Monday, January 19, 2009

My First Award!

I have not been playing in blog-land much lately, but I have been working hard to keep my home and our school in order. Neither is perfect, but I am happy with how things are going. I'm struggling with the weight thing, but each day I get out of bed determined to try again. More on that later, though. Before my gang climbs out of bed and sees this lovely layer of snow waiting for them to play in, I want to talk about my first award. I'm a little embarrassed to say that it has taken me almost two weeks to acknowledge the award, but I know that both of the homeschooling moms who shared it with me understand and would encourage me to continue focusing on family first. That's part of what is so wonderful about them.

My thanks to Tiffany and Michelle for passing along this award:

There are some rules that go with it. You need to link to the person who gave it to you. Then, name seven recipients of your own. Since I am still somewhat new to blogging, I'm not sure I know seven other bloggers well enough, so I am going to share with:

Bonnie, who is funny and lovely (and whose name I really love); she is most definitely the boss;

Suburban Correspondent, who is smart and sensible; she makes me laugh and will make you laugh, too; and

Mary, who is busy and sweet, and whose girls are so beautiful!

I know there are many more lovely blogs out there, and I will want to give this award many times over as I discover them...and I will probably do just that.

Have a wonderful day. I have some yummy recipes to share when time allows and I hope to have pictures of all of us playing in the snow later today, too. It's less than an inch, but we've been so eager to see the fluffy white stuff that we will take this gift with joy and mittens.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

School Room

I love homeschooling, and I feel like I get better at it each year. (Let’s not think about those first couple of years. Just know that all the older children read and add well, and that is what matters.) We have never had a separate school room, so the children usually work in the living and dining rooms. As Hope and Elizabeth are getting older and more mobile and vociferous, though, managing all five children during the day is becoming more difficult. The little ones are becoming a distraction for the school children. Can you imagine being 11 years old and trying to find prepositional phrases while your 4 year old sister is begging you to play silly putty with her? (Can you imagine being 39 and trying to type a blog entry while your 2 year old is squirming in your lap, trying to push the keys and taste your coffee???)

I digress.

As last semester progressed, I realized something needed to be done. We either had to find another place for school work or lock Hope and Elizabeth in the bedroom and let them watch Nick, Jr. from 8:00 to 3:00 every day. Mark wasn’t so keen on the eight hours of television thing, even though I explained that all the Nick Jr. shows during that time are educational and the girls would be learning a lot about counting, reading, and speaking Spanish. He still wouldn’t go for it, though, so we had to have a plan B.

I couldn’t let the older children do school work in their bedrooms because there are too many distractions. I am certain that most other twelve year old boys would ignore the Lego containers and the Nerf guns and give their full attention to grammar rules and the Battle of Waterloo, but not my guys. They are weak. There would be no work completed. The little ones would not give Hannah any peace, either. They seem to think since all the Barbie dolls and puzzles are in the girls' bedroom, they should have access when they wish. Go figure.

Plan C. I have a tiny bedroom in the basement that I use to, uhm, store things. (Translation: All things I do not have time or space or energy to deal with go there.) We decided to turn at least part of that room into a school room. I worked during Christmas break to clear out enough room for a table and a desk. There is also a daybed in there so they can curl up and read when they wish. The room is not finished yet. I still have some cleaning/organizing to do, and I promised I would hang things on the wall and make it inviting, but I am pleased with how nicely it is turning out.

Being the brilliant mom I am, and knowing how my children behave when I am not looking, I took our baby monitor to the school room so I could hear what is going on when I am not there. I wanted to make sure they were not telling knock-knock jokes or arguing over who gets computer time first instead of doing school work. The funny thing is that the children seem to think the baby monitor is their personal intercom/CB radio system.

When Robert goes downstairs, he leans over and speaks into the monitor. “Breaker, breaker. This is Ramblin’ Robert. I have arrived safely at my destination, Mom. I’ll be starting my math right away.”

I hear all sorts of interesting reports.

“ Breaker 1-9. This is Bruiser and Cruiser. We’re coming up the steps, fully loaded. Clear the lanes, please.”

“I need a spelling test in aisle seven. Cancel that. Hannah is going to administer the test. I’ll bring it to the service desk for grading when I’m finished... Yes, I will check over it first.”

“We need a manager in the math department right away, please. Abel is having trouble with his algebra. We’ve got scraps of paper and eraser bits…and a few tufts of his hair all over the floor. You’ll want to bring a broom…and, uhm, three of those candy canes left over from Christmas.”

I try to fuss at them, but it really makes me laugh. Hey, it could be much worse. At least they aren’t trying to cover the monitor with a sweatshirt so I can’t hear when they are playing the gameboy or listening to the Taylor Swift cd which they snuck downstairs under the aforementioned sweatshirt. At least I know they are working when I’m not looking. Well, okay, they probably aren’t working the whole time, but assignments are being completed, and so far, the room has not been destroyed.

Oh, I must go. I’m being paged. I think someone is trying to buy a ticket for recess.

I’ll catch you on the flip side, good buddies. Over and out.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Headache Go Away-er

Last night, I got a headache that came on suddenly and sent me to bed. (I'm much better now.) Soon after I went to my room, Elizabeth came pouncing in and climbed onto the bed with me. She was holding something made from her mega-blocks.

She said, "Mommy, I made you something. It's a headache go away-er. It will make your headache go away." (She also calls it a headache get ridder of.)

Isn't that so sweet? She has such a tender, caring heart. Except when Hope comes near a toy Elizabeth is playing with...but we are working on that.

Elizabeth loves to help clean or pretend to clean with the (toy) supplies she got for Christmas, and I try to get her involved as much as possible. She loves to help Robert clean the bathroom, and she gets so excited when it's "big-cleaning" day. (Oh, may she keep that love for many years to come. May Hope develop the same affinity for housework!)

She folded a big stack of towels the other day and I told her what a great job she did. Her response was, "Robert and Abel taught me how to fold. They teach me lots of good things."

So sweet.

When Mark and I were sitting on the couch watching TV a few days ago, she marched up with some small metal buckets left from Easter baskets, and said, "This one is for mopping. This one has toilet cleaner. And this one is for my toilet wand."

Images of how clean my house will be when she is a teenager flashed through my mind. I looked at my husband, blinked back the tears of joy, and simply said, "I love her."

She is definitely full of character and heart.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

White Bean Chili (Crockpot)

Yes, we've been eating a lot of soup and chili lately, but they are so easy that I can't resist. I also love using my crockpot because there is less mess and it is less expensive to operate than the oven. Here is another meal that I hope you will make for your family. This makes a huge amount, so you may want to make less or plan to freeze several portions for later. In fact, I had planned to freeze half, but a wrinkle came along and I just served it two nights in a row. (There were no complaints!) I added a green salad and a pan of cornbread.

This is a wonderful dish, and it gives you a chance to eat some of those legumes you probably do not eat very often, like butter beans, black-eyed peas, and garbanzo beans (which I love). The original recipe is from Fix It and Forget It, but I always put my own spin on things. As with many of my dishes, remember that no amounts are specific and ingredients can be adapted to your family’s tastes. You may also want to increase the amount of the spices. Beans are really good for us, but they can be bland.

Make this. It is so good!

White Bean Chili
Makes 10-12 generous servings

1-2 lb ground beef and/or turkey, browned and drained (Use as much as you wish. I had about 1.5 lbs of beef in the freezer, so that's what I used.)
3 bell peppers, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced (If you use garlic often, invest in the pre-minced stuff in the produce section.)
28-30 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
1 can each of butter beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), navy or great northern beans. (Remember, if you cook from dry, 1 can is about 2 cups.)
(I had kidney beans in the freezer, so I threw in some of those, too.)
4 ounce can chopped green chilies
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.


(Side note: We've been so busy since school started back that I have not had time to play here in blog-world like I enjoy doing. I do have some stories to share and some things to add to my site. They will come when they come... I hope all is well in your world. If you visit, please leave a comment and let me know how you are doing. I love hearing from you and I appreciate the sweet ladies who often have something to say.

And now, it's almost time to go shopping. I love getting out early on Saturday so I have the store almost to myself and I can enjoy some peace and quiet. I may even treat myself to one of those fabulous warm pretzels from Sam's when I'm finished! Have a fabulous weekend! )

Friday, January 9, 2009

Breakfast Burritos

I saw an ad with a recipe for making breakfast burritos with egg beaters. I wanted to try it, but I wanted to use real eggs. Then I decided I wanted to add more vegetables. And I didn't want to buy fresh basil. So I really created my own recipe. Not a single bite was left on the table. (Of course, I doubled this recipe since I feed seven hungry people in the morning!) Let me know if you try this, and if you like it!

Breakfast Burritos
4 servings…all amounts approximate

4 eggs
1 cup frozen hash browns
½ onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 handful fresh spinach, chopped
4 whole wheat tortillas
Your favorite shredded cheese
Fresh basil to sprinkle on top, if desired
Salsa, if desired

Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add hash browns and onion. Cook about 9 minutes or until potatoes are brown. Add tomato and spinach to skillet. Combine eggs and pepper, then add to the skillet. Stir to combine, then cook until desired doneness.

Spoon egg mixture onto center of tortilla. Top with salsa, cheese, basil, (whatever topping you like…). Fold in opposite sides of each tortilla and roll up burrito-style.



Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I just learned that one of my former students died serving his country as a Marine in Kuwait on Saturday.

You can read the story here.

My heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bake

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bake

Please make this for your family. It is filled with good-for-you stuff and it is so tasty. We scraped the pan on this one. There was not a single bite left. So good.

(The original recipe for this dish came from Cook Once, Eat for a Week, but I made enough changes that I am comfortable calling this recipe my own.)

Amounts need not be exact.

1 (16 oz) bag frozen carrots, or a pound of fresh carrots, sliced.
3 medium sweet potatoes, baked**
1 egg
2 Tbsp sour cream (regular, low-fat, or fat-free will work)
¾ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp pepper
Your favorite shredded cheese

Steam the carrots until they are soft enough to mash, probably 8-10 minutes. (Steaming keeps more of the nutrients than boiling.) Scoop the flesh out of the sweet potatoes. Mash the potatoes and carrots together. (I mashed by hand. They can be lumpy.) Add the egg, sour cream, onion powder, and pepper, and blend. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan, coated with cooking spray. Top with shredded cheese. (You can also stir in the cheese, if you wish. Since I added ff cheddar to one corner for me and fiesta blend for everyone else, I kept it on top.)

At this point, you can cover and refrigerate to cook later in the day, or freeze for later. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

*I was not sure how this would work since we are used to sweet potato casseroles having brown sugar. It’s really tasty, though. This would work as a main dish on vegetable night or as a side dish. I served it with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and spinach. I also made tuna patties (see post below).

**About baking the sweet potatoes. My friend Deb taught me years ago that you can bake potatoes in the crockpot. Just wash really well and poke a few holes in them. You do not need to wrap them or add water to the crockpot. Bake on low for 6 hours, or until the potatoes are nice and soft. We had baked sweet potatoes for dinner last week, so I made some extra and froze the flesh to use for this dish.



Tuna Patties

Tuna Patties

I intended to make salmon patties with dinner last night, but I could not read all of the “use by” date on the can, and Abel was convinced it said 2008. We threw the salmon out and I pondered what I was going to serve with dinner. I decided to try salmon patties made with tuna.

The recipe:

(Amounts are estimates.)

2 small cans tuna
2-3 Tbsp wheat germ
¼ cup cornmeal
¼ cup flour
1 onion, finely chopped
1 egg

Stir it all together. Form 8 small patties and place on a small cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. (I probably would have baked at 375, but they were in the oven with something else that needed 350.)

I am surprised at how good these were. I have always loved salmon patties and this was a close substitute. Yum!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chili with Squash and Beans Recipe

How are you doing with your weight loss efforts? What about other goals you set for the new year? Are you staying on track? My eating was not stellar last week, but I did lose a pound. Naturally, I want to lose five pounds a week, but that is not going to happen. We all know that losing slowly is the most effective way. A pound may not sound like much, but that is four sticks of butter -- and I am glad to have it gone from my waist! This week, I intend to pay more attention to serving sizes and try to reach for the vegetables rather than meat or bread when I need a second serving. I also plan to move more. With homeschooling, working with the children, and playing, er, working at the computer, I am on my bottom A LOT.

We tried a few new recipes last week. The split pea soup will not make it to our table again -- yuck. However, the chili with squash and beans...oh, you must try it. It's so simple, easy, and good for you, not to mention really, really yummy! We will definitely make this again, especially this summer when the squash and zucchini are taking over the garden. Let me know if you try it and what you think!

The original recipe for this dish came from Cook Once, Eat for a Week (2003 edition), but as always, I tweaked it a bit to suit our tastes. The recipe calls for almost 60 ounces of diced tomatoes with green chilies. It has a bit of a kick that my daughter did not like, so I will probably sub half of that with plain diced tomatoes the next time.

Chili with Squash and Beans
(from Cook Once, Eat for a Week, 2003 edition)

¾ lb. ground beef or turkey
1 medium diced onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic
¾ tsp Mrs. Dash seasoning
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green chili (for less kick, sub plain diced tomatoes, as much or as little as you wish)
1 pkg chili seasoning, or chili powder to taste
2 (14.5 oz) cans (nonfat) beef broth
1-2 cans black beans (or 2-4 cups if you cook from dry)
2 medium zucchinis, diced
2 medium yellow squash, diced (peels on zucchini and squash)
2 diced green (or any color) bell peppers
1-2 stalks diced celery
1-2 diced carrots

Brown the ground beef with the onion and peppers. Drain any fat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Yields 8-12 servings. This dish will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or can be frozen and reheated in the microwave. It's also great the next day!


PS -- Tiffany at Eat at Home nominated me for a blog award. I am really excited, but I've been so busy I have not had time to play around and learn how to post it on my site. I will work on it and pass the award along very soon, though!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Goals for 2009

I am not crazy about New Year’s Resolutions. The phrase seems to come with the implication that resolutions are lofty, unreachable desires that will soon be abandoned. I do, however, think it is good to set goals and strive to reach them, regardless of what day of the year it is. At this time last year, I wrote out a list of goals for 2008. I posted the list in my bathroom, where I would see it every day. I reached some my goals this year and did not reach others. Some are in progress and I will continue to work on them this year and in years to come. Now it is time to look at 2009.

We have been talking about goals for our family this week. Mark and I have picked up the phrase culture of excellence, and we would like to work that concept into the fabric of our family. Scripture teaches us to do our best at everything, to do each task as if we are doing it for the Lord. (Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ) We would like to instill that practice in the children, as well as embrace it ourselves, so that whether we are cooking meals, cleaning the bathroom, doing schoolwork, reading to little ones, or folding laundry, we give the task at hand our very best. We hope to really work at creating a culture of excellence in our home this coming year.

Mark was also impressed when he learned recently about the list of priorities BYU’s football coach gives his players. He encourages them to focus on faith, family, academics, friends, and then football. (By the way, BYU had a 10-3 season this year.) We like the list, so Mark changed football to fun, and encouraged each of us to set one goal for each category.

So, without further ado, here are some of my goals for 2009. ( These are in addition to my goal of reaching a healthy weight.)

Faith: Be more consistent in my daily devotions. Read my Bible and have quiet time for prayer and reflection at least five days each week. (This was also a goal last year. I did okay, but I want to be more consistent, even when life is busy.)

Family: I want to cultivate my marriage. My bond with Mark is the key to our family’s strength. I want to have a monthly date night, even if that means the children eat pizza a watch a movie in the basement while we have dinner in the dining room together. January’s date is already circled on the calendar!

Academics: Finish my medical transcription course and begin looking for a few hours of at-home work each week.

Friends: Get to know the moms in our homeschool group a little better. There are some beautiful, wise, FUN, ladies in the group, but I am often so busy keeping up with the children that I do not have time to socialize with the adults. I want to spend more time getting to know Beth, Mary, Laura, Gladie, Jane, Tiffany, and the other women.

Fun: I have two for this one. First, I want to spend more time playing with my children. I want to toss the football with them, play volleyball in the backyard, take them to the park and fly kites, and get in the floor with the little ones more. For myself, I want to learn some new activity. Perhaps I’ll find a video and learn a new dance. Hey, I could learn to belly-dance and do my own Subway commercial!

What about you? Do you have goals for 2009? Whatever your plans, I hope your 2009 is filled with joy, happiness, good health, and wise decisions.

Happy New Year!