Friday, June 28, 2013

Spring CousCous Salad

When it's dark and cold, I'm all about warm meals, especially for lunch. But when it's light at 5:30am (ask me how I know) and just looking at the kitchen makes me over heat, I love me some salad. But a green salad gets boring after a while...
I found this recipe on Pinterest and have made (and eaten) it plenty. It's fast, it's yummy, it's healthy, and probably my favorite part - since it's got asparagus, my kids aren't interested. Win!

Spring Couscous Salad
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (if you can't find it, regular couscous works fine)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 pieces of bacon
  • 1/2 cup fresh English peas
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine the olive oil and couscous in a large skillet over medium high heat. Toast the couscous until just golden brown and then add the chicken stock. Stir occasionally and let cook until all the liquid is gone. Transfer the cooked couscous to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Place another skillet over medium heat. Add the strips of bacon and cook until crisp on both sides. Remove bacon from the skillet and add the trimmed asparagus. Saute for 4-5 minutes and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the asparagus to the cooked couscous.
  3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the peas and blanch for about 3 minutes. Drain the peas and shock them in an ice bath. Add peas to the couscous mixture.
  4. Toss together the couscous and vegetables with the lemon juice and zest. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if desired. Also, feel free to add a teaspoon or so of the bacon drippings if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. I've also kept some in the fridge to eat later in the week - it's still good cold, but the flavors are a bit more muted, so 30 seconds in the microwave help kick up the flavor.
Just remember - bacon makes everything better.
Nom nom.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Not your average date night

A while back, I was scrolling through the Groupon offers for our area when I came across one for archery. I don't know much about bows and arrows, beyond what I did in my high school gym class more than 15 years ago, but it looked like fun. Toby thought so, too, because when I asked if he'd be interested, he excitedly responded, "Book it!"
The guys at Deer Creek Archery in Churchville were nice and gave us a quick tutorial on how to use the equipment and some basic safety measures, then let us get on with things.
You're shooting at various targets and foam animals in a large, indoor range. Our beginners' bows only reach about 25 yards, but the range is possibly double that size.

We would totally go back again, though going through a Groupon offer is the cheapest way to go, unless you have your own equipment. So, if you're looking for something fun beyond the dinner-and-a-movie option, this might be worth a visit.
And I just want to say for the record: I think it says a lot about a marriage if you can go out for the evening, play with deadly weapons, and still come home smiling.

Monday, June 24, 2013


It's hard stuff, this "mom" gig. The more kids I have, the more I realize how much I have to learn - that "having half a dozen theories and no kids to half a dozen kids and no theories" scenario.

One thing that's clear - kids change you:
  • they show me my sin, and they're really only scratching the surface of it!
  • they've made me braver
  • they've made me learn to not care what others think so much
  • they've made me tired - really tired
  • they've made me wish I paid better attention in school
  • they've made me realize I wasn't such a bad (little) kid after all
  • they've made me want to apologize for my teenage years
  • they've made me pray
I can be thankful, though, that I'm not the same impulsive, spoiled, selfish brat I used to be (of course, my sin is still there, it's just a little more sophisticated at times), and that God has used my kids to help me grow in Christ-likeness.
I am also thankful that on the days when everything seems to be changing at once (or when I'm sure I'll never see the change I want!), God is faithful:

...let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:22-23

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer O' Fun!

After scouring Pinterest for ways to make this summer full of fun for my kids, here's a few ideas we're incorporating:
What are some of your plans for fun summer?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Super Good Chicken Salad

You know how everyone has that dish they love, and they're looking for the perfect version of it to recreate at home? Toby's thing is tiramisu - none has ever been better than the one he would get at a subterranean, little Italian restaurant in Cambridge.
For me, it's chicken salad.
Now, I will say that Panera's is good - really good. But I can't shop at Panera every day (even though it's now walking distance), so if I'm gonna enjoy it, I've gotta make it myself. And now that I've found this mega-yummy recipe, make it I shall:
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (about 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast halves)
  • 1 cup diced celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, such as Craisins, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Sliced bread, for serving (here is a great recipe)
  • Dressing
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp prepared yellow mustard (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • In a large mixing bowl toss together shredded chicken, celery, pecans, dried cranberries and Parmesan cheese, set aside. In a separate mixing bowl whisk together all ingredients listed for the dressing until well blended. Pour dressing mixture over chicken mixture and toss to evenly coat. Serve over sliced bread, croissants or rolls. Store in refrigerator.
  • Recipe Source: Cooking Classy
It's not too moist and not too dry. The pecans and craisins add such a great texture, but can be left out for the allergic. It's great on regular wheat bread, but really excels on fresh, crusty French bread. Mmmm, hmmmm.

Monday, June 17, 2013

30-second skirt

I was at Gabriel Brothers last week (I totally shop there), and came across some dresses that had been marked down to $3(!). Loved the print and soft jersey material, but the bodice (as in, the top part) was totally not working for me - it had a really weird cut and was not flattering at all.
So, I went for the cheap, cheerful, and doable-by-anyone-with-thumbs option: I bought 2, took them home and cut the bottom off just above the drawstring. And that's it.
And now I have 2 cute skirts that are a good length, comfortable and match a lot of stuff. I didn't even have to break out the sewing machine, since jersey doesn't fray.
Did I mention this was quick? As in, I had nothing to wear for church, remembered the dress waiting for me, hacked the bottom off with my rotary cutter and put it on. I suppose if you're using scissors it may take a little more time - about 90 seconds, perhaps. Surely you can hide from your children for that long before they find you...
Might I suggest you check a local clearance rack for some conversion material of your own? If you find prices like I did, it'll be totally worth it!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer School 2013

We've now wrapped up much of our normal school year. Math will take some time to finish and there are grades to be calculated, but overall, we're done.

That said, we've learned through experience that several weeks of unstructured time really isn't good for us. We need a break, but we also need some guidelines.

So, for the past few summers, our family has observed a lighter, alternative form of school for the summer.

A "Summer School", if you will.

This year, I've been aware of the need to work more on their memory skills - times tables, verses, etc. - so we are going to spend a little time each morning working on some of those things. There is also some reading to do that we didn't get to in the year, plus the dreaded math to continue with, which will happen in the afternoon.

The plan (as it currently stands) is to observe something called Circle Time:
  • We will work on memory verses, using Desiring God's Fighter Verses app
  • We'll then move to working on catechism questions using this book. I've printed out almost 150 questions and answers for us to look at each morning. We may not get through them all, and if not, that's okay. Likewise, this isn't our first time with this book, so the first few chapters should be review for the older kids.
  • Read alouds had begun to fall by the wayside, so we'll pick that up during this time - a mix of both picture books for the littles and more involved chapter books for the big'uns.
  • We'll finish by working on math facts (for Noah) and times tables memorization for the big girls. We'll do oral review, timed drills, games on my phone and Kindle.
Overall, I'm thinking this should take about an hour. That's all - an hour after chores and the rest of the morning is theirs. Then another 30 or so minutes in the afternoon. If this little experiment is a success, I may make Circle Time part of our year round homeschool schedule.

That's the plan. Plans are, obviously, apt to change - if we're ready to hit the beach for the day, no way am I taking the math books along! But I am excited to give it a try and see how it serves us.

What are your plans for your kids this summer?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cookie Dough Dip

For the last minute pot luck, the summer barbecue that you've had no time to prepare something for, or just for something to munch on in front of a movie, may I humbly suggest some Cookie Dough Dip with pretzels or graham crackers? It'll add no heat to your kitchen, though I make no promise about the calories to your diet...

8 oz cream cheese
half a cup of butter
1 cup powdered (icing) sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips/candy bar pieces, etc.
1 cup toffee pieces (could always use another cup of choc chips)

I've only served this with the pretzels or graham crackers, but would be interested to see how it works with fruit or some other dipping option.

Enjoy, however you have it!

Monday, June 10, 2013

A (belated) Birthday Sweater

So, here's the story.

Ellie had seen me knitting this sweater for someone at our co-op.

"Mommy, is that for me?"

"No, darling, that's for a baby at co-op."

"Oh. Can you make me one, please?"

I get started, planning to finish for her birthday. Doesn't every child want a birthday gift they can't use for several months?

Two days before the big day, I run out of yarn. Off to the local yarn store. They don't have that exact color in stock, so I go for something close. It's not as close as I thought - not close at all, in fact.
I order online and explain to my patient girl that her gift is coming, though it's running a little late. She's cool with that.

Expected delivery date comes and goes - no yarn. I email the company - their records say it's been delivered. I email the post office - they look high and low. Nothing. I email the company again, and in the goodness of their knitting hearts, they send me another skein. Love.

And so finally, with much delay and difficulty, Eleanor has her sweater.
 Of course, it's big, but since that doesn't seem to bother her, I shant let it bother me.
And, I know it's like 90 degrees outside, but it wasn't when I started, and besides - I'm a knitter. Knitters gonna knit, right?

Friday, June 7, 2013

A brand new smile

See that girl there, on the right? The one with more teeth than mouth?

Well, almost a year and a half ago, she had braces put on. Not that they diminished her beauty one little bit, oh no.
But today was a big day - she was very excited... have them all come off!
I am so proud of her - through all the stuff she couldn't eat, through having to wear the awful head gear, through poking wires and discomfort, she never complained or made a fuss.
She's really grown in humility, patience and trust in her God through this past year or so, and I am so grateful - grateful for medicine, grateful for growth in her life, and grateful to the God who loves her so much. Grateful to see her love and thankfulness for the Savior increasing each day. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pretzel bark

Since Abigail's had braces, we've needed to rethink the whole movie-snack thing - popcorn is a no-no, and I have been faithful not to make it if she can't join in. So, when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I knew we had a winner.

I was not disappointed.

Have a go at making it yourself, but I must warn you:
  1. You will probably eat the whole thing in one sitting.
  2. Melty chocolate is messy.
So long as we understand one another...

You'll need:
  • ½  bag of mini pretzel twists
  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup total)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • Sea salt or table salt

  • Directions:
    • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
    • Then line a large jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and lay a single layer of pretzels down.
    • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and the brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let it boil gently just until it starts to stick to the bottom and it forms a nice smooth caramel. You’ll want to let it bubble a little and get really thick.
    • Remove from heat and pour evenly over the top of the pretzels (don’t worry if every single pretzel isn’t covered). Put in the oven at 350 degrees for five minutes.
    • Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. You can let the caramel melt the chips, but I prefer to put it back in the oven for one minute.
    • Spread the chocolate chips around with a spatula until mostly melted.
    • Sprinkle generously with salt (but if you're like me, you'll probably forget).
    • Let cool on the counter top for a few minutes and then pop in the freezer for at least two to three hours.
    • When it comes out of the freezer, break it up into uneven chunks with your hands and serve.
    Wet wipes are an optional, but helpful, extra.

    Monday, June 3, 2013

    Finishing well

    Well, it's now officially June, not-quite-officially summer, and the general consensus is that both teachers and students are ready for a break. We've got some grammar to finish and math always takes us well into the summer, but I'm glad to say that my kids are (for the most part) done for this academic year.

    I'll be honest here and admit that this year kind of kicked my butt. I felt overwhelmed by all the needs more this year than ever before. Some of that, I'm sure, has to do with Caleb's arrival, but honestly, he's been the easiest part of our homeschool. What has been difficult has been the sheer amount need that has been in evidence. Obviously, with a newborn and five other children (one of which is a Daniel), there are an abundance of need. But I had kind of expected that some of the older children could do a little more without my direct oversight than in previous years. While that has been true in an academic sense, they have needed me more this year to keep them on track, practice diligence, and quit goofing off! (Tell me other mamas and teachers have been here!)

    Clearly, this is an area for ongoing character development and training, and I've got no easy fixes for this. It also seems to be an area for growing in diligence and finishing well for me, too - the number of times I wanted to cave and just say, "forget it for the day" have been legion. I know, however, that I'm modeling a work ethic for them. Do I stay strong, do my best and see it through, or do I give up and hope for an easier time of things next year? (Fat chance!)

    I know there are moments when it is right to back off, give a little grace, and accept "good enough". There is also the time to press in, give it all you've got, and kick hard to the finish line.

     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
    1 Corinthians 9:24
    So, here we go, seeking to run the race and finish well - there's a prize waiting for us!