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.