Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Tip: Egg Substitute


Have you ever begun to bake something, only to realize you're OUT of eggs? 

Did you know there's an easy solution to replace the egg (or two) withOUT running to the store?

Thankfully, I learned this handy dandy "egg substitution" that has saved us in a pinch on more than one occasion.


1 egg = 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water

That's it!  Replace the missing egg with the cornstarch and water and bake as directed.  You'll never know the difference.  It's also perfect for families with egg allergies.  We once made a huge batch of pancakes for a friend with an egg allergy, where we had to substitute 3-4 eggs.  They were delicious!  We now refer to those special pancakes as "Dancakes".  :)

Photo Credit

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tackling Chores

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Sunday April 11th, 2010

I've learned over the years that there are as many chore systems as there are families. This is a wonderful thing as it means families are creating methods that work for their unique family dynamics. 

But like most moms, I think it's fun to see how others are doing it.   Whether you want to fine-tune your own system, or you're just starting out trying to create one, find what works for your family. 

In my last post, I shared about our wonderful school day messes. Messes that reveal life in our home. And though we love those kinds of messes, we do enjoy a clean and tidy home. And in a family of our size, it requires everyone pitching in to keep things in order and running smoothly.

Here's how we do it. My system of chores involves everyone, covers all areas, and even includes those monthly deep cleans.  This is a standard sized poster board that hangs on our refrigerator so that it can be easily seen.  Click on image for larger view.

As you can see, each child is color-coded so that they can quickly recognize their name. Most chores are Monday thru Saturday, with only the essentials on Sunday. Each child finds their name and can quickly scroll down the left column of chores to find out what they're doing on a particular day.

Our daily chores are usually done three times a day.  If that sounds like a lot, you should see how quickly things go awry around here.  After breakfast, we run though chores for the first time in the day.  Then again after lunch.  And again, after dinner.  Doing this throughout the day helps keep on top of things and makes the work quick and less painful.

Beneath the Daily Chores, we have Weekly and Monthly.  The weekly chores are done every Saturday.  The Monthly chores rotate weekdays.  For example, every 1st Tuesday of the month, Sophia and Seth wipe the downstairs baseboards.  This allows everything to be covered, but spreads out the work over the month.

We begin training our children to pitch in as soon as they understand commands.  However, the youngest age that I actually have on the chart is our three year old, Genevieve.  She has chores such as dish helper, meal helper, feeding the dog, etc.  The "helper" chores are for the little ones in training.  When the little ones are working along side an older one, they're learning that job.  It was very rewarding to graduate Seth (10) and Sophia (8) to their own dish and laundry day, knowing they were capable of doing the task because they spent time learning as "helpers".  

If you only have little ones, allow your children to be your helpers.  I know some days it's just easier to get things done yourself, but teaching your little one early will be such a blessing later on.  If the thought of training little ones to do chores is overwhelming, just start with one...a chore that would be most helpful to you if your little ones could do it on their own.  Train them in that one job until they've mastered it, and then move onto another chore.  And remember, try not to have high expectations at first.  My five year old won't sweep as well as I do, but they'll get better as they grow.  Give them lots of praise for a job well done!

As our children grow, the chart gets revamped to either include new children who are big enough to accomplish chores or "upgrade" jobs as kids become more capable.  (Click here to see two of our older charts.) 

As a matter of fact, I'll be revamping again soon since my oldest daughter is getting married in January.  I'll need to remove her from the chart and divvy up her chores between the rest of us.  Doesn't that sound so sad?  Removing her from the chart?  I don't know..maybe she'll consider popping on over a few times a day to help out?!

Okay, probably not.  She'll be a bit busy managing her own home.

So, what are your favorite tips for keeping your home clean?  What are some of the chores your little ones do?  And at what age do they begin?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Great School Days and Messes

26/31 dozer reporting for cleanup

Have you ever just stood in the middle of your home and wondered how in the world did this place get so messy

I have...and all too often.  I like neat and tidy.  I like clean and organized.  But, we do happen to have people, little people in particular, living here!  And with little people, come big messes.

The other day, I walked into our front room, which is our primary schooling area, and where we had been all morning.  As if completely surprised by how it happened, I thought to myself, "This place is a WRECK!" I glanced around and took inventory of the things strewn about. There were school books, binders, papers, and crayons covering the table. Some of the crayons had fallen off the table onto the floor. There were Tinker Toys, Wood Blocks, fun books, and other toys everywhere. There were several baby blankets, floor mats, and baby "things" thrown in there for good measure. And in the neighboring kitchen, flour covered the counter tops, with a light dusting on the floor.  In the middle of all this mess, were my children. 

After processing the disaster area before me, suddenly, this thought plagued me.  What if someone were to show up unexpectedly.....RIGHT NOW?  What would they think? 

But then....

It occurred to me that this mess.....the books, the crayons, the blocks, the toys, the baby things, the flour in the kitchen....meant life. Our life!  This "mess" was the symbol of a great school day in our home.  A day where learning and fun took priority over tidiness and pride.  What was there to be ashamed of?  That we actually use our materials?  That our children actually play with their toys...and read their books?

So once I came to my senses, I knew exactly what I'd say to the one who just might show up on our doorstep and see our mess....

I'd say that real life was happening in our home..and that the things God has provided were being used.

I'd say that relationships were being strengthened because the younger boys worked together to build the highest. tower. ever. with those wood blocks.

I'd say learning flourished and brains were stimulated because all those books were being consumed, and those math cubes were being counted.

I'd say that creativity was encouraged by the use of all those crayons.

I'd say that toys cluttered the floors because they were being enjoyed by the little ones who were happily entertained while mom taught the older ones.

I'd say imagination was inspired as the Tinker toys found their way into the shapes of space ships, vehicles, and grocery carts.

I'd say that all that flour in the kitchen revealed skill being sharpened as my older daughter baked her homemade pie.

I'd say that servanthood was exemplified as my younger daughter played with the baby on those blankets and baby things which littered the floor.

Yes...a mess, indeed.

A wonderful mess that proved life was happening in our home, where life should be happening.  Joyfully.

Like any other mom, I appreciate and enjoy a clean home.  Just as there is a time for learning and play, there is a time to clean up.  And when the time came, and the schooling was done, team work prevailed as we all pitched in to put things back together.

Moms, whether you home school or not, have one little one or five, don't be discouraged over the wonderful proclamations of life being actively lived out in your home.  There will be a time for cleaning up, but  until then....relax....press on with the task to which God has called you....and smile....knowing that good things are happening in the midst of the chaos.  Things much more important than a perfectly tidy home at every waking moment.

Yes...this is my idea of a GREAT school day. 

Photo Credit

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Begin An Advent Tradition

Advent candles 2008

What?  It's only August and you're talking about Advent already?

You betcha!

The reason?  I want you to have plenty of time to order these wonderful Advent books that our family has enjoyed for the past nine years. 

Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, and Tabitha's Travels by Arnold Ytreeide are all beautifully intertwined stories that lead up to Jesus' birth.  Each character is lead on a different journey full of adventure and nail-biting cliffhangers.  Your kids will hardly be able to wait for the next day's reading.

Even though our older children have heard these stories numerous times, they still look forward to hearing them again every year.  And for our younger ones, it's a brand new story as they grow each year and begin to understand the beauty of Advent.  It's become a wonderful tradition in our family....one that we hope they'll continue in their own families.

You begin reading the story on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and read a section each day until you finally arrive at Christmas morning...the reading of Christ's birth.

Our first night of reading, we sit around the table with big mugs of hot chocolate.  It is such fun time for our family.

On Christmas morning, we eat breakfast first...must feed the vultures.  Then, we do nothing else, not even open presents, until we've read our final Advent story.  It really sets the tone for what Christmas means to our family as Christ-followers, and why we celebrate His glorious birth.

If you're not already reading these, I highly recommend them.  If you can only order one, begin with Jotham's Journey, and try to collect one a year until you've acquired all three. 

Your family will love these, and the time spent reading together is a time to be cherished!

"With these books you will begin a rich tradition of nativity celebration in your household."

*This post contains affiliate links.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quick Tip: Snack Time

one of my favorite things.

Snack time doesn't have to be a production.  A handful of raisins, a cheese stick, or a handful of nuts are nutritious, easy choices. 

It can also be as simple as diving a spoon into a jar a peanut butter.

Peanut butter on a spoon packs a substantial, nutritional punch.  Just 1 tablespoon of peanut butter has about 90 calories, 4g protein, and 1g fiber. The protein in peanut butter helps contribute toward your daily protein needs, and it provides energy while helping to keep the kids feeling full until meal time.

It's one of our kids' favorite snacks!  And mine too.  :)

Photo Credit

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Perfect Biscuit

And might I add...the EASIEST too!

The Perfect Biscuit

White Lily Self-Rising Flour
Heavy Whipping Cream

That's all -- just two ingredients for light and fluffy biscuits!

Mix about 1 1/2 cups of self-rising flour per 1 cup of heavy cream. Add flour as needed, being careful not to add too much, or the biscuits will be dry and heavy, instead of light and fluffy.

Knead lightly on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2" thick.

Then cut into rounds with a glass or cookie cutter dipped into flour.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden-brown on top.

Bridesmaid Fun

Last weekend, Cheyenne took her bridesmaids to be fitted for their dresses.  With the help of Rachel, their friend and sales associate, they were able to order their dresses for the upcoming January wedding.  Two of her bridesmaids are not pictured here; one lives out of state, and the other was out of country.  They were missed!

The girls had a wonderful time together, and followed the fittings with a girls' luncheon. 

Photo from L to R:  Amy, Rachel, Shelley, Cheyenne (the bride), Celeste (Maid of Honor and sister), and Bethany Bridesmaids missing in action:  Cristen and Alex

Friday, August 19, 2011

How To: Homemade Refried Beans

Homemade Refried Beans

We love beans.  We eat a lot of them because they're yummy, healthy, and CHEAP! 

We especially eat a lot of Refried Beans.  We make a 2 lb. bag of Pintos every two weeks. 

Did you know that 1 cup of Refried Beans is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol? It is also a good source of Protein (13g), Vitamin C, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Manganese, and an excellent source of Fiber (12g...that's 49% of your Daily Value).

So what do we do with all those beans?  We make Quesadillas, Bean and Cheese Burritos, Bean Dip, Tostadas, and Touch Down Taco Dip.  We also use them as a side to enchiladas and tacos.  The kids even like to eat them in a small dish with cheese on top.  Having them on hand makes for SUPER EASY "go to" lunches and dinners. 

Let's get cookin'.

Here's what you'll need:

1 lb bag Pinto beans
1 stick butter (or any other fat such as bacon fat or lard...but everything is betta with butta!)
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic powder to taste

First, sort your beans.  Place a small pile on the counter at a time and pick out any dirt clots, rocks, or anything else that doesn't resemble a Pinto bean.

See that big, ugly clump of dirt?  Now aren't you glad you sorted first?

Here are the gems I found in my last bag.  El Grosso!

 As you're sorting your piles, throw the beans in a medium to large pot.

Now, give the beans a quick rinse....pour out water, and then refill pot to about an inch or two above the beans.

First stage done.  Go relax and let those babies soak all night.  (Quick soak method below)

When you're ready to begin cooking the beans, pour out the soaking water and refill with fresh water, again, 2-3 inches above beans.  I usually use hot water just to give the heating up process a jump start. 

Bring beans to a boil.  Be careful not to let those beans boil over while you’re not looking…the mess is a doozy!  But I wouldn't know about that.

Let boil for a couple of minutes and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  Stir occasionally and add water if necessary.  If you let all the water evaporate, your beans will burn, your pot will be lots of fun to clean, and your house will not smell very pleasant.  But I wouldn't know about that either!

When your beans are done, they will look plump and feel soft.  Drain some of the water.  Not all of it, though...about like this. 

Now pour the beans in a food processor.  If you do not have one, or you just don't feel like luggin' the huge thing out, use a masher.  Add butter, about 2 teaspoons of salt, a little pepper, and a little garlic powder.  If you're using a masher, be sure and stir the beans, 'cause those mashed beans stick to the bottom.

Process away!  Once you’ve reached your desired consistency, it’s time to taste.  Does it need more salt?  Probably so.  Maybe a little more pepper and garlic?  I don’t know…they're your beans.  Taste them!

Each time you need to add more seasoning, pulse or stir to blend.

Once you’ve got them all nice and seasoned, pour them into a container to cool.  Once cool, seal tightly.  Will store in the fridge for two weeks. 

So, you see, they’re not actually REfried, but that's okay...they still taste amazing!  But if you want to "re"fry them, have at it.

Here's the printable version:

Homemade Refried Beans

1 lb Pinto beans
1 stick butter
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder to taste

Sort beans and place in medium to large pot.  Rinse with cool water and drain.  Refill to about 1-2 inches above beans.  Let soak all night.  If you don't want to wait until the next day, use the quick soak method.

*Quick soak method:  After rinsing beans, refill with hot water, and bring to a boil.  Boil a few minutes and then turn off the stove.  Let sit an hour...resume at this step below.

Drain soaking water and refill to about 1 inch above pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 hours.  If you're not sure when they're done, taste a bean to make sure it's very soft.

Drain some of the water, but not all of it.  Pour beans into food processor and add butter, about 2 teaspoons of salt, some pepper, and a little garlic powder.   Pulse (or stir if using a masher) to incorporate seasoning and butter.  Pulse until you get the desired consistency.  Taste often to check for seasoning.  Trust your instincts...you know what taste good to you!

Pour beans into air tight container.  Allow to cool and store up to two weeks.  These freeze well too.   Enjoy!

Photo Credit (top)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fun Reading Games

Looking for something new and fun to keep the little ones busy while they're cooped up in the house because it's TOO scorching hot to go outside? 

Yep...me too!  That's why I'm glad to have found this....

Three of my kids have already been enjoying these fun FREE reading games.  And it's just enough to change up the old routine, and still keep their minds busy. 

If you have beginning or early readers, click on the photo, and give it a try!

*I receive a little compensation per sign up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quick Tip: Children's Puzzles

Keeping all those puzzle pieces to the correct puzzle is made easier by simply numbering the puzzle itself.......

And then numbering each individual puzzle piece to match.

What are your favorite tips for keeping puzzles organized?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I LOVE Swagbucks

Did you know that you could be earning FREE Amazon gift cards simply by doing toolbar searches that you probably do daily anyway? Swagbucks has been a huge blessing to our family. I have purchased many Amazon gift cards that I immediately put into my Amazon account. I was able to buy most of my home schooling material this year for FREE thanks to Swagbucks. For just 450 Swagbucks, you can snag a $5 Amazon gift card. Of course, there are many other things you can buy (like Paypal cash and Starbucks gift cards), but I stick with my trusty Amazon gift cards.

Here's how it works. Click on the image above and sign up for Swagbucks. You will download a simple Swagbucks toolbar and that's it! Once your toolbar is up, begin using it for your daily searches.

There are other ways in which you can earn Bucks as well. You can do daily polls and surveys. You can also try promotional offers and earn big Bucks. Recently, I signed up for a 30-day trial of Netflix. Our family enjoyed a months worth of fun movies and documentaries, and I enjoyed 1000 Swagbugs! Cha-Ching!

Here are just some of the gift cards I've redeemed. I've got two more waiting to be delivered into my account.

$5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card
$5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card
$5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card
$5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card
$5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card
$5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card
$5 Amazon.com e-Gift Card

Go up to the link above and sign up now....you won't regret it!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mama Told Me There'd Be Days Like This

Lets Paint!

It's a beautiful, lazy Saturday morning. Mommy and Daddy are relaxing, kids are playing, older girls are gone getting fitted for bridesmaid's dresses, no pressing appointments to worry about. Sounds perfect right?

In our eighteen years of parenting, one thing we've learned is that when it's TOO quiet, it's time to check on the little ones. Our instincts proved correct!

We came upon a scene of total art madness. In our older girls' room, no less. The guilty suspects? Our two, and three year old.  BUSTED!  Where shall I begin?

Sketching pencils strewn about.  Open tubes of acrylic, oil, and watercolor paint all over the carpet.  A "redesigned" abstract painting that Celeste had just painted last night, ruined, courtesy of little sister.  And, of course, Jonathan and Genevieve, covered in paint.

The little sleuths got into the big girls' room despite having a "child safety knob" on the door.  I didn't know whether to be glad the girls weren't home to see the condition of their room, or be furious that a certain, unnamed child didn't put away her painting supplies!

Never fear, Superhero Mom and Dad dove in head first and conquered the chaos.  The girls will neeeever know what happened.  Well, except for that redesigned painting....and the paint on their sheets, and the empty paint tubes, and......

It's days like this that I am eternally grateful for my handy dandy carpet cleaning machine, which got ALL the paint out of the carpet.  It definitely works overtime in our home.  It's just the nature of having children, especially a lot of children, that messes like these are a regular, and expected,  part of our life!  We just clean them up, and laugh about them later....much later.

Photo Credit

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Free Chips and Queso

Would you like....


Simply click on link above and print your FREE chips and queso from Chili's!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Under Construction

Well, I'm finally doing it. I'm redesigning my blog. New look, new name, new domain. GULP!

Things may look strange and unfinished around here a while, but I hope to complete the job quickly.  It will be a process, so please bear with me!  :)  Don't forget to check back....

Monday, August 01, 2011

Amish White Bread

This is hands down our favorite white bread recipe.  Even though we mainly bake whole wheat bread, we can't resist this delicious, sweet bread.  Give it a try!  You will love it!
Amish White Bread
  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cups bread flour
1.    In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
2.    Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface (or in your very large bowl) until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.  Rising in a warm oven (turned off) works best.
3.    Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9×5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
4.    Bake at 325 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes. 

Recipe courtesy of The Marathon Mom :)

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