Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teachable Tuesdays: Homeschooling Super Mom?

“You Homeschool too?” “You must be SuperMom!” “You have more patience than I do!” “I could never homeschool my kids.” These and more are all typical responses I hear when people find out we homeschool our children (ages 21m, 35m and 6yr). Am I a SuperMom? Do I really have more patience than others? I sure don’t think so.

When we first decided homeschool was right for our family, a whole bucket-load of emotions went through me. I was excited, because I had always wanted to be a teacher. I was scared, because I thought I might fail. And, I was nervous, because I was afraid I might not be able to teach my then 5yo to read. And, then I attended a Homeschool Mom’s meeting and heard something so profound, yet so simple. If God has called you to homeschool your children (which we felt He had), then ask Him daily for guidance and he’ll give it to you. Ask Him how best to teach your childHe will give you the answers!  WOW!!

Even though we had sought Him in our decision whether to homeschool or not, it kinda stopped there. DUH!!! The speaker was exactly right! He would guide meif I just asked Him!

So, how do I make it work with 4 kids (ages 6, almost 3, 1 ½yr and 5m)? Well, I must admit some days are easy and others I literally could pull my hair out!! But, I’ve found a few things that work for us. (At least for right now.) At 9:00, when its time to start school, I put the middles in their high chairs and turn on an educational DVD (we have the complete Brainy Baby collection). Right now we’re concentrating on the ABC and 123 videos. They love watching the other kids on the video and really have fun. While I’ve got them set-up I turn my attention to the 6yr old. We alternate days for paperwork and reading assignments. He does not care for paperwork, so we do those on Tues and Thurs. And then Monday, Wednesday and Friday I do Science, History and Bible with him. Now, we do a daily devotion everyday, but this is our actual Bible curricula that I’m talking about. His little brain just doesn’t have the capacity to sit for reading those subjects and doing paperwork all at once. We have melt-down after melt-down. So, after Christmas I decided to switch it up and see if this fit him betterat least for a while. So far, so good!

Now, on days he’s doing paperwork I will often get him started and then leave him to work while I go back to the middles and read the coordinating book or do the coordinating flash cards of the DVD they just watched. My daughter loves books and being read to and my 3yo boy loves flash cards. I mean he really loves themalmost to the point of obsession! But, ya know what?! If he’ll do them and he’s learningI don’t mind!!!!

Now, you might wonder where the baby is all this time. Well, we’ve timed it just perfectly to where she’s snoozing away in dreamland until about 10am, at which time we’re usually finished with our daily school work!

So, there ya have it! It may seem a bit crazy to you, but it works for us!! The key to homeschooling is to not be afraid to change it up and try new styles, routines, and schedules. Find what works for you. And if that starts to fail, try changing it up again. Keep things fresh and new. Especially with BOYS!!! They typically don’t like repetitive things. Boys are active, spontaneous and hands-on! So, make your school plans accordingly. (Can I tell you how much I’m looking forward to homeschooling my girls?! I just hope they like papers as much as I do! haha)

OHI forgot to mention that Thursdays are typically our field trip, experiment and FUN days!!! (after papers are done) Why? Because the Hubster is home to enjoy this time with us and loves being involved in the schooling process in this capacity! And, franklyI’m glad! I love building volcanoes, but let’s face it a Dad building a volcano with his son is so much more fun for both of them! So, I’m willing to sacrifice that time and let them have FUN!! (Isn’t that nice of me?!)

Well, I hope this helps you a little. I just hope you enjoy the journey as much as I am!! I am so incredibly grateful that God has called me to be not only a wife, a mother, but also my children's teacher!!! What a blessing and JOY it is!! And, reallyI’m learning so much more this time around!! I just might be smart when I grow up!

Happy Schooling!


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Growing Home

Monday, January 30, 2012

Maid for Mondays: Kitchen Organization Week 3 and Stain Removal Tip

So, this week brought yet another set of challenges. See this post for more on my week. But, I was able to get last week’s challenge completed. Now, I didn’t create the zones she talks about because we eat at home most of the time, the Hubster doesn’t take meals to work and we already schedule a day each week for leftovers. But, it was REALLY nice to clean out both refrigerators and freezers!! I like being able to look at everything in my fridge without having to move things around. It’s nice.

So, this next week I’m SUPER excited!!! The challenge is organizing cookbooks and recipes!!! Just what I’ve been wanting to tackle! YAY!!!

Are you going to join me this week? You should!! You can start anytime! Just go here to sign up and join me as we tackle our homeone week at a time!!!

Stain Removal Tip

With four kids, and three of them under the age of 3 (at least until Friday), you can imagine most of their clothes have stains on them. I used to spend hours and sometimes days trying to get stains out of our kids’ clothes. Not just dirt or grass stains, but you knowthose “stinky” ones?! Yeahwe get those too! (Hope you’re not eating when you read this!) So, here's how you can get those stains out...easily!! 

Here’s a picture of one of Bekah’s stinky messes.

Step 1: Remove clothing from child! DUH!!!

Step 2: Set washing machine to the HOT setting. Just the regular HOT setting. (Not the gentle cycle. There's not enough agitation in it to work out the stain.)

Step 3: Set your water level. If you only have the stained item to wash you can put it on small. If you have several items I would put it on large.

Step 4: BEFORE you put the clothes in, put in your laundry detergent. Then, also add about ¼ cup of vinegar and if you have a Downy ball (or something similar) you will want to add a small amount of vinegar in it to run during the rinse cycle.

Step 5: Add clothes to the wash. You’ll want to make sure the clothes are adequately covered with water. And, if you have to increase the water level, go ahead.

Step 6: Take clothes out of wash and admire their cleanliness!!! Ahhh...isn't it beautiful? I love looking at nice, clean, newly washed clothes! (Yep...I might be a nerd.)

Can you believe it? NO scrubbing and NO harmful, smelly chemicals!!! It’s just that simple!

NOTE: I’ve done this MANY times on pajamas, t-shirts, jeans and unders. I’ve not actually tried this on grass stains, but it does work on dirt/mud stains as well as those “stinky” ones!

Hope this makes your life a little simpler.

Happy Organizing and Happy Stain Removing!


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Monday Meals: Weekly Meal Plan

Here is this week’s meal plan! We’ve got a few “special” meals this week as we’re celebrating some birthdays!! YAY!!! My baby boy is turning 3 on Friday and we’re celebrating our niece & nephews birthdays on Monday night. Can’t wait to celebrate!!! I LOVE BIRTHDAYS!!!!! (mine excluded! Haha)

If you don’t understand what I’ve described ASK!!! Let me know if you try anything from my meal plan and how you liked it or changed it! I’m always open to new ideas!! Happy Planning and Happy Cooking!

Monday 1/30
Breakfast: Oatmeal, cereal, poptarts
        Lunch: Quesadillas, rice (really our quesadillas are just tortillas & cheese! lol)
        Dinner: Niece/Nephew Birthday Celebration!!!! (Pizza at the in-laws)
Tuesday 1/31
        Breakfast: dry cereal (My kids’ favorite is Grape Nuts!)
        Lunch: fishsticks or bologna sandwich, fruit, chips
        Dinner: White Chicken Enchiladas (yes, this was on the menu for Sunday the 29th, but we were blessed to be taken out for lunchso we’re having them tonight! In fact, they’ve already been made so I just have to re-heat!)
Wednesday 2/1
        Breakfast: Poptarts
        Lunch: Mac & Cheese leftovers, hot dogs
        Dinner: Leftovers (aka Clean-out-the-fridge night!)
Thursday 2/2 Celebrating Mister Mouse’s birthday!
        Breakfast: Homemade Donuts (we're making these Wed night)
Lunch: Special Treat Out-to-Eat!!!
Dinner: Ham Tettrizini, green beans, homemade garlic bread
Friday 2/3
        Breakfast: Dry cereal
        Lunch: Soup
        Dinner: Homemade Bacon/Cheese pizza (our favorite Fri night meal)
Saturday 2/4
        Breakfast: Dry cereal or Oatmeal
        Lunch: Chicken nuggets, fruit, chips/pretzels
        Dinner: Sloppy Joe Bake, green beans, homemade bread 
Sunday 2/5
        Breakfast: scrambled eggs with bacon & cheese
        Lunch: Ham and Hashbrowns (crock-pot recipe)
Dinner: Mac & Cheese (again, our regular Sun night meal)

Well, there ya have it!! As you can probably tell, my kids are VERY PICKY eaters! I’m slowly working on them, but as I quickly figured outI can’t change their entire menu in one week. So, we’re trying new dinner dishes and seeing how those go for a while and then we’ll try changing up the lunches. My middles don’t like sandwiches (really the cold meats & sliced cheese is what they don’t like, but they’ll eat shredded cheese WEIRD!) and they don’t like certain kinds of pastas either. So, I try to sneak in new pastas when I can!

We’re getting thereslowly, but moving forward nonetheless. Meanwhile, I’m learning to enjoy the journey!!!

So, what’s on your Meal Plan for the week? Link up here and share your favorite recipes!!


I'm linking up here today: (Join us and see what over 300 women are cooking this week!)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scriptural Sundays

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

You ever have one of those weeks where you just know the evil one is trying his best to get to you? Yepthat was this past week. (Read more about it here.) Sometimes it just seems that everything you’ve come to expect and know in your life is spinning out of control. And, no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop it. It’s frustrating, annoying and down right mean if you ask me!

But, there is one thing I like about those weeks (if you want to call it a “like”). I like that those weeks refocus my faith and my trust in my heavenly Father. In my heart I always know He’s with me, every step and around every turn. But, it often takes a lot longer for that to make its way to my head. Sometimes my human side takes over and I can’t quit thinking about how different I thought things would turn out or how this tragedy seems so senseless. I start feeling sorry for myself and wallowing in my own self pity. Then, it’s like an unknown force smacks me upside the head and the pity and wallowing is done. I’m knocked back into reality. I’m reminded of my Faith and how much my God takes care of me. Even when it doesn’t seem to make sense He’s there!  His plan is always greater than ours! Thank goodness!! Cause I’ve had some not-so-great plans.

After the past few weeks of sickness, uncertainty and death I am so very thankful I have my Faith to lean on. I’m thankful I have a relationship with Jesus. And I’m thankful my God is in control and has a bigger plan at work. And, in thatthat I can find healing, peace and comfort.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sew its Saturday: DIY Fabric Wreath

What do you get a 9 yr old for her birthday? The other day my niece turned 9 and I had no idea what to get her. I started looking a couple weeks ago for ideasyes, on Pinterest, of course!! I came across this SUPER CUTE idea and thoughtWouldn’t Z love this?? So, before I embarked on the DIY journey, I consulted with her mother for approval. (Nothing would be worse than making something they would hate or already have! UGH!!) After getting said approval, I set out for the supplies. So, I actually took pictures of the process and I’m ready to share this GREAT tutorial with you!!! It’s super easy, just a little time-consuming. ENJOY!!!

What you’ll need:
Foam wreath (the one you see above is not the one I used. I’ll explain later)
Lightweight Cotton Material (2+ different colors, patterns-I used 3 colors & got 1/2yd each with plenty left over)
Wired ribbon
Florist wire or bow tying wire
Wire cutters
Mod Podge
Foam brush (small size  not the one pictured here)
Scrapbook paper
Wood Letter (I’ll leave the size up to you, mine is about 4” tall)
Hot Glue gun
Decorative ribbon (to tie the letter on with)

Step 1: You’ll want to straighten up the cut edges by either trimming them (if you can cut a straight line, which I cannot) or tearing a small strip just to even it up. We cut about ½ inch in to get ours straight.

Step 2: After you’ve done that, you can begin tearing your strips for the project. We cut ours about an inch thick. You’ll cut one side of the selvedge (factory edge) about 1/2"-3/4” down and then you should be able to tear it fairly easily. It will tear with the thread of the fabric, so don’t worry about keeping it straight-it does it on its own! (Good thing, cause I couldn’t cut or tear a straight line to save my life!) Continue Steps 1 & 2 for each fabric you have.

You’re strips will look like this. You may want to go ahead and cut the straggling threads.

Step 3: Fold the long strip in half and then half again, so it looks like this (above). Then, cut along the folded edges. This will give you 4 strips about 11” in length. If you want longer strips after you tie them, fold it in thirds and you should have strips about 15” in length.

Once you’ve cut all your strips, they should look like this! Aren’t they pretty?!

Okay, sohere’s when we realized the Styrofoam wreath I bought was a little too large for my strips. And, yes…I measured before I cut them, but apparently I’m not really good at that either! LOL 

So, my loving husband had some errands to run and I asked him to pick up some of the foam that covers pipes while he was out. I’d seen this on Pinterest and just knew it would be the answer to my problems! And it was!!! (Plus, it saved us about $3!!!)

Step 4: If you’re going to use the foam pipe covering, you’ll want to measure out how large of a circle you want. Then, cut it the right length. Next, you’ll peel the paper off one side and roll it into itself. Then, peel the other side and roll it around. (Sorry, I don’t have a picture of this step. The Hubster was helping and did this step before I could grab the camera!) Once you’ve rolled it, you’ll want to duct tape the ends together to form your wreath. Now, like I saidthe Hubster helped and so he thought the ring needed some reinforcement, so he also duct taped the edges that he rolled together. (I think he just likes using duct tape!) Laterthis proved to be a smart move! It really helped having it rolled up tight as I tied on the fabric.

Step 5: Now you’re ready to begin tying!!! First, you’ll need to figure out what order you want the fabric to go in or if it’s just random. Then, start at the top (where the two edges are duct taped or where the Styrofoam is pieced together) and tie each strip in a double knot Be sure to stagger the knots so you can get them closer together, which is what gives the wreaths their fullness.

Half way there and starting to take shape!! I’m loving it!!!!

Finished tying!! This takes a good 30-40 minutes (Unless you’re constantly getting up for a crying baby. Then, it takes you about an hour!)
Step 6: Now it’s time to get our letter ready. First, you’ll take your letter and lay it on the backside of the scrapbook paper. Make sure your letter is reversed!!
Step 7: Trace the letter. TIP: When tracing, keep your pencil at an angle so you get as close to the edge as possible.

Step 8: Cut out the letter. (I know that's obvious, but thought I should put it in there just in case you're doing this at midnight like I was and you're apt to forget a step or two.)

Isn’t it pretty?!

Step 9: Put a thin layer of Mod Podge on your letter. And carefully place the cut-out letter on the wood one. Line it up quickly before the Mod Podge starts drying.

And, if yours doesn’t line up (like mine didn’t), you can use a sharpie (like I did) and color the edges to cover it up.

Step 10: After that dries really well (about 5 minutes or so), you will want to put another thin layer of Mod Podge on top of the scrapbook paper. That way it’s protected and gives it a nice sheen! See?! Let that dry about 10 minutes before you move on to the next step.

Step 11: Now, it’s time to hang your letter. So, loosen the last strip you tied and slip a piece of coordinating ribbon through it.

Step 12: Measure how long the ribbon needs to be in conjunction with where you want the letter to hang. Now, cut the ribbon the correct length. Once you’ve cut the ribbon, hot glue it to the back of your letter.

OooohhhhI’m LOVING this!!! Aren’t you?!
Here’s a close up of the letter hanging in the wreath. SO CUTE!!!!! 

Step 13: Make the BIG bow for the top! I followed this tutorial to make my bow, but only made one layer instead of two. (Actually, I made two layers, but decided against the second layer thinking it looked too busy.)

Step 14: Once you’ve made the bow you’ll need to attach it. Now, I didn’t have floral wire or bow tying wire, so I just used an extra piece of torn material (in fuschia, so it matched the ribbon) to attach my bow. I looped the material through the backside of my bow and just tied it around the wreath. After I tied a double knot, I cut the ends pretty short. Then, I hot glued them down, just so they would stay.

All done!!! What do ya think? It’s pretty stinkin’ cute, right? Do ya think a 9yr old will like it?! I sure hope so!!!!

I can think of a TON of reasons to make these::
Holidays (4th of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter)
To match the kids’ rooms
Baby gifts
Wedding gifts
And, I'm sure there's more I'm missing!!!!

You could make them large or small too!!! Oooohhhthese are gonna be EVERYWHERE!!!!

Get creative and get busy!!!  Happy Crafting!!


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Friday, January 27, 2012

52 Fridays: Week 4

It is true that if you’re pursuing a godly life and a right relationship with Him, the evil one will come in and do anything and everything in his power to distract you; to turn your focus away from Him. Well, this week was one of those weeks.

My children are finally over the RSV (Praise the Lord!!), but now it’s my dad. Last week he went in for some pain and a cough. He came out with an antibiotic and some cough medicine. No biggie. He was doing really well through the weekend and then Monday the cough came back. And Tuesday, the pain had moved to his other side and up (around his heart). So, that night he ended up in the ER having a battery of tests run. Those tests showed he had a 30% collapsed lung and some nodules in his lung too. They admitted him to the hospital for observation. The next day he had some more tests run and awaited the doctorwe waited too. Thursday he underwent a biopsy and now we’re left waiting again. These are ALL tactics the evil one uses to his advantage. Or at least he tries! But, my dad is probably one of the most prayed over people!! He’s had 8 ordained ministers pray over him and with him, small groups, 3 different churches, numerous prayer groups, friends and family. It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people God’s people!

On Wednesday evening, another tragedy struck. A young lady who attends our church was tragically killed in a car crash. I was just walking out of our Women’s study when I saw the 2 OHP standing in the foyer with a set of parents. They were there to inform them of her death. Being married to an ordained minister, I know this will not be the last time I deal with death. But, as a mother, my heart broke in that instant as I watched the devastation sweep over her parents. I remember her smiling face and her sweet disposition. We sat next to each other for the past 3 years on the front row at Music Camp. She was our lead choreography teacher at Music Camp and the youngest sister of a friend from high school. She will be deeply missed.

Even though these two events have disrupted my calm, peaceful life I WILL NOT let the evil one win. He has been conquered by my Lord and Savior once and he WILL BE conquered again! Death has been overcome and I know that sweet Miranda is living out her eternal reward!! I am saddened as a mother for her parents, as a sister for her own sisters and as a friend, but I am so thankful that I will one day see her again!! Praise be to God!!! And for my dadthe nurses have noticed a difference when they walk in his room. There is peace. There is hope. There is LOVE!!

So, maybe I didn’t get to my kitchen this week. Maybe I didn’t keep up with the laundry as well as I would’ve liked. And maybe, just maybe there’s a pile of dishes in my sink. SO.WHAT?! They will be there tomorrow. (Or later today, since they are kinda driving me nuts already. lol) The point isLive your FAITH out daily!!!! Share your love of Jesus with anyone and EVERYONE you meet! You never know what today may bring and tomorrow might be too late.


   “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
   “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”    
-Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Inside Out

People may be covered with "dirt" on the outside,
but that may not reflect who they are on the inside.

Last night as I was sitting in my Wednesday night class (we’re going through this book); we talked about how the image of “beautiful” has changed so dramatically over the years. Did you know Marilyn Monroe was a size 14??? That’s right, a 14!!!! Now, most models, teen stars/idols, TV stars and the likes are lucky if they fit in a ZERO!! (or so it seems)  The author of our study said, “I knew I would be successful one day when I stood on the scale and I felt peace no matter what the number said,” was so enlightening to me. How many times have I focused on what the outside would look like rather than my personal relationship with my Savior? And how has that affected my weight over the years? WOW!!!

Then, I began thinking how I want my children to see themselves. Through the eyes of Hollywood and what society says is “beautiful” or through the eyes of our precious Lord? I want my children to see people from the inside out. How much beauty are we missing out on when we make preconceived notions/judgment on people simply by what they wear or how they look? I’ve often prided myself on being optimistic and always seeing the good in people. However, there are times I too have judged those I see. The young boy with his pants hanging too low (I could totally write an entire post - or two or three - on this subject, but I won’t.), the transient walking down the street, the lady who wears LOUD clothes and too much make-up, the person whoyou fill in the blank.

Now, we teach our children the Bible and we pray with them daily, but I began to think about it more and more and I realized that’s not be enough. We must put it into practicedaily! We must guard our children’s innocent spirit!! My oldest teaches me all the time how to be a person who sees people through the eyes of God. I remember as I child being told to “put [my] Jesus glasses on” so I could see the world as He does. I think it’s even more necessary now that I’m grown and I have seen some of the evil in this world. If I am honest with myself, it’s down right HARD to put on my “Jesus glasses” and look at the world through his eyes. I do have a difficult time caring for those who have wronged me or ignored me. But, I am working on it! And, that’s what I want my kids to seethat, even though it may be a struggle, I will continue working to look at the world through my “Jesus glasses”.

Now, as a proud mom I must boast. My 6yo is GREAT at seeing people the way God sees them. He has no hang-ups about who wears cool jeans or the latest new shoes (in fact, he just got new tennis shoes and they’re Velcro. I asked him why he didn’t get ones that tie and he said, “cause these go on lightening fast, Mom!” Gosh, I love that kid!) He doesn’t care if they live in a $250,000 house or an apartment. He only cares if they’re nice to him and if they are they are his friendinstantly and forever!! That’s just his nature and who he is. He’s never met a stranger in his life!

I can remember taking him to the store with me when he was little. I would be pushing the cart while he was sitting in the front, buckled. We would pass by other shoppers and he’d just say, “Hi!” At first, most people thought he was adorable this little 2-3yo boy talking to anyone and everyone as they passed by (and yes, he was quite adorable if I do say so myself). Then, he began starting conversations with them. “Hi! My name is Tyler. What’s yours?” And so it began! Oh, sometimes it was cute (when he’d talk to the little old ladies or men), but sometimes he’d talk to questionable people and I would quickly whisk him away to another aisle or around the corner. Why are you talking to them? We don’t talk to people like that. Shhhhdon’t talk to them. I’ve been guilty of these thoughts more often than I care to count. Shame on me!! Every person is a creation of my King and He loves them, so why shouldn’t I? (Don’t get me wrong, there are people you should steer clear of for safety’s sake if you’re with your children.) What if my son’s one kind word or conversation softens their heart even a little? What if a simple conversation turns into an opportunity to share God’s love for them? What if

How many opportunities have we missed to share the love of our Heavenly Father with someone because of our preconceived notions? I want my children to do better and be better. I want my children to see the inside rather than the outside. So, we will continue to learn to see people through our “Jesus glasses.” Will you wear your “Jesus glasses” too?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Baking Bits: Slow Cooker Stroganoff with cream cheese

This is one of our family’s favorite recipes!! We’ve probably had it a half-dozen times and it’s still just as yummy as it was the first time we tried it. I originally saw a posting about it on the Crockin’ girls facebook page. But, you can find it here on their website (along with a TON of other great recipes to try!). We’ve adapted it (just like I do everything else) and so I’ve posted our version below.

Stroganoff with Cream Cheese
1 pound ground turkey (frozen)
Cream of Something substitute**
3 Tbsp Minced Onion
Dash of Onion Powder
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 c. water (Can use beef broth or red wine or a mixture of both, although I never have. But it’s on my list to try!)
dash of garlic salt
8 oz cream cheese (cut up)
Egg noodles or Amish noodles (we use Egg Noodles)

In slow cooker, combine uncooked frozen meat and all ingredients EXCEPT cream cheese and noodles. Cook on low setting for 8 hrs or high for about 5 hrs. Approx. 30 min before serving, you will want to “chop” up the ground turkey in the slow cooker. I try to get it as broken up as possible, so it will go farther and you a little bit in every bite, rather than larger chunks. Approx. 15-20 min before serving, add the cream cheese; stir occasionally until melted. Approx. 10 minutes before serving, add uncooked noodles, push down in sauce to get lightly coated; replace lid, but stir occasionally until noodles are soft & ready to eat.

Alternative (this is how we make ours): Leave your cream cheese out on the counter all day to soften. It will melt almost instantly when you put it in the slow cooker. Stir once and then wait about 5 minutes, stir again until melted. Add the noodles and about 1 cup milk so the noodles are barely submerged. Wait another 10 minutes until noodles are softened and serve.

(A small can of mushrooms or fresh mushrooms is a good addition.)

**Cream of Something substitute (adapted from this recipe)
¾ cup cornstarch
¼ cup ground bouillon cubes (I usually do a mixture of chicken and beef)
4 Tbsp minced onions
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp pepper
For the equivalent of one can of condensed soup, mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 ¼ cup water. I have not ever thickened the mixture like the original recipe says to, but I’ve only used it in slow cooker meals and it does it for me! I do recommend thickening it before using it in a baked casserole though.

Hope you all enjoy this dish as much as we do. If you try it, let me know what you think! Happy cooking!!


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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teachable Tuesday: Car, train track, block, lego wheel, truck

Mister mouse showing me his "pirate" hat

I can remember when I had our second child and I thought I would never be able to handle two children at the same time by myself (and now we have three under age 3!). At this point in our life, we had not yet settled on homeschooling our children, so our oldest was enrolled in our church preschool. He absolutely LOVED it there and thrived!! In fact, I often tell my best friend (she was one of his 4yo teachers) that they are the reason he learned to read so early, quickly and easily. In fact, I’m absolutely terrified that I’m not going to be able to teach my others! Seriously, it keeps me up some nights and mister mouse is not even 3 years old yet! I digress...He was at school ½ days for three days a week and I really only had the two of them together on Mondays and Fridays (and yesin the afternoons, but our oldest would come home and go straight down for his nap...boy that was nice!).

Then, it hit me one day how much teachable time I was missing out on! I mean, sure I could sit him down at the table to color, draw, write his letters, do flash cards, etc., but what about when I was nursing mister mouse? What could I do then? Often times, my sweet 4yo (at the time) would climb up next to me on the couch and just want to be near me. But, there were plenty of times I could hear him rustling in the kitchen, playing with the pans, pulling things out of the pantry, dumping an entire bucket of toys all over his floor and the list goes on. So, before I sat down to feed mister mouse, I grabbed a plastic sack (you know one of those ba-zillion you have stuffed in your pantry closet?) and asked my son to come over to me. I told him we were going to play a game while mommy fed the baby. I was going to give him 5 things to find, put in his sack and bring back to me. You should have seen his face light up! First of all, you have to understand how much my oldest loves playing games. And second, he loves anything that allows him to run around the house! It was a win-win in his book!!

So, I gave him a list of 5 things (keeping in mind some of the toys he had in his room) to bring back to me. They could be 5 colors, 5 shapes or a combination of the two. It would go something like this:

“Bring me something red, something brown, something square, something round and something green. Ready? Set? GO!” (Often times I would repeat what I asked for 2-3 times so he could really get it in his head.)

And off he’d run! As I was peacefully feeding mister mouse, I could hear the giggling and the clanging of his toys as he shuffled through them. Pretty soon he’d come running back to the living room his eyes lit up with excitement and joy. Then, he’d dump out his findings and repeat to me what he’d found: “A red car, a brown train track, a square block, a lego wheel and a green truck. Did I get it right, Mommy? Did I?” “Yes you did! YAY!!!! Way to go! You have such a good memory!” “Can I play again, Mommy?” “Of course you can!”

And we’d go on like that for 30 40 minutes!! He absolutely loved this game, and frankly, so did I. I had so much joy watching him run after things and really think hard about what would work for the list I gave him. There were times when he surprised me by what he found and how it fit what I’d asked for. I was blown away by his intelligence, even at the tender age of 4!!

This simple, easy and FUN activity taught:
*        memory
*        comprehension
*        color recognition
*        shape recognition
*        counting (he would often count to make sure he had 5 items in the bag before he would say he was finished)

This simple activity kept him occupied while I was feeding a baby and taught him at the same time. And who says you can’t multi-task while feeding a baby?!

I’m sure there are many more variations you could do with this little came to increase the difficulty as they grew older. I just haven’t thought them through yet. If you do (or have done) something similar to this, comment here and tell me about it! I’d love to hear your ideas!!!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Lemon-Crumb Chicken

Doesn't this look absolutely DELICIOUS?!

Okay, I knowTHREE posts in one day! It’s crazy!! But, I just had to share this recipe with you! I was looking through some old recipe files I had stored away on my computer and came across this delight. And what a delight it was tonight! YUM-O!!!! I must confess, however, that we did not have wheat bread, so I used white or reduced calorie Mayo, so I used regular. We also didn’t have minced parsley so I just added a little more than a Tbs of the flakes. But, TRUST MEyou’re going to want to try this recipe!! After we baked it and cut it up, I squeezed a little extra fresh lemon juice on my chicken. Ooohhh!!!! What a scrumptious taste it was!  We paired our meal with corn-on-the-cob tonight. It was a HUGE hit with the entire family too! The oldest came back several times for more (we had to cut him off!) and the middles both ate well too! This will definitely go in the FAVORITES section of my recipe binder!

 Lemon Crumb Chicken

2 slices whole wheat bread made into crumbs (1 cup)
1 Tbs Parmesan cheese grated
1 Tbs Minced parsley
1 Tbs grated lemon zest
4 (1/4#) boneless chicken breast
½ t salt
½ t pepper
2 Tbs. reduced calorie Mayo

Combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and lemon zest in medium bowl.  Transfer to a sheet of waxed paper.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Spread mayonnaise on both sides of chicken.  Coat chicken with bread crumb mixture.  Arrange on sprayed baking sheet.  Bake until crust is golden 2025 minutes @ 425 degrees.

Annette’s tip: To make bread crumbs, toast both slices of bread on a mid setting. Then, crumble them onto a baking sheet. Set your oven to broil and put them in for about 7-10 minutes. WATCH THEM CLOSELY so they don’t burn! After you take them out, just start tapping on them to make the crumbs even more fine crumbs.


UPDATED TIP: When talking with my husband about this recipe last night, we discussed how you could change up the ingredients a little and have several VERY tasty meals!!! Here's a few suggestions:
* Garlic-Lime chicken (just nix the parsley & lemon and sub garlic and lime)

* Parmesan Crusted Italian Chicken (sub Italian seasonings for parsley)
* Change up the meat and use FISH! (Parmesan crusted Tilapia, Cod or whatever!)