Give Thanks

Nov 24, 2011

"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends. "
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Your Family!
May the Lord bless you richly!

Wholesome Banana Nut Flax Muffins {aka Brain Booster Banana Muffins}

Nov 21, 2011

This is my original healthified banana muffin recipe I posted before, but I tweaked it a bit so I thought I'd repost it. This redux is made with honey instead of sugar. I just entered it into the Chiquita's Ultimate Banana Recipe Contest. {You can view it HERE, along with lots of other yummy recipes. I'll let you know if it makes the top ten, so you can vote!} These muffins are packed with brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and potassium. By using almond milk, you can make it dairy-free also. Makes 12 large muffins.

Banana Nut Flax Muffins {aka Brain Booster Banana Muffins}
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas
3/4 cup almond or dairy milk
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Mix flour, flaxseed, walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. In separate bowl, mash bananas; stir in milk, coconut oil, honey, and egg. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Using an ice-cream scoop, fill muffin cups. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool for a few minutes; remove to wire rack to cool or serve warm with butter.

Linked to Homemaking Link-Up, Tasty Tuesday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Feeding Boys Recipe Link-Up

A Toddler, A Couch, and Dish Liquid

Nov 20, 2011

With children, you never know what the day has in store for you. With a toddler, take a deep breath, gear up, and never take your eyes off the little stinker tike! I'm sure the title of the post says enough, but I'll tell the tale anyway. There is no picture for this post because, after the incident occurred, I stood there for several minutes trying to figure out whether to laugh or cry or scream.

After our grocery shopping trip last night, M2 was helping me put things away. Although, our organizing styles are vastly different. I may find a can of beans in the refrigerator later. He is only 21 months. We were almost finished when IB asked for my help at the computer. I left M2 alone for just a few minutes and I could even hear that he went into the living room with NG and LJ. But I should know by now that when the kids are watching television, they are oblivious to what is going on...even right next to them. It wasn't long before I heard the familiar "MOM! You need to come in here!"

M2 had poured out half of a new bottle of dish liquid on the couch and ottoman. It took me a moment to tame my response. NG confiscated the bottle from him. I gently removed M2 from the mess and told him that he had made a big mess and I was not happy. He just smiled his sweet smile and all was forgiven. He is "the baby", after all.

But I was still left standing there trying to figure out where to even start. After a brief period of closed eyes and deep breathing, I had NG scrape off as much as he could into a bowl while I wiped down the leather ottoman. That was the easy part. What to do with the couch? The dish liquid had also run down in between the cushions and onto the rug. Have you ever tried to clean a microfiber couch covered in dish liquid?? Even though I knew what would happen, I tried using a damp dishcloth to wipe it off. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse...well, you get the idea. Of course, that just made suds and the fabric was still full of soap. Ahhhh! It was time for the hobbits to go to bed so I decided I'd deal with it the next day.

Fortunately for me, my mother showed up unexpectedly at my door this morning. She knew just what to do, as usual. She convinced me to take the covers off and put them in my front-loading washer. We did a rinse-only cycle on low. About half-way through, we opened the washer and scooped out as much of the foamy suds as possible and then let it finish. It worked! We dried the covers on Ultra Delicate and put one of them them back on. Good as new! The other cushion needed to have one corner rinsed out with my sink sprayer and it's drying right now.

So, if you ever find yourself with a microfiber couch covered in dish liquid, now you know what to do. But what are the chances that it would happen to someone else?

Wordless Wednesday #19 - "How to Eat Ice Cream"

Nov 16, 2011

The key is to take your time and let it melt, not making any effort to lick around the sides.

Linked to 5 Minutes for Mom and Mama to 4 Blessings.

Advent-ful Ideas: Part 1

Every year, I try to do something to build anticipation for our celebration of the birth of Christ. Something that will help to plant seeds of faith in my sons' hearts. Something that will become a family tradition. Advent calendars are probably the easiest because your children will certainly remind you to do it. Every. Day. Especially if there may be something sweet hiding inside.
More than once, I've put one of these premade advent calendars with the little drawers into my cart at the craft store. You know, the kind you decorate yourself. As I walk through the store, I try to decide on the colors and theme and what medium I want to use. Paint or scrapbook paper? Sticker numbers or stamped? And then, inevitably, I put it back on the shelf. Because I know me. The little perfectionist that lives in my head would keep me up at night trying to decide on the "perfect" way to decorate it. Then the little procrastinator would whisper, "you can do it later", repeatedly, until it's two days before Christmas. 


I've been looking online for cheap, easy, cute ideas for making an advent calendar with the boys. Of course, I'll have a difficult time choosing which one to try. Artsy, craftsy people never fail to impress me. Creative, I am not (very). But I can follow instructions!

I loved this stocking advent calendar immediately. Probably because Heidi, at The Frugal Girls, uses those tiny little clothes pins that I adore. And because there is very little involved in putting it together. Simple is good.

Cassi at The Crafty Crow has an amazing collection of advent crafts that have inspired me to make a different one each year from now on. I'm blown away by all of the beautiful creations. Be sure to scroll all the way down and check out the links to previous years' collections.
One of my favorite sites for decorating ideas,, has lots of projects to choose from, ranging from cut-and-glue to break-out-the-sewing-machine, and ideas for treats and activities to fill them. I like the idea pictured above, but I don't think that it would be economical or practical to have one for each of my five boys.

Last, but not least, Tip Junkie shares 24 ways to countdown to Christmas with a collection of tutorials. There are advent calendars and simple countdown calendars. Personally, I may need to make the tea tree advent calendar for myself.

Do you have an advent tradition with your family? Do you make your own advent calendar? Leave a comment telling us about it.

Christy's Chili

Nov 15, 2011

There are probably as many ways to make chili as there are people making it. This is my version. As with all of my soups, the measurements are approximate for seasonings. Add more or less to suit your family's tastes. To kick up the heat a notch, use turkey sausage. If you like a sweet and spicy chili, add a little white or brown sugar at the end. We also like it chili-mac style. I add about a cup of small pasta, like ditalini or elbows, and some water to compensate for the soaked up liquid. Remember, my recipes are meant to feed our family of seven, which includes six males, so adjust quantities if you need less. Enjoy!

Christy's Chili
1 1/2 - 2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey sausage 
1/2 to 1 onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
2 (16 oz) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed & drained
1 (46 oz) can tomato juice
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder 
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
Dash Red Hot sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste
Sugar, to taste (opt.)

In dutch oven, brown ground beef with onions and garlic. Drain grease; add remaining ingredients, except salt, pepper, and sugar.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for at least 30-45 minutes. If desired, add pasta and water during last 15-20 minutes. For a sweeter chili, try adding a little white or brown sugar, to taste. 

Linked to Tuesdays At the Table and What's Cooking Wednesday. Review

Vocabulary and spelling made fun

I love finding new resources to help with our homeschooling. One of my recent finds is, an award-winning online service where educators can create custom spelling and vocabulary lists, assign a variety of activities to teach and test students, and keep track of students' progress. This is one resource I can use for all of my boys, from the beginning reader through high school. And there is so much more than meets the eye with this site! While clicking around the site and the forum, I discovered lots of things that I didn't see at first glance.

The Teacher Resources section contains popular word lists, including Dolch-sight words, math and science words, analogies, contractions, compound words, syllables, and many more. My eight year old likes the short, animated videos that accompany some of the topics to help explain the concepts. Personally, I appreciate the Teach Me aspect that says each word aloud, spells it, and uses it in a sentence. The female voice is actually pleasant and clear. And the ample activities can be used to reinforce more than spelling and vocabulary. For example, practice states and capitals with MatchIt Sentences and WhichWord. Integrate handwriting practice by creating your own worksheets, using your saved word lists, in your choice of font and size. If those activities aren't enough, you can also have your child practice composition and demonstrate comprehension with Sentence Writing and Paragraph Writing.

My two middle sons are the ones that will benefit the most from using this program right now. For IB, who is in second grade, I am using mostly pre-made word lists and printing out handwriting practice sheets. IB's favorite activity is HangMouse. NG is currently reading The Bronze Bow and using the Total Language Plus literature guide. I simply used the vocabulary lists from TLP to create custom lists to reinforce his lessons. With all of the activities to choose from, I can add variety to each assignment.

There are two membership options: free and premium, which is only $24.99 per year for a family with up to five children. You can see the differences below. Of course, there are options for classrooms and schools too.

With the premium membership, I get access to the Premium Teacher Toolbox where I can manage students, word lists, assignments, check student progress, and print detailed reports for each student. I really like being able to create individualized assignments for each child, using their own word lists, and setting due dates. The boys can each sign in under their own user name and see exactly what I want them to do and when they need to have it finished. This makes it much more likely that we will fit spelling and vocabulary review into our busy days. I simply add a card to their workbox/file and they can do it on their own while I work with one of their brothers.

Having seen many online learning websites in our 12 years of homeschooling, I think is a great tool to have in an educator's belt, whether you choose the free registration or the affordable premium membership.

Disclaimer: I received a free one-year premium membership in exchange for this review. This is my honest assessment of the program.
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