Saturday, April 30, 2011

Soft Yet Crispy Sugar Cookies

I just made some of the YUMMIEST sugar cookies EVER! I have always wondered how to get cookies soft like you buy at the bakery. I read tonight in my cook book these tips for soft cookies: choose a recipe with little butter and a lot of liquid ingredients, substitute brown sugar for part of the sugar requirement, and add an egg. So, while trying to feed Mark's sugar crave, this is the recipe (partially organic!) I used:

1 stick of organic butter, softened
1/2 cup of shortening (I think a good organic substitute would be organic coconut oil, but I haven't looked into it to see)
1 cup of organic sugar
1 cup of organic brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
5 organic egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4-1/2 organic fat free milk

Cream together shortening and butter. Add sugars and mix well. Add baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. Blend in egg yolks and then remaining ingredients. Use a large tablespoon to drop cookies onto parchment paper (the key to baking good cookies is parchment paper!!!) Bake at 300 for 12 minutes. Remove and allow to set on pan for 3-5 minutes. Move to cooling rack. These were so yummy!! Hopefully next time I make them will be with all organic ingredients!!!


If you know anything about me, then you know that I love Splenda. In fact, this year at our women's annual Christmas dinner at church all the ladies made sure to get to the splenda packs before I did!! But I've heard before that splenda is no good for a person. And until I read this article, I have pretty much been in denial!

We also watched Jamie Oliver: Food Revolution this week. This was an episode where he showed how "bargain meat" is processed. The reason ground beef is so cheap is because of what it is. It's all the nasty leftover meat that no one wants to eat. But yet, they add some chemicals such as ammonia with water (I clean dog urine out of my carpet with ammonia!!!!) and then grind it up and sell it.

Well, after discussing it with Mark and the kids, we decided that it's time for a change. I am very interested in learning more about how we process our food. And after reading, probably one too many articles, we have decided that organic is the way to go. Organic foods are the closest you can get to natural, no chemicals, no food coloring, etc. Also, for me that means no more Diet Dr Pepper or high-fructose-corn syrup-filled coffee creamer. These are staples in my my be a tough change!!! When I cleaned out the pantry, we donated everything that was unopened. To minimize waste, anything that was already opened and that we go through quickly we will use. The first organic make was inspired by my friend, Sarah. We made creamy yogurt strawberry popsicles.

YUM!!! And that isn't just any ordinary jar of honey (the only food that never goes bad), it's a fresh jar straight from the bees kept on Mark's grandpa's ranch!

The recipe I used I found here:
1 cup of organic strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup of organic yogurt (I used vanilla, low-fat)
2 tablespoons of honey (or organic maple syrup)
puree the strawberries with the honey, and then fold the strawberry mixture into the yogurt

Pour them into your popsicle holders, freeze and enjoy!!!!

They turned out quite yummy!!! While I made them, the kids made costumes out of paper sacks and shoe boxes. They called themselves 'Recycle Robots'!!! They keep me laughing!
Recycle Robots!

This week Abi has been learning about the butterfly lifecycle in science. She takes her caterpillars, Abi jr, Austin jr, and Keetos every where she goes!! The caterpillars are in the process of making their chrysalis, I'll post a picture after they have finished. To wrap up the week on butterflies, Abi and I made these special treats for her friends, the little sisters of Austin's baseball team. 

Supplies needed to make the butterfly body: clothespins, assorted colors of acrylic paint, glitter, small googly eyes, pipe cleaners, small snack ziplock baggies, and trailmix

Paint one side of the clip and sprinkle with glitter

Glue on two tiny googly eyes, fill the snack size ziplock bags with trailmix, and clip on a pipe cleaner for the antennae
This magazine also has lots of cool activities that the kids can do on their own!

On Monday, the kids and I are having a picnic with Aunt Marie and Aunt Lala. We will be making food art to make our lunch. One of our 'art' activities will be making another craft out of this magazine: Sweet Sushi, made from pound cake, cake frosting, and assorted candies. I'll post pictures from that activity too!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Life in the Brewer Bungalow

Ok, technically we don't live in a bungalow...but it is a fun word to say, right? Even though the local school district still has several weeks to go before summer vacation begins for them, here at our 'school' we are finishing up most of our books. Austin will complete his BJU Math 4 book this week, and had his last A&P class last week (he scored 112% on his final- the 12 point bonus was to label a blank body diagram- and his teacher gave him a certificate of completion). He is over half way done with his Easy Grammar 4 book, which he started after the Christmas break. We also made a trip to Barnes and Noble last week and both Austin and Abi got to pick out new books. Austin is into reading books about baseball, fiction of course. Abi is continuing to read the Junie B. Jones series, she's currently reading book 3. Austin is also close to completing his Heritage Studies 4 book. I gave Austin the 4th grade reading and math and the 5th grade science test from the 2008-2009 released TAKS test just to gage how he is doing. My biggest fear in homeschooling is that Austin and Abi will fall behind in their work. Austin technically should be in the 3ed grade this year; so, if he didn't do so well on the 4th grade tests, it would not worry me too much. He completely missed a couple questions on the science test because he said he didn't see them. I counted them wrong, just like they would have done on the real test. But my smart boy still scored a 90% on all three tests!! This week I am going to give him the writing portion to see how he does.  

Abi is half-way through her BJU Math 2, Easy Grammar 2, and Horizons Reading and Phonics 2 books. Technically, Abi should be in first grade, and since she just started these books after the Christmas break, I'm okay with her not completing them before the summer break. Both Austin and Abi will continue to do some work through the summer, it just will not be as much as we do now. Abi has completed her BJU's Science 1 and Heritage Studies 1 books, although I'll admit that they weren't very challenging for her. So, to kind of add to her Science curriculum, I ordered her a butterfly bungalow that comes with a certificate to order your three live caterpillars. had a great price on it (a whopping $10), and I ordered one of Austin's Christmas presents at the same time to get free shipping! Abi has been wanting a butterfly habitat for a while now, which she constantly reminds me of every time she sees a commercial advertising them!! She even names her caterpillars!
The bungalow comes in this box. The caterpillars only come after you use your included certificate to either order them online or send through snail-mail. 

We've only had them a couple of days, and already you can tell that they are growing! Not sure which one this is, Abi jr, Austin jr, or Keetos, but Abi knows the difference between them. At least she claims to! 

She takes them where ever she goes!

Even on our day off, the TV stays off most of the day. So, the kids are forced to explore and entertain themselves. Today, they practiced drumming on pots and pans. That explains my huge headache at the end of the day! But they sure did have fun!
 Abi and her drums

 Austin was drumming so hard that he split on of the wooden spoons right down the middle of the spoon!!

Even on days off the kid-o's are encouraged to take some time to read. Austin doesn't need much encouraging, but Abi sometimes requires bribing!!!! She protests until she starts reading, and then she becomes so involved with the story that she giggles out loud when she's reading. That is music to a Mommy's heart! One rule is that they can read where ever they want, as long as they read!
 I'm still trying to figure out how stretching and reading fit together, but Abi makes it work!

Austin snuggled on the couch

Easter Part II

Since we attended the Easter service at church on Saturday evening instead of Sunday, Mark and I were able to sleep in a little. Then we headed to a local park to meet with some of our small group members and with the Bender/Domino group for a picnic and Easter egg hunt. Our group always try to plan a get together for Christmas and Easter that we can include the kids in...and eat!! This year is the first year that we met at a park. It was actually better, I think, because there was really no clean up and the dads took the kids on a search for treasure through the hiking trails in the park using the geocache option on their phone. The kids were SO excited!!! While they did that, moms hid the eggs and chatted! They didn't have enough time to find the treasure before it was time to hunt eggs, but I have a feeling this won't be the last time we hunt treasure!!!

Abi AFTER she ate, that's why she's smiling!! 

Pacey warning me not to eyeball her cookie!

 Luke and Alicia scarfing down their food so they can go play

Kathryn playing it cool

Mark, super cool!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011, Part I with a Little Extra Thrown In!

This week I went out to do a little shopping one night, and when I got home, Abi had lost a front tooth!! When the kids found out the truth about Santa Clause, they drew their own conclusions about the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. So, Abi had thrown her tooth into the garbage after she ripped it out!!!

Snaggle Tooth!

The shopping I did this week was to put together a family Easter basket to be given away after the Easter egg hunt at church. I had a good time putting everything together!

Lots of fun goodies!!!

This morning we made Easter eggs the good old fashioned way!! This is the first time the kids have really  ever dyed eggs. Honestly, I don't like to put in the work to dye the eggs.

Vinegar stinks! 

 The finished product

On the way to the Easter service this afternoon, we stopped by a nearby "lake" to take some pictures of the kid-o's. I was so happy to see how the pictures turned out!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That...

It has been a very random last couple of weeks. First, Austin's spring season of baseball FINALLY started!! Another team mom caught some awesome snap shots of all the boys on the team, but I've posted my favorites ones of my boy!

Baseball ready! 

Cool shot of the ball going right into his glove! 

Good at bat!

Next, it's been a couple of weeks since Spring Break. When the kids finish their school work before 2:30 they still are not allowed to turn on the TV. So, they have become great at finding things to entertain themselves. Just today, they practiced and put on a rock concert for me that included a song called "Give Us Candy and Sweets"! I'm not sure what this masterpiece is exactly, but it must be a masterpiece because they used UT playing cards to build it! 

I don't know about your kids, but mine go through fruit as if it were the only food group! This is one of their favorite snacks. I thought I would share it, just in time for summer.
 Sliced strawberries (also sliced bananas) , frozen fat-free whipped cream, sugar-free chocolate syrup, with cherries on top

In one of my sewing frenzies, I scrambled for something to make! I have so much fabric that needs to be made into something!! So, I put some together to make Abi a ruffled summer top. Don't be disappointed, but it lays half finished on my sewing table. I will show you the fabrics it will be made of, and post a picture later.
I love the blues and pinks together.

Our garden is growing nicely. We planted a few more jiffy pots that are blooming beautifully as well. This is a picture of one of our pumpkin plants. We are watching it grow closely. In fact, Austin will be putting together a PowerPoint presentation this week to show the life cycle of a pumpkin. Abi will also be journaling her observations as well as doing a worksheet that labels the parts of the pumpkin plant. After seeing a flower bloom on our plant, we googled to learn some info about our new beauty. There are male and female flowers that flower on the pumpkin plant. The flowers bloom early in the day, at dawn. They only are opened for about 4 hours and then they close forever. The female bud forms into a pumpkin. Austin, Abi, and I found this to be very neat!
Our first bloom. 

Today we had a park day, so we didn't have much school "work". The kid-o's broke out their aprons, chef hats, and the easy bake oven. They wanted to "bake Daddy a sweet treat for working so hard for our family!" It melts my heart when they are thoughtful of others...not that they always are, they are kids...So, you can understand why I cherish the times that they work together to do something for someone else!
 They read and followed all of the instructions for themselves, with no help from me

 They had cinnamon pretzels, sugar cookies, and cupcakes waiting for Mark when he got home today.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Two for Two

Projects, projects! I have had two projects in the last two days. One small, one bigger. I love projects!! They make me feel useful.So, without further they are!

Project #1: Small lanterns
I bought two small size tea light candle lanterns for the front yard out of the dollar bin at Target a couple years ago. You can imagine what the weather had done to them!

 A bit rusty, huh?

Nothing a can of spray paint can't fix!!

Project #2: Raised Garden Bed
I was VERY nervous about this one. I found plans on Ana, my new favorite website, but they look kind of hard to do. Especially, if your forte is NOT handyman!!! I figured if I can sew something than I can build something. I will not be quiting my day job though!


 A barren waste land, well kind of...

 Fresh veggies will be here before ya know it!!!!

My newest and most favorite hobby, I'm taking on a green thumb!!!

Having the vegetable garden done brings me one step closer to being finished making over the backyard. It's been a long process, but I'm sure it will be worth it in the end!!!