Archive for the ‘Family Time’ Category

Writing goals for this coming year has caused me to be unusually introspective.  Taking time to concentrate on me is really rare.  I have five small children, a husband who works a lot (definitely not complaining!!), a house to run, a business to run, and a homeschool to run.  I am wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend.

Every single one of those things is wonderful and fulfilling and a huge blessing from God – but they can also be draining.  They consume my time, energy, and thoughts.

Sitting down and reading the book Telling Your Time (still available and still highly recommended), forced me to think about what kind of person I want to be in all of those areas.  It also made me realize that setting time aside to do things that help me to be the person I want to be in all of the areas I listed above is not selfish.  It is smart. 

It always felt selfish to me to take time for myself.  Until I realized that taking time for myself refreshes my soul and fills my store-house –  readying me to give abundantly again.

When my soul is refreshed, I am:

  • a more creative and patient mom
  • a more giving, forgiving and gentle wife
  • a more organized, motivated housekeeper
  • a more focused and productive business owner
  • a more thoughtful friend

This is not new advice, I realize.  But for me, it is a new perspective.  I will carve out time for me this year.  Not because I need it.  But because my family does.

How about you?  Do you normally make time to do the things that you love?  What refreshes your soul?

Sharing this post with the ladies at Growing Home and Works For Me Wednesday today!

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I realize I mentioned already that some of my favorite holiday traditions involve food, and Chocolate Fondue for New Year’s Eve is no exception.  Forget the party hats and streamers – bring on the bath of warm chocolate!

Actually, I am really surprised that my kids haven’t started talking about it already.  Is it possible that they have forgotten?!

I don’t own a fancy fondue pot, or even an extremely outdated ugly one for that matter, but I do own a crock pot :).  Just combine the ingredients in a small crock pot (I use my 2 quart), and cook on low until everything is combined.  Just remember to stir occasionally.  Depending on the size of your batch, it will probably take 1-2 hours to be ready to devour.  If you don’t own a small crock pot either (or have the patience to wait for one to melt your chocolate), just place a glass mixing bowl over a pan filled with hot water on the stove top.  It acts like a double-boiler and melts the chocolate without scorching.

My Homemade Double Boiler

With many little ones participating in the magic of dipping, you’ll want to serve the chocolate with a ladle into individual bowls.  No need to share more than the fun :).

Chocolate Fondue

(I always double this recipe  – seriously, who wants to run out of chocolate?!)

from the kitchen of Stephanie O’Dea and her cookbook Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet, dark, milk, white – your choice)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Some Dipping Possibilities:

Apple slices, frozen (or fresh) banana slices, Christmas cookies :), pretzel sticks, marshmallows, strawberries, dried pineapple (or other dried fruit), Oreos, Nilla wafers, graham crackers, pound cake . . .

Can’t wait to ring in the New Year!


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Can you tell there are tights on the table?!

I have gotten back into the routine of having my quiet time with the Lord first thing in the morning.  Before everyone is fully awake and needing me.  Before the house is turned upside down by the chaos of the day.  A time when it may truly be quiet, if I am lucky.

Today, I read this verse.  I wanted to share this with all my fellow homeschooling moms, who I know will completely understand.  It made me smile thinking of my own herd.

Proverbs 14:4 “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;  But much increase comes by the strength of an oxen.”

My trough is so not clean.  My house is filled with the daily living of many oxen.  But my heart would be filled with grief without them.  Praise God that is not the case.

My oxen are strong, and they have increased the joy in my life immeasurably.  Thank you, Lord, for the chaos and the mess and the constant tasks of feeding, clothing and discipling my little ones.

Enjoy your day!


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Let me start by saying, this is not a healthier version of my favorite granola.  That is obvious by the title, right?  But, that is definitely not the point of this recipe!  The main point of this recipe is to make an ordinary breakfast something truly celebratory for the holiday season.  And, of course, it is very yummy.

Christmas Cookie Granola

Mix together in a large bowl:

6 c. rolled oats (or 4 c. rolled oats and 2 c. puffed brown rice)

1 c. chopped nuts

1 c. dried, unsweetened, coconut

In a medium sauce pan:

Melt 1 stick of butter

1/2 cup of honey or real maple syrup

1/3 cup water

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. almond extract (if it works with your cookies)

After your cooked granola is cooled:

1 – 2 c. (or more if you are feeling really festive :)) Christmas Cookie crumbles (Just take which ever Christmas cookie you are willing to sacrifice for making granola :), and pulse it in your food processor until you have crumbles the size you like)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Dump the wet ingredients into the dry (but not the cookies, yet), and mix until everything is combined.  Pour the granola into a 9 x 13 pan.  Cook your granola for about an hour, stirring every ten minutes (set a timer to remind yourself, or you will have very unevenly cooked granola).  Turn the oven off, and leave the granola inside to cool and crisp.  When your granola is cool, add in your cookie crumbles and store in an airtight container.

This makes quite a bit of granola, so if you will want to cut the recipe in half if you are feeding fewer people than me :).

You can eat this like cereal, by itself with milk.  You could also sprinkle it on your yogurt or over ice cream for a dessert.  I plan to use some as a topping for a Peach Raspberry Cobbler I will be making for breakfast this week.

Merry Christmas!

If you have never made granola before, Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has fabulous step-by-step instructions with pictures here.

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We have loved our books again this week!  I am also pleased because I have probably had over sixty items checked out from the library over the last three weeks, and so far only one late fee :).  Here is a sampling of our week in books:

If You Lived In Colonial Times by Ann McGovern – This series  of books by Ann McGovern always grabs my kids’ attention.  She poses several questions, such as, “What were the schools like?”, “Were there doctors in colonial days?”, and “How did people get the news?”  She poses fifty-two questions in this book alone, and the answers are fascinating.  A great way to learn more about the everyday life and questions kids want the answers to about different time periods.

Skunks Do More Than Stink by D. M. Souza – Boy, there has been a lot of talk about skunks around here this week inspired by this book.  Wow – so much I never knew!  This book even manages to help you develop a little soft spot for these smelly guys (and gals). 

The Beetle Alphabet Book  by Jerry Pallotta – Pretty much exactly what you would expect from the title – a book about 26 different types of beetles!  Did you know that there are over a million different species of beetles?! God’s creation is amazing.  There are interesting facts about each beetle, beetles in general, and how to distinguish beetles from other insects.

Play and Learn French and Play and Learn Spanish by Ana Lomba and Marcela Summerville – We are just not ready to plunk down hundreds of dollars on Rosetta Stone at this point.  However, I do want our kids exposed to the sounds and vocabulary of both French and Spanish.  French is Jason’s parents’ native language, which is why we are choosing this language.  Each book comes with an accompanying audio CD with a native speaker reading or singing each lesson.  The situations are simple and familiar, and the occasional catchy tunes are very entertaining.  It is enough to expose them, for now, and also very inexpensive.  Bonus.

What books are you enjoying with your kids this week?

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I took a little break from posting our books last week.  We school year-round, doing three weeks on followed by one week off.  We have done this for the past two years, and it just fits our lives perfectly.  Our off weeks are spent with friends, at the dentist, catching up on household work, relaxing a bit more, and mostly PLAYING!  We end refreshed and ready to return to our routine.

Here are just some of the highlights of our week:

Product Details

Prudence & Moxie by Deborah Noyes – This is a silly picture book about two unlikely friends named, you guessed it, Prudence and Moxie.  Their personalities are their names come to life.  Not only was this book entertaining, it also led to a great discussion of these character traits and the pluses and pitfalls to each.  Cute.

Picture Study Portfolio: Rembrandt

Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolio: Rembrandt – I have struggled with pulling off picture study since we began following a Charlotte Mason philosophy.  No color printer means no color pictures.  Rather essential.  Finding a great book of the artist’s works from the library was challenging, since they were almost always geared towards adults and included information and works I would rather not highlight for my little ones.  Do I even need to explain why looking at them online just doesn’t do them justice?  So, I am thrilled that Simply Charlotte Mason (fabulous, by the way) came out with their picture study portfolios this past summer.  I snapped up two of them, and have no regrets.   The information in the booklet is just enough, the listed resources help you dig deeper, and the prints themselves are just what we needed.  We now officially have our first work of art properly displayed in our home for both study and enjoyment.  Thank you, Simply Charlotte Mason!

Exploration Through the Ages: The Voyage of Magellan by Richard Humble – For some reason, my entire library system does not have a single children’s book about Magellan.  Weird.  Thankfully, my fabulous friend Jane does!  She lent us this little gem, and we love it.  The illustrations are fascinating – each two page spread covers a different topic related to his voyage and sailing, and the illustrations help immensely with engaging and increasing understanding.

Product Details

Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Child – This charming picture book version of the song from our childhood (well, mine at least) builds anticipation for one of our favorite holidays – Thanksgiving!  My littlest ones especially love books that are sung.  It includes several verses in the book and the piano music at the back.

Crinkleroot’s 25 Fish Every Child Should Know by Jim Arnosky – Jim Arnosky has given us so many nature related treasures.  This one, in his Crinkleroot series, is filled with 25 watercolor paintings of fish.  Some we knew, and some are new to us!  Even as I am typing this, my six-year-old boy is flipping through the pages and talking incessantly about which ones he knows and asking me when we will be able to research more on the others.  Thank you, Jim Arnosky!

The High-Rise Private Eyes #6: The Case of the Fidgety Fox (I Can Read Book 2)

The High-Rise Private Eyes: The Case of the Fidgety Fox by Cynthia Rylant – This easy-reader series is cute, fun and just challenging enough.   I do love a series and, in my opinion, Cynthia Rylant is the master of the easy-reader series.  The High-Rise Private Eyes is another winner.

Blaze and the Mountain Lion (Billy and Blaze)

Blaze and the Mountain Lion by C.W. Anderson – Billy and his horse Blaze are off on another adventure, and taking us along for the ride.  All my kids, but especially my boy, love this series.  They are not new – this one has a copyright of 1959 – but they are timeless.

Hope you found some gems this week!  Leave a comment to let me know what books you are enjoying right now.

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I don’t know about you other moms out there, but I am loving Fall!  The apples, the pumpkins, cooler weather, heartier foods, beautiful foliage – all of that.  But one other thing I am truly delighting in are the leaves in my yard.  They have proven to be an endless source of work for my industrious children!

What better answer could I have for a small child who says, “Mom I’m bored,” than to respond, “Oh, great!  I was looking for someone to rake leaves.”  Brings a smile to my face.  They actually enjoy the work.  I sent them all out last week to rake and then transfer their leaf piles to my garden beds for composting over winter.  Kept them busy all day.

I can speak from experience when I say that productive kids are happy kids.  And my two-year-old can speak from experience when she says that yard work is more enjoyable when wearing a leotard.

Go Fall!

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At least it was a productive day.

Option 1:  Tackle massive pile of dirty dishes accumulated throughout a very busy, long day OR

Option 2: Put off tackling mound of dishes in order to feed my sourdough and write about my dishes.

Things I did today:

  • Showered (other mothers of many young children will agree that this alone qualifies as a productive day)
  • Taught the kiddos
  • Baked two loaves of Oatmeal Bread
  • Made Potato Corn Chowder (Yum.)
  • Baked a batch of Breakfast Cookies – this time with walnuts, dried cranberries and chocolate chips.
  • Took all five children to the dentist for cleanings (no cavities :))
  • Let the kids play with clay
  • Filed and paid quarterly taxes for Blessed Roots Farm
  • Created a pile of dishes that spans half my kitchen
  • Stepped in poop on a bathroom rug and lost a pair of undies, the rug, and my sock in the incident
  • Fed my sourdough starter

A full day, indeed.

Alas, the dishes did not do themselves while I was typing.  Guess I better get back to work . . .

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Cover of "Roxaboxen"

Cover of Roxaboxen

The mornings this past week were cool enough to prompt us to relight our fireplace.  We love our fireplace.  That little guy can heat our entire house, and keep things quite toasty through some ugly Chicago winters.

It is definitely a cool weather ritual around here for the first person downstairs in the morning to flip on the fireplace.  And, it is another ritual for the kids and I to push the couch in front of the fireplace (gotta love hardwood floors and felt), snuggle up and read.  I am so blessed.

Here is what we are snuggling up with this week:

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney – Another sweet book illustrated by Barbara Cooney.  This one is the story of a city made of rocks on a hill and inhabited by an imaginative group of neighborhood children. Some treasures of childhood are buried in your heart and carried carefully into adulthood – Roxaboxen is one.

Verdi by Janell Cannon – Verdi is an adventurous little yellow python who has no interest in growing up and turning green.  Despite his wishes, and without him noticing, he matures into a lovely green grown-up who still appreciates the energy and excitement of youth.

Dear Garbage Man by Gene Zion, Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham – Originally written in 1957, an environmentalist book this is not.  However, it is an amusing tale about the first day on the job for a garbage man.  He makes trash into treasure, only to find it was really just trash all along!

A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla – Clyde Robert Bulla is quickly becoming one of my six-year-old son’s favorite authors.  We have enjoyed two other titles by him, and this one has us hooked already.  It is a short chapter book we are reading aloud together.  The story is about a young girl in the year 1609.  Her mother dies, and she determines to take her younger brother and sister across the ocean to where her father has built a home for them in America.

I recommend you hop on your library’s website now  – let the requesting begin!

Happy reading!

(In case you are curious, I am not affiliated with Amazon, and I do not receive any compensation for any purchases you might make through the above links.)

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Underside of U-505 at the Chicago Museum of Sc...
Image via Wikipedia

In the words of my eloquent little 2-year-old, “We went places, and we ate stuff!!”  This is how she described our all day outing yesterday to my mom when we returned home.  I am sure that is all the detail she needed to put the pieces together from our 10 hour excursion.

She is right, though.  We did indeed go places and eat stuff.  Jason and I loaded all five kiddos into the minivan – which we barely fit into these days – and headed for downtown Chicago.  We changed our minds about our final destination three times before we finally settled on The Museum of Science and Industry.  I was expecting to pay for our general admission, tickets to tour the German submarine U-505, and parking.

While Jason was finding our FREE place to park (amazing), I took all the kids inside to get in line for tickets.  (One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is not having to go to the museum on the weekend – no line.)  And – drum roll please – it was a free day!

Feeling as if we had hit the lottery, our pockets loaded down with unused cash, we decided to make two special stops on our way home.  We almost never go out to eat.  Especially as a family.  You might think five little kids alone would be enough to keep me at bay.  However, it is usually the supremely yucky food that offends us.  We shell out way too much money for food that I would never buy for us at the grocery store.  Complete waste.

But, there is one restaurant where we can all go, and I don’t feel like we need to detox afterwards.  Enter – Chipotle.  We LOVE Chipotle.  Fresh, some organic, ethically raised, pastured meat, veggies – food that is actual food.  The kids basked in the glow of restaurant lighting and the joy of eating out of the house.

Oh, but the fun didn’t end there.  I have been wanting to go to a new frozen yogurt place somewhat close to our house called Yumz.  This concept is brilliant – serve yourself, 10 different flavors and too many toppings to count.  You pile it on and pay by weight.  Genius.  My feeling is that about 25% of the adults that enter this establishment are blown away.  Then they rush home to visit the Yumz website to see how much one of these franchises cost.  I haven’t done it.  Yet.

A fun-filled family day.  We went places and we ate stuff.  And, I felt good about both.

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