Monday, September 28, 2009

Cranberry Pear Salad

Favorite recipe from my sister-in-law. She often brings it to family gatherings...and gives me the leftovers. ;) We had it tonight with baked potatoes/toppings. It's similar to the Green Salad with Autumn Fruit I mentioned a few days ago.

Cranberry Pear Salad

dried cranberries
pinenuts or sliced almonds
pear, cut into small chunks
feta cheese, optional

Toss together, amounts to taste.


1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. oil
4 T. sugar
4 T. cider vinegar

Mix well and pour over salad when ready to serve.

(**I usually use less oil and sugar and more vinegar. But this is good, too.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grocery Spending Challenge, Week #5

We're done with grocery shopping for the month (I think!), so I can reveal our results...

Total groceries for the month, feeding 4 big people & 2 little people = $240.36
This is without couponing, which I don't generally do. (I've rarely found anything we eat that comes on a coupon!)

My goal was $200/month, so technically we didn't reach our goal. Although we just bought some items that we could have easily put off, so I guess I gave up the spending challenge in favor of getting one errand off my "to do" list. ;)

Costco was the downfall, if you want to call it that. I asked DH to stop on the way home from work to get:

1, 2lb loaf cheddar cheese

He brought home all of the above, plus:

8 pk ravioli (what's with that??? we never buy ravioli!)
2 more cheeses
1 more box oatmeal

I've got jobs coming up and will be terribly busy for a bit, so I'm glad he went ahead and got extra. So much for the challenge. ;) I can't say that we really did anything different this month than we do normally. This is in the bottom range of what we normally spend/month, which makes sense given all the garden produce. If I'm figuring this right, we're eating really well for about $1.30/person/day. Not bad.

How did other "Spending Challenge" families do? Feel free to comment with a link to your results.

Off to plan next week's menus...

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Green Salad with Autum Fruit

We had Green Salad with Autumn Fruit** for dinner alongside Fresh Tomato & Basil Pasta. I had thirds on the salad. :) It's yummers!

I'd never tried the salad before, but decided to after the recipe came in my Simply in Season email. If you want a new recipe each week, sign up!

**I assume the link will only contain this recipe for a few more days?? Not sure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Is Balance?

I need to preface this by saying that I need a nap. But I need to write more. I don't often have kid days where I consider pounding my head against the nearest brick wall, but today might be in that category. If you can't relate, I don't want to know.

But on to writing...

First, as background, you must read Reasonable Limits. LOVE this piece. In it, the author talks about striving for balance in her life.

Sometimes I think I'm seriously out of balance. But here's the thing...

I am doing EXACTLY what I want to do with my life. I want a houseful of kids (which, incidentally, says a lot considering my morning!) I want the garden, the healthy cooking/eating, the family time, homeschooling. And, although it's sometimes hard to fit in, I also enjoy the periodic challenge (usually a couple times a month) of working outside the home. It is stressful, but it makes me think in ways that I don't usually get to at home.

But I am BUSY. ALL. THE. TIME. I feel like I always have a "to do" list ten miles long. (Even when I don't have time to make a list, it's still in my head. Last night I even dreamed about one of my friends' moms coming over to help me organize my house. Pathetic, I know.)

Contrary to the article, I do not feel like I'm obsessed with my children in an unhealthy way. That's pretty balanced, I think. (If you're my friend and reading this, let me know if I'm wrong.)

But I totally struggle with what is "reasonable." What is balance? Does the fact that I'm busy all the time mean that something is out of whack?

I mean, come on. Let's look back a few decades. Take the women of the 30s or 40s...they certainly didn't have recreational time. They didn't have all the modern conveniences we do. Just gardening, sewing, cooking, and doing the laundry took up most hours of the day. So were they out of balance?

I relate to the author when she says, "Some people think I do too many things. I feel like I don't do enough." I know there is more I could be growing. Canning. Cooking. Learning. Teaching. Writing. DOING.

I do feel gratitude for the good I'm experiencing, although sometime I have to "feel gratitude" at 100 miles an hour in order to sneak it in. I often think how fortunate I am to have what I've always wanted. Yet I sometimes find myself reading aloud to my kids, thinking about what it is I need to DO next rather than enjoying the moment. I try to live in the present, but it's hard...and the more busy I am, the harder it is.

Like the author, I am HORRIBLE at keeping things organized. Countless stacks of papers and books pile up in my office. My kids gifted me with boxes of their unwanted stuff that I'm supposed to sort--what to garage sale, what to give away, what to keep for younger siblings. I still have piles of adoption paperwork to sort. Homeschool curriculum. Job-related materials. Stuff-n-stuff.

At the moment, it feels worthless to even try. In the time I sort through one pile, GG will create another ten piles. If I stay with him, playing "Clean up, clean up..." we're at least down to minimal GG damage by the end of the day. Though looking around in the late afternoon, I often wonder what DH will think when he walks in the door. "Do I have children or mini tornados?" This letter from a Dr. Laura listener makes me feel slightly better. Slightly.

Yesterday I related so well to the woman who called into your show saying she felt frustrated that she could never get any tasks accomplished. As she spoke my list of 367 things to do ran through my head. I nodded frantically as she spoke the exact feelings of my heart.

You told her "your house is a toy box until the kids are in kindergarten". and then explained that all she needed to worry about was that the health department wouldn't come and take the kids away, there was food on the table, and there were clean clothes to wear but most importantly that she was relating to her children and making sure that they were being cared for and loved. Those words changed my life, they were just what I needed to get all the weight of that giant list off my shoulders. Suddenly I could breathe!!

I excitedly called my husband to tell him and that dear man said to me "that is what I've been trying to tell you. I don't care if there are toys on the floor or if we have left overs for dinner. I care that the kids are happy and most importantly that you are smiling".

Today each time I've felt stressed and overwhelmed I've reminded myself that my home really is a toy box and the two small boys making all the messes are what really matter in life.

But back to the original blog article...

I hugely struggle with decluttering. But here's the thing. I have children ages 3-19. I'm homeschooling. I have a preschooler. I occasionally work from home. Out of necessity (at least perceived), I have a lot of STUFF.

Take yesterday for example.

I have a little basket of eye droppers, film canisters, squirt bottles and mini containers. While I was chopping/freezing produce, I took the basket out, added it to the "doctor kit," grabbed a couple dollies, a dollbed and blankies. The boys had a blast. Eventually, they took it outside so they could do more with the water and less with the doctoring. But they had SO. MUCH. FUN. Yeah, it's "stuff." Yeah, I hardly ever use it. But it was perfect in the moment.

Here's the next piece I relate to:
I seem to have an issue with a skewed idea of what I want to do and what I can actually do in real life. In my mind I wish I could do so many things and just don't have the time. Living with a feeling like I always have an unfinished 'to do' list puts me in a negative situation as I always feel like I'm not measuring up, not doing well because it never is done.

For me it's not so much that I have a skewed idea of what I can get done. (At least I don't think.) It's that I know exactly how much I can get done. Then I fill every little second of that time until there is nothing left. I'm not sure how long a person can continue that route and still call herself "balanced."

Frankly, I have no time to declutter right now. It's all I can do to take care of kids, garden, cook, do laundry, and, yes, WORK.

I feel an urge to rethink "what is reasonable."

So is your life balanced? How'd you manage to get there???

Simply Sustainable

Simply Sustainable, to be published by Herald Press in 2010, will help readers meet the challenges facing the earth and our communities by offering realistic alternatives to many of the consumer choices they make everyday. The learning and experience of contributors from around the world will offer tested and proven methods to better care for God’s creation.

Want to contribute as a writer, reviewer, or tester? Visit the website.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Do I Do All Day???

My day, in a nutshell...

Get up to see why Lizzi is up. Go back to bed.

Get up. Stay in bed that long, hoping that GG sleeping at my side will fall back into a deep sleep. When he does, I get up.

Eat, say goodbye to DH and Lizzi.

Greet boys as they get up. Make them breakfast. Get dressed, eat more breakfast, drink coffee. Fire off a work (yep..."real" job coming up) email or two. Dress little boys. Say goodbye to Anakin.

Start homeschool with little boys. Read aloud for quite a while. Help LilDude with his insect pop-up book. Watch a video on internet about insects to confirm a fact on his page. Learn that we were both wrong! :) Supervise as he writes a rough draft and final copy of one page and draws rough draft and makes final copy with Prismacolor pencils.

Make one job-related phone call.

Go out with the boys to gather eggs. Pick plums at the neighbors. Harvest broccoli and red peppers. Boys alternately help and drive cars around the backyard.

Eat lunch. Go back out to play for a bit before nap.

Nap for all. I sleep for about 45 minutes. Boys, for about 75 minutes. I get a couple work emails answered in the extra few minutes.

Water flowers at my parents'. Decide we need to eat some of their lettuce tomorrow.

Boys sit down to do "school work" while I freeze red peppers and broccoli. GG draws and LilDude does math. When they're done, boys play with doctor stuff. They love to use all the little bottles, droppers, and tubes I've saved. They go outside to use water in their droppers to heal their dolls. Then they take dolls on rip-roaring ride in the cars and crash enough times that babies have to return to the doctor.

Lizzi home. Talk with her. Read books to little boys.

Anakin home. Talk with him.

Feed kids dinner. Lots of leftovers!

As I write, I'm holding GG who is watching a Mei Mei Chinese video on one side of my screen. Time to go feed DH and clean up the kitchen... ;)

Rest of the day?

Catch up with DH.
Plant raised bed with the kale and mustard seeds that DH brought home.
Start on a jog.
Find snake on the road.
Run home to get boys to see snake.
Finish jog.
Bathe kids.
Read stories.

It's been a good day! I'll have to save this for ten or twenty years. Wonder what I'll be doing then???

Red Peppers, Broccoli, & Changing My Menus

I keep changing my mind.

I'm so happy when I make a weekly meal plan, but lately it seems fruitless...or perhaps fruit-filled veggie-filled????

I make the menu based on what's generally in season. But then when I go to the garden and find something either growing in huge abundance or at absolute peak, well, then...all plans go out the window. I'm changing my weekly menu to include the gorgeous, new lettuce growing at my parents' home. I need a couple more fixes of taco salad before winter. I definitely won't be buying lettuce then.

Gardening today? Red pepper and broccoli harvest. I left the green peppers to let them continue growing, but picked the red so they wouldn't get overripe. I've never had such an abundance of red peppers before. One was bigger than a softball.

Did you know that red peppers are just green peppers left to further ripen on the vine? I didn't until I started growing them. It's also the reason I've had trouble growing them...sometimes they rot before they turn all the way red. Or they don't have time to get fully ripe before the weather turns cold, which has NOT been a problem this year. If it stays this warm, I'll wish I'd planted a second garden. Here are the peppers ready for the freezer. I just slice and bag for pizza toppings, stirfry, etc.

With the broccoli, I cut into stalks and blanch (immerse in boiling water) for 3 minutes. Then plunge in cold water, drain, and spread on a towel to get a little more moisture off before bagging for the freezer. Great for stirfry or a quick side veggie.
Yesterday I planted one of our raised beds with lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, and bok choy, hoping that it grows all winter under glass. Still need to add kale, but ran out of seeds.

I came to a realization today. I have almost no recreational activities of my own. I occasionally read. I write my blog. But other than that, I think kids and gardening/food preservation are my recreation. A time for everything... :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Prayer by Jane Austen

The bolded section of this prayer by Jane Austen was read in our church yesterday. I'm posting it for my own self-reflection. I hope it's helpful to someone else as well.

Father of Heaven! whose goodness has brought us in safety to the close of this day, dispose our hearts in fervent prayer. Another day is now gone, and added to those, for which we were before accountable. Teach us almighty father, to consider this solemn truth, as we should do, that we may feel the importance of every day, and every hour as it passes, and earnestly strive to make a better use of what thy goodness may yet bestow on us, than we have done of the time past.

Give us grace to endeavour after a truly Christian spirit to seek to attain that temper of forbearance and patience of which our blessed saviour has set us the highest example; and which, while it prepares us for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure to us the best enjoyment of what this world can give. Incline us oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with that charity which we would desire from them ourselves.

We thank thee with all our hearts for every gracious dispensation, for all the blessings that have attended our lives, for every hour of safety, health and peace, of domestic comfort and innocent enjoyment. We feel that we have been blessed far beyond any thing that we have deserved; and though we cannot but pray for a continuance of all these mercies, we acknowledge our unworthiness of them and implore thee to pardon the presumption of our desires.

Keep us oh! Heavenly Father from evil this night. Bring us in safety to the beginning of another day and grant that we may rise again with every serious and religious feeling which now directs us.

May thy mercy be extended over all mankind, bringing the ignorant to the knowledge of thy truth, awakening the impenitent, touching the hardened. Look with compassion upon the afflicted of every condition, assuage the pangs of disease, comfort the broken in spirit.

More particularly do we pray for the safety and welfare of our own family and friends wheresoever dispersed, beseeching thee to avert from them all material and lasting evil of body or mind; and may we by the assistance of thy holy spirit so conduct ourselves on earth as to secure an eternity of happiness with each other in thy heavenly kingdom. Grant this most merciful Father, for the sake of our blessed saviour in whose holy name and words we further address thee.

Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Harvesting Winter Squash

I need help.

I'm reading conflicting information on storing winter squash. I just harvested a wheelbarrow load of butternut and acorn. The acorn are ginormous. (And hiding under the butternut in the photo.) I hope they taste okay as I'm reading that big = stringy. But I don't think they were ripe when they were smaller, so I'm not sure what I could have done to change the outcome.

Anyway, storage questions:

1. Do I wash them first? You can see that they're dirty. Will washing them increase the likelihood of mildew or decrease it?

2. Where do I store them? Some places say cool, dry (like 50 degrees) and others say warm (like 70-80 degrees.) Tomorrow it's supposed to be a high of 90 here, so I need to figure out where to put them.

3. How do you decide when butternut and acorn are ripe? I always look for a creamy color on the butternut when the leaves start to sorta wilt. But I'm not sure that's correct. And the acorn I always figure should be dark green with some orange on the underside, but I'm wondering if I let them go too long this year???

Anyone want to enlighten me?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jodi Picoult books

Lizzi recently hooked me on books by author Jodi Picoult. I've read Keeping Faith and My Sister's Keeper. Anyone else hooked???

Taco Soup

Fast food at our house? One pot Taco Soup. I throw in odds and ends, but here's the basic idea:

Taco Soup

1 lb hamburger
some chopped onion, to taste
some chopped jalapenos or green peppers, optional, to taste
2 cans kidney beans, drained
2 cans stewed tomatoes (I use 1 qt, canned)
2 cans corn, undrained (I use about 2 c. frozen, thawed)
1, 16 oz can tomato sauce (I use 1 pt. canned)
1 pkg taco seasoning (I use bulk, Costco)

Fry hamburger in large pot with onion, peppers til hamburger is cooked. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about 15 minutes til flavors are blended. Optional: serve with grated cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream.

Fast, easy and good!

Depression Cooking

Clara, a grandmother in her nineties, introduces a whole series of recipes on YouTube on "Great Depression Cooking." Here's "Poorman's Meal." Clara is a hoot. And the "Depression Cooking" info is fabulous. The only hilarious thing is that a lot of what she does looks very, very familiar. LOL. I guess I'm closer to Depression cooking (but not depressing cooking) than I would have thought. :)

Thanks to Owlhaven for alerting me to these fun videos!

Book: Lucky Girl

Mei-Ling Hopgood's memoir, Lucky Girl, fascinated me. Born to a Taiwanese family already filled with girls, she is subsequently adopted by an American family and raised with two brothers (who, incidentally, are adopted from Korea.) As an adult she meets her Taiwanese family and begins the long, complicated process of learning to know them. One of the first difficult news items? Her birth parents adopted a boy even as they relinquished two of their birth daughters for adoption. In numerous visits, she learns to know her birth well as the many "skeletons in the closet" that are a part of the family she left in infancy. Highly recommended reading.

Meal Plan - Grocery Spending Challenge Week #4

Hehe. Well, DH went to Costco. So the Grocery Spending Challenge $ spent so far this month just doubled. Total: $180.71

Good news? We have plenty of food around here. Bad news? To make the spending challenge ($200 for the month for us), we have less than $20 to spend in 11 days. The only think that we'll seriously need to replenish is milk. So we'll see... Bottom line? Costco is dangerous! ;)

I modified our menu from last week if you want to check out my note about 7-year-olds and Eggplant Burgers.

Here's the plan for this week:

Today (Saturday)
Breakfast: granola
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Taco Soup

Breakfast: at church, bring platter of grapes
Lunch: Eggplant Burgers (Simply in Season, p. 140.)
Dinner: Sunday night usual...popcorn and fruit

Breakfast: remaining breakfasts will come from this list
Dinner: Zucchini Casserole, tomatoes, grapes


Dinner: taco salad

Dinner: Leftovers

Dinner: Tomato and Basil Pasta & Green Salad with Autumn Fruit (Simply in Season, p. 190.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Canning...Photo of My Pantry

Can I breathe now? :)

Canning is almost done. Still want to do grape juice. A little freezing. But the biggest jobs are complete. I captured a photo for the "lazy days" (ha!) of winter. I think filled jars on the shelf look pretty. It makes me feel happy just to stand there and gaze at them.

What's in there?

32 quarts cherries
21 pints, 5 quarts salsa (which will all get eaten, believe me...I've heard rumblings that I didn't make enough!)
30 pints tomato sauce
21 pints, 1 quart dill beans
15 quarts grape juice
39 quarts green beans
30 quarts peaches
10, half-pints peach chutney
19 quarts tomatoes

...and my freezers only have room left for the chickens due to be butchered next week.

Vacation, anyone??? :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Garden Tomato Soup

After three canner loads of tomatoes, I still had a bowl left so I tried this recipe. I will definitely be making it again. Anakin's initial reaction was that it tasted bland. It probably is when compared to the highly processed, sodium-rich canned stuff from the store. That was my first reaction as well. But then I got seconds. And thirds. And made more today for lunch. If anyone knows a similar recipe that has been tested as safe for canning, I'd love to make some. Most of the on-line recipes I found for tomato soup look suspiciously unsafe and not up to current food safety standards.


8 lg. vine ripened tomatoes
2 slices onion
1/2 bay leaf
2 c. water
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 whole cloves
Salt to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated

Immerse tomatoes in boiling hot water so skins can be easily removed. Cut in half, hold cut side down over strainer and squeeze gently to remove seeds. Chop tomatoes. Melt butter in deep heavy saucepan. Add onion, cook until soft; stir in cornstarch. Cook until it bubbles. Add chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and cloves; simmer until tomato is soft. Add water and salt. Cook 20 minutes. Force through strainer or food mill. Serve topped with cheese.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Children and Height

I want to share this in the hopes that it will help someone else...

LilDude, age 7, is about 10% in height. This does not match what we know about his birthparents' height. Our doctor recommended that we do a bone age test. We just got the results back. Although at his age you cannot get an exact bone age (it's a range instead), we learned that his bone age is between 4 and 5 years. That means that he will likely grow for a significant time after his peers stop growing. (And, conversely, if his bone age had been, say, 8, he would have had much less time to continue growing.)

We chose to do this simple test (it's just a quick x-ray) in order to gather information. If we'd learned that his bone age was much older (8, 9, 10, etc), we would have needed to consider what the options were, depending on how different it was from his chronological age. But now that we know that he has substantial extra time to grow, it's reassuring...especially knowing that this now makes sense given his birthparents' height.

It's one of the clues that adoptive children don't have...had he lived with his birthparents they could have said, "Oh, yeah, Daddy didn't grow to his current height until he was 18 or 19," but since we don't have that voice, it's reassuring to have this one.

Hope that's helpful to someone.

Looking a Few Steps Away, First

Owlhaven posted a link to a blog on "The Cost of Convenience." I recommend reading it.

If we could sit down for tea, there are a lot of things in the article we could talk about. But the one that I want to mention that stands out to me today is this:

We can really cheat ourselves when we decide saving ourselves five or ten minutes is worth an extra dollar or two- because saving a dollar is actually worth more than spending that dollar. You've already paid the taxes on the dollar you save. A dollar you earn is actually only about 70 cents, given taxes on it. A dollar you save IS a whole dollar.

It's so easy to think a purchase is "just a dollar," until you consider what goes into getting that dollar in the first place.

Like Owlhaven, we've recently been "gifted" with a lot of things that means we don't need to open our wallets: clothes (sometimes borrowed, sometimes in trade to others), DVDs/books on loan from the library, internet lessons, using the homeschool supplies we already have instead of buying new...and, of course, the food:

*gifts of apples, pears, plums, cucumbers, eggplant, potatoes, corn (from different people, all within the last few weeks)...even a couple containers of extra orange juice last night from a friend.

*the garden, ripe with: squash, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, kale, herbs, grapes

Right now, it's just best to stay far, far away from the store. :) It's tempting to buy convenience,...when convenience is really just a few steps away in the garden. We don't need more new clothes. New books. New toys. New games. We need each other. Also only a few steps away. ;)

Thanks for letting me ramble. Off to pick tomatoes for canning tomorrow... ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eating in Season & Meal Plan - Grocery Spending Challenge Week #3

If you haven't figured it out by now, we are a family that tries to "eat in season" as much as possible. I've been thinking about that concept a lot lately...

I LOVE eating strawberries in June, green beans in July, and corn & tomatoes in August. In the late spring/early summer, we eat one kind of salad right after another. We gorge ourselves on whatever is locally grown and fresh. This has produced an interesting side benefit...

Although I love eating food when it's in season, I'm ready to say goodbye and welcome the next food when a season ends. One great example is corn. We eat corn-on-the-cob for one dinner after another while it's ripe. But after those few weeks are over, I'm quite content to not eat corn again for a while. Despite having loaded the freezer with frozen corn, I generally avoid it for a time, instead welcoming green peppers or winter squash to the table. I'm not tempted by the strawberries shipped here from out of state. Tomatoes from Mexico in the dead of winter don't interest me. I've had my fill and am happy to move on to recipes that suit the season.

I think I've changed my outlook on seasonal eating. I used to feel deprived of certain non-seasonal if eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, was a God-given right. But I'm more satisfied now, having gotten my fill of foods at the peak of flavor.

And the effects on the budget 'taint bad, either... :)

Grocery Spending Challenge $ spent this month, so far:

(not including $5.96 for salsa makings and $41.99 for take/bake pizza & Chinese food birthday out...canning & eating out tracked separately)

This week's menu:


Breakfast: leftover hash browns/eggs/sausage from Sunday breakfast (this was an experiment that turned out great--recipe to follow!)
Dinner: Zucchini Casserole, tomatoes, green peppers

Tuesday (tomato canning day!)
Breakfast: remaining breakfasts will come from this list
Dinner: Garden Tomato Soup

Dinner: Eggplant Burgers (Simply in Season, p. 140.)

Funny postscript on eggplant...
Prior to dinner, LilDude said that he hated eggplant. Doubtful that he even knew what it was, I asked him to describe it. "Purple outside, white inside." Hmm. So he at least knew which vegetable he was talking about. Then I served his eggplant burger. Then his second burger. Then his third. Then his fourth. (Kids sized, obviously.) And he requested the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Dinner: Tomato and Basil Pasta

Breakfast: Granola (More With Less Cookbook, p. 92)
Dinner: Pakistani Kima (an easy hamburger curry from More With Less Cookbook, p. 131...great use for tomatoes/potatoes.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wonder What He's Thinking???

My son likes to smell me. That's right. SMELL me.

GG has been home from China for about 3 months. I've noticed for some time that he will occasionally take a whiff of me, but lately it's gotten more intense. This morning, as we sat on the couch reading LilDude's homeschool lesson, GG climbed all over me, smelling my face, neck, hair, armpits, shirt, shorts, legs... You get the point. It's like he's trying to familiarize himself with me through smell. Quite fascinating, really. Or maybe it's a hint that I should shower more often???

Learning English...
His English continues to explode. He speaks in sentences much of the time. "Daddy found it." (About his toy car.) "Daddy fixed it, right here." (Pointing to the pedal where Daddy fixed his trike.)

He constantly asks us to tell him what color things are. He carried some game pieces to me and correctly identified: "blue, yellow, red, green!"

He often asks which shoe goes on which foot. I say, "This one goes on this foot." And he replies with, "And this one right here." (9/5/09)

And Grieving...
I sing a song to the boys about "Mommy Comes Back" in order to reassure them if I need to be gone. The other day, out of the blue, GG started singing this:

"Nai Nai (foster mom) comes back
Nai Nai comes back to get me..." (9/6/09)

Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble

Tonight's dessert...using up the last of the rhubarb from the garden. My mother-in-law gave me this recipe after my family raved about it at her house.

Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble

3 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
2 c. fresh or frozen rhubarb cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 c. oatmeal
2/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. + 2 T. flour, divided
1/2 c. margarine or butter
1/2 c. sugar
whipped cream, optional

Thaw fruit, if frozen. Do not drain.

For crust: combine oats, brown sugar and 1/2 c. flour. Cut margarine into oat mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 2/3 c. crumb mixture for topping. Pat remaining crumb mix into bottom of 9x9 pan. Bake 350 for 10-15 minutes or until light brown.

For filling: combine blueberries and rhubarb. Add sugar and 2 T. flour; toss to coat well. Spoon on baked crust. Sprinkle w/ reserved crumb mixture. Bake 350, 45-50 minutes til golden.

Serve warm w/ optional whipped cream.

Stuffed Green Peppers

Green peppers are at a peak in my garden. Here's a yummy recipe from my mom...

Stuffed Green Peppers

5 peppers
Cut off tops and remove seeds & pulp. (My kids gather to eat strips left over from the raw tops.) Cook the pepper "shells" in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. (Recipe says 5 minutes...but I want them barely cooked and thought that was a bit long.)

1/2 c. onion, chopped
2 T. celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb hamburger
Cook these ingredients together.

1 c. cooked rice
1, 8oz can tomato sauce
1 small can mushrooms, drained
1 T. Worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 t. Italian seasoning (I subbed with pizza seasoning & dh LOVED it)
1/4 t. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
Add this mixture to the hamburger mixture above. Stir til combined.

Fill peppers and place upright in baking dish. Cover only the bottom of the dish with boiling water. Bake 30-40 minutes until heated through.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blessing of the Day

On the way out for a jog tonight, my eye caught this...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meal Plan - Grocery Spending Challenge Week #2

Grocery Spending Challenge $ spent this month, so far: $54.37 (not including $5.96 for salsa makings and $13.99 for take/bake pizza...I'll keep track of eating out separately)

Our weekly meal plan is still a work in progress. The good news is I won't be making any trips to the grocery store! Here's what I've got to date:

Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal, peaches
Lunch: GOAT! (We went to a barbecue/potluck.) Loved it! Brought taco salad.
Dinner: leftover taco salad

Breakfast: eggs, cereal
Lunch: leftovers, sandwiches, plums, green peppers/tomatoes
Dinner: Tomato/Basil Pasta, cantaloupe

Breakfast: pancakes and/or eggs, pears
Lunch: Chinese food after LilDude's well-child dr appt & shot...a late birthday lunch
Dinner: Asian Chicken Salad

Breakfast: eggs, plums
Lunch: leftovers (lunch is usually leftovers/odds & ends...don't know if it's worth recording...I'm feeding the two youngest, the two bigger kids are packing their own lunches, and dh usually takes leftovers)
Dinner: Stuffed Green Peppers, corn, tomatoes, grapes, Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble

Breakfast: pancakes
Lunch: Sausage and Greens Soup, grapes
Dinner: Crockpot Chicken

LEFTOVERS! and/or "survival of the fittest"

Fresh Tomato & Basil Pasta

At this time of the year, I use Simply in Season almost exclusively. Last year, a friend pointed out a recipe I'd overlooked that has become a family favorite. Tonight they all ate so fast I had to fight my way to the bowl. I made a recipe and a half and it's almost gone.

Fresh Tomato & Basil Pasta

4 large cloves garlic, minced (I used garlic powder as my cloves were gone)
2 lbs tomatoes (chopped, seeded, and drained)
1/2 c. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c. olive oil
1 t. salt

Combine and let stand at room temperature, 1-2 hours.

Cook 1 pound pasta according to package directions. Combine hot pasta and sauce. Top with parmesan cheese. We also add cooked, chopped chicken. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Yesterday's weather = sunny and beautiful.

Today's weather = pouring rain.

So today I harvested tomatoes. It was actually kinda fun to work in the rain for a change. Picked about 45 pounds of Romas off our SIX plants. Good yield, and they aren't finished yet.

I made this salsa recipe and will finish up on Monday with this tomato sauce recipe...both family favorites. Empty jars are disappearing. Pantry shelves are filling. It must be FALL! :)

Not sure how the grocery spending challenge is going. I spent $35.17 at the store this morning, but a chunk of the purchases were specifically for making salsa. Not sure how to count that. Hmmmmm. Also realized I have a whopper of a food bill to pay this month...our locally grown, pasture-raised chickens will be ready any day.

Maybe I'll just stick to the groceries I buy that we are actually planning to EAT this month???

Thanks to a friend from church we made a dent in this month's fresh fruit budget with the apples, pears, and plums she was giving away. The big kids are excited to pack them in lunches next week. School, here we come!

Friday, September 4, 2009

How a Father of 5 Naps (or Tries to)

I only wish I'd shot a video. You're missing the sound effects.

Another Cost of Working

...when you get ready for work on the morning of day #2, your three-months-home, three-year-old starts crying, looks at you and says, "Momma? Momma? I come?"

Zucchini Casserole (...or "Ketchup Toast for Lunch??")

Worked outside the home the past two days. Unusual. And exhausting for everyone. Lizzi and Anakin tackled babysitting duty, reporting on GG's unusual lunch on day 1:

*1/2 piece toast spread with Ranch dressing

*1/2 piece toast spread with peanut sauce

*1/2 piece toast spread with ketchup

...and a few leftover eggs from breakfast. He ate it all up. I can're drooling all over your computer screen just thinking about how tasty it sounds. ;)

Anyway, if we're going to succeed with our food budget this month, I need to think about cooking. Today we're starting out with:

baked oatmeal w/ fresh peaches & milk

baked potatoes (from my parents' garden, thanks!)
broccoli (garden)
corn (garden)
chili (blah, out of a can, but I worked yesterday, OK?)
grated cheese

Dinner (made by Lizzi):
zucchini casserole (see below)
cherry tomatoes
sliced green peppers

Zucchini Casserole

6 c. sliced (and perhaps quartered) zucchini
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (warning: this is not g/f*)
1 c. sour cream
1 c. shredded carrot
1 (8oz) pkg. seasoned stuffing mix (not g/f*)
1-2 c. chopped, cooked chicken

Cook squash and carrots briefly on stovetop or microwave with a little water, enough to lightly soften. Drain. Combine soup, sour cream, chicken and fold in veggie mixture. Place 1/2 stuffing mix on bottom of 12x7 pan. Spoon chicken/veg mix on top, covered by remaining stuffing. Bake at 350 for 30 mins.

G/F* note: LilDude is still largely g/f, but he doesn't seem to be doing badly on a limited amount, so we're sometimes having a meal or two with some gluten. However, you could easily modify this recipe to make it g/f.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Does Working COST?

Only a note... I worked from 6:15am til 4:15pm today (intense presenting work where I was "on" all day) and still have "homework." But wanted to pop in and say this...

Tonight I am exhausted. I am not cooking. So we ordered a pizza. Quite a dent in the $200 budgeted, if I subtract take-out. I rarely work at a paying/outside the home job, but I sure thought about the "cost" of work today.

Today I also listened to a woman grieve over the fact that she is going back to work, leaving her 8.5 month old at home...and that 1/3 of her monthly paycheck will go for daycare.

So how much does working COST you?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Grocery Spending Challenge

Anyone want to join me in Owlhaven's "Grocery Spending Challenge?" She has 10 kids (although I don't know if they're all still eating at home) and plans to budget $300 on groceries for the month of September.

When I was tracking our food budget, we averaged between $250-$385/month, feeding six people. This didn't include the meat we purchase annually (chicken, beef, pork) or eating out.

I'm going to try for $200/month of September, or $50/week for our family. We'll be weaning off the garden this month, but we have a LOT in the freezers/cupboards; hopefully, this will help me to look there first! ;)

Starting next week--with back-to-school--I want to post a weekly menu. Then you can see if I'm honest. :)
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