Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating the Liturgical Year - September

This year we will once again be homeschooling and that includes religious education.  I like to make a few plans before the start of each month to highlight the liturgical year and upcoming Catholic feasts and Saints.

For planning purposes I print a monthly calendar from the forms icon on my printer and then begin filling in the squares with important events.

Here's what I'll be highlighting for these dates in September:

8 - Nativity of the Blessed Virgin (Mary's birthday)

We will make a blueberry/cream cheese/whipped cream dessert, top it with candles and let the little kids all have a chance to blow them out.  I'd like to find a nice Mary statue to add to our school room.  

9 - St. Peter Claver

We will read the page dedicated to St. Peter Claver in Picture Book of Saints.

15 - Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

We'll use the coloring activity found in A Year With God:  Celebrating the Liturgical Year (page 200)

21 - St. Matthew the Evangelist

We'll read his page in Picture Book of Saints.

29 - St. Michael and the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael

We will make St. Michael's Bannock for a snack and decorate and recite the St. Michael's prayer.

30 - St. Jerome

We'll read the page in Picture Book of Saints and read St. Jerome and the Lion.  After reading we'll follow the lesson plan in Catholic Mosaic.

Throughout the school year we'll be using Teach Me About the Catholic Faith as our main text.  I'll be using these resources with my 5th and 1st graders and 2 and 3 year olds.  I don't think Teach Me About the Catholic Faith is advanced enough for a 5th grader, but when looking for something appropriate for the younger kids this seemed like the right choice and I'll include Sam, challenging him when necessary with added discussion, copywork or memorization.

I like to keep my plans quite simple, that way I can easily add them into our daily morning time.  For additional ideas of how to live out the Faith in September check out Shower of Roses blog for lots of inspiration.

*this post contains affiliate links, if you click through and make any purchase I receive a small commission - thank you.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dealing With Kids Who Do Chores Slooooowly

We have 9 people living under one roof.  We homeschool (at home of course).  We own a business and work at home.  Our kids work for us (at home).  Many of our hobbies take place at home.  We eat most of our meals at home.  Some of these things happen inside and others, outside.  The bathrooms and kitchen and garage never really get a break.  No matter what, when this many people are doing this many things at home, messes are bound to happen.  Stuff needs to be picked up and put away.  Floors need to be cleaned.  Food needs to be prepared and DISHES need to be washed.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

In order to make it all work, every member of the family has to contribute what they can to the cleaning up.  We use rotating chore charts to keep everyone in the know as to who is in charge of what.  But chore charts don't make chores get done fast.  And if there's one thing that puts me over the edge it's dilly dallying while doing chores.  I know, I know when they dilly dally around it only wastes their own time.  True, sort of.  But what about when you need to use the sink for washing tomatoes or soaking cucumbers in preparation for canning and you can't get to the sink for one and a half hours.  Aargh!  It wastes my time, too.

After nearly 18 consecutive years of parenting and a combined 70 years of mothering my 7 kids I've learned a thing or two about dealing with kids who do chores sloooooowly.  First of all, I've tried all the tricks (I think).

*I've set the timer and offered a reward if they beat the time.
*I've set the timer and taken away privileges if they didn't finish in time.
*I've charged them a nickel or dime for not working diligently.
*I've sent them on time outs every time they got distracted while working.
*I've made them do extra chores thinking that they would simply work faster next time.
*I've explained the ramifications of working slowly and how it wastes their own time.
*I've explained the benefits of working diligently and the self satisfaction that comes with it.  Yeah right.
*And I've probably, maybe, sort of said that if they don't learn to work quickly and stay on task they'll probably get fired from their first job and then maybe they'll learn to just GET.  THE.  JOB.  DONE.  ALREADY.  Maybe I've said that a time or two.

Now for the tips on dealing with said kids.  The ones who work painfully slow.

#1 - Make sure they know exactly what is expected from them.  Write down the steps, draw a picture.  Do whatever you have to to ensure they know exactly what the task is.

#2 - Encourage, praise, fist bump, give a hug letting them know you believe in them and their ability to work diligently.

#3 - Walk away and let them just do the job.

Number 3 has been very effective when dealing with kids doing the lunch dishes.  Within minutes I can tell if the dishwasher is going to give me guff.  If it seems likely they will, I take the little kids outside to the trampoline or some other spot "hidden" from the kitchen window.  If I happen to go back inside and the dishes still aren't finished, I work very hard to refrain from saying anything.  I simply let them finish.  It's amazing how quickly they can get a job done when there isn't anyone to hear their complaints.

To recap, the most important thing in dealing with kids who do their chores slowly is to walk away and let them get the job done without a hovering parent or nit-picking sibling within earshot.  Sooner or later or later or later they'll learn to work quickly because it's really boring complaining to oneself and much more fun to be where the action is rather than alone doing chores.

An oldie, but a goodie post on why you should ignore your children.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips For Streamlining Baking

I mentioned the other day that we've been enjoying some chilly weather and that seems to put me, and I know many others, in the mood to bake.  Mmmm.  There's something about cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, ginger......all those great smells filling my home.  It makes everyone want to turn on the accent lighting and curl up under a blanket with a good book and a fresh baked treat.

But, oh the work of homemade goodies.  Sometimes it just seems like too much work to find just the right recipe, get out the ingredients and mix it all up and then wait for it to bake and then cool.  After years and years of baking I've found a few ways to streamline the process and I'd like to share those with you today.

Tips For Streamlining Baking

1.  Wear an apron.  The reason for this is in order to move quickly you cannot be worried about soiling your clothes.  The apron also provides a place to quickly wipe your hands if need be.

2.  Memorize a few recipes.  I find that when I'm in a hurry for a home baked treat, searching out the recipe wastes precious minutes.  Chocolate Chip cookies, Chocolate Chip Blondie bars, Ginger bars.  These are all recipes I can make from memory.  They are family favorites and I know I can never go wrong if these are in the oven.

3.  Double the recipe.  This almost seems counter intuitive, but by doubling the recipe you get twice as much output for the same time input.  It doesn't take long to scoop everything twice.  Most muffin recipes make 12.  Might as well double it and throw a batch in the freezer or in our case eat them all in one day.

4.  Learn to eyeball measurements.  This is a real time saver and creates less dishes as well.  I never measure salt or vanilla with a teaspoon.  For salt I pour it in my palm easily measuring 1, 1/2, or 1/4 teaspoon.  Vanilla is a quick splash for 1 teaspoon or 3 quick splashes for 1 tablespoon.  For other dry spices it's easy enough to eyeball the amounts using just the 1 teaspoon measuring spoon.  If you're worried about cross contamination of spices in the jars, just give the teaspoon a quick wipe on your apron (see tip #1).

5.  Learn to eyeball peanut butter and shortening measurements.  Similar to #4, but this is such a time saver that I wanted it to have it's own spot on the list.  Next time you use a measuring cup to measure out 1 cup of either PB or shortening pay attention to what it looks like on the spatula when you scoop it back out of the measuring cup or count how many spatula scoops it took to fill the cup in the first place.  Remember this number or what the dollop looks like and start adding PB and shortening using only a spoon or spatula.

6.  Keep a mental list of recipes for special circumstances.  Tip #2 was all about memorizing recipes, but what if your memorized chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for both brown sugar and white sugar and you're out of one or the other, then what?  I like to have a mental list of go to recipes for times like this.  Because at some point during every grocery shopping cycle I am out of white sugar or brown sugar, baking powder or baking soda, eggs.  It just happens, so be ready.

7.  Make notes on your recipes.  Did you use almond extract instead of vanilla and everybody loved it?  Write that on the recipe.  Does the recipe call for a baking time of 25 minutes, but yours was done at 20 minutes?  Write that on the recipe.  Notes on my recipes have really helped me streamline my baking and makes it easier for another family member to replicate the recipe.


8.  Every family member (of age) should have a recipe they can make.  Sometimes streamlining means delegating the duty of baking to someone else.  Kids as young as 8 can make rice krispie treats using the microwave.  Even husbands can be included in this.  Warren's had his chocolate chip cookie recipe memorized since he was a kid and fills the cookie jar with them about 1/month.

If turning your kitchen over to your kids (or husband) sounds scary, I just started a series Kids in the Kitchen and you might find a little inspiration and a few tips in those posts.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Wisconsin WithOUT Kids - Great River Road {Pepin}

Do you know the difference between a trip and a vacation?

Trip = with kids
Vacation = withOUT kids

We were fortunate to take a two day vacation this summer to the Lake Pepin area of the Mississippi River.  First off, Warren trained Nick on the irrigation system.  Due to the dry weather and new cranberry vine plantings daily irrigation was/is necessary.  That being done, I stocked up on kid friendly food and left a few notes of what should be done, then we packed our bags, grabbed some cash and drove off into the sunrise.  Yes, we got outta there early.  

We drove along Hwy 35, Great River Road, through a number of very small towns.  Our first major stop was at the Monarch Public House in Fountain City for an afternoon meal.  We both opted for American instead of Irish cuisine and had an outstanding fish dinner.  Warren doesn't like tartar sauce, but after convincing him to try it he declared it delicious.  Even the coleslaw was delish.  And Warren had the best Bock beer I've ever tasted.  Did you catch that?  He ordered it, I drank it.

Longest running bar in Wisconsin
 Then we headed down the street to the Fountain City historical museum, a one room deal.  A local resident donated his collection of 1700 spearheads and arrowheads.  That was quite a sight.  The historian shared the story of the Rock in the House.  And it became our next stop.

A 55 ton boulder crashed into the master bedroom of this house and is still there.  Pay $2, see the destruction.

Continuing North along Hwy 35 we stopped at Nelson Creamery for an ice cream cone.  They have quite a variety of snacks for purchase and I bought some beer sticks (beef sticks).  The back patio was very pretty and relaxing.  It was a nice shady spot to eat our ice cream.

French silk -YUM!
 Next stop was our motel, Great River Amish Inn.  We got settled in, read over the attraction brochures and then made our way to Lake City, Minnesota for a moonlight paddleboat cruise.

We couldn't have planned our vacation for a better night because there was a full moon.  Pearl of the Lake paddleboat runs a moonlight cruise on full moon nights.  We boarded early for a 7-9 pm cruise.  It was a nice clear evening for watching the sunset and moonrise. 

Since our lunch was at 3 pm, after the paddleboat tour we were ready for some din.  It was 9:45 when we got back to Pepin.  We stopped into The Pickle Factory and our waitress was a dream.  She said as long as we could make our menu selection within the next minute or two the kitchen would still be open.  That was a fun place with great music and good food.

Day 2 brought more food.  Brunch at Homemade Cafe.  We got pretty standard breakfast fare.  The decor is so cute and again great service.  

We walked around Pepin, checking out all the little shops including this neat tinsmith and blacksmith store.  It appeared to be a husband and wife team.  He's the blacksmith and she the tinsmith.  They were enjoyable to talk with and allowed us to watch them work for a bit.

We also spent quite some time sitting on the benches along Lake Pepin near the marina watching sailboats and fisherman.  Simply relaxing and soaking up the sunshine.

I had seen a snippet in a travel brochure about the Maiden Rock overlook.  Supposedly it's one of the best places to spot Peregrine Falcons and see a large expanse of the Mississippi River.  We drove to the top, following the directions to a "T".  We did spot two falcons, but never quite found the overlook.  We found a grown over parking area and a trail of sorts, but nothing that looked inviting.  We didn't want to risk getting to the edge and not knowing it.

We spotted an orchard and stopped in.  They offered 5 free samples of their wines and ciders.  We tried a few and settled on purchasing a bottle of Dolgo Crabapple wine.

 And then once again we were at ground level and stopped off at the historical marker for Maiden Rock.  One look up at the rock and I'm glad we didn't try to find the path to the outlook

And that's all she wrote.  One more stop for ice cream in Mondovi and we drove home, happy to be altogether again......until I looked in the laundry room and out at my drooping flowers and down at the dry garden and......

And that's Wisconsin WithOUT Kids {Lake Pepin edition}

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kids in the Kitchen - Monster Cookies

Kids in the Kitchen is a new series featuring my kids in the kitchen, sometimes with me and sometimes without me.  So sometimes it will be messy and sometimes it'll be really messy.  There'll be mistakes and tears and I might even raise my voice when the canister of sugar hits the floor, but we will forge on because kitchen skills are important.

I'm fortunate to have a mom who included me in the kitchen.  I fondly remember sitting on the counter stirring yet another batch of harvest loaf batter.  Most likely we were listening to a Christmas record since harvest loaf was the gift of choice for neighbors, relatives, and teachers.  I'm sure my help made extra messes, but it also made memories and prepared me for future cooking endeavors.

Although Kids in the Kitchen can be a hassle at times, I try to look beyond the slowed productivity and mess to the day when they can use their kitchen skills to benefit our family and later themselves and their future families.

Today I'm sharing with you a super yummy cookie recipe that can double as breakfast in a real pinch.  Yes, that was a good morning.

Monster Cookies
Peter helped me bake these cookies.  The pictures aren't great, the floor's covered in flour, he licked the spoon before we were done, he ate raw dough, the m&m's spilled.  We had fun, take a look.
Peter is so happy to be helping.

We added eggs, butter, sugars and vanilla and mixed it hard.

And then added peanut butter - see how healthy these are getting?

Then we added chocolate, oatmeal and a mix of white and whole wheat flour - again healthy

We placed them on parchment paper just to keep cleanup quick.  We also made them very large (1/4 cup)

Bake for about 10 minutes (sorry for the blurry pic)
Monster Cookies
3 eggs
1/4 c. soft butter
2 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chocolate chips (we use mini)
1 c. m&m's (we use mini)
1 1/2 c. peanut butter
2 t. baking soda dissolved in 1 t. hot water
3 c. quick oats
1 1/2 c. flour (I use a mix of white and whole wheat)

Preheat oven to 375.
Cream butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla hard.  It should be very smooth and light in color.  Stir in baking soda.  Blend in peanut butter.  Then add chips and m&m's.  Lastly, stir in oatmeal and flour.
Place on cookie sheet.  I use about 1/4 c. of dough to make large cookies.  Press down slightly.  Then bake for about 10 minutes.  If using a dark pan they will darken faster.  We like them chewy so I slightly underbake, let set on pan for 1 minute then remove to foil to cool.

Linking up with Raising Homemakers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Works For Me Wednesday - Laundry Folding Tip

Sadly, the summer is winding down.  Summer dance has ended.  The family campout is over.  The pencils and notebooks have been bought.  It's inevitable; school will begin.  And for those of you moms who happen to homeschool your life will once again revolve around reading lessons and multiplication tables and biology labs and and and ........

Things seem so peachy the first week back to school.  New books, new supplies, new planners.  Then the 2nd week starts up and I know what happens in my house.  I look around and holy cow it's a mess.  And the laundry.  Oh the laundry.  Once I heard a story about a mom who bought new socks and underwear for her family because she was totally overwhelmed with the mountain of laundry in her basement.

One google search for laundry tips and your head will be spinning with all the ideas.  I watched an online video series on laundry/meal planning/dishes.  She recommended doing only one load a day from start to finish.  Wash in the morning, switch to dryer at lunch, fold in the afternoon and put away after supper.  This might work for smaller families, but for my large family one load a day just won't cut it.  Seems there's always an extra load of beach towels or bedding or throw rugs.

From collecting dirty laundry to washing to putting away, I'm going to share the ONE trick that has helped me keep on top of the laundry.  I'm not saying you need to adopt my way, but if laundry is causing you a bit of a quandary I encourage you to think through the steps, search out laundry hacks, make a plan and follow it for 2 weeks.  Then make changes as necessary.  We modern homemakers really have it easy in the laundry department.  Yes, we have more clothes and fabric items in our home than in the olden days, but we also have machines to do the work of laundering - no feeding clothes individually into the wringer washer.  When we put clothes into the washer we get to walk away and do other things like reading lessons or spelling tests.


When I hear the chime signaling the end of the drying cycle I DO NOT grab a laundry basket.  I open the dryer and fold the clothes placing them in piles on top of my front loaders.  I have 9 piles, one for each person in the family and each person has their spot.  I arrange them from oldest to youngest:  myself, husband, Emily, Nick in the back and the other 5 kids in the front.  That leaves me space on the far right for sorting socks, folding bibs, friends' forgotten items, etc.  I fold all day as needed and then put laundry away at the end of the day, typically while the kids clean up supper dishes or just after putting the little ones down to bed.

Towels and washcloths are all washed together with bleach, placed in a basket and folded at the dining table.  I usually grab the closest, able child for that job.

Folding right from the dryer has allowed me to stay on top of laundry (for the most part) even with a large family, even while homeschooling.  When I used to put the clean clothes in laundry baskets it was so easy to transfer more laundry to the dryer.  Pretty soon I had 4 baskets of clean clothes to fold and it felt overwhelming.  One load folds up in about 10-12 minutes.  4 loads? Takes Forever!

Folding Clothes Straight From the Dryer Works For Me

Works For Me Wednesday is a linky party hosted by Giving Up On Perfect.

Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Canning Jalapenos

We love spicy food so it only seems natural to preserve any extra jalapenos the garden produces.

I simply wash and slice the peppers into rings.  Most of the pepper's heat comes from the seeds so I leave the seeds right where they are.

I then pack them tightly into half pint jars.  Remember to wear rubber gloves otherwise later in the evening when you're feeling a bit sleepy you'll rub your eyes and then they'll start burning so you'll rub them a little more and they'll burn some more and then you'll wonder what's going on and after a quick replay of the day you'll realize you sliced 40 jalapenos without gloves and now your eyes and probably even finger tips are burning and nothing will bring relief except time.  It's happened to me.  Learn from my mistakes; wear gloves!

Next I boil up a solution of 6 cups vinegar, 2 cups water and a couple of smashed garlic cloves.  Once it boils, simmer for 5 minutes.  Discard garlic and pour brine over jalapenos, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust two-piece caps and process in boiling water canner for about 10 minutes.  Remaining vinegar mixture can be saved in a tightly covered jar for 10 days.

A favorite Packer Sunday tradition is to make a huge plate of nachos with all the fixins, and these jalapenos top it off nicely.  

Other ways to eat these up
Top a hamburger with a few peppers and a slice of cheese
Dice up jalapenos and an onion, saute; then add BBQ sauce and whiskey - top a hamburger with this mixture
Add to scrambled eggs with a little cheese and onion
Use as a topping for tacos

We have been enjoying a rainy week so far.  I know for Warren and all those who work outside it's screwed things up a bit, but we are still grateful for the much needed rain.

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

I'm linking up with The Art of Home-Making Mondays.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sometimes I Get Lucky

Hundreds of times a day I'm telling kids what to do and what not to do.  I wish I could say they obey every time, but that would be a lie.  But sometimes I do get lucky.  I needed to can my jalapenos and didn't want little fingers touching all the spicy juice.  Jalapeno juice in the eye is miserable.  I know!

Anyways, I told Peter and Maria to go lay on the couch for a rest.  After 10 minutes of quiet I looked over to find this

They curled up and fell asleep.
I figured I should press my luck and told Joseph to read me a book while I sliced jalapenos.  He proceeded to grab his favorite book Green Eggs and Ham and he read to me.  Of course, I had to take a little video and I'm going to share that today.

And since they don't always obey like this, a book I might need to revisit is Dr. Ray Guarendi's Discipline That Lasts A Lifetime.  This is an older book, but the techniques are not out of date.  When our oldest children were small I found this book quite helpful.  And if I remember correctly, it's Dr. Ray who said well disciplined children are a joy to be around.

Isn't it nice when they obey without any fuss?  How about you, any discipline tips you'd like to share?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Gardening Growing Pains

Having a garden is a ton of work.  There's the planning, tilling, planting, waiting for germination, weeding, weeding and more weeding.  And don't forget the watering if you have sandy soil like we do.  When I'm down in the garden swatting mosquitoes, sweating and totally wrecking my nails I keep in mind the end product - fresh home grown produce.  

Most times things go right, but when they go wrong it crushes me.  I become so emotionally attached to my plants that when the leaves curl or brown or wilt or become laden with chew holes I feel personally attacked.  I did all I could and yet, and yet this is what I get.  I know I sound unstable, but I bet those of you who have ever grown a garden know just what I mean.

So when my green bean leaves started looking like this:

And the beans all grew in tight corkscrews:

And they were covered in brown spots:

I nearly cried.  Actually I did have a few tears well up, but I held them back for fear of looking unstable.  Three rows of beans planted, weeded and watered all for naught.  I was ready to give up, ready to pull out the plants so I didn't have to look at them everyday.  But then I regained my senses and prayed Jesus, I trust in you over and over again.  And I guess He thought this insane gardener really needed beans because after ignoring them for days I took a peek under the leaves and found thousands of straight, unmarred beans ready for the picking.  So I picked and picked and picked some more until 4 bags were full.  They weighed in at 40 pounds.  

And then I (with the help of Warren, Emily and Sam) canned 32 quarts.


When you feel like giving up, pray, wait and then check back in.  No matter how silly you think your prayer request might be He's listening and will provide exactly what you need.  Amen.

Another Birthday ~ Maria Turns 2

We are blessed to have back-to-back birthdays in August.  Today we celebrated for the 2nd time.

Joseph had cupcakes.  My family is split on their love of cake with frosting so I have to be a little creative for Maria's cake.  I had a little leftover cocoa frosting from Joseph's birthday so I made chocolate chip blondies, cut out 2 giant hearts and piped frosting stars around the edge.

 We got take and bake pizza for supper.  What a treat.  I added cran-apple sauce and fresh garden cucumbers and supper was done.  Looking at her face, she seemed to like the pizza.

All our kids have loved having their own lantern.  They take them outside in the dark.  They like to use them as a reading light at bedtime and in blanket forts.  We got Maria a Hello Kitty lantern.

Nick being her Godfather, he got her a babydoll with changes of clothes.

This neon playground ball was quite a hit.  See Joseph's face?  He's a little surprised because he got the same ball from his Godparents.  He immediately went running to find his just to make sure no regifting was going on.

Of course I picked out a pile of new dresses/leggings sets.  This beautiful blue dress is from Carters with white leggings. 

Her older siblings went chose this cute baby doll diapering set.  She already has the tabs on the diapers wore out.

And then I also put together an unused nightstand and play dishes for her to use as a little stove/kitchen.  I added an apron and the darling blue enamelware teapot I got at a local antique shop.

And there you have it our 2nd birthday in 2 days.

Happy Birthday Maria!

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