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Monday, May 31, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 5/31

Greetings. We had a wonderful holiday weekend, and I hope you did too!

This week we have baseball, of course, but not really much else, which is super exciting. I am looking forward to staying home a lot this week and getting some schooling and housework done!

giant salad with grilled chicken breast

stuffed pepper soup
(I have a bunch of frozen peppers from the winter that I need to use up)

Thai noodle salad

Kids--cheesy barbeque beef casserole (I know. I know. It tastes better than it sounds, but you'll note that it's only for the kids.)
green beans

Parents--date night! We signed up for 2 free spicy chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A. Yes, we're cheap. But whatever. You're just jealous.

beef stir-fry
(We are getting our first CSA share today, so I'll use whatever veggies I get, or just clean out all the little bits from the fridge and freezer. Or both!)

Something with CSA veggies and chicken


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I ran calling WILDFLOWER

Okay, that isn't how the old song goes...but still.

Yesterday I took my lovely little Flour Children out for a nature walk with some family friends. We went to the Raccoon Creek Wildflower Reserve. If you are in the western Pennsylvania area, I highly recommend the trip to this obscure park! The whole park is lovely, quiet, and not busy at all. It's like it's a secret park!

These really were great trails for the kids. The trails weren't very hard, and there were so many flowers, butterflies, fungi, and tracks for us to look at. This particular group of kids did very well, as we ended up following blazes for about 2 hours! We had no idea we were gone that long. But it was very fun, and the kids really enjoyed it.

This is Outdoor Hour Challenge #4, and later this week we'll use our pictures to form the list for Challenge #5.

One last, lonely, elusive trillium. This is the first one I've ever found. (It's hiding underneath the leaves.)

Phlox. It was everywhere!

Tiny snail on the underside of a mayapple.



I used my Wildflower Fandex and this website to identify the flowers. If I got any wrong, please let me know! I'm still working on my identification skills!

Monday, May 24, 2010

One man's trash...

Here, Funny is enjoying her last few bites of dinner.

I had the following leftovers:


Now, I could've been boring, and just reheated it all and thrown it on our plates. But instead I turned it into soup. We'll be able to eat the soup for a few days, too, so we actually get more out of it. I love that about soup. It's just magic.

I used some homemade chicken stock that I pulled out of my freezer, though you can certainly use canned or boxed broth. Because I used homemade, I did add salt to my soup. Don't add salt if you use canned broth!!!

I threw the broth into the crockpot and let it heat up. Once the broth was hot, I added the leftover rice (about 2 cups), leftover peas (about 1 cup), and then I decided that we need more veggies! Soup is so great for getting rid of all the bits of veggies you have hanging around. I threw in about 1 cup of frozen green beans, about 1/2 cup of frozen chopped spinach, and one chopped onion.

I added some salt & pepper, then decided to add some no-salt seasoning (similar to Mrs. Dash), because I was feeling lazy. I also added some fresh rosemary & oregano that I have in a little herb garden. Then I just left it in the crockpot, on low, until dinnertime. It probably crocked at least 1 hour once everything was in it.

This made a very tasty, pretty soup. Even the kids ate it without complaining. I like it when that happens.

Get me off this pedestal, people!

Here's a secret that homeschoolers don't like to tell, for a number of reasons:

Sometimes, homeschooling is really, really, really, really hard!

We don't want to let on because a lot of people are just waiting for us to fail. Some people really enjoy saying, "I told you so!" And so we plaster on our smiling faces and tell you that, yes, yes, it's all going so very well! Thanks for asking.

I am not saying that homeschooling isn't awesome, because it is. It works very well for my family. Like anything else in life, some days aren't that stellar.

In reality, I yell at my kids at least once every 15 minutes. Sometimes I pray a band of gypsies will appear on my front lawn. And, yes, sometimes I want to throw in the towel and send them to school so I can get a job where I don't have to clean up macaroni & cheese and tell a child again that an S should not look like a 2, and 21 is not the same as 12!

For those of you that stayed home with your little ones before school, or that spend any time whatsoever with your little blessings (I suspect that's all of my 3 readers), you know that it's mothering that really makes a woman crazy! It isn't the homeschooling. Anytime I want to give it up, it's really only because I am tired of repeating myself, or picking up dirty socks and underwear, or I just want to be left alone to pee!

Homeschoolers do not have extra patience. Anytime you have said to a homeschooler anything that resembles, "gee, I don't have the patience for that," or "wow, you must really be patient," said homeschooler is laughing on the inside. There's no patience fairy! If only. It's merely a decision that we've made to spend our days delirious and walking the fine line between sanity and the nut house.

The fact is, we're all mothers no matter how we educate our kids. We probably could all use more patience, which is why God has sent us such trying little darlings.

Maybe my point is, that instead of putting us on some kind of Pedestal of Patience, and instead of homeschoolers putting public/private schoolers down, we should all be fist-bumping for motherhood. Because it's hard, but awesome.

And now I must go admire some chalk art.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 5/24

I took last week off from menu planning, and boy, did I regret it. We ate nothing but garbage all week. Yuck. So I am back to the planning, and even a day early!

I am going to try to stay out of the grocery store this week. I think it can be done.

We recently purchased 1/2 a cow from my aunt & uncle. So you'll start seeing more red meat recipes, now that we have some meat!! These were pretty happy cows, that got to forage and walk around. I am a cheap shopper, and I demand quality (oh, I am such a food snob...), so I try to buy good meat (organic if I can (which is almost never), definitely hormone-free, etc.). That means that we don't really eat a ton of meat, generally. If I can find it on sale, I'll buy some. The meat from my aunt will last about a year or so. We are also still working through 1/2 a pig we bought with some friends. We have maybe 1/3 of that left. If only I had a chicken dealer...

turkey, rice & veggie soup
(made with leftover turkey from Sunday, and leftover rice & vegs)

stir-fried peppers, onions, and snow peas (if I have the peas...)

lasagna w/sausage & spinach
green beans


garlic carrots
bulghur pilaf
(boy, I really wish I had potatoes)

(I really, really want to make fries, but alas, no potatoes!)

Mom & Dad's house
(I hope!)

I suppose if I break down and buy anything, it'll be potatoes! They weren't on sale last week, so I didn't get any. As you all know, I don't mind paying more for better food, but they are the same ol' potatoes that will be on sale soon enough. So I'll just wait.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Random, cryptic thoughts. Sorry!

Here are some things I have learned in the past week:

1. I have no control over anything.
2. I really like my small, dull town.
3. I can have a constant stress headache and still do laundry.
4. It's okay to buy my daughter a cake from the store, even though I've always made everyone else's. I don't think she'll end up in therapy over it.
5. My kids really shine a light on my--shall we say--inadequacies.
6. Wifing can be hard work.
7. I still sunburn after multiple sunblock applications.
8. God's grace is so huge, I cannot possibly understand it.
9. My friends are a gift. I am so blessed to have a number of real friends.
10. I need to let myself off the hook more.
11. Coffee is my friend.
12. Even though it might be scary, it's good for me to be open to God's path for our family.
13. It seems there won't be a menu plan this week.
14. Laughing makes it all better.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 3/10

quick curried shrimp
See recipe below.

beer-braised beef (basically a beef stew)


white & green chili

green chile chicken casserole


beer-braised beef short ribs

What a little rut I'm in this week. 2 chile/chicken dishes and 2 beer+beef dishes. Oh well. What's good is good. Let's not mess with it.

I don't remember where I got this recipe. I didn't make it up. But I do cook it up. It's tasty. And takes hardly any time at all.

Quick Curried Shrimp

1 1/4 lb. extra large or large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 1/2 tbsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne
2 tbsp. oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with green pepper & onion
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
salt & pepper

Sprinkle shrimp with curry & cayenne. Heat oil and cook onion over medium heat, stirring until softened, about 4 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and lemon juice. Simmer, stirring often, until shrimp is done, about 3 more minutes. Add cilantro and cook for 30 seconds, just to wilt it.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I won't claim that these resemble authentic Mexican-American fare whatsoever. But they are easy, although messy, to make.

Mine are bean, onion & cheese. I don't know that beans even belong in an enchilada, but I married for love, not money, so they are in mine. Other filling ideas include regular taco-flavored ground beef, shredded pork, shredded beef, or even some tasty shredded chicken. Also, just cheese and onion makes a yummy filling.

You need some enchilada sauce. I have made it before, and it is easy. (I combined a few recipes on when I made mine last time. Check on there for ideas.) This time, I just bought a big can of enchilada sauce. The only thing is, most brands have MSG in them. So if you like to avoid it, make sure to check the label.

Corn tortillas. Now, I have made regular burritos with flour tortillas, covered them with enchilada sauce, and called them enchiladas. You are supposed to use corn, and as it happens, I had corn tortillas. I won't tell what kind of tortillas you use. Use the kind that your family will eat!

Cheese. Lots of it.

Here's how I made mine today. Granted, this could change next time! Use it as a guideline.


about 15-20 corn tortillas, warmed (I used the microwave.)
4 c. cheese (I used 2 c. Mexican blend, 2 c. cheddar. Shhh...I did not shred my own cheese today.)
large can enchilada sauce (I used Las Palmas 19 oz.)
refried beans with onion (See directions for beans below.)

Spread a little sauce in the bottom of a large pan (13x9 or bigger). Gather all your ingredients together in one place, as this is very messy. Pour some sauce into a shallow dish or pan. Dip a tortilla in the sauce, and flip over to coat. Wipe a little of the excess back into the dish. Put a small (really, you want just a couple tablespoons of filling) spoonful of beans inside; top with a sprinkling of cheese. (I used 2 c. of the Mexican blend inside the tortillas, and used the cheddar for the top at the end.) Carefully roll them up and place seam side down in the pan. If your tortillas are too cold, they will break into pieces and you will be irate. However, don't fret if you have a couple broken ones. No one will know once you put that ridiculous amount of cheese over the top. You can really smush them into the pan. Don't be afraid to fill it up! Just keep them in one layer. I used my big pan (I think it's a 15x9 at least) and I have about 20 in mine.

Once your pan is full of little rolled up tortillas, pour the rest of the sauce over the top. Then top that with however much cheese you want, up to 2 cups. This family is crazy for cheese, so I used the whole 2 cups.

Spray some foil so it doesn't stick to the cheese, and cover the pan. Bake at 350 until heated through. I would say check them after 25-30 minutes or so.

Obviously, you can use a can of refried beans. I won't tell. They are a fine substitute, and can be tasty if you season them, and thin them out a little with some water. Because otherwise, they are oddly pasty.

Refried Beans

cooked beans (I did mine in the crockpot, but canned are fine here.)
1 onion, chopped
fat (I used about 2 tbsp. butter)
garlic (powdered or real, if real, add with onion)
chili powder

Melt butter in large skillet. Add onion, and saute for about 3 or 4 minutes. Add beans, and mash with a potato masher. Mash them to whatever consistency you like. Season with garlic, chili powder (I used chipotle chili powder), salt, and cumin. Do not forget the cumin. Cumin=Mexican food. Heat thoroughly, and let fry a little on the bottom.

Menu Plan for the Week of 5/3

bean & cheese enchiladas

oven-fried chicken legs
cole slaw

dinner at AWANA

sirloin tip steaks in crockpot (based on this recipe)
baked potatoes
carrot soufflé (as it failed to appear last week, and needs it's own blog entry)

tasty bread

It seems I failed to plan something for Saturday. I guess if my 1/2 a cow comes in, I would like to make burgers on the grill. Otherwise, it will probably end up being some kind of pork, as we are still working through our 1/2 a pig.

Mother's Day
I hope I am not cooking today. But who knows.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Week in Review

This was a very unstructured school week. For some reason, some of our best learning occurs when we aren't trying too hard to actually learn anything.

Sunday the girls had their annual dance show. They dance at Grace Christian Dance, and if you are in the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend this school. Funny has really improved this year. It was Silly's first year dancing.

The kids had their homeschool class at a local library. They learned about ancient Greek myths, wrote poems, and learned about listening and sounds.

Scrappy and Funny both finished their library reading program and earned certificates for doing so. They were so proud of themselves, as they had to read the books on their own, and (because I am sooo mean) fill out the forms for each book as well.

We also spent a day at a local state park flying kites. (For educational ideas, click here.) This was a fun activity for us, especially, on the heels of learning about how birds fly. We discussed lift, air pressure, and drag again. It was too windy to really have a go with the kites. They all ended up playing on the playground equipment and running around in the sunshine. My friend, Heather, was kind enough to snap a few shots with her fancy camera.

That is Lake Arthur in the background.

I rather like how sullen Silly looks in this one.

We also listened to a wonderful CD, The Story of Classical Music. It's a mixture of story-telling (what was going on historically when pieces were written, information about composers or types of music, etc.) and excerpts from different works. I strongly recommend this to anyone (child or adult) who even thinks they might be interested in music! It also includes a CD-ROM with quizzes, activities, sheet music, and more. I got it at our local library, but am considering purchasing it. So you know it's good.