Monday, December 27, 2010

We're Still Here

There is not much going on around here. We're just plugging our way through the end of the year. This is not usually the most wonderful time of the year for me, so I choose to stay away from this blog. So, I'm going to hit the highlights.

  • Christmas is over! Woohoo! The kids got great stuff this year. Santa knew exactly what everyone wanted. Happy children live here.
  • We did a Christmas unit study the last couple of weeks. It was about the history of Christmas symbols. We're going to finish today by reading a couple of books that were recommended by the study.
  • New Year's Day menu is already planned. We are having turkey, black eyed peas, broccoli rice casserole, brussel sprouts, corn bread, and pie. The baby girl has asked for chocolate pie, so I need to get on that. The big girl wants a pumpkin cheesecake like I made at Thanksgiving. We'll see.
  • The big girl won second place at her youth Christmas party costume contest. She worked really hard puting her costume together. She sewed all the ornaments on her shirt, she stood still for about 30 minutes while I sewed garland on, and she held our heavy train. She was a Christmas tree. She even had presents on her tree skirt. I had pics, but they didn't turn out so well. Maybe I'll post them anyway.
  • My van officially has over 100,000 miles on it. We bought it used about three years ago and it had about 60,000 miles on it. We travel and travel and travel. When I say we are always in the van, I mean we are always in the van. Except, not so much anymore.
  • We had to drop dance. Money just would not let us continue. And now that gas is going to $3 a gallon and more (really, people? We haven't figured out a better way to do that? Of course not, all our green jobs went to China), it's even harder. At least we aren't in the van all the time anymore. We have days that let us breathe again. But do not think I have retired my crock pot. That will never happen. On the down side: WE MISS DANCE!!!!!! Maybe next year will be better.

That's the run down for now. Here's hoping that your new year is beautiful, prosperous, and blessing filled!!

Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

All I Want For Christmas

Most people are cruising the mall looking for that perfect gift. Some are cruising the stores just looking for a gift, perfect or not. Not me. I am cruising the Rainbow Resource catalogue looking at curriculum. This is where I get that warm fuzzy feeling. I love, love, love to look at curriculum. I think next year may be a little different for us. Hopefully, not different as in this year where getting started on anything has been a struggle for me. We are going to pull out some oldies but goodies, and try some different things. Here's the run down:

For the baby, I think we are going to concentrate on reading comprehension and spelling for language arts. I have a SpellWell curriculum that I really like. I think she will, too. She will be doing Horizons math. The rest of it, she'll do with the big girl and the boy. Except maybe science. I still haven't decided what we're doing for that. I need to find out what the kids want to do and check it out.

The boy I think is in for a bit of culture shock. I am going to do some book studies for him. I have some great ones from Progeny Press that I think he will like. Getting him to read is almost as hard as getting him to pick up a pencil. I think if I have him pick some books he wants to read, it won't be so tough for him. I will have him do the grammar sections from his left over LifePacs. I'm not sure about his math yet. He enjoys the LifePacs, but I just don't know.

And the big girl. Book study guides for her this year as well. I have some great ones for her and she loves to read. I may also do some creative writing with her. Algebra for math. I will probably stick to Switched on Schoolhouse for her. That frees me up for more time with the baby.

The only thing left is history, science, and bible. For bible we are going to use Grapevine Studies. Learning the bible using stick figures is about my speed. We are bored with what we are using and the kids have asked specifically for this curriculum. Ok. I can do it. History we will either use Story of the World, or I may borrow Mystery of History from a friend. I need to sit the kids down and figure out science. At least I have part of it figured out. Back to the catalogue.

Have a great day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

For Sale

What is this you may ask. This is a fundraiser for our youth group. These are travel mugs with lids. They are ceramic as opposed to plastic. They are a little heavier than the normal travel mug. They are $11.50 each. Please keep in mind they are a fundraiser, they make a great gift, and they advertise a great group of kids. Let me know how many you want.

The kid that sells the most wins a $100 Visa gift card. The big girl would love to have that so she can get her iPod.

Have a great day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Pie Eater

I just think it's funny that while my friend G is posting about her super healthy smoothies, I'm posting about pie. Really, though, the change is G has been amazing to watch and is very inspiring. There have been some nutritional changes in our home that have made a difference. But this pie is not one of them. This pie is just yummy without being the least bit good for you.

It's no secret that the holidays are not what they should be. So many issues, so little time. Except on the other blog. There's lots of time for griping over there. Anyway, this is my little bit of comfort over the holidays. I also made my brussel sprouts. I will not even tell you what response that got. On with pie!!

This came from Quick and Simple magazine. It is one of my favorites. It looks complicated, but is actually super simple. If you could see the pic! That's what got me. Hubby and I were standing in the grocery store check out line one day and there it was. All the lights went dim, the spotlight shone on the cover, the choir started singing. I didn't buy the magazine, but hubby had to pry it from my hands. A couple of days later, hubby came home with the magazine. That is one good man. So, thank hubby when you see him. He rules!! This is done in three parts, but don't be intimidated. One step at a time. It's well worth it.

Pumpkin-Cheesecake Pie

Crust:

1 cup chocolate grahams, crushed
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In an ungreased 8 inch springform pan or 9 inch, deep dish pie pan, stir together graham crumbs and butter with fork until moist. Press mixture down with your hands to cover bottom of the dish. Bake crust 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Cheesecake Filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup diced, candied ginger (optional)

Raise oven temp to 425 degrees. Beat cream cheese (because it was bad, sorry couldn't help it) with an electric mixer until smooth, a few lumps is fine. Beat in egg, vanilla, and candied ginger (they were bad, too LOL). Spoon mixture into cooled pie crust.

Pumpkin Filling:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
15 oz can pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling
1 cup light cream or evaporated milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten (they weren't as bad as the cream cheese-giggle, giggle)
whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
chocolate chips or shavings, for garnish optional)

In a speparate medium bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, and spices. Add pumpkin, cream or evaporated milk, and eggs. Whisk gently until smooth, trying not to incorporate too much air. Carefully spoon pumpkin mixture on top of cheesecake layer.

Place pie in oven and bake 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes. The pie is done when it looks set but still wobbles slightly in the center when you jiggle it. Remove pie from oven and let cool to room temp. Refrigerate until serving time, or at least 3 hours. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings if desired.

You know I cannot leave well enough alone so here's some things I do. If you don't have time for the crust or have a pie pan, buy a pre-made crust. Just make sure it's a large crust or deep dish. This pie can get pretty tall so you will need the room. I don't add candied ginger because I would only be buying it for this pie. I'm sure it's wonderful with it, but I can't comment on that. If you have pumpkin that you have made, use it. I bet fresh pumpkin would do amazing things for this pie. I use evaporated milk. I don't use all of the can, but I save the left overs and use them to make mashed potatoes. That's how my mom used to make potatoes and they are so yummy. One thing you can do to add to the cheesecake layer is chocolate chips. Add them after you mix the cream cheese layer and before you add it to the crust. You could even add them to the pumpkin pie layer, too. Good grief, that's good. I don't have all those spices for the pumpkin layer, but I do have pumpkin pie spice. That's just all those spices together in one layer. I add the amounts of the individual spices and add that much pumpkin pie spice.

That's it. It looks like alot, but it really isn't. One step at a time. I will say it's a really long three hours waiting for this pie. I make it the day before, put it in the back of the frig, and try to forget about it until it's time to eat. That's the hard part.

Merry CHRISTmas. Have a great day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ketchup

Not really. Just catchin' up. I know it's silly, but it's been awhile. I feel like it's been forever to tell you the truth. Hubby has been hogging the computer playing poker and since we have dial up, it's one at a time. We are supposed to get high speed one day. All the equipment is in, they just haven't "turned the box on", whatever that means. I told hubby he needs to go do it, and let's get going, but something about keeping his job, blah, blah, blah. I quit listening when he said no. I depise being told no, but somebody has to be the practical one. Anyway, on with the show.

  1. We get to see the new Harry Potter movie tomorrow. We are so excited. We wanted to let the crowds die down, so to speak, before we went. I hear parts of it are a little dark and may not be appropriate for younger kids. Well, I have two and they are going with. Not much I can do about that. I'm certainly not going to leave them home alone. So, off we go.
  2. I got to go on a youth retreat last weekend. It was amazing. The big girl says each time we go to Warren Willis, where the retreat was and where she went to summer camp, she loves it. They do an amazing job offering programs to help get you motivated in your walk with Christ. Our last night, I had the kids walk the Maze of Silence. That is a very intense experience. You follow the maze in to the center, praying and pondering all the things that keep you from connecting with Him. When you reach the center, you give it all to God to take away. You pray on your way out from the center, reveling in the love, grace, and mercy that God gives you in exchange for your trouble. Tears poured down my face while I walked. So much pride to be involved with this group of incredible young adults.
  3. Thanksgiving is only a couple of days away. I could say so many things, but instead I will say that I am looking forward to this week more than I have in years past. Hubby is on vacation so we get to spend lots of time with him. We even managed to get a project done around the house today. And, of course, hubby got some poker played. I'm starting to not like that the way he doesn't like Facebook. Now I get it. It took awhile, but I get it.
  4. We splurged and bought a mixer. I am so loving that thing. They had one on sale, I had coupons, and I got Kohl's cash. We turned around and used the Kohl's cash, with more coupons, to buy Christmas presents. The mixer was one thing that was keeping me from making bread. I am not a good kneader. I am a great cook, but my bread sorely lacked. Not anymore. I have made four loaves so far and cannot see buying bread again in the near future. Our next big thing we want is a mill. If we could grind our own flour, that would make even more nutrient rich bread. We'll get there, one step at a time.
  5. Last Friday was our annual Thanksgiving potluck at the park. I was a litttle disappointed by the turnout. I missed a couple of regulars that haven't been there, but I still had a great day. I made three pounds of turkey meat balls and still managed to run out before a couple of late arrivals got there. Not too bad for a low turnout. I just want to take a quick second to say that I miss my friends that haven't been coming. I know you have your reasons, and if there is something that we need to talk about, something that I can do to help you, please let me know. We can find a way, whatever it is.
  6. Last weekend while the big girl and I were gone, hubby and the other two kids watched a Star Wars marathon. I am not much of a Star Wars kind of gal and the only time they get to watch is when I'm not home. Yeah, that doesn't happen very often so they took full advantage. They watched all 800 episodes, or however many there are. This weekend is a Lord of the Rings weekend. I am loving that, let me tell you what. Right now is the big battle scene in The Two Towers. Just waiting for something to blow up. Any minute now...

That's it in a nutshell. I'll try not to stay away as long next time. Remember what my mom says: You are what you eat, you big turkey. Thanks for that, Mom.

Have a great day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween 2010, in Pics

Last year we happened upon the mall during trick or treat hours. It was quite by accident since I was headed in to get something I had a coupon for. I called hubby, who was waiting in the van, and he brought the kids in. This year, we had the inside scoop. That and it was the day before, so that meant another day to get candy. Ok, you are not hurting my feelings. We met some friends, ended up hanging with more friends and participated in a scavenger hunt. That was fun. Anyway, they also had a Michael Jackson impersonator and his zombie dancers. The dancers were really good and so was the impersonator guy. At one point, he threw his glitter glove into the audience. Guess who caught it? The big girl, that's who. I have to clarify and say that she was talking to her friend S and it actually hit her. I'm glad he didn't throw a brick. That would have been painful. I like people that take these things seriously. I wish I could remember the name of the store. I would promote them just for getting into the spirit of things, so to speak. That's the big girl and the baby walking by.

This is our motley crew we started with. The tall girl is the big girl's friend S and she went as Lady Gaga. Fits doesn't it? She made that costume. You should have seen her shoes. People would ask S what she was. As soon as she said Gaga, you could see their eyes light up. My favorite part of her costume: the turtle hat. We picked up our other friends a little later during trick or treating. We were hoping that our friend M, who recently started a candy business and has a kiosk in the mall, would hand out her candy, but no. She handed out that other junk.



This is Ichabod. I have said it a million times, but I will say it again: creative people piss me off. I know, I know, whatever. Anyway, Ichabod had little holes in his head and Tootsie Pops for hair. Our friend, ST, had this at her vehicle for trunk or treat. It was self serve. You just walk by and pull a lollipop out of the head. How cute is he? I think I may have an Ichabod of my own next year. I may not be able to create, but I can copy! Tootsie rolls, marshmallows, and tooth picks. That's it.
And that's it for me. I finally got pics up, I blogged, and now I need to write. I also got tagged! I am so excited about that. It's a blog thing where one blogger answers questions, then comes up with their own questions and tags fellow bloggers to answer them, and so on. I will get that up as soon as I can.
Have a great day.


Punkins, Punkin

That's me in the patch. I meant to crop the pics before I posted, but as behind in blogging as I am, you're lucky I posted pics at all. We went to a pumpkin patch in a little town north of us that donates to a ministry that out church is part of. That wasn't the only reason we went there. We went there because they have great pumpkins. The ministry part was a bonus and a nice surprise for us. We loved their pumpkins. I loved their pumpkins. This is my favorite time of year. I love to decorate for Halloween more than I love to decorate for Christmas believe it or not. I need to bring our little guys in and make them pretty on my island. We'll see how that goes with all the other stuff I want to do. Once again this year I roasted the seeds from the pumpkin we carved. They are so gosh darn good. I just cannot keep away from them.
This is our pumpkin. The last few years we have done the elaborate stencils that took forever, but this year hubby wanted to go old school. Since we didn't carve until Halloween about 3 hours before our trunk or treat at church, I was ok with that. That and the old school carving is just fun. We had seen a story on TV about a man that sculpts pumpkins (and he's allergic to them, go figure) that was really incredible. If I had any kind of artistic talent, I would have done that. But, alas, I don't know how to sculpt and wouldn't even know where to start.


This was one of my favorite pumpkins. I had to point it out to our whole family. This is the butt pumpkin. C'mon, I know you want to giggle. Just let it out. For a little bit of toilet humor, and because it was just funny, right behind the butt pumpkin were pumpkin seeds. It looked like this little guy just couldn't hold it any more. I was going to get a picture, but hubby was against it. Fine, take a little fun away. That won't stop me from blogging about it, though. "I know," he said. "Blog away." Love that man, even in his fuddy duddy moments.

I am way digging the warty pumpkins. I got a warty one, just not one of these warty ones. I don't know what kind they are, I just know they're cool. I had to get a pic of these two. They almost look like two friends posing.

That's all for the pumpkins. Up next is the kids and trick or treating. Love the candy, hate the candy. That's a mamashublog if ever here was one.
Have a great day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Costumes and Curry

Great park day today. I always feel refreshed when I get home. The support I get from my park mamas is so needed and welcomed. But it also feels good to be able to lift up and support someone else as well. Normally, at this time of the year, we have a candy exchange and pot luck. Some of the kids will wear their costumes and, if we're on the ball, there are prizes. We weren't as much on the ball this year. We didn't have a potluck, no candy got exchanged, but there were costumes. This year, my kids recycled costumes from years past and even used some old dance recital costumes. Thank goodness for that. I love to see the kids.

And when we got home, we had Indian Chicken Stew waiting for us. It smelled so amazing!!!! I bought boneless, skinless chicken breasts specifically for this recipe. I got this out of my Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I have really enjoyed my free year and will be really sad when it ends. I also got use a spice that I have eaten, but never cooked with- curry. And of course, I cooked it in my crockpot because I love my crockpot.

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Stew

2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper and/or cayenne pepper
2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs lime juice
1 9 oz pkg of fresh spinach (optional)
Hot, cooked rice (optional)

Lightly coat crockpot with oil or non-stick spray. Add chicken, onion, and garlic to slow cooker. Add curry, ginger, salt, and pepper to the slow cooker. Toss to coat. Stir in drained beans, undrained tomatoes, broth, and bay leaf. Cover and cook on high heat for 4-5 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Stir in lime juice into cooked stew. Stir spinach into stew and let stand 2-3 minutes to wilt. Serve with rice.

I used chicken breasts not thighs, but either would work. I forgot to add the lime juice, but it had been a long day and we were just getting home from dance. I don't like cooked or wilted spinach, so I didn't add it, but if you could see the picture it looks beautiful. We did serve ours over rice. We use a Japanese sticky rice, but I had a hankering for brown rice with this. That's saying something since I'm not much of a brown rice kind of gal. I used fresh ginger because I had it. If you don't have it, ground is just fine. I have found, though, that you need to go a little heavier on the spices than what they have. I went heavy on the curry and ginger and it was very tasty. This was really good and very filling. It would be great to come home to on a cold night.

So that's the wrap up. I hope you get a chance to try this recipe. Enjoy the fall festivals and trick or treating. I hope you have cool weather and a Happy Halloween.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chocolate and the Beach

You may or may not remember, but one day hubby was cleaning the tub in the kids' bathroom and happened to look up at the ceiling. He noticed a water spot. It wasn't huge, but it was big enough for him to decide to get on the roof and take a look. We had a hole. Ugh! On the bright side, our friends, the P's, came over and helped take care of it. While the hubbys were on the roof, my friend C and I sat down to look at some homeschool stuff on the internet. Our main focus for the day: free or very inexpensive field trips. Boy did we take a doozy yesterday. We went to a chocolate factory in Daytona Beach. And since we were at Daytona, we had to go to the beach.

We caravanned with about 7 other families. At one point, I thought I had lost them so I pulled over. Heck, no. As soon as I got stopped, there they were. Our destination was Angell and Phelps Chocolate Factory. They do free tours about four times a day. They give you the run down of the equipment, the types of chocolate they make, and a history of the business. It was started by two ladies, one named Angell and the other named Phelps, from Michigan. They were frequent visitors and decided to set up shop. Am I glad they did! One of the best parts of the whole tour was living out an I Love Lucy fantasy. While I didn't get left alone with the conveyor belt running at super speed while I stuffed my cheeks full, we did get to pick a piece off the belt. We also got to pick another piece off of a sample tray. I chose the dark chocolate covered potato chips. That was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life!! We brought home a bag of them. We also brought home a bag of chocolate covered blueberries. There were also some other little things we brought home with us. So, so good. If you get to Daytona, go see them. It is well worth it. When you walk in the door, the most incredible chocolate smell smacks you in the face. Smack away, dear chocolate, smack away.

And since we were five minutes away, when you get stopped at the red lights, from a great little park on the beach, we had to go there. We had packed a lunch, and dragged all our stuff to the sand. It was a great day to be at the beach. There was no crowd, the weather was beautiful, and the waves were minimal. It was also a great day to boogie board. Those went over almost as well as the chocolate. I wish we had thought to bring ours, but everybody got a turn. So much fun to watch the kids running and playing and building sand castles. We got to spend time with a group of families that we all enjoy. And, amazingly, the bathrooms were clean. I am not a fan of public bathrooms, but these were ok. It was so nice to just hang out and be. One of my favorite things: saying "A1A, Beachfront Avenue!" everytime we talked about the road. I love me some Vanilla Ice. It's the little things, people.

It was a great day with great friends. It was refreshing to not be running to get here, there, and everywhere. I loved getting my tan on, to quote my friend S. I'm not sure what the next one will be. I hear this weekend is a free butterfly festival at the museum in Ganesville. Hmmmm?

Have a great day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chocolate and the Beach, In Pics

This is some of the kids playing in the splash park at the beach. It helped wash off most of the sand and the kids loved it.
Some of the kids in the water. I didn't think to set my camera for a closer pic. The waves were not too big and somebody brought boogie boards. I wish I had had my camera ready when hubby came boogie boarding in. My surfer dude was wishing for bigger waves and his big board.


Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. They had the most amazing molds. The one up front is a tackle box. All the tools a fisherman needs made of glorious chocolate.

This is their fudge settling and cooling. Just to the left you can see a football. That is five pounds of chocolate. Five pounds!. That would take me five minutes to eat. The migraine after would be well worth it!
I'll post about the trip later.
Have a great day!





























Saturday, October 16, 2010

Motivationally Challenged

I have been a very bad blogger. Shame on me. But as the title of this blog suggestions, I am having motivation issues. The really bad part about that is that it has spilled over into our school life. And family life. And every other part of my life it seems.

When we started our homeschooling journey four years ago, the kids and I talked about what we wanted homechooling to mean to us. Every couple of weeks we would talk together about was working, what wasn't, what needed to be changed or tweaked. The next couple of years found us scheduled to within an inch of our lives. We (I) wasn't very flexible if something came up. I couldn't believe how tight our schedule was. Last year was better, at least in the flexibilty area. We were still tightly scheduled, but I was better about last minute appointments or play dates or whatever. I promised myself that this year would be different. Boy is it ever.

My problem this year is that I'm way too flexible. I feel like we haven't hit our groove. We started school at the beginning of August and we seemed to get into a pretty good groove. Then our extras started. Most of them started in September. That threw me out of our groove. First one issue then another came up with those activities and it took a little bit to get them straightened out. Some of them still aren't quite together, but those issues will hopefully resolve themselves pretty soon. Anyway, there went my groove.

If there is a night that I have insomnia, normally I would push through our day. I would get through with loads of caffeine and a couple of B12 pills. Yeah, not so much this year. Now it's nap time until 10 or 11 or until I get off the couch. God bless the kids because they will get their work done that they need to do. The only thing they don't do is our together stuff. Tomorrow will be good enough and it does get done.

It also didn't help that two of my three kids got sick. To watch my big girl sit and look at her math for 5 minutes and have no clue waht she is looking at because she is so miserable, well no point doing school. If she can't focus, she sure won't understand her lesson. We'll do that another time. Next week is good. The boy was just as miserable. We called school off for the week. It needed to be. But, it's also the third time I've had to redo the lesson plan book. Good thing I do the planning in pencil.

A friend said the other day that her schedule runs her, she doesn't run her schedule. Do I ever know how that feels. I've gone way too far to the other side now. I am running my schedule around and around and around. Some days I just do not have the motivation to change it. It's almost like we need a break from super tight schedules and lots of school work. That's really not an epiphany, it's the truth. But here I go overcompensating again. I'm good at going from one extreme to the other.

So, I need to get my motivation back. I need to get the lead out of my rear. I need to find a happy medium between schooling until we can't see straight and schooling when I feel like it. And I will. Tomorrow. Maybe.

Have a great day.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sweet Surprise

As I was perusing my stinkin' Facbook page, I came across a friend's post about the cooler weather and what we like about it. Another friend posted that her crockpot comes out of summer hibernation. Egads, are you serious?!? My crockpot NEVER goes in to hibernation. Well, except those times I don't feel like cooking and dining takes place out of the home. There are so many great recipes that aren't stews and soups that are great for summer. That got me thinking about a couple of recipes I have yet to try. They're desserts.

I use my crockpot for dinner so much, I completely forgot about these two recipes I am about to share. I have made a pledge that I will try these one night soon. My friend JW gave these to me. I'm not sure what the name of the cookbook is but the last half says "to One Pot Meals." The beginning of the title is covered. If anyone knows where this came from, I would love to give credit where credit is due. Anyway, on with the sweet stuff. I can't offer changes because I haven't tried them yet. You know when I do, I'll have to change something.

Slow Cooker Chocolate Pudding Cake

1 8 1/4 oz pkg chocolate cake mix
3.9 oz pkg instant chocolate pudding mix
2 C sour cream
4 eggs
1 C water
3/4 C oil
1 C semi sweet chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips. Blend on medium speed with mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into slow cooker sprayed with non-stick spray. Cover and cook on low setting for 6-7 hours or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Serve with whipped topping or ice cream. Or both.

I lied. I should have looked at the recipe before I posted it. I don't use a non-stick spray. I use oil. Use what you have. I use olive, I have a friend that uses coconut. The main point here is to coat your crock to prevent major stickage. I know several of you groaned about semi-sweet chocolate chips. Use what you like. I would even suggest you take a walk on the wild side and use peanut butter chips or even white chocolate chips. For those of you that are thinking of your health (and with this recipe, who isn't?) try carob chips. If you want to make it as chocolatey as possible, there is a dark chocolate pudding that is mmm, mmm, good. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

This next one does remind me a little of fall. It's all about apples. Again, to keep this caramelly goodness from sticking to the crock, coat it well with oil.

Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Delight

1/2 C apple juice
7 oz pkg caramels, unwrapped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C creamy peanut butter
4 to 5 tart apples, cored, peeled, and sliced

Combine apple juice, caramels, vanilla, and cinnamon in slow cooker. Add peanut butter and mix well. Add apples. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. Stir, cover, and cook on low setting for 1 hour.

Can you imagine how great your house would smell? I may have to buy another crockpot. Both of these sound crazy good to me. If you try either of these, I would love to hear what you think.

Have a great day.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Busy Days



We started school in August, but all of our extras didn't start until September. And since then, we have been going and going and going. But really, even though we have added a couple of new things this year, it doesn't seem like we're gone all day every day this year. Part of the reason is that I'm not dancing this year, our Wednesday isn't slammed pack from beginning to end, and our activities are a little more spread out. Well, for the most part.
Today was full from beginning to end. Chess club was today. The boy loves to play chess. The girls like it, but not quite like the boy. Hubby was off so he got to go with us. He even played chess. We met some friends there and after chess was over, we walked around the quaint little town where chess club is. The downtown area is very nice. They have these great little shops.
But more importantly, today was free frozen yogurt day. See the second picture? That is a great sign, isn't it? Gotta love it. And we did. It was so good!!!. The top picture is what we all got. They
had vanilla, peanut butter, green apple, raspberry chocolate cheesecake, pomegranate, and peach. They had toppings galore, including the biggest blackberries I have ever seen. You bet your bippies I got some blackberries. I also had Whoppers, peanut M&Ms, and chocolate chips. It was so good on my raspberry chocolate cheesecake yogurt. The only one that didn't get tried was the peach. Poor peach.
After we parted ways, our little family pod went home for lunch. I took the two biggest with me to look for shoes. Ugh! Kids grow way too fast. Didn't I just buy shoes? Anyway, we headed south to a little town where hubby used to work. It is not so little anymore. We found this great shopping center that just made me smile before we even got out of the van. I love to shop. One of the best parts was finding the shoes the boy wanted from one store at another store for $10 less. I love a bargain. The second best thing was finding a movie theater. It may not seem exciting, but since we only had two theaters in the whole county (I am not lying), it was a fantastic find.
Today was busy, but productive. We played chess, spent time with great friends, ate free frozen yogurt, shopped til we dropped, and still managed to grill steaks and have a nice dinner together. If you ever see a sign like the one above, go. You can't beat free with a stick. Well, you could, but why?
Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taming of the Shrew

Not really a shrew, more my hair. It's a giant black mass of curls that do what they want when they want to do it. The problem with that is that I'm hot under 80 pounds of hair. Befor eNight of Joy, I asked if a friend's daughter would french braid my hair. I didn't want to walk around all night sewating under all my hair. Instead, I walked around sweating but not under my hair. And let me tell you, it takes a village to tame this mess.


I think S was thinking she needed more hands.
Look at the braid, then look across at the mass of hair waiting to be done. Can you imagine? Honey, I live with it every day.

This is the work in progress. It felt so good, and it didn't sit on the back of neck all night. She did a great job and I am ever so grateful.

The big girl got her hair done, too. We were both glad that we did. Poor thing has THICK hair like her mama, it's just not as dark or curly. We got tons of compliments as well. It made a great night just that much better.
Have a great day.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Night of Joy 2010, In Pics

Our middle schoolers in our youth group went to Night of Joy at Disney World. Hubby and I got to chaperone the group and go with the big girl. She had two friends go with her that had never been before. We had all been to Disney, just not this event. We went to Rock the Universe last year and that's where the high schoolers are going tonight. It was a blast! We got to see the David Crowder Band, Chris Tomlin, Group 1 Crew, Sidewalk Prophets, Thousand Foot Krutch, and Casting Crowns. We got to ride with very little wait. Most of the kids rode all three mountains: Space, Thunder, and Splash. I love live music, so this is an event I really push to go to.

My favorite band of the night was Group 1 Crew. Their performance was high energy, and had a great sound. Their set was well worth it. Their music is fresh and different. I got to see them in the Youth Leader Lounge. Disney had a room for youth leaders(duh) where some of the artist put on acoustic performances and a question & answer session. There were refreshments and information and free CDs. But, more importantly, there was air conditioning. I got my picture taken with them and got to tell them how great their music is. The big girl asked if we could download a song, but I downloaded their EP instead. We have been rocking to it since, so we were really excited to see them live. Love it, love it, love it!

We got really close to the stage when the David Crowder Band performed. That was a great concert as well. He is a lot of fun and has great hair. I like weird hair, what can I say. We got close to the rest as well except Chris Tomlin and Casting Crowns. We only caught the end of their set, but they were amazing. I love their songs and they are fantastic musicians and singers. It was a great night to be in the crowd, raising hands, praising God, and screaming down the roller coasters. This is a picture of two of the DJs from the local Christian station that introduced the David Crowder Band. We were actually closer, but not according to the camera.
This is our little group waiting for the ferry. Hubby, the big girl, and I had been on the monorail, but not the ferry. We did monorail back, though. We were herded like cattle, but so happy each step we took closer to our van and home by the end of the night.

This is the big girl with her two friends, A and K. This was waiting for David Crowder Band. Crazy girls.


Cinderella's castle with the NOJ screens. I would love to spend the night there for NOJ.
It was fun. It was loud. It was humid and hot. It was uplifting. It was joyful. Thanks, Mickey, for hosting such a great event.
Have a great day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sesame Ginger Death Balls

Really, it's just brussel sprouts, but that's what my friend N calls them. I tried this one the other night and it was a hit. Hubby is amazed when I make a brussel sprout recipe that makes him say, "May I have seconds?" Amazes me, too. I got this from Food.com, which used to be recipezaar.com.

Sesame Ginger Brussel Sprouts:

2 (10 oz) containers Brussel Sprouts
2 Tbls low sodium soy sauce
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbls olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbls water

Trim stems and some outer leaves from sprouts. Cut each sprout lengthwise, then into quarters. In small bowl, combine soy sauce, grated ginger, and sesame oil. In nonstick pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook until tender. Increase heat to medium-high, add Brussel sprouts and water. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until sprouts soften and begin to brown. Stir once. Remove lid, and stir an additional 5 minutes or sprouts are tender crisp. Stir frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce mixture.

I used fresh sprouts and yes, they were organic. I also used ground ginger. I would use a tad more of that if you don't have fresh ginger. Taste your sauce before adding it to your sprouts. If you don't like the sauce, you really won't like it on them. If you don't use low sodium soy sauce, which I don't, don't add salt.

Something easy, simple and delicious. I like those.

Have a great day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunshine Fishing

For a quick family get away, we decided to go to the Sunshine Skyway Pier to do some fishing. Hubby and I used to go all the time, but we haven't been since the boy was still a bun in the oven. He's 9. Our trip had a rocky start and we weren't even sure we were going to make it. I had a migraine the night before and still wasn't 100% by the time we wanted to go. I made it, and even felt better as the night went on.

We had the best time. We didn't catch any big fish, but we caught lots of pinfish and grunts. The kids loved the grunts. They liked to hear them make noise. That's why them call them grunts.
We all caught fish. These are the kids with their big catches. The boy even learned how to bait the hooks. He was better with the shrimp than with the squid, but he did a great job. He wants to learn how to take the fish off the hook next. Hubby is all for that. The boy just didn't mention it until it was almost time to go. He's becoming quite the outdoorsman. He even thinks he's ready to go hunting with hubby. I'm the one not ready for that.

Yeah, don't let her sweet face fool you. That is one awesome fisher person right there. She skunked us all, the little booger. She wouldn't hold them or touch them, but she caught the heck out of them. I'm still a little peaved at her for being so good.


We saw this while we were on the bridge. Carnival Cruise Lines at it's finest. The big girl and I want to go on a cruise. I told her good luck getting your father on one. She said we could take a mother/daughter cruise. Good thinking, big girl, good thinking. We had such a good time. The kids want to go back again and again. We packed a dinner and snacks and drinks. Hubby and the boy smelled like fish no matter how many times they washed their hands. It was 1:30 in the morning when we got home and we were all tired and ready for bed. It was awesome.
Have a great day.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hamster Wheel

Well, now I've gone and done it. Again. I was having a conversation with some friends the other day about our extracurricular activities. I have loaded us down. Again. What happened to all that talk about slowing down and not scheduling us to within an inch of our life?

We're dancing again this year. We will always dance, I'm pretty sure. The two big kids have changed their classes this year. The big girl is taking jazz, which was the first thing she took after her half and half class. She's even in the same class. Of course, the kids are different, but it's the same time slot. What I think is funny is that she will be back dancing with girls she started dancing with when she was four. They are younger than she is and they have all taken different dance paths than she has. The boy is taking hip hop this year. So far he has taken jazz and ballet. This will be right up his alley I think. The baby is dancing, but we aren't sure what yet. There have been some scheduling issues, so we'll see. But it will work itself out.

The big girl is taking voice lessons. We have a very good friend that is teaching her. The big girl is also in a new praise band at church that the youth have formed. She has a great voice, she just needs to learn to use it for good and not evil. No, really, she needs to learn to project and how to breathe when she sings, that kind of stuff. She is having a good time so far. You should hear her singing all through the house. So she has voice and praise band. The two younger ones (see how the boy can be older or younger? He's in great spot.) will be in the children's choir at church. They practice once a week and will perform at service a few times.

We still have our school co-op. We may add some new members this year. This year, so far, is Ancient Rome, explorers, wonders of the ancient world, and composers. We'll see if the new ladies join and what they decide to teach. I need to get a move on with mine, now that I think about it. I need to get my maps printed and see how they fold together to make a globe. We are going to use the map to track the discovery paths of the explorers and when we are done, you can cut it out and glue it together. So on co-op day, no history. I think we'll get enough in co-op to compensate.

Veggie co-op is still on our schedule. That is a long day so I schedule extremely light that day. This year, choir practice is the same day. Co-op in the morning, choir in the evening. I told the kids they just need to do their math and that's it. I don't see the point in stressing ourselves out. Well, not anymore than we will already be.

Our list of extracurriculars are as follows: dance, dance, dance, dance, school co-op, veggie co-op, choir, voice lessons, praise band, youth, park day, book club, book club, and I forgot about chess club. That's only a couple times a month, but it's still on the list. Most of these are in the afternoon and we are usually done with our school work, but sometimes it's just another thing to add to our day. Why did I do this again? Oh, yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment. My crockpot will be working overtime again. Good thing I love my crockpot. Better that I love my kids.

Have a great day.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Almost Like Thanksgiving

I've had a couple of cravings lately. The saying in my house is, "If Mama has a craving, everyone benefits." Every now and then I would love to have a Whataburger, but I can't get one of those. Trust me, if I could, I would buy one for everyone. One of my hankerings got me thinking, and a blog post was born. Today's topic: meatballs.

One of the easiest things to do is make meatballs. You throw some stuff together with some ground meat and there you go. You can use ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey. You could even mix them. You could use chicken, which can be dry, and add a little ground pork or ground beef. Or not. If you don't make meatballs, find a frozen brand you like. I would prefer you didn't, but that's just me. The recipes today are turkey, but you could change them to anything. These both came out of a recipe magazine that I do not know the name of. They came to me already cut out so I don't have any info. If you know where they came from, I would love to share.

Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce:

1 lb turkey meatballs, cooked
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 can (16 oz.) jellied cranberry sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

Cut cranberry sauce into slices. Place into bottom of crockpot. Add BBQ sauce and soy sauce. Top with meatballs. Cook on low 4-6 hours or high 2-4.

It really is that easy. I don't precook my meatballs. If the crockpot is going to run for 4-6 hours, it can cook those, too. If you want to cook them, place them in a shallow baking dish in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. They may not be done all the way, depending on the size of the meatball, but it will finish in the crockpot. You can use any meat for this. I like the turkey, but I have a feeling ground pork, or a mix of both would be good with this. Use your favorite BBQ sauce or make your own. As I write this, I realize that I should post a recipe for the meatballs. I will post a link to this site that is great and free. I have never had a bad recipe from here.

This one we really like when the weather gets cool. It tastes sort of like fall. The turkey with apples and dried fruit just sort of sets the mood. It is good any time of the year, though.

Apple Cheddar Turkey Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 egg
1 tsp kosher salt, ground black pepper, and onion powder
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries

Mix ground turkey with all ingredients. Make golf ball size meatballs and drop into crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, 5-9 hours on low.

I have to admit that I change this one quite a bit. Each time we've had this, I've had to tweak it a little more. The last time was good, though. First of all, use a flavorful apple. If you like a granny smith, that's a great one. I'm not a big fan, but I like them in this. Second, if you can invest in some really good kosher or sea salt, please do. It really makes a difference in taste. And you need more seasoning than that. 1/2 tsp for that much ground turkey leaves you with blandness. I add at least 2 tsp of each. I add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves. You don't have to cut them too fine, just not big hunks. It helps with the flavor. I would suggest the addition of some onion as well. Up the cheese to 3/4 cup if you like. I don't like cranberries, which I discovered when I made this the first time. You could substitute raisins, golden raisins, craisins, anything like that. Golden raisins are yummy. You could use this with the previous recipe.

Please make sure that before you cook either of these that you oil you crockpot. It helps prevent too much stickage. The cranberry and BBQ sauce can get quite messy. Enjoy!

Have a great day.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ice Skating

This is our youth group. This isn't everyone, but it's quite a few of them. We had a great time. It was cold in there. It felt so good compared to the 105 degree heat index going on outside. We may have to go again just because it was a really good time.
This is hubby with the boy and the baby. Everybody, including me, got on the ice. Of course, I turned around as soon as both feet were on the ice, but I got on. Hubby took off like he was born on the ice and not in the Florida heat. The baby hugged the wall most of the time, but she eventually made it hands free. And the boy skated with one foot pushing like he was riding his scooter, but like the baby, he made it hands free as well.

This is the big girl with two of her friends. They had a blast. The girl in the middle is this side of a professional, but still she hung in there with the big girl. The big girl spent some time on her butt, but so did all of my family. The only reason I didn't was because I took my skates off.
I have blogged about Kyle before. It should not surprise you that he was awesome. He looked like he was born with skates. Yeah, I could have smacked him, too. I am just not athletic like that. Give me some key ingredients and I can make you a meal, but don't ask me to run while I do it.

You should see the bruises, hear the moaning and groaning. You would think we had been to battle and not the local ice rink. We are so going again.

The boy.




The baby. She still doesn't have her front, top two teeth, She looked like she had been playing hockey with some of the kids that were there. Too funny.

Have a great day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pea Pickin', The End








Crazy kids. Man, I love them.
Have a great day.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pea Pickin', The Pics

You don't get a pic of me very often, so there you go.

This is the garden we picked. It isn't very big, but we got a lot from it. And we had a great time.

This is hubby playing around. Guess where the boy gets it from?


This is a nasty mass of ugly bugs. Look closely. They were everywhere and they are yucky. There were wasps, flies, dragon flies, ladybugs, and things I have no clue what they are. No wonder the big girl didn't want to pick.
We didn't realize that the camera was on the wrong setting. The sun was big and bright and HOT. So ready for a little cool front.
Have a great day.



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pea Pickin'

We went pea picking today. It was an impromptu field trip that led to a really cool time. Hubby's friend was getting ready to tear down his conch peas and his black eyed peas, but still had pods on the plants. He wanted to know if hubby wanted to go by and pick them. Hubby called me and a field trip was born. Once we saw the incredible amounts of bugs that the pea plants had attracted, the big girl decided she was not picking. I'll post the bug picture we got and you really won't blame her. She was then in charge of picture taking. I look up after a few minutes of picking and this is what she's taking pictures of-herself. I love her.
This is just one of the many we got. The boy always has to play around. He is pretty cute.

The baby was actually very brave around the bugs. She is scared of dragon flies of all things. I tell her as long as she isn't a mosquito or small fish, she was ok. The dragon flies won't eat her. It doesn't work, but I keep trying. But today she went into the midddle of the garden where all the scary looking bugs are and picked away. Go on with it, baby.
I'll go pick up a ham and some Dr. Pepper to cook it with and throw it into the crockpot with our peas. We had a great time. We've been blueberry picking and now pea picking. If we could only find that money orchard, we'd be set.
Have a great day.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Another Year Begins

Tomorrow is the day. We start school. I am so looking forward to this year. The big girl is really in middle school now, I can't deny it any longer. The baby is a first grader and is excited to use her cool, new math book. The boy is just hoping he doesn't have to take too many spelling tests. And with the beginning of school comes all the rest.

We have our dance schedule. We have been missing it all summer. The big girl and I were going to dance this summer while the other two were in VBS. That didn't happen. Our finances wouldn't allow the summer classes and the kids never made it to VBS. We are three days in town this year. The big girl is taking jazz for a change. The boy has decided he wants to take hip hop. It's nice to have that scheduled, ready to go in the lesson plans.

Co-op will be starting soon as well. We have our schedule through September, so I can mark those in the lesson plan and on the calendar. We may have a couple of newcomers this year. We have a couple of ladies that may join our little group. They are going to observe for the first couple of co-ops, then decide if it's right for them. Co-op is one of the best things that we have ever done. It is yet another resource for education, but more importantly friends. It is a blessing and a relief when I get to be with this special group.

We already have ideas and info on field trips. We are going to a chocolate factory, possible a sky diving school, and a museum in a nearby college town. A friend and I were talking about the mass transit busses that we have and decided that we want to take a field trip on one to a nearby shopping area. It's only a dollar to ride, and I've never been on a bus like that. So if any of my locals wants to go, just give me a holler. It could be an adventure.

I sat down with the kids and let them see the lesson plan and how everything plots out so far. Everybody seems to be happy with their curriculum and their plans. I hope this will be the best year yet.

Have a great day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Toothless, In Pictures



There she is in all her toothless glory. That's my baby. Isn't she cute? I am so glad those teeth are finally out. So is she.
Have a great day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Foreign Chicken

No, this isn't the turned down and muted version of my Chinese chicken blog. This is a recipe post. I love those.

You get a twofer today. I was blabbing about making Mexican chicken and darn it, it's time. It's this wondeful little dish made with RoTel, cheese, chips, and, of course, chicken. As soon as I get my dishes out of my sink and into the dishwasher, I'll start thawing the aforementioned chicken. This one brings back lots of good memories. Mom only made this one a couple of times. I will have to say, it isn't the prettiest dish I've ever made. But, you'll just have to face that when you get there. It is, however, quite the tasty dish. I'm pretty sure the recipe came off the back of a can of RoTel. You can find some pretty easy recipes on the back of soup cans and condiment bottles. If anyone knows where this really came from, I would love to give credit where credit is due.

The second dish is chicken spaghetti. My Aunt Kathy used to make this. My Aunt Kathy is who led me, for the most part, to be a great cook. I didn't just want to be good, I wanted to be great. This recipe brings back warm, fuzzy feelings and lots of family memories. I can remember the first time I had it was in the back "apartment" of my uncle's store. All the spice and flavor and yumminess. I make this as often as I can get away with. It makes quite a bit, so I usually end up freezing some for another time. I've thought about making it into popsicles. That would be too good. I'm not sure where this came from other than my aunt. Again, I would like to give proper credit if anyone knows.

Don't be alarmed by the number of ingredients. That is one of the first things that will make you turn the page of the cook book and overlook a really great find. Group your ingredients. Put all spices in one group, liquid ingredients, veggies, whatever. Slow and steady wins the race. That and you only need a little of this and a little of that. I don't think I change them that much that it would warrant changes to follow, but if I think of something, I'll let you know. Here we go.

Mexican Chicken

Boil and debone 1 chicken. Cool, cut into small pieces.

Mix together:

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 can chicken broth
1 can RoTel

In a pan, layer chiken, 1 8oz. pkg Tostitos, 1 grated medium sized onion, and shredded cheddar cheese. Pour soup mixture over the top. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

There is nothing I change. You don't have to use a whole chicken. You could use pieces, a whole cut up chicken, or even turkey instead. That might be interesting. And save the stock for future cooking.


Chicken Spaghetti

1 large chicken
1 large white onion
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
mushrooms, chopped
4 sections garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 can tomato soup
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
2 Tbls Worchestershire
2 Tbls hot sauce
3 C chicken broth

Boil chicken until tender. Cool and debone. Saute onions, pepper, celery, and garlic. Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Add veggies and chicken. Simmer on lowest heat for 1 1/2 hours.

This is another one I don't change. Again, if you don't have a whole chicken, use whatvever pieces you like or a whole cut up chicken. It does have a little kick to it, and is best served warm with lots of garlic bread and napkins.

I'm not sure when or how I started doing recipe posts, but I really enjoy them. Some of these bring back memories of family gatherings and the shared love of food around a table. My Aunt Kathy was like McGyver, but in a culinary sense. She could go into a kitchen with half a clue and a salt shaker and come out with a meal fit for royalty. A little of this, a little of that, and don't forget that extra sprinkle of love. That's how I show my love, too. So if you have been to my house, I have probably fed you, and fed you way too much. That's my way. If I didn't feed you, well, you know what that means.

Have a great day.

And We're Off!

Not yet. But I'm working on it. We start school in a couple of weeks. The kids say they aren't very happy about it, but I can tell our easy, lazy, boring summer has started to take a toll on them. We are creatures of habit. We like having a schedule of events. We may not always follow that schedule, but we like to have it.

I sat down and put our lesson plan together. Thankfully, that went well. I always start with our together stuff. That means I'm making one plan for three subjects. We do all the same activities and worksheets. If there is something that I think the baby may have problems with, we try first. She is one smart cookie. Sometimes the activity is below the big girl's level, but that just means an easier day for her. I started planning like gang busters until I realized a couple of things. I don't have a dance schedule. I'm not sure when we're dancing, so that will help me decide which days are easier than others. I also don't have our co-op schedule yet. I'm not sure when we start and how many people are going to be in the co-op. Travel time cuts in to our schedule quite a bit. I erased alot (thank goodness for pencils) and started again. I even cut us some slack like I said I was going to. Science and history we'll do for three days instead if four.

I need to put the baby's portfolio together from last year. I have all the stuff, and it's mostly seperated. It's just the actual sit down and do it. I have the boy's and big girl's done, but I needed those for evaluations. The baby isn't ready for that. We don't even have to sign her up for homeschooling until this year. That is one of the last holdouts for being done with last year. Once that's done, it's a clean slate. Then there's the buying of new school supplies. That actually means more ink for the printers, copy paper, and new dry erase markers. There are some other things in there as well. The most important is a printer that is Windows 7 compatible. The big girl's math is on disc this year, and I loaded it on my lap top. I have no way to print it. I could put the stuff on the desk top, but that limits my computer accessibility. Yeah, that won't happen.

I have three piles of books in the middle of my living room floor. I cleared off my book shelf of old curriculum. I'm taking it down to trade in at a new teacher store in a neighboring town. They give you credit for your stuff to use in their store. I'm going some time this week to check them out. One thing keeping me from the teacher store now is the stuff I want that I can't afford, or don't want to spend the money on. Credit is a good thing. Maybe I can finally get some of those posters I've been wanting.

The second pile of books is the keep pile. I don't have room for them. When I cleaned off the book shelf, I also cleaned off what we don't read or don't need. I still don't have room. Arrgh! We love good books in this house. I saw the big girl pilfering things out of the "get rid of these" pile, which is pile number three. She put them back after she got busted hiding one. Twice. Sometimes, she reminds me so much of someone. Who does she remind me of? Oh, yeah, me. These books were gifted to us from another family cleaning off their shelves. Good grief, we know some reading people. The majority of them stay. The rest of them go to the park, then the book store. If I can get them there, and not leave them in a pile in my living room floor. I still need to get the clothes donated that I cleaned out 6 months ago.

The boy has lost two teeth this summer. So has the baby. The baby's is her two front teeth. I love that look. I'll get a picture to post. She said she's been pushing her adult tooth back up so she'll have the front ones gone at the same time. Mission accomplished. You have to love it when a plan comes together.

That's the update, folks. Right now, it just doesn't get any better.

Have a great day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Beer and Seasoning

Yeah, not a title you would expect on this blog, but there it is. My last post was about being boring. When I say boring, I should also include lazy into that category. We really haven't done much this summer. Because of that, my poor crockpot thinks I have forgotten it. I haven't, that's for sure. I actually have a hunk of beef in it right now that smells so good. I also cut up some red potatoes and some yukon golds and have those roasting right now. My house smells divine. Only thing I need right now is a loaf of home made bread going to top off the wonderful smells.

I started thinking about my poor, abused crockpot. I like the fact that once you get a pattern down, you can mix and match and make a different meal with the same basic stuff. That was pretty much what I did today. I just followed a pattern. Most of the recipes will call for a liquid and some seasoning. Most of the time I just grab whatever my hand lands on in my spice rack and let it go. But I have started adapting some recipes and now keep some things on hand to make that part a little easier.

One of my favorite things to cook with is beer. Yes, I drink it, too, and it seems like I always have at least one. Today has been the day I could use a few more, but to cook with, one is enough. I like to use it when I cook smoked sausage. My childhood friend R used to do that. I was skeptical until I tried it. It is the only liquid I use now for sausage. Throw some shredded cabbage or sauerkraut in the pan with it, cover it, and let it go. You can use a bagged coleslaw mix just as easily. Just make sure you rinse the sauerkraut or it can be a little bitter. If you forget, toss in a couple of tablespoons of sugar to sweeten it up a little.

I have started using it as the liquid in my crock pot recipes. I don't use it all the time, but it can liven up a boring recipe, or one you use all the time. I usually make my own chicken stock, but I seem to be out for some reason. I have Mexican Chicken on my menu for next week, so I'll get more in the freezer when I boil the chicken. Since I am out, I needed a substitute. I could have used water, but really, what sort of pizzazz does that add? None. And wouldn't you know it, I actually had two beers in the fridge. One went in the crock pot and I know where the other one is going later.

The other thing I like to use and keep on hand is seasoning packets. I like the onion soup mixes, but I also like something just a little different. One recipe I have calls for a packet of dry Italian dressing mix. You know, the one that you mix with vinegar and olive oil? It is wonderful as a seasoning in recipes and it comes in a couple of different varieties. If I had had one, it would have been in the crock pot, too. Instead I used some Jamaican Jerk seasoning I have. I also like to keep taco and chili seasoning packets on hand. They are fantastic on the potatoes I mentioned earlier. You can also use dry ranch dressing as well. I like that you can also make dips with them. Have company? Use a packet of seasoning, a container of sour cream or plain yogurt, and you have instant dip. Use chips or veggies or both. You can also do carrots and fresh green beans instead of potatoes. All sorts of wonderful things and it is quick and simple and easy.

So now that I have talked your ear off about the wonders of these things, I'll let you know what I did for dinner tonight and, as always, the alternatives.

Crockpot Meat:

1 roast
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1 bottle of beer

Salt and pepper beef to your liking. Place in crock pot. Add garlic, onions, and beer. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

You can use any cut of meat. You can use a whole or cut up chicken, or chicken pieces that you like. It is also good with turkey. I like to use a turkey breast or turkey thighs. Yummy, yummy. And you could always toss in any of the seasoning packets I mentioned above. I should say that store brands are just as good for this as the name brand, but go with what you like.

Roasted Potatoes

2 red or yukon gold potatoes for each person
olive oil
1 packet taco seasoning

Dice potatoes into bite size pieces. Place them into a large resealable bag. Add 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Empty packet into bag and seal. Toss to coat and place potatoes onto a baking sheet. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until tender.

I used Italian seasoning and some salt and pepper. I would suggest you not use salt if you are using a seasoning packet. There's enought of that in the packet. This is where you could use any of the packets I mentioned above or just any seasoning that you have that you like. Always go with what you like and what's easiest for you. I serve mine with a little sour cream on the side, but there's always that stand by- ketchup. If you use taco or chili seasoning, salsa would be delicious with the spuds.

Keeping it simple and easy doesn't have to mean drive thru or sandwiches. You could just as easy add chicken stock and a beer. Add black beans or lentils to the meat and have a one pot meal. Or even add your taco potatoes to your beer beef. My mouth is watering. It's time for dinner.

Have a great day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Boring

That's what we've been. I like boring. Boring means nothing exciting going on. I am all good with that. We are doing some things in the near future.

The big girl is going to church camp in a couple of weeks. She is excited. Me, I'm anxious. I know she'll be fine. I know she'll have a great time. But that's my big girl and I will worry until she gets home. That's my job as a mama. I am following a friend out to the camp. I asked if she would hold my hand while I cried, and she said yes. Thanks, N, I need that. It's almost like when I sent her to kindergarten. I cried all day. The big girl started asking to go to camp last year. We told her when she could swim, she could go. By golly, she taught herself how to swim so how could we say no? We are very excited that she's got this opportunity.

The baby is about to start swimming lessons. She has taught herself how to doggie paddle and how to swim underwater a little. She has even become quite a floater. Before she would just kind of wander around or float on a noodle. I think that because she sees her brother and sister swimming and most of her friends swimming as well she has worked herself up to it. She was content before to just watch. I'm glad she's done so well by herself, but it's time for her to get some formal training. The boy and the big girl were older when they started swimming and had a better idea of the process. The baby was not happy about it at first, but seems to be excited about it now. Finally.

The boy had two play dates in two days. The big girl was getting a little jealous, but if you think about it, she's about to have a week long play date. Anyway, the boy loved it. He even got to show one friend some things about Super Mario on the Wii. He's funny, though. He doesn't think his mama's skills are as good as his. That's because he just doesn't know. He got to spend time with a friend that is out of town quite a bit. That was fun for him.

Hubby has been working. And working. And working. This is his busy season. We are OK with the hours because it pays the bills. We even managed to pay off another credit card. We absolutely love that part. Other than that, he's good. He does have a mess out in the backyard to clean up, and boy do we need to mow. He's also going to build us a compost bin. Now to find the time to take care of that.

I am thinking I want to start school sometime in August. I'm thinking the beginning, but we'll see. I've been cleaning off the bookshelf of all the curriculum that we aren't going to use or I don't need anymore. I loaned out some today, mostly science stuff. I just need a clean shelf somewhere. I need to be organized with some part of my life. If it happens to be the book shelf, more power to it. I think I just need to get my hands all over our new curriculum. Any excuse to handle it is a good one.

I told you we were boring. There just isn't a lot happening this summer. We haven't even done any VBS this year. We skipped helping with the float for the 4th of July parade for the first time in three years. We are just taking it as easy as we can. And being boring is as easy as it gets.

Have a great day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Holy Guacamole

Hang in there with me. Don't leave. Just get thru the next paragraph and you'll see where I'm going with all this.

I was reading that avocados are very good for women. It has been shown that if a woman eats just one avocado a week, it can help balance hormones. At this stage of my life, I'm all for balancing the hormones. It also helps prevent some cervical cancers and helps you shed unwanted pounds. That being said, I just like avocados.

They are relatively cheap at our organic co-op. They are nutritious and delicious. I like them in salads, on sandwiches, sliced up on a plate, and as guacamole. I make a really good guacamole. I have been taking it to the park and sharing it with my friends. Even my hubby, the guacamole shunner that he is, really likes it. That makes me feel better. Here's the way I do it:

2 ripe avocados
2 green onions, chopped, including greens
1/2 medium tomato or 1 small tomato, diced small, seeds removed
2 tsp cumin
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
sea salt
cracked black pepper
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Half avocados and remove the pit. Scoop green goodness out of skin with a spoon. Dice avocado then place in bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add juice of lemon. Start to mash avocado with back of spoon or with a fork. Add lime juice and continue to mash until as smooth as you like it or as smooth as you can get it. Add spices, tomatoes, and onions. Mix well. Serve with chips, on tacos, or with a spoon.

Your avocados must be ripe. I keep mine in the frig to keep them from ripening too soon. I take them out and let them sit on my kitchen counter for about 3-4 days. When the skin is black and the fruit is soft, they're ready. The lemon juice is to keep it green, the lime juice is for flavor. The measurements for the cumin and cayenne are guesstimates. I don't measure. Easy does it, though. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor. It may taste a little bland at first. Start by adding a little more salt and pepper. Then a little cumin, but the cayenne will blow you away if you add too much. If you don't have tomatoes and onions, use salsa. It doesn't matter what kind. Start with about a tablespoon and go from there. Add a tablespoon at a time until it is the consistency you like. I like mine a little thick.
It really is super easy. I could show you quicker than it took to write this out. And it's good for you. You can't beat that with a stick. Well, you could, but then you would have really smooth guacamole. Enjoy!

Have a great day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reading List

Part of homeschooling in our state is that you have to keep a list of books that have been read by each child. There are several ways to do this. I just keep a sheet of paper for each child and as they finish a book, they write it down with the author's name. My friend L does something really neat. She keeps the receipts from the library and highlights the books as her kids finish them. One thing that has been very beneficial about this is that we have discovered some really good series that we probably wouldn't have known about. We get recommendations from our friends, from other families, and from the librarians. The big girl is in a book club that runs during the school year. There are three series of books that come to mind that we really enjoyed or are enjoying as the case may be.

The first series that comes to mind is Geronimo Stilton. My aforementioned friend L is the one that recommended this series. We read some out loud, but did some as books on CD. The books are cute and funny and easy to read. They go pretty quickly and we sometimes take turns reading them. I like books on CD because the readers usually do voices. I'm not usually good at character voices. This is a series about a mouse named Geronimo Stilton. I have blogged about them before. We always enjoy a good GS book. I would say they are more appropriate for elementary age, but even I get a good giggle when we read them.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians has been one of our recent series. We are actually finishing the last book. We have two CDs left. The kids wanted to read this because of the movie. They would see the trailers on TV and then the poster at the theater. I requested the first book and we loved it. They are action filled. They are clean. They are appropriate for my kids. They have introduced us to the Greek gods in a way that is fun for my kids. They have made us interested in something that we have just barely scratched the surface of previously. The writer, Rick Riordan, has a new series about the Egyptian gods. It's waiting for us at the library as we speak, or read I guess.

Because of Rick Riordan we have discovered another series. The 39 Clues has been alot of fun and has been our dinner book for quite awhile now. We are on book five. Each book is written by a different author. Each one lends their own specialty and style to the series. It also introduces us to places that we probably wouldn't find out much about without reading these. We are going to look up The Road of Bones in Siberia to see if it's real or not. Just cool stuff that makes you wonder and makes you root for two kids that are competeing against people, relatives, that have more money and more resources. And once again, they are clean, they are interesting, and they are fun. Good books to read with my kids.

We try to read as much as we can. My girls had at least two full sheets, front and back, of books they read last school year. We have already started a list for the upcoming year. We are also doing the summer reading camp at the library again. A friend of mine and I were thinking about starting a book club for our boys. The one that the big girl does is for girls, and we think our boys need an outlet. Any excuse to get them to pick up a book is good. They will read, they just prefer to do something else. If you have a good book, or even a good series, we'd love to know about it.

Have a great day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summertime

There is a study out that says kids lose a certain percentage of the things they learned during the school year over the summer. I believe that's partially true. After all, if you aren't using the Pythagorean Theory every day, well it could become a moot point. Not that we are at that level yet. That comes next year. We are, however, unofficially doing just a bit of school. Not much, and most of it has to do more with reading and PE, but school is school after all.

We are involved once again in the summer reading program at our local library. There are several branches around us, but I choose to go to the one that we are most familiar with. We walk in and they know us. Love that. The kids must check out at least 5 things to read every week. They can be books, magazines, audio books, whatever. They turn in their receipt and they are entered into a drawing for a prize. I have a teacher friend that believes audio books shouldn't count as reading. I think it does. Reading out loud, reading silently to yourself, and having books read to you all stimulate different parts of your brain. But there I go again-soapbox. Five books a week isn't a big deal for my girls, but the boy could use some help. To help him, I am setting aside 30 minutes a day for reading. Check off reading.

We are also doing the free month of membership at the Y. June has cost us nothing and we have been there so much, they know our names. Love that, too. We have done Zumba, Yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, and the exercise equipment. I would like to do the shallow water fitness or water aerobics, but that will come. We are going to join for the summer. It's actually cheaper than dancing, so we are even saving a little. We have gotten to spend time with friends that we normally wouldn't see very much during the summer. We are getting fit. And my tan is rocking. There's a bonus.

And last, but not least, we are going to some of the $1 movies at the local theater. There is another chain doing free movies, but by the time we got to the closest one, it would cost me $10 in gas. We saw Shrek the Third and are going to get to see Monsters v. Aliens if I'm really good. And since we get free refills on large drinks and large popcorns, if anyone wants to split a package, I'm up for that. The package of one large popcorn and two large drinks is $17.50. But with refills, that's like getting two large popcorns and four large drinks. That breaks down to $8.75 for half of the pack. Just throwing that out there. We aren't going to see all the movies. Some I have no desire to see again. Some we never got to see in the first place, and this is a much cheaper way to do it.

There's our plans for the summer. We are reading, exercising, and getting our popcorn on. That seems like it should be enough to keep me out of trouble. We'll see anyway.

Have a great day!