Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Happy GratiTuesday! This week I'm thankful for:
  1. Our friend Karie handed down a turtle sandbox to the kids. They are CRAZY about their new sandbox! Brent got it to fit under the slide of our swingset, but he had to cut the turtle's head off...which feels very, very wrong. He made it look really nice by filling in around the sandbox with gravel. Anyone else would think it's a neat round sandbox--you can't even see its feet under the gravel. For me, however, it's kind of like Edgar Allen Poe's "Telltale Heart"...I KNOW that under that decorative rock lies a headless turtle. Freaky.
  2. Birthday parties! A surprise party was given for my friend Christy's 40th birthday, so I made a trip to LaCygne for the soiree. She was surprised! There were over 50 people in attendance, and I loved seeing her laughing and having fun. It was nice to see her friends and family--many that I've 'adopted' as my friends, too!! Happy birthday, Christy!!
  3. Brent had to work, so the kids and I roadtripped alone. The kids did GREAT! Surprisingly well, actually. Now I feel a little more confident about making a trip like that with them alone, so we can do it more often. (Check out this first picture...Blake's sunglasses are upside down! The kids wore those glasses on the WHOLE drive, even when we had to stop for a potty break.)
  4. Dad and Louise met up with me and took the kids while I went to the party. I even got to drive Dad's new Chevy HHR...new car smell and all!
  5. Dad bought a new battery for the Jeep, and the kids could have driven it all day.
  6. This weather! Today was 70 degrees here, and we spent the evening with the windows open. Blake fell asleep in his dinner, so I snuggled him up on the couch for a while while he napped. The breeze coming in the windows felt great.
  7. Our neighbor stopped by tonight to show the kids a baby bunny. I'm so glad she did! The kids LOVED it, and Graham gave it kisses. They all liked petting it, and Sophie kept asking to hold it. They're usually a bit fearful of animals, but not this bunny!
  8. Brent's aunt sent us the nicest note tonight--she's so encouraging and uplifting. Everyone needs an aunt like her in their lives--we love you, Aunt Jenny!!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

(Late) GratiTuesday and some fun with dairy

I've got a bad head/chest cold and am running at turtle speed this week. I put Vicks on my feet and wore socks to bed last night, and slept surprisingly well (we swear by that trick in this house).

Things we're grateful for this week:
  1. Vicks Vaporub
  2. Despite the snowy weather, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of my items sold at the the consignment sale last week. I had a few of the kids' clothing items in it, and didn't have to bring much home. Now I need to start hunting for Spring/Summer clothes and shoes for the trio.
  3. Brent installed a "grow light" for my seed-planting project downstairs, and the seeds are doing great! I'll post pictures soon.

Now for a little kitchen fun!

First, the kids can eat almost a quart (yes, 32 oz.) of yogurt in one sitting. I read that you can make your own, so I gave it a try. Here's how:

Slowly bring 1/2 gallon whole milk to 190 degrees. Let cool to 110 degrees. Into a small amount of the warm milk, mix one packet unflavored gelatin and 4 Tablespoons plain yogurt (with active cultures). You can also add sugar and vanilla, if desired (I did). Stir this mixture into the rest of the milk. Cover and keep in a warm place (I turned the oven on to 200 degrees, shut it off, wrapped the pot with a large towel and put into the oven) for 8-12 hours. If you like it thicker, you can try to strain it through cheesecloth or a clean white kitchen towel. Here's how it looked afterwards:

The verdict? The taste was surprisingly good, but the consistency was too thin. In my opinion, it's WAY too much work unless you have a lot of milk that you need to use up or need to use a different kind of milk (goat, etc.) for food allergies.

Next up: Homemade butter! I heard about this and had to see it for myself. Put a quart of heavy whipping cream into a food processor, and turn it on for 10 minutes.

You'll be left with quite a bit of liquid (buttermilk!)--drain that off and add 1 teaspoon of salt.

Verdict? The finished result is FABULOUS, but not at all cost-effective (unless you have some heavy whipping cream to use up). The cost of the whipping cream was $3.20/quart, and left me with an average-sized tub of butter. This would be a neat project to show kids how butter is made, though! It would also be tasty if flavored with herbs from your garden or neat to form into fancy butter molds for a party. (p.s.--Yes, I realize that there is a whole table-full of my farm-raised ancestors sitting around a table drinking coffee in Heaven laughing at me for "just now figuring out" how butter was made.) In all seriousness, I'd love to have a couple of dairy cows and some chickens...but we'd need to move.

Today's blog post should have been sponsored by the National Dairy Council.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


A little doughnut fun! As I was uploading these pictures, I started getting a complex about what you must think about the food choices at our house. Tuesday I talked about pizzas, and today I'm showing doughnuts. EEK! I promise that we eat healthy meals at out house most of the time...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Planting time

As I mentioned yesterday, I have some tomato plants starting from seed. Sophie helped me plant them! Now every night she asks "Mommy, wanna play 'dirt'?" She thinks it's a game!

She said "Bunny wants to try" and pretended Bunny was scooping the dirt. She is such a stitch!

We have bell pepper, cucumber, yellow squash and zuchini squash seeds to get started, too. We're debating on whether to do the bag gardening, a traditional tilled garden or container garden this year. I'm leaning towards using large pots or another type of container. Brent's question is "How much of my lawn are you destroying for this project?" (My response? An evil laugh while wringing my hands--"All of it! Alllllll of it!!! Mwah hah hah!!!")

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

GratiTuesday and (finally!) pictures

This week I'm grateful for:

  1. Online shopping! I love being able to shop for a gift late at night without having to worry about "store hours."
  2. My grandpa's patience and love for gardening--I have tomato plants starting from seeds in the basement, under a lamp hooked to a timer. He'd be proud! :-)
  3. "Hot 'n Ready" pizzas from Little Caesar's. We can buy a large cheese pizza and a large pepperoni pizza for a grand total of $10! It's a weekly "treat" that saves me from having to cook.
  4. Online banking! I love paying bills without having to write checks, and reconciling the accounts at any time of day.
  5. Brent's friend Brad, who gave him the tent in the pictures below. (Funny story: Brad had the tent so they could take their "Sugar Glider" flying animal outside without it getting lost. Yes, Brent has a hand-me-down tent from a flying animal...give him a little grief about it.)

Now for some pictures! These are the kids and Kelly at the Elmo Live event. As I mentioned before, we had amazing seats and the kids loved it. Sophie is CRAZY about cotton candy! She calls it "candy ice cream." I might have to rent one of those machines for their birthday--I wonder how hard they are to operate? Sophie ate this ENTIRE cotton candy by herself. She was too sticky to pick up her drink, so Blake had to help her out. Awwww! Isn't that cute??

Graham had a fistful of popcorn and was chowing down. Not the best picture of Graham chewing, but a cute picture of Kelly!

This is a good shot of their cute Elmo outfits!

Now for Brent's big campout at Spangles! We took dinner to him that night (hey--speaking of Little Caesar's, those are Hot 'n Ready pizzas we're eating!). Brent got such a laugh out of us climbing into his tent for dinner--he's still talking about it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And the winner is...

WOW. If there was an award for "Worst Upkeep of a Blog", I'd win by a landslide. Want to hear my excuse? Without our laptop (may it rest in peace), I have to go to the cold basement to use the computer. Clothing I'm selling in an upcoming consignment sale is spread out on the table down there, so I'm avoiding taking the kids downstairs for right now. So the kids stay upstairs. And I stay upstairs. And the blog remains updated. (I didn't say it was a GOOD excuse.)

Here are some random tidbits about life in the Stiles household:

  1. Brent camped out at Spangles AGAIN last night to be one of the first 100 customers at their new location (this time in Derby). He took a small tent, blankets and a sleeping bag and said he stayed surprisingly warm. He succeeded--he won a free meal per week for a year! His "winnings" from the last campout last for another 6 months, so for 6 months he'll eat TWO meals per week. The kids and I took pizza up for dinner last night, and I have cute pictures of his "campground." I PINKY SWEAR THAT I'LL HAVE PICTURES POSTED IN THE NEXT 48 HOURS. (Sorry for the caps--I was yelling that at my reflection in the mirror. I'm hoping to motivate myself.)
  2. Kelly took the kids and I to see Elmo at the new arena. It was a fantastic performance, and the kids LOVED it. Our seats couldn't have been better!! Kelly rocks. I have great pictures of this that I'll post, too.
  3. We're losing our main babysitter in May when she graduates, and I'm sick about it. I'm on the search for some great sitters for the summer!
  4. The prayer we say at mealtime is: "Thank You for the world so sweet, thank You for the food we eat. Thank You for the birds that sing, thank You God for everything." As we were driving the other day, Sophie said "Look Mommy! I see the birds that sing!!" Then she whispered to herself "Thank You for the birds that sing, thank You God for everything." I melted!!

More soon. I SWEAR.