Thankful Thursday

It’s so appropriate to think of thankfulness around this time of year.  For us, however, it continues to be a weekly discussion.  I believe we are in our fourth year of Thankful Thursday tea parties.  Natalie just noticed the date on the inside cover of her journal and asked me, “Was I really five when I wrote this?” Yup, Sweetie… you were!  It is fun to look back and see all the things we have been thankful for!  I think Allison is close to 700 entries.

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This week was pumpkin scones and apple cider with whip cream.  You can’t beat a fall tea party!

Dinner Fail, Breakfast Win

For quite some time now, I’ve been diligent about trying to bake any baked goods we need fresh rather than buying them made.  We have many exceptions, of course, but it is fun to bake and have the house smell delicious as you pull fresh bread from the oven!  We’ve been pretty successful with following the recipes, but the other night we had a huge fail!  I was grilling some sliders for dinner and wanting Hawaiian rolls, but not wanting to go to the store.  No problem, I thought… I could make them!  The recipe I found called for pineapple juice, which we didn’t have.  We did have fresh pineapple, so I pureed it in the Vitamix and used the puree instead of the juice.  No big deal, right?

My first clue should have been the dough texture.  It was weird.  But, I held out hope.  I baked them, and they tasted exactly like Hawaiian rolls; except, the texture was completely different.  They were much more like biscuits; it was weird!  And, they were disgusting with the hamburgers.

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Not wanting to waste them, the next morning for breakfast I made an apple syrup and poured it over the biscuits.  The kids loved it and I didn’t have to waste them — yay for us!  (Sorry, chickens… maybe my next fail!)

626 Night Market… with kids!

Last year we tried out the 626 Night Market, and I knew we had to go again.  To be honest, I wasn’t excited about taking the kids because I remembered the crowds were a bit much.  But now… I am so glad we did.  They had a great time and enjoyed the food as much as we did.  (Well, the drinks and desserts at least!)  One of our goals as parents is to have our kids not be afraid to try new foods, and I think we’ve been pretty successful.  Even our one super picky eater is surprisingly open to new foods!

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I waited in line for my Ramenburger first thing.  Delicious!

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Yes, this may just have to be an annual tradition… with the kids, because they all want to go back!  (Sierra still thinks she was in Taiwan!)

National Waffle Day

One of my son’s library books this week gives all sorts of fun facts about different foods.  It’s called Food Trucks, and it has also inspired a food truck game he plays with his sisters.  I love when library books are multi-purposed!  We happened to be reading 2 days ago that National Waffle Day is August 24.  We couldn’t read that and not celebrate.  Since we just had waffles, and this was a “celebration,” I decided to try to make chocolate waffles.  (They were still pretty healthy with whole wheat flour, Greek yogurt, cocoa powder and shaved 70% dark chocolate, but don’t tell my kids that!)  All the kids thought they were awesome and tasted like brownies.  Personally, I still thought they tasted ‘healthy;’ ha!  But, good…. I thought they were good!  Either way, it was a win!

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Just to be sure this was legit, I googled National Waffle Day, and sure enough it is legit!  If you are curious about the origin, click here.  Happy National Waffle Day!  (And, thank you, wonderful library!)

Meal Planning

Meal planning is such a chore, isn’t it?  And, why is that?  Our parents couldn’t browse the web for a recipe using what they had in their freezer.  They couldn’t search Pinterest for a cute free calendar page on which to record all meal planning.  We have so many tools, and so many awesome food choices!  Yet, it is still a chore that is difficult for me.

Nevertheless,  whenever I plan meals, my week goes so much smoother.  Life just works better!  And so, I have begun again.  I’ve been here before… but somehow this time it’s different.  (Maybe it really is the cute calendar print out I found on Pinterest?)  Whatever it is, I really hope and pray that this time it sticks.  I have been planning my meals for 6 weeks now, by writing them out on a calendar page 5 at a time.  I leave the weekends blank for simple meals or dad’s choice or going out.  And, I really try to make “real meals,” even when my husband isn’t home… which has been a lot, lately!

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Soup and bread is becoming a staple.  There are so many different soups to make, and no matter what I choose my kids get excited because fresh bread is involved!

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Leftover fresh bread makes great french toast!

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This funky salsa is all from our garden tomatoes!  I LOVE my Pampered Chef salsa maker this time of year.  We use the fresh salsa for burrito bowl night.  I just grill any meat and cut it into bite size pieces.  I cook rice in the rice maker, have black beans, steamed white corn, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.  Oh, and shredded romaine.  All my kids love this meal, so I can get away with having it twice a month.  I usually do chicken once and beef once.

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Grilled pork chops are what won me my husband.  (I told Sierra that story tonight, and she loved it!) I just spread some dijon, garlic salt, and soy sauce all over.  You don’t even have to marinate!  Then grill them, but don’t over grill pork or it is way too dry.

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I was inspired to try this dinner from one of the food trucks at our church’s 25th anniversary.  I cooked pork in the crockpot all day with a little salt and pepper.  Then I drained most of the juice, and added some ketchup and asian flavors; hoisin sauce and sweet chili sauce.  For the shredded cabbage, I made a sweet sesame dressing.  And, for the buns I used Hawaiian rolls.  The kids really liked this asian-style pulled irk slider.

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I don’t ever plan out lunches or breakfast, though sometimes I wish I would!  Ever since becoming a fan of cupcake wars, Sierra wants me to take pictures of her breakfast “recipes.”  (Basically, what toppings she puts on her mini german pancakes)  She invented the honey, whip cream, strawberry pancake.  Mmmm, now I’m hungry.  Is it breakfast, yet?

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I’m hoping by putting a spattering of some of our meals here that I am encouraging myself to stay diligent with the meal planning.  I’ll keep you posted!

First Day of School

It seems wrong to go from a watermelon post to a first day of school post.  I guess technically, back to school comes right after summer, but somehow my brain has not caught on yet.  Once the kids went to bed last night, I began planning for the first day.  I don’t like that feeling at all — not being prepared way ahead of time.  By the end of the year, I usually let things slide a bit, but I have never started a school year this unplanned.  You would think my planning involved looking at my curriculum and deciding how the school day would go, etc.  Instead, I planned our first day meals, snacks, and fun then went to bed exhausted.  Priorities, right?

My Bible reading this morning was a great reminder of how much I need God.  Daily.  Every hour.  Every minute.  I depend on His creativity and help throughout the day and school year, as I have always been bad at planning things out.  I am so grateful for His guidance in my life, and His grace, which we need daily!  I could NOT homeschool without it!

All that to say, here are some fun pictures from our first day.  Thankfully, the kids don’t know how “unplanned” I feel.  (They do now, I suppose, since they love reading this blog!)

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The kids came down so excited, as always.  “Happy first day of school!”  “What’s our snack?”  We’ve done rice krispy apples, Rolo/ kiss pencils, homemade donutsapple oreo pops, pretzel crayons, and now this year we did letter/ apple sugar cookies.  Each kid got all the letters to spell out their names.  We even played a little game to see who could get the most words out of their name letters.  Of course, our fifth grader creamed everyone!

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I got the cute bags to put them in at the dollar section of Target at least a month ago.  I also got the plates, straws, and napkins on clearance at Target at the end of last fall.  For their little “gift,” I filled a pencil I made, (free template here), with mini gel pens; also from the dollar section at Target.

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Decorating the cookies was fun… and yummy!  Like I mentioned earlier, my day was super unplanned.  The only other {somewhat} planned activity was making a cover for our new Scripture Art Journals.  Our old ones lasted us two years, and I was excited to have them start new ones.  (You can read more about them here.)  Our new ones came in a 3-pack from… the dollar section at Target.  (Surprise!)  By the way, that awesome carousel was my back to school present to myself from Zullily while they had free shipping in July.  Isn’t it fun? 

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We got in a little math and a little reading.  Though I am not planned, it is nice to ease into things… One thing I have been planning is meals, and I hope to share more here, soon.

One day down!  I am blessed.

Awesome Friends, Yummy Bread

I briefly mentioned in yesterday’s post that my #3 was sick.  Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t get to the grocery store for some much-needed items, including bread.  Now, I have always wanted to make my own, and I do quite a bit of “fun” breads… but I have yet to make a simple loaf of old-fashioned crusty bread.  I found a recipe on Pinterest that had a beautiful picture, and called itself “simple.”  I like that.  Somehow, in my mind, I had interpreted simple as quick.   Yes, the recipe was simple.  Very simple. But, it was not quick.  There was much waiting to be done.

First thing in the morning, I made the dough; it took all of 2 minutes, and no kneading was required.  Then Sierra, who had been up all night with a stomach ache, fever, and vomiting, seemed to take a turn for the worse.  Since my husband was at work, I decided to ask a friend to come watch the others while I took Sierra to the doctor, then the lab for blood work, and finally to another lab for an ultrasound.  My friend cancelled her plans and came right over.  She bought the kids pizza for lunch, cleaned the kitchen, and folded all my laundry while I was away.  Then she let me head out to grocery shop for an hour by myself.  Seriously — I feel beyond blessed and grateful!  She is a precious friend.   And, good news… Sierra is feeling much better tonight!  And, more good news… the bread turned out AWESOME!

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On a side note, I was able to use my tomatoes and zucchini for the soup!

You can find the original recipe here.  I substituted about 1/4 cup of the flour for 1/4 cup flax meal.  I can’t wait to try other variations.  This may be my bread-making year!  Anyone else ready for a cozy Fall dinner of soup and fresh bread?

Homemade Graham Crackers

When I think of summer, I dream of days with absolutely nothing to do.  The truth is, the kids have swim dates, trips to the library or animal shelter, birthday parties, errands to run, etc.  Don’t get me wrong; we’ve had plenty of lazy days, and I do love having friends over.  But, days like today with absolutely nothing going on seem to be few, and therefore I cherish them!  In honor of our “nothing” day, we decided to make homemade graham crackers for s’mores.  We wanted to do homemade marshmallows too, but didn’t have gelatin on hand.  My little baker was my helper.

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Homemade graham crackers are yummy… and easy!  I didn’t watch the first batch carefully, and the edges got a little dark.  The kids loved them, but were most excited about s’mores!

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The recipe was one I printed a long time ago, but I am sure there are a ton of recipes out there.  Here is the one we used:

1 stick butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp honey

1/2 Tbsp molasses

1/2 Tbsp vanilla

3/4 cup flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, honey, molasses, and vanilla.  Add the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and mix to form a thick dough.  Press the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for one hour, (or 20 minutes in the freezer).  Preheat oven to 350.  Roll out chilled dough between two pieces of parchment.  Cut the dough, and place parchment onto cookie sheet.  Poke each cracker with a fork a few times.  Bake 10 – 14 minutes.  (Mine was closer to 10, though the recipe called for 12 – 14 minutes).  Enjoy!

Garden Update

Things are looking up in the garden… surprisingly.  Of course, we have a lot of set-backs, too.  Let’s start with the positive.

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Though they are few compared to last year, at least we are getting tomatoes… about 3 – 5 a day now.  From everything I looked up online, once leaf hoppers have attacked your tomato plants, you shouldn’t get any tomatoes.  So perhaps my 3-in1 organic insecticide did work after all.  I honestly haven’t seen any leaf hoppers in about 5 days, but it took weeks of daily spraying; under leaves, over leaves, and all over early each morning.  I almost gave up, but I am glad I did not!

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Our poor garden bed up top… the middle boards broke, and so it is caving inward.  It’ll take a lot of work to fix it.  The good news is we are now rid of fungus gnats that had infested it.  First, we stopped watering so much.  Second, we put up yellow sticky traps.  Third, we sprayed with organic insecticide.  We had thousands of those pesky little buggers, so it feels great to be rid of them!

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The watermelon plant… oh, the poor watermelon!  It takes up an entire garden bed and then some.  It flowers all the time, and then… nothing!  I really haven’t investigated to figure out the problem.  I need to!

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We have a new tomato plant and this new cucumber, both of which came up on their own from last year.  With the bed caving in, we’ll see what happens!  They’re both getting huge.

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So that is it.  We’ve had very little zucchini, which I find tragic.  The yellow tomatoes really are the sweetest, and are encouraging me to eat healthy.  It has been tough since Allison and Daniel have been in Thailand to eat healthy, because I have so much organizing, planning, and re-arranging I am working on that I don’t want to take the time to eat healthy and exercise. But, I am always glad when I do.  Perhaps this picture will encourage me to do so more often, because there is nothing quite as refreshing and delicious as a summer salad!

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Fourth of July 2015

Would you believe that for all our celebrating of even the simplest of holidays, we’ve never really done much for July 4th?  Swimming, yes.  Barbecues, yes.  Crafting, friends, and decorations… yes, yes, and yes.  But, fireworks?  No.  So many reasons.  For one, our third born is terrified of loud noises.  For another, Daniel usually works this holiday.  And, our kids simply don’t like to stay up too late.  Oh — and we live in a neighborhood where they are illegal, so we’d have to go to someone else’s house in a mother town, too.

But, this year we did it; we finally had an old-fashioned, barbecue on the street, firework and sparkler Fourth of July evening.  I am so grateful to our friends who invited us over!  Warning: lots of pictures ahead!

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Our annual kid picture.  (You can see more here and here and here.)

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Cookie decorating:

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Our Pinterest craft:  paper plate weaving.  The girls loved it!  Though, they didn’t finish it… surprise, surprise!

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Off to our friends for dinner and firework fun!

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Happy Birthday, America!