Menu Plan Monday - 12/17

Dec 16, 2012

Perhaps the week before Christmas is not the best time to go gluten-free, but I gotta go with my motivation. My original goal was grain-free, but that seems like Mission Impossible to me right now.

Monday:  A.M. Prep: Make chicken broth
                 Chicken & rice soup
Tuesday:  Dinner at Mom's

Wednesday:  Slow-cooker Italian chicken & veggies
                       Prep: soak pinto beans

Thursday:  Layered taco dip w/ Mexican rice, homemade refried beans

Friday:  Sweet & Spicy Crockpot Chicken w/Basmati rice, steamed broccoli

Saturday:  A.M. Prep: Make mashed potatoes
                   Shepherd's pie, mixed baby greens salad

Sunday: Garlic-lime chicken, Basmati rice, glazed baby carrots (Papa Bear's Favorite :)

Flurry of Friends Pinterest Party

Dec 5, 2012

Teach Them Diligently Convention and Apologia are hosting a week-long Flurries of Friends and Lots of Fun homeschool celebration with Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter parties. A random winner will be chosen on Thursday from the Pinterest board entries.

Grand Prize Package
One year of Apologia Science (winner's choice), 180 Days Around the World, family registration to the spring convention, and a complete set of TTD recordings of their choice!

After reading a post from Amy at Raising Arrows and getting inspired, I had fun putting together this Pinterest board. My theme is Afternoon Tea. Check out what it would be like to come over to my house for a cup of tea and homeschool mom chat. Then, join in the fun! If you create a board, leave a link in my comments, so I can check it out.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

My family was deprived of biscuits for nearly a decade once I stopped buying canned supermarket biscuits. Well, except when we went to Cracker Barrel or my mom's. I tried a couple of whole wheat biscuit recipes, but they were usually dense and a little dry.

That is, until I found a recipe in Joy of Cooking - there's a reason that cookbook has been around for decades. This is my slightly adapted version. The biscuits turn out light and fluffy with the mild tang of buttermilk. Slather on some real butter and a smear of sorghum or jam and you will experience a little bit of Southern heaven.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
(makes about 20-24)

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat)
1 cup unbleached AP flour
4 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, coconut oil, or non-hydrogenated shortening (I use 1/2 butter, 1/2 coconut oil)
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first six ingredients in bowl or food processor. Cut in butter/coconut oil/shortening until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in buttermilk. If dough is too sticky, add one tablespoon of flour at a time until you are able to handle the dough. Knead it gently on a well-floured surface. Pat the dough out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with two-inch biscuit cutter or juice glass and place on ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Handling dough scraps gently, you may pat out and cut again. Bake until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.

Soaked option: Stir flour into buttermilk, cover, and soak for 12-24 hours before making. Then, cut butter into chunks and work into the flour mixture, along with the remaining ingredients. Knead and cut dough as directed above.

Tip: For soft sides and slightly higher rise, place dough rounds touching each other. For lightly crispy sides, space 1 inch apart on sheet.

Linked to Better Mom Monday, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, What's Cooking Wednesday, Wonderful Food Wednesday, Welcome Home Wednesday, Natural Living Link-up.

Egg Sauce {Grandma's Recipe}

Dec 3, 2012

When I was little, my grandmother would fix egg sauce over toast for me when I spent the night. I had forgotten all about it until I ran across a recipe for a simple white sauce in Joy of Cooking several years ago. That sparked my memory and, now, my boys also love egg sauce over toast.

The recipe is simple and made from pantry staples. Milk. Butter. Flour. Eggs. Nothing fancy here. It is a just simple white sauce with chopped hard-boiled eggs stirred in. You could use the plain white sauce to cream vegetables too, although I've never tried that.

Egg Sauce

2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs unbleached AP flour
1 cup milk (I use whole, but you can adapt to your preferences)
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled & chopped

Place butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Whisk in flour until smooth; stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and slowly whisk in milk. Return to heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Continue cooking and whisking until sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in chopped eggs.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over toast. (My favorite is sourdough.)

Cinnamon Swirl Bread {Homemade Holidays}

Nov 18, 2012

Over the years, I've given many different types of food gifts for the holidays. Hot cocoa mix. Cookie platters. Homemade candy. Fruit baskets. Themed food baskets. Restaurant gift cards (that counts, right?).
photo credit

My all-time favorite food gifts are quick breads, whether in the form of loaves or muffins. For gift-giving, you can put them in decorative pastry boxes or wrap them in cellophane, tied with a ribbon, and place them in a cute basket. They are versatile too. They can be eaten immediately or frozen for later. Quick breads can be breakfast, snack, or dessert. Sweet or savory. Healthy or indulgent. But almost always, they are quick and easy to make. To be honest, quick breads are my favorite holiday gifts because they are my favorite baked goods and it's just an excuse to make several different kinds at once. One for you, one for me...

Banana nut muffins and blueberry muffins are favorites with most people. Even people who claim to hate pumpkin have enjoyed my pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. If I remembered to put some zucchini in the freezer during the summer, then you can bet someone will be getting zucchini bread. During the holidays, I also like to make recipes that include the traditional ingredients: cranberries, orange, lemon, dried fruits, and nuts. Cranberry orange bread. Lemon poppy seed bread with a sugary lemon glaze.

Of course, coffee cakes make good gifts too. My favorite is chocolate chip coffee cake. Actually, it's the only coffee cake I ever make and I save it for special occasions. Nothing says special occasion like a cake made with butter, cream cheese, and chocolate chips, topped with cinnamon-sugar and pecans. If you lack self-control, do not make this. Consider yourself warned. If you would prefer something that is a little less rich, the following recipe may fit the bill.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
(slightly adapted from Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking magazine)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup rapadura (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp, plus 1 1/2  tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 lg. egg
1 cup (8 oz) plain whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, yogurt, oil, and vanilla. Stir into the dry ingredients only until moistened. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Spoon a third of the batter into a greased 8"x4" loaf pan. Top with a third of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Repeat layers twice. Using a butter knife, swirl the batter.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Do you give food gifts during the holidays? Or would you rather receive food? What is your favorite holiday food gift?

Linked to 4 Moms Link UpTasty TuesdayDelicious Dish Tuesday, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Titus 2 TuesdayHomemaking Link-Up, Better Mom Monday, Wonderful Food Wednesday.

The Easiest Summer Fruit Salads

Aug 12, 2012

Why eat only one sweet, ripe, summer fruit at a time when you can combine them for a taste sensation that will have you licking the bowl?

This is going to be a super short post since the recipe could not get any easier. Choose your combination of fruits (preferrable organic), wash them well, dice them and toss them in a bowl, then drizzle with a bit of honey, and stir gently.

That's it.  Enjoy! 

What is your favorite fruit salad combination? All berries? Citrus fruits? Every fruit you can find?

Sweet & Simple Fruit Dip

Jul 21, 2012

Did you know that there are a lot of ways to make fruit dip? I just wanted a healthier recipe that included Neufchatel cheese and Greek yogurt that was sweetened with maple syrup (and didn't include marshmallow fluff). Since I couldn't find any recipes that fit my requirements, I came up with my own. With just four whole food ingredients, it is sweet and simple.

Sweet & Simple Fruit Dip

8 oz Neufchatel or regular cream cheese, softened
8 oz (1 cup) plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
maple syrup, to taste

Using whisk or mixer, blend all ingredients until smooth. Start with 1-2 teaspoons of maple syrup and add more as needed, until you reach desired sweetness. Cover and chill until needed or eat immediately.

Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

This past Easter, my niece contributed a wonderfully moist strawberry yogurt cake.The tangy lemon glaze complements the sweet strawberries for a delicious treat. I never got around to asking for the recipe, but luckily I ran across it on Pinterest recently and traced the pin back to A Spicy Perspective

If you have been around here long, you have probably figured out that I like to tweak recipes to make them healthier, if possible. The only thing I altered was to reduce the sugar to 1 1/2 cups instead of 2. Trust me, you won't miss the extra 1/2 cup of sugar! You may even be able to reduce it a little more, either in the cake or the glaze. I also recommend using organic lemons and strawberries because you will be using the zest of the lemon (you'll avoid the waxes and fungicides used on conventional lemons) and strawberries are on the dirty dozen list. Of course, the next time I make this, I will try whole wheat pastry or whole white wheat flour and I may even use blueberries instead of strawberries. Click HERE for the recipe.

Allergy-Friendly Food for Families {Review & Giveaway}

Jul 17, 2012

*Giveaway has ENDED*

As a Moms Meet Mom Ambassador for Kiwi Magazine, I get the occasional opportunity to sample and review some great natural and organic foods and family products. As a blogger, I was glad that they started their Mom Ambassador Blogger program because now I can share them with you, my reader, and my local natural moms group.

Parents who have discovered that they and/or their child have food allergies will be happy to add this kid-friendly cookbook to their collection. Allergy-Friendly Food for Families is from the editors of Kiwi Magazine and has 120 gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and soy-free recipes.

My first impression of the cookbook is that it is a good-quality book. Beautiful, full-color pictures printed on thick, sturdy pages in an easy-to-hold 9" x 8" size. It starts out with a brief explanation of food allergies (not sensitivities or intolerances) and a few expert-answered questions. At the back of Allergy-Friendly Food for Families, you'll find a list of products to stock your allergy-free pantry and two recipe indexes, one alphabetical and one by allergen. A special treat waits for you on the last page - a mail-in form for a free one-year (six issue) subscription to Kiwi Magazine!

The recipe section is the bulk of the book, of course, and is broken down into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert, Snacks and Parties, each having its own recipe index with an allergy-free key to help you find the right recipe. In addition, there are color-coded "tabs" on the edges of every page to tell you which allergens that specific recipe is free of. These are very helpful as you are flipping through. Sprinkled throughout are pages with ideas for cooking with kids and special tips. One possible negative is that there are not pictures for most recipes. For example, in the Breakfast section, there are 22 recipes and only five with pictures. Personally, I don't have an issue with it, but some might. 

You're ready to hear about the recipes now, right? Of course, if you have already been cooking for someone with food allergies, you will be familiar with some or most of the ingredients used. Considering that most allergy-causing foods are also the most commonly consumed, like wheat, eggs, and dairy, it is not surprising that their substitutes may be less common. Some of the recipes call for specialty items, like tofu, rice milk, chickpea flour, tahini, or soy-free, non-hydrogenated margarine, but the majority use ingredients found in most grocery stores. 

Here is a sampling of recipes:
  • Quinoa Maple Crunch
  • Fresh Almond or Rice Milk
  • Sweet Summer Corn Salad
  • Barbecue Chicken Salad
  • Tofu-Stuffed Shells
  • Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Lentils
  • Easy Lemon Chicken
  • Coconut No-Cream Pie
  • Cherry Chocolate Sorbet
  • Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa
  • Raw Summer Peach Tart
  • Gluten-Free Pie Crust
  • Pear Dunkers with Cashew-Cinnamon Yogurt Sauce
  • Chickpea Herb Crackers
  • Fruity Guac
  • Green Monster Dip with Carrot Coins
  • Black Bean Brownie Bites

You'll find more recipes, articles and tips at their companion website, Allergy-Friendly Cooking.

To purchase your own copy now, click HERE. If you would like to try to win a free copy, enter my giveaway below! *Giveaway ended.*

Open to U.S. residents, 18 and older. Ends at midnight on Sunday, July 22, 2012. Raising Knights is not responsible for delivery of prize; it will be sent directly from the company.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: In exchange for an honest review, I was provided with a free copy of the cookbook for myself and Kiwi Magazine will be providing another copy to the contest winner. 

Green Awesomeness {AKA Pasta, Pesto and Peas}

Jul 1, 2012

Ina Garten's Pasta, Pesto and Peas
"Green Awesomeness" is the name given to this dish by our 10 year old neighbor. It is Ina Garten's Pasta, Pesto and Peas. Although her name is an accurate description of the dish, I like his name better, don't you?

This is the perfect summer picnic or potluck dish, as it's a nice change from the usual pasta salads. We had it for a simple dinner and the boys weren't complaining, that's for sure. Even my pea-hater ate it and just quietly pushed the peas to the side. It's not lacking in flavor (or calories, I'm sure) due to the pesto, Parmesan, spinach, lemon juice, and mayo. 

Needless to say, this one will be added to the recipe box. The changes I made were to use a 16 oz. box of mini bow tie pasta, fresh baby spinach instead of frozen, jarred pesto instead of homemade (the original recipe includes a pesto recipe), less than half of the mayonnaise, and omit the pine nuts. Oh, and I totally forgot to toss the pasta with extra virgin olive oil. If you wanted to make a more substantial meal with it, you could easily add cooked chicken.

With two of my big guys gone right now, we had plenty left over. I suppose you know what I'll be having for lunch tomorrow.  

Toddler "I Did It" Book

Jun 18, 2012

Sticker charts are an awesome motivator for little ones. We have used them to encourage potty training, hygiene habits, sleeping in own bed, good attitudes and behavior. Usually, I just place a sheet of colored paper on the fridge or other appropriate place and write the child's name on top or print off one of the countless free charts from here. Lately, I have been working on several habits with M2. I thought it would be easier for me and more fun for M2 if he had one place for all of his stickers and to be able to carry it around if he wanted.

It took less than thirty minutes to put together this simple paper book. As a matter of fact, it's so easy that a child can do it. That being said, I'm not giving you any instructions. Now, you can get all fancy if you want, but I know what the eventual fate of this book will be. It is just a temporary tool to help establish a few habits. 

I used Microsoft Word to create the cover and page labels. Do2Learn has a lot of printable clipart for making visual charts for children, especially those with special needs. I also used their clipart to make morning and evening routine charts for the hobbits. 

All you need is:

Homeschool Planning 2012

Jun 9, 2012

Busy bee... That's me! I am trying to do way too many things at once, right now. Getting ready for a yard sale. Sorting through and reorganizing our homeschool books and records. Researching, purchasing, and planning for our upcoming homeschool year for four boys. I'll have one son finishing school and another one beginning this year!

Surprisingly, I'm very excited about our school this year. We are going to be using Galloping the Globe for Isaac (3rd) and Levi (K), while adding in some unit studies and Five in a Row. Thankfully, Jolanthe, at Homeschool Creations, has shared her plans and printables from their world geography study and made life planning a little easier for me. Of course, we have several Usborne Books to supplement our studies, like Usborne's IL Encyclopedia of World Geography, Usborne Book of Peoples of the World, and Usborne Flags Sticker Book.

The other curriculum we are looking forward to is Exploring Creation with Astronomy. We are going to have a mini co-op class in our home with a couple of other families with boys close in age to Isaac. To say Isaac is excited would be an understatement. He keeps asking when we will be starting. Hopefully, his enthusiasm won't fade before August.

We are also going to try Singapore Math for Isaac, after using JUMP Math last semester. JUMP Math is great for children who are not strong in math or get stuck and need a step-by-step break down of math concepts. It was very helpful in getting Noah past his math road-block.

Speaking of Noah, I am still unsure of what all we're doing for his 8th grade year, other than Easy Grammar and Apologia General Science. So, I'll post about that another time.

Mason will have a fairly heavy senior year, as he needs to fill in a few gaps and catch up on his reading list. His courses will include Lifepac Civics, Art History & Appreciation {unit study}, Around the World in 180 Days {world geography}, Jensen's Format Writing, and maybe Jacobs' Geometry. He will also be using Chemistry 101 since he is not planning on attending a four-year college. He is leaning very heavily toward a technical school for auto mechanics. Mason has spent more than enough hours earning a credit for an elective auto mechanics course. Papa Bear and I are so proud of how much he has learned on his own through reading, researching online, talking to local experts, and his own blood, sweat and tears poured into his car.

How is your planning going? What are you using in your homeschool in the fall?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through any of them, I will receive compensation. 

Free eBooks

Jun 5, 2012

 6/7/12 - Sorry, they are back to regular price now! 

Here are a couple of free eBooks for you or as a Father's Day gift. 

That's My Teenage Son by Rick Johnson

What a Son Needs From His Dad by Michael A. O'Donnell

Menu Plan 5/21/12

May 21, 2012

The weather has been getting consistently hotter, so I need to avoid heating up the kitchen with the oven or long-simmering dishes. While I was trying to put my menu plan together, I realized that I need more crockpot recipes. My first stop was Stephanie O'Dea's A Year of Slow Cooking where I found a several recipes I'm going to try this week.

Do you have any tried & true slow cooker recipes?

Monday: Chicken & rice soup, salad

Tuesday: Slow-cooker Italian chicken & veggies, oatmeal bread

Wednesday: Spaghetti, salad, garlic toast

Thursday: Rustic cabbage soup, sourdough bread

Friday: Crockpot falafels on pita w/yogurt sauce, lettuce, tomato

Saturday: Sweet & spicy salmon, Basmati rice, garlic-butter green beans

Sunday: Honey garlic chicken, Basmati rice, steamed broccoli


May 20, 2012

My two oldest sons may try to hack my blog when they see these photos. For some reason, at least one of them does not like for me to share with the world just how adorable they were when they were younger. While I'm changing my password, here is an example of leverage for you.

National Police Week 2012

May 17, 2012

As many of my regular readers know, Papa Bear is a police officer and this week has a special meaning for us that most people don't recognize. May 15 was the official Peace Officers' Memorial Day, but we are joining in a local remembrance tonight. I especially look forward to getting to hear my amazing husband sing during the ceremony. My boys' favorite part is at the end when the Scottish bagpipes play and then we move outside for a moment of silence filled with dozens of flashing red and blue lights, followed by a 21-gun salute. It is very heart-stirring.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of these events in your community, I highly recommend it. It is a great way to teach your children to respect and honor those who have lost their lives in the line of duty and those who continue to put their lives at risk to protect your family and other local citizens.

Even if you are unable to participate in a memorial service near you, here are some ways that you and your children can still observe National Police Week and learn more about police officers:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9

Little Words

May 13, 2012

When you have a baby, you look forward to the day when he speaks his first word. Wondering whether it will be mama or dada. (Sometimes, he surprises you with some other sound, but it's usually one of these.) That day eventually comes and your little one learns that his words have power. At this point, the power to delight his parents and bring smiles and applause.

At about 18 months, M2 had a language explosion. He was learning several new words daily. He would repeat just about every word you said to him...except "love you". Not. Even. Once. I wasn't concerned, but we all became close to obsessed with being the first to get him to say it. That first "luvoo" melted our hearts. He was almost two.

"Luvoo, Momma!"
"Luvoo, Daddy!"
"Luvoo, Bubbie!"

It didn't take long for M2 to figure out how to adjust his tone and facial expression to match his words and to occasionally get a desired response. Now, if he causes me pain or spills something, he tilts his head to the side, displays a sad face, and says "torry, Mommy".

Of course, children quickly learn that their words also have the power to inflict pain. All of my boys have used the weapon of words against me at one point or another, but I'm seasoned enough to not let their words get under my skin.

"You're a mean mom!"
"I don't love you anymore!"
"I want a new mom!"
"I hate you!"

Even M2 has picked up on it and I get the occasional "toopid mom". Yes, my 26 month old has called me stupid. He doesn't yet know what it means, but he does know that it's a word that is discouraged and has a negative meaning.

Just as easily as those bitter words spill out, so do sweet words reaffirming a little boy's love for his mother. Complete with kisses and "huggies" around the neck.

"You're the best mom in the universe!"
"I love you to infinity and beyond!"
"I'm going to marry you when I grow up, Mom."

Even little words are a big deal. God has plenty to say about them. Not only do I need to teach my sons to carefully choose their words, but I need to take great care in doing the same. They will follow the example that my husband and I set.

Honestly, writing this post has been very convicting for me. I am not as careful as I should be when speaking to my sons. Many times, I am too harsh or my words are discouraging instead of building up. Please pray for me that the Lord would place a guard over my mouth. That I would set a godly example for my sons with my words, as well as my actions.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Psalm 141:3

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21    
 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 
         Ephesians 4:29

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. 
 Proverbs 16:24

Happy Mother's Day!
May your day be blessed and filled with loving little words!

Free eBooks

May 10, 2012

I never understood what all the hoopla over smart phones was about...until I got one. One of my favorite things is being able to download free ebooks from directly to my Android phone. Here are several free ebooks, but I don't how long they will be free, so be quick!

Fresh Fruit Pies, Tarts, and Galettes - Every Recipe has a Gluten Free Alternative

Grandma's Best Muffin Recipes (Grandma's Best Recipes)

Healthy Whole Grains, Easy and Delicious Soup Recipes

The Organized Kitchen: Keep Your Kitchen Clean, Organized, and Full of Good Food-and Save Time, Money, (and Your Sanity) Every Day!

Amazon's collection of free Classics eBooks are perfect for homeschoolers or anyone interested in good literature. Download Treasure Island or Gulliver's Travels for the next time you have to wait in the car for soccer practice to finish or while you are waiting to see the dentist.

Homeschool Preschool

May 9, 2012

Over the years, many moms, usually already staying at home, have asked me about homeschooling their preschool children. All of these women are caring, actively involved mothers, but our culture of early academics has cast a shadow of doubt on their confidence. Most moms know that the best place for their young child is with them, but they are mostly afraid that they will "ruin" their children by not socializing them in a school setting. That is so far from the truth.

Everything is a learning opportunity for a preschool-age child and there will plenty of time for formal learning in the future. They need concrete, hands-on activity, and lots of free time to explore their world, especially 3-5 year-old boys. Here are some suggestions for giving your preschooler a head start:

  • READ, READ, READ. This one thing will set a foundation for all later learning. It will not only strengthen the bond between you and your little boy, but it will expand his worldview, help him develop a rich vocabulary and the ability to listen, and give him a knowledge base to build on later. Choose good quality books, like Newbury and Caldecott Award winners and classics. Avoid too many "junk food for the brain" books. Don't limit yourself to fictional stories, also read non-fictional books about things he's interested in. For example, if you dig up some worms while planting flowers and he's excited about them, get a book on worms from the library. Or tigers, sharks, race cars, etc. Here are Ten Read-Aloud Commandments to get the most out of reading with your little one.
  • Include your child in your everyday activities, such as cooking, shopping, errands, and chores, including some of his own. Explain what you are doing as you do it and why.
  • Go on field trips to the museum, botanical garden, nature trails, the zoo, farmer's market, orchard, and the library (storytime).
  • Study nature. Plant a small garden together, grow sunflowers, put out a bird feeder and watch the birds, go on a nature walk and observe bugs, flowers, trees, etc., collect things (rocks, leaves, etc.), catch tadpoles and watch them grow into frogs, order some caterpillars, press flowers.
  • Teach letter names and sounds using signs, story books, menus, food labels, etc. Focus on one letter each week.
  • Build a foundation of math literacy. Count everything (beans, M&Ms, cars, houses on your street, etc.). Sort legos by color or size. Have him figure out how many place settings you need at the table.
  • Encourage small-motor skills. Make playdough. Play with rice in a plastic tub or dishpan. String large wooden beads. Work with wooden puzzles. Practice pouring water or rice from cup to cup.
  • Expose him to the rhyme and rhythm of language. Sing songs and read silly poems and nursery rhymes. Take turns making up combinations of rhyming phrases.
  • Let him have lots of time to run around in the yard and just play. Provide toys that promote creativity and imagination (instead of toys that have only one use), like blocks, play food, dress-up stuff, little people (my 5yo loves Playmobil).
If you are looking for something more, literature-based unit studies are a fun way to teach to kids of all ages and you can do as much or as little as you want. Basically, you read a book and do activities that go along with the theme. For example, read Blueberries for Sal, then pick blueberries, create blue art, make blueberry muffins, learn about bears, etc. You can also make a lapbook, which is a very clever way of recording what your child has learned and makes a great keepsake to look at again and again to reinforce learning or to show to doubtful friends and family.

Sometimes, your preschooler may want to do "real" school, which to them, most likely means paper and pencil work. This website has printable learning pages and activities for a wide variety of subjects. You can also utilize technology for preschoolers with interactive websites for pre-reading and other basic skills.

Some would try to make you believe that it is necessary to send your young child away to preschool. Usually, the reasons all boil down to socialization, but this article tells you why you should NOT put your child in preschool. You know your child better than anyone and you have taught your child so much already. Keep up the good work!

Linked to Better Mom Monday and Titus 2 Tuesday.

Marinated Cucumbers

When we are eating away from home and my husband reveals another of his favorite foods, I try to find a recipe to replicate it at home. I found a simple recipe for one of my husband's favorite summer dishes in Joy of Cooking. I have only altered the amounts and omitted the onion to suit our family.

Marinated Cucumbers
4-5 cups peeled, sliced cucumbers (about 3 large cucumbers)
Sea salt
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tb sugar, dissolved in 2 TB water
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped dill, garnish

In a large bowl, layer cucumber slices, sprinkling lightly with sea salt. Place a weighted plate or heavy bowl on top, cover large bowl, and refrigerate for two hours. Rinse the cucumbers in colander under cold water, drain, and pat dry. Return to bowl and toss with apple cider vinegar and sugar solution. Season with salt and pepper. Chill at least an hour before serving. Garnish with chopped dill, if desired.

Linked to Homemaking Link-Up.


May 6, 2012

This tiny sling is still a little big.
It was bound to happen. I'm surprised we made it this long. Five boys in almost 18 years. Sure, we have experienced other mishaps that required stitches, staples, support braces, and x-rays.

But M2, at 26 months, has broken the first bone.

Last Sunday evening, right before bed, a certain five year old boy opened the door to the stairs and allowed M2 to go upstairs. M2 can navigate the stairs well, but we don't normally let him do it alone. I was busy in another room and unaware...until I heard him fall down several steps. I knew immediately what had happened and when I got to him, he was at the bottom, laying on the wood floor, crying.

Any momma knows how hard it is to not snatch your child up to hold him close and comfort him, but I resisted, especially because of the way he was laying on his left side. After looking him over, I gently scooped him up and called Papa Bear.

Papa Bear came home and checked him out, determining that he may have bruised or briefly popped his shoulder out of place, since he didn't appear to have any broken bones. Little did we know. We made the choice to stay home due to the time of night and not wanting to traumatize a tired toddler, since he didn't seem to need urgent care. The next day, he seemed a little better, so we decided to watch and wait. Even though M2 was using his left arm regularly without complaint, he continued to hold it folded close to his body when he walked or ran. I had a nagging feeling all week that he may have broken his collar bone, so as I was trying to feel around on his shoulder again this afternoon, I thought I felt a knot. Papa Bear agreed and I took M2 to the Convenient Care.

Have you ever tried to hold a scared, uncooperative toddler with a broken bone flat and still for an x-ray? Fortunately, they were able to get it in two takes. The nurses tried to gently get him into a figure-eight brace, but the smallest size wasn't small enough for him. The only other option was an arm sling. Let's just say that he was not too fond of either option. By the time we got home, he had quit trying to get it off because he figured out how to push his arm out so he could use it. There is not really any way to reason with a two year old. I have to call an orthopedic doctor Monday.

By the way, after some mommy-toddler conversation, I discovered and confirmed with LJ that he and M2 had been sliding down the stairs on their bottoms that day. I wonder if any lessons will be retained from this experience.

Did you know that the collar bone is the bone most often fractured during childhood? And that the collar bone does not completely harden until adulthood? Learn more about childhood clavicle fractures here.

Hearty Lentil Soup

May 4, 2012

Finally! I have found a lentil recipe that my family will eat. I started with Marie's lentil soup recipe and combed through the comments to discover the best ways to tweak it. The result is a hearty, flavorful thick lentil soup with lots of veggies. I finely chopped the veggies, letting my Vitamix do the work on the carrots, to get a more uniform texture and to disguise them for my picky eater, who has issues with food textures. Next time, I will probably use crushed tomatoes, like the original recipe calls for, or petite diced tomatoes. If you are going to save some for later, remove that amount and do not add the kale or spinach to it until you are ready to serve it.

Hearty Lentil Soup

3-4 Tb olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 tsp ground cumin
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 Tb tomato paste
2 cups dried lentils
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or half water)
1 cup ditalini or other small pasta
1/2 cup kale or spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste
Parmesan, optional

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until veggies are tender.

Stir in garlic, oregano, basil, cumin, and bay leaf; cook for a couple of minutes.

Stir in lentils, water, chicken broth, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour, adding the pasta about 15 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, stir in kale or spinach and cook until it wilts. Add vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top each serving with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Linked to Tuesdays at the TableDomestically Divine TuesdayWhat's Cooking Wednesday, Homemaking Link-Up, and Full Plate Thursday.

The Not-So-Terrible Twos

Apr 21, 2012

New parents are always warned of the "Terrible Twos", the period in which your toddler is recognizing his own autonomy, trying to assert his will to make things go his way, and exploring the world.  When I was a young mom of just one, I readily accepted that label as accurate. But as time marched on and we reached three years old, and then four, I realized that two was not that bad. Once I had a couple more kids under my belt, I realized that the twos are not at all terrible, as long as you practice the Four Ps of Parenting.

Pray daily for guidance, patience, peace of mind, your child's safety, and forgiveness when you mess up. Because you will mess up. Parenting is hard and we need to rely on our Heavenly Father to help us with this tremendous task.

Be Prepared
  • Batten down the hatches! Secure heavy and tall furniture to the wall. Your toddler will most likely try to climb it. Children are seriously injured and killed by falling televisions and furniture every year.
  • Never leave the house without diapers or extra underwear, wipes, and an extra set of clothes and shoes. Your toddler will find the only mud puddle around, sit in mashed potatoes at the restaurant, or develop a nasty tummy bug while you are shopping.
  • Keep small snacks, toys, or board books in your purse or bag for trips outside the house.
  • Your toddler will throw a fit in public at some point. Don't get pulled into the drama. First, check to make sure he is not ill or hurt. Then, stay firm and calm and carry on about your business if possible. If that is not remotely possible, pack him up and abort your mission. 
  • You are going to clean up a LOT of spills, messes, and potty training accidents. Just accept it now and keep a large supply of old rags and towels handy. Use the opportunity to teach him how to clean up.
Be Proactive
  • Expect that your toddler will act poorly when he is tired, hungry, or sick. Plan your outings around meal times and nap times.
  • "No" is the word, at least for a time, so offer choices when you can. It really is okay to let them wear cowboy boots with shorts when you are going to the grocery store.
  • Protect your child from well-meaning friends and relatives who invade your little one's personal space. Don't force your child to let someone else hold him or kiss him if he's scared or uncomfortable. Give him time to warm up to them on his own.
  • Two year olds do not usually like to share yet. Teach him about sharing by practicing at home and encouraging it when with other children, but don't force it.
  • Learn the art of distraction. I always keep a bottle of bubbles in the kitchen because they are like magic for soothing the savage toddler. Figure out what changes your little one's course or stops him in his tracks when he is determined to cause chaos.
Be Patient
According to, patience is the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
Your little one will feel secure and learn by example when you remain as calm as possible. It's okay to let them see that you are upset, but refrain from having your own tantrum. Yes, I know, easier said than done sometimes. M2 tests my patience daily. Just last week, we were waiting to pay at Crackle Berry and M2 chucked his cup of water at LJ. It busted open when it hit the floor and got me and the lady in front of us. I quickly apologized, but everyone was very understanding. Later the same day, he impulsively threw and broke a plate on the wood floor. As a seasoned boy mom, these things are minor annoyances because I know that messes are easily cleaned up and this stage will pass. It also helps to close my eyes and take a few deep breaths before reacting. :)

What tips do you have for getting through the not-so-terrible twos?

Linked to Titus 2 Tuesday.
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