Archive for April, 2010

Summer vacation is one week closer! The kids and I are so excited to put this school year behind us, take a breather, and then get ready for what’s next. Third grade what a challenge to our entire family. Rather than vent about it all – I’ll just say that the summer will focused on letting Cole relax a little and in contrast giving Truman, my future 1st grader, some much-needed attention.

In the past year we have discovered a few web sites that we want to award with an 8busyfeet gold star. They are noteworthy first because the kids think they’re fun and also because I think they really do have educational value.

Spellingcity this site let’s you enter their actual spelling list and then play games to learn them. It also has a test feature so the kids can take a practice test on their own

Big IQ Kids on this site the kids can work on math or spelling. The spelling feature is our favorite. Like spellingcity, Big IQ Kids lets you enter your own words. Then the kids have to work on their words to earn game tokens.

Mathmagician – this one is great for checking how fast they can do their math facts. They have different levels  – addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mixed I had all the kids on this site working on various things through the year.

Math is Fun– this is one that I could set one of the kids up to work on what they needed to and be able to help someone else with their homework. The math trainers are self-learning so they repeat the problems that the kids are having trouble with.

Dad’s Worksheets– This dad has put together a great site with printable worksheets and easy to understand rules, tricks, and poems to memorize multiplication facts. His site is expanding all the time with new printables.

Enchanted learning – this is also a printable focused site, but has been invaluable for doing research, creating mini books, and reinforcing concepts. At various times all three kids found valuable things here.

Cool Math for Kids- This is another fun math site. The games range from the basic addition facts all the day through fractions. I especially like how they explain number families to help tie multiplication and division together.

SFS Kids– this is one our music teacher sent us and the kids love it. Cole and Anna Mae play violin and Truman is taking piano – the site has activities that focus on notes, rhythms, and other building blocks of music to give them a little extra practice.

That’s our list for now – if you have great sites that you think we should check out please send them to us and the 8busyfeet will give them a try!

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This weekend is Anna Mae’s first communion. We have out-of-town guests, soccer games, and a baseball practice to add to the mix. I thought it might be wise to get ahead of it all at least with the food.

Today I made four jars of marinara sauce — one for tonight, one for Saturday night, and 2 more for next week.  It was super easy, smelled wonderful, and tasted better than anything store-bought. Everyone who stopped in today had to check out what I was up to…

My marinara sauce does not follow any recipe exactly – I have a couple to consult, but enjoy tweaking it myself. Today I used:

 2 (28 ounce) cans of whole tomatoes, packed in juice

Olive oil




Dry red wine


First, put a colander on top of a big pot and dump the tomatoes. As the juice runs into the pot, you may need to smash the tomatoes by hand (be careful not to spray yourself) and remove the tough spot where the fruit attached to the plant. Remove about 1 ½ cups of the smashed tomatoes and set aside. Leave about 5 cups of the liquid in the pot and discard the rest.

In a skillet put olive oil on medium heat and add the onion. Keep it moving until it is soft and brown in the edges. Then add garlic (about 4 cloves), basil (6 pinches), and oregano (1 pinch). Stir.

Add the tomatoes that are still in the strainer and cook for another 10ish minutes. Add about 2/3 cup of wine and cook another minute or so.

Transfer everything in the skillet into a food processor and give it a few quick pulses. This will break up the rest of the tomatoes. Add the reserve tomatoes for the last pulse or two – to give the sauce a chunky texture.

Finally, put the sauce in the original pot and let it simmer for a bit. Be sure to add oregano, basil, salt, pepper, or even sugar if needed. This is a great time to clean up the kitchen!

I filled four large mason jars with sauce to keep in the refrigerator and use within a week or so. There was enough left in the pot to toss with ravioli for tonight’s dinner. I added a salad and garlic toast to make it a great after practice meal.

Let me know if you try it – happy cooking!

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wordless wednesday

“spider grace” scaling the pantry in search of a fruit snack!

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I had a wild hair one day and decided to paint the stairway to the basement with chalk board paint. I bought the paint, but was totally chicken to do it, so I invited my friend Denise to come. I made lunch for the kids and she painted. It was really a fun morning.

The kids love to draw on it… Wouldn’t a world where the flowers are as tall as trees be cool?

 How about flowers that reach up to the sunshine?

 Someone asked me recently, “How busy is busy?” I told her we have a free day in June – I wasn’t kidding.

 They LOVE a good countdown calendar – and this one has been especially popular. I change it in the morning and sing the number to the Phineas and Ferb theme song… “There’s 40 days until summer vacation, I’ve so much to do ‘fore they end it. So the annual problem for the mom generation – is finding a good way to spend it.”

They think I’m a nerd… but the wall is cool…

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This is the perfect book to curl up with especially on a dreadfully cold and rainy spring weekend in April. I finished reading awhile ago, but the dreadfully cold and rainy spring weekend brought it to mind. Rather than re-reading however, I am curled with a cup of tea ready to write a review – almost just as good.

The book is written by Mary Ann Shaffer who passed away before it was finished. Her niece Annie Barrows picked up where it was left off and successfully completed the manuscript for publication.  The book is written in letters giving it quaint voyeuristic charm – as strange as that may sound – carring the reader through Juliet Ashton’s fascination with the unique, witty, and occasionally eccentric people of Guernsey.

Guernsey is an island within the English Channel that has a very unique history including its involvement in World War II. Officially, it’s not part of the United Kingdom, but instead it’s considered a separate possession of the Crown. Evidently, that means that it does not fall under British Law, but its defense is the responsibility of the UK.

During World War II the island was occupied by German Troops who hoped to invade England. Just before the troops arrived, many children were evacuated to England. Some lived with relatives, some with strangers. Some were reunited with their families after the war and some of the children never returned.

While that may not sound like the premise for a lovely “feel-good” story, I promise this book is better than comfort food on a stormy day. It was however; way too girly for Tim, as much as I thought he would enjoy the history, his masculinity would not allow him to read past the first letter. So it’s four and a half stars for me and a “you have got to be kidding me” look from him.

Give it a try and let me know what you think –  Happy Reading!

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Grace was ready to move from her crib to a big girl bed, so we took out the day bed and now have two twin beds in the their bedroom. It’s a smaller room, but we tried to do some things to make it special.

We decorated the room with a  fun hodge-podge of things from lots of people we love. The quilt was a gift from my sister Karen – isn’t she blessed with talent? She has such a good eye too – she found the quilts that work perfect with all the colors in the room.

 The dresser and the two twin beds came from my great aunt’s estate. The dresser is especially nice for sharing. The bears were gifts that we gave to Tim’s grandma. When she passed away, his aunt gave them to Anna Mae.  


This hand painted rose planter was also from Tim’s grandma. It’s so pretty and has become the inspiration for all the roses in the room.

Years ago when my friend’s husband left for the “desert” she came looking for a project. She was so sweet to build the window seat for us (thank you again Crystal!) We found the mini-chandelier on eBay. It’s becoming the perfect place to curl up with a book or just daydream…


The vanity was in my uncle and aunt’s bedroom and when they bought a new bedroom set they offered it to the girls. We painted it white and found an ice cream parlor chair to go with it. The girls love to dance in front of the mirror.

Poor Grace fell asleep waiting for me to finish the dishes and come up to take more photos – she had a big day and is so ready to sleep. In a few weeks she will dance in her first ballet recital. After that we can hang her dress next to Anna’s first recital dress.

Before she went to sleep she moved the ballerina sisters so they hold hands.  

This room has been the most fun to decorate. Everything seems to just work together to create the perfect space for our girls. I hope they love it as much as I do.

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The kid’s activities have taken over so I have been making quick dinners in order to at least try to all eat together. Grilled cheese, pizza, and rotisserie chicken have all been on the menu – but my favorite right now is to grill chicken and a big salad. The boys tend to just want the chicken and some fruit, but the girls, we are getting creative thinking of lots of fun things to put into a salad.

The salads have inspired dressing experiments as well – a few of which turned out really yummy. Also, my Mom was telling me that her Nana used to make homemade dressing, shake it up in a mason jar, and keep it in the refrigerator. I loved finding another use for my many mason jars – so that sounded fantastic to me.

This particular dressing is terrific with chicken, spring greens, dried cranberries, and red onion.

Theresa & Grace’s Sweet Dressing

½ T Honey

1 T Dijon Mustard

2 T Raspberry Vinegar

¼ Cup Canola oil

Salt and pepper

We layered all the above ingredients in a jar and gave it a good shake. It took two minutes to prepare and made the home version of fast food dinner seem a little more special.    

Try it out and let me know if you create a dressing concoction of your own!

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 One of my favorite reading assignments was A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. It’s a lecture originally given to the students at two women’s colleges in Cambridge and then published as a book in 1929. Woolf begins by explaining that she was asked to speak on the topic of “Women and Fiction.” Her answer to this assignment is to give her opinion of what a woman must have in order to become a writer. Her answer is now famous: a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write.

In 1929 Woolf had it out for a society that, as she saw it, prevented women from pursuing their creative interests especially writing. In 2010 one would say that our society has overcome many of those vices – “We’ve come a long way baby” and all that — right?

I won’t argue that there is a glass ceiling or a need for fellow suffragists to plan a march on the capital. But I do think that if you consider her argument it still resonates – at least in my house– today.

The money is needed to rent a room. The room is needed so that the writer has a quiet place in which to work. In the end Woolf’s argument is simply that a woman must contend with frequent interruptions because they are so often deprived of a room of their own in which to write. Without quiet, uninterrupted time they are not able to get anything done.

My own space is a desk in our family room – near the kitchen – where I am centrally located and best able to answer questions, get snacks, tie shoes, answer the phone, correct homework, hear the buzzer on the dryer, answer the front door, keep an eye on the kids outside, and help look for the missing soccer jerseys. Interruptions Ms. Woolf? Why I have no idea what you mean.

Last weekend when I voiced this concern to Tim – in not the most rational way – he looked at me and laughed. “When you decided you wanted four kids, where exactly did you think they would live?” he asked.

Okay, good point – but that still does not extinguish the desire to find a way to keep my family in balance, well-loved, and cared for while still pursuing my own interest in writing.  With a room of my own, away from all the commotion I  believe that I could really get a lot done.

On the other hand, that would open the door to a new question that perhaps Ms. Woolf had not considered. If I did find a quiet place away from the 8busyfeet – what would I ever find to write about?  Maybe someday I will have the chance to find that out, but for now I think I’ll have to settle for “a desk of my own” and a multitude of topic ideas constantly passing by.

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I read Julie and Julia with mixed feelings. Her self-imposed projects, deadlines, and demands were inspiring. Especially because we know that the end of the story is a career in writing and a popular movie. I could relate to the author’s frustrations with setting a target date to get something done and then enduring all the things that get into the way.

I also really loved the “glimpses” she gives of Julia Child’s life. While she admits that these asides come directly from her own imagination they captured the personality of Childs and make the book a joy to read. 

On the other hand the author’s melancholy attitude and inability to get it all together – even just a little bit was exhausting.

For example she writes, “Doesn’t he get it? Doesn’t he understand that if I don’t get through the whole book in a year then this whole thing will have been a waste that I’m going to spiral into mediocrity and despair and probably wind up on the street trading blow jobs for crack or something? He hates me, anyway. Look at him, curled over on his side of the bed like he doesn’t want to so much as touch me. It’s because I’ve got the stink of failure on me. I’m doomed…”

This constant self-loathing and pessimism were never successfully justified in the author’s writing. Nothing all that troublesome happened to her in her life before the project – she was, as far as I can tell – just in a funk. That’s fine, but at some point it would have been far more interesting if the task, her success, or at least the fun she was having lead her to an epiphany of self-appreciation and an improved attitude.

Her political ramblings relating to her job were a distraction especially in the shadow of the current political debate between self-reliance and whiney hand-out seeking dependence.  Perhaps, however, my interest in having her turn off the pity party and do something with the opportunity is only ingrained in my own belief system.

In the end, I’ll assent that the book is fun to read. The cooking, shopping, and entertaining stories are worth putting up with the author’s grumpy attitude.  Tim and I watched the move after I finished the book and we thought Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Childs was splendid. In my opinion the book is worth 3 stars and the movie 4 stars.

Let me know what you think – happy reading!

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I don’t know how my mother kept her sanity when we were little. She had the four of us signed up for anything and everything that we wanted to try. It was a wonderful self-less act of survival, love, and time spent in a VW Golf . I’m having flashback of  highschool hearing the muffler a mile away – but I digress…

The spring “busy season” is in full swing. Soccer, baseball, tennis, dance, choir, 4-H and all the rest of the spring activities will keep us moving. I complain – yes, but I do love it all. The kids are having a blast and we get to hang out with our friends whose kids are just as over scheduled – so it’s all good.  Saturday we had music lessons, soccer games, baseball clinic, a 4-H activity and half of us made it to church with the promise of sleeping in.



Sunday in contrast was quiet. The kids played outside and Tim fixed the storm door.

He mentioned that he did not want a whole blog about him getting things done around the house despite how much fun I would have writing about it. So to compromise I will just say…  there is nothing better than when that man gets out the tools and checks something off the never-ending honey do list! OOOh I could just kiss him!

Happy week everyone –

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