Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Grandpa

imageCarroll Ray D____

2/23/23 - 10/11/11


If I were to point to any human person as a hero to me personally, I would have to choose my grandpa. I remember spending summers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and the fun we used to have. We did plenty of playing in the house, but we also had great fun outside with Grandpa. He had a terrific garden, a barn full of all sorts of “treasures,” and their close proximity to a lake inlet only added to the charm of their house. I remember him taking my brother and I fishing on the lake or exploring one of the small islands in the bay. Sometimes we would go hiking in the woods, other times we’d help him in his garden or help get the firewood stacked in the basement through the small basement window. On summer evenings we would sit on their front porch and Grandpa would play his guitar or saw (Grandma would play her accordion) and we’d sing while watching the sun set over the lake or the lightning play tag with itself. Once when we were visiting, a small tornado came quite close to their house while we stood watching from the barn door. The transformer across the house blew from the force, but because Grandpa was there with us, we weren’t afraid.

Grandpa had such an upbeat personality, loved everyone, and had a great sense of humor. He would often remark at mealtimes, “My stomach’s beginning to think my throat’s been cut” and at the end of the meal he’d comment,“It’s a good thing I ate when I did because now I’m not hungry.” He also claimed he would never retire, only retread.

He was a hard worker and in his later years (after many years as a colporteur), he did a lot with his hands (carpentry, plumbing, etc.). Sometimes his hammer would miss the intended target and he’d smash his thumb or finger. Every time, after the pain had subsided some, he would say something to the effect that he was glad he had a thumb to hit. He tried to find the positive in everything, definitely a “glass is half full” kinda guy.

In the autumn of his life he and Grandma (and my great grandma who was living with them) went to live near my folks. It wasn’t too long after moving there that Great Grandma and then Grandma closed their eyes for the last time (till the resurrection). Not too long after that Grandpa started showing signs of Alzheimer's, becoming more and more forgetful. During one winter ice storm he forgot that Mom had told him to stay inside and went out on the porch to take his little dog potty. He slipped and broke his collar bone. The bone jutted out into his skin and never healed together and he seemed a bit subconscious about it. Unfortunately there was nothing that the docs could do about it in its location. Finally my parents moved him into their house to provide better supervision.

It’s been so hard to seem him slide into decrepit  old age. He was always so strong, but his last few years he’s been getting weaker and more feeble. Recently my parents made the decision to place him in a nursing home so he could be monitored 24/7. Ironically, less than two full days after he was admitted, he fell and broke his hip (or broke his hip and fell, not sure which). He went through surgery for that (replacing the ball part of his femur), but he had some complications after the surgery (aspiration pneumonia, food from feeding tube not assimilating…). He was in much pain and weakening. My mom and sister finally decided that it was time for hospice care. He was kept on morphine most of the time to handle the pain.

This morning around 1:00 a.m., he stopped breathing and fell asleep in Jesus. I’m sad that such a great man is no longer in this world, but I am glad that he’s not in any more pain or discomfort and the next conscious thought that he has will be Jesus coming to wake him up and take us all home. “Grandpa, it’s not ‘good-bye’, it’s ‘see you soon!’”

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Pattern Sale!

imageI bought a bunch of McCall's patterns the last time they went on sale for $0.99 each and have been waiting what seems like eons for Simplicity patterns to follow suit. Well, it appears my wait is over! :) Joann Fabric is running a $0.99 sale on Simplicity patterns this coming weekend (Friday, Oct. 7 – Monday, Oct 10) so I have made out my list and am checking it twice. I’m mainly going to get costume patterns (historical type outfits which might come in handy for homeschool situations) with a few doll clothes patterns thrown in for fun. Now for some time to sew…

Saturday, October 01, 2011


In searching for a program that could join and split pdfs easily, I stumbled upon PDFTKhttp://www.pdflabs.com/tools/pdftk-the-pdf-toolkit/ (stands for PDF ToolKit). I am sure it is very functional and a power workhorse of a program since is runs from the command prompt, but wishing for something a little user friendly, I was very happy to find PDFTK4ALL. This program offers a GUI which makes the tasks of splitting, joining, extracting, rotating, etc., a lot simpler. So if you need a free solution for these tasks, I recommend you give PDFTK4ALL a try.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flying Again

I tried FlyLady when I was a mom of 1 little and did ok until I was a mom of 1 slightly bigger little and morning sick with little #2. Then things started falling apart. I guess I fell off the wagon and took about 9 years to find my way back on. Now, I wouldn’t say I’m fully flying yet, but I’m taking some steps in that direction, I guess I’m in flight training :).

I’m kind of doing it all wrong by not starting with her babysteps, so maybe I’ll have to check in and make sure I’m not getting off track any. But I think I have the main bits together.

I made Control Journals for me and the rest of the littles (including the 2 yo). Sticking with our kid colors, Gigi, miss pink, chose 2 cute fairies (cleaning fairies) on a pink background, the boys wanted something more guyish so we went with the firefighter theme (putting out “hot spots”) on blue and green backgrounds. I found another cute fairy princess for Missy’s journal (against orange) , and of course, mom’s had to be FlyLady on a purple background, lol. I figured it would be a tiny bit harder to lose them if they were brightly colored.  Some have still somehow managed to go missing since I made them a couple of days ago.

Control Journals

The insides are 1/2 sheets encased in plastic report covers folded in half. This keeps the pages safe from tearing or being spilled on and also makes the pages easy to turn. The very first page is the Morning Routines, then Evening Routines, then Daily Routines, then Zones.

Geo and Gigi have school control journals in the very back part of their control journals. Our school schedule pretty much recycles each week so that part is in plastic with one sheet with specific assignments out of plastic so they can check things off as done.

Everything else can be checked off with dry erase markers or grease pencils (haven’t tried these yet, but I think I might). They seem to have a problem losing their pens so I might have to put a pencil case in each journal for the pens to live so they won’t wander away as easily.


The numbers in the boxes are estimates on how long I think it should take them to do each chore. It can give them a goal to beat with a timer.

My morning and evening routines are probably too long for right now, but I’ve highlighted the ones that I want to make habits at first (5 each) and will build from there (so I don’t feel bad if I don’t get to my whole list just yet). I don’t want to crash and burn like I am so prone to do.

Encyclopedia Interactica

I’ve always been a fan of the French children’s site Poisson Rouge and was happy to see that they are trying to find ways to illustrate educational concepts as well as their mainly entertainment oriented content. I do see more room for growth, but I’m so far pleased with what I see. There are math, science, and music applications along with a few other ideas.


Gimposition PDF Booklet Creator

I rarely pay for software if I can find free ways around all the features of the pricier versions. One example is .pdf booklet creation. Adobe Reader is supposed to handle it just fine, but for some reason, it kept messing up a document I was trying to print yesterday. The pages were all mixed up, 17 on one side of the page 53 on the other. It was just not working. So, after trying everything I could think of doing, I went hunting for a free booklet creation solution and happened upon Gimposition. It is so intuitive, it’s not funny. You just load in the .pdf document you want to bookletize, tell it where you want the output file saved, and in about a second or two, the brand new booklet is waiting to be printed. It gets my vote!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My “This Can’t Be Sourdough Bread” Recipe

Since I started my sourdough journey on March 12 when a friend of mine showed up at a church social with a jar of starter for me (not something I had asked for, but I’m so glad she did!), it’s been a bumpy ride. At first it just sat in my fridge waiting for its weekly feed. One week I thought for sure I’d killed it because I let it go longer than a week between feeds, but I started feeding it again and it came right back to life. I’ve since learned that wild yeast isn’t that easy to kill and I could have neglected it for a few weeks and it probably, with some coaxing, would still have returned to its former glory.

I finally got brave enough to attempt a loaf of sourdough and used the recipe from S. John Ross’ Sourdough Baking – The Basics website. I actually did make some fairly decent bread to begin with and then the urge for more sourdough experimentation took over and I started trying other recipes and techniques (like baking inside my deep cast iron skillet with a lid on to trap steam), but either the taste (too sour), or the crust/crumb (too tough) weren’t just right and I started to feel downright deflated. My kids were pining for the fleshpots of commercial yeast bread Sad smile. Also, my starter started to look a little peaked and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. It wasn’t doubling in 4 hours like I thought it should, it was starting to separate which didn’t look like the Google pictures that I had seen of lovely, vital sourdough starter.

But, I’m not one to give up a fight easily. I had read some interesting reports on the nutritional value of sourdough bread over commercial yeasted breads and I wasn’t wanting to throw in the towel yet. I tried adding a little pineapple juice to my starter which did help some, I also ordered a food scale which, as soon as I started using it, seemed to have an amazing effect on my starter. I realized that I hadn’t been keeping my starter at 100% hydration like I thought, more like 120% or more. When I mixed equal weights of water and flour, the result was more like a wet dough, much less like a thick batter. It was almost hard to stir.

Finally my starter was doing better and I was now on the search for a non-sour (or mildly sour), soft, thin/light crusted sourdough. I tweaked John’s recipe to include an egg (lecithin), milk (dough conditioner), and baking soda (acid neutralization). I also took his advice of lower temps as I’d been baking at much higher temps and the crusts were always so crusty.

I’ve made this recipe a few times now and my kids have stopped wishing for the “old” bread and are quite happy with Mommy’s new wild yeast bread. Geo even got so into things that he’s started his own starter (we’re calling it a science experiment, lol). So, without further ado, here’s my 50%+ WW TCBS bread recipe:

2 c. (500 g.) 100% hydration starter (mine is almost 100% white)

3 c. (400 g.) whole wheat flour

1/4 c. (80 g.) honey (or molasses)

1 egg + milk = 2/3 c. (1 egg + milk = 160 g.)

Autolyze (rest dough) for 30 minutes, then add:

1-1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. oil

Add more bread flour if needed.

Mix in bread mixer for 5-8 minutes or knead by hand for 8-10 minutes (ok, guessing here, lol).

Place in a greased bowl, coat both sides, cover with plastic wrap (or a plastic shower cap) and let it rest in a warm place (i.e. in the oven with the light on) for 30 minutes to an hour. Punch dough down, knead in bowl till dough firms up a bit. Cover and let rest again. Aim for 3 or 4 punch ‘n’ kneads (or stretch and folds) during the first 4-5 hours. Then turn dough out onto greased surface. Cut dough into half. Place one half back into bowl, take other half, cut side down, on your work surface. Roll out with rolling pin into a long, semi-rectangular shape. Flip bread over so cut side is now facing up. Begin rolling bread at top, rolling toward you all the way to the bottom. Pinch seams. Place seam side down into greased bread pan. Repeat with other 1/2 of dough. Place shower cap (or plastic wrap) on top of each bread pan. Let them rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours, till top of dough is at least 1 inch above top of pan. With a sharp knife or razor blade, slash top of bread in whatever designs you would like. Heat oven to 350°F and bake for 20 minutes. Let bread cool before slicing. Store any bread that’s left in plastic bags like these to keep the bread moist for a few days (if it lasts that long). If you don’t like heels and no one else wants them, they make great breadcrumbs after they’ve been dried.

Note: I aim to have my bread in a pre-cooked dough state for at least 7 hours to give the phytates in the wheat time to neutralize. I personally don’t like my bread to go much longer than 12 hours before baking as that increases the sour taste and we’re not fans of that at this point. I generally aim for 7 hours total dough time, but lately, with the weather being as unseasonably cool as it has been, my bread has inched up closer to the 12 hour mark. Unfortunately for me, the light in my oven is blown. Lately I’ve been mixing the dough first thing in the morning (around 8 a.m.) and then into the loaf pans around 12 or 1 and bake around 3 or 4. It would also work to mix it up before going to bed in the evening, then shaping into loaves in the morning and bake 2-3 hours later, but you’d have to do without any punching down of the dough which I think helps develop the gluten strands.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Keeping dictation shorter

I have the hardest time keeping my children on task during our Riggs dictation. They can turn a 10 minute spelling or phonogram test into an hour if I let them. I admit that I’m easily distracted by the youngers and can tend to lose track of time so I’ve been on the hunt for a free timer program that would help keep us on track, but the ones I had used would always restart at zero and I wanted one that would let me restart back to 30 seconds after each phonogram or word as the case may be. I finally found what I was looking for! :) It’s called TimeLeft and its basic version is free.

imageI chose to keep it down to its bare bones and do without the title, headers, play/pause and restart buttons. This allows me to have a very small timer which remains on top of all windows, but which can easily hide in less used parts of my screen. There are easy to remember keyboard shortcuts for start (ctrl+s), pause (ctrl+p), and reset (ctrl+r).

Here’s how I use it. I get the timer window active, press ctrl+s to start it, then say the phonogram or word that is being tested on and press ctrl+r to reset it back to 30 seconds (or however much time I’m allowing for each item). Then if they beat the timer, I say the next thing and press ctrl+r again. If they don’t beat the timer and it dings, they leave that space blank (and subsequently get it wrong) and we move on to the next phonogram/word. They really don’t like having to skip one so they try real hard to beat the timer.

Is it a D or a B?

I’ve seen several other helps to remember the difference between a lowercase b and d. Here’s my own take on the ol’ “D vs. B” beginner reader quandary. Click here to download.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Our Workbinders distilled down from Workfolders which are a spinoff of Workboxes…

Ok, I could not think of a decent title, but the point is that my Workbinders are inspired by Jolanthe’s Workfolders which are derivative of Sue Patrick’s ubiquitous Workbox system.

I tried traditional workboxes a couple of years ago with Geo and they went well with the downside of taking too long to load each night. I always felt like I was forgetting something. It was enough to make me go slightly batty. I took a year off from workboxes and this year decided to give them another try after reading about Jolanthe’s workbox twist and revision. It seemed like it would work so well with the Gs so I set off to imitate it (please feel flattered, Jolanthe).

I saw the folders that Jolanthe said she got from Wal-Mart, but they were a bit more expensive than these tabbed pocked folders by Avery.


My math failed me and I bought 3 packs not realizing till later that I’d only need 6 dividers per kid if I wanted them to have 12 pockets. I ended up with a bunch extra but it didn’t turn out to be a bad thing after all as you’ll see.

I decided not to do a separate weekly grid for all the tabs, my kids would just lose them anyway.



Instead I put 12 velcro dots on the inside cover of the flexible poly 3-ring binders that I have the workpockets in. I put one tabbed divider (from a pack of these, again from Avery) in front of the pockets and I put more velcro dots on both sides. The front side is for their completed activity/subject cards and the back is for extras or activities/subjects that aren’t assigned on that given day. On the right tabbed divider you’ll see a smaller (older) card which says, “I’m ready to work!” I made (and had laminated) a lovely school clock-in / clock-out setup , and they just don’t use it :( So this way it hopefully will still give them the idea that before they get started on the other stuff they should “clock-in” in their workbinders at the very least.

I had originally thought I would use all 3 dots on each pocket for the subject, a place for them to match up the subject card from the front cover of the binder and an extra one for a “with mom” card. But since it’s easier for them to just move them from the binder cover to the tabbed divider, we’ve just been doing that. It also makes it easier for me not to have to hunt down the cards on several different pockets.

Like Jolanthe, I have a week’s worth of assignments for each subject that gets assigned, then in the evening, all I have to do is to reload the front cover with the cards for the next day and we’re good to go. I only put papers or very small/thin books in their workfolders and the rest of their books are in their “workboxes” (I love our Trofast setup by the way!). 


I put workboxes in quotes because I’m not using them in a typical workbox way in that the boxes aren’t numbered, but have labels for their category. So, for instance, I have Geo’s reading books in one box, Gigi’s in another. Geo’s reading comp. and grammar books share a box. Their workbinders share a box and my teacher’s books get their own box. It’s nice because the kids know where to go to get the things they need, they know exactly what’s expected of them from their workbinders and my job of refreshing them each evening is a breeze.

Oh, and the extra pockets? I made my own workfolder and in it I put my daily routines, weekly schedules, monthly calendars, my little notebook for jotting down things I don’t want to forget, our Keys for Kids devotional, reward stickers, a knitting pattern, memory verses, and whatever else I want to put in there. It has helped me get a lot more organized too and that’s always a good thing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Printing PDF books in booklet format

(for binding your own books)


Spurred on with my daughter flying through her first grade reader and needing something else to assign for reading (and also because of an old reader which my husbands grandmother had given him, which we found to be superior to most, if not all, modern readers), I went on a search for some good, old school readers. I found a slew on Google Books and a few others at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s book archive site.

Then I got to wondering if there was a simple way to print them as “booklets” so that I could bind them with my spiral binder. Well, Adobe Reader’s help page on printing booklets was helpful, it got me started, but it took me a few tries to find what actually works.

Go to File > Print


1. Under Print Range, select your page range

2. Click on “Reverse pages”

3. Under Paper Handling > Page Scaling, select “Booklet Printing.”

4. Choose “Back side only” for Booklet subset.

5. Print.

6. Repeat process with same print range, but this time:

7. Uncheck “Reverse pages”

8. Choose “Front side only” for Booklet subset.

9. Put your 1/2 printed pages in your printer (for my printer, they go in without being rotated and face down), print.


Then all I have to do is cut the sheets down the middle, don’t get the pages mixed up, punch them and bind my book. I was afraid I might forget this process so am sharing it for your edification and my personal future reference. Smile