Sunday, July 31, 2011

Not Back to School Blog Hop 2011

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Last year I participated in the Not Back to School Blog Hop hosted by Heart of the Matter Online and had so much fun I decided to do it again! It's always interesting to meet other homeschoolers, find out what curriculum they're using and how they've set up their learning spaces. If you're a homeschooler, hop over there and join the fun!

This week the theme is curriculum. Since my kids are close together in age, we do everything together except math and reading. It's been a great money saver for me to not have to buy separate grade levels for each subject. Not to mention the time it saves me in preparation each day!

We always start off our day with Bible reading and prayer. Our church has a children's ministry that uses the Word of Life Olympian curriculum, so we use their daily devotional book as a guide. It's been rewarding for me to see my children grow spiritually through their devotions.

Next comes math. We use Bob Jones University Press for both kids. Mr. Lego is in Grade 5 and the Princess is in Grade 4. I usually send one of them out of the school room to work independently on something else while I do the math lesson with the other one. That seems to work well for us.

For science we're going to continue using Apologia. This year we're studying anatomy. I can't tell you how excited I am about this! I bought a notebooking journal for each child so I wouldn't have to come up with notebooking activities on my own. The price was well worth the time I would have otherwise spent trying to put notebook stuff together. Yay for premade notebooking journals!

Last year we discovered The Mystery of History. We're starting Volume II this year. The series is written by Linda Hobar, a homeschooling mom. She writes in a very conversational style that is easy to follow and understand. Both kids greatly enjoyed the first volume, as did I.

I'm also going to incorporate some geography into our lessons using Galloping the Globe. This is a unit study approach to learning about the continents and specific countries. I think it will be a fantastic addition to our studies this year.

For language arts, we are continuing with First Language Lessons. We will be finishing up Level 4. The teacher's edition has been so helpful and makes preparation a breeze. I cannot recommend this curriculum highly enough. Both children have greatly benefited from the foundational grammar they have learned.

Last year we started using All About Spelling, a program that I really love. Both children are excelling in spelling. Click on the button on the right sidebar to see what AAS offers. Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of AAS, so I make a little money with each purchase when you click that button. Even if you're not in the market for a new spelling program, it's worth checking out.

I don't use a formal reading curriculum with either child. Once I knew they could read, I let them go! They are free to choose their own books for the most part. I always have the final say. I read aloud to them as well. I ask them questions about what they read, and they give me the equivalent of oral book reports. This year we will probably start written book reports, too.

I also don't use a formal handwriting curriculum. We do copywork and notebooking assignments that give them lots of practice. Many times the copywork goes along with their history or science lesson, so they're getting some great review at the same time!

For art, we're using God and the History of Art by Barry Stebbing. I love that this curriculum combines history and art along with Bible truths. We will probably use this once or twice a week.

So what curriculum are you using this year? And why did you choose it? Does it require a lot of prep work for you? I love hearing the opinions of others on these topics.

Menu Plan July 31 - August 6

Last week was a whirlwind with VBS. I didn't get to some of the planned recipes for one reason or another, so you might see some repeats from last week.

Mr. Lego at VBS with a couple of his goofy friends:

Here's the plan for this week:

Sausage lentil soup, bread

White cheddar chicken pasta, sesame green beans

Sausage veggie calzones

Baked egg rolls, fried rice

Rosemary ranch chicken, oven roasted potatoes

Blackened tilapia, broccoli

Ravioli, garlic bread

So, what's on your menu this week? If you're looking for some meal planning inspiration, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of ideas there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blueberry Peach Crumb Squares

Blueberries and peaches are perfect partners in summer time treats. They come in season around the same time. They're both sweet and a little tart. Paired with a lovely crumb crust, this combo is fantastic! With just a hint of lemon, these crumb bars practically melt in your mouth. So, so good!

Here's what you need:

1 cup sugar
1 teas baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1 egg
1/4 teas salt
the zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups blueberries
2 cups diced peaches
1/4 cup sugar
4 teas cornstarch

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, baking powder, and flour. Mix in the salt and lemon zest.

Cut in the butter chunks and egg with a pastry cutter or two knives.

The dough should resemble coarse crumbs no bigger than peas.

Press half of the dough into a greased 9x13 pan. Make sure it's all firmly patted down.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and the lemon juice. Mix in the blueberries and peaches.

Spread the blueberry/peach mixture evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining dough over the fruit.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Allow to cool, then cut into squares and enjoy!

For a printable recipe, click here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Menu Plan July 24-30

We're having VBS this week at church, so I'll be busy. I'm trying a new recipe or two, but only after making sure they were quick! We're doing The Egypt Files: Decoding the Mystery of Life from Answers in Genesis. It's a very solid, Bible-based program that presents creation in an interesting way. I'm looking forward to sharing God's Word with the kids, some of whom have never heard the truth.

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Clean out the fridge leftover buffet

Sausage lentil soup, garlic cheddar biscuits

Philly cheesesteak sloppy joes, waffle fries

Spaghetti, garlic bread

Blackened tilapia, broccoli, turmeric rice

Homemade chicken nuggets, green beans

WV pepperoni rolls

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Loaded Jambalaya

I call this Loaded Jambalaya because it's loaded with three kinds of meat - chicken, sausage, and shrimp. Most people just pick one of the above when preparing jambalaya, but the flavor each ones gives this dish is incredible. It helped that I was trying to use up leftovers, too. I had just a little of everything, but it all worked together well.

Here's what you'll need:

1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green or red pepper, diced
1 can diced tomatoes - I used fire roasted for more yummy flavor
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup rice
2 teas dried thyme
1/2 teas garlic salt
1/4 teas black pepper
a few drops of hot sauce, to your taste
1 cooked chicken breast, chopped
1/2 lb. kielbasa, cut into chunks
1/2 pound cooked shrimp (I used frozen and thawed them before adding to the dish)

Start by heating some oil in a large pot. Saute the celery, onion and green pepper for several minutes until soft.
Add the tomatoes, broth, rice, spices, hot sauce, chicken, and kielbasa. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Stir in the shrimp and heat through. Always add the shrimp last because they will become tough and chewy the longer they're cooked.

Adjust the seasonings and hot sauce to your taste, then enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

He Thinks I'm Wonder Woman!

Charles surprised me with this apron a couple of weeks ago from this Etsy shop. It even has a place on the "belt" for a Lasso of Truth, which I don't have. I'm going to be on the look out for one, though, because that would come in really handy!

For a long time, Charles had the theme song from the old 70s Wonder Woman TV show as my ringtone on his phone. We bought the entire series on DVD a few years back. As I watched those old episodes, I remembered how much I wanted to be Wonder Woman as a kid.

Now my husband has made it possible. I hope his expectations of me don't go up as a result! LOL!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Menu Plan July 17-23

Now that the Princess' Tangled party is over, I can relax a bit. My friend Suzanne and I are going to have a girls' night complete with slumber party on Tuesday while the husbands take the kids camping. We're going to try a new Italian restaurant in town then come back to my house for movies and snacks. Bring on the chick flicks and girl food!

Here's the menu plan for this week:

Pomegranate beef, rice, green beans

Grilled chicken, crispy potato wedges

Girls Night Out - I plan to make peach mango salsa, pizza dip, and something sweet for our chick flick marathon

Ravioli lasagna, garlic bread

Fiesta chicken and rice, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Grilled pizza

Chicken cordon bleu casserole, mashed potatoes

For more meal planning inspiration, Organizing Junkie hosts Menu Plan Monday. But she's on vacation this week, so SnoWhite at Finding Joy in my Kitchen is the hosting this week. Head over and check out the great ideas!

Tangled Party

I asked the Princess what theme she would like for her birthday party this year, and she said without hesitation that she wanted a Tangled theme. So I started searching the internet and found lots of inspiration and instructions, all of which proved invaluable to this uncreative mama.

This is not something you want to do the night before. I started about two weeks before the party, making banners and preparing the crafts we were doing. And of course, invitations had to be made. I found a template for the invitations here.

I started making a pennant banner like the ones seen in the village scenes in the movie. I traced suns on yellow cardstock, then cut them out and glued them to purple felt triangles. I made slits in the corners of the pennants, then strung them on twine and tied ribbons in between each one.

I purchased paper lanterns from Oriental Trading so we could have the girls color and decorate them. We added the lanterns to our banner. Charles glued flameless tealights in the bottom of each lantern so they would glow. The above picture is dark because we wanted to see if it worked! This is what they looked like after the girls let their creativity flow. Cute, huh? Oh, we wove gobs of yarn through the railing to resemble Rapunzel's hair. It was difficult to work with because it kept getting...well, tangled.

We also made hair barrettes with ribbons and flowers. I bought barrettes at Hobby Lobby. I also got some pretty ribbon that I cut into 12-inch pieces. We wrapped several ribbons around the barrette bar and knotted them. Then we hot-glued silk flowers on to cover the knots. The results were beautiful, but I didn't get a good picture of them! Boo!

Now on to the food! I found lots of inspiration from Paging Supermom. We made the Tangled tower cake with lots of help from my lovely friend Suzanne. She's the cupcake queen around here! Charles put together a wooden base with a skinny dowel rod. I stacked several Little Debbie pecan spin wheels onto the dowel. Suzanne added the icing ivy crawling up the sides. The top is an unfrosted cupcake with a purple candy-coated sugar cone to make the tower.

Homemade artisan bread, strawberry butter, smoked cheese, blueberries, grapes and cherries rounded out the menu. Oh, and jello lakes with candy slice boats! They were a huge hit!

After eating and opening presents, the girls sat down and colored pictures while watching the Tangled movie.

Oh, look! You can see the barrette in one of the girls' hair on the right!

The Princess loved everything about her party. She enjoys playing hostess and spending time with her friends. I had a great time planning and preparing, but boy! Am I glad it's another year before I have to do this again!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Minty Orzo Salad with Feta

Summer time is the perfect season for cold pasta salads, so this year I've tried a few new recipes to broaden my salad horizons. This salad is refreshing and delicious. It takes advantage of the mint I have growing all over my backyard, too.

Here's what you need:

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 tomato, chopped
1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP chopped mint
3 TBSP chopped dill
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the orzo pasta according to the package directions. Rinse and allow to cool. While the pasta is cooling, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, mint and dill together. Pour over the pasta and stir in the tomato, cucumber and feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for an hour before serving.

If you're looking for some more yummy recipes, check out Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday. And link up with your own tasty recipe!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sausage Lentil Soup

I know summer time isn't the time you think about making soup. But this is one you need to consider making any time of year. It's so flavorful and satisfying. And it's even better the next day when the spices have had a chance to mingle for a while.

At first it looks like a blend of ordinary soup ingredients. But the addition of a little curry powder provides a nice kick that takes this soup beyond ordinary. Charles requests that we have this soup often, even in the heat of summer.

Here's what you need:

Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 teas minced garlic
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 teas ground cumin
1 teas curry powder
1/4 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper
1/4 teas chili powder
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup lentils
1/2 pound smoked sausage or kielbasa, cut into small chunks

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. I usually don't measure the oil, I just use enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the tomato paste and spices. Cook for a minute until the spices are fragrant, making sure all the veggies are coated.

Add the chicken broth, water and lentils. Scrape the bottom of the pot to get the spices blended in well. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.

Using a stick blender, puree the soup for a few seconds. You want to leave some of it chunky. If you don't have an immersion blender, pour about half of the soup into a blender and puree. Just stir back into the soup pot.

Stir in the sausage or kielbasa and simmer for another 10 minutes.

I served my sausage lentil soup with some crusty artisan bread. I've been experimenting with Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. When I've perfected my technique, I'll share the recipe with you. But this bread is fantastic with soup. Fantastic!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Menu Plan July 10-16

The kids are back! Yay! After two weeks at Grandma's, my kids came home on Saturday. They made lots of good memories while they were there and have been telling us all about them. I'm so thankful they will have fun memories of their childhood.

This week's menu reflects some of their choices. Since I hadn't cooked for them for several days, I asked if they had any requests. The Princess chose cheeseburger rice. Mr. Lego wanted homemade chicken nuggets. They both asked for egg rolls. Most everything this week is kid-oriented.

Saturday we'll be having a birthday party for the Princess since she wasn't here on her actual birthday. She wanted a Tangled/Rapunzel theme. So while she was gone, I worked on some craft ideas and decorations. She was thrilled! I'll share some of them with you this week.

Now, on to this week's plan:

Pasta and meatballs


Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Pork roast in the crockpot, scalloped potatoes

Homemade chicken nuggets, crispy potato wedges


French bread pizza, fruit salad

Baked egg rolls, fried rice

Rapunzel birthday party

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Nine Years Ago

Today the Princess turns nine! How quickly the time has flown by. Doesn't every mom say that?

When I found out I was pregnant with her, I was scared. See, Mr. Lego was only eight months old at the time. The first two months of his life were spent in the hospital since he was a preemie. It was a tough experience, I have to say, and one I didn't want to repeat. And I was scared to death she'd be premature, too.

My OB was determined I'd carry this baby to term. I was monitored much more closely and when I started having contractions at 27 weeks, she put me on bedrest. That was fun, having a 15-month old just starting to get into things and me unable to do anything around the house. But if she had told me to stand on my head for the next 13 weeks, I would have. Charles had to do everything, even shop for groceries. That was an eye opener for him!

Thank the Lord, the last weeks of my pregnancy were complication free, and the Princess was delivered by c-section on the morning of July 8, 2002. Earlier that morning my sister-in-law in South Carolina had given birth to my niece, so the Princess shares a birthday with her cousin. They have a pretty strong bond, those girls. (Then two years later sis-in-law gave birth to another daughter on July 8, so we have three sweet girls who share a birthday in this family. Awesome, huh?)

The Princess weighed 9 lb. 2 oz. Compare that to Mr. Lego, whose birth weight was 3 lb 7 oz. I couldn't believe the size difference! Just a little family trivia - of my parents' 11 grandchildren, I gave birth the smallest and the biggest.

Then it was time to go home from the hospital, they let us take her home with us! We didn't get the 2-month-layaway plan we'd had with Mr. Lego. I think we giggled the whole way home. All the first time parent things we had missed with her brother we got to do with the Princess. It was a balm of healing for my heart!

Since that day, she has been a source of joy and fun for our family. I eagerly look forward to her future, to see what God has for her to do. I'm humbled that I get to be a part of molding and shaping her life for His purpose.

Happy Birthday, my sweet Princess! I love you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Berries and Cream Trifle

One reason I enjoy summer is fresh berries. I love strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries....all kinds of berries. This trifle shows off yummy berries to perfection. And it's so easy!

Here's what you'll need:

One angel food cake - I made one from a box
1 box white chocolate pudding mix - you can also use cheesecake, vanilla, or lemon
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cup cold water
2 cups whipped cream
1 pint sliced strawberries
1 pint blueberries

Prepare the angel food cake according to package directions. Okay, I didn't follow the directions. You're supposed to bake this in a tube pan or 2 loaf pans. I knew I'd be cutting this into pieces, so I just used a 9x13 pan. I guess I'm not much of a direction follower! But the cake turned out great anyway. I baked it the night before.

While that is baking, prepare the pudding mixture. Whisk the condensed milk and water together. Then add the pudding mix and whisk for two minutes until it starts to thicken. Let set for another two minutes.

Gently fold in the whipped cream.

Now you're ready to start layering. Cut (or tear like I did) the angel food cake into cubes. Place half of the cubes into a trifle bowl. I got this bowl from Pampered Chef. I love it because it comes with a lid!

Sprinkle with half the blueberries. Make sure to get around the outside well so the berries can be seen from outside the bowl. It's so pretty this way!

Now comes a layer of the pudding mixture. To make sure I didn't get it all over the bowl and ruin my pretty presentation, I put a little of the mixture in a Ziploc bag. I cut off one corner and piped around the edges of the bowl. Then I filled in the rest with a spatula. Yay! No splats against the glass!

Place a layer of strawberries next. I stood some of the strawberries up in the cream mixture right up against the side of the bowl. Then I filled in with more strawberries. It was so delightful to look at!

Repeat a layer of cake cubes, blueberries and pudding mixture. Arrange more strawberries on top in a pretty pattern. I also added a few more blueberries.

This is the final version of what I took to our church's 4th of July picnic. Isn't it beautiful?

This is what I brought home.

I guess everyone liked it!

Use different berry and pudding combinations to change things up. Blackberries and lemon pudding are fantastic together! And who wouldn't like a strawberry and cheesecake pudding combo? The beauty of this trifle is its ease and versatility. Enjoy!

To find more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Menu Plan July 3-9

We had a wonderful outdoor service this morning for church, followed by a potluck lunch in the air-conditioned fellowship hall! It was a lovely, relaxing day with reminders of our nation's Christian heritage and how valuable freedom is.

Later this week we travel to retrieve the children who've spent a glorious two weeks at Grandma and Papaw's. They probably wouldn't mind staying longer, but I miss those little rugrats! When I asked Mr. Lego today if he missed me, he said "Well, I miss Xandra (our dog)....and you, too." At least I made the list, huh?

Now here's this week's menu:

Potluck at church - I made Southwestern Bean Salad and Red, White and Blue Trifle

Grilled chicken, corn on the cob

Lentil sausage stew - didn't get to this last week

Chicken cordon bleu in the crockpot

BBQ chicken pizza

Eating out

Eating out

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.