Saturday, August 23, 2014

10 Day Real Food Challenge Day 2

   So I spend a good majority of my day busting on Jessica about her eating habits, then I tell her ask her every so sweetly to do challenges with me. The truth is skinny doesn't equal healthy and I have plenty of my own unhealthy habits I am wrestling with. My major one being Dr. Pepper and the truth is, I am highly unlikely to make it the entire challenge without one. I am hoping that I can start weening myself off of them and that at the very least, they can become the rare treat rather than my go to comfort food (or drink if you want be difficult).

  Unlike my dear friend, I knew straight up that I needed the easy way out or I just wouldn't follow through. We are out too often for me to be cooking up my own tortillas. One step at a time, right? So I hit up our local Kroger, which happens to be pretty spectacular and managed to find most of the items on the shopping list; including the whole grain sandwich bread, tortillas and pitas. They aren't the perfect solution, but they are a good start.

I did make up the breakfast foods from scratch and while we are following the recipes given, I told my kids they could pretty much pick from what I made for breakfasts. We ate the whole-wheat honey sweetened waffles yesterday and today we are having whole-wheat muffins, honeydew melon and raw milk yogurt. The yogurt isn't on the menu plan but I feel it is important to have and it is what I add our probiotics to. Plus, it is just yum. Also made up is some granola cereal. We will try that tomorrow. The kids can either pour it with milk like traditional cereal or they can mix it into their yogurt parfait style. Today's snacks will be finishing off the honeydew melon and dried apricots. While I love her menu plan, because I have very active children (and my gymnast requires about 3,000 calories per day) and we need a bit more food than what she has in the plan. Easy to adjust that though!

We followed up by having chicken enchiladas for lunch. The recipe called for a tomato based sauce but I knew from experience I would want a white sauce. Now, if I had been a good little whole foodie, I would have cooked my own chicken, but since I purchased the chicken already cooked I didn't have broth. Turns out white wine can be substituted for chicken broth in this case and I had that. Go figure. The sauce was a little...winey (?) so I would cut back on that next time, but over all it was delish and I had so much left over that I reheated it for dinner and still have some for lunch tomorrow. My husband whom I love dearly, but is the world's pickiest eater got some hand breaded cod which I flash fried in olive oil and then baked. He said it was the best dinner he has ever had. I think he might have been exaggerating, but when you have a picky eater you take the compliments where you can get them.

PS. I will be going back and adding recipe links in all of the Real Food Challenge Posts.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

10 Days of Real Food Days 3-5

The hardest part of this challenge has been how to work it into my "real" life.  The theory is awesome, make everything from scratch as much as you can and your family will be better for it.
I actually agree. :)

The problem is life has a way of throwing you curve balls and when you are expecting regular fast balls, it can really throw you for a loop.

Anna wrote a blog post about her day 2, which she may or may not get around to publishing - she wants it to have pictures and links and stuff that I rarely make time for. hehe...  Probably why her posts get read at a higher rate than mine. hmmm... So, I will just skip ahead and tell you about my 3rd and 4th days.

Day 3,  I had used homeschool curriculum sale to attend in the morning. We whole wheat muffins that morning and the kids LOVED them. I just made them with a bit of extra cinnamon and nutmeg and bit more honey since I did not feel like chopping an apple up for the them.  The plan for lunch was to have peanut butter and homemade jelly for lunch. I even had the loaves of bread baked.

While we were at the sale, we got a flood of rain. Literally. A flood.  If I had an ark, I could have made it home, but because of the amount of rain, I knew that the 2 ways to get to my house were all going to be flooded. This is not my first time with this amount of rain. So I was *forced* to go wait for the waters to recede at one of our local mexican restaurants.  It was like I was being held hostage or something. It was terrible to think about having to sit there with my chips and salsa and fajitas while that peanut butter and jelly was just waiting for me at home.  I am sure you can feel my pain there.  

Wednesday, my son came down with a fever.  It was 103.2 at its highest.  He was in bed all day and when he finally woke up hungry, he asked for a grilled cheese. I had one lone piece of processed american cheese in the fridge so I slapped that on two pieces of my home made wheat bread with butter and made him a grilled cheese.  He had 3 bites, but he was the only one to eat anything processed that day.  It was good!

Since I was at home all day, I took the time to finally beat the corn tortillas.  Youtube videos are your friend for that one.  But they really looked beautiful!  I was quite proud of them.  My arms and upper abs were sore the next day from the work out I got while pressing them!  It was a bonus!  Hopefully it counteracted some of the calories from the *fantastic* enchilada's we ate for dinner with them!

Thursday  we had a great breakfast. They had left over waffles with smoothies. My kids loved those smoothies, did not even know I snuck spinach in them!  We had the pb&j's for lunch and did fine until dinner. My brother cooks every Thursday and he did not want to cook what was on the plan and we had tacos (packaged taco seasoning - eek) with white flour tortillas (except me and dh, we ate the left over corn tortillas - they were great) and queso dip out of the jar that you get out of the chip aisle. I know. But, again, I had *no choice* - that is my story.

I have to say, we have liked everything we have eaten so far!

Have any one of you tried to go 10 days without eating out or having something that is processed?  If so, leave a comment telling us how it went!  If you have not, what do you think your biggest hold ups would be?
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Monday, August 18, 2014

10 Days of Real Food Challenge - Day 1

Anna, in all her skinny person wisdom, asked me to take the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge with her.  I am fairly certain I may be a bit of a project for her as she often suggests whole food this, organic food that, "Crash dieting is not good for you, Jessica!"....  It is really cute!  Since I am always up for a challenge and a bit of a follower she spoke so eloquently about it, I decided that I could do anything for 10 days.  We eat a mostly whole food diet (when I am not ordering pizza) so I thought it would not be too hard.

The 100 Days of Real Food Facebook page has 4 weeks worth of free menus. Anna asked which ones I wanted to do.  Since I did not respond right away, she messaged me (again and again) and eventually said how about week 2 and 4 and I think I said something like, "Fine, week 2 and 4." Truth be known, I was glad to not have to make the choice and have to take responsibility for any disasters and icky recipe choices (hehehe).

Because of the *insane* amount of completely from scratch cooking, we started cooking somethings in advance on Friday.  I made the granola. Anna, I think, made about half the menu and sent me messages on my facebook wall like, "Did you make your wafflles yet?!?!?!"  Why make waffles today if you can put them off until tomorrow?  I actually canned 24 jars of chili in the pressure cooker, which took stinking forever so I did not have time to precook anything but the granola.

I went shopping Saturday. To my surprise, it was not nearly as expensive as I thought it would be.  I did not try to convince my family of the venture. I cook, therefore they eat, right?

We started yesterday. Or shall I say, we tried to start yesterday.

We all had the whole grain, sweetened with honey waffles - AH-MAZE-ING - everyone agreed it was the best waffles ever.  My kids and my dh rejected my real maple syrup, which I actually only use because I love it - and dug out the now contraband artificial maple syrup from the pantry as soon as my back was turned, the traitors. I forgot to cut up and serve the cantaloupe (could not find the honey dew at the store) with the waffles since I tripled the recipe and was busy making 10 extra waffles. So that was the first fail of the day.

Then came lunch.

Anna forgot she had a church dinner and apparently, they don't serve real food there. I forgot my mother in law had a birthday dinner at a local restaurant and there is no telling what my salad and my mushroom swiss burger were *really* made of.

It was a good think too, since I completely forgot to put the stuff in the bread maker to make the bread for the sandwiches at lunch.  I brilliantly decided to make all our bread for the week instead of buying a loaf at the store - me - whose menu last week consisted of ordering take out 4 times....

Supper rolled around. Again, another brilliant decision made by me to not buy a premade item on the list but make it from scratch as well. Because, you know, if you are going to do something, you may as well give it 110%! The item is corn tortillas. I had Maseca because, hmmm I don't remember why I bought Maseca, but I had it and it needs to be used. I read a few blog posts and decided to give it a try, it did not look hard.

The dough refused to make itself into dough. it was a lot like crumbly mashed potatoes.  I added more water. And more water. Then it was too sticky. So I added more Maseca.  The dough and I danced for a bit until I finally had something that slightly resembled the pics in the blogs.  I don't have a tortilla press so I used a plate instead. Not a pie plate but a regular plate. Not the best move. The regular plate has a lip and doesn't sit flat and therefore doesn't press the tortilla as thin as you need it.  I unearthed the rolling pin and attempted to use that. It mostly worked and I got a couple of tortillas that I put in my cast iron skillet.  I cooked them. They were awful. I rolled it out thinner. I could not pick the stupid things up off of the parchement paper without them falling apart. When I finally got one off and into the pan, it was still awful. After an hour and a half of messing around with it and only 3 cooked but terrible tasting corn tortillas later, I called for pizza at 7 p.m..  We ate dinner at 8 p.m.

Thank you Marcos Pizza. Sorry 100 Days of Real Food.

Friday, August 15, 2014

No Parental Involvment Required

There are many beautiful things about homeschooling. One of those things is the independence that it fosters in our children as they learn to learn. But, I fear there is a movement within homeschooling that is making it too easy for parents to be lazy, the No Parental Involvement Required movement.

Ok, so there really is no official NPIR movement, but there is something going on within the homeschooling community that is alarming. When my family, and I believe most families, chose to keep their children out of the traditional school movement, a major part of that decision was the ability to be in control of what our children are learning. The increasing number of homeschoolers has given us access to numerous curriculum options. Having choices has meant that homeschooling parents are able to cater curriculum to their own families in a highly customizable way. But it has also bred a new type of curriculum, the no parental involvement required curriculum and I fear an increase in lazy hands-off homeschooling.

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As I have browsed the various social media sites that I am involved in, I have noticed a steady increase in the number of parents who are not only just looking for low involvement curriculum, but are also unafraid to admit that they simply do not wish to teach their children! No, there isn't anything inherently wrong with using some low parental involvement curricula. I quite enjoy the fact that I don't need to stand over my children through our entire school day, but I am afraid that there is an issue here that need to be addressed. If we are removing parents from the role of teachers are we really doing our kids justice? Where parents were once forced to be hands on with their children, they now have the option to step back completely. When a parent is not involved with their child's schooling it comes close to leaving them right back where they were before homeschooling. What benefit is it to our children when we remove ourselves from the roll of teacher?

I believe as die hard homeschooling families, we have a tendency to only show the happy part of homeschooling and as a result, give off the impression that homeschooling is easy. It isn't, at least not always. We have really great days where everything runs smoothly and the kids are having fun and learning, but most days are hard work, really hard work. We have created this illusion and curriculum companies have perpetuated the idea of a hands off education by producing NPIR curriculum. Sadly, there seems to be quite a market for these types of curricula as more and more become available each year.

There are some seasons in which a low parent involvement curriculum can be a great blessing. New babies, moves, extended illnesses all interfere in a way that make homeschooling all but impossible without them. Children get older and naturally need us less and less. However, these curricula should not be the norm. They should be the exception. Our children need us to be involved. The homeschooling movement needs parents to be involved. God requires us to be involved.

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Love the Journey Review and Give Away!!

I have a small handful of friends whom I consider true "Titus 2" women, and I hold them near and dear to my heart. While I have not met Marcia Somerville face to face (yet), I most certainly count her as one of these friends!!

Marcia has authored a new book entitled Love the Journey, where she writes in such a way that she'll become one of your 'friends' too!

There are three types of people who will benefit most from this book. Ready? They are...

1) Those considering Homeschooling
2) Those in the early stages of Homeschooling
3) Those who are seasoned Homeschoolers

I am in my eleventh year (wowza time flies) of home educating. {My son was 3 1/2 when he first said he wanted me to homeschool him. God knew He had to use my son to convince me, on my own I would not have looked seriously at the idea... Now that son is in high school in our home!!} I had some precious ladies who mentored me those first couple years. Before I purchased my first homeschool book, I sat down with a friend and poured out my heart on why I wanted to homeschool. I hoped that in my teaching, the boys would learn facts in order to know the Lord. Not just to know facts to puff themselves up. I went on to write out a mission statement that I could look at any time I started to question my sanity, consider sending them to public school, or feel pressure from outside well meaning sources. Much of what I did was like feeling my way through a new place, but with all the lights out. Like trying to travel to a destination that I had in my heart... with no road map. And by the grace of God, we press on! This book is a very helpful road map for the journey we are on as homeschoolers! Everything that I have learned along the way and wished to share with other homeschoolers is found in the pages of this book!!!

I love that Marcia uses Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to guide her writings. Here are the chapter headings to give you a taste of what's inside...

Section 1: Your Homeschool is YOUR Homeschool!

1. Why Do YOU Homeschool?
2. Do You Have a Guiding Star?
3. Clarifying the Ends We Have in Mind
4. Developing Your Pedagogy

Section 2: Mountaintop Views

5. You Share Who You Are
6. Keep Your Heart
7. Cross-Eyed Parenting
8. Training in Liberty
9. More Isn’t Always Better
10. Who Are Your Best Friends?

Section 3: When You Sit At Home

11. The Husband Suitable for You
12. Keeping a Quiet Home
13. Schedules and Structure
14. A Time to Plan
15. Looking Far (Why We Don’t Need Classrooms)
16. What to do with Preschoolers?
17. Face Time
18. Managing Chores
19. Questions, Categories, and Consequences

Section 4: As You Walk Along the Way

20. Gender Differences
21. Why Modalities Matter
22. Lesson Planning with Modalities in Mind
23. Tell Me the Story Again!
24. Useful Categories to Know When Considering Curricula
25. When Trudging is Called For
26. Choices, Choices
27. What About Memory Work?
28. Why Do Crafts?

Section 5: When You Lie Down & When You Rise Up

29. It’s About Commitment
30. Love is Patient
31. Love is Kind
32. Love Does Not Envy
33. Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

You know you are reading a fantastic book when your highlighter is going dry before you reach the end! Even after 10 years of teaching, I kept saying "AMEN!" or "OHHHH, good point!!" If you are just considering homeschooling, if you are already homeschooling, if you have one child or many children, if you use a formal curriculum or unschool or somewhere between, this book will have plenty of insights to help you press on!

Need a little more information? I recently found this link where you can download some samples to read!

This is a book that ought to be in every home educator's library! And I don't say that lightly. While I love books and think you can't own too many, I do live in a small space and have to choose my titles carefully. This book has secured a spot at the top of my 'must have' list!!

The Somervilles were kind and generous enough to provide me with a copy of Love the Journey in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Marcia, for the opportunity to read and share!!

The Somervilles were also kind and generous enough to offer to give away one free copy of this book to one blessed reader!!! Thank you, again, Marcia!!!

To receive 25% off Love the Journey hard copy or digital, use this coupon code MMH14LTJ. This code is good till August 25. Order here.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Place for Everything: Embracing My Inner Creative Genius

Ok. So maybe 'genius' is a bit too strong of a word. But I like the sound of it.

In A Place for Everything Part 1 I wrote about my dual personalities... I do have a Type A side that I not only enjoy, but I nurture in order to not be too distracted by my "SQUIRREL!" side. I explored the positives to developing an organized approach to life. But today I want to discuss my creative side for just a bit.

I know that God is not a God of chaos, but of order. So it's easy to jump on the 'organized' band wagon. But wait. God is also creative. Just look around! And in much the same way that I stifled my 'inner type A,' I also stifled my own creativity.

When I was in high school my favorite classes were art, choir, drama, and creative writing. I had so many emotions going around in my head, and I found art to be a terrific way to express them. Put a pencil in my hand and I could sketch a picture or write a poem and it was like emptying all the chaos in my mind.

I loved, LOVED, getting on a stage. Though standing to give a speech was worse than torture to me. (And isn't it funny how God uses that? I've since had to stand to give speeches numerous times in front of various sizes of audiences.) I found no pleasure in math or science labs. Instead, give me a script to live out on a stage, a poem to complete, or a blank sketch pad, and I was in my 'happy place.'

Somehow the seriousness of life put an end to that creative joy. Until one day. My hubby and I had not been married very long and I decided I needed to have that creativity in my life again. He supported me 100%! I auditioned for and got a part in a local musical. I had so much fun! Scary, but fun! However, we agreed that it took me out of our home for way too many hours. With the exception of the encore a few months later, I haven't done another production. I do miss it, though, just a little bit.

...Then scrapbooking became the rage, and I had every hole punch and fancy scissor they put on the market.

...Then there was trying my hand at acrylic painting. This was a whole new bag of goodies for me! I filled my desk at home with painting supplies.

...Then one day while driving with my family in the beautiful mountains I proclaimed, "I want to learn to oil paint." My husband was beginning to get used to hearing these comments from me. And that Christmas I received 'how-to' videos, paints, canvases, and brushes!

...Thankfully we have You-Tube now, and from that I reminded myself how to crochet (having learned from my mother when I was young).

...There was the time I watched my friend skillfully knit a square for a blanket. I had to learn that! Back to You-Tube. And while I can't make anything very complex, I can knit!

...Maybe it's the trial and error of planting flowers around my home. Or maybe it's the fun, new decorating tip I find on pinterest and want to duplicate in my own home. Or maybe it's learning to make a beautiful and tasty loaf of bread, or make super cute cake pops for birthday parties. Maybe it's painting flowers or stars and strips on my toe nails. Or sewing a cute apron. Maybe it's snapping a fun, candid shot of my children throwing snow balls.

And on and on (and on) the list goes! Like it or not, I can't walk away from a project that sparks my creativity!

I'm not a master at any of these endeavors. But I've loved gaining new skills in a variety of crafts. And that's a great lesson that I hope my sons are learning. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to try new things. I will never see my painting in an art museum. But I had fun creating it. I will never have my name in lights in a production, or on the cover of a music album, but that's ok. I don't need the recognition.

Here's a small example of nurturing creativity in my kiddos... This little flower arrangement was creatively put together by my youngest son one day! They both have a spark of creativity in them and it's fun to see it come out in different ways. This time it was a pretty gift for mama.

Recently I was delighted to start pulling out some of my old scrapbooking supplies in order to put together my homeschool planner and my daily bullet journal planner. I don't know why I never thought to combine cute, artsy, fun stuff with my organizers! It was like an epiphany! Now, I know that for some, a colorful, artsy planner would drive them nuts. But for me, it was marrying both sides of my personality into one beautiful, fun planner.

It's also why I didn't want plain bins to organize items, but instead had to put beautiful, colorful washi tape under my labels on the bins, or find fabulously colorful bins to store items. I want to see order, but in a pretty way! (To see more check out my A Place for Everything Part 5 blog.) It turns out that my right and left sides of my brain actually like each other and play nicely together.

So what's my next creative project? I'm starting a journal Bible. One that I can make colorful notes with my colorful markers, add washi tape and stickers to the margins, and jot important insights. I get to join my note taking Type A to my creative side while I am digging in to the Word of God. This sounds so fresh and fun that I honestly can't wait to get started.

What is it that brings you joy? Gives you enthusiasm? Is there a gift inside you that you've stifled for the 'stuff of life?' Maybe the Lord is trying to nudge you out of your comfort zone but into something so much better!

Here are a few more ideas to spark your creativity...
pressing flowers/leaves
baking beautiful treats for your family or to surprise friends and neighbors
mod podge projects
refinishing or spray painting furniture
making a pretty atmosphere in your yard
adding a splash of color to a room to add beauty
playing with playdough with your kids
creating items (even jewelry) from oven bake clay
arranging flowers (especially if they are flowers you planted in your yard)
make pretty storage boxes by covering ugly cardboard with contact paper
learn an instrument
set a beautiful table setting complete with a pretty table cloth (I find mine at the thrift stores or sew one!)
learn to sew, even something like a table cloth, a set of curtains, or an apron can be fun
visit with a creative friend and grab some ideas
Still not inspired? Take a stroll through some pinterest pages and you'll find thousands of ideas!

Beauty and creativity come in all shapes, sizes and packages. Be blessed in your creative expression and bless others at the same time!!