September 30, 2009

Dinner - The Remix

A couple of days ago, I made one of our favorite recipes - Sausage, Peppers and Onions. I usually serve this over linguine noodles or with penne pasta. However, my husband thought that smaller pasta would be great with this dish and he asked if I could use both Italian and smoked sausage. I was happy to oblige. However, what I didn't realize is that the smaller pasta soaked up a LOT more of the sauce so the dish was a bit dry. No one was really into it, especially the kids. I had a LOT of leftovers. Hum... I didn't want to waste all that food... what to do?

So tonight, I sliced up more sausage and added it to the dish. Then I put it all in my lasagna pan with some extra spaghetti sauce added. Then I topped it off with some Italian 5 cheese blend and lots of Parmesan and covered it and put it in the oven. Viola! A dish I know everyone will enjoy and I think we have enough for dinner tomorrow night as well. Good deal!

September 26, 2009

Homemade Sore Throat Remedy

I posted a homemade cough remedy yesterday and wanted to add an update as to how to turn this cough remedy into a cold remedy.

My husband came home last night with a sore throat and said he felt bad and might even call off work for the next day. I asked if he's be willing to try a home remedy (although it tastes bad it might really help). He said sure and drank it down (with a slight frown, LOL).

I am happy to say this worked very well and he was feeling better within about 30 minutes after taking it. He's back to work today. He suffers from really bad sore throats when he gets them and normally I would expect him to stay home because he is so miserable.

I made this recipe up based on ingredients that I know work well for colds based on my own experience and information I found searching on-line for home remedies.

Homemade Sore Throat Remedy

1 cup boiling water
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into small pieces
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup raw honey (you should be able to find this at a health food store)
1/4 c. raw apple cider vinegar (I use BRAGG brand)
2 Tbsp. c. white grape juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and cut into pieces
1 tsp. Mexican oregano (found in small packets in Mexican foods grocery aisle)
a healthy dash of cayenne pepper powder

Boil water and add ginger, garlic and oregano. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add remaining ingredients and shake until well blended. Allow to sit a few minutes until all the bubbles settle. Give 1/4 cup as a does as needed for sore throat. Store in refrigerator.

September 24, 2009

Homemade Cough Remedy

The cold season is upon us and three of my lovely little ladies have coughs. We've tried all kinds of cold/cough medicine and I had come to a point where I was running out of things to try and was considering taking them to the doctor. My 7 year old has been coughing for weeks now and instead of getting better she began to get worse again... with no other symptoms. She always tends towards lingering coughs when she has been sick.

I began to search on-line for natural cures for coughs. After a lot of reading I came up with this cough remedy that allowed all of my girls to sleep through the night last night without coughing. It is easy to make and two out of three enjoyed the taste as well :0)

Homemade Cough Remedy

1 cup water
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into small pieces
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup raw honey (you should be able to find this at a health food store)
3 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar (I use BRAGG brand)
1/4 c. white grape juice

Boil water and add ginger pieces. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add remaining ingredients and shake until well blended. Allow to sit a few minutes until all the bubbles settle. Give 2 Tbsp. as a does as needed for coughing. Store in refrigerator.

September 20, 2009

Menu Planning Monday #4

It's been ages since I have posted our weekly menus. I always write them out on paper but rarely find time to sit and type them out.

One thing I had been wanting to do for some time now is to get a months worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner menus all written out with no repeats. I finally got that all done and that list is what I am posting today. This way I can have a master list of menus to work from when I plan out my usual two week menu plan. I can also use this master list to rotate meals so we don't keep preparing the same things over and over.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. I have many, many more dinners that I could have added to this list but these are the most frugal as well as the simplest.

I like to make out menus but I also keep in mind that I will most likely mix and match the combinations of breakfasts, lunches and dinners based on how much time I will have to cook as well as what seems to be the best combination for that particular day (allowing for company, etc.)

Here are 4 weeks worth of menus...

Week 1

B: Muffins and fruit
L: Deli Wraps and fruit
D: Chili Mac with corn on the cob

B: Omelets and fruit
L: Sopita
D: Chicken Spaghetti and salad

B: Oatmeal with apples
L: Quiche and fruit
D: Italian turkey sausage with peppers and onions, penne pasta and broccoli

B: Buttermilk pancakes
L: Deli sandwiches and fruit
D: Pinto beans, collard greens, corn bread

B: Buttermilk biscuits and gravy, fruit
L: Homemade pizzas
D: Lentil stew and salad

B: Crepes with strawberries
L: Tuna pasta salad
D: Spaghetti and salad

B: Breakfast burritos
L: Homemade macaroni and cheese
D: Jerk Chicken, brown rice, broccoli

Week 2

B: English muffin sandwiches
L: Ramen noodles, fruit
D: Jambalaya, salad

B: "French Breakfast" (French breakfast muffins, scrambled eggs, sliced ham, fruit)
L: Bean burritos
D: Homemade "Beanie Weenie" in the crock pot, Rice

B: Waffles, fruit
L: Cheese tacos
D: Scalloped potatoes with ham, green beans

B: Granola with fruit and yogurt
L: Quesadillas
D: Ground beef stroganoff, noodles, green beans

B: Baked Oatmeal
L: Deli pasta salad, fruit
D: Potato and Corn Chowder, homemade rolls

B: French Toast
L: Baked Potatoes, fruit
D: Chili, rice

B: "Daddy's Day Off Big Breakfast" (Scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, toast, fried potatoes)
L: Nachos
D: Chicken sour cream enchiladas, refried beans

Week 3

B: "Big Mexican Breakfast" (Chorizo, scrambled eggs, tortillas, fried potatoes, refried beans)
L: Calzones
D: Roast Chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed vegetables, rolls

B: Cream of wheat with fruit
L: Tuna sandwiches on toast, pickle
D: Chicken burritos, refried beans

B: Cold cereal
L: Empanadas
D: Meatloaf, roasted potatoes, peas

B: Breakfast casserole
L: Homemade chicken and rice soup, crackers
D: Chicken Pot Pie

B: Breakfast Sweet Rice
L: Pigs in a blanket, fruit
D: BBQ MEatballs, Mashed potatoes, peas

B: Baked French Toast
L: Grilled cheese sandwiches, pickles
D: Tostadas, refried beans, calebacitas

B: Apple Dutch Baby
L: Taquitos
D: Lasagna, salad

Week 4

B: Breakfast cookies, fruit
L: Bagel sandwiches, fruit
D: Beef Curry, California style veggies, rice

B: Breakfast bars
L: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
D: Deli rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, rolls

B: Johnnycakes, applesauce
L: Ham and cheese melts
D: Enchiladas, refried beans

B: Ham and potato hash
L: Pizza pasta
D: Shepherd's pie, salad

B: Breakfast pizza, fruit
L: Taco cups
D: Teriyaki chicken, soba noodles, Asian style veggies

B: Coffee cake, fruit
L: Pinwheels, pickles, fruit
D: Beef and broccoli, Asian style veggies, rice

B: Sausage pigs in a blanket
L: Chilaquilas, refried beans, fruit
D: Jamaican red beans and rice, salad

September 18, 2009

A Day In The Life Of Me

Candy recently did a video post on what a day is like in her life and she invited others to participate as well. Unfortunately I don't own a video camera but I thought it would be fun to make written post on what our day is like, so here goes... :0)

Usually I am awakened twice each morning. First at about 3:30 am when my husband is getting ready for work. I don't wake up for the day as early as he does but I can't help waking up when he is preparing for work. After he leaves for work I go back to sleep until my 2 year old wakes me at around 6:30 or 7 am. Sometimes I wake up before she does but usually she is my clock, LOL! I have had some MAJOR problems sleeping for several months now (long story) which is why I tend to go to bed early and sleep in later than I would like. Prayerfully this problem will be solved very soon with some medical intervention (another long story LOL) and I will begin to wake up the same time my husband does, which is my intention.

Anyhow, I digress... :0)

Once awake I get myself and two year old dressed and ready for the day. If my other girls are still sleeping then I will do a quick email check and then start laundry, put away dishes from the dishwasher and then start breakfast. I will let the girls sleep no later than 8 am. I let two year old wake them up because she really likes to do that and they love it too. Once the girls are up I remind them to do their "morning list". When they are done with their list they are allowed to read or play until breakfast.

During breakfast we read from a Children's Bible story book or my Bible. Right now we are reading from the Rod and Staff book called Bible Stories To Read. My two oldest girls have a Devotion book they are working through right now as well as a Scripture memory system and a Bible Study book for homeschool ... as well as an AWANA class they go to so most of the Bible stories are fairly simple for them (but they still enjoy them). After we read our Bible Study we then read a chapter or two from our current Read Aloud book. Right now we are reading On The Banks Of Plumb Creek.

After breakfast we clear the table and start our chores. Usually the girls will fold and put away a basket of laundry or vacuum one room each. Chores vary from day to day depending on what needs to be done. I start a new laundry load and wash dishes and do any dinner prep that is needed. Then we have a 10 minute break. At this time I check email again because that is how my husband and I usually communicate during the day. If I have any important phone calls to make this usually when I make them.

After this break we start school. This is the most hectic part of the day because often the girls just don't want to work on school work yet and are restless. Also, my two year old is still not able to sit still and quiet for very long so there are plenty of interruptions and distractions for the other girls as they try to concentrate on their work. But we work through as much as can during this time. I aim for us to get at least two subjects finished during this morning block of school. Once we finish lessons for the morning it is usually time for lunch. During lunch we will read another chapter from our read-aloud or sometimes we will call my mom or sister and chat with the speaker phone on so all the girls can talk as well. My sister's little boy is just starting to talk so the girls love to talk to him on the phone and hear him say their names and babble his cute little non-sense words.

After lunch the girls have another short break while I get 2 year old down for a nap. They often go outside and play at this time. I also start a new load of laundry at this time. I do my best to take a basket of laundry with me as I move from task to task throughout the day so I can fold throughout the day but sometimes the clean things will pile up and we will do a big folding session in the morning and put things away. It really all depends on the day and what we need to get done.

After this we have our afternoon school session. This is when I give spelling tests, help the girls with lessons they don't understand and work on learning to read with my 5 year old. Once the girls finish all their lessons for the day they do a quick clean up of books, supplies and toys then they have some free play time. 5 and 7 year old usually take out things to play house or doll house and 9 year old usually opts to read a favorite book. Weather permitting they go outdoors at this time. This is when I take a break, blog, rest or do some other relaxing activity for a few minutes to refresh before the evening.

After a quick break I start a new load of laundry and work on food prep. I get dinner going and make preparations for the next day if any are needed. I might also work on a grocery list or menus for the next week. Once this is done, I sit and watch the kids play while I grade their school work for the day.

Once 2 year old is awake, I get the girls to clean up from play time and get bath time started. After bath time we might watch a DVD or eat dinner (if my husband is going to be extra late getting home from work). Once Daddy is home we either eat with him (if it's an early night) or just spend with with him if he's late and it's close to bed time.

Then it's bed time for the girls and my husband and I spend a few minutes together before he has to get to sleep. I then finish up any things that need to be done before I go to sleep, such as packing my husband's lunch for the next day and getting in some quiet Bible reading and prayer time. I try to get to bed by 9 pm to get enough rest.

Now this is what our average "work day" looks like (unless we have to grocery shop or do a run to the library or something like that). On days my husband is off work things vary from day to day. We usually do all our shopping and errands together as a family so each day off is unique.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our day! :0)

September 12, 2009

Beautiful Testimony

Found this via Youtube today. It is just a beautiful story. Enjoy!

September 11, 2009

Childrens Abilities

I get funny looks from people when I tell them that my girls are able to take over all of the household duties when I am sick. Many people don't think that a 9, 7 and 5 year old can manage a home for a couple of days, including taking care of a younger sister. I tell them that it is possible and my children are proof.

Do my children have some special abilities that other don't? Absolutely not! I just try to teach them things whether they (or I) think they will be able to accomplish them or not. If they are able to do what I am teaching then that is great! A new skill has been learned. If they are unable, I tell them they CAN do it, it will just take some time, patience and practice to get it just right. And we keep right on working on that particular skill until they master it.

Here are some examples of things I have taught my girls to do.

All my girls began to learn to sew at age 4. I love to do hand sewing and a curious child will always want to try something new if they are watching. So I offer a small rectangle of fabric, folded in half, and a threaded needle. I am sure to explain that it will hurt if they prick their finger but not to give up, just to be more careful. I then show them how to take stitches (my hands over theirs). Once they get the idea, I let them try on their own. After a while, I go back to my own project (sitting right by them) and am available to undo any wrong stitches or mistaken knots them make. Soon they have it all stitched around with a small opening left that I instructed them to leave. Then together we turn the pillow right side out and stuff it and the child closes the hole with a few more stitches. Not only has the child learned a new skill but her favorite doll has a new pillow. A love for sewing has begun! I have no need to coax them to practice, they always ask on their own!

Cooking is a smilier task that I start very young. My two year old helps put ingredients into the bowl when I bake and always lines the muffin pans with paper liners when we make muffins or cupcakes. She stirs with my hand over hers and I always lift her to see what's cooking on the stove. By the time the girls are 5 or 6, they can easily assemble a crock pot lasagna or similar dish, as long as I brown the meat and open the jar of sauce. Wow, it gives them a good feeling to tell Daddy that they made dinner that night. And it helps me A LOT when I am sick, I know all I need is to have my husband brown some beef and let the girls put the meal together and they have fun doing it and feel a great sense of accomplishment.

At two years old I also start children as laundry helpers. I let them put clothes into the machine and dryer along with me. I let them fold and put away wash clothes and their own clothes. Neatness in folding can be learned along the way, I just want them to get the basic idea of how the job goes and that it can be fun! At 6 years old they know how to run the washer and dryer and can easily do a load of laundry on their own.

My 5 year old started helping me with dressing and caring for 2 year old when she was 4. She could change a wet diaper and help 2 year old into her clothes easily. My 7 year old and 9 year old can easily bathe their two year old sister, help her brush teeth and help her to bed, complete with a good night story read to her.

It really is amazing the abilities that children posses. It's easy to do things for your children without realizing how much they are able to do on their own. Teaching children basic life skills at a young age not only boosts their confidence, it can be an invaluable help to parents when they need help from their children during times when life gets very busy or parents get sick and must stay in bed to recuperate. Children's abilities are often far greater than we realize and it is a blessing to the entire family to take advantage of teaching them as much as we can as soon as they are able to learn a skill.

September 10, 2009

Curriculum Review: Rod And Staff Art

Fitting art projects into our school day has often been a challenge. Time constraints often have us pushing art off for other things. I really do think art is important for children to learn. Often the girls other subjects have projects that are artistic so thankfully they have had many chances to work with their artistic abilities. This year, however, I really wanted to find something that would be fun for them but help them hone their skills as well.

The curriculum we are using this year is from Rod and Staff and it is called Art With A Purpose. Each grade has it's own "Artpac". Each Artpac contains a list of each project with instructions for the teacher to guide the student. There are also photocopied pages for just about every project that are consumable. The sheets are loose-leaf so a two-pocket folder is helpful in keeping it in order.

There are several things I like about this curriculum.

It is very inexpensive. Each Artpac is around $8. There are enough lessons to do one each week for an entire school year.

It is practical. Most of the supplies are things that any homeschool family will already have on hand and if you do need to buy anything it is usually simple and inexpensive. Many of the projects only use pencil and paper or crayons, construction paper and scissors. The lessons teach simple principles that can be applied to various projects.

With most projects, children can work independently. There is always something pretty and decorative or useful to show for their efforts.

My children enjoy this art curriculum so much! They are always eager to work on their projects.

In the past we have tried so many different things for art and usually we either put it aside because we don't have all the supplies or can't find them at a local store or the projects are so time consuming that we just don't have time to do them every week.

If you are looking for a simple way to do art in your homeschool I would highly suggest giving Art With A Purpose a try!

September 5, 2009

Team Work and Attitudes

Getting children to do ALL of their chores in a timely manner and with a good attitude can be challenging. My girls have some days where they are really into their jobs and others where it can be like pulling teeth to get them going. Children's attitudes can make the difference between a fun and pleasant day getting jobs done and an excruciatingly tiring day trying to force them to do what they need to do.

There are a couple of things that I really find that helps with keeping everyone focused on what we need to do on a daily basis, whether it be chores, school or getting ready to go out for a day of family fun. The right approach always seems to make a world of difference!

Start of with a "meeting" - I always have everyone sit down and explain exactly what is going to happen and what we need to do in order for that to happen. Outline your expectations for each child. If it is a cleaning day I explain that our goal is a clean house and I have a list ready of tasks we need to do. If we are preparing to go on a day trip, I have a list ready as well and explain that we can't leave until we accomplish the list first. I answer any questions and also delegate each task accordingly. If I expect team work I put an older child in charge of a younger one. I also go over what is expected as far as behavior. Children like to know what is expected of them ahead of time.

Work TOGETHER - If we have a lot to do, it would make sense to send each person in a different direction to get several things done at once. That actually does not work well. If I take that approach I will often find things not finished later on or find children playing instead of doing an assigned task. That is why we work together all in the same room on each task until it is done.

Offer a treat - This might sound like bribery (LOL!) but really it works well. Today we had a HUGE job ahead as we had several large cleaning jobs to get done around the house. Jobs like this can get boring for children over a long day but I find that if I offer a treat they keep on task much better. Today it was a simple thing. I said that I would buy a box of popsicles for everyone if the girls did a good job of helping. Sometimes I will offer to read a favorite book. Other times we will watch a family movie when we are all done. It doesn't have to be something you buy, just something you know your children will enjoy as a reward for a job well done.

Stay Focused - Try to eliminate phone calls or other distractions until all work is done. If your children see you focused on what you are doing, they are more likely to stay focused as well.

Make It Fun!- Play a cleaning game or dance to music while you work. Take breaks when needed, have snacks ready and enjoy your time together.

I find that in general, keeping my children close by me, in the same room, on a daily basis is what helps them to keep the best attitude and be the most willing to work on what they need to do. Whether it be school or chores or cleaning up behind themselves, if I am near by them they work together much better. Sending everyone off in a different direction just causes division and does not promote working together. Children learn to work together and work well by working together and seeing their parents working well on any task they do.