Thursday, March 05, 2015

5 on the Fifth - March 2015

In February the kids and I were blessed to have participated in a 50 States Fun Swap that I just happened to discover through Facebook.  It was a really fun experience, and it renewed in me a love and appreciation for the state I've spent pretty much my entire life living in.  Michigan is a beautiful place to live.  The Great Lakes are gorgeous, and I am SO thankful to live a short 20 minute drive from Lake Huron.  The kids and I have a ton of fun exploring our area, and we look forward to venturing out as they grow and exploring more and more of the state we call home.  I thought I'd share just a small sampling of the blogs I discovered in my quest to find interesting bits to share with the people we sent our state information; seven in the trade, plus one friend in Georgia, and another friend in England.  We added our two friends just for fun.  In the trade we sent seven packages of information in anticipation of receiving seven in return.  Currently we have received five envelopes; Maine, South Carolina, Kentucky, Wyoming, and Missouri.  I hope you find our Michigan adventure fun and interesting as well.

In Michigan apples are HUGE.  It's a big deal when they come into season, and I just cannot imagine fall without a trip to the apple orchard.  The cider is amazing, and the donuts. donuts!  Beyond incredible.  I grew up canning applesauce with my mom and grandma.  Somehow I managed to get tunnel vision with apples.  You know, making the typical applesauce, apple pie, apple crisp, and applesauce, and apple pie, and apple crisp.  What was I thinking?  There are a bounty of amazing recipes out there, and this blog on the Michigan Apples website has plenty to stimulate your apple cooking creativity.  Enjoy!

I love photography!  I love nature photography above all, and Greg Kretovic shares his stunning photographs of Michigan's Upper Peninsula on his blog, Michigan Nature Photos.  The photography is gorgeous, and his captions are a wonderful way to learn a little more about the state of Michigan.  His photos alone are inspiration enough to get out and explore Michigan.  If I could move anywhere in the world it would likely be Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  If you've never been there, you seriously have no idea what you are missing.  As soon as I cross that bridge I never want to return home.  It wouldn't take much to twist my arm to stay there.

I love coney dogs!  There is nothing like a Michigan Coney Dog.  Nothing.  The sauce is quite unique, and everyone has an opinion on what's the best.  Personally, nothing compares to Gus' chili at Mt. Clemens Coney Island.  I have never had anything that I liked nearly as well.  I have not made it at home that even comes close.  However, the recipe at Winner Dinners seems to come pretty close to keeping with the tradition.  Any of my family members that visit from out of state always go out of their way to get a Coney Dog.  Traditionally they are served with chopped white onion and yellow mustard.  How the dogs are prepared is another personal matter, but the buns are always steamed.  If you've never had one, you just might want to give this recipe a try.

The kids and I were excited to find this idea at Child Central Station for creating a map of Michigan.  We each made a few so that we had one to include in each packet.  We marked the map accordingly to show where we live and added the bridge.  It was fun to read about their life in Marquette and compare it to where we live in the lower peninsula.  We included the capital on our map as well.  The kids really enjoyed making this map.  It's a fun craft for anyone to do whether or not you live in Michigan.

You can't think of Michigan without thinking of mittens.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to try this cool craft by Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, but it is in my back pocket for next year.  I have never experimented with salt and painting, and I am thoroughly intrigued.  This really looks like a lot of fun, plus there's spray bottles involved!  Need I say more?

5 on the Fifth

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Gluten Free Scone Recipe for St. Patrick's Day

I shared this last year, and our tradition is carrying through to this year.  The kids are really looking forward to seeing the rest of the family, and they cannot wait to help make the food.  We really do enjoy the simple things in life the most.

Originally published on March 13th, 2014:

As I mentioned before, in our family we do two big celebrations each year.  With our family size I don't think I could put together more than that.  Over the years it has worked out that we gather once around Christmas and again for St. Patrick's Day.  Being Irish was always a big deal on my dad's side of the family.  It's the only heritage I was raised to know anything about.

When I was younger I always invited my dad over for the typical Irish-American meal of corned beef and cabbage.  Most of my kids didn't care for corned beef.  Once my dad passed I figured we'd just carry on the tradition within our home.  I never planned to make a big family celebration out of it, but my kids had a different idea.  Imagine my surprise the first year after he was gone when I started getting phone calls from our children that had already flown the coop asking when we were going to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  Thus, a Smith Family Tradition was born.

Over the years I have learned to make a few more traditional Irish dishes that I just love.  One of my favorites is Champ.  This year, however, we are changing things up a bit, and I am making Irish Stew for our celebration with Soda Bread, of course.  Corned Beef is just too expensive to feed to nearly 30 people.  We're reigning it in a bit, and I have locally sourced beef on hand, so I can think of nothing better to serve my family.  I do get tempted, though, to make Champ to serve the stew over, but the point is simple, right?  We will still be having the "traditional for us" meal on the actual holiday, so we'll get our fill of all our favorite foods this year.

So far the kids and I have made Soda Bread and Scones.  We even made them gluten free this year, and we're having a hard time leaving the scones alone.  They are SO good!

Here's how we made them:

1 1/2 cups   Rice Flour
   1/2 cup    Sorgum Flour
   1/4 cup    Natural Sugar
   1/4 tsb.    Salt
   1/2 tsp.    Baking Soda
   3/4 cup    Plain Greek Yogurt  (I use Fage)
      1          Whole Egg
   1/2 cup    Rice Milk
      2 Tbs.   Butter
      1 cup    Carob Chips or Cinnamon Chips
                 Raw Sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Mix together flours, sugar, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

In mixing bowl, mix yogurt, egg, milk, and butter.  Add the dry mixture a little at a time until combined.

Gently stir in your favorite chips.

I lined my baking sheets with parchment and made both varieties.  We made 12 larger chocolate chip scones  using an ice cream scoop and baked them for 18 minutes.  We made 24 smaller scones using a baking scoop and baked them for 13 minutes.  We sprinkled them with a little raw sugar before placing them in the oven.  The trick is to remove them just as they start to brown.

These are not as dense as traditional scones, and they spread out like cookies.  In the future I plan to try adding a bit more flour.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Koru Naturals - A Review

Koru Naturals Review
I have a secret to share.  It's not really a secret with my close, personal friends and my family, but here goes.  I have had scalp psoriasis since like forever.  I literally have no memory of life without it.  It was torturous as a child when my mother would painstakingly part tiny sections of hair to apply this tar based medicine to my entire scalp every-single-night.  Nothing we did ever worked, or even helped for that matter.  As an adult I learned the impact of my diet on the psoriasis, but nothing has ever made it go completely away, and up until now I never really found anything that helped with the scaling and flaking.  That is until Koru Naturals came my way.  I am so glad I took the opportunity to try Koru Naturals Pure Emu Oil and Koolpurrie Restoring Balm and share with you my experience.  To say I'm impressed is an understatement.

Koru Naturals Review

Have I told you lately how wonderful my friends are?  If not, I am super blessed with a small group of amazing women in my life.  My BFF of over 30 years gave me a divine gift for my birthday.  I got to go to her house and take a long, luxurious, HOT bath.  (Getting a hot bath at our home in the winter is pretty much impossible.)  I love baths, and prefer them over showers immensely, so this was no little deal to me.  She even fed me and took care of my children.  BIG BONUS!  This was the first time I tried the Pure Emu Oil.  Koru Naturals Pure Emu Oil is a traditional Australian Aboriginal natural oil that is fully refined.  It is milky white indicating that it has not been clarified and has retained all the naturally occurring essential ingredients.  Let me just say that it is a wonderful addition to any spa experience.  I ran the bath with some mineral salts (I knew I would be rinsing my hair in the bath, so I didn't add the oil directly to the water), turned on some relaxing music, and applied the Pure Emu Oil throughout my hair and over my entire scalp.  I allowed the oil to stay on for at least a half hour, just because I could, and my hair and skin is always SO DRY in the winter.  Can I just tell you how AMAZING my hair and skin felt after that bath.  My hair was more soft and healthy feeling than it has been in years, and my skin was so smooth.  It really felt great!

Koru Naturals Review
Winters here in the country have been something for my city hair and skin to get used to.  We have well water which started taking a toll on my skin and hair as soon as we moved here.  Winter provides the added challenges of dry air and dry heat.  We heat with wood, and for anyone that has never experienced wood heat it is wonderful, but it is very drying to the skin.  Despite keeping a huge pot of water on the wood burner, and occasionally running my diffuser/humidifier,  My skin pays a toll.  Having the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm, a healing blend of Premium Grade A Emu Oil and Pure Lanolin, to use this winter has been a real blessing.  I am still amazed at how fast it absorbs into my skin and how quickly it heals.  It is not wrong for me to say that results are near instant.  The backs of my heels were terribly dry the first time I applied the balm.  I just could not believe that one application made such a difference!  There has never been a product that I've used on skin that was that dry that made any kind of difference after one application, let alone immediately on the first application.  Again, I was super impressed and can easily see how those that suffer with chronic dry skin like the elderly would greatly benefit from using this pure and additive free balm that is rich in skin lipids.

My 2 ounce bottle of Pure Emu Oil and my 1.4 ounce container of Koolpurrie Restoring Balm are like little treasures sitting on my desk.  I keep them on hand all the time.  I regularly use the balm on my hands.  The dry, winter heat makes my hand red and sore.  The balm relieves this instantly.  The Pure Emu Oil gets rubbed behind my ears, where my psoriasis is most bothersome, on a regular basis.  I have even put a tiny bit on a cotton swab and gently applied it just inside my ears as the psoriasis can even present there, and it has been a tremendous help.  There is still no flaking in my ears since I started this a few weeks ago.  I have also given myself another oil treatment on my hair and scalp since my spa day.  This is something I will continue regularly.  I think one of the best things about both the oil and the balm is that they are not greasy.  It's difficult to wrap my brain around how an oil can not be greasy, but it isn't.  Each time I have used the Pure Emu Oil as a treatment for my hair and scalp it has absorbed into my skin and hair very quickly.  What a difference from the traditional hot oil treatments I grew up with!  It has never stained my clothing or my pillowcase.  I literally slept with the oil in my hair overnight, and there wasn't a mark on my pillowcase.  That was simply amazing to me.

I am super excited about the product line at Koru Naturals and look forward to trying more from them in the future.  My skin is so much happier today than it was before the Pure Emu Oil and Koolpurrie Restoring Balm.  You can learn more about the Koru Naturals product line by visiting them online, or following them on  Facebook and Pinterest.

Koru Naturals Review
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In Freedom's Cause - A Review

Can I just tell you how much I LOVE Heirloom Audio Productions?  Seriously.  After discovering and enjoying their first production released last year I was so excited to learn of their second title that I actually purchased it for my children for Christmas.  Imagine my excitement when I saw the new story come up for review.  I just had to jump on board!  It is an honor to share with you a piece of history published by a company so dedicated to providing a sincere and true account of the lives of real heroes that have gone before us.  Knowing that I have access to an ever growing resource of true accounts of honorable figures to share with my children and grandchildren is exciting and uplifting.  The passion behind the production of these audio dramas is very evident, and I am so thankful that the team at Heriloom Audio Productions has answered the call to bring real history to life with such dedication and determination.

In Freedom's Cause Audio CD Review

Our family has been enjoying the experience of listening to the story of Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce and their fight for freedom.  The In Freedom's Cause Single Package will continue to bless our family for years to come.  This story is told with such fire and passion that you are effortlessly transported Scotland at the beginning of the 14th Century at a time of great turbulence.  We enter at the point of history that would eventually lead to Scotland's freedom from English rule.  For me, there is no better way to learn history than to be completely immersed in it, and the stories of G.A. Henty told through Heirloom Audio Productions come to life in such a way that you feel part of the story.

Our family circumstances have changed a bit since the first production was released.  We used to spend a lot more time in our vehicle traveling to a distant destination on a regular basis.  Praise God, that is no longer the case.  With the young ages of my children this meant that I had to get a little more creative with our listening time.  We enjoyed coloring, putting together puzzles, and working with homemade busy bags either in our family room or at the dining room table while we enjoyed the story.  After we had completed the first CD, I did a general search online to locate Scotland specific coloring pages.  We located Scotland on the map and colored a map of Scotland as we began the second CD.  This allowed us to already have a nice foundation in place to build their understanding and comprehension of the story.  We later colored a Scottish bagpipe player, Sir William Wallace, and Maid Marian.

The CD Set and Study Guide provide wonderful opportunities for discussion no matter the age of your children.  With mine being younger I picked out the portions that I thought were relevant and helpful for their age group.  There is plenty of material for the beginner as well as the more advanced student.  There is so much potential here to expand on the story further cementing this part of history into our consciousness.  I love the way the Study Guide is so simply presented with it's three focus points; listening well, thinking further, and defining words.  We primarily focus on listening well and defining words at this stage in the game discussing the questions and terms verbally together either during or after our listening session.  I look forward to building on this as the children get older.

The story of Wallace and Bruce is one of heartbreak, tragedy, and pain.  It is also an empowering lesson in faith, determination, and the value of freedom. Through its telling Heirloom Audio Productions wonderfully achieves their mission " engage our listeners imagination by taking them back in time and immersing them in the story."  I have so enjoyed the first two releases that I am overjoyed to learn that two more new releases are expected this year!  The first title, With Lee in Virginia, a tale of the American Civil War, is slotted for release on Memorial Day.  You can follow the progress on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

In Freedom's Cause is a valuable piece of world history.  It will forever hold a prominent place in our homeschool.  You can learn more about In Freedom's Cause via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.  It's never too late to learn our history, and there's no better way than through Heirloom Audio Productions CD sets.

In Freedom's Cause Review
Click to read Crew Reviews

Monday, February 23, 2015

Creative Date Ideas Revisited

I originally shared these ideas back in 2009 after my husband and I attended a marriage retreat.  We've been a few times over the years and will be attending again next month.  Any excuse to visit Camp Au Sable is a good one.  It's been a long time since we've been away together for a weekend, and even longer since we've been to Camp Au Sable together.  We are very much looking forward to it.  In the meantime, these ideas truly stand the test of time.  I don't know about you, but we could stand to review this list, as more often than not we end up at the grocery store on our evenings out.  There are definitely more interesting ideas than that listed here!

Ideas for Creative Dates

  • Pick up a book of local walks and choose one where you have never been before.
  • Take a day course together and learn to do something new like make stained glass, fix car engines, paint watercolor, make baskets, cook a cultural meal, etc.
  • Go out to eat changing restaurants for each course.
  • Meet in the park with a packed lunch. Pretend you've never met before, and spend time getting to know each other while you feed the ducks.
  • Go to a place where there are street performers, and enjoy the show.
  • Try a new type of restaurant that you never before have explored like Thai, Cantonese, Tuscany, Vegetarian, Polish, etc.
  • Share a spa day together.
  • Visit a card shop. Read the funny cards together. Choose one that you would like to give to the other person, and either share it there or buy them and take them home.
  • Charter a boat for an hour or two. Take a picnic lunch and a book of poetry or a humorous book about marriage.
  • Take a blanket to the top of a hill. Lie on your backs and view the night sky. Bring along a book of constellations so that you can try to locate them. Take a thermos of hot cocoa or soup to share together. You might even see some shooting stars!
  • Learn to ice-skate together, try go-karting, or buy a kite and fly it together.
  • Find a free concert to attend or special evening at the museum.
  • Visit a cathedral together and ask for the children's guide to the building. They often give a lot of unusual facts about the building and interesting details to look for. Stay for evensong for a peaceful and ethereal experience. Enjoy a meal in the cathedral cafe', or a nearby restaurant.
  • Go out for dessert and coffee. Take your time, and enjoy the experience savoring your treat and your conversation with each other.
Ideas for Evenings Indoors
  • Choose a menu together and cook a meal for two at home. Try cooking an Indian meal and serve it wearing an improvised sari, or a Japanese meal, to eat sitting on floor cushions around a low table. Find some music to suit the culture and enjoy the evening. If cooking's too much for you order takout. You could even watch a relevant film or play regional music to add to the mood.
  • Compile a list of videos you'd both like to see together so you know which ones to rent when you have the opportunity. Don't forget the popcorn!
  • Play your favorite childhood board games.
  • Surf the Internet together for ideas for your next outing or holiday.
  • Find or buy some crayons and drawing paper and have a go at drawing each other's portrait.
  • Buy some child's modeling clay and try to sculpt a model of each other's head.
  • Find a piece of old furniture that needs refinishing and remodel it together, or finish an unfinished piece of wood furniture giving it your personal touch. Sign and date your creation.
  • Share five special memories you each have about your relationship and five special hopes or plans for the future.
  • Borrow a book about massage from the library and learn how to give each other a massage with fragrant aromatherapy oils.
  • Find a modern Bible and read the Song of Solomon to each other. You may be surprised at what you find!
  • Make a scrapbook of memorabilia of your fun times together. Jot notes of ideas for more fun times together in a notebook so that you're never short of new ways to have fun.
  • Make something nice to drink like lemonade or hot cocoa, depending on the season, and curl up with old photo albums or family films.
With a little time and thought you can begin to put some of the fun of dating back into your marriage.  Try these ideas out for size:

  • Think about the things you did together for fun before you were married.
  • Think about the things that you always wanted to do but never had the time or the opportunity to try.
  • Write a list of 10 places you'd like to go or things you'd like to do on a date together. Swap lists with each other and see what you've each written. Take turns choosing a date idea from you spouse's list. Keep adding new ideas to the list.
  • Do all you can to make the dating occasion enjoyable, even if it is not the sort of thing you'd normally do. Focus on your spouse's enjoyment and find little ways to add delight and surprises to the experience, such as secretly buying him or her a special souvenir that they said they liked, or finding a new place to eat lunch, or meeting them with a bunch of flowers.
  • At the end of each date, make sure you know when and where the next date will be. Looking forward to something is half the fun!
  • Have a list of fun things to do at home too for those times when you don't feel like going out or when you cannot get a babysitter.


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