Monday, August 31, 2009

Pretty in Pink

The Rabbit is now old enough wear my absolute favorite pretty pink dress and she's very happy to model it for you.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Babies and Chocolate Ice Cream Cones

A classic combination.
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Scripture Power

It took me awhile, but I finally came up with the theme scripture for our homeschool this year. We will recite this every morning as a part of our opening exercises:

"Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days."

Doctrine and Covenants 64:33-34

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Favorite Way to Spend a Sunday Evening

Cousin Howell had a friend over this evening and we sat around the piano and sang hymns for quite a long time. Cousin Howell, like his father, has a gorgeous singing voice. His friend had a lovely soprano. I think we sounded quite melodious.

I love reading stories about the old days when instead of getting together and flopping down in front of the TV people would gather around the piano and harmonize. I believe amazing things happen beyond our understanding when we raise our voices together.

The hymn book has been the starting point of many of my most powerful and poignant spiritual experiences through the years. Whenever I spend time with the hymn book something always resonates with my soul, be it a tune or a lyric. These words, by Eliza R. Snow, spoke to me this morning:

With constant faith and fervent prayer,
With deep humility of soul,
With steadfast mind and heart, prepare
To see th’eternal purpose roll.

Friday, August 21, 2009

School Has Started

And so far it's going great. This is the most organized we've ever been and the kids are responding to that really well. It's so wonderful that Bean is finally mentally developed enough to focus long enough for some school time as well as actually work independently for once. Fish doesn't have the same developmental challenges that Bean does, so he has settled right in and is doing very well. His only issue is that he is a perfectionist and if he can't get something right on the first try or if I have to help him he gets very upset.

Here they are working on their art projects from Artistic Pursuits.

Here's my teacher's desk. I've had this antique desk for years and for the last several years I have only been using the hutch in a decorative manner and the drawers for tablecloth storage. Then I realized that the desk part makes the perfect place for my teacher's supplies since it closes and locks and is right next to the dining table where we work! Hooray! You can also see in this picture that our tree is filling in. They earn the leaves each day by doing their work to the best of their ability.

The hardest part of school this year so far has been keeping the Rabbit occupied. She's been sick this week and has been very fussy. A couple days she really put a wrench in school. Sometimes, though, I can occupy her with a puzzle or some other diversion.

So we're off to a great start!
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bespectacled Badger

My Badger just got glasses. I think he looks great!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Candy Store in a Box

Let's see... I better explain how this all got started.

At the homeschool convention I went to this spring one of the displays that most interested me was the Usborne Books booth. I've been familiar with the high quality of Usborne Books for years but I'd never seen so many of them in one place all at once. When I went into this booth I just went bananas. What a resource for building a rich, engaging, and informative home library! I intended to buy a couple of books there but I absolutely could not settle on just one or two. More like one or two hundred!

I quickly realized that if I was going to get what I wanted I needed to host a home show and get the hostess rewards. I asked Bridgette, who was running the booth, if she would do a party for me. It turns out she lives in a city quite a distance from me, so I asked for a local referral and she said there were currently no active Usborne consultants in my town. I couldn't believe it!

At the end of July Bridgette called me and said they were having a low-cost sign-on special for new consultants in August. I was not looking for a business opportunity, but she explained that after meeting the low minimum sales requirement there were no more minimums to meet ever. In other words, signing up as a consultant didn't require turning into a hard-core saleswoman.

What did I have to lose? I signed up.

I just got my consultant kit in the mail. It was full of engaging, high-quality children's books. Beautifully illustrated, full of interesting information-- the kind of books that you know are going to draw your kids in and fuel their lifetime love of learning. A candy store in a box, only better.

I spent some time this evening pouring over the catalog. It was a dangerous endeavor. I made a wish list and while I tried to be conservative, I still ended up completely filling both sides of a piece of paper. It seemed like every page of the catalog had at least one thing on it that made me say "Oh, neat neat neat! My kids would love that!" History books, science books, cookbooks, sticker books, touchy-feely board books, picture dictionaries, fairy tales, activity kits, visual puzzle books, song books.... and on and on and on. Whew!

It became very clear why I need to be affiliated with this company. I want these books in my home library and as a consultant I will be able to get them for a discount (and their prices are already very reasonable). Also, I want to make other people aware of them so that their children can benefit from them as well. They are too good not to share.

If you ever spend any money on children, you really need to take a look at the Usborne Book catalog.

I now have my own Usborne website where you can browse the catalog and where all purchases are credited to me. However, I can't post the link here because as you've noticed I'm quite protective of my privacy on this blog. So if you're interested in seeing it, shoot me an email at either my regular address (for those who know me personally) or at . Or leave a comment with your contact information. I believe you'll be glad you did.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Goo-Gone

Bean's Cub Scout shirt was a hand-me-down and there were a couple patches on it that needed to be removed. Unfortunately, these patches had been attached with a nasty sticky adhesive. The guy at the scout shop recommended Goo-Gone so I bought some.

On one hand, I don't know how I ever lived without the stuff. It did take the stickiness off the scout shirt as well as the gum out of Bean's Sunday pants. I got the gob of green gum off the carpet that's been there since Christmas. Next I need to work on the gum on the seat of the van (I am NOT fond of gum!)

Today we used it to clean sticky residue off our front window. My creative children stuck a bunch of those sticky foam shapes all over the front window. It looked cute, but after the sun baked it it left the most crusty, sticky mess. It took a long time to clean off but with the boys' help we eventually got it. I hope they learned their lesson.

What I do NOT like about Goo-Gone though is the fumes. It smells like orange, which I have no problem with, but the minute I catch a whiff I get a headache. I feel like I'm being slowly poisoned. Then when you run the rags you used through the wash the smell is supposed to come out. It doesn't. It infects the entire load of laundry. Yuck yuck yuck!

I bet I could probably use something else on a lot of the applications Goo-Gone is typically used for. I may have been able to get the crusties off the window with vegetable oil and a razor blade. So if I save the Goo-Gone for only when we absolutely have to have it, perhaps it won't kill us.

Or I could just make wads of gum and the backs of stickers the theme of my home decor.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Miracle Mower

Yesterday Heaven sent us a lawnmower. It was one of those incidents that show that God does care about the details of our lives and when we are trying hard to do what He asks us to do He will bless us.

When we left Oregon, we left our lawnmower with our next-door neighbor. He needed it, and we couldn't fit it on the truck. When we got here we figured we'd pick something up at some point. Then our new next-door neighbor, Gary, told us that we were welcome to use his any time we needed. All last summer we used Gary's mower in exchange for filling his gas can. This summer we made the same arrangement. Everything was going along like it always had until Gary redid his dilapidated old fence. The position of the latch on Gary's new gate is such that you can only open it from the inside. Now every time we wanted to use the mower, instead of just slipping over there and grabbing it, we had to knock at the door and ask to be let in. This made the whole situation a little bit uncomfortable, but Gary was still very nice about it. The big problem was that Gary is not home very often. My windows of opportunity to mow the lawn open and close very quickly and too many times I had a chance and no one was home next door to let me in.

All this last week I'd been watching our backyard go from "nicely long" to "ridiculous jungle" but I was never able to hook up with Gary and get the mower. The Badger and I talked about it and considered buying a lawn mower off of Craig's List. We hesitated, however, because we are so very close to paying off some debt that we have been working very hard to get rid of. We've been praying for years for the Lord's help in getting rid of our debt and lately the Badger has had lots of overtime opportunities which have allowed us to just about pay it off by being very careful with our money. Buying even a cheap lawnmower was not in the plan. If we could just get by with Gary's mower for the rest of the season!

Yesterday I woke up bound and determined that by the end of the day the lawn would be mowed somehow, despite the fact that it was raining. Right after breakfast the Badger went off to a service project helping someone in our ward load a dumpster. The whole time he was gone I was scheming how I was going to get ahold of Gary's lawnmower. I had just finished all my morning chores and was about to go next door and try to at least get the mower now for use later when it wasn't raining, when the Badger came home and absolutely floored me by saying, "Guess what? I got a free lawnmower!"

"Does it work?"

"I think so." He then went downstairs and spent half an hour watching "Basic Lawnmower Care" videos online. The Badger is not typically very mechanically inclined, but he was motivated. After he'd watched several tutorials, he went and sharpened the mower blade, cleaned the air filter, changed the oil and put in fresh gas. By then the sun was out and the grass had dried off. And what do you know? The mower worked. And so he gave our shaggy backyard a buzz cut.

I love this man. I love his hard work and desire to serve, but most of all I love his faith. I love my new green lawnmower. And I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for His answers to our prayers, even our prayers about lawnmowers.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Small Scavenger

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Old Treasures

The Old Schoolhouse homeschooling magazine has a promotion on right now for a bunch of free gifts with purchase of a subscription. I was going to subscribe anyway, so this is just icing on the cake. One of the gifts was a free photo calendar. I decided to use some old photos from our first couple of years of marriage for the calendar, which means I'm doing some scanning.

I was a well-trained and passionate film photographer and I resisted the change to digital. With the advent of digital scrapbooking, digital photography has become one of my great joys in life. I need to work on getting all my beautiful old prints scanned. It'll take awhile, but I did a dozen today and that's a start.

Here is Bean the day he was blessed, eight years ago sometime about now:

Here's me in February of 2000, about two months after we got married. We took a day trip down to Arches National Park (ah, the things you can do for day trips when you live in Utah!)

Here's the Badger on the Oregon coast in August of 2000. That was our first trip to the coast together. First of many.

This is one of my favorite photos I've ever taken. I believe it was the fall of 2001. The location is Kathryn Albertson Park in Boise, Idaho. We used to go on walks there every day that fall with Baby Bean. It's one of my favorite places in the world.

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One Way to Get a Workout

Yesterday I ended up getting a completely unexpected workout. I was grateful for it, since lately I've been leaving myself a lot of mental post-its saying "get more exercise" but I think I must be leaving them in the wrong part of my brain. Or maybe on the wrong color of post-it. Someone's not paying attention.

Anyway, what ended up happening yesterday was that I had to chase down three very wily chickens. Chickens can be hard to catch. They can run faster than me, so the only hope I have is to corner them. I probably could have caught them fairly quickly that way, except that I had to work up to the point where I was no longer too hesitant to grab at a mad ball of frantically flapping wings.

I have a theory that people who are raised around animals are more confident and assertive in their relationships with other people. When dealing with some animals, you have to hold your ground and be firm and decisive. If you hesitate, they take advantage of you. I personally think I would greatly benefit from spending more time with such animals.

So this chicken episode was good for me. Not only did I run around the yard until my heart rate was in the target zone, but I worked on developing some personality traits that I would like to have.

I shall explain how the chickens got loose in the first place. We went down to my friend Shannon's house, out in the country, to pick up some eggs. Shannon had just left on vacation a few minutes before we got there, and the eggs were waiting on the porch for us. While I was loading the eggs in the car I told the boys they could go look in the coop and see if there were any more eggs. They love to hunt for eggs. They found another dozen, but they also let 3 chickens loose. Normally when Shannon is home this isn't a problem because I know her kids can catch them and put them back, but the family was gone and I didn't know how soon the caretaker would be there and whether or not they would take care of the situation. Also knowing that Shannon's neighbor isn't very excited when the chickens come into his yard, I figured it behooved me to leave things just as I'd found them. First I told Bean and Fish to catch them for me but it quickly became apparent that though they weren't lacking in enthusiam they were somewhat lacking in experience. Returning the chickens was definitely going to be my job.

In the end I did leave everything the way it was when we got there. And I got a good aerobic workout in the process!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sweet Love

Now that I know how to pick them, eating watermelon has become one of the great joys of our August existence.

See that nice yellow bottom on this melon? That's the key. This melon tastes amazing.

I've also had very good luck with the tip in the same newspaper article about canteloupes and other similar melons. When they start to ripen in the field, the stem starts to detach from the melon. This leaves a crescent-shaped scar on the spot where the stem attached to the melon. I'll take a picture next time I buy one so you can see what I mean. I sometimes look through the melon bin at the store now and don't pick any because there are no crescents, even if they're really cheap. Every time I have found one, however, the melon has been nice and sweet, even if the texture is fairly firm.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009


I read a great article today about the results of a study done comparing the test scores of homeschool students to public schooled ones. You can read it here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The School Wall

Okay, remember how gung-ho I was about school at the beginning of June? Didn't want to take a break? Well, mid-June I realized that my kids needed a break. So we took one. It was supposed to just be July, but it's ended up being the first half of August as well since with everything that's been going on I don't have everything ready yet. Now the kids are really anxious to start again and they're acting restless, so I'm trying to get a move on and implement all my fabulous plans.

Last year's plan worked well in some ways and not so well in others, but one thing I learned was that trying to change our one-subject-each-day routine mid-year was not going to happen. Bean does not switch gears easily. I had to stick it out until the end of the year and now I have to be very careful how I plan this year because whatever I do I'm more or less stuck with. It has to be flexible enough to allow adaptation while being structured enough to meet the needs of my particular children.

Bear with me while I review a little bit the pros and cons of last year's system. I had a subject for each day of the week and we did formal sit-down school for an hour each morning. It was supposed to be at the same time every day but the Rabbit had some objections to that. School ended up happening whenever, but we did stick to the basic routine, even if the time was off. The hour was a good idea, but the one-subject-a-day had its challenges. On the plus side, the simplicity and predictability of the system really helped Bean. But honestly, Bean cannot sit still and focus on one subject for an entire hour, especially if it is math. And while he completed and comprehended his first-grade math program, it was not the best to do math only once a week. Or reading, for that matter.

This year we are ready for a slightly more complex schedule with more variety. Most subjects are okay to have only weekly, but I feel that the kids need to do math and reading/writing every single day. However, everything needs to be in small chunks. So what I'm envisioning is this: each school day starts out with some kind of opening exercises-- a song, a prayer, a recitation, the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. Then the kids have a math and a language worksheet to complete on their own. We will then do two additional subjects or activities each day in 15-20 minute chunks. If we stay on task and complete our work in time I will play a game with them at the end. Everything will still only take 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The Rabbit has been doing better lately with her schedule so we should be able to keep to a time schedule this year (if I stop staying up late blogging!) If we stay on schedule, we should be done with our formal stuff in time for field trips, play groups, library story time, or whatever else is going on that day. And as always, the rest of our day is always filled with informal, unstructured learning activities. Learning is a lifestyle around here.

As I've thought about how to create our daily opening exercises, I decided to put together a school wall in the dining room that is similar to a bulletin board in an elementary school classroom. Many of my public school memories are pretty dreadful, but I do have warm fuzzy feelings when I think of the bulletin board displays so I decided to give my kids a taste of that. I went to a teaching supply store and purchased a calendar kit and a giant oak tree kit. This evening after the kiddos were asleep I worked for a couple of hours on my wall. It's not done yet, but here it is so far:

There are still leaves and acorns and animals for the tree. Hopefully the addition of the leaves will make it less noticeable that the owl calendar ended up way too close to the ABC strips (those were a later purchase and I didn't realize how big they were going to be and there was really nowhere else to put them.) With the calendar, every day during opening exercises we can talk about what day of the week and month it is and what the weather is. The tree is going to be used for various activities and incentives.

I went through nearly an entire package of these:

I love them.

I also bought letters to spell out the name of our school up above the tree. But I can't put those up until we make a final decision on what that name actually is. Once we've got a name, I want to pick a mascot and school colors. I'm even thinking of getting us all matching shirts with our school name embroidered on them to wear on field trips.

So I'm excited. I think this year is going to be really fun. That's really important in homeschool-- if the mom isn't enthusiastic about the curricula and methodology then no one's going to get much learning done. The kids are excited too. I can't wait to see their faces tomorrow when they come upstairs and see our school wall. I think it's going to help them feel more connected to their formal school work. I hope it's going to make everything a little bit more fun.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009


These days when the mail comes, every one that's home at my house rushes to the mailbox in a frenzy of excitement and anticipation. And I mean everyone, not just the small fry.

I will explain why, but in order to do so I need to back up a little bit.

It's funny how I blog a lot about some aspects of my life and others I haven't talked about yet on here. Like this minor detail: we have someone extra living at our house right now. Cousin Howell has temporarily taken up residence in our basement.

Remember my cousin that got married in June? Cousin Howell is her older brother. He is getting ready to leave on a two year mission for the LDS church and after his sister got married and the family downsized he needed a place to stay until he left. We told him he was welcome to have half of the big downstairs family room that we use as the boys' bedroom, but we rather expected him to run screaming from the house after a few days down there with our noisy, strange-smelling, mess-making offspring. So far, however, everything has been quite fine. No one has run from the house screaming. The kids adore Cousin Howell and he's very good with them. He scrubs the toilet once a week and he's even trying to teach Fish to flush (a Herculean task!) The arrangement has been quite satisfactory.

Now, back to the mail. The way it works is that you fill out a bunch of papers and mail them in to church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Then you wait for them to send you back a letter telling you where in the world you're going on your mission. It typically takes 2 to 3 weeks to get your mission call back. It comes in a big white envelope in your mailbox and opening it is one of the biggest events of the first couple decades of your life.

The most fantastic thing about having Cousin Howell dwelling in our basement is that one of these enigmatical missionary envelopes will be wending its way to OUR mailbox. We feel honored. When it comes we will call over Cousin Howell's assorted family and three best friends and he will open the envelope in front of all of us and read out where and when he's going. Then we will break out the ice cream. It will be quite the event.

Tomorrow will be three weeks since the papers went in. At this point every day the statistical odds of finding that particular piece of paper in the post increase dramatically. So we race each other to the mail box. It's so fun.

I can't wait to find out where he's going, but I'll kind of miss the excitement of waiting for the mail truck. Hmm... maybe I need to spend more time on ebay.

Top Honors

Dear Mom and Dad,

I hereby bestow upon you the "Exceptional Grandparent" award.

Mom, the stack of stories you so patiently read to the kids while you were here is so large I can't lift it.

Dad, you were so patient with four slippery critters slithering all over you.

Mom, thanks for teaching the kids the "Monster" drawing game. Can you believe I'd forgotten about it? They needed to know.

Mom, I'm sorry if the kids wore you out. It may be some consolation to know that you contributed enormously to the emotional health and happiness of my children, especially my six-year-old.

Please come back again soon!

Love, Birrd
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Family, By Roo

I love my children's art work. See if you can figure out who is who.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cupcakes as Rhythm Instruments

We had a party over at our house after Bean's baptism. I made cupcakes. Here's what the Rabbit did when no one was looking:

Two cupcakes make a mighty interesting noise when you whack their bottoms together.
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Bean's Baptism

Yesterday Bean was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a rich, warm, satisfying experience for me. We worked hard to prepare Bean for this. I didn't want him getting baptized just because he thought it was the cool thing to do, but I wanted him to really know what he was doing and willingly take upon him the covenants and obligations that go with membership in the Kingdom of God. As we conversed with him in the weeks prior to his baptism, it was clear that he has a remarkable knowledge of the Gospel for someone his age, as well as a budding testimony of his Savior Jesus Christ. When we gathered at the church last night for the baptismal service, I knew he was ready.

There was such a wonderful, warm feeling surrounding the entire event. The Spirit was poured out upon everyone involved in the program. I gave the opening prayer and as I poured my heart out in gratitude to my Heavenly Father for sending us this wonderful boy I got all choked up (and I don't cry easily.) My mother gave the talk and it was the best baptismal service talk I have ever heard. Her words were on a level that children could understand but she wasn't talking down to Bean-- her words were profound and full of the Spirit. One of the things that she said was that "the Holy Ghost manifests himself through loving relationships." Then our family got up and sang "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus." As we sang, I had this amazing feeling like Heaven was smiling down on our family. Bean was just glowing. After he was baptized by his father and confirmed by his grandfather the Bishop asked him to get up and bear his testimony, which he eagerly did. Then my husband gave some wonderful and heartfelt remarks, followed by our Bishop. It was pretty clear that our Bishop thinks Bean is an exceptional young man. Here is a picture of Bean with our Bishop:

After everything was over, we went outside and took a family picture by the beautiful crape-myrtle bushes that are blooming all around the church. I think it turned out quite nice.

I hope you can see in this picture a little slice of the joy that our family receives from our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the reason we are a strong, happy family. I am so grateful that our journey has brought us to this point with Bean, and yet I also had a strong feeling last night that for him and for all of us, our journey is just beginning.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ice Princess

I took the boys ice skating a month ago and left the girls behind. While at the rink, I noticed several very tiny tots darting around on itty bitty skates. "I wonder if Roo is old enough for this," I thought. I asked her about it and she said she wanted to go. So we decided to go again and take her. She loved it!

I'm not sure which she loved most: wearing pink mittens, being the center of Cousin Cynthia's attention, or the actual skating. We never did get her to actually stand on her own, but she did get more and more comfortable with the ice and a little bit better at bearing her own weight. Mostly it was just fun to have her there because she was so cute.

As for my fearless, fantastic boys, they gained a lot of skating skill by going skating twice in within a few weeks instead of our typical once a year. It was fun to watch them go from wobble to whiz within a short space of time. They love ice skating!

I hope we can do it more often. I'm even tempted to sign Roo up for lessons. The Badger and I have been talking about how she doesn't get much exercise. Hmmm... maybe we should all take skating lessons!
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pineapple Bars

A looseleaf sheet of paper with this recipe on it fell out of my cookbook shelf the other day when I was pulling out a cookbook. I got it from my friend Wendy about five years ago (during my Idaho years.) I remember making it once at the time and thinking it was okay but not loving it. When I saw it again it struck my fancy for some reason and I decided to give it another whirl. I liked it much better this time, maybe because I'm off sugar right now (I keep meaning to blog about this-- remind me!) This is a pretty good treat if you're not eating sugar. Even if you are, this makes a pretty good breakfast on the go if you bake up a pan of it the night before.

Pineapple Bars

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple
2 Cups chopped dates
3 Cups oats
1 Cup wheat germ
1 Cup coconut (possibly the only source of a small amount of sugar if you use sweetened flakes)
1 Cup chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 Cup orange juice
1/4 Cup oil

Combine pineapple and dates in a saucepan. Cook on medium heat until thickened. Stir frequently. In a large bowl, mix oats, wheat germ, coconut, nuts, and salt. Stir in juice and oil. Press half of the oat mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Spread the pineapple mixture on top, then sprinkle on the rest of the oat mixture. Press down lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min or until lightly browned. Cool. Cut into squares.

As is the recipe is vegan, but when I make it again I'm using butter instead of oil. I poured a little bit of real maple syrup on top of mine when I ate it this morning. That was really good, though they were still pretty sweet plain. The Badger poured milk on his and seemed to like that. But really, they're great straight out of the pan!
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