Monday, August 30, 2010

12 Cookies of Christmas Baking Challenge

Here are the finalized (and revised) details of the 12 Cookies of Christmas Baking Challenge. This is where the button will bring you if/when you post it on your blog.

To participate, please add yourself to the linky below (all the way below the post) with your post about the challenge and what level/goal you are setting for yourself. Be sure to steal my picture above to put on your blog post. And also add the button to your blog so we can get more participants! The more the merrier!

The challenge will run from December 1-December 31st, 2010. The challenge is to bake a variety of types of Christmas cookies, choosing from the categories listed. You may join at the "Baker" level, or the "Pastry Chef" level.

Baker Level: 6 varieties of cookies, 1/2 (3 varieties) that you have never baked before.
Pastry Chef Level: 12 varieties of cookies, 1/2 ( 6 varieties) that you have never baked before.

Here are the Christmas Cookie Categories!

1. Classic
(1 freebie that doesn't fit the other categories)
2. Chocolate or fudgy based cookies
3. Spicy cookies
4. Bar Cookies
5. Red and Green Cookies
6. Minty Cookies
7.Cookies with a Story
(an heirloom recipe, or a cookies that are a tradition in another country)
8. Cut-Out Cookies
9. Difficult to make cookies
(involves several steps, mixes, processes, or complicated decorations)
10. Made by kids
(you only assist in dangerous steps, no cracking the eggs!)
11. Fruity cookies
12. No bake cookies

Everyone completing their goal will be entered into a drawing for a giveaway. Separate giveaway for Baker and Pastry Chef level participants.
Tune in December 1st for information on how to post your blogs detailing (recipes, photos) your creations for the Challenge. Your blog posts MUST be linked/posted by midnight on New Year's Eve in order to count for your entry for the giveaway.
Each week will have a different set of themes for cookies (taken from the list). Extra entries if your cookies for the week match the pre-picked themes.
This means that I will be completing the Pastry Chef level..baking all the categories.
Of course, as host, I will not be a part of the giveaway, but I will enjoy seeing all the cookies you guys come up with!

And, I'm afraid I would just embarrass everyone with my cookie awesomeness if I were just a regular participant...I mean, I DID make THESE cookies one year. *yawn* ha ha! Don't hate, it's all in fun!

Now it's time to start perusing recipes and gathering those one of kind ingredients!
If you have a website for resources you would like to share, please post it in the comments (not the linky) section of this post.
Happy Baking!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

12 Cookies of Christmas Baking Challenge

I just had the best brainstorm tonight! I was looking over my Christmas cookie magazine, where I get most of my ideas for Christmas cookies, and decided that I need to start collecting ingredients NOW for the unusual and complicated recipes I want to try out this year. That way it doesn't all of a sudden get to be December and I cop out and make the old standbys for lack of unique ingredients. This gave me the idea to host a cookie challenge/link up. Hopefully by the time December gets here and I can figure out how to actually do a linky, ha.

I want to try out some new, challenging, and unique cookies this year for my baked gifts. I like switch it up a little each year, plus you don't get burned out baking the same thing over and over. My idea is for each participant to try 12 different recipes of cookies this Christmas season. We will come up with 12 categories and then when you complete one of the categories of recipes, you post your photos/results/recipes to the linky each week.

The Challenge Details:
Bake 12 different recipes of cookies this December between December 1st and December 31st. We will make it a little easier by giving you the actual holidays to bake as well. :)
When you bake a new recipe, post it on our central linky page, with your name and the title of your recipe. A new linky page will go up each week with some weekly themes. If your cookies for the week match the themes picked for that week, you will get extra entries into the giveaway.
The prize giveaway is to be determined at a later time. But will be announced prior to the challenge kick-off.
At least half (6) of your recipes should be cookies you have NEVER baked before!

I have a few ideas already for categories, but coming up with 12 might be harder than I think. Here are my ideas so far:

1. Classic (1 freebie that doesn't fit the other categories)
2. Chocolate based cookies
3. Spicy cookies
4. Bar Cookies
5. Red and Green Cookies
6. Minty Cookies
7. Chippy Cookies (using some kind of baking chips)
8. Cut-Out Cookies
9. Difficult to make cookies (involves several steps, mixes, processes, or difficult decorations)

Help me pick the other categories by leaving suggestions please!

I want to do a prize drawing for everyone who completes the challenge as well. More details to come! It's time to start thinking about Christmas everyone! Only 118 days to go!

Leave a comment if you want to participate and start looking over your recipes. Start collecting those oddball ingredients now!

I also am in the process of creating a blog button for the challenge...but it is still early yet. I thought I was successful with it but it didn't take you to the correct place, ha ha. That will come soon I promise! :)

Something New Saturday

Hearty grains (trader joes cous cous and various other grains) with ground beef and marinated beans. Too much vinegar for the kids haha. They are having mac n cheese with ground beed mixed in.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Day in the Life

I said I wasn't participating in "day in the life" week on the blog hop, but the idea truly fascinated me. So...I decided to do it today. No pre-planning or glorifying what we did. Nothing was changed... :)

I am pretty embarrassed to say that we usually don't get up until 8 or later. My husband doesn't go to work until 10am, so the kids are usually the first ones up. I just can't survive...well..I don't do well with very little sleep.
At around 8am I heard the kids up. I rebelled and rolled back over since there were no fire alarms going off. ha.
When I did get up at 8:30 and walk into the living room, they were playing Little Big Planet. Together. Success! I think this was a great homeschool lesson on life, getting along, and the game itself requires teamwork and pretty complicated problem solving skills. Yeah, I planned their morning to be so stimulating!

(Ideal schedule insert: My ideal is to get my morning Bible/quiet time done first thing before hitting the floor, hopefully that will improve with the Good Morning Girls project. Also, one day earlier in the week all three of us did a workout video before starting school work. Well, I did it and they popped in and out for parts that were age appropriate. That is my ideal start to the day and one we hope to improve on!)

8:45: Put eggs on to boil for second breakfast.

And get out vitamins for the day. A big thing for us.

8:50: we all sat down for first course breakfast of cereal and milk. I perused my Operation Christmas Child materials that came in the mail earlier this week. It's almost time!

While I waited for the eggs to be ready, I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher.

And the kids watched Phineas and Ferb while I....

prepared the eggs. Katie gets two "deviled" and Noah gets two plain yolks. I eat deviled with Katie.

At 9:40 I put a load of clothes in to wash and go to print out the spelling tests. When I come back the kids do some weight lifting to get their brains moving for the day.

10:00 we finally begin "official" school for the day. First thing, character education and prayer. We have a Bible verse that goes along with this also.

Then poetry memorization time. They are doing great learning Wynken Blynken and Nod, after we put it to the tune of a made up song!

Daily Oral Language. This is a little book I got from someone for's Abeka. It basically just has you repeating "correctly written and phrased" sentences to hear them said correctly. Older aged kids correct sentences on paper. More or less I just like how it makes my kids listen in detail to a long sentence that I have said and repeat it back to me. Works their listening and future note taking skills I think.

10:25: Math review. This was short today. We usually test on what we learned for the week but due to vacation last week and learning some pretty big things this week, we just did more review. We will add it to what we learn next week for testing.

Then time for a little spelling cram work right before testing today.

At 10:30, dad calls to talk to the kids.

Time for read alouds from the library! 10:50am

11:05am, snack time...yogurt and cookies.
While they snack I change out the laundry and fold and put away towels.
Gather up more laundry and cringe at the messes around the house.

Then it's time for spelling and phonics tests. 11:20am

They take turns doing their reading books individually while I test the other one.

12:07 and we're finished with sit down school for the day. Just a two hour day...easy on Fridays...tests, review, etc. Most days take longer with phonics lessons, Math dvd lessons, etc.
I start regrouping for the next week and tackle this mess of a rolling cart.

While I am working on organizing next week's lessons and cleaning off the cart, the kids work on art. We studied about "forms" as in things that are not flat in art. They made 3D paper horses earlier in the week. Today I let them go to the table and use the construction paper, scissors, and tape to just create. They work on it for a while, then Noah decides to get up and play Wii baseball.


Katie, however, continues to work on her project. She makes forms of me and Corey though she does point out that they really art just flat.
I want to be more prepared for next week than I was this week, so I go to print out the spelling activities from spelling city. While I am at the computer I read a few blogs, and send some emails about the good morning girls group I am joining/creating for the fall.

I come back and finish cleaning off the cart. You might not see a difference, but I sure do! ha!
Thanks for the three drawer organizer Karen!

Can you believe I didn't take a photo of lunch??
1:37 finished prep for next week and trade out laundry, then make lunch.
During lunch I create a template for our new menu plans. Noah is very pleased.

He loves knowing what we are going to have for dinner. I think this has lifted a great big worry off his shoulders! ha!
No photos between lunch and dinner

2:00: eat lunch, check a few blogs, create template

2:40: put away towels the kids folded after lunch. HA! Mentally congratulate myself on not refolding them before putting them in the closet, then smile when I have to refold them before they will fit in the closet. ha ha.

The rest of the afternoon the kids play together, and play educational games on the computer. I intend to take a short nap but it does not happen. I decide to start a section in my school organizer binder for keeping a list of wanted supplies for next school year. Then I decide to look up prices online, then I get distracted looking at history curriculum (something I have failed in teaching so far, but didn't want to start too early....looking at next year), then get into a conversation on facebook with a friend on chat about her history curriculum.

No major meltdowns or fights, the kids play well together.

4:20: finished wild tangent.

4:40: played War with Noah

5:05: finished full game of War with Noah. Katie was playing in her room. Straightened up living room, searched for phone charger as phone is about to die. Almost literally die myself from the mortifying sight of what lives under our couch cushions! EEk...left that for another day!

5:25: put pizza dough out on counter to warm to room temperature. Sweep floors, clean toilets and sinks and mirrors in the bathrooms while the kids do a quick room blitz cleaning.

5:50pm: make pizzas, put in oven. Send email to a couple of contacts about American Heritage Girls troop for Katie.

6:20pm: pizza done. eat dinner....

I hang up and put away the last of the clothes while the kids finish eating. They take two forevers to eat a meal! ha!

6:45: Corey called
6:50: Bethany called
7:00: Call Corey back, he talks to the kids before bed.

7:20pm: played a game of Uno with the kids. They brush their teeth and change into clean pajamas! (love it!)

7:49: Watch one mini episode of Phineas and Ferb before bed.

8:10pm: tuck Katie in after devotional and prayer.

8:15pm: tuck Noah in after devotional and prayer.

I take a relaxing hot bath, then go turn their lights off at 8:49pm.
Then it's time to blog about our day! :)

I was very nervous about writing down everything we did in a day. Especially on a Friday when schoolwork is a minimum. We didn't do any history lessons or science experiments. But, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I am sure there are people who do a lot less. And, I know there are a ton of families who get a lot more done in a day. Especially other homeschool moms. But this is just one day out of many. And I was home with my children...guiding their learning...enjoying their thoughts and ideas.... There were also plenty of tiny things that didn't get the cleaning up after snack, and lunch, and dinner...ha. And the little spats here and there that got intercepted and diffused.
We had an early night because we have to be up very early in the morning at church for dress rehearsal for the musical at church this weekend.
This makes me want to do this again sometime...and compare how I think our time spent was better or not as well spent. Hope you enjoyed!

Fancy Friday

Homemade pizza with pancetta and mozzerella cheese. Mmmmm!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thrifty and Thankful Thursday

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Veggie Sticks, Apple Slices, and chocolate milk.

Thursday is my grocery day, so my menus will tend to run Thur-Wed.

Here is my plan for the week, incorporating my new menu planning theme, with a change. "Soupy Saturday" will be "Something New" Saturday until colder weather gets here or unless I am in the mood for soup.

Thrifty and Thankful Thursday: see above
Fancy Friday: Homemade Pizza with Pancetta and Mozzerella cheese
Something New Saturday: Hearty Grains with ground beef and marinated bean salad
Sandwich Sunday: Bacon and Egg Waffle Sandwiches
Mexican Monday: Nachos with Cheese and Taco beef
Tomato-y Tuesday: Cheese ravioli with Tomato Basil Sauce
Wild Card Wednesday: leftovers!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First day of co-op!

Ready to go!
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Menu Planning

I am not participating in "day in the life" week on the back to school blog hop...mainly because I didn't get a post ready before our trip, and today is a day off as well, so I'm just gonna skip it myself. But, I have enjoyed reading some of the other posts and found one particularly helpful one at "Women Living Well". This blogger was the stay at home mom featured on the Rachel Ray show a while back. I don't regularly read her blog (before now!), but I found her chore plan very interesting! And a commenter (from (Living Springdrops) shared a menu theme planning method that seemed really doable as well! They may even be methods I could actually stick with and use. I have made myself and the kids chore charts, and I have planned months of menus at a time complete with shopping lists. These are all great plans, but I don't ever stick with them. Her method is simple, with a theme each day for chores.

Monday: Menu and Market (grocery shopping)
Tuesday: Toilets, tubs, towels
Wednesday: Wash (laundry)
Thursday: Dust (I thought of Throw It Out & Thorough Clean)
Friday: Floors

The commenter's menu planning goes like this:

Mexican Monday
Tomato-y Tuesday
Wild Card Wednesday
Thrifty and Thankful Thursday
Fancy Friday
Soupy Saturday
Sandwich Sunday

Don't you just love it??? I am so glad to have found these plans, and hopefully I can use these both to get a little more consistent in my weekly planning. I love to plan meals, but many times I run to the grocery store without a list and end up eating the same things over and over (hot dogs, baked potatoes, spaghetti) but hopefully this will inspire me to mix it up a little. I could see that we might would switch around the suit what we were in the mood to eat, but at least this would have me ready with a meal for each day!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On the Way

Here are some photos from the drive up, and the first day.
Kentucky Stonehenge in Munfordville, KY.

This was literally in someone's backyard. Not sure on the story here. Crazy.

The kids with Babe Ruth's bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum

Noah using the little bat that came with the tour.

A cool sculpture at the museum.

Katie has a fierce look here. ha ha.

No way to get the entire bat in the photo up close.

This was a very cool ad on the building next door to the museum.

The Leaning Tower of Niles, Il. This was our first day in the Chicago area. We were tired from the drive up and spent the day mostly riding around with Corey doing work stuff.

The Leaning Tower had a nice garden around it.

The Tower from afar. It was actually right next door to a very shady YMCA. ha ha. We found out about these weird attractions on Very cool site.