He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

31 August 2012

A Few Ideas for Driveway Fun

I'm a New England girl.
We have beautiful sunny days all summer and I have to force myself out of the house to enjoy it but as soon as it hits below 80 you can't keep me in!

So the other night I was trying to find things that would keep the kids entertained outside as dinner time approached and they started to get wrestless.

Enter sidewalk chalk.

I've been working on letter sounds with CJ, letter recognition of lower case letters, and recognizing numbers and decided to make it a "teachable moment".

Though the excitement wore off quicker than I had hoped, I had him on the hook for a little while and used that time to get him moving and see what he knows.
I wrote the letters of the alphabet in a circle and called them out for him to run to and scribble over once he got them right. Next time I'll be more purposeful about mixing up the letter order (I didn't think of that until half way through) and I will only use lower case letters since he's got the upper case down pat.)

We did the same with numbers and now that he seems to be figuring out 6 and 9 we I'll go up to 20 and not just 10.
A friend shared the idea of giving drawing prompts which she found on, where else?, Pinterest and that actually proved to be more fruitful than I expected. It may not look like much but getting CJ to draw without help is incredibly difficult. This time I drew a house and asked him to fill it. He promptly asked me to draw a garage on it. What a guy.

I didn't forget Miss Mak. She is starting to recognize her name when she sees it written so I wrote all of our family member's names on the ground to see if she could pick hers out.

I also gave her gross motor skills a workout by drawing a path on the driveway to see if she could maneuver her tricycle around. I was pleasantly surprised that she managed to stay on it for the most part. I'll make it more challenging next time.

CJ came up with a game of his own too. It's his own version of basketball but he hasvarious strictly adhered to rules and requires that you dribble the ball for at least 5 minutes before you can shoot. Rules or not, this keeps him happy for a while.

Bean, of course, crawls all over the place and, in a very cat-like manner, will occasionally stop and look pretty just for me.
So whether you let them run amok or try to make it a learning experience, the driveway can be lots of fun with just a few basics. 
Happy Weekend!

30 August 2012

Getting Whites Whiter

As I've mentioned before I don't really DO laundry.
I mean, I do laundry but I don't put too much effort into it beyond washing, drying, and sometimes, if my family is lucky, I'll fold it and put it away.

Well, once again, thanks to my random surfing on Pinterest I saw a post about getting your whites whiter and hadn't thought much of it until I looked at a load of whites I recently washed. I had a few new shirts in there and they were crisp and white however they made the rest of the load look kinda shabby and I thought "what the hey?"

I found the original idea on Homemade Mamas who claims the trick is giving the load a soak in dishwasher detergent then running the load a second time with some bleach and regular detergent. I thought dishwasher detergent sounded strange but apparently it's the secret of several laundry lovers so I gave it a whirl and the results aren't half bad.

I won't say my whites came out looking brand spanking new... you can still tell they've been worn before but that dingy gray was gone.
Let's put it this way...
I am and always have been a shoe-hater. I see them as a necessary evil but grew up walking on my parent's gravel driveway barefoot and truly miss those days. So when I wear socks, I tend to ruin them by wearing them out to get the mail, all through the icky kitchen and often into the garage when I need to get something. Sweet Hubs also works at a greenhouse (aka dirt and water facility) where he walks around rooms actually titled "soil rooms" and is surrounded by and walks on a dusty dirty driveway. So getting the dinge out and calling it "whiter" is actually pretty major around here. 

All that said... the recipe is simple...
1/4 cup of dishwashER detergent (NOT dishwashING) in with a load of whites set on hot. Once the washer basin is full of water and begins to circulate a little, stop the load and let it sit for approximately 2 hours. After two hours, resume the cycle and let it finish.
Now you're going to run the load again but this time run it as normal but put about 1/4 c bleach into the dispenser, if your washer has one, or directly into the load. Run the load normally but if you have the option for a second rinse, I recommend using it.
Dry as usual. (For an added boost I dry it out in the sun.)

I have only done this twice and love it. It gets out any mildew smells and sort of restarts yoru whites.
At the very least, I recommend giving it a try and let me know how you like the results.

*Disclaimer: Bleach slowly eats away at your clothes... it's nasty stuff!... so this isn't something you want to do with every load of whites. I'd save it for when you notice the "dinge" returning.
Happy Thursday!

29 August 2012

Kid's Songs that You Won't Hate

If you remember, a long time back I did a post about Scripture put to music for kids. Thanks to the help of some friend I got a bunch of great ideas and picked my favorites.
This time around I wanted to share with you a few more of our family's favorites (meaning the kids love them and Hubs and I actually like them too) and maybe I've mentioned them before but it's because they're just so darn good!

First up... an oldie but a goodie...
Slugs, Bugs, & Lullubies by Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson
CJ LOVES "God Made Me" from this album which thankfully YouTube has a link to. Go ahead! Give it a listen.

A new favorite of ours is another in the series of Slugs and Bugs called
Slugs & Bugs Under Where? credited to Randall Goodgame with a bit of input from Andrew Peterson, again.
There are samples of all the songs on this album at The Rabbit Room. Miss Mak's favorites are "Lightning Bug" and "Under Where?"

OH! And there is also A Slugs & Bugs Christmas CD available which has a few fun songs on it as well as some great new Christmas songs.

So... if I'm super convincing and you just can't wait to listen to this goodness and you'd like to save a little cash you can buy the set of three there is a bundle available also at the Rabbit Room HERE.

27 August 2012

Berry Wine Jelly Recipe

I've been canning these days.
The end of the season is usually when I begin to feel the "Oh shoot! I better get canning" feeling.
I've stuck to my two standbys ... Tomato Soup and Peaches...
and branches out to tomato sauce and, one of my favorites, Berry Wine Jelly.

I originally found the recipe for the jelly in the Ball Complete Home Canning Book.
It's very simple, especially when you cheat a little to save time.
The results are a delicious, smooth, sweet strawberry wine flavored jelly.
If this sounds even remotely good to you I highly recommend trying it at least once.

What You'll Need:
1 cup strawberries, stems removed
2 ½ cups dry white wine
3 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin
4 oz canning jars (Ball says the recipe makes 6 jars. I've had once recipe make up to 10 before)

What To Do:
Ball suggests using a potato masher to crush your strawberries... I whipped out the ol' blender.

Threw in the wine and strawberries and pulsed until the strawberries were thoroughly pulverized.
Pour mashed contents into jelly bag or sieve lined with several layers of cheese cloth and let sit over a bowl to drip for an hour.
After an hour pour contents of the bowl into a sauce pan, add sugar, and heat until it no longer stops boiling when stirred
During this step is a good time to get your jars ready for canning by laying them out on the counter and filling them with boiling water.

Once the right boil is reached add liquid pectin and continue to boil, this time stirring constantly for two minutes. Then quickly remove the pan from the stove, skim off the foam with a spoon, dump the hot water out of the jars and fill them with the berry wine leaving 1/4" headspace.

For me... this next step is the trickiest part. Trying to get 4 oz jars to sit in a water bath rack is nearly impossible for me without burning myself and cursing out loud.
a lot.
Because of this I have begun to drop the rack to the bottom before adding the jars and using tongs to place them gently on the bottom.  
Once you've made it past getting the jars in the water, wait for the water to reach a rolling boil again then process for 10 minutes. 

Let cool, store and enjoy!

24 August 2012

Life Binder: Calendars

Today is easy-peasy and requires only a printer to get started...
I did a simple step to get myself started with a smile and found a couple of cute free printables online.
Before I even begin to share what I did I have to tell you that there are about a bazillion options out there. Many free, some on Etsy.com you can buy, many are easy to find on Pinterest.com, and you can use Google if you'd like. Really, the possibilities are endless, especially if you have a basic photo editing program on your computer.

I used these from "the tomkat studio" for my monthly calendar...
I printed out two copies of these calendars and put them back to back in a sheet protector. The front one is for important dates and events while the one on the back has our month's menu plan.
I take the pages out of the protectors and pencil in new information as it comes and I use a dry erase marker over the plastic to cross off days as I go. 

From 505 Design & Paperie
A blank from Infarrantly Creative

I used this for my weekly calendar from Mommy Tracked...

It has a few details I'm eventually going to change out. For instance, the bottom fifteen boxes say "kids' activities, dinner plans, and notes". I'd rather those be the menu for each meal for each day. I'd also like to change the "to do section" and just create a place to stick a blank sticky note for any items I need to add to my grocery list that way I can just grab it and go and not have to rewrite the list.
I usually write the weekly schedule over the plastic on this page with a dry erase marker because it changes so frequently.

From Taylor Gray
From Posts & Pixels
 From Blooming Homestead

I don't use one but if you're looking for a daily page there are several options out there too...
From Finding Home under "daily schedule"
From Buttoned Up

 From Sherbert Cafe

22 August 2012

Life Binder: Supplies

Not long ago I told you about my friend, Paige's, "Project of Epic Proportions" (aka Home Management Binder or Life Binder)
I joined in after a bit of internal kicking and screaming because I know that getting one of these babies set up is a lot of work and organizing however I have been in desperate need of some organization these days and so I have slowly-but-surely been getting on the ball and plowing through.

I've found that this whole process is extremely personal to how you function. That being said I opted to make two books. One book is my daily binder that stays on the kitchen counter which I reference several times a day. The other will be my emergency binder that I describe as my "in case of fire" book. That being said, I have duplicated some of what Paige has done but just to be difficult I have added my own twists. If you'd like more information and resources she's a good place to go as well as A Bowl Full of Lemons, IHeart Orgaizing, and Finding Home .


I opted for a 1" binder for my daily stuff and a 2" for my emergency section.

a lot of them!

Calendar Tabs 

Blank Adhesive Tabs 

Next up... Calendars

20 August 2012

Happy Birthday, CJ!

Happy birthday to the little man who made me a Mom for the very first time. 
Today he turns... 
well... I'll just let him tell you...
He is just about the silliest kid I know. 
He's witty and smart and talkative and curious and generous and helpful. 
He's an amazing big brother. 
He's a sensitive and caring  son (He tells us "we're so cute" all the time) and Hubs and I couldn't love him more.
 Happy Birthday, Baby Boy!

16 August 2012

Prep Ahead Chicken for Dinner

I recently read a blog post by Natalie over at A Turtle's Life For Me and was inspired by her freezer meal prep.
I've heard of freezer meals and Once a Month Cooking but those are often casseroles, lasagnas, and stews and those aren't on the menu often around our house.
Instead, Natalie shreds chicken, prepares sauces, and marinates the meat ahead of time. For me... this is brilliance!
So I took my first stab at it yesterday and after purchasing chicken from Costco (they have organic whole chickens, chicken breasts, and thighs now!)
I didn't follow Natalie's full approach because if you look she did a lot more than I did. To be honest, as much as I appreciate the ease of throwing a meal in the oven straight from the freezer, I'm a bit of a food snob and don't usually like the flavor of food that's been frozen first. Instead, I went halfway and prepped 9 meals worth of raw chicken so that it's cut up (if it was needed) and flavored ahead of time. With about an hour of simple preparation (pouring the ingredients into the bags along with the chicken) I have meals started with the most time consuming parts done and they're ready and waiting in the freezer for me to grab.

And here's the six recipes I used...

Our favorite marinade, tried and true...
Mediterranean Chicken from skinnytaste.com
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
1 t oregano
1 t garlic, crushed
kosher salt

I pre-sliced the chicken into strips for easy grilling in a grill pan once thawed. Threw in all of the remaining  ingredients in the bag, pushed out as much air as I could and sealed the bag. Laid flat and put it in the freezer
When it's time to use I'll simply put the bag out on the counter to thaw (or you can that it in the fridge if you're good like that) and when I'm ready, dump the entire contents onto my grill pan and grill.

Another favorite of ours is...
 Ellie Krieger's Teryaki Chicken Thighs
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 c soy sauce
2 T brown sugar
2 T dry sherry
2 T rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 t finely grated ginger
I just dumped all of the above ingredients in a freezer bag, laid it flat, and froze. 
When I'm ready to use this I'll thaw in the fridge or on the counter. Once thawed, heat the broiler to high. Arrange the chicken on a broiler pan skin side down and broil until brown and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Flip the chicken and broil until almost cooked through, about 8 minutes longer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook until the seeds turn golden brown and the chicken is done, 1 to 2 minutes longer. 

Oh... and another one of my favorites... 
 Chicken Gyros from The Girl Who Ate Everything
1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 Tablespoons)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
For these I pre-sliced the chicken and added the remaining ingredients to the bag. Mixed it all around, laid flat and froze. 
Once I'm ready to use I'll create my Tzatziki sauce while the chicken thaws...
Tzatziki sauce:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

Shred the cucumber or chop in food processor. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. 

Cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler. Once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Heat pitas. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes and sliced onions. Serve immediately. 

I tried this recipe for the first time not long ago and we loved it. I'm hoping it translates from the freezer well...
 Beer Crockpot Chicken from My Daily Dish
6-8 bone in chicken legs
1 can of beer (we used our favorite pale ale)
1/2  t garlic powder
1/2 t basil
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t salt
Don't bother thawing this bad boy... dump  the entire contents of the bag into a crockpot and heat on high for 4-5 hours or 8-10 hours on low.

And here are two newbies I thought I'd try since I had the extra chicken...
Herb Wine Dump Chicken from Food.com
1 cup red wine
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 lemon, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds chicken pieces

Place all ingredients into a freezer bag. Lay flat to freeze.
Once ready to cook... Take the bag out of the freezer the night before, making sure the freezer bag is completely sealed. Place the bag on a shelf furthest from the freezer (It works best if the bag is laying flat, although this may not be the best option with a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer).

You can either bake this dish.... Place all ingredients into a large baking dish, turn chicken to coat. Bake until chicken juices run clear (about 30 to 60 minutes depending upon the chicken pieces used). 
or Slow Cook... Put chicken in the bottom of the pot. Pour remaining ingredients over the chicken. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-6 hours or until done. 

 Buttermilk Roast Chicken by Smitten Kitchen
2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts (I used all legs)
Drizzle of olive oil
Mix all ingredients but oil in freezer bag, lay flat and freeze.
When ready to make, thaw in fridge. Once ready, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil  Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt to taste. Roast for 30 minutes (for legs; approximately 35 to 40 for breasts), until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately.

And that's that! I'll let you know how the recipes turn out as I go but I can assure that if all goes well, I will most definitely be doing this on a regular basis. Just thinking about only having to make one mess in the kitchen for nine meals makes me giddy! 

13 August 2012

Unconventional Painting with Kids

Many of these have come in handy when I've needed something to keep the little people's hands busy.
Here's hoping you find some inspiration.

I've done this and the kids loved it. Kept them busy for a long time which means I love it too!
 Cotton Swabs by El Hada De Papel
Always handy. Why not.
Painting with Cars by Hammer & Thread
I've been meaning to do this but haven't brought myself to mess up his CJ's cars yet. It'll come.
  Marble Painting with Paint Create Explore
CJ made one of these with white paint on black paper in preschool. It's one of my favorite things he's made.
Painting with Drills by Play at Home LLC
Teach them how to work a drill in a fun way.
 Painting with Spaghetti by Playfully Learning 
Any excuse to make a mess, right?
 Painting with Bubbles by Ramblings from Utopia 
I did this back at summer camp. You can come up with some beautiful paper here.
 Painting with Your Body with Play Create Explore
I MUST do this! ASAP! How fun! 
 Painting with Straws with Little Bit Funky
We did this recently and Miss Mak really got into it. CJ had more fun with he water dropper that put the paint on the paper but either way... everybody's happy. 

So apparently there are loads of good ideas out there. I'll be back soon with some more!
Happy Monday!


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