Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cleaning Out the Fridge

I decided it was time to clean out the fridge today.  I found 4 opened packages of tortillas. Why on earth there were so many in there, I haven't a clue.  Especially since Bryan made fajitas last night and I know rather than looking in the fridge, he just grabbed the unopened packages out of the pantry. Ok, I guess I do know why. Sigh.  So, um, meal plans will have to be tweaked a bit for tomorrow.  There is also a tube of Pillsbury biscuits that got knocked out of the basement fridge yesterday and popped open so those must be used tomorrow.  And while pulling everything out for dinner, I remembered we had half a pound of ground turkey and two slightly freezer burnt hamburger patties. So that was the meat for tonight's soup. A bit different than usual but that is the joy of taco soup. It's incredibly versatile and easy to adapt to whatever is in your pantry at the moment.

We've been having some trouble of late with children wasting food and sneaking food without permission.  I've always frowned on such things but it seems no matter what I say or do lately, I am ignored.  This is not a case of children not getting enough to eat. This is a case of kids being picky and stubborn and trying to get all of the treats for themselves and not share honestly.  For instance at lunch today, the first child done asked for a piece of fruit.  Immediately there was a chorus of kids asking the same thing.  Because everyone wants to make sure they get a banana before they are all eaten.  Never mind that I bought enough for everyone to have one. From the couch where I was resting, my answer was you can only have a piece of fruit if you have finished your sandwich.  When I got up to make sure lunch had been cleaned up properly, I discovered at least 4 sandwiches tossed into the garbage.  Yup, I'm not happy with that kind of a stunt. So the kids were told there would be no snacks this afternoon since they think they can waste food. We don't tolerate tossing food away or taking one bite and saying you are done around here.  It just does not work for our family.

So while trying to figure out a new way to deal with it, I came up with a project for the older children.  I'm not sure which ones will be considered older children yet. I may partner them up. But in a few weeks (after we have settled in from the baby's arrival), the kids will be assigned a week to do our grocery shopping and meal planning. They will be given our standard weekly grocery budget to spend ($175 a week) and dietary guidelines to follow. In other words, they may not plan to serve peanut butter and fluff or nutella sandwiches every day.  I'm hoping giving them some real world experience on how hard it can be at times to balance our budget while providing truly healthy food for the family.  I don't want to make them feel guilty but I do want them to realize that their actions with regard to food thievery and wasting simply are not acceptable.  And we can call it home ec credit I suppose.   Judging from the rolling of the eyes at dinner when I brought up this idea, I don't think some of the kids are looking forward to it but I have to admit that I am.  I'm hoping it will give at least a few of them a new perspective on things.  Just maybe.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Would You Do

Something has been weighing rather heavily on my mind as of late. I keep watching as many folks keep slipping further and further behind financially.  Hard working folks who simply cannot keep up with the financial challenges we are all facing today.  No, you simply cannot always get another job. No, you simply cannot always just join the military (and joining the military is never a guarantee of job security, I can think of many folks who can attest to that one).  No, you cannot always just cut something extra from your budget.  Many folks are living on a bare bones budget already but are falling further behind each month as they struggle to buy gas to get to work and buy groceries to fill their stomachs.  And even more shocking to me is the attitude from some folks who simply say well, get a job or plan better or it's all your fault if you can't keep up.  The attitude many folks have that they are somehow better than those of a lower socioeconomic status.  Yup, this one bugs me big time.  Sure, there are folks who refuse to help themselves but a vast majority of folks I know who are struggling are doing so through no fault of their own and simply find themselves out of options.

So what do you do when you are down to your last $20 because you had to fix the breaks on your only working car so that the adults could continue to get to work? And you have 6 people to feed on that $20 for a week because you have been scraping bottom grocery wise over the past few months.  And when many food pantries now require that you are already on government assistance before they will provide any help? And you don't have family to ask for help? This is a very real life situation that people are facing on a regular basis.  What would you do if it were your family? Or what would you do if it were a family you knew? 

Just one of those things floating around my mind lately.  I realize that we as a family are blessed to have family who would help us in such a situation. We also do our best to maintain a pantry that would prevent such a situation although I can easily see how we could use everything up if finances change.  I also realize that many people simply do not have the same resources to fall back upon.  So what would you do in that situation?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Meal Plan

I'm once again planning this as I type.  I had a meal plan organized the other day but I'm thinking a few tweaks are necessary.

M: oatmeal (B), leftovers (L), honey glazed chicken (D)
T: eggs and biscuits (B), sandwiches (L), soup, I think this one (D)
W: cereal (B), quesadillas (L), taco soup (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), sandwiches (L), chicken gyros (D)
F: pumpkin bread (B), leftovers (L), tuna casserole (D)

The weekend plans are up in the air at the moment so we'll just have to see what happens.  Maybe I can convince the kids to have hot dogs instead of pizza on movie night because although I enjoy pizza night, sometimes you need a change.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tomato Soup

I made this tomato soup for dinner tonight.  The first time making it.  While the recipe was not completely from scratch, I think it is close enough.  You can always start with fresh tomatoes and crush them  yourself but I'm totally ok with getting those from a can.  This soup was much better than the canned stuff I grew up eating.  Full of vegetables and a real texture. All the kids loved it.  It can easily be kept completely vegetarian but I will admit I did not worry about that tonight since I did not have vegetable broth in the house.  If you want the soup smoother, you can either take the time to chop the vegetables smaller than I did or run the soup through a blender.  It was very easy to make and quick to throw together.  And did I mention it is a very thrifty/affordable meal? This will definitely replace the canned condensed tomato soup around here.

Fencing Lessons

Kieran has been asking for fencing lessons for years.  He tolerates karate but has even asked if we could afford fencing lessons if he stopped taking karate.  For many reasons, fencing simply does not fit into our budget or family plans. I refuse to fill our schedule up with individual classes/lessons for just for one child.  I'd rather spend more time at home and not drive everyone crazy.  Family time is a greater priority.  Plus most of the fencing lessons are on the other side of Rochester and they are very expensive. So they never were considered.  However, the other day I was flipping through a catalog we received for some local recreation programs and found an introductory fencing class for elementary kids.  It is just a 6-week session and was still out of our budget in general but his grandparents are chipping in on the classes for a birthday present. When we split the cost in half, it almost brought it down to the level we normally spend on birthdays.  Since Kieran has been wanting fencing lessons for so long, I decided I was willing to spend just a little more than usual. 

Alan took him to the first session last night. We did not tell him where he was going to keep it a surprise.  The kid was beyond thrilled.  Just judging from the grin on his face when he arrived home last night, I think we can safely say he is thrilled with his birthday present.  Yes, I know his birthday is in December but the class is now.  I think he won't mind no presents on his actual birthday because this experience is much better than a new toy.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Little Ones and Church

Obviously we have many younger children. Obviously we have had little ones for quite a while.  So the question of what to do with small ones and how to handle them during Mass is one that we have been dealing with for quite some time. And over the years our way of dealing with children during Mass has evolved as our family dynamics have changed. A recent change of thought at our parish has caused me to spend some time rethinking what we believe with regard to children in church and why.  Funny thing is I am now even more convinced that we are doing the best thing for our family.

We currently attend a smaller church several towns over.  One of the things that drew us to this parish was the awesome young priest and the incredibly family friendly welcoming environment.  This parish has grown in numbers in huge ways over the past year or so simply because folks with children are absolutely drawn to this priest.  He relates wonderfully to the children and they all seem to love him.   However some of his recent statements have me wondering if he realizes how easy it can be to alienate those same families who are so drawn to his parish.

First, I will state that I understand keeping everyone in a parish happy is impossible.  And I realize that some folks are simply set in their ways and do not like change so seeing so many young kids in Mass is not always a good thing for them.  And I do completely admit that we have some families in our parish who do need to do a better job of managing their children and their own noise levels during Mass. One family in particular was being so loud in front of us that Robert started telling them to be quiet and I found myself digging in my bag for toys and books to hand the kids in hopes that they would get the idea.  Sadly, they didn't.

So what is the issue?  Quite simply it's the dreaded cry room/children's liturgy question.  Our parish does not currently have either one but is now planning on putting in a cry room of sorts and starting a children's liturgy.  Do I like either one of these ideas? Nope, not really.  Do I like the way they are being presented?  No, not at all.  Several of the families with young children (including our own) have been privately pulled aside and told about how these things will be starting and they will be great for the children.  None of us can tell if we were being told the kids are obnoxious or not.  And at all Masses for the past few weeks, the cry room/children's liturgy has been brought up with the basic premise of we are all expected to make use of these options once they are available. 

Here's the problem: none of the families with young children were at all asked if they wanted these things, desired them or felt they were necessary.  And frankly, none of us are happy.  Having options is awesome but the way it is being presented is frankly offensive. 

What are my thoughts on the matter?  I have never seen children's liturgy done well.  I have never seen kids truly get a benefit out of it.  They leave Mass (where they belong) and go do craft projects and listen to a watered down version of the readings which are then explained to them in dumbed down terms by a well meaning but often uneducated volunteer.  Then they come back into Mass right at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist hopped up, bouncing off the walls, talking, obnoxious and unable to sit still and be respectful for the most important part of the Mass.  Nope, our children are not allowed to participate in children's liturgy any longer.  And yes, we are used to the looks we get when our kids are the only ones left in Mass where they belong.

Cry rooms.  Well, I do honestly love the idea of a place to take a restless toddler. But, again, I have never seen them used properly.  Instead I have seen parents truck in bags of toys, video games, and enough food for a full meal.  Cry rooms do not allow you to teach your children how to behave in Mass because most parents using them believe that because they are in the cry room, they don't have to teach their child to behave.  Or adults congregate in the area so they can have a conversation themselves.  Yes, I went through a period when I was pregnant with Katie and Alan was away for 8 months and I was alone with the 4 boys. So I used the cry room since it was my only real option for taking the kids to Mass. And it was awful.  You can't hear anything or get a benefit from Mass at all.  Great idea in theory but rarely used as it should be: as a short stop meant to help teach your toddler appropriate Mass behavior.  Nope, we don't use cry rooms either.

Lest you think I am against having options, let me assure you I am not.  Yes, we used to bring drinks and a small snack, a book or quiet toy.  Over time we've learned that these things simply serve as distractions and give the kids something to fight over during Mass.  Yes, we do our best to remove grumpy toddlers in a timely manner.  But now we suddenly find ourselves feeling as if the toddlers make even the smallest noise, they are no longer welcome.  This leaves me feeling as if I cannot attend Mass when Alan is out of town which happens at least once a month.  Just this past weekend Alan was out of town, the older boys were at a retreat, and I'm at that point in pregnancy where any time in the car is likely to start contractions.  This means driving the 30 minutes to Mass and then dealing with the children alone during Mass was frankly out of the question.  They know when they have me out numbered and act accordingly. If I have to take one child out of Mass and I am without both my older children and my husband, I will have to take them all out and that is a bigger distraction. Since I have frequently been in the position to have to attend Mass alone for months at a time, I make a point to seek out family friendly parishes where I will be welcome even if the kids make some noise.  Yes, I've been in the position many times of leaving Mass in tears over the children's behavior when I was alone.  I've found attending Mass at times to be a huge struggle rather than a welcome respite from my week. But we've kept plugging along because I know it is easy to slip into the habit of not going.  And I've seen many families who have simply stopped attending Mass because they felt their children were no longer welcome. And these folks don't come back when their kids are older. They simply stop attending.

So what is to be done to keep everyone happy?  I'm not sure.  But I'd love to remind older folks that without the young children actually attending Mass, there will be no future for our Church at all.  I'd like to suggest that maybe you should spend less time focusing on other people. I know I rarely hear the noise from a specific other family or child unless they are being truly obnoxious.  I'd like to suggest that maybe if you see a parent alone with their children and struggling, just maybe you can offer to help them.  I've willingly handed a baby over to a welcome set of arms before or allowed a grandmother to adopt one of the kids during Mass because I needed the help.  That is true help.  Not asking that if you have a young child, please make use of these options to segregate your child and family from the rest of the congregation. And maybe, just maybe, remember that one day it might be you in the pew with a kid who is acting up or maybe it used to be you.  And remember how hard it used to be and just pray for our young families.  The society we are trying to raise our children in is much, much different from the one you raised yours in.  We all deserve to feel welcomed by our church community.  Yes, take out a rowdy toddler.  But please, please, please don't make us feel as if our kids don't belong in the church with the rest of you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Meal Plan

I have decided it is ok to start using some of those freezer meals this week rather than keeping them all for after the baby is born.  Because I'm getting kind of tired lately.  Because the freezer is a bit full. Because I am expecting a delivery of 40 lbs of chicken the first week of November which will have to be made into more freezer meals and such and put into the freezers somewhere.  And because certain seasonal sales are starting that also require some extra freezer space and I am hoping to avoid having to plug in the 3rd fridge.  I really want to have room for a few extra turkeys if the prices drop in the next few weeks.  Of course, we are also starting to run low on bread and milk but I am hoping to avoid a trip to store until Tuesday or Wednesday so the beginning of the week will have to a bit creative or cautious in the use of those items. Usually this is not a problem.  Unless I leave the house or take a nap and the children decide to raid the kitchen without permission.  Then it becomes a problem.  So I'm just going to hope they don't do that to me this week.

Monday: pumpkin baked oatmeal (B), sandwiches (L), salisbury meatballs (D)
Tuesday: eggs (B), macaroni and cheese (L), tomato soup (D)
Wednesday: cereal (B), tuna sandwiches (L), pork chops (D)
Thursday: yogurt (B), mini pizzas/calzones (L), spicy chicken soup (D)
Friday: muffins/quick bread (B), sandwiches/leftovers (L), fish (D)
Saturday: French toast (B), leftovers (L), pizza bread (D)

Right now our freezers are full of pumpkin puree, pumpkin butter, bell peppers, blueberries, shredded zucchini, chicken broth, frozen fruit, pie filling, and some assorted freezer meals.  I learned this week that it is best not to send a child down to the freezer with a freezer meal to put away and the instructions to lay the bag out flat to freeze because apparently that translates to wad the bag up in a ball and shove it in the freezer. This means the bag does not freeze flat, takes up way more room than you planned, gets in your way, and makes it harder to fit more food/meals into the freezer in an organized manner.  Oh well.

Tonight I think I am going to ask one of the older boys to make dinner, one of the girls to make apple crisp (working on the baking merit badge and using up the last few apples) to go with our ice cream for sundaes on Sunday, and pull out a jug of cider to have with dinner.  Translation: most of the kids will be thrilled and think I'm being nice while I will get to rest after a weekend of Alan working, the older boys being out of town, me getting over what I think was a stomach bug, one little one with the runs and another little one who threw up all over themselves in the car on the ride to pick up the boys.

NFP and Zealousness

In our work as NFP instructors, we are often contacted by folks dealing with less than ideal NFP related situations.  I've had more opportunity than I can count to talk to people who are struggling not only with the ins and outs of NFP, but also with the judgmental attitudes from other folks regarding their choices.  It seems if you admit you use NFP, you are immediately labeled as an idiot by mainstream folks.  I've been yelled at, insulted and mocked by more medical "professionals" than I can count regarding our religious beliefs.  Yes, religious beliefs. For us there are two options with regard to spacing the births of our children: either use NFP when we need/desire more space or do nothing.  No other choices are morally acceptable because the Church has never changed it's rules folks.  Yes, we've also been openly mocked by family members who disagree with us.  Because that is the new tolerance. Don't ask for information. Don't respect another person's beliefs. Simply make fun of them.

I think the saddest issues we run into with regard to NFP use, however, come from within the ranks of those who claim to support it. There seem to be two main camps.  Those who believe that you should only use NFP in the most serious life or death situations and those who believe that using it in anyway other than one that provides a minimum of 2 to 3 year spacing for a reasonable (usually no more than 4) kids is irresponsible.  So you have folks who get pressure to just keep having kids no matter what and those who will tell others they need to reread their books because they have their hands full.  But neither of these beliefs is in line with Catholic teaching on the subject.  Heck, I was recently told by some young starry eyed twenty-something not been married more than a few years young lady that anyone who has a child at a less than ideal time should have simply planned better because NFP is always fail proof or some such nonsense.  Hm, right, what a load of hooey.  As anyone who has used NFP for more than a few months can attest to, it's a monthly challenge, a daily commitment, and it certainly is not all sunshine and rabbits.

In the past year, I've had the chance to speak with several different women struggling with real world NFP issues that simply can't be solved by saying chart more, rest more, pray more, and remember that other folks have it worse than you.  I think one of the most insulting ideas I have heard tossed around by some heavy hitters in the NFP world is that you should not ever consider using NFP to be a struggle because those in our military don't get to have sex when their spouses are deployed.  Seriously, that is an entirely different ballgame. Just speaking from experience here.  So I will never tell you that you should not struggle or that it will always be easy.  Heck, I'm more than willing to say it can absolutely suck at times.  But what I think hurts more than that is watching women tear each other down and belittle each other over their differing interpretations.  Yes, many folks are called to raise a large family and can do so well.  But many other folks frankly need more spacing and should be supported as they try to provide it in a morally acceptable manner.  Many folks will find themselves at some point in their marriage welcoming a child at a less than perfect time.  They should be supported and reminded that every child is a gift no matter what the situation.  Yes, sometimes support means listening while the parents express their fear or anger or frustration over their new blessing rather than just telling them it will all work out because sometimes you just don't need the rose colored glasses look at life.

Even though this somewhat long winded rambling post probably makes little sense, I just want to say that I am praying right now for 4 different women I have spoken to this year regarding their NFP struggles.  One is battling life threatening health issues and her doctor's only suggestion was get on the pill, giving absolutely no care or regard to the fact that doing so was against his patient's religious beliefs and a greater danger to her health.  Apparently preventing a pregnancy is all that matters.  Two are mothers with young babies needing to assure themselves of a greater spacing for differing reasons: one financial and one health/emotional related. One is a young mother who I believe still doesn't realize that  NFP is not a guarantee of no problems or an easy road to follow. I'm praying she figures these things out before something in her life changes and she gets knocked to the ground unexpectedly.

I will still unashamedly state that I believe nothing good will ever come from artificial birth control and that I will never support a young lady (or older one) in seeking it out.  But I pray that over the years we have learned to tone down our message and simply listen and be supportive to others who are embracing this life.  It's not exactly what I expected it would be and yet it's something I will never give up. I just hope that other NFP zealots will realize they are often doing much more harm than good with their one-sided attitudes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soup

I just have to say that I have developed a deep love for potato soup.  Yes, I am slightly crazy. But I am loving the absolute simplicity.  We tried a new potato soup recipe for dinner last night. No, I did not use the one linked in the meal plan because when I pulled it up, I realized it called for an entire box of butter.  So not happening. The recipe I used was incredibly simple with only 5 ingredients.  Everyone loved it.  Ok, I'm not 100% sure on Ellie since she dumped most of her bowl out onto her tray but she has a few more weeks to get away with such tricks before she gets in trouble for them.  No, we in general do not tolerate wasting food but when you are under 2, you get a bit of a pass.  I am incredibly thankful that all of my kids will eat soup without complaining.  Next week I plan to try a homemade tomato soup recipe.  I love tomato soup but hate the idea of canned stuff so I haven't had in a long time.  My question for you is what ways have you been finding to stretch your food budget lately? 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meal Plan

We are hitting that point in pregnancy when the meal plan is subject to change at anytime if I need to rest.  There will be plenty of crockpot meals and things the kids can make for me if needed.  I also have 12 lbs of ground beef that needs to be dealt with and put into the freezer over the next day or so.  I'm hoping to make at least 2 freezer meals with it but I'm not exactly sure what it will be turned into.  On another note, it seemed everywhere I turned at the grocery store today the prices had just jumped up again.  It's honestly getting a little bit scary. I think I am going to have to start researching some alternative places in our area for shopping.  I've heard great things about an Asian grocery store but I'm not quite sure where it is located.

M: pumpkin baked oatmeal (B), tuna sandwiches (L), spaghetti and meatballs (D)
T: eggs in toast (B), quesadillas (L), potato leek soup (D)
W: cereal (B), corndog casserole (L), crockpot pepper steak (D)
T: breakfast casserole (B), pbj (L), black bean and salsa soup (D)
F: pumpkin bread (B), sandwiches/soup (L), crockpot minestrone (D)
S: french toast casserole (B), leftovers (L), individual pizzas (D)

We brought home 10 pie pumpkins from our Stokoe Farm field trip on Friday.  Seven have already been processed and turned into pumpkin puree, 3 are still waiting and will be turned into pumpkin butter.  Since I bought a case of pumpkin puree from Amazon earlier when it was super cheap, this leaves us with quite a bit of pumpkin to use up over the next few months so we are looking forward to plenty of pumpkin based snacks.  I'm also planning to make a batch of chicken and rice soup so that Alan has food to take with him for lunches (and for me to have as well on occasion).  It seems we are rarely able to count on leftovers from dinner to fill in for lunches lately.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Field Trip Friday

I arranged a field trip to Stokoe Farms for today. I thought since we had such a great time on the weekend, that it would be a great trip for the group.  However I am going to come out and say that they really stink at arranging field trips.  I received little direction on the organizing the trip from them (information regarding what we'd be doing, time frames, etc.) and the place was sheer chaos when we got there.  Perhaps it was because it was Friday but seriously, sheer chaos.

Pretty much the only time Robert was not crying.

Every group was supposed to have a schedule and stick to it. But at no point did anyone in charge at the farm make sure people were where they were supposed to be at the right time. So we often found ourselves waiting for our turn at an event (trying to stick to our schedule as requested) only to find that when our time arrived, other folks were there pushing us out of the way.  Add to this chaos the fact that it was cold, windy, and miserable and we opted to come home after lunch rather than stay all day.  We did get our pie pumpkins from the field so at least we have those and the kids got to ride the train and go down the slide. But in the end, I will say I was not at all impressed with the farm today.  Not impressed at all and I arrange field trips on a regular basis.  I've seen the good, the not to great, and the ugly. This one was fairly close to the bottom of the heap for me, I have to say. So we came home and made hot chocolate and the kids are watching a movie instead.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hoping for a Productive Day

I'm hoping that maybe if I write down everything that I truly need to get accomplished today that maybe having the accountability will encourage me to actually do it all.  Maybe.  Unless I feel just too darn tired or the kids keep arguing over having to clean the playroom or something.

So up on my to do list today:
get the rest of the bell peppers sliced, frozen, and bagged - DONE
blanch and freeze the broccoli - DONE
can another batch of grape jelly - DONE
toss chicken into the crockpot to make shredded chicken for dinner - DONE
can hot pepper rings
can a batch of applesauce - DONE
two loads of laundry - DONE if you don't count the folding which I'm not right now
make a library run (alone, to escape the children for a few minutes) - DONE but renewed everything  on-line instead
make dinner - DONE
run older boys to karate - DONE
send out reminder email about Frontier Girls meeting - DONE
maybe start planning said Frontier Girls meeting
work on NFP email - DONE
work on a book review for the blog


The good news is that the bell peppers are half done and there are a few things that the children can/will be helping me with.  The pantry and freezer are starting to fill up again which makes me feel a bit better. Yes, we'll have lots of salsa this year but I've been looking for a reason to try making black bean and salsa soup anyway. Later this year I will try my hand at canning enchilada sauce because it is decidedly expensive and the commercial stuff is full of extra ingredients that we don't need to eat.  But I think I can wait a little bit on that since we still have some of the commercial sauce in the pantry (it's one of those items I stock up on with coupons so we either have a lot or none at all it seems based on the coupon cycles).  Hopefully tonight and tomorrow Alan will be able to work on the salsa and roasted red pepper spread.  Yes, there are those things he takes over canning and those things I take charge of and the things we both do.  He mostly manages all the salsa now.  And now the children are beginning to argue like a bunch of heathens so I'd better get back downstairs to check on them.  Enjoy your day.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Exciting Day

Well, we had an exciting day for the kiddos at least.  This afternoon we went to Genesee Country Village so the kids could work as models for promotional materials for the museum.  We have done this one other time and the photographer who works for the museum is amazing.  He allows you to have copies of the pictures and they were wonderful last time so I am secretly hoping they turned out just as wonderful this time.

One of the reasons I signed up for this was to allow the kids to participate in the separate pay activities that simply do not fit into our budget.  With the kids posing for pictures, we were able to participate for free.

Today the kids were able to test out the corn maze (very family friendly and full of fun activities for the kids), visit with chickens and turkeys, try miniature golfing, play in a bounce house, climb on a 100 year-old tractor, and pretend to trick-or-treat in the village (yes, they got candy. we just only visited one house so not much).  They also took us to one of the older kids' favorite homes in the village just to take a few family shots.  Too bad Bryan was at work because I'm certain they will turn out great.

We also got to ride on golf carts all over the village.  I think this was the real highlight for many of the kids until Abby accidentally took a tumble out of the back of the cart and was dragged a bit. She's fine obviously as she was more scared than hurt but it definitely added a bit of excitement to the day.  I don't have any pictures of my own since I decided it was more important to actually be with the kids today than it was to be outside of what they were doing snapping pictures but we'll hopefully end up with some nice pictures in a few weeks.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Meal Plan

I'm finishing up the meal plan as I type.  I'm getting to that point where I need to spend less time on my feet and come up with more easy to fix meals (or call the teenagers into service a bit more often which I will admit I am trying to avoid when I can because they already help a ton around here).   The plan might change later in the week if I come up with a plan for using the spaghetti squash and acorn squash we have waiting to be eaten. Of course, they might just end up in the freezer somehow instead.  I do have one new recipe this week as well but we aren't trying any new vegetarian meals.  Alan is making chili for dinner tonight and I'll make a large pot of soup tomorrow so hopefully those will provide the adults with lunches next week.  Yes, I find myself craving homemade soup when it gets cooler weather wise and have found that I really don't care for the canned stuff much at all anymore.  Guess I've been slightly spoiled as of late.

Monday: waffles (B), chicken and cheese quesadillas(L), Italian sausage and potato soup (D)
Tuesday: oatmeal (B), sandwiches (L), cheesy chicken and rice (D)
Wednesday: cereal (B), leftovers (L), BBQ beef sandwiches and coleslaw (D)
Thursday: eggs (B), tuna salad (L), quiche and salad (D)
Friday: pancake sausage muffins (B), field trip so a packed lunch (L), mac and cheese with broccoli unless I toss something into the crockpot in the morning (D)
Saturday: french toast (B), leftovers (L), pizza/popcorn night (D)

Purple Peppers

Friday was "gleaning" day at our CSA.  I took 4 of the older children with me and we picked quite a bit of produce from  the fields.  For most of the crops, they didn't have too much left but we did bring home a ton of peppers.  I was attempting to get the kids to keep the spicy peppers and the bell peppers in separate bags but that just didn't quite end up working.  So as we've been processing them today, we've had a few surprises.  Kind of like the surprise Bryan had while in the fields when he bit into a pepper thinking it was a bell pepper.  Yup, not so much.  Apparently it was a rather spicy one with a bit of a kick to it so he immediately ate an entire bell pepper in hopes of cooling his mouth down.
Most of the bell peppers we have are purple peppers. I will admit that I did not realize bell peppers grew in a purple color. I've seen red, orange, yellow, and green before but I had never seen purple. They are only purple on the outside, the inside is green. I promised pictures so here they are.  Quite interesting to look at if you ask me.
We brought home enough peppers on Friday to put 5 quarts of sliced bell peppers into the freezer and make 2 batches of salsa.  I did have to buy tomatoes since none of the tomatoes planted at the CSA grew this year due to the funky weather but I found an awesome deal at the farmers market and picked up 10 quarts of tomatoes for $4.  Alan canned  at least 12 pints plus one quart of salsa.  We have enough tomatoes left over that we will make roasted red pepper spread tomorrow.  We haven't made that in a few years so I know there are a few folks looking forward to it.  I'm also planning on canning the rest of the hot peppers as sliced pepper rings tomorrow so we'll have some of our own this winter.  And, yes, we are running out of canning jars.  But I suppose that can be considered a good thing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Weekend Plans

It looks like we will have a kind of busy weekend so I am trying to work on my meal plan for next week a bit early.  I took four of the kids to the CSA farm today to get some of the last produce out of their fields.  Now I need to make sure I write the plans so that I use up what we brought home.

We picked a bunch of peppers so I'll toss the bell peppers into the freezer and either can the spicy peppers or make salsa with them. Hopefully both but it depends on the availability of tomatoes right now.  We have kale which will go into a large pot of soup this week.  Popcorn which needs to dry out for a few weeks.  Some broccoli, squash, and a few cucumbers all of which should be easy to use up this week.  I kind of wish we'd brought home some more of the spicy peppers but the boys assigned to the task of picking them were much more interested in playing with the fire the other boys had going and got a tad distracted. 

Last week's meal plan provided us with two new recipes that everyone loved.  The kids devoured the bean and cheese enchiladas although the recipe prompted a discussion on why you would make your own refried beans out of pinto beans instead of just opening up a can of refried beans (the answer is I can buy pinto beans for somewhere between 0 and 50 cents a can while the other ones were 99 cents a can).  The South of the Border Skillet was equally loved although I'm not sure it is truly authentic Mexican food.  It is cheap, filling, healthy, and easy to make.  Both recipes were also vegetarian which gives us more popular Lent options.

Now to start using up the 100 cans of tuna stocked in the basement. The only issue is I am decidedly not interested in tuna casserole as of late so I need to do something else with it.

Hopefully we will finish up our canning this weekend and manage to tackle a few other projects around here. Hopefully.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Katie!

Katie turned 8 today.  It seems rather amazing that she is quite that big.  In many ways, she acts so much older.  Any time Ellie cries at night, Katie is right there taking care of her before we have a chance to get into their room. I walked in the other night and found Katie doing the half-asleep baby carry trying to bring her sister into her bed so she'd stop fussing.  The two of them are wonderful together.
I do believe Katie had a great day today, even with the massive bumps in the road.  She tested for her orange belt today.  Helped her older brother make her birthday cake (which frankly looked awful because apparently we were not in a following directions kind of mood today but it tasted great).  Sean managed to lock my keys in the house as we were trying to leave to head out for her birthday dinner so Alan had to come home to rescue us. This meant that by the time we made it to the restaurant, they were rather busy and we had to wait for a seat.  And if you've ever had to wait for a table for 11, you know that the wait is never a short one.
I do believe our little lady had a wonderful day. I can't quite believe how much she has changed over the past few years.  Happy birthday, Katie.

Karate Testing

Last week the older boys had testing week in their karate class. Both advanced to orange belt.  This week, the younger kids had testing week in their class.
 Abby joined the class several months after the other kids so she is not as far along as they are at the moment. She received her second stripe on her white belt today.
Katie, Liam, and Kieran all advanced to orange belt today.  I don't have decent pictures because the camera battery died on me but such is life. I tried. I will admit that I am slightly wondering what it takes for you to not advance to the next level with their instructor but maybe as they continue to progress, he'll get a tad stricter.

Clara's Kitchen

After dropping the older two boys off at karate last, I headed over to the library.  I picked up a copy of the book Clara's Kitchen:Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression and promptly read the entire thing last night.  I have to say I really wish I'd checked this book out back at the beginning of the summer because so many of the recipes in the book were for items we got from our CSA this summer that I just was not sure what to do with. Simple, easy, filling recipes that required little time or preparation.  So many of the recipes I looked up for these ingredients over the summer were frankly a pain in the neck and just unappetizing but in this little book I found a simple practicality that almost made me feel like an idiot for not figuring some of it out sooner.

I will admit this book is more of a story or memoir than a full cook book but I loved the simple charm of the book.  And I loved the reminders that we as a society have gotten way to spoiled, selfish, and picky.  I do hope to be able to pick up a copy of this book for myself later on but I do recommend that you head to your library to see if they have one in stock. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Feast of the Guardian Angels

Today I actually managed to remember a feast day in time to plan a small celebration.  Some years I'm great at remembering all these things, other years I don't do so well.  But I love to try to celebrate feast days every so often because I truly believe that the practice of the Faith is more caught than it is taught.  In other words, I believe you have to do quite a bit more than just take your kids to Mass and send them to religious education classes if you hope to plant a seed of faith in their hearts.  Two generations of families have learned the very hard way that it takes so much more than that to make things stick.

So what did we do today?  I intended to get out our Guardian Angel movie from CCC but I forgot until just about dinner time at which point it was too late.  Maybe I'll put it on for the younger ones tomorrow or see if EWTN is running it as a special.  I did remember to print out these guardian angel color sheets from Waltzing Matilda.  Abby, Gabe, and Robert all loved coloring them (even if I did insist that the markers were to stay locked up because Ellie keeps decorating herself and the house with them).

While at the store picking up a few things for dessert, I saw orange colored vanilla flavored milk and picked up some of that as a treat for the kids.  Strange thing about my older children. They acted entirely too put out that I bought orange milk.  Guess next time we won't share with them and will just give it all to the little ones. 

After dinner we had angel food cake for dessert.  Seems to me that angel food cake is rather appropriate for this feast and it is one of my favorites.  I did insist that the kids had to say the guardian angel prayer before eating.  So we kept it simple and easy.  Hope you took the time the celebrate with your family.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Weekly Goals

We were successful in our goal to get 11 meals into the freezer over the weekend.  Nothing too fancy but just stuff already prepped to toss into the crockpot or the oven with minimal work.  I'm hoping that over the next few weeks I'll be able to put a few more meals into the freezer so we are prepared for when the baby arrives.  I do have an order of 40 lbs of chicken that will arrive the first Monday in November so that entire first week will be spent putting more meals into the freezer.  Maybe not the best time for it to arrive but the price was such that we really could not pass it up if we hope to stay on a decent budget food wise.  I know I've said it before but every so often it really does hit me how much harder it is to manage a budget when you are feeding 11 versus when you are feeding only 3 or 4.  The realization hit me last week that we honestly use 5 to 6 loaves of bread a week.  And more than 2 lbs of pasta per meal.  And at least 5 gallons of milk a week. And 15 to 18 dozen eggs a month.  Long gone are the days of really being able to shop only twice a month simply because I'd have a hard time trying to store that much milk and keeping the bread and produce from going bad.  Our current plans are to order an entire cow and pig next year rather than a half of each because we are pretty darn close to being out of all of that meat already.  I have a few roasts left, 2 lbs of ground beef, some tenderloin, a couple of fresh hams, and pork hocks.  And that is all.  Amazing how quickly it disappeared.  The weather really hit our local crops hard so most of the local produce that we rely on for cheap canning food was hard to find and not so cheap.  I'm not sure what the pound per price was for the apples the crew picked this weekend since I did not go with them but I know Alan paid just as much or more than we usually do for less fruit than we usually pick.

So the goal this week is to continue working on the canning.  Applesauce and jelly must be made this week and we have a pie pumpkin that should be pureed before one of the children decides to poke at it with a sharp object. Over the past week we were able to can 6 pints of salsa, about 14 pints of jam/jelly, I think 11 quarts of applesauce, and we have 4 bags of apple pie filling in the freezer.  We also have 3 meals of honey glazed chicken, 3 of salisbury meatballs (which taste nothing like salisbury and everything like stroganoff to me), 1 meal of spaghetti sauce, 1 pan of eggplant parmesan, and 3 bags of chicken legs with assorted marinades poured over them.

Now to get back to my attempts to sort some hand-me-downs.  I love having the clothes for the amount of money it saves me each year but I hate having the clothes when it is time to sort and purge twice a year.  And can someone please explain to my children that you should not endeavor to ruin or loose your winter coat every year because when your mother has to buy a brand new coat for you the third year in a row, she tends to get a little irked.  Especially since each year she bought a size ahead so you could wear it for two years.  You were not supposed to rip it with an axe or leave it behind at art class.  Especially when you are old enough to know better and are no longer 3.