Monday, January 30, 2012

Battle that Bug: Meet the Purple!

Let me just start by saying:

I miss yesterday when the way my daughter dealt with not feeling well was by taking three naps!

Today was different. Oh, so different.

Just when I thought I couldn't listen to anymore crying and whining and more high-pitched crying, even after getting her snacks and drinks and changing her diaper and putting on her favorite shows on the iPad....I mean, I was kind of done after the first 6 hours, but after finally occurred to me to give said-crying child a dose of purple kid's Ibuprofen.

Lo and Behold, { approximately 25 minutes later } : happy child. Or, at least for this moment, q u i e t.

Sometimes you just gotta be thankful for medicine!

{Hubby can now concentrate and work...also a good thang.}

A Few Things Lately...

.................January 2012 edition!

...Also known as we are so busy living life, things get lumped into one post!   :-D

Good month, so far! We just cherish the times we have to be together, enjoying life; these good memories provide a sense of security and a strength so that when the difficult moments come, we can get through them better. (They always come!) It's counted as blessings when we are happy, healthy, and learning and accomplishing a lot!

Dental appointments for the two youngest are done (phew!) and Daddy has had two trips out of town this month. We all got to tag along on one to California this week! Yippee! The boys spent time with their paternal Grandma earlier this month at her home and also with my Mom, as well as some uncles and aunts. We've visited with cousins who came in town for a soccer tournament, too.

The cub scout troop Pinewood Derby was this month and our oldest and his Dad worked on his car. He is excited for his design (a ninja sword car). He has worked diligently on his Bear requirements and receives his Bear badge in February.

Cubscout Pinewood Derby 2012

Dad introduced some new games this month. The boys and he all hop on computers and play Terraria together, which the boys really get happy about. We also have been playing a board game called "Pirate's Cove" and the kids and we have a blast. Gaming is not something that I envisioned for our family when my kids were babies, but I am happy that this interest of my husband's has found it's way into our family culture. I love to see how it brings us together now that everyone is getting older and how everyone enjoys that time to be together. I am learning to enjoy this aspect more!

On the "education" front, the two oldest boys have been learning the Articles of Faith each morning by singing a primary children's song with me. The plan is to learn the first 6 (of 13) this year before summer. We are on number 3 right now. The boys have also been continuing their writing practice and reading games/lessons. Our oldest does copywork, writing out the article of faith that we are working on. Our second oldest's copywork is writing letters and tracing shapes that strengthen his writing skills. They each have their own folder. They've done really well in their work and keep progressing.

For each day that they successfully complete their tasks, they get to pick a small toy or treat out of the treasure box and at the end of the week, they can choose a cooler toy (things bought on clearance by Dad). This has been fun for them to look forward to and keep them motivated day-to-day. It's also nice to be able to say, "I want to help you get this done so you can earn your prize!" (instead of begging or bargaining) Great tool to build partnership between me and the kids in their learning.

We call this time our "table time"; I work with one boy at a time. It takes about 15 minutes for each child to complete what we do together. Every once in a while we take a day off or a week off when we travel. Home education is awesome because it works for us, not the other way around. ;-)

Last year, when I was doing Ambleside Online Year 1 with our oldest son, I did more reading aloud, but this year it seemed best to include our second son and to work on some reading and writing basics with both of them. The rest of the day is theirs to choose their activities, and this has been working out really well. 

The other "subjects" just flow from everyday life, like completing cub scout requirements, watching programs on Netflix or PBS, cooking or baking, and creating things (like weapons with tape and cardboard). There's a lot more they do, but that's a sample.

Home education for our family in this way, at this time in their development, instills in the kids a habit for making time for study, as well as keeping an emphasis on spiritual and character development, while keeping their own curiosity and interest alive by allowing plenty of time to choose their own activities. It's a good balance.

Another great part of our home education is that when the kids' needs change, we can easily adapt and change what we are doing to fit those needs. As they grow and mature, our learning time will also, to some extent.

We continue to talk about character traits / values during daily life when the teachable moments happen (honesty, accountability, work, forgiveness, compassion, etc), and also listen once a week to CDs with songs and stories about character traits. In the evening, we have started a goal as a family for 2012 to read passages from The Book of Mormon each night. We are using the reading list in this month's issue of The Friend magazine. Last year, we read in the KJV New Testament, and the year before that, we read in the KJV Old Testament. It's been working out well to read a verse or two at the table after dinner while the kids color on paper. We've been saving their drawings in plastic page protectors in a 3 ring binder to enjoy looking at throughout the year and afterward.

Hm, what else have we been doing lately?

Lots of baking...mmmmm, brownies! A few batches later, I have a great recipe using sucanat (unrefined cane sugar), whole wheat pastry flour (you could substitute spelt), and using cocoa powder and chocolate chips. VERY tasty. Thank goodness lots of people around here eat brownies, so I didn't have to eat them all myself. (could have!)


More baking!

Mmmmm, gooey cinnamon rolls. As I test recipes to add to our collection, we get to eat sweet treats. At least they are homemade and in moderation. (I've also been testing a recipe for salmon chowder, whole grain biscuits, and a few others)

This one's a winner! Made with whole wheat flour (hard white), the dough is made using my bread machine on the dough setting (easy) then baked in the oven. The frosting is raw honey, cream cheese, vanilla, and spices. Our oldest gave me permission to make these for his birthday instead of cake, lol.


Baking cookies :-) Our cute 4 year old guy (to the right in the photo below) found the book "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" and asked me to read it to him....and then of course, when you read a book about cookies, they wanted to make some. So we did. The other kids wanted in on the baking; this was when our oldest son was at cub scouts for the evening, so I called this moment "mommy scouts". Fun!


Cookin' in the kitchen with sister...she likes to help chop mushrooms. Of course, she asked to wear an apron (it's what cooking people do, right?)


Roller skatin' in the kitchen!


Out of the kitchen, we had nice weather here and there, so we spent time outdoors.
We went on walks, played at the park and also met friends for park days, some rode scooters or bikes, and of course, lots of playing in the front or back yard. I enjoyed the warmer-than-usual weather and sunshine a lot. What a treat.



Our baby keeps on growing and growing!
He or she is now about 28 weeks gestational age.
I am enjoying the second trimester and about to "graduate" into the third.


Playing in the dirt while Mommy plants blueberry bushes...our 4 year old guy was a big helper and filled up the Smart Pot grow bags with soil with me. Sis played nearby.

Come next year, when our baby will be celebrating his or her first birthday,
we'll harvest our first berries.



More garden photos to come; there's more planting to do next month!

Be well, friends, and may 
the moments you share with your family 
be a blessing for you, too.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Favorite Dinners & Beginner Tips

Here's a few of our family's favorites. 
What are yours? Share with a comment below!

Cook with your kids! It really is easy and fun. My tips on this are {here}.

Lasagna! I began making Trader Joe's Bolognese recipe a few years back, and it's SO yummy. It's that recipe or Slow Cooker Lasagna, courtesy of Diane Hopkins' blog and recipe book. If I have time and energy, I like to make my own french bread or focaccia...I know, sounds tricky, but it's so easy, even for a beginner like me. It just takes some time and some forethought...finding the recipe that works well is the trick. This one for focaccia was the very first I tried and it works like a dream. I served it to friends and they asked which bakery I had bought it from. (Now, that's a good recipe!)

Spaghetti, bread and a salad: almost too simple to mention, but so good, whether with meat or without. We like cooked Italian sausage and extra veggies in our sauce (like my Mom and sister make in their homes).

About serving veggies at mealtime: My all-time favorite salad is Caesar, but any good salad kids will usually try some. If it's there, eventually they will try it, so I keep serving it. If I don't have time to make a salad, I cut up veggies, like cucumbers and celery and serve them with baby carrots and ranch for another option. Often, I'll just have these cut-up on a sealable tray in the fridge, so it's easy to pull out and place on the table, or the kids & my hubby and I can snack on them during the day. It's an easy way to fit more veggies in, with less work on my part.

Homemade pizza. The BEST recipe (which also happens to be nutritious and use whole grains) comes from one of my favorite mentor moms, Diane Hopkins. My kids like plain cheese, but I dig pineapple and ham!


Taco salad. Hubby gets credit for this one...he started making it regularly after the birth of our third child and it's stuck as a staple in our house. Ground beef gets mixed with taco seasoning and is served warm over crisp lettuce with a dressing of salsa and sour cream. We like sauteed onions, as well. Toppings to try are chopped tomato, chopped olives, shredded cheese, and crumbled tortilla chips. I also like warmed refried beans mixed with the meat for this dish sometimes. You could easily adapt this dish to be served meatless with just warmed rice and beans, seasoned with cumin, oregano and chili powder.

Taco Soup or Italian Meatball soup. I LOVE that either of these variations can be put together in the morning in a slow cooker and be ready for dinner. So EASY! Saute onion and garlic and chopped celery and carrots in olive oil. Either add in ground beef or prepared meatballs. Add a lot of broth and a can of diced tomatoes. For taco soup, add a can of green chiles, some cooked pinto and kidney beans, and a can of corn and taco seasonings for flavor. For Italian, add cooked kidney beans, a handful of frozen green beans, and Italian seasoning. Cooked rice can also be a nice addition for either variation. Serve taco soup with crushed tortilla chips and cheese and sour cream. For the Italian soup, serve alongside crusty bread.

Fish, rice pilaf, steamed veggie. Baked salmon gets high marks around here. Broccoli and carrots and bell pepper are our go-to veggies for steamed, but I am partial to steamed brussel sprouts with butter. Begin with a rice cooker that you just set and forget, then stick the fish with lemon and dill and olive oil in the oven, and it only takes just a few minutes to steam the veg while the others cook. It's a low-energy, no-brainer, brain boosting meal. MMMMM!

Chili with corn chips, shredded cheese, and sour cream. Sometimes we serve this over baked potatoes with green onions, a tip I learned from my sister-in-law. It's very filling and comforting on a chilly day like today. I would love to develop a great recipe for homemade, mild chili. That one's on the list, but for now we buy a big can from Costco.

Okay, now...about cool kitchen gadgets and appliances...

Pressure cooker!! Have you not tried it out yet? I am loving my Fagor express 8 quart model.

Seriously, slow food, quick! Chicken in 8 minutes, mashed potatoes in 6, from scratch. Steamed broccoli in 3 minutes. Saves money, time, energy and effort, and retains flavor in the food wonderfully.

 What's not to love?

I have done a few things in it, including beans, two different chicken dishes, various veggies, and quinoa. I'm so excited to try more recipes, like hubby is asking for a roast.


If you have yet to conquer the kitchen, 
or just need some encouragement in this aspect of homemaking...

So you think you can't cook....

My advise to anyone struggling to make what their family will like / eat, think you haven't time or energy to make home-cooked meals that are affordable, or who otherwise feels like a failure as a cook, is:

  • Learn to make one recipe at a time really well, and then move on to another. Keep trying; you really can do this! Try a few recipes until one works well. Master chocolate chip cookies, or potato soup, or spaghetti sauce. Then, you have one item that you do well. It builds confidence, and your supply of recipes. When most people in the family will eat it, it's a winner.

  • Make it your own! Just bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies and everyone likes it? Well, now, that's YOUR "chocolate chip recipe"! (Of course, give credit to others when it's due, like if you are compiling a cookbook) Other people do this; you can have a recipe that's "yours", too. After you make it again and again, it's easier to put together without referring to a book all the time.

    • Plan ahead.  The Nanny Plan from BYUtv's show "Food Nanny" is a neat option; you can do your own the way you like. This makes a big difference as waiting until 4 p.m. to find out there is nothing to make dinner with is too late. It made cooking with dried beans and other things doable for me, as a part of everyday life. It also showed me that cooking for my family was easier when I spent more time at home, but planning helps a lot if you do have to spend time outside the home, whether for work, kid's activities, or whatnot.

      • Keep your goal in mind: cooking well for your family. After making a recipe that works well, don't mess with it. Don't go after every single chocolate chip cookie recipe out there, hoping that maybe this one will be the one that will top the last one (or outshine your neighbor's). That takes a lot of time, and unless you really need to improve on a recipe, stick with what your family likes and works well for you. Leave the recipe "one-upping" to those classy foody bloggers.  :-)

      • Make a cookbook! There are lots of companies you can use to create a professional looking one. I have used Tastebook, because I like the format, but I am not as happy with the quality. I might use another company next time. I am an in-your-hands, turn the pages, kind of person, but there are plenty of digital ways to collect and share recipes, too. Maybe you are the kind of gal who would also sell it when your cookbook is created; that can be done. Or if simple works for you: choose a binder and print off pages at home to slide into sheet protectors. It took me over 2 years to test recipes, compile, and then write and edit the book. I did it bit by bit, when I had a spare hour in the evening or Sunday--but it's done (!) and now when I have a new recipe to add here or there, I can order them individually. It feels like such an accomplishment, personally, to have this treasure trove of tried-and-true recipes that I can make anytime and know most of the family will eat and like. 

      Gateway to Good Food

        Many women I have talked to also share with me that they are learning the cooking basics themselves, in the middle of raising children--no easy task. But it can be done! Thankfully, we don't have to do this alone. You can totally learn to cook by using the 'Net! You can make things your family will like, that will nourish their bodies, and do it consistently. Here are some of my favorite resources for healthy cooking, that I often mention on my blog:

        I highly recommend watching "The Food Nanny". You can watch for FREE on here. She reminds you how important dinnertime is for families, especially those with young children. AND she shows you how DOABLE cooking from scratch for your family can be, whether you know how to boil water or not   :-)  I love her...check her out if you're in doubt!

        Diane Hopkins: a Homeschooling Mom, she has recipes for free on her blog and sells a simple, but tried-and-true cookbook, Hopkin's Healthy Home Cookin'.

        Cynthia Lair's blog Cookus Interruptus has the funniest, and helpful, videos on cooking fresh, whole foods meals, snacks, desserts, and more. Her cookbook is FABulous: Feeding the Whole Family.

        Hip Pressure Cooking and Miss Vickie. Good ideas and tested recipes to try out. Beginners paradise!

        Crystal @ Everyday Food Storage talks you through recipes, made by a Mom, for Moms, in her videos on her blog. She has recipes online you can use for free and sells a cookbook. She specializes in making food that tastes awesome with staples like whole wheat, dried beans, powdered eggs, and more. I LOVE her EZ wheat bread recipe. I also use it to make amazing cinnamon rolls. Key? Easy, inexpensive, and yummy. She recently did a Bosch giveaway, too.

        Why Do I Share?

        My desire is to share what works for me, and if it is helpful to someone, that is a blessing. If something I share here is helpful to you in some way, why not comment? If you have something that helped you in the kitchen department, why not share it here? It's a lot more fun for everyone when there's a conversation going on. Be a part of it!

        Do you have a question about cooking that I haven't answered in this post?
        I love to answer reader's questions. Ask away!

        Most of all, my wish for you is that this year, in 2012,
        you  renew  how you  enjoy  food with your family:

        Make it,  Eat it,  Enjoy ...  Repeat !      Happy Cooking   :-)

        Tuesday, January 24, 2012

        Gettin' Ready for Church


        There's always time to skate when church starts in the afternoon...

        Helpin' sis with her shoes

        Baby #5  is 26 weeks and growing

        He looks more like his Dad all the time!

        Saturday, January 21, 2012

        Seven is Super!

        Our second oldest guy turned 7 this month!

        He had a great time seeking out his 7 gifts the morning of his birthday. He requested we make a map to help him locate the hidden gifts; he had a fun time with that. We celebrated later with family members with cake and games and sang him "Happy Birthday". He ordered foam swords for one of his gifts. These guys and their weapons!

        He loves hanging out with his best buddy, his Dad.


        He likes to create, whether it's Bionicles, Lego, or video games. He loves his uncles--he called one to ask questions about how to create something on a game he was playing.


        He likes to bake and help in the kitchen.


        He is tender and nurturing. He loves babies! He's a very genuinely sweet person.

        (tending to a cousin)

        Happy Birthday, Kiddo!!  We love you!

        How many ways... play an iPad?

        With your Dad, waiting for your turn at the dentist.


        Snuggle it like a teddy bear.


        In a stroller, with a box on your head!


        (This one's my favorite! Who says technology doesn't stretch your imagination??)

        Sunday, January 8, 2012

        Easy Meals

        One of the easiest meals I make is warm bean dip with tortilla chips. Serve fruit alongside and it works for lunch around here.

        Other favorite easy meals:

        • Stir fried rice (eggs, peas, bacon or ham, and cooked rice,
                  season with soy sauce in a wok)
        • Rotisserie chicken and Caesar salad--okay, not totally homemade, but it works!
        • Chicken nuggets and Ramen--yup, we eat this occasionally. I have made my own noodles with an automatic pasta machine (which I love--spelt or kamut anyone?) but we do have Ramen around, too.
        • Tuna sandwiches with pickle (bonus with tomato soup)
        • Cut-up veggies and dip (ranch or hummus), cheese and crackers--for the "snacky" days

        Bean Dip:

        1/2 onion, chopped
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        2-4 c. Refried beans (canned or homemade)
        1 small can diced green chiles
        OR 1/4-1/2 c. salsa
        1 t.  each cumin powder, oregano and a pinch of chili powder
        salt to taste
        opt: cream cheese or cheddar cheese

        Heat a small amount of oil in a saucepan. Saute onions over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Stir often over low-medium heat so as to be sure the garlic cooks but doesn't burn. When the garlic and onions are translucent, add in the beans (2-4 c. depending on how many are eating), chilies or salsa, spices and cheese or cream cheese if that's your thing. Stir often so the bottom doesn't burn and it heats evenly. Salt to taste and serve with tortilla chips.

        This is often served for lunch here--it only takes about 15 minutes to put together. It's an easy-peasy, sometimes cheesy, way to have a warm meal on a busy afternoon. The kids do like it without cheese, but sometimes I like it with cream cheese, just enough to get it creamy. This is a great meal to get lean protein into the kids and everyone likes to eat it, even the baby (something about dipping food with hands is magical). My kids choose this over bean quesadillas every time.

        Curious about how to save $$$ and use some of your stored dried beans?

        I used to soak my pinto beans overnight in the crock pot, drain the water in the morning, fill it with fresh water, an onion quartered and a few crushed garlic cloves, then cook on high until the beans were soft (about 4-5 hours). You could also make this with black beans, for a change. Save the liquid as it makes an excellent broth for a vegetable soup (freeze if needed). The beans can then be cooled and portioned in small containers to use as you need and frozen until needed. Easy as canned, almost, and very inexpensive.

        Now that I have a stovetop pressure cooker (dubbed "the time machine for food" at our house), I can cook them in about 10-15 minutes after a night's soak. These are yummy and it's as easy to make twice as much as it is to make a single amount, so I can make a bunch and then freeze some in containers for later. When I am thinking about what to make to eat the next day, I just take a container out of my freezer and set it in the fridge to thaw. No biggie.

        Homemade Refried Beans:

        1 onion, chopped
        4 cloves of garlic, diced
        salt and pepper to taste
        optional:  1-2 t. each cumin, oregano, and chili powder to taste
        cooked beans
        oil of choice, like olive oil, about 2-4 T. I like reserved bacon drippings. :-)
        some reserved liquid from cooking the beans OR chicken stock (or water)

        Saute the onions and garlic in the oil of choice until translucent and fragrant. Add in whatever seasonings you like, stirring to mix well. Let sit on medium heat for a minute or two. Transfer this mixture to a good quality blender, then add in the cooked beans (however much fits in the blender), and about 1/4 c. of bean liquid or broth (adds great flavor) or water if that's all you have on hand is fine and some salt. Blend until smooth. Add in a little more liquid if too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

        That's it! Surprised to see frying is not involved in "refried beans"?
        Make bean and cheese burritos, top your nachos with them, or make a bean dip (our family's favorite).

        Now, I will tell you, it won't have the same color and texture as most store bought refried beans. My husband says it reminds him of refried beans at an authentic Mexican restaurant, which I have to say I do prefer. You can make this to your taste and mix it with a little of a can of refried beans to get your family used to something new. I still have some cans on hand for "emergency" meals when you just need something fast. But the more I make this, and get the hang of it, the less I miss the convenience of just opening a can and plopping it in a pan. This doesn't take that long, it's healthy, tastes great!, and saves a lot of money over time.

        Tuesday, January 3, 2012

        Yogurt Making Update...

         Success! I made a batch last night and it worked great!


        I used a packet of Yogourmet starter because, well, it was my first batch and I wanted to see how it would work. I’d like to try it next time with plain whole milk yogurt as a starter and see how that works for me. Who knows? Maybe I'll just reserve some of the yogurt I made and see if it will work as a starter for the next batch. Just might do that. :-)

        Anyway, here’s how I made mine: I heated 4 cups of raw milk in a clean pan on the stove for just 5 minutes on low until the milk was about 112′. Then, I let the milk cool (just a few minutes) until it registered 108′ or so on the candy thermometer. I took out a small amount of the warmed milk in a cup and gently stirred in the Yogourmet starter with a clean spoon until thoroughly mixed, then gently swirled that mixture into the pan of warm milk.

        I poured that into my Salton yogurt maker that was already plugged in and warmed up (makes 1 quart), put the cover on, and wrapped a towel around just for fun, and left it overnight warming.

        In the morning, it was nice and warm and set up perfectly! Thicker than even some of the storebought Organic yogurt I have purchased in the past. There was about 1/2 c whey on top, which I drained off and stored for use later for other recipes.

        I am so excited to know it’s easy to do, not time consuming at all, and I calculate this could save us at least $10 for every 6 quarts I make, even using Organic/raw milk–our family really likes yogurt! Sweet!

        Note: If you are not into raw milk products, you can adapt the recipe by heating the milk to 180' and then letting it cool to 110' or so before adding in yogurt starter.

        If you wonder what the heck I am doing feeding my family raw milk products, you may be interested to understand why. Here's a link or two to get you started:

        Raw Milk Facts
        What is raw milk and is it healthy?

        This post is linked up @Time Warp Wife, Raising 4 PrincessesChef-in-TrainingRaising Homemakers, Far Above Rubies, Real Food Wednesday.