Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Making Butter

My oldest and I have invited a few of her friends to participate in a little home school class focusing on Little House in the Big Woods. She is enjoying the social time, and I am enjoying the "class" feel of having a group to teach. Our first project for the book was making butter. I had no idea how EASY it is to make! The recipe I used instructed us to pour a little bit of heavy cream into a small jar and shake. That's it, just shake! After about 10 minutes of vigorous shaking, the cream turns to whipped cream. After 10 more minutes, you begin to hear the butter knocking about in your jar! The butter separates from the butter milk; you can drain of the butter milk, rinse the butter, and immediately try some on a warm roll. Wow! The kids were very impressed, and so was I!
More fun things to do at We Are That Family.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Homeschool Cabinet

Our house is plenty big enough for our family, but unfortunately, we don't have that extra room where we can store and use all of our homeschool supplies. So...enter the magic cabinet! I bought this cabinet second hand for $100. It was very green (not as in saving the planet, but the color!). My mom helped me strip the paint, and I stained it. It now functions as an entire new room for our house. When it's open, school's in session. The boy has his own box of school activities (blog on that to follow) and the older girl has a space for all her schoolbooks. We even have room to store our giant history timeline that is our history project for this year.
And when the cabinet is closed, we have our living room back, and no one would even suspect the worlds behind those closed doors. The best thing about this piece of furniture is that when our homeschooling days are over, there are countless other uses for it. It will never be left empty, that's for sure!

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Two Favorite Ground Meat Recipes

These two "Old Faithfuls" have served me well as a Momma. Sometimes my children even eat them. : ) They are two more recipes where it is easy to "hide" vegetables, and they are GREAT for those times that you need to take dinner to someone else. They are easy to freeze and require no pans or serving dishes (unless you make your own pie crust).

Cheeseburger Pie
1 lb ground beef/turkey
1 small can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 tsp salt (opt)
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
topping:
1/2 lb sharp cheese--shredded
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c milk
1 egg
1 deep pie shell (store bought or home made)
Cook ground meat with onions and peppers. Drain grease if necessary. Combine other ingredients and put in pie shell. Mix topping ingredients and spread on top. Cook in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.
This recipe freezes well. I usually freeze it before I cook it--all the ingredients are cooked anyway. But if you are cooking it straight from frozen, cook at 350 for 45 min. to an hour.

Cheeseburger Buns
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1 t salt
3 1/2 cups AP flour (I usually use half whole wheat and half white)
1 1/2 lbs ground beef/turkey
1 pkg. onion soup mix
1 can tomato sauce
8 slices American cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add next five ing. and 2 cups flour. Beat (in mixer) til smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form soft dough. Turn onto floured surface; knead 4-6 min. Place in greased bowl and let rise until double. (about 30 min)
2. Cook beef. Stir in onion soup mix and tomato sauce. Punch dough down. Divide into 16 pieces. Make 5 inch circles. Top each circle with 2 pieces of cheese and 3 T beef mix. Bring dough over filling. Pinch edges to seal.
3. Place seam down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. (about 20 min.) Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-12 min. or until golden brown. Serve warm. Refrigerate/freeze leftovers.
This recipe is great with any kind of filling! Some ideas: cream cheese, canned chicken, and an onion soup mix; chopped ham and swiss cheese.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Faerie Gold

Recently the kids and I checked out this book from our church library. What a wonderful find! It is a collection of stories about fairies from names like George MacDonald, Louisa May Alcott, Christina Rosetti, E. Nesbit, and Hans Christian Anderson. There are over 20 stories!
One of the best parts of this book is the afterward "A Message to Parents and Teachers." It explains the rationale of the need for all things "faerie" for children. Fairy stories teach us that "We make...because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker." (J.R.R. Tolkien). Fairy stories give us a vision of what it's like to transcend time and space; they stretch our imaginations up toward heaven! They awaken higher ideals and show us how the little people can triumph if they persevere with patience. "A child may be too young for fairy tales," say the editors of this book, "but he can never be too old for them."
This is one of my very own soapboxes, so you can imagine how overjoyed I was to see an entire afterward devoted to it. Fiction is definitely a very spiritual thing in my book (pardon the pun : ). I love the ideas that come from Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. 1. Fiction shows us that there is more to life than what we see; 2. Fiction show us that there is a great battle or journey taking place; and 3. Fiction shows us that we have a valuable part to play in this battle or journey.
The books that I have read (devoured, really) have shaped my life. Would I have ever started journaling if it had not been for Emily of New Moon (L.M. Montgomery)? Would I have ever wanted to be a teacher had it not been for Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) and Christie (Catherine Marshall)? Where would I get the motivation to fight the evils of fatigue and despair in parenting if not for books like The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) and The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)? How would I even understand the tiniest bit of the timelessness of God without A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L'Engle)?
I could go, but you get the picture, I am sure! I love fiction, and like the editors of Faerie Gold I believe that fiction is very important part of raising children. So read it, devour it, and live it! And if you're in my neighborhood, check this book out from our church's library!
Check out other great tips from We Are That Family.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Free Audio Download from iTunes

One philosophy of parenting that I FULLY agree with is that one of the best gifts we can give our children is a loving relationship with our spouse. (There are plenty of other gifts, and I know some wonderful single parents, so this is not to say it is the only gift we can give our children, just one of the great ones.) One way to encourage that loving relationship is to continue to study marriage itself.
Recently a good friend sent me the information about this FREE download from iTunes about the Song of Solomon. I haven't listened to it yet, but I am excited about it! The way to find it is just to go to iTunes and search Tommy Nelson, Love Song. This will pop right up! It's free; it's a great way to study marriage; and it's one more great gift you can give your children!
Check out other great things at Things I Love Thursday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deceptively Delicious

Several weeks ago I blogged a recipe for pancakes that our family enjoys often. I suggested adding 1/4 cup cooked and blended beets to the pancakes for added nutrition (that you really can't taste!). I wish I could claim this idea as my own, but it's not. It came from a great book by Jessica Seinfeld called Deceptively Delicious.
In this book, the famous Seinfeld's wife explains how to cook different vegetables in order to add them to all different kinds of food. She gives lots of great recipes in her book (including brownies with spinach and carrots) but the basic principle can be used with anything--from my home-made pancakes to a box mix of macaroni and cheese. Cook the vegetable, blend it up, and add a little bit of it to whatever you're cooking. I used this method to create my own baby food, and while my little one was eating blended food, the other members of my family (sometimes unbeknownst to them) ate it too!
My favorite easy added vegetable is cauliflower. It doesn't have all that much taste, and it's super easy to buy, wash, steam, and puree. According to Jessica Seinfeld it "is another member of the important cruciferous family of veggies that may help our bodies fight off certain types of cancers. [And it] may help kids resist infections (it's a good source of vitamin C)."
Of course our kids need to learn to eat veggies, but this book gives some good tips on adding MORE veggies in unexpected places. Check it out!
Click here to check out other "Works for me Wednesday" ideas.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Favorite Blogs

Since "Of Such is the Kingdom" was born, I have been fascinated with the blogging world in general. There are so many blogs out there! The number geared toward moms is staggering, and I've only seen a fragment of them. Here are four of my favorites:
Work at Home Mafia -- GREAT for letting everyone know about freebies, coupons, and job opportunities. I love the idea that playing around on the computer for a few minutes could land our family free granola bars or free books! And I'm not usually a coupon shopper, but this blogger is about to change me! She has great links to lots of coupons.
Blossom Kids -- a blog for very unique children's clothing, crafts, furniture, and more! It has a very modern/European feel. There are links to quaint little on-line shops, walk-throughs of homes with creative decor and cute little crafts. The most recent craft is my favorite: jumping cups. It looks relatively easy and very entertaining.
Katherine Marie Photography -- a beautiful blog with pictures of one mom's kids and her great ideas, including a "theme of the week." Her themes of the week have been things like gumballs, lemons, and green monsters. She has activities, books, crafts, and food all week centered around her theme. AND check out her "Candy Land Birthday" entry! Her decorations were amazing!
$5 Dinners -- a wonderful place to turn when you're out of ideas for family dinners. I really like the way this blogger is so careful about her grocery shopping. She even has pictures of what she bought in her weekly grocery trip and how she got all of that for $60!

Paper Flowers


Need a cute idea for a more-than-card-less-than-gift? This paper flower took me about 20 minutes to put together, and made a cute gift for a friend.
First ch0ose paper--it could be patterned or plain. I picked from a pack of thin scrapbooking paper with many different prints. I chose sheet music for the petals, handwriting for the center, and dark green paper with flowers and elephants for the leaves.
Cut and arrange the petals then stitch them together with a regular thread and needle. Use double-sided tape to put on the center of the flower (one on the front and one on the back). Take a piece of your stem color about 2 inches by 5 inches and put double-sided tape down one of the 5-inch sides. Then roll the paper, starting with the other 5-inch side.
Stick one end of your "stem" underneath the back center part of your flower and stitch it on. (Or use double-sided tape.) Cut leaves (with fancy scissors if you like) and stick on with double-sided tape.
Finished product:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Home-made Kids' Meals

Recently I realized how often I was saying no to restaurant kids' meals with toys, so I decided to fix up a little surprise for the next time the kids had to eat in the car. I bought toys that they would really like, tried to make the food really fun, and put everything into a neat box.
The boy got G.I. Joe army guys (known as "guy-guys" around our house, so named by one of the boy's best friends).
The girl got Polly Pockets (known as "Holly Pockets" around our house. Probably because it annoys me slightly so the one-time mistake stuck!)
The menu? Crackers, pretzels, cashews, raisins, gummies, turkey and cheese cut into train shapes, and a sucker. Needless to say, the kids were thrilled!
Check out other neat (money saving) ideas HERE.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Library

I don't know about you, but I tend to forget about this form of free (and educational) entertainment for my kids. THE LIBRARY!
I'm trying to be better about it, and we did recently get our library card.
Our local library is great! Every Monday and Thursday at 10:30 there is a 45 minute program for kids--with a theme that a librarian centers her readings, activities, and crafts around.
We usually check 3 to 5 books a piece, and the kids pour over them for hours (okay for tens of minutes)! We also enjoy checking out books on CD--especially for those long car trips.
There was a huge promotion during the summer where if the kids read (or were read) 10 books, they got to go to a HUGE city-wide party and receive lots of freebies, including free books and lots of free kids' meals from different restaurants.
I know every library is different, but the point is, don't forget your local library!!
For more ideas on frugality check out "Frugal Friday" on Life As a Mom.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pancakes


We love pancakes!
My husband and kids will eat pancakes at any time of day and for any reason. After many tries, I finally worked out a pancake recipe I can feel good about giving my family often (I just try to ignore all the syrup or honey that we smother them in!).
This pancake recipe is very versatile too: Just mix the dry ingredients in large batches ahead of time and add 3 cups of the mix to the wet ingredients for instant pancakes. Or, if you're feeling like your fam needs a few more veggies, wrap whole beets in foil, cook them for an hour at 400 degrees and place in a food processor for about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup blended beets to these pancakes for PINK pancakes. (You can't taste the beets, I promise. They passed the kid and husband test at my house and they even REQUEST pink pancakes!)
So here's the recipe:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons flax seed
2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk

2 or 3 eggs
2 cups water
1/4 cup oil

Mix all ingredients well. Pour 1/4 cup batter on to hot griddle. Flip when edges brown and batter bubbles. Makes about 14 4-inch pancakes.


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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cheaper by the Dozen

"I seen eleven of them, not counting the man and the woman," someone would shout from the sidewalk.
"You missed the second baby up front here, Mister," Dad would call over his shoulder.
Mother would make believe she hadn't heard anything, and look straight ahead...
"How do you feed all those kids, Mister?"
Dad would ponder for a minute. Then, rearing back so those on the outskirts could hear, he'd say as if he had just thought it up:
"Well, they come cheaper by the dozen, you know."
This was designed to bring down the house, and usually it did. Dad had a good sense of theater and he'd try to time this apparent ad lib so that it would coincide with the change in traffic. While the peasantry was chuckling, the Pierce Arrow would buck away in clouds of gray smoke, while the professor up front rendered a few bars of Honk Honk Kadookah.
Last week I reread Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. I must have read this book in a tender part of my teen years, because the time-motion study part of it made such an impression on my psyche. I am forever thinking about how to trim seconds off my normal daily routines!
What impressed me most this second time through was how the author portrayed the love in his family. He saw his dad's faults and knew his shortcomings, but he still felt loved and enjoyed his childhood. This is such a good thing for us parents to remember! We may try so hard to teach our children well, to impress upon them scripture and the love of God, to feed them well, and spend quality and quantity time with them, (all good things of course!) but what they will really remember is whether or not they felt loved. Someone recently told me that a study was conducted among families to see whether or not children of Christian parents eventually professed to be believers. The only common factor among all of those that did profess Christ was that they felt loved as a child!
So I recommend reading Cheaper by the Dozen if you haven't read it recently. It's funny and refreshingly real (but beware it may leave you wanting to have more kids!)