A Bushel of Brooks

A Bushel of Brooks
Us as we are ...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Carving

We have created the tradition of carving pumpkins at Eli's parents' house each year now. I am NOT that good at carving pumpkins at all! At best, I can cut out shapes and a more "classic" face ... Eli, however, takes on much more difficult pictures. He and the big boys look on the computer for the picture that they want, and then he somehow creates a masterpiece!

Grandma and the cheese man
This year, our troops at Grandma's house would be lower in numbers, so thankfully, there was no fuss when we told the boys that Daddy was going to carve one pumpkin for them to share. We don't have three hours for him to chip away! And in reality, pumpkin carving goes like this:

We show up at Grandma's.
Boys are ecstatic for pumpkin carving.
We get everything set up on the table.
Boys disappear from the kitchen and play toys or watch a movie the ENTIRE TIME.
Every so often they pop in: "Is it done yet?"
Eli gets goopy and creative.
I watch, toting Matthias on my hip.
Pumpkin gets finished.
Boys run in, "Yippee!"
They get pictures with the pumpkin they never touched.
Everyone is happy! = )

Eli always does a fantastic job, and there will be day that Jonah joins him at the table.

We're just not quite there yet.

Mya and Joy carved their pumpkins and we enjoyed a good fall memory-making evening!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Parchment Paper

In my adventures in baking, I have definitely had my shares of failures, mistakes, forgetting to turn on the timer, mishaps, messes, and you-name-it amidst the times of having something turn out perfectly delicious. Isn't that the way it goes? Or a recipe just isn't what you thought it would be?

This surely doesn't turn me away from baking or cooking or creating, it is just a part of the process. And the fun = )

I've been baking most of my cookies as of late on parchment paper. Um, the best idea ever. Took me a long time to convert because I thought it would end up being a waste. Quite the opposite. One, I can reuse that same parchment paper over and over again. As long as I haven't contaminated with nuts or things that people might be allergic to, the paper holds up use after use. Just brush it off, fold it up, and stick it in the side of a cabinet. Ready for the next day. Two, my cookies come out just a little more evenly browned and I'm quite fond of this trick.

I hadn't, however, really ever used it for brownies or bar-style baked items.

Until yesterday.

I decided to give it a try. I was baking a double batch of brownies for a decorating party at youth group. I forgot to grab a big pan from church, so was baking in two of my own glass pans. One is a non-stick glass pan that Eli got me a few years ago. Amazing because you don't have to grease anything! The other is just a standard glass pan. So, I decided to line that one with parchment paper and see how they turned out.

Parchment paper-lined pan
Um, A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. The ones that came out of the parchment paper were decidedly more evenly baked, with not so hard edges as the other pan, and they were slightly more light. That's the best I can describe them as. Overall, I took a sliver from each pan, and there was a definite better crumb and texture from the parchment paper ones! I was kind of shocked, actually, because I didn't expect that big a difference. Now, truly, they were both still brownies and yummy, BUT, I just got totally sold.

Regular style!
Maybe this affects no one but myself ... but we are heading into the holidays, and I, for one, know that means more baking for me = ) So, I will definitely be putting the parchment paper to more use from now on.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Family Whirlwind!

My father-in-law's sister, Aunt Michelle came to visit the last week. She hasn't been here in about five years, so the visit was long overdue! Aunt Michelle is hard to describe ... in a good way! She makes you laugh, she plays with the boys, she is affectionate, and every time you see her, it's like it has only been a few days. She is truly a gem of a lady, and we have missed not seeing her for such a long time.

That makes a visit one that lots gets crammed into! Eli and I were unfortunately (and fortunately!) gone for part of her visit. He took the Outstretch guys on a retreat: I took the girls on one. The retreats were awesome (more on that another time!), but we missed time with Aunt Michelle. On the other side, she got lots of time with little Brooks boys = )

CHEESE! face!
Auntie 'Chell and Tirzah
I'm sure we could fit a few more on that couch, yes???
Daddy and Matthias
Helping Aunt Jess open presents

We got home Sunday evening, and had lots of family activities planned into Monday and even Tuesday morning before she flew out that afternoon. Birthdays, lunches, dinners, etc.! Both Eli and I were exhausted pretty tired, but it still made for a fun time, as always. The boys were so so disappointed to see her leave, and were quite attached to Auntie 'Chell in only one week. I'm hoping that means that if we get to see her next summer, she will get lots of hugs right off the bat!

I can't believe that it is the 23rd. Yes, I know. I always "can't believe" that time is what it is ... it flies. We haven't even broken out the cookie cutters yet! Yikes! I'm working on getting back into the swing of a busy week and getting the boys back into school after a few days off because of my absence. I've got brownies baking away in the oven to take to our decorating party at Outstretch tonight, laundry running running running to wash all those smokey clothes, and three little boys that I am SO GLAD to have an afternoon at home with today. It's a beautiful fall = )

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I always imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom. That has always been the true desire of my heart if/when I was married and having children. That is what my mom was ... and I am ever grateful for the sacrifices that were given in order for her to be home with us. Even if it meant store-brand cereal and such = )

Fast forward a few years and Reuben was born. I was staying at home full-time and I DID love it, but I'm also a "go-er", you know? I like to be busy most of the time, the boys and I liked to get out and do things. So, I had the itch to "do" something. Like maybe something crazy like get trained to teach fitness classes at the gym I worked out at. = ) I was thinking a couple hours a week, tops.

A class full of strong and awesome women!

Eek. Fast forward another couple years, I'm working more than a couple hours a week - personal training and teaching. And I love it. Yes, my life is hectic. Homeschooling, trying to keep a clean house, cook dinner and bake (because I LOVE that just as much!), enjoy friendships ... and work some. It wasn't exactly what I pictured, but I think that God just knew.

Work has been so much more than work for me. The obvious answer is that God knew Eli's work circumstances would change and that some extra money would make a huge change for our monthly budget. It has been a blessing. But, I have made so so many wonderful friendships at Body Boutique! People I never would have met otherwise, and for that, I am grateful. It has been an outlet for stress, for laughter ...

Blurry, I know, but lil' Matthias playing at the gym

My boys get to be there with me (or at home if Eli is home), and we drop in for an hour or two, and then head back home for our regular home routine.

In my head, I'm still a "stay-at-home" mom. Eli told me yesterday he heard a comedian say, "Why are stay at home moms never home?" Ha. But, I just have this extra thing in my schedule each day = ) And even when I feel like pulling my hair out, I don't think I would have it any other way right now!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bad Guys and Zipcodes

This is a rather unusual week for the boys and I schedulewise, so we're going a bit more bare-bones with some of our school subjects this week. Not worrying about art (unless we easily find the time), and letting a week of spelling lessons fall by the side. We'll focus on math, phonics/reading/writing/grammar, science, history, and fit in some geography because we love it! There are many other planning items pulling for needing my attention for youth group retreats. Things that HAVE to be done, not optional.

So, I'm working to be easy on myself, because my to-do list will quite likely not get done each day. And that is okay.

But I was working with Jonah in his grammar book this afternoon. We've been pounding common vs. proper nouns to the death the last 1-2 months. He has mastered them well, which I'm happy about, but the book also uses the opportunity to slip in other mastery as well. Including him being able to say and properly write his own address in its entirety. So today, we were finishing learning about zip codes. Zip Codes.

At the close of the lesson, I said something like: "And now you see your whole address. And everyone has a zip code at the end of their address so that their mail will go to the correct place" etc etc.

Jonah looks at me and quickly responds, "Well, not the bad guys, Mom. Bad guys don't have zip codes."


He finishes writing his assignment and closes the book.

I love the logic of a 6 year old. = )

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pumpkin Patch

The day we hoped to go to the pumpkin patch last week ended up being rainy. The last three years, we went to the pumpkin patch as a preschool outing! Our first year since Jonah was three years old that it was a family-only outing, instead of with lots of other little ones running around ...

Are you sure we can't get this one, Dad?

We were working to find a morning when Eli could go, because he loves to be involved in all these great memory-making times with the boys. Much more fun when we are all together! We ended up asking Eli's sister to come with us at the last minute, and were so glad that Melissa and Tirzah got to join us.

The weather was absolutely beautiful on Monday ... and we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn't crowded. Got to ride the tractor ride, take our time picking out pumpkins, and spend lots of time playing on the playground equipment, seeing the baby calf, and running through the hay bale maze. And there is nothing like seeing Matthias "discover" pumpkins pumpkins everywhere! He was super cute.

Loved the ducks ...

I love love LOVE days like these. Everyone had such a great time! No fits, no tears, just tired but happy boys loading into the van to head home after an hour and a half of fall time fun.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

2nd Language Poem

Um, wow. 9th of October. I had many intentions of capturing our fall life in the last week, but we have been sooooo busy! I added a homeschool co-op one afternoon a week to our schedule, plus some added responsibilities with working with the youth group and the youth staff. Means that this momma feels good, but s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d right now!

So, hoping that I can get on tomorrow, which "should" be a bit quieter in the afternoon, and document the ever wonderful pumpkin outing = ) But, we're continuing to work on poem memorization for the 1st grader in this house! We've started number three already, but here is number two ...

I love that these poems have great life lessons written into them! We've had good discussions on "what" each poem means, not just memorizing the words for memorization sake.