July 2010


 

Secret Beet Cake

  •  2 cups beets (cooked, peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup sugar (or 1 tsp powdered stevia)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups freshly ground soft-wheat flour (or 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Puree beets and applesauce in blender until smooth. Set aside. 
Combine sugar, oil, yogurt, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer 2 minutes.  Add cocoa, vanilla, and pureed beet mixture, and beat another minute and a half.  Combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon, and gradually sift into the batter, mixing only until blended.  Gently stir in chocolate chips. 
 
Pour into greased 9×13″ baking pan, 2 8″ round cake pans, or a bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven at 350 until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
 

 

This is a very moist, slightly chocolatey cake, and is delicious plain, frosted, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or served with applesauce.  They’ll never know the secret ingredient of beets unless you tell.

 
 

 

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If you are anything like me, and don’t have an unlisted phone number/address, then you may get bombarded with sales calls and junk mail.  I despise both, and for a number of years, we have registered with the government’s “Do Not Call” registry.   I have been surprised how many people still don’t know about this service, though. 

The “Do Not Call” registry is a free government service that requires all companies who do sales calls to remove your number from their list of cold-calls.  While it does not apply to charities (therefore you may still get requests for money and donations), it applies to most other businesses.  It is so easy to register!  Just go online to https://www.donotcall.gov/ and follow the links and instructions.  Within minutes, you can register your home number, business number, and/or cell phone number.  It will take 4-6 weeks to be removed from most lists, so don’t be surprised if you get a few more calls. 

As if that isn’t good enough, I also discovered a way to eliminate over 75% of my junk mail!  We just moved and this is the first time I have used this service, but so far I am impressed.  For the first time in the history of my adult life, I may go several days with NO mail since I don’t get unsolicited flyers and catalogs.  I always hated the waste of paper that went straight to my trash due to these mailers.  The link  for that service is https://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action  Again, just fill out your info, and it goes into the database for businesses, requiring them to remove the listed addresses from their mailing lists. 

There is one other link I can offer that lists these and several more–like if you get mail for a deceased family member, etc.  I have not personally used them, but it may be handy for you.  It is http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm#getofflist  You can find quite a bit of interesting info on here. 

I hope this helps you find some reprieve as it did for me!

I previously wrote a post about teaching kids financial responsibility.  You can read it here.

While this method worked well for quite some time, we began noticing some issues with the children beginning to expect that allowance, despite any inputs they offered into the family.  Because the allowance was not necessarily based on performance, this did not come as much of a surprise.  Rather, the surprise came from the selfish and greedy attitude with which they expected that allowance.  So, S and I talked, and we decided things had to change before the attitudes got too out of hand.  Because our last method of providing allowance was based on the financial teaching resources we had, this time we consulted the Bible for guidance.  We soon found verses that made us realize exactly what we should do….

Jeremiah 17:10 states, “I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”  Proverbs 31:31 supports this idea when it states, “Give her the reward she has earned…”  1 Corinthians 3:8 further states, “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”

The answer was crystal clear.  Rewards SHOULD be based on performance–to a degree.  While work is a good, wholesome, even God-given fact of life, God promises to reward a job whole-heartedly and well done.  Thus, we should do the same for our children.  The issue then became figuring out how to balance teaching the life lessons that work is expected and fulfilling in itself, while also rewarding for a job well-done.

After some thought, prayer, and discussion, S and I agreed to discontinue our former way of giving a weekly allowance.  Then, we agreed the children would continue to have Chorepacks which guided them through their daily, expected, just-because-you-are-part-of-the-family chores (i.e. make their beds, feed their bunnies, put their clothes away, clean their rooms, set the table, etc.).  They do not get paid for those chores.  In addition, though, so they could begin to relate monetary reward with their labors, we developed the “extra-chore list.”  These are chores which are normally done by S or myself.  Some pose a bit of difficulty for the children, and some are relatively easy.  Because M cannot yet read, and JR is just beginning to read, I formatted it as follows:

  • In the first column, there is a tiny picture that hints at the chore.  We discussed each item with the children so they would understand what the picture instructed them to do.  For example, for the chore that states “Make A’s bed,” there is a picture of a bed; for the chore that states “vaccuum dining room,” there is a picture of a vaccuum.  The kids figure it out pretty quickly!
  • In the second column, the actual chore is written out.  For example, I have some that are similiar such as “Vaccuum dining room,” Vaccuum kitchen,” and “Vaccum downstairs hallway.”  Each of these has a picture of a vaccuum beside it, but they do quite well remembering the difference!
  • In the third column, I list the monetary reward for that chore.  In most cases, it is worth $.25 (a lot to a 5 and 3 year old!)  Some harder or more time-intensive ones (like cleaning out the litter box or cleaning out the van) are worth $.50 or even $1. 
  • The fourth column tells how often that chore may be done.  It contains either a “D” for daily or a “W” for weekly.  this prevents really simple chores that don’t need done frequently from being performed needlessly.  For example, my list has “Wipe off front of dishwasher.”  This just doesn’t need to be done every day, so it is listed as a weekly chore.
  • The remaining columns are divided into days of the week and labeled at the top (S,M,T,W,T,F,S). 

The list is then inserted into a plastic page-protector so I can use a dry-erase marker on it.  A requirement for this chart is that the children must ask before doing anything on it.  Becasue most of them are part of my normal chores anyway, I may have already accomplished the task, in which case, I don’t want them to just do it for money.  Once they have permission to do a task, they complete it, and I go inspect.  If it passes inspection, I write their initial in the day of the week it was performed.  At the end of the week, we add up all their chore values, and pay them accordingly.

This system is working beautifully so far.  I find they need the occasional reminder, so when they have free-time, I might mention it casually, “Ok, it’s free-time.  You may go outside and play, play with your bunnies, look at the scrapbooks, or use this time to do some extra chores.”  While they don’t often think about the list on their own, this little reminder is often all it takes to get them excited about helping and earning some money.  Over time, this list will certainly change somewhat as their expected chores change.  Some chores may be divided among age groups, some may be taken off and others added to it.  As it is, though, they are already realizing that if they want to buy something but have no money, they can’t blame anyone but themselves.  And that is a crucial life lesson in itself!

Caught in the act! JR and M doing some extra chores during the pre-bed free-time. Mom can't help but be put in a good mood when faced with ending her day with such help!

School is just around the corner, and we can’t wait!  We will start our homeschool the first week of August…that’s NEXT Monday!  I can hardly believe it!  With all the chaos and instability the kids (and I) have had over the last few months with the move, the changes in plans, the house-hunting trip and cross-country vacation, settling into the new house, etc., we have greatly anticipated the start of our school year.  With it comes structure, schedules, stability, routine, and we all thrive on that! 

To help prepare, much like last year we have set up our “Operation Center”–for lack of a better name.  Interestingly, a year after I posted about this (which wound up being featured on an organizing tips website ), it is still my #1 post to be pulled up and viewed in random searches! 

Our "Operation Center" condensed to a standard-sized bulletin board.

On this board, I have posted the following items:

  • Our daily schedule in the top left corner
  • My personal daily chore list in the top right corner
  • Under that is a small monthly calendar.  I have all my chores divided into individual days and weeks to help ensure most items around the house get done at least once each month.  The calendar helps me keep track, at a glance, as to which week of the month we are on. 
  • Under the calendar is the older kids’ Chorepacks, within easy reach.
  • Under the Chorepacks is our “If-Then” chart to aid with disciplinary issues that may arise during the day.
  • In the bottom left corner is our new “Extra Chore” chart which I will post about another day.  Essentially, this is extra, out-of-the-ordinary chores the kids can do to earn money.

This bulletin board is located in an area that is convenient, easy to see and remember, and easily accessible to everyone.  The items that are more for my use are on the top, while items the children need are located on the bottom. 

We have been weaning ourselves into using it, as it is more detailed than the way we had it set up last year.  For someone like me, though, who is not naturally self-disciplined and is easily side-tracked and distracted, this center is a tremendous help for keeping me on track and organized!

So what do you when you get a box with almost 10 lbs of strawberries? 

My box-load of strawberries, with about half taken out already.

Experiment with canning recipes of course!

First, I spent over an hour cutting the green tops off of each berry.

Then I followed a recipe that resulted in the absolute best strawberry syrup I have ever tasted!  I know, because shortly after I made it, I decided to make pancakes for dinner, and we topped them with my homemade strawberry syrup!  YUMMY!

OK, so now I have to confess.  The recipe was actually for preserves, but I made a few mistakes.  When it didn’t gel properly, I researched, realized what I had done wrong, and discovered I could still salvage it by using it as a syrup.  So, now, I have 2 recipes to perfect….one for preserves/jam, and another for syrup that tastes as good, but is lower sugar and, ummm, intentional!

Last week, I had something of a short-notice visit by an aunt and uncle I haven’t seen in years!  They had never met the kids, and he was coming out for business.  So, we hooked up.  They wanted to drive up Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, CO, and since it was on my list of things to do/see this summer, the kids and I tagged along.  My uncle agreed to drive my van so we could all fit (and because I was a bit too nervous to drive up the steep gravel mountain road).  We had a wonderful morning together, and of the few times I have visited the Peak in the past, this was definitely the prettiest day!  The breeze was light, the temperature in the high 40’s (at over 14,000 feet), and the sun was shining.

On the drive up, we passed a picturesque reservoir.  It was absolutely beautiful, and an area I had completely forgotted existed. 

Once we reached the Peak, the kids and I decided to have our morning snack at the little diner up there.  They are somewhat famous for their homemade, high-altitude doughnuts, and now I know why!  For a plain, cake doughnut, they are delicious!!  Then we stepped outside for some photos.

The "America The Beautiful" memorial--a tribute to the famous song, which was written from on top of Pike's Peak. When you get up there, and take a look around at the 360 degree views of city-scapes, snow-capped purple-ish mountains in the distance to the west, and the flat plains to the east, it is very easy to see how she could have written those words.

The older 3 kids loved playing in the rocks while we adults enjoyed the view. N just hung out on my back in his ergo carrier. What a beautiful place!

See, N and I really were there!

A memorable, unique photo of me with some extended family...my uncle on the far left and aunt on the far right.

We had a wonderful time touring and visiting.  I have to admit, I was absolutely astonished at the difference in oxygen up at the peak.  The area we live is well over 7,000 feet in altitude, and around here, they say it takes a full 6-8 weeks to acclimate to the decreased oxygen levels.  I figured, since I was mostly acclimated to the half-way point, I would be way ahead of my aunt and uncle who are from sea-level.  I was wrong!  When you get to 14,000 feet altitude, I don’t think it really matters where you’re from!  The air is thin up there, period!  Realize that aircraft have to be pressurized and pump oxygen into the passenger compartment once they get over 10,000 feet. I couldn’t walk and talk at the same time without getting totally winded!  I don’t know how the kids ran around like they did!  I actually wound up dizzy a couple of times, and had to be careful to take it slow and easy.  As a general rule, the park recommends you not stay more than 40 minutes, as that is when many visitors begin experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness.  I believe it! 

Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time.  And just for the record, the very next day, S and some buddies actually HIKED up to the peak.  Granted, there are two routes–one is 13 miles from bottom to top, and the other starts at the back of the mountain at a roughly half-way point, and goes up about 7.5 miles to the peak.  They took the shorter route.  He had a great time though, and is already dreaming of taking the rest of us with him next time!  Obviously, I have to train a bit before then!

A couple of years ago, God opened our eyes to the downsides of the modern day, typical, age-segregated church environment.  We heard about a new-old type of church that is becoming very popular around the nation.  I say new-old, because it is the type of church that has been around for thousands of years–since before Jesus’ time.  It is still commonplace in other nations, but over the years, it has become almost unheard-of in America.  Many families have seen problems with the modern methods and began seeking out another option.  Thus the return of the family-integrated church. 

Honestly, it is nothing special persay.  It is simply worshipping together as a family unit, rather than splitting up into age groups for individual classes.  The more we studied about it though, the more we were intrigued by the idea.  As it turned out, there was a good one not far from our new house in CO.  There are approximately 25 families that regularly attend.  Interestingly, those desiring the FIC environment, also often homeschool, and they also often have many children.  Although the church has so few families, their are over 100 people attending this multi-generational church, due to the large numbers of children in each family.  For us, it was very refreshing.  With 4 children and a mindset that God should be able to build our families by blessing with children as He desires, we were often an oddity in any environment.  It is so refreshing to be in the midst of other large families, where having 2-3 children is the oddity.  We truly fit right in.  Furthermore, there are many adopted children in this church, and several mixed-race families. The church is not perfect, and has a few aspects that are less than ideal for us–but then, that’s the case with any church we have ever attended.  It is, however, very Bible-based, and we cannot argue with any of their teachings.  They understand that children are easily influenced by lessons taught in the service, and are, therefore, careful to approve each speaker’s lesson carefully and with Biblical insights.  The men of the church hold each other accountable in true Christian love, that they will each be the God-called leader of their individual families.   

I could talk all day about the church, and the environment we have found there.  It is warm, welcoming, loving, and just filled with Christian spirit and unity.  It feels like the place you could go and find support when you decide to make a stand against secularism.  I guess you could say we are still in the “trial” phase of attending this church.  We have been and are praying about it.  However, I can say that this is the first time after a move where we have not “shopped around” for a church.  It just kinda feels like “home” in a way, when we walk in the doors of the rented school gym on Sunday morning. 

If you are interested in learning more, we got a lot of our information from Vision Forum Ministries, a very conservative, somewhat “old-fashioned” by modern standards, religious family ministry.  Their website is http://www.visionforumministries.org/.  To see if there is a FIC in your area, here is a great listing website to get started:  http://ncfic.org/

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