Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Awesome Article

After suffering a miscarriage over the weekend (started on my birthday because I was just that lucky this time), I had to share this article.  It's so incredibly awesome and says things so many of us have wanted to say.  Especially the flowers. That is exactly what I felt when Isabel died and I had to look at that wall of flowers in my kitchen.  I hated it and could not get folks to realize I needed them out of my house and to quit talking to me about them.

And if you are one of the folks who feel as if we are idiots or fools for being open to life and welcoming the idea of another baby, please keep your comments to yourselves because I don't want to hear them. You know who you are and you have already told me what you think. I don't want to hear anything else from you on the matter.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Late Night Chocolate Craving Magic

Here's a little something to try the next time you need something sweet. And simple. And small. Ok, it's not awesome or over the top fantastic but it does perfectly meet the need of the late night chocolate fix.  Alan added cream cheese to his rather than peanut butter because he's not a fan of the chocolate peanut butter thing so I may have to try that myself next time.  And I'd likely add a hint more sugar maybe. But it was yummy.  And actually just a bit too much for me as I was not able to finish it all. My appetite has changed in a big way over the past few months.  I will say this version was much, much better than a previous chocolate mug cake I'd tried. Much better. So give it a try and tell me what you think.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Meal Plan

I had the meal plan done by the middle of last week but I didn't get it up yesterday and it has already been tweaked, abandoned or ignored or something.   But before I get to the meal plan, can anyone tell me how long you can store fresh cabbage for reliably? Or how to store it for long term use? Or how to make your own sauerkraut? Does that require a pressure canner? Granted, I don't care for the stuff at all but I also don't care for pickled beets and I've promised Alan I'll do a batch of those for him this year.  So maybe it will grow on me. Maybe not. But maybe.

So this meal plan will include what we actually ate today rather than what was planned.

S: pancakes (B), picnic at the park (L), assorted finger foods and snack type stuff (D)
M: bagels and fruit (B), roasted chicken with assorted veggies to include the beets and maybe zucchini that need to be used (D)
T: pumpkin baked oatmeal (B), cabbage casserole (D)
W: zucchini bread (B), pasta of some sort (D)
T: yogurt and granola (B), leftovers (D)
F: country breakfast bowls (B), hot dogs/bratwurst, pasta salad, coleslaw (D)
S: waffles and apple butter (B), pizza hut for the kids with free coupons (the younger 7), frozen pizza for the older 2, something for Mom and Dad (D)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Gabe!

Gabe just celebrated his 6th birthday. He took us all out for dinner on Thursday (because getting a table for 11 on a Friday night often requires more than a short wait). On Friday, he helped Dad make his cake and he requested spinach tortellini soup for dinner. I have to say there is something magical about the smell of onions and garlic cooking filling the house. And something magical about a 6-year-old who requests anything with the word spinach in it for his birthday dinner.
 He received some pretty awesome presents this year. A catapult from Uncle Matt (which Sean learned it was best NOT to launch in the dining room) and  LEGO set from his cousins.  (Yes, we keep birthdays small around here just in case you haven't noticed.)  We'll work on fixing up the backyard sandbox later this week.
Happy birthday little man. I hope you had a wonderful day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Free Samples

If you haven't been requesting free samples lately, you really need to get back into it.  When you are on a budget, those free gifts can help stretch things just a wee bit further. When you aren't on a budget, you can always donate things to a shelter or food pantry or school. In recent weeks, we've received in the mail cereal, shampoo, laundry detergent, dog food, a children's book, pool test strips, a child proofing kit, and a package of various feminine products.  Others that are common to find are dishwashing detergent, diapers, and in the summer I've found vegetable seed samples. The samples often arrive with high value coupons as well. So start requesting those samples again because it sure beats getting junk mail every day.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Meal Plan and Other Assorted Things

I feel a bit badly for neglecting this little spot of my life this week but it's been busy. Both older boys started their jobs this week.  They work in opposite directions from the house so there is a lot of driving to do. Bryan is working for a fruit farm so his day doesn't exactly have set hours which does complicate things.  Sean was able to find a ride back and forth most days so that does help quite a bit.  Next week Bryan also has a chemistry lab camp i the afternoons so we won't see very much of him next week.

Most of the older folks are getting back into running. Alan is leaving the rest of us in the dust but progress is being made by everyone.  Even with is asthma, Sean's natural running stride leaves him at a bit of an advantage over his siblings.

A friend gifted us with their older piano when they were given a newer one.  This means we can start a few kids on piano lessons once we find an affordable source and I have an awesome excuse for purging another half of the toys from the house since we need the space for the piano.

But I suppose it's really time to get back to a meal plan. I'm struggling a bit with planning around seasonal produce and such things. I absolutely want to take advantage of the lower prices seasonal foods but sometimes that requires a bit of tweaking to make sure we don't waste anything.  Cucumbers are 4/$1 at the farmers market right now so that is what the kids are snacking on this week along with the blueberries I've been able to pick up for 99 cents a pint. I still have some kohlrabi in the fridge I need to use and some beets but I am lacking ideas.  So feel free to send some suggestions my way.

S: biscuits and gravy (B), chicken and rice (D)
M: waffles and apple butter (B), oven fajitas (D)
T: yogurt and fruit (B), eyes closed pot roast (D)
W: eggs and toast (B), orange chicken (D)
T: oatmeal (B), pasta of some sort (D)
F: Gabe's birthday so his choice, I've heard something about a vanilla cake and Buffalo Wild Wings
S: we have no clue yet but I think part of it will be cleaning out the leftovers

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Meal Plan

This plan just might be tossed out the window at any moment. Depending on what we pick up from the farm, I may need to make adjustments to make sure that things don't get wasted.

S: donuts (B), leftovers (L), hot dogs (D)
M: breakfast casserole (B), chicken salad (L), pulled pork (D)
T: yogurt (B), pbj (L), cabbage casserole (D)
W: oatmeal (B), picnic lunch (L), roasted chicken (D)
T: eggs (B), leftovers (L), taco pie (D)
F: blueberry muffins (B), tuna (L), cheese enchilada stack (D)
S: French toast (B), leftovers (L), pizza night (D)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Canning/Preserving Count

I'm going to be adding a new list to the side of the blog to help me keep track of what I am putting in the pantry and freezer. Truthfully sometimes I send the kids down for food for meals so often that I start to lose track of what I have stored. Which is decidedly a bad thing. It can lead to overstuff freezers, forgotten food, and a lack of a real plan. Or basically it can lead to wasted money.

Today I canned 4 pints plus one 4 oz jar of raspberry jam, 1 liter of blueberry syrup, and 2 half-pints of blueberry syrup. I also put 5 2 cup portions of blueberries into the freezer and one quart sized bag of bell pepper slices into the freezer. Yes, I do need to track the freezer and the canning because I try to stock up on all seasonal produce that can be frozen now when the prices are low to use during the year.

I found the most awesome bottles at Wegmans for canning syrups and I'm hoping to fill them all so that we can avoid buying syrup much this year.  Yes, we always avoid the syrups made with high fructose corn syrup and this way we can have ready to go fruit syrups without corn syrup in them.  Have you ever checked those labels? It is frankly sad how many things start with high fructose corn syrup.

As weird as it is to say, nothing gives me quite the same level of satisfaction as seeing the pantry shelves full of home canned food.  Yes, I'm weird like that.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Remember When

For some reason I am totally loving this song right now.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The New Not a Rooster

The chickens were out of food so I headed to the feed store for more this morning. While I was there, someone called in to complain about a chick they had purchased that spring. They said they were told it was a hen and it turned out to be a rooster so they wanted to return it because they could not have a rooster in their neighborhood. The folks at the feed store were decidedly frustrated and annoyed because it is just not typical to return a chicken. I mean, if you can't keep them, they go for a decent amount on craigslist and there is always the option of putting them on your dinner plate. So out of my mouth came the craziest thing: We'll take him. Our rooster was killed and we'd really like another one.
As Alan put it when I picked him up from work this afternoon, I am not the woman he married. No clue what happened to me since this is the second time in recent months that I have agreed to take a new animal into our home.  We picked the bird up and we are all certain the previous owners just wanted to get rid of it and did not want to bother doing any work. It is decidedly not a spring chicken. This bird is at least over a year old. And it does not at all appear to be a rooster.  Often in a totally female environment, one of the hens will take on the roll of the rooster so it is possible the bird was crowing and such things. But why the deception is my question. Anyway, we are hoping it will blend into our existing flock without a hitch but not I'm wondering if it will because it is so much older. Normally you don't want to mix birds that are too much bigger in size but we shall see once the quarantine period is over. And maybe we'll get a few eggs out the bird. Maybe.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Family Rosary or Not?

You know how everyone is always saying that praying the rosary together as a family is a good thing? And awesome thing? An inspiring thing? How it almost seems that you can tell how "Catholic" a family is by finding out if they say a family rosary together?  What if I said it sure ain't all it's cracked up to be and I'm rather glad that we pretty much gave it up.

Yup, I admit it. We are a family rosary praying drop-out kind of family.  And I think our overall spiritual life is better for it.

You see, we'd call the kids together and sit close and start praying. Usually we'd get no further than an Our Father or on really good days, the Sign of the Cross before all manners of chaos would break out.  There would be a few kids slinging rosaries at each other. Fighting over who got the good one. Never mind that they never actually counted their prayers on the beads. Nope, they preferred to have them available for weaponry.

There would be at least one child who would sit there all smug because they knew "all" the prayers and could recite them perfectly. Never mind the ego that went along with the attitude and the gruffness with which they would try to correct siblings.

There would be at least one child who decided it was a race to make sure they finished reciting the group prayer before everyone else. Then they could look at the rest of us as if to say Na-na, I finished before you did.  This usually warranted a lecture about how it was not a race.

And the kids who would pout and refuse to join in. The little ones scaling the furniture. The constant call of "would you just sit down and pray already" and the fighting and the pushing over "he took my seat" and a myriad of other stuff.

I love the idea of family prayer time.  Love it. I think it is very important. But I've decided that the family rosary just isn't for us.  We are trying to recover from abandoning all family prayer after we realized the nightly battle ritual was anything but reverent.  Lately we've started saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a family instead.  It's going ok.  It's short. Much shorter.  I think that works better for us. And we've tried to adopt a policy of  you are welcome to not join us but if you choose to do so, you may head to bed.  If you stay downstairs, you must be quiet.  Ok, I still ended up yelling at the 2-year-old as she started flinging dvds on the floor tonight and at one of the older children as they decided it was an awesome time to start peeling the wrappers off crayons.  But we're getting there. I hope.

So we can add this one to our proud moniker of NFP drop-outs (because you frankly don't have 10 kids in 15 years if you are truly "following all the rules").  We are also a proud family rosary drop-out kind of gang.

Totally Catholic

Are you looking for a way to help your children understand the Catechism? A book that explains key concepts of the Church in a way children can understand? But one that does not bore them or talk down down to them? Big order, huh?

Totally Catholic: A Catechism for Kids and Their Parents and Teachers is a book that fits this bill.  Totally Catholic is totally interesting. It engages the reader with pictures, prayers, and a lively lay out. While waiting to do this review, I left the book laying in the living room and found a few of my kids picking it up to read themselves.

Totally Catholic is broken down into 39 chapters, each of which attempts to answer one question from the Catechism.  The chapters range from What is the Trinity and What is the Communion of Saints to How did Jesus Teach and Why is Mary Special.  While answering these questions, each chapter also provides short prayers, scripture links, and brainstorming ideas to help you live out your faith in your everyday life.  A Catholic VIP is also featured in each chapter, sharing a short biography of a different saint in every chapter. This biographies do not go in depth about the saint but provide enough information to encourage the reader to learn more on their own.

I would recommend this book for children in the 8 to 12 year-old age range. Although younger children may be able to read the book or be drawn in by the pictures and layout, there is so much information in the book that they may become overwhelmed.  Older children may find this book to be a starting point in a search for more information.  This book will definitely be useful for our family in the next few years for use with our middle and younger children.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Totally Catholic:A Catechism for Kids and Their Pa. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papalYear of Faith.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Meal Plan

This is, of course, just a plan and may change at anytime due to life.  Seems like life has been changing the plans quite a lot over the past few weeks.

S: donuts (B), FFY (L), sticky ribs (D)
M: oatmeal (B), tuna salad (L), tacos (D)
T: PBJ muffins and fruit (B), not sure yet maybe leftovers (L), pizza chicken (D)
W: cereal (B), lunch at the park (L), broccoli beef (D)
T: eggs (B), leftovers (L), roasted chicken (D)
F: yogurt and granola (B), pbj (L), zucchini pasta (D)
S: cereal (B), FFY (L), pizza (D)

Snacks for the week will hopefully be carrots, banana bread, maybe jell-o, granola bars, fruit, string cheese, and maybe oatmeal cookies.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thomas and Parenting

I am so wondering what would happen if I corrected my children by saying that they have caused confusion and delay and they were not being really useful.  It seems to work for Sir Topham Hat with never a hassle.  Yes, I'm watching the silly old train show with the younger two but seriously wondering what the older children would do if I ever pulled out such phrases. I mean other than laugh uncontrollably.

Cherry Picking

I took 7 of the kids with me today to pick cherries. 18 lbs of cherries. And I'm kind of worried that if I don't get them processed soon, there won't be enough left to do anything with. Ask me how I know.  Ask me what happened to all the strawberries we brought home. Some 25 pounds or so of strawberries I think it was and I only got 1 batch of jam out of it because the kids devoured them. Seriously. I had to go to Wegmans to stock up on more to make a second batch. Then I had to go to Aldi's to get more strawberries so that I could REALLY make that second batch.  I swear I am raising a pack of locusts.

Ellie and Robert I do believe pretty much ate their weight in cherries.  The guy did say we could sample them but I seriously doubt he meant make a meal out of them.  Then we went to McDonald's for free ice cream cones because that is how I feed my kids: cherries and ice cream sounds like the perfect lunch to me.
When Liam wasn't hanging from the trees, he was giving Abby and Gabe rides on his shoulders so they could reach the cherries themselves.  Awfully nice of him, don't you think?  My one issue from the morning was seeing the number of people who refused to follow the signs and the rules.  When the sign says pick in this row only, that is truly what they mean. The other cherries are either not ready yet or set aside for something else. I'm not quite sure why this is such a hard rule to follow or why adults think if you show your kids that they don't have to obey the posted rules, that it's ok.

This is the farm Bryan will be working at for part of the summer so I have a feeling at least part of the family will be spending more time there. And we'll be back in the fall to get our yearly haul of apples as well. Love the place because it is so family friendly and the staff is amazing.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tweaking the Meal Plan

I have finally gotten to that point where I am pretty much completely comfortable adjusting recipes to use whatever we have in the house rather than what it says to use.  Today we started with the beef teriyaki with pineapple recipe and added in carrots, peppers, and onions.  The end result was a more filling, less expensive meal that tasted wonderful.  My only complaint this time was that I think I should have doubled the amount of vegetables that I added and perhaps once that is done, cut the amount of pineapple in half.

After draining the cans of pineapple, I had almost 2 cups of pineapple juice to use.  Most of the time, I'm hard pressed to keep the children from just drinking it on me but today I managed to put the juice into the fridge.  So I started with this recipe for blueberry orange bread and used pineapple juice instead of orange juice. That will be breakfast tomorrow for the kids instead of oatmeal.

We skipped the chicken caesar salad wraps on Sunday so those will be lunch tomorrow instead. Dinner will be a version of this zucchini alfredo recipe rather than the mac and cheese.  I'm trying to decide what extra vegetables I should toss in to the sauce.

Alan and 4 of the kids spent the evening at the farm and brought home a bunch of vegetables.  Once I figure out what they brought home tonight, I'll have to figure out a few ways to use them up.  Hopefully I can get creative and use everything this time around.  Has anyone had any luck dehydrating greens for winter use or is it just best to always freeze them?

Boys' Campout

Our backyard father/son campout was decided wet. And rainy. And muddy. And a ton of fun from what I can tell.  One family did suffer from a leaky tent and bugged out in the middle of the night but I can't blame them. I will admit that part way through the night I was half tempted to put a sign on the back door directing the boys to go pee in the woods because of the constant wet foot traffic in and out of the house. I think they were just trying to get warm for a few minutes because last year the only child who ever ventured indoors was the one who got injured. I do remember thinking to myself "but you are a bunch of boys and part of the joy of being a boy is being able to pee outside so please go do so" but I kept those thoughts to myself. Until now. Because I'm nice like that.

Given the wet nature of the night, our pictures came out less than perfect but here are a few anyway. Everyone actually enjoyed themselves and Fr. asked us to invite him back next year so we can officially assume the campout will be scheduled next summer again.  Just hoping for less rain.