Sunday, September 6, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (Labor Day edition...)

Two weeks off did NOT help my motivation or my dinner offerings... Lesson learned.

This week's offerings (including planned breakfasts, lunches & snacks):

Monday: chicken caesar wraps

Tuesday: BLTs

Wednesday: chicken pot pie

Thursday: grilled brisket, cream biscuits, green salad

Friday: breakfast (pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit)

Saturday: tacos (with homemade refried beans/ homemade tortillas)

Sunday: turkey breast (if I can find one...), stuffing, green beans

Lunches (in no particular order):
  • grilled hamburgers/ corn/ fresh veggies

  • chili dogs/ carrots/ fresh peaches
  • mini-sub sandwiches/ chips/ mandarin oranges

  • bean burritos/ carrots/ applesauce

  • grilled cheese sandwiches/ homemade tomato soup

  • leftovers...



  • ants on a log (Rhys' new favorite)
  • chips & homemade salsa
  • yogurt covered raisins
  • peaches (of course)
  • Oreos & milk (I know... full of HFCS, but they were such a good deal and we LOVE them! What a treat!)

There you have it... If you would like more ideas & inspiration, visit this week's Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Playing with his food...

Kjersten and I had errands to run yesterday after church and she talked me into a candy store stop-over... We've never been to this awesome store & it's been on her list to do forever... The mama relented and we had a great time. We found gummy brains & spiders, crystal rock candy, mint peas (my personal childhood favorite), and these for Rhys...

Sweet Tart-like legos... They actually stack like real legos.

Creation complete.

Until George comes along with his trusty scissors- wreaking havoc along the way...

George: busted! Rhys (in the background): noticing the commotion...
Turned out just fine. Rhys even shared his treats. What a good big brother!

Farmer's Market Finds

Turns out the trick is getting there before the 8:30 bell. Fewer peoples, more selection, and no one in line for the balloon animals! Besides crepes, cookies, and a helicopter balloon creation, this is what we brought home this week:
  • bean sprouts
  • pears
  • green onions
  • red & white onions
  • various peppers (for Jason's salsa)
  • cucumbers (note the "double cucumber" for the kiddos!)
  • tomatoes (both regular & grape)
  • choke cherry jelly (never picked our own berries & this is SO much easier!)
  • egg plant (don't know what to do with that)
  • a balloon duck for good measure...

A stop for corn from the Optimists completed this shopping trip. Well, that and hundreds of dollars at Costco & Albertsons... but at least this filled the crisper....

Need a baby gift? Here are the essentials!

I never even made it to Target to check her registry... I hope she loves it anyhow!
A short list of must haves from a self-confessed baby gear junkie:
  • Bumkins bibs- waterproof, soft, can be hand washed with the dishes or thrown in the laundry, these last forever!
  • Snack Trap cups with lids (purchased separately)- Tupperware meets toddler; snack cups with handles and a oddly designed lid that keeps the goldfish contained yet easily accessible to those pudgy little fingers
  • baby safe feeder- silly looking contraption that makes all foods safe for baby. Add ice, bananas, frozen peaches, chicken nuggets, Oreos (just kidding...) and let baby have at it... he'll only work out safe pieces to eat & be delightfully entertained in the process!
  • take & toss spoons- just the right size for baby's mouth without that hard metal or, worse, rubbery plastic that baby can bite right into effectively ending a pleasant mealtime!
  • water bottle caps- makes any water bottle a "sippy cup" for baby; easy, portable, and really reasonably priced ($1.75 at Albertson's here...)

Bad habits...

His father's child... 2 years old and this is what I catch him doing... Who taught him that!? And, yes, he polished it off!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ready for some (cheesy) football?!

I promise, it was better looking in person!
Jason needed something for a "tailgate" themed food day. I suggested this ideal appetizer: a football shaped cheese ball. He said it was a hit so, here's the recipe:
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
8 oz. cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, chopped
3 oz. bacon bits
pimento strips (for laces, but I used sour cream)
Mix cheeses and dressing in mixer until blended. Add onions. Mix well and refrigerate several hours. Shape into football on serving plate; coat with bacon bits. Add lacing. Serve with crackers.

Good Morning to you...

Do you know, I don't like rainbows?! Never have. But, my dear daughter loves them... So, an impressive rainbow appeared over our house quite early one morning. I could see both "ends" well and it made its perfect arc above me. I took this picture for Kjersten. (And, you know what? It's almost pretty...)

Sporting the new belt...

And quite the mean look as well...
(his belt will remain 1/2 red & 1/2 black until he's 16- black side up, of course!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Black Belt Testing & Trusting God's Timing

This last week (or two or three) has been awfully hard on the mama. Silly, huh? I'm not the one who took this incredibly hard test. I'm not the one who had to spend days blind, mute, or in a wheelchair. I didn't have to write essays on the "Art of War" and "The Book of Five Rings."

Nope. I had the pleasure of postponing all planning for our family for the coming fall. September's calendar page remained untouched, quietly begging for a clue or two to what our schedule would hold... I had no clue. And that, my friends, inexplicably stresses me out more than you can imagine.

Yes, I learned a lesson (I'll explain at the bottom of this post) but the real story here is Rhys! He passed! Black belt testing is a long, draining process designed to test physical skill and stamina as well as mental strength. Testing was impressive to watch, although I cried through a good part of it. (We mommies can do that... especially those of us that cry very readily!)

Lining up during the test. Rhys is in the middle.

Blocking strikes from three attackers. Those are all big, bad, black belts picking on my baby...

Sparring with three opponents. I laughed when he ran away, but was quickly reminded that "running away" is indeed a strategy. (I'm guessing, it'd be my ONLY strategy!)

This test is for an adult black belt. He passed the test. Because he and some of the other candidates aren't yet 16 years old, they received a red/black belt. They each confirm in 6 months to be certain they truly know their skills and maintain the physical condition of a black belt. When he turns 16, he'll receive his "black" black belt, but will not need to re-test.

(Hoping Kim has a better picture to put here...)
He did it! 3-4 days/ week for FOUR years. Lots and lots of hard work. Now, he gets to cut back (at the mama's discretion) to 1-2 days/week. I don't know who is happier he passed?!
My lesson learned:
I really struggle with not knowing... particularly scheduling. I know it's a false sense of control. Without a plan, I panic. (I don't have to follow thru on every plan, I just have to have one!) In any event, I am 100% aware that God is in control. My calendar, my MOTH schedules, my to-do lists might reassure me but God's timing is perfect.
This week was very stressful for me while Rhys was preparing for his testing. I knew not what this coming Monday would hold... I realize that karate class or no karate class is not a big deal, but this fall's schedule weighed heavily on my mind.
On Tuesday, some friends of ours got a call saying they had been chosen as the adoptive parents of a baby boy born the day before. They were to pick him up the next day at 11:00am. Can you imagine?! I've only talked to my friend thru e-mail this week, so I'm sure there's all sorts of amazing details... but the few I have give me goosebumps.
I keep thinking of her brushing her teeth on Tuesday morning, planning out her errands for the day, wondering what to make for dinner... She simply had no clue that she was already a mommy; that in a few hours she'd get a phone call that would change her family's life instantly and forever. She didn't know.
It finally occurred to me: I don't need to know how everything will go. I don't need to know all He has planned. I simply need to rest in the knowledge that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28) and that my plans are not nearly as important or necessary as God's.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the
purposes of his heart through all generations.
Psalm 33:11

Chili today... hot tamale...

I make this chili all the time. It's very easy and freezes well. (Here's my original post with some variations I made then.)

It looks so colorful & smells so good right from the start!

This week, I just followed the recipe x 2. I have just enough left over to do chili dogs or have for lunch. I really need to triple this one if we want 2 meals out of it. I also use 1/2 black beans and 1/2 kidney beans for some variety. On lazy nights, like Friday, I just put the chili on Frito chips, topped with shredded cheese, onions, and sour cream and called that dinner! Good stuff, Maynard!
Chili Con Carne
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (I use more)
1- 16oz. can tomatoes, cut up
1- 16 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained
1- 8oz can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4-6 servings.
Cook ground beef, onion, green pepper, and garlic until meat is browned. Drain fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, basil, salt, & pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes longer.
If using for OAMC: cool, place in gallon bags, and freeze. On serving day, thaw completely. Simmer until heated through and serve.
Serve with tortillas or cornbread. Top with grated cheese, sour cream, onions.If you prefer a slightly thinner consistency, add more tomato sauce, tomato juice or V-8.

Trip to the Zoo...

Our homeschooling group has an annual kick-off day at the zoo. Despite summer colds & general "don't wanna" attitude, we went.

Amber with her kiddos and mine. Hanging back has its advantages: photo ops and quiet!

Stopping to check out the river otters. Dang! We have a lot of kiddos between us...

Amber and I got smart. We headed back to the big tent where all the sign-ups and visiting were taking place. We let Rhys take the 7 little kiddos around the zoo. (sssshhhhhh... don't tell!) We gave them the camera & sent them on their way.
The kids had a great time and took lots of pictures. Amber and I had a great time catching up with the other mamas! Here are some of Rhys' pictures...

Guess now that we've had the kick-off of the school year, perhaps we should start school again?!

Grandma's birthday

Grandma Barb went and had another birthday... So, we felt the need to celebrate!

Auntie Sara & uncle Josh came early. Sara trimmed all the kids' hair (boy, is she cheap labor!?)

While uncle Josh kept the boys occupied. Brennen ran circles around Josh & Rhys playing catch. Round and round and round he went....

Sara told the boys to "shhhh" and Cael happily oblilged... Such an easy toddler!
I made basic BBQ fare: hamburgers, potato salad (with and without egg), pasta salad watermelon and chips. Dessert, on the other hand, needed to be special. I made a scrumptious Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake (see recipe at bottom of this post). It was fabulous topped with some fresh whipped cream and fresh rasberries.

No birthday cake (even an unfrosted, bundt cake) is complete without a candle!
Following a whole lotta eating, we played a new card game. Yes, we deviated from our standard Rage game and played "Swap" instead.
It's a bit violent, but much fun. Even Rhys & Kjersten were able to play. Obviously, the hand slapping was the most entertaining!

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake~ America's Test Kitchen
Serves 12 to 14


Cake Release
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon cocoa

¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa (2 1/4 ounces)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
¾ cup water (boiling)
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar (14 ounces)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, room temperature
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
1. FOR THE PAN: Stir together butter and cocoa in small bowl until paste forms; using a pastry brush, coat all interior surfaces of standard 12-cup Bundt pan. (If mixture becomes too thick to brush on, microwave it for 10 to 20 seconds, or until warm and softened.) Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. FOR THE CAKE: Combine cocoa, chocolate, and espresso powder (if using) in medium heatproof bowl; pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth. Cool to room temperature; then whisk in sour cream. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in second bowl to combine.
3. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down bowl with rubber spatula after first 2 additions. Reduce to medium-low speed (batter may appear separated); add about one third of flour mixture and half of chocolate/sour cream mixture and mix until just incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape bowl and repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining chocolate mixture; add remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 10 seconds. Scrape bowl and mix on medium-low until batter is thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
4. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan, being careful not to pour batter on sides of pan. Bake until wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes.
5. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto parchment-lined wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 3 hours.
6. Dust with confectioners' sugar, transfer to serving platter, and cut into wedges; serve with Tangy Whipped Cream and raspberries, if desired.

Deal(s) of the day...

Shopping Costco on a Saturday (which I never do), cruising the outside aisle by the washing machines (which I rarely do), browsing with children in tow (which I don't take time to do)... I happened upon a screaming deal!

A Crock Pot for $20! (Here's a link to it on-line.)

I have this same programmable crock pot in oval/ stainless steel and I payed a lot more for it! Now, I have 2 which means I can quadruple my refried beans recipe and surely have leftovers to freeze!

This little treasure is from my (tree-hugging, crazy, liberal) dear friend, Jamie! In her free time, Jamie and her hubby like to scout out estate & garage sales. Sometimes, they discover a treasure such as this Clark County Women's Republican Club's 1968 cookbook. Other times, they have to settle for fishing gear and the like...

I'd asked her to be on the lookout for an old rotary dial phone like she had in her bedroom when we were in highschool. No, I'm not that old. Her mother's house just is trapped in a perpetual time-warp circa 1975.

I loved that phone. There's something decidedly satisfying about dialing a rotary phone. The clicking, the heavy earpiece, the attention required (lest you forget where you are in dialing and have to hang up and begin again)...

Not only did Jamie come through on the phone, she rounded up the original! She drove home and shanghaied the phone from her former bedroom! It's just as I remembered... Splendid!!!

Engraved in the bottom is "Property of Bell Systems- Not for Sale". Don't worry. The phone was neither sold nor purchased and now the phone has found a loving home!

Why, yes... that's a lefse griddle!

Amber introduced my family to the superiority of homemade tortillas. I didn't even like tortillas before I had her homemade version. Mmmmmmm... She made a believer out of me! They're really easy to make and they freeze well. (Word to the wise: make a double batch if you want leftovers...)

And, yes, I use Jason's mom's lefse griddle. It heats to 500 degrees which makes the tortillas cook quickly without sticking. Easy, I tell you, easy!!!

Amber's Tortillas
6 cups flour (white or white/wheat mix)
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (or lard)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 cups warm water
Mix the dry ingredients in large bowl. Add shortening and combine using your hands. When properly mixed there will no clumps. Slowly add water until flour is all Incorporated. Place dough on counter and knead briefly. Leave on counter, cover will bowl, and let rise for 20 minutes. Dough should be easily pliable after rising. Roll out very thin. Cook on hot griddle, flipping as necessary, until both sides have light browning.

Coloring with "Dersten"

One berry, two berry, find me a strawberry!

My grocery store has stopped carrying jelly/ jams without HFCS. They carry no organic brands. Nothing sweetened with plain old sugar. Grrrrrr... (Yes, I could, and sometimes do, go elsewhere, but that's not necessarily the best use of my time.)

This predicament led me to re-investigate freezer jam. I do not have the ability to grow much at our house. No water has that effect. Therefore, learning to can isn't the most practical skill as I won't ever have bumper crops of beans or berries needing preserving!

On the other hand, frozen fruit can be bought at Costco for very reasonable prices. And, with a bit of pectin, the sugar of my choice, and said fruit, we have jam!

Simple. Mush up fruit. Stir in pectin & sugar. Put into freezer safe jars.

Ta-da! Easy, delicious, HFCS-free, inexpensive jam!

Where to keep all the stuff?!

School supplies... My friends lament the massive lists provided each August telling them what their children must bring the first day of school. Pens, pencils, crayons, dry erase markers, binders, paper, pencil boxes, etc... A lengthy list of necessities for the coming school year.
We homeschoolers get no such list. Even better, we make our own! However, we don't ship off all the fabulous materials. We get to keep them all at home! And my list is long! With our implementation of workboxes (see this post), I now have more supplies to organize. Pens & pencils had a home. Notebooks & paper sat neatly on the shelf. I stacked tidy little boxes of crayons & markers. But now?! Now, our supplemental activities join the inventory of items needing to be easily accessible. Hmmmm... tucked into bins and boxes, stored in the laundry room and garage, doesn't count as "easily accessible"?! What's a mom to do?
Get rid of clothes, that's what! (Breathe easy. I didn't get rid of all of them!) I'm not much for lots of clothes anyhow. Obviously as I designed my "walk-in" closet as more of a "reach-in" closet. Now, it has a new job. It houses all my essential school supplies in an orderly fashion on the MAIN floor! The bonus: you can walk through my dining room/ living room without fear of bins toppling and burying small children!
The result:
Those bins are organized by subject rather than grade level, thereby making it easier for me to fill our workboxes. I can easily find an activity for both Kjersten and Brennen to do together for handwriting or a game that Rhys can teach Kjersten without having to search through too many bins.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday (August 16-22)

Seeing as I haven't been to Costco (going tomorrow) or the Farmer's Market (Wednesday night), this menu is a guesstimate... I'm assuming that the things I intend to buy will be available and reasonably priced as I finish out this 2 weeks' shopping.

Sunday- Beef Kabobs Dijon/ sliced bell peppers/ white rice

Monday- Indoor BBQ chicken/ cream biscuits/ corn on the cob/ steamed broccoli

Tuesday- Lil' Cheddar Meatloaves (see recipe below)/ roasted red potatoes/ green salad

Wednesday- green salad topped with chicken

Thursday- BLTs/ chips/ cut veggies

Friday- Chili Con Carne/ cornbread muffins/ green salad

Saturday- grilled cheese sandwiches/ homemade tomato soup/ cut veggies

If you would like more ideas & inspiration, visit this week's Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

As promised...

Little Cheddar Meatloaves
1 egg
1 Tbsp. milk
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard

In a large bowl, whisk egg and milk. Stir in the cheese, oats, onion and salt. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into eight loaves; place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard; spoon over loaves. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until no pink remains and a meat thermometer reads 160°.

Lately, I’ve taken to baking the loaves on a cooling rack placed on a rimmed cookie sheet. It allows the fat to drain off easily. For freezer meals to use later, I usually triple (or more) this recipe and freeze the uncooked loaves (large meatball size). Once frozen, I pop them off the cookie sheet into a Ziploc baggie. Then, when needed, I can take out how many I’d like to make, top with sauce, and bake a bit longer.

*** Fabulous care team meal. Just add green salad, bread, and dessert! I have one friend that makes these with ground turkey. ***

I'm trying to get to the Farmer's Market on Wednesday night. Don't hold me to it, though... Jason & Lou have guitar lessons & Rhys has karate. After I do my running kids here & there, my plan is to take the two little boys and go in search of a parking spot anywhere near downtown. We shall see what actually transpires...

My list is rather short:

  • tomatoes

  • something new to try...

  • more tomatoes

I found a great source for corn right on the way to karate so I don't need to squeeze that into the wagon with the boys on Wednesday night!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Say "cheese"...

(Lou's friend, Madison, is the little face you don't recognize!)

Sleepy boys...

Now, that the little boys are sharing a room (lucky Rhys!), I've been worried about Cael losing his impressive sleep habits. No worries. He still puts himself to bed.

Even if it is on the floor.

Or with George!

Rocket man...

Probably NOT the best day to go stand in an open field and launch rockets...

Alas, the daddy promised it would be fine. We'd just have to hurry!

Preparing the rocket and it's passenger (an egg) for take-off. The rocket is titled "Eggs-calibur." Get it?! Funny stuff...
Inspecting the launch site...

And, we have lift-off!!!!

Off to find the wreckage...
No. Our poor little egg didn't survive impact.

Surveying the damage.

Seems the ride to our launch site was a rough one!
Preparing for another launch. Unmanned. (See above photo.)

Blast-off #2!

Hmmmm... Big metal pole. Incoming storm. Duh. When do these boys sprout common sense?!