Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quinoa with Veggies

Since I joined Pinterest, I've seen quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) recipes popping up everywhere. I decided to investigate this grain a little further and found out it's really not a grain, but a seed related to the spinach family. It's very popular with vegetarians because it's considered a complete protein. It's also gluten-free, making it ideal for people with celiac disease. Here's a great article about the health benefits of quinoa if you want to find out more.

My first attempt at making a quinoa dish was a huge hit with the family. I mixed the cooked quinoa with sauteed veggies and spices. So easy!

Here's what you need:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water or chicken broth
1/2 TBSP garlic powder
1/2 TBSP onion powder
3 cups diced veggies (I used zucchini, mushrooms and carrots)
1 teas sea salt (or to taste)

In a saucepan, combine the quinoa and water or broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in half the garlic powder (this will be 3/4 teas) and half the onion powder (3/4 teas). Reduce heat to a low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While the quinoa is cooking, saute the veggies in a little olive oil until soft. Combine the quinoa and veggies, then stir in the remaining garlic powder, onion powder and sea salt.

The quinoa had a slightly nutty flavor. As it cooks, the outer shell slips off, adding a little texture. You can see the tiny little shells in the picture.

I'm looking forward to experimenting with other quinoa recipes, including some breakfast ones. I'll share them when I do.

For more yummy recipes shared by cooks from all over, visit Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cheesy Green Chile Rice

We are a rice-eating family, so I'm always looking for ways to jazz it up. I found this recipe on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. It was so easy and delicious that it's going to find a permanent spot in my meal planning.

Here's what you need:

1 cup brown or white rice
Chicken broth (2 cups if using brown rice, 1 1/2 if using white rice)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas sea salt
1 (4 oz) can chopped mild green chiles
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (you can use sour cream as suggested in original recipe)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a saucepan or rice cooker, combine the rice, chicken broth, onions and garlic powder. Cook according to package or rice cooker directions until tender.

Stir in the salt, chiles, cream and 1 cup of cheese. Mix well, then transfer to a greased 8x8 baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake at  350 degrees for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 4

This is the final week of the Not Back to School Blog Hop and the theme is a Day in the Life. I think we're supposed to share our daily routines. Then I asked myself, we're supposed to have routines? LOL

No, not really. We do have a flexible schedule. The key word is, of course, flexible. If we need to take more time for a certain subject or stop until tomorrow, we do. If we breeze through one subject, we move on. And break time or snack time are taken as needed.

We're up and at 'em by 8 am. After breakfast, each child has chores to complete. I simplify this process by using chore jars.

The large popsicle sticks are painted pink or red with white tips. Various chores are written on each stick, then placed in the jar. When they've finished that chore, they can turn the stick over so the white tip is showing. I can easily glance over and see if they've gotten their chores done. Anything not completed before school starts has to be done after, but that rarely happens. If chores are finished before school, they have free time so they work to get things done!

As always, we start our school day with devotions and prayer. We use the Word of Life Olympian program that our church uses for kids' Bible club. The kids enjoy reading the Scripture passages together and discussing what they mean. We've all learned a great deal this way.

Since the kids are close in age, we do our science, history and geography studies together. Usually I will read from the textbook, then we work on notebooking or other projects together.

 Our separate subjects come next. Language and spelling is done with little help from me, but I'm available if either one needs further explanation. The kids have extremely done well with their independent work, and I'm really proud of them!

Math is also done separately, but I do spend more time working with the Princess. Mr. Lego has greatly enjoyed using Teaching Textbooks so far this year. I'm thrilled that he's catching on so quickly!

When all of their independent work is done, we regroup for reading. By reading, I mean that I read aloud to them. I've done this since we started homeschooling, and it's been a great tool to model how to read with expression. We're finishing up Courage and Conviction:Chronicles of the Reformation Church that we started at the end of school last year. When we're done with that, we'll begin Johnny Tremain, one of my favorite historical novels of all time! Even if your children are no longer elementary age, reading aloud to them (and to each other) has great benefits. It truly is a family-building exercise.

We usually finish up all our schoolwork before lunch. That leaves our afternoons free for library trips, field trips and socializing with other homeschoolers. I'm also going to start letting the children take part in my kitchen adventures. They've both shown an interest in baking and cooking, so they'll be helping with lunch and supper - as well as clean up! Yay!

So, what does your homeschool day look like? Do you prefer a tight schedule or are you more flexible? What works better for your family?

Menu Plan August 27-September 2

September already? Yes, only 4 months 'til Christmas! It's so hard to believe how quickly this year is passing. I am, however, ready for the seasons to change. We've had a long, hot summer so I'm looking forward to the cooler temps and beautiful colors of fall.

This week we're back to two kids instead of four. Last week my sister-in-law and I met and exchanged kids. She has six children, three boys and three girls. I took her girls and she took Mr. Lego, so we each ended up with four. I can say, without any doubt, she got the quieter end of that deal. The boys play video games, build Legos and rarely giggle. We had extended Barbie stories enacted, girly movies being watched constantly (and sung along with) and lots of giggling. I wouldn't trade these memories of family for anything, though.

See all the giggling going on?

 Now on to this week's menus:

Lentil and rice burritos, corn

Indian butter chicken, rice

Tasty tilapia, quinoa with vegetables

Sausage veggie calzones

Lemony chicken, sesame broccoli

Grilled steak, Greek lemon roasted potatoes

Chicken corn chowder

If you're looking for some meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's
Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Meatball Sliders

When I make Italian meatballs, I like using leftovers for meatball subs. The downside for me is that the long hoagie bun often gets soggy before I can finish eating it. And I don't like soggy buns. I know. I'm weird.

The perfect solution is taking the concept of a meatball sub and turning it into individual sandwiches that can be eaten in a few bites - sliders! I use my Italian meatball recipe, but I make them slightly bigger to fit the sandwich roll. Nobody likes meatballs rolling around and slipping off their sandwiches! You can purchase dinner rolls at the grocery store or make your own small sandwich buns. Either way is delicious!

Now, here's what you need for the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas sea salt
1/2 teas black pepper
1 egg, slightly beaten

You'll also need:

Small sandwich buns like dinner roll size
Spaghetti or marinara sauce
Fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

In a large mixing bowl, combine the meatball ingredients. Form into large balls. I got 9 meatballs from this recipe. Place on a broiler pan.

Slightly flatten the meatballs with your hand. This will help them fit the bun better.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Heat up the spaghetti sauce in a large pan. Nestle the meatballs (though technically by now they're meat patties) into the sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes.
When you're ready to make the sliders, split and toast the sandwich rolls. These are the rolls I used. Next time I will make my own.

Scoop out a meatball along with some sauce and place on a roll. Top with a slice of cheese. You can pop them under a broiler for a few minutes if you want the cheese to be gooey and melty, but we liked ours this way.

Just the right size and no soggy buns!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Menu Plan August 20-26

This week my sister-in-law and I are planning a kid exchange. We live about four hours apart. We'll meet each other halfway, she'll take one of my kids and I'll take a few of hers! This year it's my turn to get the girls. The Princess will get to have her 3 sweet cousins spend a few days together and make some wonderful memories. Mr. Lego will be in South Carolina with his boy cousins, playing video games and building Lego contraptions. I can't tell you how much the kids have been looking forward to this! I'm so glad we live close enough to be able to spend time with family. I wish we lived even closer!

Now for this week's menu, I'm keeping it simple. In addition to the kid exchange, our church starts its kids club program on Wednesday night. I'll be teaching the older children (5th and 6th grade) the lesson. We're praying for a mighty work of God in these kids' lives.

Here's the plan:

Baked egg rolls, fried rice

Cheeseburger soup, pretzel rolls


Spaghetti and meatballs

Homemade chicken nuggets, french fries

Grilled hamburgers, corn on the cob

Crockpot teriyaki chicken over rice

Visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday for more meal planning inspiration.

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 3

Not Back to School Blog Hop
This week's theme is student pictures. I'm blessed with two students, Mr. Lego and the Princess. We also are joined by Student #3, our dog Alexandra. Would you like to meet them?

This is Mr. Lego. He's eleven years old and in the sixth grade. Over the summer he grew about four inches. Four! He's almost as tall as I am! There's no doubt he will be looking down on me soon! And he's now wearing a mens' size 8 shoe. My little preemie baby is growing into a fine young man. If you want to read more about his early intro into the world, you can find my post about it here.

As you can probably guess by his online name, he loves Legos. He spends hours creating buildings, spaceships, you name it. Currently he's interested in the BBC show Dr. Who, so he's built several Daleks (the Doctor's arch-nemeses).

This is Mr. Lego's Lego table. Somehow in all this mess, he can find the parts that he needs.

Mr. Lego is my studious child. He loves to read and learn. He even enjoys reading instruction manuals for video and computer games! In fact, he won't try to play without reading the instructions first. His favorite subjects are math and science.

My second student is the Princess. She is ten years old. She was added to our family just 17 months after Mr. Lego was born, so they're only one year apart in school. But they're worlds apart in interests and personalities! LOL

The Princess loves to draw. In fact, there is no scrap of paper in our house that's safe from being doodled on! I incorporate a great deal of notebooking and coloring pages in our school day to capitalize on her creativity. She adores anything princess and loves to play dress-up. We are also treated to lots of storytelling and homemade books that she dreams up.

Our dog Alexandra (we call her Xandra for short) joins us nearly every day. She sits between the kids' desks and waits for us to take a break so she can get a belly rub or head pat. To say she's spoiled would be an understatement.

We're in our sixth year of homeschooling and have loved the journey so far. Our family has grown closer and stronger along the way. I wouldn't trade these years for anything!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Italian Meatballs

I absolutely love Italian food. I grew up in an area with a strong Italian heritage, so pasta and pizza restaurants were plentiful. But homemade is always the best, isn't it?

Nothing is better than pasta and meatballs. It's a simple, classic dish full of flavor. My secret is to partially cook the meatballs first so some of the fat drains off, then let them finish cooking in the sauce. The addition of the meatballs gives the sauce such wonderful depth, too.

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas sea salt
1/2 teas black pepper
1 egg, slightly beaten

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the ground beef. Crumble the beef over the mixture, then use your hands to make sure everything is well mixed. Form the mixture into balls according to what size you need. I can usually get about 16 small meatballs from this recipe.

Place uncooked meatballs on a baking sheet. I use a wire rack to elevate them so the fat drips down as they cook. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

I fill the crockpot with spaghetti sauce (I use homemade but a large jar of store bought sauce works) and drop the meatballs in.

Let the meatballs soak in the sauce on the low setting for several hours. Serve over pasta.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why Can't We All Get Along? Lessons from Nature

Outside our breakfast nook window, we have a hummingbird feeder hanging from a shepherd's hook. It's always pleasant to watch the little birds with their so-fast-you-can't-see-them wings hovering around and drinking from it.

We have three regular customers and they generally get along well.

Until today.

While we ate our lunch, we watched these two go at it, dive bombing each other and even wrestling to the ground. I've never seen anything like it! Our third guy occasionally swooped in and grabbed a quick sip while they were fighting over the feeder.

We watched the battle royale for about twenty minutes. Finally, both hummingbirds were exhausted and took opposite perches to refuel. Then they were back at it.

The kids were amazed. "Don't they know there's plenty for all?" "Why are they so selfish?" "Why can't they just share?"

I explained that hummingbirds are very territorial and it's their instinct to fight for what they think is theirs. They know no other way to act.

Moms, you know where I'm going with this, don't you? I then asked the kids why they had trouble sharing, why they fought over games and toys. Those birds didn't have a choice about their behavior, but people do.

We talked about how Jesus can help us be kind to each other and act unselfishly. It's hard to put others' needs and wants before our own, but we're called to be servants. We can choose to put ourselves first, or we can show love and care for others first.

It's one thing for me to tell my kids these things. But seeing it in action, even though it was hummingbirds and not people, made an impression on them. I love it when simple things in nature provide unique, memorable lessons for us, don't you?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Homemade Ketchup

Last week we invited the singles' Sunday school class from our church over for a cook out. We provided the meat (chicken, hot dogs and brats) as well as buns and condiments.

I was sure I had a bottle of ketchup in the cupboard, but when I went to get it, there was no ketchup to be found. Instead of making an extra trip to the grocery store, I decided to make some from scratch. I used this recipe by Gina at Skinny Taste and tweaked it a little.

I didn't announce that the ketchup was homemade, I simply poured it into a squeeze bottle and set it out with the rest of the condiments. At the end of the evening someone asked me what brand of ketchup I had used and why it was in a plain, unlabeled bottle. Confession time! When I shared that the ketchup was homemade, everyone was amazed. It was so good, no one even guessed.

Here's what you need:

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas onion powder
1/4 teas garlic
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg
tiny pinch of cayenne pepper

In a saucepan, whisk the ingredients together until smooth. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often. You really don't want to skip the cooking step because it helps the flavors blend together nicely.

Cool and store in the fridge.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 2

Not Back to School Blog Hop
This week's blog hop is all about school rooms. We are blessed to live in a house with plenty of space, though that hasn't always been the case. We used the dining room table for almost three years. Every afternoon we packed things up, and I never put anything up on the wall.

When we were looking to buy a new house, a room we could use for school was at the top of my wish list. And I got my wish! The room isn't large - only 11 ft by 7 ft. But it's enough for us. And I can plaster the wall with posters and artwork. I love it!

So, when you walk in the room, here's the first thing you see - my desk! It's a $15 thrift store find. It's metal and was formerly used at a military base. No frills, no nonsense.

See that box-like thing on my desk? It is my best friend! No, not really. But close. It's the Desk Apprentice from Staples. During last year's blog hop, I saw several moms who had them and loved them. I wanted one, too, but we don't have a Staples nearby. And on the website it's $45! But my husband remembered I wanted one, and on the way to Atlanta for business, he found a Staples and bought it for me for about $30. So it's way cheaper in the stores than online. And don't I have an awesome hubby?

Here's a closer look. It holds everything I need to make it through a day of school - paper, scissors, files, notebooks, Sharpies, pens, even my paper trimmer!

And it spins! I don't have to dig around for my stapler or anything!
Okay, let's move on. To the right of my desk are the kids' desks and our bookshelf. Each child has a shelf for books and supplies. The top shelf is reserved for resource books and extra notebooks.

We bought the desks on sale at a local office supply store. We can adjust the height as the kids grow, so we'll get several years' worth of use. Not a bad investment.

Here's a closer view of Mr. Lego's side of the room.

And this is where the Princess reigns.

When the children look at my desk, this is what they see. I love having space for the wall maps.

And the part of my school room I couldn't live without - my dry erase board! It used to be white. Unfortunately, I don't erase it as much as I should, so there are some smudges I can't get off. It gets lots and lots of use, so that's to be expected after three years, I guess.

Beyond the door you can glimpse the playroom. It's a mess right now because we had some company over last night.

Right beside the school room is our avocado green bathroom. It's very convenient to have next door. No fooling around in the bathroom because Mom has been known to bang on the wall!

Yes, there are paper Legos on the wall. We had a Lego birthday party for Mr. Lego in February 2011 and used these for decorations around the room. We liked them so much we left them up. They're just construction paper with paper circles attached. It makes the playroom seem more cheerful.

So, what does your school space look like? Link up to the Not Back to School blog hop to share. Just click the image at the top of this post to join in.

Menu Plan August 13-19

Sixteen years ago today, I met the man I was going to marry. Well, I met him face to face. I'd actually been emailing him for a month. He loves to tell people we met on the internet, and I guess in a way we did. I worked with his mother and she begged him to email me "just once." He did, I responded, and he kept writing back. We decided to meet and see if there really was a spark or if it was just him trying to get his mother off his back! Ha ha! In October we'll be married 14 years. So that first meeting paid off!

Now on to this week's menu plan. We're starting our sixth year of homeschooling this week, so quick and easy is on the agenda.

Meatball sliders (didn't get to this last week), green beans

Baked egg rolls, fried rice

Chicken patty sandwiches, parmesan zucchini

Beef and wild rice stew (crockpot)

Chicken shawarma, flatbread

Homemade pizza

Pepperoni carbonara, broccoli

Visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday for more meal planning inspiration.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Make Your Own Trail Mix

My son is 11 and has just hit a growth spurt. He is eating us out of house and home! I'm not kidding, either. He is in constant much mode, even after eating a complete meal.

I'm trying to keep healthy homemade snacks on hand to keep him filled up. Last week was a setback because I couldn't use my oven - long story dealing with air conditioning repairs not done in a timely manner, it's all fixed now. So I made some trail mix because all it required was a bowl for mixing and snack-sized baggies for storing.

I used nuts and fruits that I had on hand. It's very easy to change this recipe to suit your family's tastes. My basic formula was 3 cups nuts, 1 cup dried fruit, 1/2 cup seeds, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Here's what I used:

2 cups whole almonds, roasted but unsalted
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chocolate chips

After mixing everything in a large bowl (the kids helped!), I divided the mix up into snack sized baggies for portion control.

The kids were able to grab a snack when they wanted one, and I didn't worry about them eating a lot of unhealthy ingredients. This was better than any trail mix I've ever purchased at a store.

So, what do you feed your growing boys to keep them filled up?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

Now that my air conditioning is repaired, I can bake again! Yay! I'm so excited. And so are my children. The Princess requested muffins for breakfast, so we decided on this one.

The sweetness in these muffins comes from the raspberries. The lemon zest and light lemon glaze provide a nice tartness. These can also be frozen for a later time, so double the recipe and stock your freezer.

Here's what you need:

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk - see my note below
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1 teas vanilla
1 cup white wheat flour (I use King Arthur's brand)
1 cup unbleached white flour (also King Arthur's)
the zest of one lemon
2 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1/4 teas salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (do not thaw!) raspberries
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 TBSP lemon juice

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, buttermilk, coconut oil, egg, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Stir into the liquid mixture just until moistened. Be careful not to overmix. Gently fold in the raspberries.

Divide the batter among paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Oh, look! These two muffins are kissing!

Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze. Drizzle over the muffins after they've cooled a bit.

I didn't let mine cool long enough, and most of the glaze dribbled off. Learn from my over eagerness and yours will stick!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Buck Denver asks...What's in the Bible? review


Phil Vischer of Veggie Tales fame has created a new set of characters to introduce children to the Bible and what it's all about. Listen to Phil explain.

This first DVD in the series tackles the questions of why the Bible is divided into testaments, why some books are included in the Apocrypha and Septuagint but not the Protestant Bible, and why we can trust the Bible.

As you can see, the characters aren't really like Veggie Tales characters, except for the voices. Still, we enjoyed watching them and learned a great deal. The DVD comes with a code for a digital copy so you can watch it on your tablet or phone. It also included a coloring page. Additional activities are available at the What's in the Bible website.

The DVD was funny with mostly a corny sense of humor similar to Veggie Tales. We liked the silly songs, too. They weren't as catchy as we were used to with Veggie Tales, but still I found myself humming a couple of them later. The characters were engaging, too. We especially liked Clive and Ian and the Sunday School Lady. But while the DVD was entertaining, some parts did drag on. Overall, though, we liked it.

My only beef with it deals with the part about Creation. I firmly believe in a literal, 6-day period of time when God created the Earth and everything else. One of the characters mentioned a big bang and Mr. Vischer explained that there is disagreement among Christians about how long it took God to create and there is no way to know for sure. I was disappointed by that comment. Even the Princess stated that we should just take God at His word. Six days is six days. It was a little ironic to me that a DVD whose purpose it is to get children to trust the Bible as God's Word wouldn't take a firm stance on Creation. Please note, I am not condemning or belittling anyone who holds a differing view on Creation than I do. I just feel very strongly that this an important issue regarding the authority of God's Word and wish Mr. Vischer had taken a stronger stand.

Does that mean I wouldn't recommend or purchase the other DVDs in this series? Absolutely not. I just wanted to caution other believers who might feel as strongly about a young creation position as I do. There are several more DVDs in the series, and my kids are looking forward to watching them.

I was selected for participation in this review and given the What's in the Bible DVD as a member of The Homeschool Lounge Review Team. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Not Back to School Blog Hop 2012 - Week 1

Not Back to School Blog Hop
For the past couple of years, I've participated in the Not Back to School blog hop for homeschoolers. This year it's being hosted by iHomeschool Network. If you're a homeschooler, I encourage you to check it out and join in. I've met some like-minded people with whom to share ideas and encouragement. Just click on the button above.

This week's theme is curriculum. I think it's cool to see what other people are using and how it's worked for them.

I'm really blessed in that my kids are close together in age. Believe me, I didn't always consider that a blessing. But we're able to combine many of their school subjects like history and science, saving me prep time and money. I've always done math separately with them, and this year we're splitting up language arts as well.

Speaking of math, I'm really excited about our new curriculum. For me to be excited about math is quite an accomplishment! We've decided to go with Teaching Textbooks, a CD-Rom based program. The kids tried the demos on the TT website and both of them really liked the set-up. I'm hoping it will encourage a little independence, too.

We've used Mystery of History for the past three years. But this year, we're switching to All American History. I'm an American history buff, so this is going to be so much fun for me! I hope the kids enjoy it, too.

To go along with our study of US History, we're going to take a road trip across the country using Road Trip USA by Confessions of a Homeschooler. It's a downloadable book filled with tons of cool activities, maps and games. Each child is going to have a notebook in which to keep all the great workbook pages. We're all going to learn from this one! Plus, I really like supporting fellow homeschoolers who've developed successful curriculum.

We're going with a publisher we love for science - Apologia! Jeannie Fulbright has a complete series of elementary science books that are amazing. This year we're going to do Zoology 3:Land Creatures of the Sixth Day. The children love the notebooking journals that are available for this curriculum. It's an invaluable tool for learning and review.

For language arts, each child will do a level of Queen Homeschool's Language Lessons. This curriculum was also written by homeschooler and uses a gentle approach to grammar that I really like. We've used First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise and this program is very similar.

Spelling this year also comes from another fellow homeschooler, Soaring into Spelling by JacKris Publishing. This program encourages independence, which I'm really trying to emphasize this year.

I haven't emphasized writing much but as the children grow older, they are going to need to write more and more - reports, reviews, college applications (eek! I know they're only 5th and 6th graders, but time is flying by!) So I bit the bullet and purchased a writing program. It's Teaching Writing:Style and Structure by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I attended some seminars by Andrew Pudewa, the developer of this program, a couple of years ago, and I was impressed by his approach to writing. I've been waiting until the kids were older elementary to start it. Yes, it's pricey. Yes, it's all on DVD. But I think it's going to pay off for us. I can hardly wait to get started!

So, what curriculum are you using? What are you most looking forward to teaching?

Menu Plan August 6-12

Last week was an awful week in my kitchen!

Our downstairs AC went out on Sunday night and through a series of poorly handled customer service issues, we won't get it fixed until tomorrow at the very earliest. Because of the skylight in the kitchen, it's the warmest room in the house, even with air conditioning. Without AC, it's unbearable. So I kept my oven off all week. No bread, no muffins, no cookies. Even standing over the stove with a fan blowing directly on me, it was uncomfortable. We even tried to mitigate the skylight's effects by using a sun shield. It helped, but still I avoided cooking as much as I could! I used my crockpot several times to reheat frozen entrees I'd already cooked and we ate a LOT of leftovers!

Yes, I'm a wimp. No, I wouldn't have made a good pioneer woman. Although in my defense, I did spend the first 17 years of my life without an air conditioned house. I guess I've just gotten soft over the years. But I am extremely grateful for the upstairs AC which has kept part of the house cool.

Hopefully the repairmen will come tomorrow. That's what we've been promised. Of course, they were supposed to come last Thursday, so who knows?

Now on to the menu and hoping I get to cook more this week!

Smoked sausage and peppers, broccoli

Savory beef sandwiches (crockpot), green beans

Taco soup, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Chicken spaghetti, cauliflower

Cook out for our church's single class

Meatball sliders, fries


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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Darkened Kitchen

It's been really hot this week. Well,'s August!

But our downstairs AC has been on the fritz since Sunday. The repair guys are supposed to be coming today to fix it.

The hottest room by far has been the kitchen. See, we have this skylight that allows direct sunlight into the room. It's great when it comes to providing light. I rarely turn on the kitchen lights during the day.

But that wonderful skylight also allows a great deal of heat into the kitchen. So today my husband put a sun shield up to block the heat....and light.

Although it's still warm, it has made a difference in the temperature. I don't know why we didn't do it sooner. I guess we kept hoping the repair guys would show up.

Still hoping.

UPDATE 8/3/12: No one showed up yesterday either, nor did we receive a call saying why. Because we have to go through our home warranty's contractors, we basically have no choice but to wait. It's been a very frustrating week.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies

When I first found this recipe, I wasn't sure how it would hold together. I mean, don't cookies need flour? What about sugar?

Well, the oats in the recipe act as a binder. The sweetness of the bananas and dried cranberries weren't as sweet as sugar but still made the cookies yummy. The applesauce provides plenty of moistness, too.

I didn't think the kids would go for them, to be honest. But boy, was I wrong! They gobbled them up and wanted more. I liked the cookies better when they were slightly warm, but the kids didn't care. Warm or not, they are good!

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned (not quick) oats
3 bananas, mashed
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teas cinnamon

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. The batter will be very moist.

With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, drop the batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I got 12 good-sized mounds out of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and set.

Feel free to substitute raisins or any other dried fruit for the cranberries. Chopped nuts make a nice crunchy addition, too. These cookies also freeze very well and are perfect for a quick breakfast or snack.