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Follower of Christ. Wife to Adam. Mama to Joshua (9), Abigail (8), Esther (7), Hannah (6), Noah (5), Joseph (3), Peter (2), James (9 months), and Blessing #9 due late August. Soli Deo Gloria!
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Adam and Laura

Adam and Laura

Joshua Addison

Joshua Addison

Abigail Lauren

Abigail Lauren

Esther Rebecca

Esther Rebecca

Hannah Ralene

Hannah Ralene

Noah Evans

Noah Evans

Joseph Patrick

Joseph Patrick

Peter Edwin

Peter Edwin

James Emil Robert

James Emil Robert

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Pinterest Links to Remember

I composed and scheduled this post last week.  Hopefully by the time it publishes we will be holding a baby!  In the past few months I've found some recipes on Pinterest that I would like to record here so that I don't forget about them.  Several of them have made it onto our favorites list.  I've had problems with Pinterest links not working in the past, so I'm going to go ahead and copy the whole recipe here just in case.  I have changed some of the instructions to the recipes to reflect how I like to prepare them.  The original instructions can be found by clicking the links.  

This Oven Baked Rice is really good!  It is, however, a bit rich when paired with the Chicken Curry that I topped it with, which also happens to have a good bit of butter in it.  Don't get me wrong...it was delicious!  It was probably just a little over the top for everyday eating though.  Rice baked this way would make a nice side dish or a good bed for some sautéed veggies.  I doubled it and we only had a tiny bit left over.  

1 cup jasmine rice
2 1/5 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.  Pour rice into dish.  Stir water, butter, salt, and vinegar together in a saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil, pour over rice, and stir.  Bake until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes.  

I've tried two of these DIY Baking Mixes and both were great.  I substituted whole wheat flour for half of the white flour in both cases and theta made them hearty and filling.  

3 1/3 cups milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
3 cups flour
3 Tbsp honey or sweetener of your choice
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.  Grease hot griddle and make your pancakes!  You can combine the dry ingredients ahead of time and store them in an airtight container to save time later.  

Mix and Match Muffins
3 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 
1 cup honey or sweetener of your choice
1/2 cup oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I substituted buttermilk)
2 eggs

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk wet ingredients in another.  Gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Batter will be slightly lumpy.  Fold in any mix ins that you choose to add (blueberries are wonderful!).  Fill muffin cups completely and bake at 350 degrees
 for 25-35 minutes.  

I had a craving for Salisbury Steak a month or so ago.  My first thought was to check the Pioneer Woman blog and sure enough I found a super yummy recipe!  This makes for a wonderful Sunday dinner when served over rice and with loaded mashed potatoes and a salad!

Meat mixture:
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tsp dry mustard
1 cube beef bouillon
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil (for frying)
1 Tbsp butter (for frying)

1 whole onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups beef broth
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp corn starch mixed with a little beef broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
More broth, if needed, for thinning

Combine all the ingredients for the meat mixture and knead until all combined. Form into 4 to 6 oval patties, then make lines across the patties to give them a "steak" appearance.
Fry in a skillet with oil and butter over medium-high heat on both sides until no longer pink in the middle. Remove from the pan and pour off excess grease.
Reduce the heat to medium and add in the sliced onions. Stir and cook for several minutes, or until golden brown and somewhat soft. Add the beef stock, Worcestershire, and ketchup. Stir and cook to reduce.

I use beef sausage and whatever veggies I have on hand...usually onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, sometimes broccoli, etc.  This is so easy and so good!  Just toss everything together in a bowl with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Stir occasionally.  

Chicken Burrito Bowl is a one-dish meal that is also fairly easy to make and very tasty.  I like to serve it with tortilla chips.  

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite sized pieces
  • 3 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup of uncooked extra-long grain rice
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of colby jack, monterey jack or cheddar cheese
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • freshly diced tomatoes
  • diced green onions
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
Saute onions in 2 Tbsp olive oil until they start to soften.  Season diced chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan and cook over medium high heat until it has started to brown.  Move chicken to one side of pan and in the other side add an additional Tbsp olive oil.  Saute uncooked rice for about 2 minutes or just until some grains start to turn golden brown.  Stir in black beans, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin.  Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.  Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.     Top with cheese, tomatoes, green onions, sour cream, and guacamole.  Serve with tortilla chips if desired.  

Pesto Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Roasted Brussels Sprouts is yummy and healthy!  I double this and we usually don't have any leftovers.  The children love it too.  I haven't found a chicken sausage that we really like, so I usually use beef sausage.  I've changed the directions below to reflect how I like to prepare it.  The original instructions can be found by clicking the link.  

1 lb fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 lb pasta of your choice
4 sausage links, sliced 1/4" thick
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup pesto
Parmesan cheese for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Saute brussels sprouts in 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper until tender.  Add the remaining olive oil and sausage.  Cook until nearly browned, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and toss together pasta, pesto, and sausage/brussels sprouts/garlic mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.  

I recently asked for pork chop recipes on Facebook and got several great suggestions.  This is the only one I've had the chance to try and it was great!  I like how the potatoes are cooked in with the meat and then mashed later.  It gives them a wonderful flavor!  I doubled this and next time I'll triple the sauce ingredients.  

4 pork chops
1 package garlic and herb soup mix
1 lb potatoes, cut into chunks
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red onion
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup half and half (I just used milk)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place pork chops on top of vegetables in slow cooker.  Add other ingredients on top and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours.  Remove potatoes and mash with butter, milk, and any other ingredients you'd like.  

This Shrimp Scampi is another Pioneer Woman recipe.  I don't think I've ever made anything from her blog that wasn't tasty!  I don't make this too often because shrimp is pricey, but it is so good!  This one definitely needs to be double in our house, and I'll probably triple it next time.

4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1 lemon, juiced
4 dashes hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz angel hair pasta
Chopped fresh basil to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Boil water for pasta.  Heat olive oil and melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions are translucent.  Add shrimp, then stir and cook for a couple of minutes.  Squeeze in lemon juice.  Add cooking wine, butter, salt and pepper, and hot sauce.  Stir and reduce heat to low.  Cook pasta and drain, reserving a cup or so of the water.  Remove skillet from heat.  Add pasta and toss, adding a splash of pasta water if thinning is needed.  Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.  

Slow Cooked Broccoli Beef is another easy meal.  I've made this on the stovetop and in the crock pot and it works fine both ways.  This is another one that I double and I ended up making extra sauce last time.  

1 1/2 lbs roast or round steak cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup beef broth
2/3 cups soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp corn starch
4 Tbsp water
Broccoli florets, washed and cut into desired sized pieces

Place beef in slow cooker.  IN a bowl mix together broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and rice vinegar.  Pour over meat.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours.  One hour before serving, combine water and cornstarch.  Mix until smooth and stir into the meat mixture.  Stir in broccoli.  Cook on low until broccoli reaches desired tenderness and sauce has thickened slightly.  Serve over rice.  

I made Spinach Lasagna Rolls for the first time last week and everyone wanted seconds.  These are much easier to make than a traditional lasagna.  Next time I'll add some more spices as the filling was just a little bland.  I will probably use spaghetti sauce instead of tomato sauce as well.  I doubled the recipe.

9 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg 
Salt and pepper to taste
32 oz tomato sauce
3 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in medium bowl.  Ladle about 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 in baking dish.  Lay out lasagna noodles, making sure they are dry.  Spread 1/3 cup ricotta mixture over each noodle.  Roll and place seam sir down in baking dish.  Pour remaining sauce over noodles and top each one with 1 Tbsp mozzarella cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  

These Sweet and Sour Meatballs have turned into a favorite.  This recipe makes a good bit and doubling it leaves us with some leftovers, which is nice.  I have only used beef meatballs from Costco for this.  I may try making them at some point, but for now the pre-made ones have been a great time saver.  This isn't the healthiest meal, but it's simple and good for every once in a while.  

2 lbs lean ground beef
2 cups plain bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chopped green pepper 
1 20oz can pineapple chunks in juice
1 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
4 Tbsp vinegar
4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix meatball ingredients together and form into balls.  Arrange in a single layer in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish.  Combing all sauce ingredients and pour over meatballs.  Bake uncovered for 1 hour.  Serve over rice.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August in Pictures

I'm on a roll with blog posts this week!  I'm just trying to catch up and squeeze a few in before Baby Girl comes and I don't have time for much blogging.  These are some of my favorite pictures from August.  Hopefully baby's arrival will make August even better, but if not we should be meeting her by the end of next week!

Just playing a little baseball

Sunday afternoon at one of our favorite places!

We went to a minor league baseball game a few weeks ago.

The right fielder tossed Abigail a ball.

These two are something else!

I love how Peter periodically comes up to me and says, "I schnuggle you??"  :)  

Who says homeschoolers aren't socialized? :)

We enjoyed a visit from Adam's brother Chris and his family (Joy and four boys - Grayson, Tate, Reed and Micah) week before last!

We enjoyed pizza at the fountains downtown one evening.  These are 8 of the 12 cousins.

We drove up to the mountains to do a little apple picking last weekend!  Adam successfully placed his first dental implant on Friday (a huge accomplishment for him!) so we celebrated with a little road trip.  It was good to squeeze in some apple picking before the baby arrives too.  It was really hot, but we had a great time!


Munching on a James-sized apple.

Little boys in plaid shorts. :) 

We took a tractor ride to get into the orchard.

Picking (and eating) some Honeycrisps.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fun With Grandpa

Back before Joshua turned six my parents decided that his 6th birthday would be a great time to take him to the aquarium by himself.  He loved it and Abigail did as well when her turn rolled around.  My mom passed away just a few weeks after Esther turned six, so of course a trip was just not possible.  Well, Grandpa is retired now and he took both Esther and Hannah to the aquarium last week!  They were gone most of the day and they had a wonderful time!  They're still talking about it and I'm sure they will be for quite awhile.  Of course they enjoyed the aquarium, and even though they miss Grandma they loved the Grandpa time and it is something they will always remember.  Dad kept me updated with some great pictures throughout the day.

What better way to end the trip than with onion rings and Frosted Oranges from The Varsity!?! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Activities for Preschoolers

Keeping my 5-and-unders constructively occupied during school is always a challenge for me.  Noah (5) is doing school now, and Joseph (4) is doing some preschool work, but they both finish quickly and having some things on hand to keep them busy is very helpful.  One of them is pretty laid back and quiet and content to do almost anything I give him to do, but the other two (Peter is 2 and James is 16mo) are a bit more challenging.  A couple years ago I did a post listing some activities for preschoolers, and I do still use some of those, but I've picked up a few more ideas here and there that I've added to the list as well.  One idea I've implemented is having a pack 'n' play set up close to where we do school.  If there are any activities that involve small parts that James might choke on I put them in the pack 'n' play and let Joseph and Peter take turns doing them there.  James tends to stick pretty close to me, but if he's wandering off and getting into things (for example, the toilet.  What is it with little boys and the toilet??) I'll put him in there with some toys just so I know exactly where he is.

Here are the things that we are using most often now.

1. Leap Frog Map and Books.  We gave Noah a Tag Reader Pen (although I found one used and didn't pay anywhere near $70 for it!) for his birthday back in December and all of the younger boys really enjoy it.  Even James. :)  It will keep Peter busy for 30-45 minutes at a time, which is saying something!

2.  Puzzles.  I took several children's puzzles, put the pieces into a pencil pouch, cut out the picture and stuck it in the pouch as well, and put them all into a Dollar Tree basket.  They take up far less space that way and I don't have to worry about the boxes getting smashed and pieces falling out.

3. Tracing Paper.  Noah and Joseph love to trace things out of books and it's great for their motor skills.  This is a favorite activity and I can't seem to keep enough tracing paper on hand!

4.  Paint With Water.  They love this as well.  It does make a little bit of a mess, but it's nothing that they can't clean up themselves.  You can use the paintbrushes that come with the books and when those wear out Q-tips work well too.  Paint with water books are a little bit hard to find.  These are the ones that I bought.  I'll ration them, so they should last us the whole year.

5.  Coloring.  Always a favorite and I try to keep a good stash of Dollar Tree coloring books on hand.

6.  Tweezers and Pom Poms in a Jar.  This is great for developing motor skills as well!

7.  Scissors and Paper.  What child doesn't enjoy cutting things?

8.  Colored Popsicle Sticks with Velcro Dots. They can form letters or try to build other things with these.  I've only gotten around to spray painting blue sticks, but I intend to do some red as well.

9.  Water Play at the Sink.  I have some little boats, measuring cups, etc. that they can play with at the kitchen sink.  We have not done this yet this year.  I'm reserving it for a rough day when I really need something that will keep them occupied for a good long while.

10.  Sponge Towers.  This is a cheap and easy thing to prepare and of course boys love to build towers!

11.  Pipe Cleaners in a Jar with a Magnet.  I have this all ready to go, but the magnet that I have is not strong enough.  I need to find a better one.

12.  Plastic Horses.  I picked up a bag of horses and accessories at Goodwill for a few dollars awhile back and saved them for school time.  There are some small pieces, so this is a pack 'n' play activity.

13.  Legos.  Another pack 'n' play activity.

14.  Calculator.  From the Dollar Tree.  There's just something really fun about punching buttons!

15.  Paint in Ziploc Bags.  Double bagged and taped to a piece of white poster board.  They enjoy squishing the paint around even after the colors are all mixed and kind of gross looking.

16.  Wooden Parking Garage and Cars.  I picked this up at a local consignment store a few weeks ago and it's been a huge hit with all of the children!  I didn't buy it at first because I didn't want to spend $20 on it, but after I came home and saw that they're more like $100 online we went back and got it.  It's been well worth the money!

17.  Books.  I have a stash of books that I keep only for school time.  I'll swap them out for other fresh ones periodically as I find good deals on them.

Someone was so kind to send us a gift certificate to Discovery Toys in the mail yesterday.  I haven't decided for sure, but I'm thinking I'm going to order the Castle Marbleworks set.  The "marbles" are large and wouldn't be choking hazards and I know the children would have lots of fun with it.  It would make a great addition to our school time activities for the little guys.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Our 2014-2015 School Year

We started school three weeks ago and all is running smoothly so far.  I've made a few minor changes to the schedule, but I'm really happy to report that we are getting things done in a much more timely manner than we were last year.  That is due in large part to the fact that our oldest three children are able to do a lot of their work independently, which is wonderful!  I love reading other homeschool mothers' curriculum and scheduling plans, so I thought I'd share mine here.

I'm not too concerned about grade levels as we just try to keep things moving and keep learning all the time, but basically Joshua and Abigail are doing 5th grade work, Esther 4th, Hannah starting with some review and then doing 3rd soon, Noah 1st, Joseph preschool, and Peter and James trying their best to make messes. :)

A very strict schedule worked great for us for the last two years, but I felt like we would probably need something different this year.  Peter and James are a bit more rambunctious and in need of more direct supervision than Joseph was at their ages.  I have to be more proactive in keeping them constructively occupied, otherwise we'd end up with all manner of messes and disasters!  At two and one they are not quite to the point of being able to sit and work on something for 30 minutes at a time without a good bit of attention from me.  I've re-vamped our preschool activity list, which I'll share here as well.

We love Saxon Math!  Joshua and Abigail are doing Saxon 76, Esther is doing 65, and after doing some review Hannah started 54 today.  After several years of using Saxon for 1st and 2nd grade I got frustrated with it.  It took so much time from me and I felt like a lot of the time was not used as productively as it could have been.  Busy work.  Anyhow, I decided to buy Horizons Math for Hannah (Level 3) and Noah (Level 1) to work through over the summer and it turns out that we all really like it!  I plan to stick with Horizons through the 2nd grade level and then switch to Saxon when they hit 3rd grade. I have Saxon Teacher for 3rd and 5th grades, which is nice.  I keep on top of what they are doing each day and I'm usually the one that teaches the lesson so I can be sure they understand what is going on, but having the Saxon Teacher CDs is great for those times when one child is ready to start math but I'm tied up with someone else and unable to stop and teach the lesson.  It's a little pricey, but I highly recommend it if you are trying to teach several children/grades at once.

We are using the Veritas Press self-paced online history again...Explorers to 1815 this year.  Adam does this with the children in the evenings, which is really helpful and saves me time during the day. We all enjoy it!  I love seeing how much the younger children pick up.  Just the timeline song alone is great for them to have in their heads and is something that they will remember and be able to build on as they get older.  Noah and Joseph were pretending to be Prince Henry the Navigator and Magellan circumnavigating the earth outside last week. :) 

Joshua, Abigail, and Esther are doing IEW.  I think this is a great program and I tried teaching it myself last year, but I felt a bit lost and just didn't feel that I was doing things quite right.  This year I bought the Student Writing Intensive Level A DVDs, which is Mr. Pudewa actually teaching the classes.  It's been so helpful for me so far and I think it will boost my confidence to where I can teach it myself next year.  Or maybe I'll buy the Level B DVDs to make my life a little easier. :)

Spelling and Grammar
We use SWR for spelling and grammar through 2nd grade.  I feel like this gives them a really good foundation and understanding and gets them reading well.  Starting in 3rd grade we use Phonetic Zoo and Easy Grammar.  I really like the Phonetic Zoo because they can do it completely independently with just checking on my part and because it's been very effective at teaching them to spell well so far.  Bad spelling really gets on my nerves, so I'm very happy with this program.  My mom used Easy Grammar with me and my brothers and I like it because it's very straightforward and easy to understand and use.  The children memorize a list of prepositions, which eliminates a lot of frustration when trying to identify parts of speech later.  This is also something that they can do mostly independently with minimal instruction from me.  We are not currently doing a formal literature program.  All of our reading children have their nose in a book every time they get a chance, so I'm just trying to keep them supplied with good reading material.  Honey For A Child's Heart has been helpful in that regard.

I bought the Bob Jones 5th grade science book for Joshua and Abigail this year.  They are enjoying it, but they honestly haven't learned much of anything new yet.  Adam is really good about explaining things to them in general conversation and our membership to a local science museum last year combined with some DVDs that we own exposes them to plenty of science.  I don't feel the need to have a formal science curriculum for 4th grade and under.  More busy work. :)

We use Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, which the oldest four children can do on their own on the computer.  They love doing it and the little ones really enjoy watching.  Hannah is especially excited about being able to start typing this year.

I've been so sporadic with piano over the past few years.  I want to do it, but it just falls through the cracks and seems to be the first thing to go when our days get busy and school takes up so much time.  I've created a space in our schedule for it this year, but I don't plan to start until after the baby arrives.

Speaking of schedules, I've gone from having a strictly laid out schedule with time slots to having more of a checklist of things that we need to get accomplished each day.  The children enjoy being able to check things off and it seems to motivate them to work more quickly.  Adam gets them up before 7:00 to read the Bible with him.  We follow the Robert Murray M'Cheyne plan to read through the Bible in a year.  Adam reads two chapters with the children in the morning while I get ready for the day (I read them on my own) and we all read two chapters together after dinner in the evening.  That combined with Adam leading discussion and teaching as opportunities arise more than sufficiently covers what the children would learn from a Bible curriculum.  After that they have a morning routine that they follow and have to accomplish in a certain order.  I made these Pinterest inspired flip charts for them to help keep them on track.

After breakfast everyone has an assigned meal chore.  Currently everyone clears their own dishes, Joshua wipes the table, Abigail sweeps the floor, Esther sprays and wipes the glass tabletop, Hannah sweeps the kitchen, and Noah and Joseph just do whatever little jobs I decide to give them.  After meal chores are done they start on folder work.  I bought one of these on Amazon and Joshua down to Joseph each have a file folder that I load the night before with some sort of independent school work that they can accomplish while I clean up the kitchen, start laundry, etc.  I'm loving this system!  It eliminates goofing and mess making and the children like having something specific and productive to get done.  One day I decided to let Joseph pick a page out of a coloring book instead of picking out something for him and having it in his folder.  He was less than thrilled. :)

After folder work is done we get cracking on the rest of our work so that we can get as much done as possible before lunch.  I try to keep things simple.  Anyone who works diligently and doesn't daydream or get up and do other things is free to take short breaks with my permission.

Joseph is four and still does a lot of playing while the older children are doing school, but he desperately wants to be included at the table and have some sort of work like his big siblings as well. I have the Horizons Preschool books and Horizons Kindergarten Math and I sit down with him and do those every day, which he loves!  I also have a list of preschool activities to keep the little boys constructively occupied, but I will make that the topic of another post.

I think that pretty much wraps up our plan for this year.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity and the freedom to teach our children at home.  I'm thankful for a husband who works incredibly hard to provide so well for us so that I can stay at home, and I'm thankful for eager and teachable children who love being homeschooled!