Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Are You Kidding? Starter Kit Deal of the Year! $99

Barefoot Books has just announced the opportunity to begin your own business for only $99. Beginning January 5, for a limited time, you can work with families, promote literacy and bring culturally diverse stories to your community for only $99. Check out this video for more on what Barefoot is all about.

 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

24 Days of Christmas - Day 20

It's the little things in life that bring us all such meaning and joy.  I know.  There are big things as well, the birth if a child, the purchase of a new home,  marriages......but I believe it is the small things that sustain us.  Today, the small things in my life include a quiet moment in the chapel watching the children rehearse their Christmas pageant; the gift from a friend of playdates with my children while I put the final touches on Christmas; and the knowledge that yesterday I prepared enough food to feed my family through Monday.  It is easy to get caught up in the stresses of the holiday but much more pleasant to take a quiet moment and appreciate the small things in your life.   What sustains you today?   I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

24 Days of Christmas - Day 18...I Think

Well, we are quickly approaching Christmas and things are beginning to breakdown at the Croy homestead,  home of the harmonious family.   Frustrated by the lack of 5 minutes to wrap gifts, I put the kids in front of Elf while I locked myself away to get said gifts ready for display.  In other words, we began Christmas break two days early.

The kitchen now looks like Santas elves have been creating havoc (who am I kidding...they would never leave that mess). 

Once Elf was over I realized the beans I had been cooking all morning were not ready for lunch and I didn't have enough wits about me to give the kids oatmeal for lunch, so we ran out to grab a gf lunch (not easy in our neighborhood).  On to violin, then a mad dash home to get the Sun ready for his violin concert.  These may not seem like much but there were other stressors added in which revolve around scheduling and a father with a doctor's appointment each day this week and well, the conversation with my husband sums it up. 

"When you get to the church for the concert, come down to Boca Loca where you will find me with a sangria."  He responded, "So, you are that kind of mom."  "I am today." 

I will leave you with a picture if the moon sipping a Shirley Temple.  Cheers to you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

24 Days of Christmas - Day 16

How in the world did it go from day 5 to day 16?  Has the last week and a half really flown by that quickly?  I think so.  We've been quite busy on the old Croy homestead.  Trimming trees, making desserts, Christmas crafting....there have been Christmas concerts and activities and on Sunday we are North Pole bound.  Trying to not panic or be in any shape, form or fashion F-R-A-N-T-I-C, we are wrapping up our first semester of homeschool and putting the final touches on the Christmas season.



Here are few things we have been doing here at home.  Note the snowflake wreath thanks to Better Homes and Gardens and the new Christmas card holder made from an old window frame.  I hope this week finds you calm as you navigate these last days leading up to the Winter Solstice and the birth of Christ.  Relish in the increasing darkness and celebrate the light this holiday season! 


Have a very merry day!  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

24 Days of Christmas - Day 4

The Advent season has begun.  We have never celebrated Advent before, not at least the anticipation of the birth of Christ.  I am not sure why we are celebrating it this year.  Perhaps it is the Episcopal church we are attending and I want to give the children the experience of this celebration.  Perhaps it is my continued offering of all religious paths to my children.  Maybe it's the connection we also feel for the approach of the darkest night of the year - the Winter Solstice.  Regardless, we are anticipating the arrival of our precious pink and purple candles.


To prepare for the new celebration in our home (and to prepare for the arrival of our Christmas tree on Saturday), I spent yesterday cleaning the silver (the base for said Advent wreath), cleaning out closets and reading articles to the children about the meaning of the Advent and how the greenery ties into the Earth based religions we also honor in our home.

One of the best articles I found that resonated with me the most was one on how the advent season honors Mary as she prepared for the birth of her son.  It reminded me of an Advent season, 13 years ago, when I waited for the birth of my own son, born 2 days after Christmas.

Regardless of what or how you are celebrating and enjoying this dark time of the year, go in peace and be blessed. 

24 Days of Christmas - Day 3

Do you celebrate the Advent?  Do you use an Advent calendar?  We have not actually celebrated the Advent but do use a calendar to count down the days until Christmas.  We have filled the calendar with toys, chocolates, money, and little notes, going as far as having the children go on a scavenger hunt for their Advent gifts.  Last year we really began scaling down Christmas and this year are scaling down even more.  How do we keep the magic, make the holiday meaningful, and keep our children from being spoiled (which if anyone know my kids, knows they are definitely not spoiled)?

This year the Advent calendar gifts look very different from how they have in the past.  Inspired by author Isabel Wyatt in her 7 Year Old Wonder Book, I occasionally draw pictures for the children in a sketch journal and leave them on their bedside table to be waiting for them when they awake.  Last night I read to them the story of the Star Twins and instead of leaving the pictures by their beds I left them standing in front of the Advent calendar.

This is the outline of the picture for the Moon


When the book is filled - probably sometimes at the end of the school year, I'll pack the journals away with the other important items that I am saving for the children in hopes that they will pull them out as adults and remember this part of their childhood.

Final Picture of the Star Twins

This holiday season, I hope you are thinking about the spirit of the holiday - however you celebrate - and being conscious of the messaging you are giving to your children.

"Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom?  There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something very beautiful, something which compels our understanding." -   Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

24 Days of Christmas - Day 2

Today is Giving Tuesday.  It is a day when we think about the importance of giving instead of receiving.  For us, giving comes in many forms.  Today's giving for me was in putting together messaging for a non-profit trying to raise money on what promises to be a huge day for those doing good works around the world.  For Nathan, it is possibly giving up his Tuesday night to deliver wreaths from our son's Boy Scout fundraiser.  On Sunday, giving for the Sun meant serving 20 homeless men for three hours with his church youth group. 

Unfortunately, the hours we give are not enough.  To make things happen in this world, money is also required.  That's why today we will also make a small gift financially to the person/organization of our choice.  Today's gift will most likely be someone or some group tied to orphans living in one of China's many orphanages.



In the spirit of giving, I want to share with you some of the organizations that have their way into my "in-box" today in case you are at a loss of who put on your #givingtuesday list.






Happy Giving!  


Monday, December 1, 2014

24 Days Until Christmas - Day 1


http://www.barefootbooks.com/marketplace/4155

This past weekend Nathan and I were able to have our 10th annual no-child Thanksgiving weekend.  It's a tradition that my mother-in-law began for us.  When Noah was two years old, she insisted that he be allowed to stay with them for the weekend while we (I) had a much needed break.   Each year we spend Friday shopping and eating out and the remainder of the weekend going to the movies, taking on household projects or doing anything else that strikes our fancy.

As the years have passed and our shopping interests or the interests of those we are buying for have changed, the shopping has diminished. We now purchase what we can from local makers and sellers, make what we can, or order online.  It's a rare day that finds us at the mall regardless of the time of year.

This year I find that I am once again a seller and now a maker as I am making many of our holiday gifts for friends and family.  Today, I am sharing with you my top 5 books from the company I sell for - Barefoot Books.  These books are broken down by age and I'm giving you a book for each age that will bring wonder and joy to a child in your life.

A final note on these books.  All of these books are for all ages.  My 8 year old enjoys looking at our old board books as much as she enjoys reading the first Harry Potter.  My 12 year old (the one who devours a biography on George Washington in one sitting) enjoys his copy of Odysseus as much as any Percy Jackson novel.  When you are purchasing books for your children, it is always a great idea to look at age suggestions, but remember, children of all ages love books and love to read to.  Believe me, I know!  Most weekday afternoons you can find both my 8 year old and my 12 year old on the couch with a cup of hot tea listening to me read outloud.  



Embark on a dreamy, nighttime jaunt with a young boy and the moon. Overcoming a fear of the dark and discovering the world at night lives at the heart of this poetic tale. Includes notes about the moon and plants and animals that thrive in the wee hours.
100 Greatest Books for Kids List, Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine
Ages 1 to 7 years 


Come along on a high-seas I-spy adventure! Young readers will delight in pointing out everything the boy sees through his telescope in Nicoletta Ceccoli's dreamy illustrations. The rhyming, cumulative text, built on the familiar I-spy refrain, helps develop memory skills and builds reading confidence. Anchors aweigh!
Ages 1 to 5 years 


Journey through the night sky on a poetic trip that blends adventure, imagination and science to teach the basics of our solar system. Includes endnotes about the planets, stars, moons, constellations and even a little mythology.
 Ages 5 and Up


As Odysseus fights to find his way back home after the long and brutal Trojan War, he has to endure harrowing ordeals and adventures, and come to terms with devastating losses. Storytellers Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden’s graphic retelling breathes new life into this great classic.

Winner of the NAPPA Gold Award
Ages 8 and up


Become inspired by this breathtaking collection that brings together seventy-four of the finest poems in the English language, celebrating all manner of human experience. Features introduction from UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Winner of the NAPPA Gold Award
Moonbeam Awards Silver Medal Winner
For all ages 

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cinnamon Breakfast Rolls

If you've read through my GF page you'll see that I keep a few mixes on hands for emergencies or when a recipe calls for it.  I don't use them often but they help me mix things up a bit.  Get it?  Mix things up?  Once or twice a year I make Cinnamon Breakfast Rolls for the family.  To be honest, I don't really eat them myself as I'm not a huge sweets fan, but they needs something different occasionally and this fits the bill.

I found this recipe in one of my trusty Southern Living cookbooks, which are truly the only cookbooks I ever need.  This particular one is called "Cooking for Christmas" and this recipe has been a real hit in our home.  You can also find the recipe online at My Recipes which I do find myself visiting when looking for something specific.  Remember that I said in the past to not be afraid to substitute?  Well, don't.



For this recipe I substituted Bob's Red Mill vanilla cake mix which I purchased at Big Lots (yep, Big Lots) for a ridiculously low price and Pamela's Artisan Flour.  Also, I cut the flour portion down to 4.5 cups instead of 5.  I actually think we could have done 4 cups and been fine.  This recipe does not really rise like it does when you use regular wheat flour, so don't be disappointed!  I promise, they taste great regardless of whether they have risen or not. 



This is a make-ahead and chill recipe.  We made enough to make two pans full and have had them two mornings in a row.  If you walk into my house right now you'll smell fresh coffee and yeasty cinnamon rolls which are cooking right now in the oven.  Mmmm.......

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Gotcha" Day - Why We Celebrate

If you are not part of the international adoption community, specifically, the Chinese adoption community, you may not have ever heard of "Gotcha Day".  Or, maybe you've heard of it but didn't understand it.  It could even be that you are an adoptive parent and celebrate it but never really stopped to think about why.  I am, in fact, parent to a child adopted from China and each year for the last 5 years we have celebrated our "Gotcha Day".  Okay, we actually do not call it that.  For us, it is a "Family Anniversary" that is precious to each of us and yesterday we celebrated over dim sum at our favorite local Chinese restaurant.

  (First ever photo as a family of four)


The moon woke up yesterday morning knowing that it was a special day which she reminded me of prior to dressing for church.  She asked if she could wear her Chinese dress and I, of course, said yes.  I could see that she was really thinking about what the day meant and as I also went to get dressed I began to consider it as well.  It is true that it is a special day and an anniversary worth celebrating.  But, I had to wonder, do we celebrate simply because it is what Chinese adoptive families do?  Do we celebrate just for her?  What is the meaning behind it and will we always celebrate?  As I pondered these questions I had what I considered to be a revelation about our adoption experience.  For me to share it with you I need to tell you a little bit about my birthing experience.

Any way that a child comes to you is a blessing.  One does not trump or become more meaningful than another.  Almost 13 years ago I gave birth to our son.  It is a story I love to tell.  In fact, I don't know ANY  mother who has given birth that does not like to tell their birth story.  It is a magical, personal experience that will live with any woman her entire life.  I can still feel the emotions I felt as they told me they were taking me for the Cesarean after 38 hours of labor.  I can feel the excitement and fear.  I can smell the hospital.  But, most importantly, I can remember that moment when time stopped when they brought that tiny bundle around to show me before whisking him off to the NICU.  I still cannot walk into the hospital without getting emotional when I smell the soaps and hand sanitizers.  (Two weeks with a child in the NICU will do that to you.)

The same is true for our adoption.  My pregnancy lasted for 8 months.  Though our adoption journey was over 3 YEARS it was the last 4 months that was like a pregnancy.  We received our referral in late July and traveled in late November to China.  Just like when Noah was brought around for me to see, I can remember the moment when time stopped when a little girl walked into the Civil Affairs office with a smile on her face - ready for her next adventure.  I remember in that moment thinking, "where have you been? I've been waiting for you."  I remember the emotions and the smells and everything about that morning and many other mornings while in China.  And, just like in telling birth stories, I know very few adoptive moms who do not LOVE telling their story.  The paperchase, the trip over, that moment when they were given that precious child, the most often nightmarish trip home.

This brings me back to why we celebrate this anniversary.  We were there when our son came into the world.  It is his birthday.  It is my BIRTHING day.  It is the moment my husband became a father for the first time.  We also celebrate our daughter's birthday.  However, we were not there when she was birthed.  We missed that precious moment in time.  You see, we were all rebirthed when she was brought into that office.  It was that moment when time stopped, even for just a moment, and we were given a gift to be cherished and celebrated.

"I'd rather have a moment of wonderful 
than a lifetime of nothing special."
-Steel Magnolias




Friday, November 14, 2014

Essential Oils 101 - Lime

I am sharing with you a portion of the most recent Doterra blog post on the essential oil - LIME. (Click on "LIME" to read the full article.)  This is one of my favorite oils, which, I am, unfortunately out of!  (Guess what's getting ordered this week?) 



Primary Benefits:
A Powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function
Positively affect mood with stimulating and refreshing properties
Used as an aromatic, topical, and internal cleanser
Promotes emotional balance and well-being

Uses:
Diffuse to cleanse the air and uplift your mood
Put lime on a cotton pad to help remove grease spots and sticker residue
Add a drop of lime to your drinking water for enhanced flavor and antioxidants
Add 1 drop to facial cleanser or shampoo for added cleansing properties


(Please use caution and common sense when using any essential oils, especially if taking internally.)
Primary Benefits:
  • A powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function
  • Positively affects mood with stimulating and refreshing properties
  • Used as an aromatic, topical, and internal cleanser
  • Promotes emotional balance and well-being
Uses:
Diffuse to cleanse the air and uplift your mood.
Put some Lime on a cotton pad to help remove grease spots and sticker residue.
Add a drop of Lime to your drinking water for enhanced flavor and antioxidants.
Add 1 drop to your facial cleanser or shampoo for added cleansing properties.
- See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
Primary Benefits:
  • A powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function
  • Positively affects mood with stimulating and refreshing properties
  • Used as an aromatic, topical, and internal cleanser
  • Promotes emotional balance and well-being
Uses:
Diffuse to cleanse the air and uplift your mood.
Put some Lime on a cotton pad to help remove grease spots and sticker residue.
Add a drop of Lime to your drinking water for enhanced flavor and antioxidants.
Add 1 drop to your facial cleanser or shampoo for added cleansing properties.
- See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Great Examples of Education

I have long said that whatever your method of education your children, there are great examples.  Yesterday I came across a Washington Post article about Christopher Paolini, the best-selling author of the Inheritance Books.  I have known for years that Paolini was homeschooled and this article was a great one pointing out the possibilities for those educated at home. When I was part of the Waldorf school movement (since 2006 and I guess in some way still are a part of it), we had a list of who's who in the Waldorf world to show how Waldorf education cranks out the best and the brightest.  And, when visiting the military school where my husband's grandfather taught for years there was a wall of fame that could put any school to shame!  Many a general and statesmen were educated there. 


Today I was looking for a list of who's who among homeschoolers in the modern world and came across a page on the Pioneer Woman's website.  She said she is not a vocal proponent of homeschooling because educational choices are different for each family based on their circumstances and the needs of their children.  Well said.  I'm not sure what the future holds for my family.  We just moved into a new curriculum which we are all very excited about.  We are adding new activities.  The Moon is adding in additional time in the gym (girl loves to flip) and we are picking up climbing for our P.E. in January.

This is the first year we have been able to pursue some activities at our leisure in quite some time.  We no longer arrive at the gym or Boy Scouts woefully unprepared or hungry or frantic from traffic.  There is rarely the screaming of "get your shoes on, we're going to be late."  I know this is a luxury for my family that many cannot afford.  There are single moms and families who desperately need two incomes that cannot choose this lifestyle.

For now, we are happy being among the who's who in homeschooling (in our own minds, of course) and will take each day as it comes.  Today happens to be a morning at the library then an afternoon of schoolwork followed by dinner and an early bed-time.

Whatever your choice of education is, know that you are in good company and among the "who's who" of that choice.

“Education is the most powerful weapon 
which you can use to change the world.”
-Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

3 Months and Counting - Homeschool Adventures

So, we are three months into this new adventure called homeschooling. There is no way when you begin something like this to know exactly what to do and exactly what you need. Homeschooling itself is not a difficult task. It's really not. Most kids are sponges. They WANT to learn. The key is finding out what motivates them to learn and in what style they learn. We began the adventure with pouring over every homeschool resource online and in-print that I could find. I studied catalogs and obsessed over curriculums. In the end, we purchased a few things from hither and yon and a subscription to a couple of websites that allow me to download what I need each day. We take a weekly trek to the library to check out books to support our lessons and we set out to...well...reinvent the wheel.

I didn't want to reinvent the wheel. It was NOT my purpose. But, I was hesitant to make a large curriculum purchase up front without knowing what we needed. Ha! What we needed, what I needed, was someone to tell me what to do each day. Not entirely. But, mostly. Last week, after admitting to myself and to my husband that I needed more guidance, we purchased the majority of the Memoria Press curriculum for both children. We already had a couple of literature items for our 7th grader and he and I both really enjoy working with it.

What came next was more pouring over the website, the catalog and forums and making final decisions. I pieced together the curriculum from the Memoria Press site, Rainbow Resources and Amazon and voila - a new curriculum that will carry us through the year.   If you are not familiar with Memoria Press, it is a Classical Christian curriculum with the emphasis on Classical.



So we placed the order and the books have been arriving for a few days.  Yesterday we began our new curriculum and our day went better than it has all semester.  We had already been reading such books as Beatrix Potter's treasury, but Memoria's study guides have helped us bring these things all together.  Today we have our weekly co-op and I'm a little sad that we'll be gone the entire day and not get to our new books.  But, tomorrow is another day and we can do spelling and math and literature and composition and so much more!

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” - Beatrix Potter

Monday, November 10, 2014

Barefoot Book Review - The Greatest Gift

I want to share with you this amazing book from Barefoot Books - The Greatest Gift.  Each year on Christmas Eve, our children are allowed to open one gift each plus a combined gift.  They each get a pair of new pajamas which creates all sorts of excitement as well as a new Christmas book to read as a family before bed.  This is not the book we'll be reading - BUT WAIT! This is not the book we'll be reading ONLY because I could not resist and the Moon and I promptly sat down to read it. The beautiful cover and the promise of the title pulled me immediately in. 

http://fengshuimama.barefootbooks.com/
I don't want to spoil this book for you by giving you the entire story.  But, I will tell you that I literally could not finish the last two pages as I was weeping with so much joy.  Luckily, we're raising readers and my little one offered to finish the story for me.    Below is the information directly from my Barefoot Books site.  This is a treasure for all ages.

"A thought-provoking re-telling of the tale by Victorian writer Henry Van Dyke. Artaban, the fourth wise man, stops to help a dying man and is too late to give his present to the King of Kings at his birth in Bethlehem. So begins a long journey amongst the poor, the sick and the hungry, bringing comfort to those in need. But will he find what he is looking for?"



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Simple Family Feasts - Burgers and Fries



Today is the third of November.  The year 2014.  The Moon is asleep.  Halloween weekend was too much and she spent much of the morning crying and telling me how unhappy she is - all courtesy of me, of course.  The Sun is on the couch reading - a real grump today he is.  How dare I withhold candy from a grumpy 12-year old!  It's all water and good foods today all around and a good dose of iron for us all as we attempt throw off the sugar saturation and exhaustion from the time-change.

We have two more busy nights this week and then thankfully a couple of very slow and lazy days before our busy weekend.  I don't like being "busy" and usually will not use that word in conjunction with our lives.  But, truth be told, we have been busy and now that we are facing the holidays must guard against such "business" - AKA insanity - as we finish out the year.

That's why right now I am working on simple (and inexpensive) meals to fuel our bodies and that will not leave me exhausted and my kitchen as disaster.  I just finished cutting 4 large potatoes into french fries that are now soaking in a bowl on the stove (where, BTW, tomorrow's beans are cooking).  We love french fries.  All of us.  What we don't like is deep frying them or buying them in a bag (though if I am in a pinch I'll use Alexia or Whole Foods frozen fries).  I have seen many recipes for baked oven fries (you need a recipe?) and the one I wanted to share with you is over at Sweet C's Designs.  Her fries are wonderful and we have them at least once a week to go with various dinners.  Tonight, it's with hamburgers from local grass-fed beef.

If you have followed me this week you'll know I'm trying to get our grocery budget down.  It can be somewhat difficult when eating gluten-free.  It can throw your budget out of whack when eating something like burgers.  I could make my own buns, but.....it's so much easier to buy Udi's!  I am looking for a good way to truly estimate the cost of our meals so right now I am doing a lot of "guestimating".  I think tonight's meal is around $16 (this includes a small amount for the burger fixin's).  Okay.  $4 per person.  Not too bad.








Monday, November 3, 2014

Simple Family Feasts - White Bean Chicken Chili

Yesterday got away from me.  It did.  The time changed, which always throws me for a loop.  After church, I worked on a website for a non-profit that works with orphans and then spent a few hours double checking the nearly 200 orders for the son's Boy Scout troop fundraiser.  This blog posting was ever on my mind but I never put into words.  So, for the sake of my sanity, I'll pretend this is Sunday, November 2.

My intent the last two days was to make cheeseburgers and fries.  But, as the cold settled on Nashville and the leaves created a soft carpet of color on our lawn, I have only wanted warm comforting foods like shepherd's pie and soup.  Yesterday I pulled out another old favorite at our home - White Bean Chicken Chili.    Now, I have said this before and I'll say it again, but I typically use dried beans and I though sometimes I use store bought broths, more often than not I make my own. 

If you soak 1 cup of white beans overnight, then put them into the crock-pot with the other ingredients, they will turn out perfectly as this recipe calls for  8-hours of cooking.  In addition, I purchase rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods.  The chickens cost $8 and I simply pop them into the freezer as soon as I get home.  When I am ready to use one, I pull it out and simmer it in a 5 quart dutch oven with at least 3 quarts of water for about 45 minutes with a lid on but slightly open.  Once I am finished boiling the ENTIRE chicken, I place the broth into the crock-pot.  After the m
eat cools, I pull it of and add it to the pot as well and discard of the carcass.  There is something very earthy to me in using the entire chicken.  It keeps me in mind of where my food comes from and is a great lesson to my children as they assist me in the kitchen.

In a few days I'll be adding blog postings that talk about eating organic on a budget as I am trying to get our grocery down from it's embarassingly high amount to a more managable amount since I have left my full-time job to be at home with the children once again.  In anticpation of this, I thought I would guestimate the cost of this meal which was served with tortilla chips and shredded cheese.  The entire meal with the sides was at a cost of $18.  My family of 4 ate well with three of us having two servings.  There is at least one serving remaining in a small container in the fridge for someone's lunch.  I daresay a family of 5 (or even 6) could easily eat well on this recipe, but for these purposes I'll call it at $3 per serving

Now, I would like to get this per serving cost down even lower.  I didn't have time to make the cornbread last night, so I think if I substitute cornbread or the tortilla chips and if I purchase a pack of bone-in thighs instead of the convenience of the rotisserie, I think I can do it.  Stay tuned for more on cutting our grocery bill!

Though I am looking for the savings, I am thankful for the abundance in our home.  And thus, I shall leave you with this....








Saturday, November 1, 2014

Simple Family Feasts - Shepherd's Pie



Halloween is behind us and today is All Saint's Day.  The shadows are growing long and after a busy week and a late night of merriment, we have lazed around the house today.  I have Celtic music playing in the background which is accompanied by carrots sauteing on the stove.  Inspired by the afternoon I spent reading the fifth book in Diana Galbadon's Outlander series, I decided to make a family favorite of Shepherd's Pie.  I've made this dish for years in many different ways.  But, it wasn't until I found a great Irish Beef Stew recipe from Lauren's Latest that I perfected it to my tastes. 

Tonight, as my own shepherd's pie simmered on the stove, I thought I would see what other bloggers were sharing for their own English inspired feasts.  After spending waaaaay too much time on Pinterest, I narrowed the SP postings down to the following promising recipes.  You might be curious what I used as my criteria?  First, I eliminated anything that used a brown gravy mix. (I have to draw the line somewhere).  Then, I looked for different recipes that would appeal to different types of cooks (including myself). And, I looked for tradition.  In an time when we all want to stand out from the crowd, there is something to be said for a good old-fashioned meal.  You can always dress it up (pay attention to Southern Boy Dishes), but sometimes (as I saw on Pinterest) it can be a little too much.


This delicious looking meal is from Dash of Savory.  My mouth is 
watering.    I love the idea of using Guiness in my next pie! 


This dish is from Iowa Girl Eats.  She always has great foods on her blog.  



Menu Musings brought a High Class Shepherd's Pie which looks gorgeous in that copper pot. 


Okay.  I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I love a crock-pot recipe that is free from  "cream of" and allows you to walk away for a day and come back to a great meal.  The recipe  from Moms with Crock Pots  itself looks wonderful.  I just have never made this in a crock-pot.   Andthis allows you to use pre-made mashed potatoes which makes this meal in the reach of any working family. 


I don't know about you, but if I saw this pie on the menu at any restaurant, 
I would order one pronto.  (from Picture Perfect Meals).


Okay.  So, this is the most beautiful shepherd's pie I've ever seen.  I will NEVER do this 
but  I'm glad Southern Boy Dishes did.   I just do not have the time to make potatoes this way. 
 But, it's beautiful and a good recipe.  


Another wonderful Guiness recipe from the Hungry Housewife Cooks.
  This is the one that makes me think I'll cheese on top next time. 


The one above, the last one, is mine.  I hoped to have a better shot of it but my 12 year
 old son -  the one who stands 6 inches above me - dug in before I could get a good shot!

So you've seen my top contenders and I'll leave you with a few words of wisdom.  If you are one of those that feel that white potatoes do not fit into your paleo diet, just substitute cauliflower.  Shepherd's pie is naturally gluten free (at least mine is), but if it calls for white flour to be used as a thickening agent, you can substitute your favorite gf flour.  If you don't like the veggies used, you can always substitute.  Shepherd's pie....good....old-fashioned....comfort.

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

~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween - Oh How I Love You



I'm throwing school out the window today. Ok. Not really. We never really stop learning, do we? Today we have transitioned to the next phase of the Middle Ages having finished Vikings on Friday. I like to start a new block with crafts and fun and decided we would have art day where we focus on creating illuminated books. You can only fill so much of your day with an ancient art form (we'll continue it tomorrow) so over a lunch of pizza (Mondays are pizza day) for the kids and sauteed veggies for me, I pulled out an old favorite at my house. Silver Ravenwolf's Halloween. I love this book. I mean I really love this book.

To be honest, it has been a very long time since this book was cracked open but it was exactly as I remembered it.  Ravenwolf not only walks the reader through the history of Halloween or Samhain (as much as can be pieced together), she gives sources!  Imagine that.  Someone writing who gives sources (seeing that less and less!)  She also gives recipes, traditions, crafts and spells for the adventurous.



If you are looking for a traditional book on Pagan holidays, this entire series is worth reading.  But this book, Halloween, is by far my favorite.   To print the Halloween art above click here. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tenn16 - Restaurant Review

 The Moon and I waiting to be seated at Tenn16.

It was a great weekend.   My in-laws came up for the play and a weekend fine dining at home, watching my daughter's play and a girl's day out in East Nashville.  After visiting the Shoppes on Fatherland and Woodland, we headed over to Tenn16 for a much recommended Cajun lunch.  Despite the crazy busy East Nashville crowd, we were seated fairly quickly for a late Sunday afternoon brunch.  Having arrived just before the switch from brunch to the regular menu, we ordered drinks and the Deviled Egg sampler.  The sweet tea was just right and the eggs were enough to keep three adult females and a child from starving after a hard day of shopping. We then placed our main course orders and that's when the review gets a little less than perfect.

We waited for our entrees and waited and waited.  We ran our of sweet tea and waited and waited for refills.  The restaurant had largely cleared out, so I doubt there were a lot of orders in front of ours.  Finally, our food came.  It was worth waiting for.  My MIL's Shrimp and Grits were delicious.  My daughter's hand-cut fries and BLT were tasty and substantial.  My SIL and I each ordered the Blackened Catfish with Jalepeno Grits.  Delicious but VERY spicy despite what the waitress said.  The spiciness required more sweet tea.  But, I waited and waited and waited for a refill.

My recommendation is a yes.  Try this restaurant.  Great vibe.  Great food.  Just be sure to let the waitress know up front that you like to keep your drink filled.  Thumbs up for Tenn16.  

Tenn16 on Urbanspoon


Great GF Biscuits

So, you know we began eating gluten free in our home about 8, maybe 9, years ago. Since then I have experimented with different gluten free biscuits and tried other folks' gf biscuit recipes. This morning I made Almond Flour Biscuits from Kelly over a The Nourishing Home. They were a hit. 

Note:   The recipe says they make 8 biscuits.  I had a house full of family so I doubled the recipe.  Hmmm....they must be 8 REALLY BIG BISCUITS.  I ended up with about 30 biscuits that were exactly the same size as our Applegate Farms Chicken and Maple sausage patties. 

In addition to the sausage, I served them with some fresh Bob's Red Mill Rolled Oatmeal, blueberries, Stonyfield Farms French Vanilla Yogurt and fresh dark raw honey.  A breakfast feast, to be sure.  I will definitely makes these biscuits again.  Thanks Kelly



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Old School Math




After finishing my space saving blackboard / bulletin board project, Arwyn and I got down to business with some old school addition with carrying.  She said it's much more fun to do her math on the blackboard! So glad I could accommodate her and make math fun.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

I'm Not a Size 0 - But You Might Be

There are wars being waged every day. They are being waged not only by people in foreign countries whose leaders' names I cannot pronounce or on conservative talk radio against homosexuals or pro-choice cheerleaders. The wars are being raged by others who hope for peace and tolerance and do not even realize they have gone to war and could possibly be behaving the same way as those they criticize for hatred and intolerance. I've known this for some time and I bet you have, too. But, it hit me tonight as I sat with a glass of red wine, scrolling through my Facebook feed looking for a happy PSA to put on my feed tomorrow morning.

I was smacked in the face by two of the most hate-filled 
posts I have yet seen and they were both from friends 
who are sometimes so far to the left that I wonder if they 
can make a right-hand turn.  

Getting to my point, there were two posts, one I will not speak of here, but the second was by a lovely older friend (I mean that - she is usually filled with light and joy) who shared one of those fantastic ecards that float around through social media. I just happened to have saved it so you could look at it with me.



I read the card a couple of times and then, I sort of got mad. Not really mad. Just a little mad. I wasn't mad at my friend, I promise! But, I was mad at a world who sees everyone on one side of a dividing line as cruel and filled with hate when those on the other side of the line behave in much the same way.

You see, I have two sisters. One sister, much like me, has a little extra meat on her bones. The other got some other gene and does not. Or at least, she did not until she developed a serious thyroid problem after the birth of her second child in her late twenties. Though my recollections could be a little skewed, when growing up I can remember she and I shopping together and both being extremely miserable. By age 10 I had full hips and C-cup breasts while she at age 15 was more like my peers, rail thin and flat-chested. I think there were days we would have happily swapped bodies.  I was outgrowing the "pre-teen" section due to my early puberty and she had not even made it into that section.  During that time size "0" was a rare find. 


You may not be able to tell from my graduation photo, but in 1990, while I (in the middle) was size 13, she (on the right) was a happy 22 year old in a size 5.   Oh, did I mention in this photo she was already a mother? My oldest sister (on the left) was also a mother of two and again, like me, never wondered what it was like to full-figured.   After thinking of my sister I began to think of my cousins, many of which also got the "skinny" gene.   Then, there was my friend growing up who probably never reached beyond 5 feet tall, had a natural gap between her thighs and to this day (age the age of 42) has the body of a 12-year old.

If I can think in five minutes of four women I know well that would possibly be hurt by these messages, how many more are there?  So....what's the point to this rant?  I suppose there are really two points, maybe even three, okay four if you count the last one. 

1.  Right or left.  It does not matter.  You are still capable of being INCORRECT, IGNORANT and HURTFUL.  Believe me, I know.  I have sat on the extreme of both sides and though now I find myself mostly in the middle, 

I have been and I am quite sure will 
once again be all three of these things.

2.  It's OKAY to be a size 0, 1, 2 or 3.  Don't let anyone tell you it's not.

3.  While some women are NATURALLY large, let's all be real.  Most of us who are truly overweight are NOT healthy.  I will NEVER be a size 0.  I am HOPEFUL to be back to a size 12 sometime in the near future.  However, my current size is not okay.  Not with me anyway.  Because it is NOT healthy.  Not because a fashion mag says its not okay.  Not because someone in Kroger or on the beach doesn't like how I look.  But, because I cannot be my best me and feel my best when I am unhealthy.  There.  I said it.  You can be mad at me.  We can normalize it or rationalize it ALL. DAY.  LONG.  But, that does not make it okay.

4.  Enough with the body comparisons.  So you aren't a zero.  It's okay if someone else is.  So you are not a Marilyn Monroe 12.  Guess, what.  Still okay of someone else is.  Are you a 6-foot tall 200 pound Amazon?  Guess what.  That's probably okay, too, though I'll say that I have two very close friends who are right at 6-feet tall and I bet neither of them are close to 200 pounds (see item number 3 above).  And, they have both given birth...naturally....4 times.

5.  If no one can dis on fat folks (I am in that category so I can say that) then we shouldn't dis on the skinny folks either.  Remember all of the craziness around Bethenny Frankel and her Twitter post where she was dressed in her four-year old's clothing?  I know women who can do that.   That's just naturally how they are.  Frankel made a bad joke in a time when tolerance is nil and was nailed for it.  But really, she's a tiny woman.   

So, take my suggestion, find your happy place, 
post only pictures of happy kittens on Facebook 
and  go exercise.  Pass it on.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Are You Homeless? I'm Sorry to Hear It.

Each week after play practice and violin lessons and strings ensemble the kids and I head to a nearby restaurant for a late dinner.  Last night we had the added bonus of my husband joining us.  The Moon told him we were eating sushi and he decided to join us.  With the kids and I a sushi dinner bill would typically run about $30 with drinks and a tip.  Okay.  Maybe $40.  Add the hubby and we laid down a cool $75.00 on the table.  It was a splurge for us.  Sushi usually is and we only have it three or four times a year as a family.  I don't mean to mislead you.  We eat out.  In a normal week the kids and I find ourselves in a restaurant two to three times.  When I worked full-time it was much more.  Now that I am hope full-time again I am working on getting it down to no more than two. 

After dinner as we took the long stroll back to our car a man approached us.  He walked with purpose and made an effort to step to the right to allow our family of four to pass.  That is why I was so surprised when he asked us for money.  Living in a city with a huge economic boom and an ever-increasing homeless population, I am no stranger to being asked for money.  Normally I can spot them at fifty paces.  Suddenly we were all stopped on the street and being told by a complete stranger that he was hungry.  A veteran who served six years in the military.  Showing us his military id.  As usual, Nathan and I did not know immediately what to do.  The answer from me is typically "no."  But, something was different with this man. He wasn't mean or aggressive.  OK.  Don't get mad.  So many of the people I have been approached by in Nashville have been quite aggressive.  No, I don't think most were mentally ill.  Some are.  I can think of a couple.  But, some have been quite insistent.  Not this man.



The Moon must have felt it too.  Just after Nathan handed the man a small bit of cash, she said to the Man, "Are you homeless?  I am sorry to hear that."  "Yes", he said "thank you for caring."  And then, "I hope your life gets better soon, sir".  Then we walked away.  As she began to sing whatever Disney song popped into her head at that moment the Sun said, "That's why I want to be rich Mama.  To help all the people in the world."  

As adults, we often do not know what to say or do when faced with someone in need.  But a child always knows.  And, to have a child who has known such loss in her own life who is capable of such compassion is a true gift. 

I cried the entire way home.  I cried for my children who will be faced throughout their lives with people in need and I pray they find ways to help.  I cried for the people in the world who are lacking.  We are not rich but we can splurge on occasion for something beyond potato soup or chili which is the bounty that frequently blesses our table.  I cried for myself and my own shortcomings as I  wondered if I do enough to help my fellow man.  I am crying now as I write this and think of that sweet face asking innocently, "Are you homeless?" 

As usual I do not have the answers to life but know that my children teach me in great ways each and every day.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

7 Things I Learned at the Beach


If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, FB, in other words, if you cannot get enough of my very regular life, you know we spent last week at the beach. And, you may know that our beloved cat of 16 years passed beyond the veil while we were gone. This year has seen great change in our lives and I spent much of last week in great introspection when I wasn't hauling things to and from the beach, jumping the waves, eating or sightseeing. Maybe you'll find something here of use or maybe you'll just get a kick out of knowing how my mind works.


It is hard to explain, unless you come from a family like the one I grew up in, how you can have laughter among the tears when the bad parts of life interfere with the good.  There are times when I feel this is one of, if not THE greatest lesson I can give my children.  We stood huddled together on the beach on Sunday night saying goodbye to our sweet kitty and through the tears came the jokes and funny remembrances.  You see, life goes on and though bad things happen, it is the joy that keeps us going.



We are blessed to live on a perfect and beautiful planet where all of our needs are met by the environment around us.  I am sometimes distressed and saddened by the greed and over consumption that grips our world and brings destruction upon that which sustains us.  Whether your go-to place is the top of a mountain or at the beach, spending a week of time in nature reminds us what is beautiful and perfect and that we must protect it at all costs.  We lived very simply last week and this week I continue to evaluate how we can do this to an even greater degree.  Maybe you will too.
 

There were nights when we were down on the beach and though I could not see well I could hear the power of the waves crashing toward me.  There is something about hearing that sound but not seeing what is coming that is very powerful and humbling.  Even more powerful is looking up at the sky while hearing those sounds and seeing more stars than can ever be counted by the naked eye.  The Universe around me is immense and I know in that moment that I am only a particle of sand that makes up the whole.



As I watching the Sun and the Moon playing on the beach and in the surf I was reminded that I have been given a gift and that this gift is fleeting in the span of this lifetime.  How do I make their childhood and my time with them count?


There are days when I feel the years creeping up on me.  I have tried to forget as much of my life or move beyond it at any rate than I can remember.  But there have been great joys as well.  There are few things like picking up a board and running into the surf that teach you to truly enjoy life and be in the moment.  I'll spare you the photos (though Nathan took some) but in them you can see the joy we all had in those moments.

 

When you take a break from your "real" life (isn't all life real?)...in other words, when you take a step back from your day to day life, when you step out of your routine, you see a whole other world around you there for the taking.  Life moves quickly and I am still young.  Are there dreams I want to achieve that I have not yet accomplished?   A week at the beach had me seeing each of those distant stars as dreams that I can achieve in this life and I have many!


I have no idea how large our condo was last week.  1200 square feet?  1500?  Certainly no more.  It was an old hotel that has been renovated into single owner condos.  Each one was made up of four hotel rooms that have been gutted and put back together into amazing high end units.  Throughout the week I marveled that we had few toys (none other than beach toys), a small but well appointed kitchen combined with a dining and living room and two beautiful bedrooms.  It was all piled into three rooms plus two small bathrooms.  I did take our panini maker and Nutro-Bullet.  Otherwise, there was nothing we needed that we did not have the entire week.  I know it seems like numbers 2 and 7 are the same but there are different messages in each one.  And, these messages are important enough to say again and again.

Now that we are home I am listening to the messages from last week and working to apply them to our lives each day.  Maybe one of these messages will resonate with you or maybe you'll be inspired to take your own break from the mundane to see what messages the Universe holds for you.