Sunday, November 29, 2009

Menu Monday

I planned this week's menu while we were still at my parents' house, and Clay helped me. We are having some of his favorite meals this upcoming week.

1. Poppyseed Chicken, brown rice, green beans
2. grilled chicken breasts, ranch potatoes, green beans
3. meatloaf (from the freezer), mashed potatoes, peas
4. tacos
5. breakfast (eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits)

We eat leftovers or go out to eat for Sunday lunch, and we always eat cereal for Sunday supper.

Brown Rice
1 cup rice
1/2 stick butter
1 can French onion soup
1 can beef consomme soup
Melt the butter in the bottom of a square (9x9) glass baking dish. Stir in the rice and soups. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for one hour. Stir before serving.

Ranch Potatoes
Peeled and sliced potatoes (enough for your family)
Ranch dressing (made with the dry powder---add your mayo and milk)
grated cheddar cheese
salt to taste
Boil the potatoes until tender.
Layer in a 9x3 glass baking dish: potatoes, ranch dressing, cheese. Repeat. Bake uncovered at 350 until heated through and cheese is melted....about 25 minutes.

Grilled Chicken
I buy those frozen chicken breasts in a bag. Thaw enough breasts for your family (I usually cook 2-3 extra to shred for chicken tortilla roll-ups for the next day's lunch). Marinate for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. I buy marinade at Kroger when it is on sale for $1. I add the whole bottle to a zip-lock bag of thawed breasts. If I am cooking the entire bag of breasts, I just thaw and then marinate the chicken in the bag it came in. Sometimes I marinate the chicken in Italian salad dressing.
Preheat the grill to about 400. I cook the breasts about 5-6 minutes per side.....longer if they don't look done.

Have a happy cooking week! Enjoy cooking for your family!
Please visit for more menu ideas.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Before I began typing this post, I reread all of my Christmas posts from last year.....well, I covered everything! So, rather than rewrite, I am encouraging you to scroll down and look on the left side of my blog for my labels. If you click on Christmas, it will pull up all of my previous posts about Christmas....Christmas traditions, organization, parties, tips, etc.

A few notes....I am definitely serving steak and shrimp for our Christmas dinner (the husband and children did not like my switching to soups last year).
I am continuing the Christmas Eve gift of pajamas to the children. This year I bought coordinating pjs; they are all from the Children's Place (as usual), but I got five different colors.
I am not sure where I am going to store the Christmas gifts as I wrap them! We now have 3 cats (we rescued 2 kittens this summer), and those baby cats are into everything! Our adult cat is pretty well trained.
I cannot stress how much I love my Christmas binder! I love looking back at who I have given gifts to and what those gifts were over the years. I simply cannot remember anything, and it is so handy having this record. I also love having the list of gifts and their recipients as I wrap. It is very gratifying to check each item off!
Our first Christmas party in our home is next week! The children are eagerly looking forward to seeing all of their friends. I will be hosting Jimmy's family one night closer to Christmas, and a few days after that we will travel all the way into town to celebrate Christmas with my family at my brother's house.
A busy, but extremely fun month ahead!

Please visit Kelly's Korner for more fun Christmas traditions!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday Traditions

My dear, real-life friend, Anita, (Busy Hands, Busy Minds) recently shared her family holiday traditions on her blog. I enjoyed reading them so much, that I decided to share some of our family holiday traditions too.

We decorate the house for fall in early September. I read Pilgrim, Indian, and Thanksgiving themed stories and books to the children throughout late October and November. Some years we do a unit study on the first Thanksgiving. I did not do that this year, but I do plan to do that next year when Leah and Sam are 4.5 and 6.5. I think they will really enjoy it. Leah did some fall crafts this year, but Sam really wasn't interested.

Each year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Kelly, a friend of Jimmy's and mine from college, comes over to help me decorate the house for Christmas. Actually he does 90% of the decorating!! He is very talented! While he is hanging the garlands, the children and I set out the Santas, small Christmas trees, nutcrackers, and various other Christmas decorations. I pack up most of our normal "decorations" to make room for the Christmasy things. I have Christmas hand towels that I put in each of the bathrooms, and I change the scent in my Wallflowers (scented plug-ins from Bath and Body Works) from pumpkin spice to Aspen pine or cinnamon stick. Normally we don't put up our tree until the weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year we did put it up last weekend (see previous post!).

We spend Thanksgiving Day at my parents' house along with my two brothers and their families and both of my grandmothers. My mother prepares a traditional Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, ham, cornbread dressing and gravy, green bean casserole, yellow rice and corn casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry salad, and an orange congealed salad. One of my grandmothers makes homemade rolls and delicious desserts. This year she brought caramel cake. I usually contribute to the meal by bringing a dessert (pumpkin crisp this year) and an appetizer. We spend the day visiting with one another and the children play all over the house and in the backyard. Usually by late afternoon, my brothers and their families leave for their in-law's houses, and my grandmothers go home. My family stays another night. We eat leftovers, watch movies, and play games--usually pictionary or various card games. My girls spend their time sewing on my mother's sewing machine and typing on their old-fashioned typewriter. Periodically Jimmy has to work on or around Thanksgiving Day and is unable to visit my family with me. This is one of those years. One of my brothers was on call this year too. We missed both of them!

We celebrate Thanksgiving with Jimmy's family on the Friday or Saturday (depending on the State game) after Thanksgiving. Jimmy's sister, my sister-in-law Megan, and I all help Granmomma prepare the meal, which is not a typical Thanksgiving meal. This year we are having BBQ! We will eat an early supper and the children will run and play while the adults visit and take pictures! Both Russ and Jimmy are avid photographers, so Megan and I will have an abundance of blog material!

Friday or Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend is the day of the annual Egg Bowl! (The Mississippi State/Ole Miss football game). Some years we have tickets, but most years we just watch it on TV. This year we plan on watching it at Kelly and Lynn's house. Normally this is the day we put up our tree, but I am so glad that this year it is already up and ready to be enjoyed!

Don't forget to begin wrapping those presents!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Trimming the Tree!

Yes! We have bought and decorated our Christmas tree! This is the earliest we have ever put up our tree! Friday I was looking at our calendar, and I realized that if we did not get our tree right away, we would not be able to get it until December 12th! Normally we buy, bring home, and decorate our Christmas tree on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. But this year Jimmy is working Thanksgiving Day and all of the weekend too. He also is working every day the next week, and we are running the marathon/half marathon the next Saturday. So it would be Dec. 12th before Jimmy would be able to take his truck and go with us to the, we bought the tree! It is beautiful!
the tree, ready to be decorated

Leah modeling the tree skirt

Sweet Julie and Sam

Olivia decorating

Julie putting on some of her favorite ornaments

Clay hanging an icicle

Leah decorating and having fun too!

Silly Sam! Sam had the most fun!

The beautiful tree is topped with a beautiful paper plate angel, made by Julie when she was 5.

All decorated!

A new ornament given to me by a friend this year

Our tree is covered with handmade and carefully chosen store-bought ornaments. Some of the ornaments were gifts to me, but most of them were gifts from me to the children. I always buy the children one or two new ornaments to hang on the tree each year. Believe it or not, I cannot remember where I put the ornaments I bought to give them this year! I am thinking that they are in the bottom of my Christmas present storage box or in my closet. I plan to look for them soon!
Our tree looks a little bare underneath! I have bought many presents, but STILL have not wrapped a single one! So Julie ran downstairs and wrapped a gift for her daddy to put underneath the tree!

the first gift under the tree!

I plan to slowly get out the rest of our Christmas decorations over the next week. I want to have the holiday decorating complete by next Saturday.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Make Your List

And check it twice!

I have posted about this previously (last year), but since I am in the process of actually doing this, I thought I would remind you too!

Whether you have a Christmas binder, a notebook, or just scraps of loose paper, keep lists this holiday season. Every little thing that you can write down frees your mind to focus on other things. Here are a few examples of lists that I make:

1. Holiday Meal and Baking List
List all of the holiday meals you will be preparing (whether hosting or participating in)....Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, various parties and gatherings. Also make a list of holiday baking you will be doing. Make a separate list of the ingredients required for these items. Beginning this week, start purchasing the necessary products you will need for your cooking. This time of year grocery stores typically put "holiday-type foods and baking ingredients" on sale. Stock up as you see the items you need when they are on sale. Keep this list in your purse so you can refer to it whenever you are out grocery shopping.

2. Gift List
I make several lists for this category. Lists for each of my children, my husband, my extended family, teachers and friends, and sibling gifts (things I buy for my children to give each other--from my "store"). Also a list of who will receive homemade goodies. My lists have four columns. Name, Gift, Purchased, Wrapped. I make a separate list for each child, but I put my extended family all together.

I haven't put up anymore Christmas decorations, but I did find the XM Christmas station in my car, and we watched a family movie last night, all piled up in my bedroom (5 in the bed, 2 on the floor on bean bags)---The Grinch! I completed a lot of Christmas shopping this week. Jimmy was off for two days, so we shopped and did housework. I still haven't started wrapping gifts! But they are stacking up in my gift wrap area, and I have them all listed in my binder!

Happy List Making!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Last night I took down all of my fall decorations and packed them away. The house has looked autumn-y since September 1st, and I was tired of looking at pumpkins and leaves! I am slowly putting up my Christmas decorations. We will not be able to enjoy them nearly as long as we did the fall decor.

Yesterday I also removed from storage my 4 sets of Christmas dishes and placed them in the kitchen cabinets. I have collected these dishes for the last 18 years.....the first and only complete set (plates, bowls, serving pieces, etc.) was a gift from Jimmy to me the first Christmas we were married. They are my favorite ones, because he was so sweet to give them to me, and because they are really pretty. I was so excited to receive those Christmas dishes that year! I also have a set of dessert plates and mugs (from Target, about 12 years ago), a set of dinner plates (also from Target about 10 years ago, and also a gift from Jimmy), and a set of square dinner plates, salad plates and small bowls that I bought from Kohl's (on sale, with a coupon!) last year. We use all 4 sets throughout the holiday season.

I found the Christmas XM radio station on DirectTV last night and played holiday music while I packed away various picture frames and make room for my Christmas decorations. I set the dining room table with Christmas dishes and put the table arrangement in there too.

Yesterday and today I have completed a good bit of Christmas shopping. Maybe I will finally get around to wrapping a few gifts tonight! Once I get started, I will try to wrap at least 3 gifts a day.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Last Race of This Season!

Clay and Julie after the race

Thankfully, yet sadly, our 2009 cross country season is officially over! The last 3 months have been a tremendous amount of fun for both the children and me! However, I am so glad that I do not have to wake up 5 children before daylight this Saturday morning, get them all dressed and into the van, remember the 500 things that I have to bring, and arrive by 7:00 at a race location! The children, especially my older girls, are so sad that the season has ended. Attending practice 3 times a week was the highlight of their week! Our official practices will not resume until March, but after a couple of weeks of rest, I plan to organize at least a once a week time for area xc team members to meet and run together.

The last race was fabulous! Julie and Clay set personal records, and Olivia ran better than she had all season! They were all thrilled! Jimmy missed this race because he was doing a 22 mile training run. I chose to not torture myself with trying to meet my personal goal of one day breaking 25 minutes in a 5K, and I ran with my friend Lynn. We had a grand time.....well, I did anyway. She told me the pace she wanted to run, and I kept us at that pace......well for most of the time I did! I would get to talking, and look down at my watch, and we were going too fast! Overall it was a good pace, and Lynn set a PR at this race too!

After the awards ceremony, the Spartans and their families gathered at a Spartan's family home, and we enjoyed an afternoon of food, fun, and fellowship. Coach Heather awarded several team and individual awards for the season, and the runners presented her with numerous cards and gifts.

Here are some highlights of the day....

some Spartan girls (and baby brother!) after the race

Coach Heather with some Spartans

trying to get a group shot.....The Homeschool TV Channel was there filming!

dear friends, Lynn and Kelly
As you can see, Kelly's trophy is larger than Lynn's. But, Lynn and I finished ahead of Kelly! He won 1st place in his age group, and I think Lynn won 3rd.....but we were faster!!

My award winners!

At the cookout....Leah was thrilled to ride this horse! I think she took 3 or 4 turns!

Lynn and Me

Coach Heather with my girls and Danielle

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Well, It's That Time

Time to seriously think about getting organized for the upcoming holidays. Time to finalize plans for family gatherings, special meals, holiday parties (ones to host and ones to attend), holiday shopping, crafting, and holiday cooking and baking.

So far I have accomplished a few things in the right direction.
  • put important holiday gathering dates on the calendar
  • made the Christmas card picture, ordered the cards, and guess what?? The cards came in today!
  • purchased a few gifts
  • finalized plans with my girls for what their handmade gift items will be this year
  • began a list of items to order online (these orders need to be placed soon)
  • bought most of the paper goods I will need for the two Christmas parties I am hosting
  • took inventory of my gift wrap and ribbon, and sadly determined that I do not need to buy any more paper or ribbon this year! (I love gift wrap and ribbon!)

This is what I plan to accomplish by the end of this week:

  • create return address labels for the Christmas cards
  • create mailing labels for the cards
  • purchase stamps for the cards
  • create gift card labels. I want to make some cute "stickers" for my gifts. I plan to use the same labels that I use to label containers, but print our family's name on them....or maybe even the "to" and "from"....not sure yet
  • decide how or if I am going to assign certain gift wrap to particular people or families--before I begin wrapping gifts. Sometimes I assign a certain paper to each person, sometimes I wrap all of one side of the family's gifts in one certain paper, or sometimes I just wrap each gift however I want to at the time. There are benefits for each method.....I am still undecided. I will decide very soon because.....
  • begin wrapping 2-3 gifts a day.
  • find and buy cute holiday tins (inexpensive ones) for my baked goods

If you have a favorite holiday recipe for cookies, party foods, gift ideas, etc. Please leave a comment and share it! I usually create 50 or so gift tins or bags of some sort of simple baked good to share with friends and family. I am open to some new recipes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Read Alouds

Recently a reader asked me to suggest some chapter books that she could read aloud to her boys, ages 1,2,4 and 6 (if I remember correctly!). I am going to list some books that I think are appropriate for young boy listeners, but first I am going to list a few resources that I use when I am choosing books for our family.

Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson--This is my favorite guide to children's literature. The books are categorized by subject (such as animals, Bible and moral teaching, biography, crafts,history, geography, humor, language, etc.) and then the literature category is further broken down into three levels. Each book listed in this guide has a brief summary. I do not go to the library or order books online without this book in hand!

How to Grow a Young Reader by Kathryn Lindskoog and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker--another guide for children's literature. This book has more general information than the above book. It also lists the books by category, gives a brief summary, and also gives a grade level for each book.

Who Then Should We Read by Jan Bloom--This book is different the than the two previous books I listed. Instead of giving a summary of the books, it provides a brief biological sketch of numerous authors, then it lists all of the books written by that author. This is a nice resource to learn about quality authors, and also to discover other books that were written by your favorite authors. The authors are categorized by their genre. This book also includes all of the books in various series (like Childhood of Famous Americans, and Landmark books), and provides reading level suggestions too.

Honey For A Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt--The first part of this book is entitled, "Using Books to Help Children Grow", and it provides information about the purpose of and benefits of children's literature. Part 2 includes booklists with brief summaries. These lists are divided into categories and also by age level.

Sonlight Catalog --I use this catalog much like I use my "reference books". I look for books by particular authors or subjects, and I read the summaries that the catalog provides. Sonlight lists its books by grade level and subject.

All of the above resources, with the exception of Who Then Shall We Read? include an extensive index. I can easily find a book in question and read the summary and suggested age level.

Now, for specific titles for reading aloud to small boys. These are some books that Clay liked at a younger age (my girls too!). In fact, they all still like these books, but I think they would be enjoyed by boys 6 and under.

Beverly Cleary books such as Henry and the Paper Route, Ribsy, Ramona the Brave, and really any of the other Cleary books too.
George Selden--A Cricket in Times Square, Chester Cricket's Pigeon Ride, Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh
The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
Elizabeth Yates--A Place for Peter, and Mountain Born

Girls of this age usually love the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In fact, I am currently reading Little House in the Big Woods to Leah (and Sam) at bedtime.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Super Saturday

Our day began very early as we drove an hour away for a 5K race. Jimmy actually left one hour before the rest of us...he needed to get in more than 3.1 miles today as part of his marathon training. So he arrived early and ran over 6 miles before the race began. Then he ran the actual race with Olivia. Clay decided to sit this race out, and he helped my friend, Liesa, watch Leah and Sam while the rest of us ran. I tried one more time to beat 25 minutes.....and fell short again. I ran the 5K in 25:15. I will try again in a few months. I am just going to focus on my half-marathon training.
After the race, we joined the George family for breakfast at the Nibble Nook. We had three of Olivia and Julie's friends with us, and Clay had gone home with another family for the day.
the young people's table

Jimmy and Sam

Leah and Me

When we arrived home, the girls and their friends crocheted, knitted, baked brownies from scratch, and generally had a fun time! I spent over an hour retrieving about a million leaves from our pool. Jimmy spent most of the afternoon using some sort of all-terrain mower clearing out our woods, and Leah and Sam played outside for hours, and hours. Literally, they stayed out there, playing in and around Jimmy's truck from noon until dark!

playing in the back of the truck--that is a stuffed dog!
When I first saw it, I thought it was real!


Even sweeter!

still playing in the truck!

Clay and I posing in the woods.
We were out there checking out the work Jimmy had done.

Doesn't it look great?

Sam didn't take a nap, so soon after supper both he and Leah were ready for bed.
We are all tired, but it was a super Saturday!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Busy Week

This week seemed so busy! Every night after I got all the children to bed I planned to blog.....but by the time I got in my bed, I was just too tired to turn on the laptop!

Here's a recap of our week:
Monday--We began school again after our week-long fall break. The highlight of the school day was beginning Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, our current read aloud. This is an excellent book! In fact, we read 4 chapters yesterday! Also Monday the children had piano lessons, and I discovered that my car would not start! Thankfully, our painter was here, and he jumped my van off. I got a new battery put in the van while the children were at piano. Next we went to cross country practice. I hobbled 6 miles while they ran. I was extremely sore from the half-marathon!

Tuesday--another full school day. We attended cross country practice that afternoon, and then we went across town to our annual homeschool Back to School Picnic. Except that this year it was held in November, not exactly a back to school month! This picnic was originally scheduled for early September, and again in October, but both times it was rained out! Normally this picnic is held outdoors at a city park, but we have had so much rain here this late summer and early fall. The third time this picnic was scheduled, it was moved to an indoor location. Perfect!

after the meal, the girls pulled out their bags of yarn!
This annual picnic is always a fun night of fellowship with old friends and an opportunity to meet new homeschoolers too.

Wednesday--thankfully we did not have xc practice today, but I tackled a lot of housecleaning on this day. We had church that night.

Thursday--school again followed by Homeschool Skating. Our local homeschool group offers a 2 hour skating session 5 times during the school year. My children really look forward to skating days. We usually have 50+ kids attend skating. The little children bring their bicycles, tricycles, scooters, and various other riding toys. Sam usually spends the entire 2 hours in my lap.
For the first time, Leah skated! She did a super job, and she only fell once. She made two complete laps around the rink.....with me by her side (holding her hand while I carried Sam on the other hip). When she could, she held on to the padded wall. Oh, the joy of helping a child learn to skate! Ha! I am just glad that Sam and I did not fall!

laced up and ready to skate

"I'm so excited about skating"

holding on to the wall

a group of resting girls---the next time I looked at this group of girls, they were crocheting and knitting! These girls do not leave the house without their bags of yarn!

Aaron and Clay
Friday--Clay, Leah, Sam, and I went to town and bought groceries (where my young male checker asked me as he was weighing/scanning my asparagus...."Do you know what this is?") first thing this morning. We spent the rest of the morning completing our schoolwork. After lunch, Jimmy took the boys to visit his parents and run some other errands while the girls and I worked around the house for a little while and then did a little shopping at Hobby Lobby (more yarn, of course). I also got a little bit of Christmas shopping done.
Tomorrow morning we have another 5K race.