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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Candyland

I almost never bother to make candy.  My kids get way too much of it from AWANA, and I'm pretty happy with the occasional bit of dark chocolate.  Every time I've made fudge, it hasn't turned out.  And so, maybe I'm a little afraid of candy.  But that never stops me from trying again.  It's handy to be stubborn.

This is from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, How to Be a Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson.  I adore the way she writes about food.  She likes food.  A lot.  Plus, the book is very pretty to look at.



Cinder Toffee (aka honeycomb)
from How to Be a Domestic Goddess

3/4 c. sugar
4 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. baking soda
8 inch square pan, well-greased

Grease that pan.  Seriously.  With some butter, in fact.

Mix the sugar and syrup in a heavy-bottomed pot.  THEN turn the burner on, to medium heat.  Let it heat up and you can stir it a bit to make sure it doesn't burn and that the sugar is dissolving.  It will begin to bubble and just start to change to a yellowish-brown.  (Mine took about 5-6 minutes, Nigella says 3-4)  You are not looking to caramelize this to a dark color.

Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the baking soda.  This part is exciting, and next time I am going to let the kids do this.  It fills the candy with air and the whole thing puffs up.  Fun!  Quickly pour into the dish and let it harden for a few hours.

I used my meat mallet to break this right in the middle and the whole thing split into 4 big pieces that I could then pull out of the dish.  Then I broke them further (with the mallet) into bite-sized pieces.

Our friend Nigella suggests we dip them in chocolate, if we feel so inclined.  I like the way she thinks.  I'm going to do that next time too.  All the little bits you can save for an ice cream topping.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Home is where the school is

I haven't posted too much about school this year.  We are still homeschooling, and we've been having a bit of a difficult year.  This is largely due to personality conflicts, which exist in families.  No amount of sending them away to school will change that.  I don't need "a break" from my kids, as if they are some horrible burden in my life.  They are my life (along with the ever-supportive Hub).

This year Scrappy is in 4th grade, Funny is in 3rd, Goofy is in 2nd, and Silly is in K, but mostly doing 1st grade work.  Here's the summary up to this point:

We tried Wordly Wise with Scrappy, and it turned out to be the thing we fought about most often.  It was pure misery.  I would become exasperated, he would become frustrated, and we always ended up screaming.  So we chucked it.  I'm back to my old methods of teaching vocabulary, which pretty much means I stop and ask if they understand a word, or I define as we go.  Who wants to do vocab flash cards?  Well, I do, but I'm not like other people.

We have lots of traditional homeschooling materials again this year.  The kids have an assortment of workbooks for language arts and math.  Scrappy is about done with MUS Gamma, we're almost finished with Apologia's Swimming Creatures book (we can't ever seem to get to this).  Story of the World is still the favorite for history.

The kids are still using games to learn a lot of different things.  We've started playing Bananagrams, and we use that for spelling and vocab practice.  The kids love to play Scrabble, Settlers of Catan, chess, Uno, Stratego, and even some math games on the iPad.  I think if all their practice/drill can be done through game playing, then that's good.  And even better, a lot of the games they like require strategy and critical thinking.  Yeah, I am okay with that.

We've already gone on 15 field trips this year!  My goal is 20, and I think we should manage to make that.  We have one or two more scheduled for this month, and I know come February, it's all I will want to do.  Gosh, I hate February for homeschooling.  Only you other homeschoolers understand that.  Alas, no worrying about it now!  Here are some highlights from our most recent trip to the Heinz History Center:

Flour Children and friends.  The museum is currently hosting an exhibit on the history of the flag.

Goofy makes pickles.

Funny preps her tent.

Silly and her friend taking a turn at packing pickles.

Flour Children and friends with statue of Franco Harris.


So, in the end, I suppose we had a rocky start.  Each year I find it easier to embrace our less traditional version of education, but every year I still fight myself on it.  We do a lot of reading, playing, and exploring.  We even do worksheets and book work.  Everyone here would rather read a book about homophones (which we did, Dear Deer) versus filling in a worksheet on homophones.  That's just how we roll.  It might not be your way, but it's our way, and it works for us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

I own very few cookbooks.  I mean, for someone obsessed with cooking, anyway.  Less than 10, I think.  Instead, I keep a giant binder full of recipes.  This is one of them.  I have no idea where the original came from. But I am oh-so-glad I have it.



Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

4 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. chocolate chips (I used combination of chocolate chips and a giant semi-sweet chocolate baking bar)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (I used pecan chips)

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl.  Combine pumpkin, butter, oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla in another bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Stir in chocolate and nuts.

Drop dough by tablespoonful onto cookie sheet.  Space about 2 inches apart.



Bake at 375 degrees for 13-14 minutes.  Let cool a couple minutes on pan, then move to rack to finish cooling.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quitters Never Win

Every now and again, I have one of those homeschooling days when I remember why we're all doing this.  Last week, I wanted to send my kids to school, wholly convinced that I was ill-qualified to teach them anything.  This week, I can't imagine not being with them.  Funny how that works.

It was field trip day today.  We went on a free (thank you, taxes) tour of PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  It was a thorough tour, and we got to see the press box, batting cages/pitchers tunnel, dugout, and even walk out onto the field.  The tour guide was excellent, and obviously loved the Pirates.  He also knew a lot of history of the team, which the kids found especially interesting.

The rest of school looked rather untraditional, I suppose, but it works for us.  The kids watched an episode of MythBusters.  We read about echinoderms.  We talked about the purpose of the nose, and how to stop germs from spreading (cover your sneeze, please).  Scrappy read to us about taking care of our teeth, while Goofy begged for his turn to read to us.  The five of us snuggled under a blanket and read a book about maps, another about nouns, and a third about the military alphabet.

Right now they are all upstairs measuring their rooms so they can map them out.  FOR FUN.

See?  This is what I call a good day.  I'm so glad I didn't throw in the towel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Enoch Wright House and Museum of Westward Expansion

You know how we love a field trip!  Today we went on our 7th field trip of the year.  This time we traveled about 20 minutes away to the Enoch Wright House and Museum of Westward Expansion in Peters Township, PA.  Enoch Wright's father, Joshua Wright, settled in the area in the mid-1700s on a land grant.  At the time that he settled here, the Pittsburgh area was a vast wilderness.  You can visit the log cabin that Joshua Wright built for his family, as well as the larger house that his son, Enoch, had built in the early 1800s.

Here's Scrappy's perspective:


I went to the Enoch Wright house. He was born in 1776. He lived in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. There were trees all around the cabin. His dad had to cut down all the trees to build the cabin, which was probably hard work. Then, years later, he built a big house, which was done in 1816. He traded his goods and became a rich man.

The big house is made of brick. Two families lived in it. It had one main staircase. Both sides of the house were exactly the same. One of the old bedrooms has been turned into a room where you can learn about coal and coal mining. I thought it was strange that coal miners wore gas lamps on their helmets because the mines were full of gases and it could have exploded. I don't think that job would be very fun.

Another thing I learned was that young boys learned to shoot a rifle, use a bow and arrow, and throw an ax. A lot of boys had knives to skin animals. When boys turned sixteen, they had to help fix the road. I'm glad I don't have to work on the road.


Such a nine-year-old boy, isn't he?  And just for fun, here's Funny's five-year-old girl perspective:

Today I went on a field trip. I went to the Enoch Wright house. There were a lot of steps there. It was a big, fancy house. There were a lot of dresses in one of the rooms. They were pretty. There were two kitchens. There were two of everything because two families lived in the house. In the kitchen, there was a big fireplace for cooking. There was a hook and a bucket was on it and it hung over the fire. The cook had to pull the hook away from the fire so the food didn't get burnt. I also saw some weapons. There were axes and a bow and arrows.

There was a cabin there, too. The cabin is older than the house. They built a ladder so everyone could get up to the beds. The cabin was small. It was made of logs from trees that were cut down where the cabin was built. There were American Indians nearby. The people in the cabin were not friends with the Indians because the Indians didn't want them to destroy the land. The people who lived in the cabin had to hunt for food. They had to hang the meat up to dry so they could eat in the winter. It was a hard life.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New School Year

We're three weeks into our homeschool year.  I've been way behind on my blogging (obviously).  I am going to try to get back into doing the Weekly Wrap Up posts, probably next week.  My camera is broken, so I have no pictures, and I'm sorry for that.  I know pictures make blog posts way more fun.  Eh.  My dearly devoted will read this anyway.  I think.

So this year has been going pretty well.  I would say it's our best kick off so far.  I chalk a lot of that up to my gaining experience and confidence.  Sadly, this doesn't mean I never question what we're doing.  I've had to hide myself away a little bit.  I have been hiding from Facebook ("Look, here's a picture of my kid going to school.  Yay!"  "My kid went to school and I went home and cried."  Either way, it's hard to look at when you're so obviously thumbing your nose at the whole system.).  I've been really trying to immerse myself in my family, and surround myself with people and information that supports our decision to homeschool.

Anyway, let's talk about the kids and their materials.  I know what you homeschoolers like:  curricula!

These are the materials everyone is using:
Apologia's Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day (finishing up from last year)
Apologia's Land Animals of the 6th Day
Story of the World, Book 2:  Middle Ages (our 2nd year for this.  Thankfully, I knew we couldn't complete it in one year and I don't feel like we're behind at all.)
Orchestra unit study
Lamb's Book of Art
Around the World coloring book
Abeka's Health, Safety, and Manners

Scrappy, age 9, 4th grade


Math-U-See Gamma (he started the year in lesson 11 and I am planning for him to move onto Delta after Christmas)
Steck-Vaughn's Language Arts Handbook, 4th grade
Wordly Wise 3000, book 1
IEW: Writing Structure and Style
Sequential Spelling

Funny, age 8, 3rd grade


Various Steck-Vaughn Early Math workbooks
Various grammar workbooks (right now using Writing Sentences from TCR)
IEW: Writing Structure and Style
Sequential Spelling


Goofy, age 7, 2nd grade

Various Steck-Vaughn Early Math workbooks
Various grammar workbooks (right now using Writing Sentences from TCR)

Silly, age 5, Kindergarten

Come on now.  I don't have a Kindergarten curriculum.  She's kid #4.  She just magically knows stuff!  Though, she does use a few things:
Bob books
Various Steck-Vaughn Early Math workbooks
Explode the Code

We also have a ton of supplemental materials.  Being part-time unschoolers, we have a house filled with all sorts of fun, educational things (and a well-loved library card).  Some of the highlights I'm looking forward to using this year:
Math Shark (handheld electronic math drill game)
Cooking Up Sentences board game
Math wrap-ups
Spellominoes


I also set a goal this year to take the kids on at least 20 field trips.  We went on 18 trips last year.  So far we've gone on 6 trips.  Once I get my new camera, I'll be back to posting more field trip posts with pictures.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hola, Deliciousness!

Here's a recipe from the archives...


Mexican Mac & Cheese
adapted from Fast, Easy, Fresh


2 c. elbow mac
2 links fresh chorizo, removed from casings and browned/broken up
1/2 c. salsa verde (from a jar)
1 c. (packed) fresh cilantro leaves
3 c. (packed) shredded cheddar, plus 1 c. for sprinkling (4 c. total)
4 tsp. flour
1 c. 1% milk
3/4 c. heavy cream (don't see why you can't use all milk, but cream is tasty)
1/4 tsp. (scant) ground cloves
1 c. corn chips

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cook macaroni until al dente, about 6 minutes and drain.
Meanwhile, blend/process the salsa and cilantro until smooth. Toss 3 c. cheddar with the flour in a bowl to coat.
Bring milk, cream, and cloves to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cheese mixture. Stir until cheese melts, a couple minutes. Mix in macaroni and cooked chorizo. Season with pepper, if you want.
Spread half of mac & cheese in 13x9 dish (spray first). Pour half of salsa mixture over top. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. cheese (more cheese!!!!). Top with remaining mac & cheese, and another layer of salsa. Sprinkle chips over (I used the little ones from the bottom of a bag), then top with remaining 1/2 c. cheese. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes
.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chicken Soup with Cheese Ravioli

Here's a super easy, kid-friendly dish!  Yay!

I cooked my chicken in the crock pot with one quart of water for about 6 hours until it started to fall apart, and then shredded it.  You can skip that by starting with a rotisserie chicken.

Chicken Soup with Cheese Ravioli

1 whole cooked chicken, diced or shredded, however you like it
2 boxes chicken broth (or 1 box plus the broth from cooking your own chicken, if that's what you did)
1 onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
3-4 cloves garlic or 1-2 tsp. garlic powder (or more!)
pepper to taste
1 tsp. oregano
olive oil or butter
1 package cheese ravioletti (small ravioli), or ravioli/tortellini (I used a 9 oz. package of Buitoni brand ravioletti)

Saute onion, celery, and garlic (if using fresh) in oil or butter about 5-8 minutes, until onion is soft.  Add garlic powder (if using).  Stir in chicken and broth, and bring to a boil.  Add ravioletti, and cook according to package directions (3-5 minutes).  Season with pepper and oregano.  Eat!  If you want something more soupy, you probably want to add more broth.  It was close to being a stew, really, and we were happy with that.

We ate this with some really good garlic bread.  All of my kids LOVED this.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of 7/18

Well, I mostly stuck to last week's menu.  This is a new week.  I bought a ton of junk today at the store.  It's VBS week, and it's also going to be hot, which means trips to the pool.  Look, I'm not perfect, okay?

You might think it's pretty weird to post all the breakfast and lunch ideas, but it helps me.  So there.

MONDAY
B:  pb toast
L:  ham & cheese sandwiches, bananas
D:  buffalo chicken lasagna (I didn't make it last week, since I forgot to cook the chicken.  I bought a rotisserie chicken today.  No excuses.)

TUESDAY
B:  cereal (really, breakfast is such a nightmare for me.  I hate spending all my money on cereal, esp. since it doesn't fill anyone up.)
L:  out (running between church and the doctor's office)
D:  hot sausage sandwiches

WEDNESDAY
B:  cereal, yep, again
L:  mac & cheese OR leftover lasagna
D:  spaghetti (that's a lot of pasta.  Hm)

THURSDAY
B: yogurt
L: leftover spaghetti
D: summer squash casserole, beet bread, hot & sour pickles, cherries (yes, cleaning out the fridge!)

FRIDAY
B: granola bars (another useless breakfast, but we'll survive)
L: grilled cheese, pretzels, carrots
D: hot date with Hub!!

SATURDAY
B: eggs w/potatoes and veggies
L: at the in-laws' house
D: garlic shrimp, CSA veggies

SUNDAY
B: granola bars
L: leftovers
D: pizza

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of 7/11

It's been about a year since I last posted a menu, and I admit, I've been very hit or miss about even planning one.   Hub announced today that our household is starting an austerity program.  That's code for "not spending money."  Like many people, I am going to start by shaving the food budget.  However, that doesn't mean sacrificing quality.  It means no more going out to eat or ordering take out.  Even Indian food.  WAH!

MONDAY
B: bagels
L: leftover pasta
D: brined pork chops, cauliflower, watermelon

TUESDAY
B: cereal
L: pb&j, carrots
D: chicken legs, baked potatoes, corn on the cob

WEDNESDAY
B: fruit
L: crock pot mac & cheese
D: pizza (church)

THURSDAY
B: toast
L: meatloaf, fruit
D: veggie fried rice

FRIDAY
B: yogurt
L: eggs, fruit
D: buffalo chicken lasagna

SATURDAY
B: pancakes, fruit
L: leftovers
D: steak, homemade fries, broccoli

SUNDAY
B: leftover pancakes
L: bacon & egg sandwiches on bagels
D:  Mom's house

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It is Finished...For Now

We're done with school!  Yippeeeeeeeeee!  Scrappy and I (mostly) wrapped up the portfolio today.  He was short an art page but only because he has a psycho mother who needed an even number of art pages.  I need help.  Anyway, I am very pleased with how it has turned out, and am very happy to have a great memento of his third grade year.  A portfolio really is a great idea, vs. saving random bits.

Our 18th, and final, field trip for the 2010-2011 school year.  These young elephants
were wrestling and it was very entertaining.

Art project:  color blending.  This was a great way to see how secondary colors
are created when primary colors are mixed together.

A little "getting to know you" page from the portfolio.  Not required, but totally counts
as a writing sample, and I will love reading this 10 years from now.  
 This was a pretty good year.  I had those days when I wanted to quit, but I figure that I'll always have them.  As I've said before, these are days when I want to quit mothering in general.  I think it happens to every parent, no matter where their kids go to school.  I am working on my attitude here, as I do believe that my children are a blessing, not a burden.  I want my words and actions to reflect that belief.

I really feel like this is the first year when I figured a lot of things out.  I decided that if I have to label myself, I would go with Charlotte Mason/unschooly-ish, with a tad of Classical thrown in.  Well, and the field trips.  We love a field trip.  It sounds like an odd mix, but it works for us.  The end of the year saw us doing more and more notebooking, and I am really looking forward to exploring that more next year.  We were weak on music this year, so I need to think about how to fit that in.  Will we study one composer a month?  Will we just do a unit study?  The state requires it, and besides, I LOVE music, and so do my kids.

As for what the kids have accomplished, they amaze me.  They are such sponges, and it's awesome!  I am very proud of them all.  Scrappy's attitude has really changed and there was way less whining about doing school this year.  He wants to play all day every day.  Well, who doesn't.  I remember mid-year when I was freaking out about his reading, and now he reads every day...for fun!  Silly is more than ready for Kindergarten.  Funny and Goofy have been reading a lot, too, especially Funny.  It's not unusual to catch her with her nose in a book.  Everyone has a little dream of what their homeschool might look like, and mine is just that--noses in books!  It's so encouraging to see a glimpse of it every now and again.

Yep, I'm pretty content.  We've had an amazing week.  We went to the park, library, and zoo.  We snuggled on the couch and read books.  We watched many episodes of MythBusters and we all want to blow something up (still thinking about what).  And besides the little tab dividers, the portfolio is done!  Scrappy's evaluation is tomorrow, and then off to the district.

What will we do after that?  Go to the pool!  It's summer break, man!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mammoth Cave National Park

My dear readers know how much this family likes a field trip.  It really is one of the best ways to learn about something.  On our recent vacation to Kentucky, we were lucky enough to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. If you have never been there, then I am a little sad for you.  I really recommend the trip to see it.  It was beautiful!  I always thought caves were sort of interesting, in more of a historical sense vs. science sense.  I think it's fascinating to think about who used to live in caves, and what their lives may have looked like.  Did American Indians live there?  Did some bank robber hide out in there?  Anyway, now I know that caves are also very nice to look at.  I was really just delighted by the whole experience.



Here's a paragraph Scrappy wrote about our trip:

Mammoth Cave is really big. I had to walk down a whole bunch of steps to get inside. The walls were made of rocks. There were a lot of big puddles and pools. My favorite part was the Frozen Niagara. I was surprised that there was only a tiny waterfall there. It was mostly made of rock. I thought it was going to be like a regular waterfall, and maybe as big as Niagara Falls. But it was very small. It was cold in the cave. I had to wear a jacket. I didn't expect it to be that cold because it was so hot outside. I also saw cave crickets. They look kind of like spiders, except smaller. The ones that we saw were brown. I saw a giant spider, too. At the end, we had to walk across a giant sponge full of chemicals to wash our shoes. This is because of a special disease that bats can get. When we washed our shoes, we were making sure we don't spread it around to other bats.

You can see the layers in the rock here.


You do not want this to fall on you.

Pretty rock formation.

Everything inside this cave is big.  BIG.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fried Chicken Tenders

If you eat meat, you like fried chicken.  It's true.  And if you comment and tell me you don't, I will just call you a liar, so don't bother.

This is an easy, quick fried chicken.  It makes little mess, since you don't need as much oil as you would if you were using bone-in chicken pieces.  My measurements are ballpark figures and can be adjusted to suit your own tastes.  I always err on the side of too much breading mix, and that is reflected here.

Meat just isn't that pretty in pictures.  But there it is, anyway.


Fried Chicken Tenders

1-2 lbs. chicken tenders, depending on how many you want to eat

Breading mix:
1 c. flour (any kind is fine)
1/2 c. bread crumbs (mine were wheat, but any kind would work, even Italian if you wanted that)
a generous shake or 5 of garlic powder
pepper to taste
a few shakes of season salt if you want

vegetable oil

In a ziploc (because we're working smart), combine the ingredients for the breading mix.  Close the bag and shake it to combine.  Open your chicken package(s) and rinse the chicken with water and just throw them in there.  Close again and shake to coat.  Let it just sit there on the counter for 5 or 10 minutes.

In a large frying pan, pour oil so that it will go about half-way up the side of your fattest piece of chicken.  That is probably only about 1/2 inch or so.  Heat your oil up on medium-high heat.  It's ready when you sprinkle some water in there and it sizzles like crazy.  This should take about 5 minutes or so, to be good and hot.  What makes for gross, greasy chicken?  Oil that isn't hot enough.

Once the oil is ready, add the chicken one piece at a time, shaking off excess breading.  Don't crowd them in the pan or they will steam instead of getting crunchy on the outside.  You might have to do two batches; you'll use the same oil.  Depending on the thickness of the chicken, it could take 3-5 minutes per side.  You can pull one out and cut it to check it.  Mine took about 3 minutes on each side for the ones that I didn't let get real crispy because I was impatient.  It was about 4 minutes for each side for the ones that were nice and brown.  It's up to you.

Since you're the cook and you cut one open to make sure it's done, you can eat that one.  Does it need salt?  If it needs it, sprinkle a little salt over the top of the plate of cooked chicken.  This is good hot, but is also good cold.  Mmmm.... If you've never had cold fried chicken, you should start.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Just in the Way

I often find myself disappointed and discontent.  I just spent an entire year studying contentment using Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment.  Great book, by the way.  She really emphasizes that my failure to set my eyes on things above is leading me to discontentment.  So true.  It's very easy to do in the busyness of life:  keeping house, teaching kids, ministering through MOPS and at church, rinse, repeat.

I don't know how to correct this failure in myself other than reading my Bible and praying.  Even making myself busy at church doesn't necessarily mean that I am focusing on God, and not on myself.  Lately I am doing it on autopilot.

I find myself frustrated by this answer, like it isn't somehow going to work.  I haven't made any time for reading my Bible in a long time.  I have been praying almost every day, but my prayer life really is suffering and I know it.

I have also noticed that my expectations are often WAY too high.  I am a perfectionist.  Not that I will work at something until it's perfect, but that I have a vision of how it should be and if it isn't that way, then (a) I won't even make an attempt so as to avoid failure or (b) I'll be miserable because it's WRONG.  See, that is just expectation.  Someone wise once told me that if I use the word "should" a lot, especially about myself, it means I am expecting way too much.  I have high expectations of myself that I can never realize, and so I am disappointed in myself, frustrated, and discontent.

In this scenario, it's all about me.

There's where I've gone wrong.  I'm focusing on self.  What can I accomplish?  How can I change?  Instead, I need to focus on God, which would turn my questions into:  What can God accomplish through me?  How will God change me?  How can God be glorified through me?

I think that is exactly how I want to pray.  I know that I am called to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let my requests be made to God.  There's the answer.  I have to share my heart and soul with God (even though he knows, he likes to hear).  I have to pray about my needs.  And do all of if with thanksgiving.  It turns out that time with God really is the answer.

I really over complicate things sometimes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegetarian -- We're Done!

Silly was the only one who remained vegetarian for the entire week.  Well, it was 6 days, because on day 7 we went to a funeral luncheon and there was meat, meat, everywhere meat, on the buffet.  On day 6 I caved and had some fish.  Oh well.

Things I learned:
1.  I don't actually want to be a vegetarian.  It's more than my love of bacon that stops me.
2.  If I had to be a vegetarian for health reasons or similar, I could.  I think.
3.  Indian food is really easy to cook.  I am going to make more of it.
4.  Most of my friends are quite supportive of my random schemes and plots.  That's nice.
5.  My kids are adventurous eaters.  Okay, I knew that.  But it is worth pointing out.
6.  We were in a food rut, mostly because I claim to be busy, but really it's because I've been lazy.
7.  We ate SO MUCH fruit this week.  A lot more than usual.  We should always eat that much fruit.
8.  We need to eat more veggies.  There are lots of places to throw them in while cooking, or ways to make them super tasty.
9.  It would be nice if people thought about what vegetarians might like to eat at their events.  And at restaurants.  Gardenburger?  For real?
10.  There's going to be cauliflower pie in heaven.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vegetarian -- Day Five

Day Five
Breakfast:  bagel/cereal bar choice (Really, I can't believe I haven't made one breakfast yet.  Sad.)
Lunch:  spaghetti, sauteed cauliflower and broccoli, garlic bread
Dinner:  aloo gobi, samosas, pita (yes, wrong bread, I know)

Aloo gobi, samosa, chutney and pita

I love Indian food.  For real.  I think I might've died of food boredom without it.  It's so delicious.  If you've never had it, I'm sad for you.  The best thing for a first-timer is to head to your local Indian buffet and try some of everything.  Be brave.  You will love it.

One of my favorite buffet staples is aloo gobi.  Mmmm.  I love cauliflower.  But you know that already if you've read this blog lately.  Anyway, it turns out that this dish is very easy to make at home.  It only took about 20 minutes, which is a bonus.  I forgot to make rice, but you don't really need it.  I wanted naan, but we didn't have any.  I thought about whipping up some chapati, but opted instead to just have pita.  I had samosas in the freezer, so we had those too.  And do NOT even get me started on how good coriander chutney is.  We dipped the samosas in the chutney, and some of it got on the aloo gobi.  So tragic.  Yum.  If you like cilantro, you want to try to get your mitts on a jar of this little piece of heaven on earth. You cilantro-haters...well, you're weird.  But I love you anyway.

Aloo Gobi
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

peanut or canola oil, or ghee for shallow frying
1 lb. new or red potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
1 head cauliflower, cut into small flowerets (small, they only fry for 4 minutes, then steam for 4 more)
1 tbsp. minced ginger
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric (I subbed curry powder here)
3/4-1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander (I left this out)
3 tbsp. coarsely chopped cilantro

Put the oil or ghee in a large frying pan and set over medium heat.  (Remember, I said large.)  When hot, add potatoes and fry until golden and almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.  Turn heat to medium-high and add cauliflower, frying about 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Turn off heat.  Remove all oil but about 2 tbsp. from the pan.  Turn heat to medium-high and add ginger.  Stir 10 seconds.  Return potatoes and cauliflower to pan and turn to medium.  Add turmeric, salt, cayenne, cumin and coriander.  Stir to coat veggies.  Add 3 tbsp. water.  Stir once and cover the pan.  Turn to low and cook about 4-5 minutes.  Add cilantro, toss, and eat.

Aloo gobi.  So pretty you could eat it.

I'm categorizing this as thrifty only because I had all the spices already.  If you had to buy them all, it would add around $10 to your cost.  But cauliflower and potatoes cost less than $5.  We are getting two meals out of this.

Weeks in Review

The end is near!

I made an appointment for Scrappy's evaluation this week.  That means we are almost done!  This is our first time being evaluated, as the school age in PA is 8.  So we've been collecting things for the portfolio and I have been thinking about the last few weeks of school.

Goofy enjoys a nice day.

Baseball season has started again!  Funny got co-MVP at her first game.

Silly turned 5.

Scrappy rides his bike.

The race is on!

Fun with Bendaroos.

I tried really hard to get back on track this week.  We did do some math and everyone has been reading.  We haven't touched our science in a while, but we've been watching Mythbusters and The Jeff Corwin Experience.  I mean, it's something, right?  I am feeling the pressure to finish things up, so I suppose I better come up with a plan.  That I probably won't follow.

Vegetarian -- Day Four

Day Four
Breakfast: toast w pb and fruit (me), pineapple and banana-chocolate chip bars (Hub and kids)
Lunch:  mac and cheese with veggies
Dinner:  pancakes and onion rings (me) I know that's not healthy, cheese pizza and cottage cheese (Silly), meat (everyone else)

We ended up going out to dinner with the family, and so most everyone ate meat last night.  Eh.  Silly and I are the last hold-outs here.

I love homemade macaroni and cheese.  For real.  I don't usually add veggies, but I think I will from now on.  It's an easy way to increase our veggie consumption.  I mean, they are covered in cheese.  Yum.



Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. pasta of choice (I used wagon wheels)
1/4 to 1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp. butter
up to 1/4 c. flour (or so)
1 lb. cheese, shredded (I used cheddar, and a few slices of cojack that I needed to use up)
1 1/2 c. milk
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
pepper to taste
veggies of choice (see below)

Preheat oven to 350.  Put the pasta on to cook.  Be careful not to overcook it.  In fact, because it bakes a little, I usually drain it just before it's done.  That's me.  In a skillet, melt butter (you could use less, and then you need less flour).  Saute onion and garlic until opaque.  Add flour to soak up the butter, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Oh look!  You've made a roux!  Now you want to add the milk and let it warm up.  Add the cheese, and stirring frequently, let it cook and melt (this takes about 5 minutes).  You can add some pepper here, too.  Once it is just about all melted, turn up the heat to a brief boil, stirring constantly.  That helps it to thicken.

For the veggies, I used a bag of frozen mixed veggies (broccoli, corn and red peppers).  You could just saute some of whatever you have in your fridge, or use a whole bag of broccoli or whatever.  It's up to you.  I did saute the frozen veggies for a little bit in a pan to thaw them out most of the way.  I also put a very light sprinkling of salt over them.

Put the veggies, cooked pasta, and sauce into a large bowl or right into the casserole if you want to wash fewer dishes (who doesn't?).  Stir to coat everything with the cheese.

Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vegetarian -- Days Two and Three

Cauliflower-Cheese Pie, I love you


Day Two
Breakfast:  granola bar/cereal/yogurt/fruit choice
Lunch:  nachos with madras lentils --I need to make these from scratch, because they are so delicious and taste like chili (me), leftover peanut noodles (Hub), pb&j with veggies and popcorn (kids)
Dinner:  cheese pizza (me), roast beef sandwich (Hub, he forgot), spaghetti (kids)

Day Three
Breakfast:  granola bars (yes, I have not made a single breakfast this week)
Lunch:  leftovers, fruit, pretzels
Dinner:  cauliflower cheese pie

We had a death in the family this week, so we're all a bit mopey.  Hub's meat-relapse occurred at the hospital, and is certainly forgivable.  I mean, we're not doing this for any reason other than because we can.  No one signed a contract or anything.  I am not surprised to learn that baking the cauliflower cheese pie actually made me feel a lot better.  You know I am passionate about, well, everything, but I really love cooking and it helped me channel some nervous energy and taking care of my family in this way was comforting.

Now onto the recipe for the cauliflower cheese pie.

This is a Moosewood recipe.  I really love this cookbook.  It's full of tasty recipes and is all hand-lettered, which makes it extra nice.  It's full of exotic things (for the time--1970s) such as hummus and guacamole.  It is one of the books that I would never get rid of, and would love to pass down to one of my children one day.  See how much I love it?

Sample of the art in the book.  Lovely.


Cauliflower-Cheese Pie
adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

Potato Crust:
2 c., packed, grated raw potato
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. grated onion

Heat oven to 400.  Let the shredded potatoes sit a few minutes and then squeeze the liquid out of the potatoes (you can use a cheesecloth, colander and your hands, or paper towels).  Combine potatoes, salt, egg and onion.  Pat it into a well-greased 9" pie plate, building up the sides of the crust with your fingers.  Bake 30 minutes and then brush with a little oil and bake 15 more minutes.

Filling:
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small flowerets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 tbsp. butter
dash thyme
1/2 tsp. basil (I happened to have fresh, dried is fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 heaping, packed cup of shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
pepper to taste
paprika to taste

Turn the oven down to 375.  Melt butter in skillet.  Saute onion and garlic in butter for about 5 minutes.  Add herbs and cauliflower and cook, covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Spread half the cheese into the baked crust, then top with the cauliflower filling, then the rest of the cheese.  Beat the eggs, milk, and pepper then pour mixture over the pie.  Dust with paprika.  Bake 35-40 minutes until set.



I have had this cookbook for years, and am a little bitter I never made this pie until this week.  Hub and I agree that it goes on the list of the best things I have EVER made.  The recipe claims it feeds 4 people.  And my vegetarian friend also agrees, 4 people, though that is with a salad.  I feel pretty confident in reporting that it could feed 2 people.  I'm just saying.  Next time I am doubling it for sure, especially since I only used 1/2 of my head of cauliflower.  It's quite addictive.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vegetarian -- Day One

It's only seven days.  I know some people are always vegetarian.  We have friends who were vegetarian for a month.  There's some movement to get people to go meatless on Mondays.  I'm feeling optimistic.  It's not like I am worried about Hub and myself.  We're grown adults (technically).  It's the kids.  I have one kid who doesn't really like to try new things.  I have a meat-loving child who has been dreading the day he ever suggested trying out vegetarianism.  But he has survived today, and even liked what he ate.  A lot.

Breakfast:  apple with peanut butter (me), yogurt/fruit/granola bar/cereal choice (them)
Lunch:  veggie wrap with lettuce, tomato, carrots, cukes and ranch (me and Scrappy), leftover mushroom pizza (Hub), pb&j (everyone else)
Dinner:  carrots with garlic & thyme, peanut noodles
I admit that I hope my evening involves a scoop of ice cream.

Noodles covered in peanut butter sauce are not very photogenic.
However, those pieces of garlic are gorgeous.


Roasted Carrots with Garlic and Thyme
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 lbs. baby carrots (or regular carrots, cut into chunks; baby carrots were cheaper at my store)
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
10ish little garlic cloves, unpeeled
generous tsp. dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the carrots in a 13x9 casserole and toss with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Stick the garlic here and there in the pan.  Sprinkle with thyme.  Add 2 tbsp. water and cover tightly with foil.  Bake under they are as tender as you like, 25-45 minutes.  Check them a couple times to make sure they aren't drying out.  Uncover for the last 5-10 minutes so they can brown a bit, if you want.

These were SUPER good.  I love this cookbook; it is one of my favorites.  I had never made this recipe before, and I will definitely make it again.  As a bonus, the garlic pops right out of the skin and you can eat it and ward off vampires.



Peanut Noodles aka Gado-Gado
adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

1/2 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. natural peanut butter
1 tbsp. honey
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. grated ginger
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
3 c. water
1 tsp. salt
dash tamari or soy sauce
couple dashes sesame oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (or less, up to you)
1/3 c. peanuts, crushed with the side of your knife
cooked noodles, such as spaghetti or soba (about 2 lbs.)

In pot, melt butter.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, and ginger.  Saute until onion is translucent.  Add remaining ingredients except peanuts, cilantro, and noodles.  Simmer on low for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.

Pour the sauce over your noodles.  Chill at least an hour (more is better).  Before serving, stir in peanuts and cilantro.  You could eat this hot, too.  I just wanted mine cold.  See, it's flexible.

Now I totally admit that gado-gado is not meant to be served this way.  You're supposed to serve it over an assortment of veggies and hard-boiled eggs.  But I really wanted peanut noodles.  So I made this work for us.

Three out of four kids liked these noodles (in fact, one loved them).  One kid made horrible faces and told me peanut butter doesn't belong on noodles (yes, the picky one).  The meat-lover told me that they would really be good if I added some chicken.  Sigh.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vegetarian Recipes Needed!

A while back, I was talking to the kids about lobsters, and somehow, that turned into a conversation about factory farming and vegetarianism.  I know, things are kind of odd here sometimes.  Maybe all the time.  As a result of this conversation, we decided we would take a stab at being vegetarian for a week.  Now, I love many, many vegetarian dishes.  I don't really need meat, except for the occasional slice of bacon.

I thought I would ask any of my faithful readers if they have a favorite vegetarian dish they would like to share?  Some considerations:  we have baseball a few nights next week, so I need a portable dish or two that would we can eat while watching the game.  Also, we might be going to a cookout, and I could use a suggestion there, as well.  I know we could just eat massive amounts of side dishes, but there has to be a better way.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eggplant/Zucchini Parmesan

Before I started this blog, I used to post recipes in the "notes" section on FB.  Here's an oldie, but goodie.




I started with one of those horribly overgrown zucchinis and an eggplant.  They were organic, so I did not peel them.  Peeling is optional.  The eggplant has a slightly thicker skin.  It just depends what you like.

Slice into rounds of uniform thickness.  Mine were probably about 1/4 inch thick.  Maybe 1/3.

I had A LOT of vegs so I beat 4 eggs in a bowl for dipping.

In a 13x9 I mixed about 1 cup. flour, 1/2 c. (at least) parmesan cheese, garlic (probably a couple tsp. because I like garlic), and some pepper.

Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan.

Dip the pieces of eggplant into the egg, then into the flour mixture.  When you have enough coated to fill your pan, fry 'em up.  You are just browning them, not cooking them through.  Maybe one minute each side?  If that.

Drain on paper towels.

For my giant family, I greased a 15x9 casserole.  Put a smidge of your favorite tomato sauce in the bottom.  Layer with cooked eggplant/zucchini.  Top with cheese (I used sliced provolone; it's what I had, and I am a GENIUS for it).  Continue layers, ending with a sauce layer.  Then, because we are gluttonous and I only make this dish once a year, I topped it with more cheese.  Parmesan this time.

Cover with foil and bake.  I did mine at 350 for about 30-40 minutes.

Ta-da!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Traditions

Back around Christmas, I posted about some of our family traditions.  We don't really have many Easter traditions.  I don't know why.  Is that common for most people?  I put out a handful of decorations.  I buy all the candy for the kids' baskets.  We go to church.  We eat a big dinner.



In the past 2 or 3 years, we've added Resurrection Eggs to our tradition.  We usually go through them as a family on the night before Easter.  One year I am going to finally break down and make resurrection cookies, too.  If I were some other mother, I probably would like to do something crafty for Easter.  Once, we baked cookies in the shape of crosses.  That was nice.  We decorate eggs, but then only two people eat them.  I'm glad they're still pretty cheap, because a lot of them end up in the trash.

I am not really lamenting here.  I see now that we do have some traditions.  Most importantly, we do attend church.  I have heard of some people staying home on Easter to let the irregular attenders have a place to sit.  That's so odd to me.  Of all the days to stay home, Easter isn't one of them.  I'm really happy that my kids know that Easter is about the resurrection of Christ, and not bunnies.  I like bunnies.  But a bunny won't get me to heaven.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Week in Review--We're crabby

Remember last week when I fantasized that I would have some sort of perfect, traditional homeschooling week?

Bwhahahahhahahahahaha.

Seriously.  I'm so funny.  I admit that I only hinted at the fantasy, but I knew what I meant.  You know, lots of boring worksheets and evidence of education.  I think about the evidence a lot because my state requires portfolios.  Exhausting.

We had a wonderful week.  There was a lot of sunshine so we played outside a lot.  I forgot how much I love to play softball with the kids!

One of the talks I went to at the homeschool convention last month was about notebooking, and I am really working to integrate that into our way of doing things.  The kids all drew pictures of crustaceans.  They each produced a "serious" work, but then started inventing their own crustaceans.  I think that's pretty awesome, as they all were decapods, arthropods, etc.  They were applying what they've learned, so that is good.

Silly's rainbow crab.

Goofy's, well, goofy crab.

Scrappy's rock star crabs, and audience.

Funny's Christmas Island crab invasion.  That's a car running over the crabs.
That's what they do there.  There are that many crabs.


The kids spent an entire rainy afternoon reading all sorts of books to one another.  I look back on how stressed I was over their reading at the beginning of the year.  I wonder why I keep worrying so much?  I totally know better.

I am hoping to wrap this year up in mid- to late-May.  Whew.  What a fun journey!

As usual, I am linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Potato Chip Cookies



I know, weird, right?  That's what I thought, too.  I like cookies.  I like chips.  Why not give it a try?  These cookies are super buttery; they remind me of shortbread.  And that, my friends, is a good thing.



Potato Chip Cookies
from The Spiced Life

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. coarse salt (optional--depends how salty your chips are.  I left this out, but probably would add it next time, if using the same chips.)
2 c. flour
2 c. coarsely crushed potato chips, divided
coarse salt and sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325.  Line your cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  (Add salt if using.)  Mix in vanilla, then flour and 1 c. potato chips.  Mix well to incorporate chips, but don't overmix.

Using cookie scoop or spoons, shape dough into 1" balls and roll in remaining crushed chips.  Put on the cookie sheet 2" apart, and flatten slightly.  Sprinkle salt or sugar over the top (both are good, but I preferred those with salt on top).  I fit 12 cookies on my first sheet and 10 on the second.

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 325.  These cookies don't really brown.  Let cool 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Lemon Bread

I love a quick bread.  You know, they're quick.  They're bread.  What's not to love?  This is easily my favorite for a couple reasons:  it's easy and it makes everyone happy.  Lemons are like some kind of cheap Zoloft.  Everyone loves something lemony.  It's a fact.

Lemon Bread
from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook

1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil or melted butter (you know I used butter; it's worth it)
2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. lemon juice (for topping)
1 tbsp. sugar (for topping)

You only need one lemon for this recipe, FYI.

Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a loaf pan.  Mine was a 9" one; an 8" probably would've looked nicer, but it was fine.

Combine flour, sugar, powder and salt in a medium bowl; make a well in the center and set aside.  Combine your beaten egg, milk, butter, lemon peel, and lemon juice.  Your microplane grater is perfect for zesting the lemon.  Don't buy the stuff in a jar.  For the same price, you can buy a microplane.  Just don't zest the pith (the white part).  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (a little lumpy).  Pour into your loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Set pan on a rack to start cooling.  Meanwhile, combine the 1 tbsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. lemon juice in a bowl.  Spoon or brush this over the top of the warm bread.  Trust me.  You want to do this.  Let the bread cool about 10-15 minutes in the pan, the remove it to finish cooling on the rack.  This is best if you can wrap it and eat it the second day, but really, a few hours wrapped up is fine, too.

New to zesting a lemon?  Here's a handy video.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Week in Review--the week of slacking

Someone once told me, "I don't read homeschooling blogs.  They make me feel like a failure."

While I am not responsible for this person's reaction, I admit that sometimes it does look like most people have it together while the rest of us do not.  The fact is, I don't always want to admit to how long I fought with Funny over math.  Or how many episodes of Avatar my children have been watching.  Or that I just don't feel like it anymore and really need summer vacation already.

This is a non-post post.  I have decided to call this week "spring break."  And why not?  Everyone else gets one.

I've been sick, yet again.  Yesterday I took the entire day off.  We did one educational activity.  Scrappy and I snuggled on the couch and watched an episode of The Story of India.  Yep, that's all.  The kids have spent the week playing and fighting, and I have spent the week sneezing and yelling.

This is real life, people.

Yes, they did things that we relaxed homeschoolers consider school:  played baseball, explored the neighborhood, ran around, built with Legos, went to dance, went to AWANA, read a little, and helped around the house.

I don't have any pictures of the cute and/or fun things we did, because there aren't any.  It's a good thing I know that's okay.  Next week, when I report on all our goings-on, please know that while things may look good (I am feeling optimistic), they are completely balanced out by a certain amount of power struggles, exasperation, and exhaustion.

But these kids are so worth it.








For more homeschooling stories, check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Come to the Dark Side

I am trying really hard to like dark meat.  I thought I would start with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, because they are easy, and they were on sale.  This is actually supposed to be a beef recipe (hence the beef broth, and not chicken) but I have a cold and I was confused.  It happens.

The chicken cooked very nicely and fell apart, which is always lovely.  Be careful that you don't overcook your broccoli, because that's just gross.  The original recipe called for thawing the broccoli first, but I don't see why that's necessary.  Plus, it would affect the texture, I think.

I served this with some brown rice, and a smile.




Asian Chicken and Broccoli in the Crockpot
adapted from Finding Joy in My Kitchen

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 c. beef broth
1/3 c. soy sauce
2-4 cloves garlic or 1 tbsp garlic powder
1 onion, chopped
pepper to taste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
16 oz. bag frozen broccoli (you know, or more; it's your dinner)
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. cornstarch

Chop chicken into 1"-ish cubes.  Combine broth and soy sauce in slow cooker.  Add chicken, garlic, and onion.  Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.  One-half to one hour before this is done, combine the water and cornstarch and stir it into the pot.  Add the broccoli at this point, as well.  Add pepper to taste.


I would make this again, because it's freakishly easy.  And I LOVE that.  It definitely needs something.  I think next time I will add some honey and ginger, at the very least.  But I didn't hate it, so that's a win!  Everyone else in the house really, really liked it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Turkey & Lentil Chili

So my kids suddenly think they hate beans.  And this makes me so sad, because beans are (a) cheap, (b) good for you, and (c) pretty tasty.

I thought I would try lentils.  I mean, they cook to mush if you let 'em and they fit all the bean criteria listed above.  Plus, I had this ground turkey and needed to do something with it.  Hub won't eat meatloaf (I know, right!?) and it was only a pound so not enough for really much else anyway.  Have I told you that there are a lot of us?

Turkey & Lentil Chili
adapted from allrecipes.com

1 lb. ground turkey
1 32 oz. box chicken broth
2 c. lentils, rinsed (I used red but any kind would work)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. ground cumin
pepper to taste

Brown the meat with onions and celery in a skillet.  Toss mixture into crock pot.  Add rinsed lentils and remaining ingredients.  Cook on low for about 6 hours.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

You really don't need any salt here since you're using canned broth and canned tomatoes.  But I suppose if you want, you could add some salt at the end.  Just taste it first.

This went over way better than chili with beans.  It was more soupy than stew-like, and I have adjusted the broth amount accordingly so that you might avoid that problem.

I've Got It Together

I find myself often frustrated by the lack of transparency amongst those I know (including myself).  I wonder, why don't people want to be who they are?  I think that sometimes we are afraid to admit our problems and struggles.  We can be afraid that the person who we are pouring our hearts out to will look at us blankly.  Or worse--in judgment.

I am a person that people tell their stuff to.  I have wondered how this happened to me--that people started telling me their problems.  I don't think it's because I am some kind of all-knowing advice-giver.  I don't think it's always because I am a good listener (still need some work there, too).  It isn't because I am extra-spiritual or godly or holy (if only).

It might be because I am imperfect.

You heard me right.  I am not perfect.  I can easily admit to you that I struggle with controlling my words.  With more difficulty, I admit that I struggle with all sorts of temptations.  If Hugh Jackman brought me a giant plate of bacon right now, I would have a hard time remaining calm.

There is value in being real.

We are all longing for someone we can talk to.  It's wonderful to think, This person gets me!  And...still likes me!

Isn't that what we all want?  I am like everyone else, and I hold things back.  I don't necessarily want everyone to see how messy I really am.  It's scary.  But I do know that all of the genuine friendships I have are full of messiness and imperfection.  Confessing things to one another really does help adjust our perspective.  We are ALL struggling.  Some people are good at hiding it.  But no one has it together.  And isn't that when God can get in there and do some of his best work?

Special thanks to Dan for the link to this song.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sanctify!

So I've been thinking a lot lately about a lot of things.  The word "conviction" has been floating through my head.  In all honesty, it's a very scary word.  It means change is coming.  It probably means it might be uncomfortable.  On the upside, it's a necessary step toward sanctification, and that's a good thing.

Ah sanctification.  I confess that I had never heard this word until I jumped denominations into my current church, which is a Christian Missionary and Alliance Church.  Sanctification, as far as I understand it, is our growing into Christ-likeness.  It is the process by which we are refined, where iron sharpens iron, and where we are set apart from others for the purpose of serving God.  It is our journey toward holiness.  It's not just a CMA idea; it's in the Bible.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17


For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Hebrews 10:14


And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:24

I recently gave a talk at MOPS where I mentioned this topic.  I became a Christian in high school, and for so many years, I thought my way was wrong.  Where was my magic genie Jesus?  Why was being Christian so hard?  What was I doing wrong?

I had surrendered to Christ, in that I accepted his free gift of salvation.  I let him be my Savior.

Now I was ready for him to be Lord of my life.

For me, these are two different steps.  They are two different acts of surrender.

Once I began to surrender, he began the process of sanctifying me for HIS glory, and not my own.  As I have grown into Christ-likeness (which hasn't always felt good or been easy), I have seen the difference in me.  Those who are close to me have seen the difference in me.  I ABSOLUTELY do not claim to hold any secrets, nor to sit around and sing Kumbaya, nor to be perfect.  I am far, far from perfect.  But I know that God is growing me into who I am meant to be, and that is what matters.  I have flirted with moments of peace and contentment.  I have seen what happens when I am obedient to what God wants from me.  And I want more of it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Week in Review--Hastings and Hailstorms

We had two days of field trips this week.  We spent a little time in Baltimore, MD.  You can read more about our trip here.

Other than that, we've had a low-key week.  I admit I am not horribly motivated, even though I was delighted to see that Scrappy only needs 35 more days of school to meet the state-mandated 180 educational days.  You'd think that would light a fire under me to "get 'er done" but it doesn't seem to be the case.

I blame the weather.

It's obviously spring, and I have a nearly overwhelming desire to clean out the house and organize things.  It's been too cold to spend a big chunk of time in the basement.  The house is still a construction zone (*sigh*) but there's light at the end of the tunnel.  Hub's brother is coming to finish up the last bedroom and then we can rearrange all the Flour Children.  Well, their rooms, anyway.  So I just want to clean.  Let's face it.  I should go with it, right?  I knew you would agree.

There has been some traditional educating going on here, despite the obscene amount of kids' clothes I've been sorting through.  We had a great discussion on Vikings (wrapping up with that topic) and we've moved into the beginning of the English kingdom.  We learned about Alfred the Great and his battle to keep the Vikings out of southern England.  We studied Harold vs. William in the showdown for the crown (aka The Battle of Hastings).

By the way, I love homeschooling.  I learn so much more than I ever learned in school.  I did take a British Isles class in college, but dropped it after we spent 3 periods watching Braveheart.  It's a huge hole in my History knowledge and I love that we're studying it in elementary school!  I mean, really, battles and kings and castles are very interesting at this age.  Okay, they're always interesting.

It also hailed this week.  Hooray!  Most of it was just slightly larger than pea-sized.  We were in the middle of schoolwork when it started and we all ran outside!  We studied weather in detail two years ago, and it doesn't really hail here too often.  It was very exciting to see some hail.


Hailstone collection.

The boys built everything from this Lego book, all week long.

Funny helped me bake a cake.