgets of their own. It's also a great chance to teach them to be charitable as well. 

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!  We had a great weekend with my husband.  I took him out to dinner on Friday night (ribs - yum!), made him a special breakfast on Saturday morning, and barbecued steaks on the grill Sunday night!  As you can tell, it's all about the food in our house. 

My husband is a wonderful man, and I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to him for being such a wonderful example to me and our children.  He's patient, kind, wise, hardworking, and intelligent.  And lots of fun!  I married the best man I know, and I'm ever so thankful! 

So, once again, thanks to the wonderful man who makes our lives so wonderful!

Review - The new X-men Movie!!

Last Friday night Scott and I escaped to the local movie theatre to watch the new X-Men Origins First Class movie!  Just fyi, my husband is a big fan of comic books, from the time he was a little snapper.  So, there is a knowledge base there, he knows the background information.  I have become a fan of the superhero genre since our marriage.  Having four boys has only helped this along.  Needless to say, there were some hopes and expectations in this new movie.

A brief recap of the movie - the characters of Magneto and Professor X are visited as children, both with very different backgrounds.  Magneto survived the death camps of WWII, and Professor X lived a life of privilege, also rescuing a young mutant known as Mystique.  Flash forward a few years later, and the two come together against a mutual foe during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  They gather together a group of young mutants to defeat their enemy, also a fellow mutant. 

The casting of Michael Fassbender as Magneto and James MacAvoy as Professor X was great!  Michael Fassbender is very captivating as the tortured anti-hero, and I really saw his point of view.  If I had been in his place, I would have been hard pressed not to make the same decisions.  James MacAvoy gave a wonderful performance as Professor X, even as a young man he gave the impression of authority and a strong moral centre.  The other young actors were equally good as the side kicks, with great back stories and training scenes.  Kevin Bacon was horribly good as the villain.  I think this movie was a great retooling of a franchise.  It was very clean, good storytelling, and felt more like a cold ward spy thriller with people who just happened to have super powers.  The costume design was very fun, I loved all the sixties style fashion. 

For parents with younger children, I know they're all going to want to see this very badly, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Some of the themes are very intense, in particular the ones dealing with retribution and vengeance.  There is some sensuality, and one scene in which there is foul language.  It also is very violent.  I know it's a superhero movie, but it's not for children. 

I enjoyed the ethical struggle between Professor X and Magneto, despite their strong feeling of brotherhood to one another.  This movie really leans towards the side of Magneto, and helps you to understand both he and Mystique, making them  much more interesting as villains. 

I really liked this movie a lot, and I'm looking forward to future installments in this line.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grow your own sprouts

Here's the thing, sprouts at the grocery store are expensive and not exactly at their freshest.  Sprouts grown at home are still growing when you throw them on a sandwich or salad, and considerably less expensive.  Sprouting is very easy to do, and a great way to garden in the winter or if you are an urban dweller.  Nutritionally,sprouts are packed with vitamins, minerals and trace elements.  And they are yummy!

You will need a mason jar, a piece of screen or cheese cloth, and a rubber band or ring for the mason jar.  Plus seeds, of course.  My favorite sprouting seeds at the moment are alfalfa and broccoli.  I have amaranth seeds, which I'm going to try out later this week.  You can purchase sprouting seeds at most health food stores.

Add one or two tablespoons of seeds to your jar, screw on the cheesecloth and lid, and rinse and drain with tap water.  Then fill the jar with water, and let the seeds soak either over night or for the number of hours recommended on the package.  For example, I soak alfalfa seeds over night, but broccoli seeds only need to be soaked for two hours.  Once you have soaked your seeds, drain and rinse them, and then drain them really well.  Then tip the jar in a bowl so they can drain a little more if necessary, and put them in a dark spot.  Like your pantry or cupboard. 

Every day take your sprouts out and give them a rinse and drain.  Do this a couple of times a day.  In three days your sprouts will have grown about as much as you want them to.  Take them out for a last rinse and drain, and then leave them on a sunny windowsill or countertop.  In a few hours they will be bursting with green color, and ready to eat!  Keep them tightly covered in the refrigerator, and use within a couple of days.

Here's the breakdown, a container of sprouts at our grocery store costs $4-5 dollars.  I bought a big bag of alfalfa seeds for $7, and use one tablespoon at a time, it should last me for months.  Everything else I already had laying around.  Very cost effective, very good for you, and very tasty!

This is a great gardening project for beginners and for children as well.  Try sprouting, there's lots of seeds to choose from - alfalfa, mustard, broccoli, radish, sunflower, wheat, you name it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mud Cookies

Time for a retro trip back to 1976.  Or anytime in the seventies and eighties.  This was a real popular cookie when I was a little girl.  I thought I'd post it because it's almost summertime, and not everyone wants to turn on the oven during the hotter days.  That's right, a no bake cookie. 

I got this recipe from The Dalhousie University Nursing Class of 2000 Cookbook.  That's a really snappy name for a cookbook, hey?  This cookbook was compiled by my sister-in-law Kerri's graduating class.  I love community cookbooks because when you want to find a recipe for funeral potatoes, or mud cookies, or green bean casserole, or any jello salad, these are the books to turn to. 

Anyhow, back to the recipe.  You'll need a big heavy bottomed pot, and some cookie sheets lined with greased wax paper or parchment paper.  Also, a large mixing bowl. 

In the pot, put 2 cups white sugar, 1/2 cup shortening (or margarine or butter), 1/2 cup milk, 4 tablespoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil.  In the large bowl put three cups rolled oats and 1 cup coconut.  Pour cooked mixture in and stir well.  Drop from teaspoon onto waxed paper.  Refrigerate.

That's it, easy peasy lemon squeezy.  This is a pretty flexible recipe, if you want to throw in some extra stuff, go right ahead.  For example, today I threw in some leftover chocolate chips and 1/3 of a bag of mini marshmallows that got stuck together.  Sometimes I throw in some nuts, or wheat germ, or graham cracker crumbs.  My mother-in-law likes to add raisins.  (My husband does not like raisins in his mud cookies.)  Anyway, this is an easy cookie to throw together on a hot summer day.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reducing Waste - Paper Towel

My apologies for being away for a while, I've been having trouble with Blogger.  I can't seem to reply to comments, or post comments on other blogs.  I'm also having some problems uploading photographs.  I'm working on it, so once again, sorry I haven't been around!

I'd like to do a little series of posts on the next few Tuesdays (tip day!) on reducing waste in the household.  These things affect a few areas- economic, environmental, and spiritual. 

Over the years I have noticed that those of us primarily in charge of the homemaking side of our families are being constantly targeted by marketers with a dizzying array of cleaning supplies.  Stuff to clean windows, stoves, floors, laundry, bathrooms, kitchens, you name it, there are dozens of products out there.  If you believed that all these things were absolutely necessary to keep a clean house, you could spend a small fortune of your monthly budget on cleaning supplies.

However, a lot of these things are wasteful, harmful and unnecessary.  The first item I'd like to discuss is paper towel.  I very rarely buy paper towel.  I find it really expensive, and my kids yank off great reams of it to wipe up a little spill.  It's also a disposable product.  Let's just make this clear right now, because I feel pretty strongly about it.  If you are buying a single use item (something that you use once and then toss) you are throwing away your hard earned money.  There are some things that you have to buy that are single use, like garbage bags.  That's just the way it is.  The trick is to try to eliminate as many single use items as you can.  Paper towel is one of those things. 

So, what do I use instead of paper towel?  Any old face cloth, dish towel, dish cloth, or old towel that has seen better days.  I rip up old towels to a size I like for cleaning.  I also (back in the baby days) used old flannel diapers or receiving blankets when they were no longer serviceable.  Old t-shirts are good too, there are endless possibilites for the rag bag.  Then you just toss them in the laundry hamper and re-use, re-use, re-use!  This is actually the triple threat of reducing, reusing and recycling.  Yay!  Add up how much you'd spend on paper towel in a year, and compare it with spending nothing on rags.  Money in your pocket is a good thing, my friends.  You're saving trees and reducing garbage in the landfills, and are exercising good principles of thrift, stewardship and provident living. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Favorite Banana Blueberry Muffins

This recipe comes from a great little cookbook compiled by the Somerset Ward in Calgary, Alberta.  It's called Somerset Select - Favorite Recipes from Somerset Ward Relief Society.

The recipe was submitted by Lauren Kruger.

I have made this recipe three times in the last two weeks.  It's a great way to use up those last couple of bananas that nobody wants to eat anymore.

1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup yoghurt or sour cream
1 cup mashed bananas (2 large)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with paper, or grease.  Cream butter until light.  Beat in sugar gradually and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla.

Mix bananas and yoghurt together.  Sift flour with baking soda and salt.  Add ingredients alternately to the butter mixture beginning and ending with flour.  Toss blueberries with two tablespoons additional flour.  Stir into the mixture trying to to mush beries too much.  Pour into tins.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until done.  Yum!

Garden Update

 Stuff is starting to poke up in my garden.  Little tiny carrots and beets, cucumber and bean plants, ruffly potato leaves, and lots of chard, lettuce and spinach.  It always amazes me, the miracle of putting a tiny seed in the ground and a week or two later little plants sticking their leaves through the ground.  (This is not something I have grown from seed, it's a peppermint plant.)
What is also very exciting is seeing little blossom heads forming on my raspberry plants.  Mmmm, raspberries!  I can't wait for the end of June and early July, we'll have a bumper crop with any luck this year. 

U2 Concert Edmonton Alberta June 1

 A long time ago (18 months) in a faraway land (Alberta) a good looking fella bought his wife tickets to the U2 concert.  Then Bono needed back surgery, the concert was postponed, and the pair kind of forgot all about the concert for quite some time. 
The new concert, which had previously been scheduled on a weekend, was changed to a Wednesday night.  In June.  Which means chaos.  Hence, Jen sans makeup, just glad to be at the show.  Five kids at home on a school night who just had a supper of frozen perogies, with no parents around to tell them to get their pj's on and get to bed, it's a school night, don't you know?

 Here's a crowd shot, the show was sold out.  These photos are taken from an iphone, sorry for the quality.
And here's the claw.  Truly this was the best concert I've been to as far as the technical side goes.  It was an amazing light show, and the jumbotron screen was amazing, it lowered down and got all big and lacy looking.  The opening act was a band called The Fray, it wasn't really my thing.  I only know a couple of their songs, and the lead singer was the kind that closes his eyes while he's emoting.  Also not my thing.

Then there was a long break.  I decided to go to the ladies room before the band took the stage.  I walked into the foyer into a huge wall of people, then remembered how much I don't like to be touched.  Too late!  There were strangers pressing up around me from every side.  After half an hour of wiggling through the crowd to get to the bathroom, I managed to get back to our seats.  Scott then went to the men's room and was back in a flash.  Life really isn't fair for the fair sex, is it?

Finally, it was time for the show to start.  The sound system blasted Major Tom by David Bowie, and then the boys took the stage.  They strolled, lets just say.  No hurry, just moseyed on to the stage.  No pyrotechnics, no being lifted or lowered, no lights flashing, they just ambled out.  Very cool.  Nothing to prove. 

Bono was amazing, his voice is so strong!  The Edge was supercool too, it was so neat hearing all those guitar solos live.  I wish my sister could have seen Larry, the drummer, she kind of had a little crush on him in High School.  And Adam was keeping it all going with the bass.  They played some new stuff, and a lot of my old favorites.  The stage was set up so they could roam all over it, supposedly 360 degrees, but because of the set up of the stadium it wasn't really 360 degrees.  There was lots of political stuff in the concert, with messages on the jumbotron from Bishop Desmond Tutu and the recently released from house arrest President of Burma.  All in all, this was a great night, the weather was practically perfect (there was a small shower during Vertigo), and I'm so glad I finally, after all these years, got to see U2 live!