Friday, January 31, 2014

Heat Wave

Heat wave!  Havin' us a heat wave!  Alright, so perhaps I'm being just a tad facetious, but after -30's and -20's for the past week or so, 32 feels downright balmy today. So much so that the Bean and I decided to troop outside late this morning and shovel and play for a good hour. I'm afraid my joy at the current conditions will be short lived, though, as yet MORE snow is on its way tonight and tomorrow.  And if that's not enough, it's going to be combined with sleet/freezing rain, giving everything a good coat of ice.  Last forecast I read said snow tonight, freezing stuff during the day tomorrow and more snow tomorrow night.  That'll be just lovely!  (OK, that was seriously facetious...)

Kayla and I took advantage of a free morning to run down to Canton and make a trip to Hobby Lobby for some supplies for next week's California project and some items for the big project I'm currently working on.  Then, as I said, it was back here for some fun in the snow.  The driveway is a mess as we didn't shovel the 2 or so inches we got last weekend and now it has been driven over repeatedly.  I thought I'd try my best to get up as much as I could before we got dumped on yet again and it made it even worse.  I'm thinking it might be a lost cause at this rate.

We didn't completely forget about Arkansas today, as I made Ozark Meatloaf and Arkansas Green Beans for dinner tonight.  Everyone liked the meatloaf, but my tried and true meatloaf (which I could never come up with the recipe for as I never actually make it the same way twice...) is still the favorite.  Some things you just don't mess with, I guess.  (Kristi's recipe notes:  In case you want to try it, I did end up halving the meatloaf recipe (3 lbs of meat = 8 servings did seem s little out of line...) and I added some finely diced green peppers and onions as well.  On the green beans, I cut it back to 2 servings (1 can of beans), but with 2 full strips of bacon.  Also lots of the people who had reviewed it said they were much too sweet, so I halved the brown sugar amount as well.)

Right now we're watching a movie, the Bean is having her nails painted and I'm praying the meteorologists miscalculated grossly and we're only going to get an inch or two of snow.  Hopefully the troops will get to head to Home Depot for the kids workshop there in the morning and then storytime at the library.  Not sure what else we might be able to do or not due, guess we'll be playing it be ear.  Gotta love the weather!  Until then...
Lunch time after playing in the snow (love this face)

 This is how much I love my husband - I created something just for him - Junior Mint Popcorn!

Noah's class picture came today - I totally have the most handsome kid in the class living at my house 

Alabama green beans

 Ozark Meatloaf

An Arkansas Feast!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Back to School

At 7:11am this morning I saw a bus drive past my front window.  I grinned like a kid eyeballing their presents on Christmas morning.  Everyone was back in school today - yay!  And the normality seems to have lessened the fighting (they were sad to go their separate ways this morning and genuinely enjoyed playing together when Noah got home) which makes for a much more smoothly functioning Gatchel household.

This Mama picked up another kiddo while hers were off at school this morning, though.  I got to hang out with Alexis for a few hours while the Bean was at school and we even went and caught up with some of my favorite ladies from MOPS for an impromptu play session for a bit.  Then I got the Bean from school, we ran some errands, I cleaned the house with help from the Bean; it's been a great day!  

We were going to do fried pickles tonight, but we've opted to save those for Sunday during our Super Bowl party, instead.  The kiddos did color their Arkansas maps today and like usual Noah surprised me with what he came up with.  While I have sometimes struggled during our project to 'bring it down' to their level, it is quite apparent to me that they are absorbing and enjoying learning.  While I may struggle to find a way to explain Civil Rights, the American Revolution or the trials faced by the Native American people, I think they're getting 'enough' of it to understand.  And my research has taught me tons, too!  I'm honestly not sure who's enjoying this project the most...

Can't believe tomorrow's Friday already.  Honestly, I'm not sure what day it is or what day it feels like anymore.  Hoping to work on a couple of projects during the day and we're having Ozarks meatloaf tomorrow night!  So until then...

Arkansas Fun Fact of the Day:  The state contains six national park sites, two-and-a half million acres of national forests, seven national scenic byways, three state scenic byways, and 50 state parks.

 Home from school I put her straight to work

 Actually, she begged to be allowed to mop.  May this continue to happen for as long as she resides in my house ;-)

 Noah's been talking about snails at school and brought home this cutie today

 Noah says to tell you all "This is Arkansas, covered in Hot Springs"

 Mikayla says "This is the President's house" (She means Bill Clinton, fyi...)

My friend Tess sure does know how to say thank you for lending a hand :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rice to Know Ya!

They're home.  Again.  Even though FPS posted around 5:30 last night that there would be school, shortly after 11pm a notice came across that one more time they'd be closing down school today.  This is the last one, right?  I mean, I love them and I really do enjoy having Noah around, but I miss the routine!  (And their behavior is letting me know so do they)  Plus, I would give thanks for a snow day at this point, but I'm super over the cold.  They will be back tomorrow.  Right?  Anyone?  Please?

But we made the best of it none the less.  This morning we made diamond bracelets.  (OK, so not really, but it came from a packet with 'diamond' gems)  We again talked about how you can mine for your own diamonds in Arkansas and Mikayla assured me yet again that she really wants to go to Arkansas so she can find some diamonds.  A quick trip to the library, then we were back here for Noah to start working on addressing his Valentine's for school and Kayla to get some playtime in.  Noah has to address and sign all his own Valentine's this year to practice his writing skills.  The kid is getting so big.  Then I surprised them with lunch at McD's with Daddy!  See I knew we could survive another snow day :)

For dinner tonight I made Rice Dressing in honor of Arkansas.  Did you know Arkansas accounts for 49% of the rice production in the nation?  I sure didn't!  For all kinds of information on rice in Arkansas, check it out here.  And if you're thinking of trying out the recipe, I ended up adding shredded chicken to make it a more complete meal and used fresh mushrooms (sauteed with the onion and celery) in place of the canned.  It went over pretty well here.

After dinner, I whipped up some Southern Chocolate Gravy and biscuits, a dish which is said to have origins in Arkansas.  While I worked on that, the kiddos and Grant got the lettering done for our "We've been there" state.  I think the dessert was a bigger hit than the lettering ;-)  They're now snuggly tucked into bed with visions of school dancing through their heads.  I hope.

More progress on the bathroom.  Check it out in the pictures.  We're getting there!

School for sure tomorrow and going to try our hand at some fried pickles tomorrow night.  Should be an interesting day.  Until then...

Arkansas Fun Fact of the Day:  Since the 1830s the area now known as Hot Springs National Park has bathed notables as diverse as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Al Capone. The park is entirely surrounded by the city of Hot Springs, the boyhood home of President Bill Clinton.

The makings for our diamond bracelets

 Hard at work

 Noah's diamonds

 Kayla's diamonds

 Noah got started on addressing his Valentine's for all his classmates today

 We have a faucet!

 Rice Dressing

Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy
No Gatchel's have been to Arkansas!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Diamonds are a Gatchel's Best Friend

Hmm, what to do on yet another "cold" day??  Giant cookies!  Johnny Cash!  Tea Party!  Hey, this is the Gatchel's after all.

We did brave the cold for a bit for me to run over to JoAnn's for some supplies for a new project I'm working on as well as a couple of things for the upcoming states.  They were troopers so I promised them a great morning when we got back.

After a quick snack, we decided to work some Arkansas magic into our day by using Hilary Clinton's Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe  (minus the oats) to create some giant cookies via Kid Kitchen.  She doesn't strike me as much of a baker, but I have to say the recipe turned out some amazing cookies.  The kids loved them - Noah says that he wants them every day.  But of course we couldn't just be content to chocolate chip cookies so we made them ginormous and stuffed them with the makings for 'smores.  You'll have to check out the pictures to see if they were enjoyed...  It was nice doing a Kid Kitchen with Noah again, he's one mean mixing machine!

Then Lightning McQueen and Cinderella dropped by for an impromptu tea party.  They have been begging me to be able to do this for weeks, so I guess a 'cold' day is as good as any to dress up, get out the fine china and all the animals and enjoy.  School be darned, I have had two happy kiddos on my hands today.

Tonight we continued on our Arkansas adventure by opening the mail we've received.  I've got to say, this one makes me smile.  My friend Deb, has a friend Judy who is on a great adventure across the country right now.  Well Judy has some friends in Arkansas that she contacted to hook us up with mail this week.  How cool is that, I feel like we need our own six degrees of separation or something at this point.  Anyway, thanks to the Willis' in Mena, AR for the mail this week!

We also tried our hand at making edible diamonds tonight.  As I mentioned yesterday Arkansas is the only place that you can actually mine for your own diamonds in the country.  We taught the kiddos a little bit more about how diamonds were made and we're looking forward to growing (and eventually eating!) our own.  We'll keep you posted on how they're doing.

On another note - we have a toilet!  And a sink (not working yet, but it's in)!  We have progress!  There was no need to potty dance tonight, I am a happy woman :)

Not sure about tomorrow yet as the wind chills are supposed to be brutal again tonight so not sure if school will be in session or not.  I have no doubt we'll come up with SOMETHING to do either way.  The only downside is we are officially using extra days now. We've already gone through the allotted six calamity days for the school year now.  Since they already go to June 13, I'm thinking that maybe this year they'll just keep them in school all summer if this weather keeps up.  Good thing we don't have vacation planned 'til the first week of August! Anyways, we'll be back tomorrow!  But until then...

Arkansas Fun Fact of the Day:  The community of Mountain View is called the Folk Capital of America. The little town preserves the pioneer way of life and puts it on display for visitors at the Ozark Folk Center State Park from March through October.

 Ready to make Hilary's cookies

 Mikayla had had enough of the noise - after all the missed school, I'm with her!

 Stirring in the chocolate chips

 Building a s'more

 Stuffing the cookies

 Cinderella rocking out to Johnny Cash

 Monster cookies!

 A tea party menu

 Tea for two (and a whole lot of stuffed animals)

 Half a batch of the original recipe yielded two giant cookies and these three :)

 The inside of the 'smores

 Hmmm, think they liked 'em?

 We have a toilet!

 And a sink!

 Mail from Mena, AR

 Learning all about making edible diamonds

 Everyone gets a chance to stir

We'll keep you posted!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Feeling Natural in Arkansas

Adios Arizona, hello Arkansas!  We're traveling to the Natural State this week to learn about everything from the state bird (Mockingbird) to the state tree (Loblolly Pine) to the state flower (Appleblossom) to why the state flag has a diamond on it.  I'll admit my knowledge of Arkansas was sadly lacking before this so I've found my research to be quite interesting - turning up all kinds of things from Bathhouse Row to the fact you can mine for your own diamonds at Crater State Park.

We started the week with an Arkansas meal, as well.  My cool cookbook turned up a recipe for an Arkansas Traveler.  It also gave a bit of background information; "The term Arkansas Traveler can refer to many different things, including a newspaper, minor league baseball team, a tomato breed, and a racehorse, as well as bikes, wagons, boats and an airplane service!  Bill Clinton's Arkansas friends who campaigned for him during his presidential campaigns were dubbed the same."  Everyone here loved them.  For dessert we had Possum Pie, a traditional Arkansas dish.  The kids were both really glad to find out there wasn't actually any possum in it...

We got our wall all put up and my little sponges soaked up all the Arkansas facts I gave them.  Noah loves all the pictures of the caverns - I think I may have a spelunker on my hands if he ever gets the chance.  Mikayla, on the other hand, has decided she wants to visit Arkansas as soon as possible - to mine for diamonds and listen to Johnny Cash who she told me "plays the best Arkansas music!" (Cash was born in Arkansas)

In unrelated Arkansas news, the bathroom (inevitably) has hit a couple of snags.  We're still working on it, though!  I am determined to have a working potty as soon as possible.  Also, if you're up on the drama of the Beechview PTA Directory you will be thrilled to hear that it is finished, it went home this afternoon and I am completely washing my hands of it!  OK, so not the last thing, but it is done!  What a relief to move on past that.

FPS and OLS have already both announced that there will be no school tomorrow.  Gee, thanks for that, Mother Nature.  Not sure what we'll be up to, but I have no doubt it will be jam packed and fun filled.  Tomorrow night when Grant makes it home we're going to be making edible diamonds!  So until then...

Arkansas Fun Fact of the Day:  47 hot springs flow from the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain, at an average temperature of 143 F.

So we hit a snag with the toilet instillation...

 But all the pieces are ready when we get it figured out!

 Noah got his first official homework assignment tonight and he sat down and finished it as soon as he got home from school, though it's not due 'til Friday.  He is so my kid

 An Arkansas Traveler

 Possum Pie (Grant says it reminds him of chocolate cheesecake if that gives you any ideas)

 Assembling the wall and learning a ton

The whole Arkansas Wall