Saturday, August 19, 2017

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

51lSPBp-ryL._SX425_:: World’s Best Dishcloths. My mom put me onto these, and since I had a house-warming gift card to spend, I went ahead and bought a six pack. I love them! I ditched everything else I had in my kitchen – even my homemade ones! I still change them frequently, but they don’t stink as often. They are soft, sized right, and do the job well! 

IMG_5655:: Chore Charts. We are finally settled enough to establish some regular chores. I revamped the chore charts in my scrapbooking program, and the kids have done well staying on track. I am also enjoying the extra help of my now-much-bigger-little-people. Elaine washes the breakfast dishes and sweeps the back porch. (We live on three levels and have lots of drains…so if they’re not kept clean we’ll have a plumbing bill!) Nolan sorts the recycling for me and keeps the front patio in order. Liberty is fantastic at organizing the mudroom, and Nehemiah is learning to vacuum the steps! It’s worth teaching your kids to do chores!

:: My house! So many of my “favorite things” are part of my new home. It was a long wait, and it seemed like a longer renovation, but it is so nice to finally be in and settling down. As I go through my days and tasks and to-do lists, I will walk into a different room and think “this is my favorite part of the house.” But then I move on to the next room or task, and change my mind! I have a brand new bathroom that makes me smile each time I walk in (complete with pump-handle faucet – my one “I definitely want this” request). I love the colors in the master bedroom, and I smile at all the girly-ness of Elaine and Liberty’s room. It just really came together perfectly. The linen closet in the high-ceilinged hallway holds everything with space to spare. The crown molding and contrasting ceiling along with the triple window and my family pictures mean I love my living room. I have a homeschool cabinet now and can hardly wait to start school in a couple of weeks. My kitchen is big and spacious and well-organized. I got to pick out the appliances and they are just right. Even doing laundry in an unfinished basement is fun…because the machines were God’s provision, my dads helped prepare the space, and Ben got it all hooked up. And I don’t need any quarters. It’s definitely a favorite spot! So…yeah…I love my house, and my hubby who has worked tirelessly since June to make it so wonderful! (89 year old houses take a lot of work to fix up!)

If you’re curious, and can stand a super-noisy quick video tour of an unfinished house that I didn’t even picture-proof, click here for upstairs and here for downstairs.

:: Instant Pot. I have been noticing these on social media a lot. My curiosity was piqued, but not enough to drop $100+ on one. However, they were on a good sale for Amazon Prime Day, and I had enough points to get it free. So far I’ve done hard boiled eggs, chicken, potatoes, rice (love it for that – not as sticky as a rice cooker), and pinto beans. It is definitely fast, but it is also bulky. I love that I can cook a big bag of beans effortlessly, and with much less cleanup than on the stove. I’m not sure if it’s a “favorite” thing yet, but it’s getting there!

:: Nalgene Grip N Gulp water bottles. We stopped in to see the Neiners’ in Iowa at the beginning of deputation, and each of their kids had one of these bottles. I ordered one for each of our kids because they raved about the bottles so much. We have lost two after three years of deputation (go figure!) and one finally cracked…probably from falling out of the van so often. Seriously, these are leak-proof and the best waterbottle/sippy cup we’ve ever used for the kids! They have a removable sipper so the bigger kids can drink easier. They survived years of constant use and abuse on deputation, and they’re still going strong!

416nes2Z6tL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_:: Unseen Book. Sara Hagerty’s new book releases on August 29th. I was blessed to be included in a pre-release version of the book. It’s been so good! Expect a review to come soon. It’s too much to write here, and I’m still chewing on the depth of its message.

:: Local Library. Something you all can’t enjoy with me…but for a big city library, our local branch definitely has a small town feel. Reminds of the Smoky Hill library in Aurora where I grew up. The staff are learning our names and recognize us when we come in. I guess walking in with five kids kinda makes you stick out. It’s small enough to be manageable. They ran a great library program on their own – apart from the New York Public Library. They have donated books to the kids that they were getting rid of. I just really like going there!

:: Grilling. We bought a grill as a belated Mother’s Day/Father’s Day present as soon as we closed on the house. We have used it a ton! We have never lived somewhere where we could own or use a grill, so it’s been very exciting! I’ve been experimenting with some veggies on the grill, and these Zucchini Spears from the Pioneer Woman were a big hit (for Mom & Dad anyway).

:: The Cup Board.  Not cupboard.  Cup Board.  We have a little board (right now its a piece of cardboard, but someday I hope for one more permanent) with the kids’ initials on it.  After each meal they place their glass or cup on the board over their initial.  They reuse the cup for the entire day, unless we have had milk to drink.  I don’t have a dishwasher and this saves me from washing 15+ glasses every day.  I just wash them after dinner.  The kids can reach their cup and get a drink if needed during the day.  I think I saw a version of this on Pinterest a while ago.  Best idea ever.

IMG_5594     IMG_5595

Friday, August 11, 2017

Swedish Meatballs Recipe and more

One of our favorite meals has become Swedish Meatballs.  Honestly…I was never a meatball person.  So I never really cooked them for my family.  But in January we joined BJ’s and I found that a big bag of meatballs was really cheap.  So I started searching Pinterest for recipes, and experimenting on my family. And I found that the kids really like meatballs!  They especially like Swedish meatballs, though I usually take the big bag and make one meal of Swedish Meatballs and one meal of Honey Garlic Meatballs.  So we have Swedish Meatballs night and it’s everyone’s favorite.  There are never any leftovers!  And we really haven’t gotten past those two recipes yet because we like them so much! 

These are the original recipes that I found:

But of course… I have tweaked them to be a little more my style.

IMG_5576Swedish Meatballs

  • 1 can cream mushroom soup
  • 1 can (15 oz.) beef broth (close enough to 2 cups, and uses the whole can so there’s no leftovers)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestshire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. steak sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • dash pepper
  • 2.5 pounds meatballs (original recipe called for 28 ounce bag…I use half of my BJ’s bag)
  • 1 cup sour cream

Place all ingredients from mushroom soup to pepper in slower cooker and stir to combine.  Add meatballs and stir to coat all meatballs with the sauce.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  Remove meatballs to a bowl.  Add sour cream to sauce in slow cooker and whisk to combine well.  You could also transfer the sour cream and the sauce to a skillet and heat on medium to thicken, but I don’t like the extra dishes.  {wink}  Pour sauce over meatballs and serve over egg noodles.  (I cook up about 3/4 a bag of egg noodles).  Watch them disappear!


Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Meatballs

(I have adapted the original recipe ingredients to make a bigger portion)

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 40 ounces (2.5 pounds) frozen meatballs.  (I get the Italian style meatballs at BJs)

Place all ingredients except meatballs into slow cooker and whisk to combine.  Hint – spray the measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring the honey and it will slide right out with much less mess!  Add meatballs and stir to coat.  Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours.  Serve over rice.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Finished with School!

I was very excited to send off my last grade report today!  Nolan finished school a couple of weeks ago, and Elaine completed her last subject today.

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IMG_4108    IMG_4106

Super proud of Nolan!  He’s reading very well, and he excels at math.  In fact, he’s going to do first grade math this summer so that he can bump up to second grade math!  He cried when I told him that he was on his very last math paper for the year!

Elaine's Last Day of 2nd Grade

Elaine's Last Day of 2nd Grade     Elaine's Last Day of 2nd Grade

Elaine is also doing well.  Excellent, actually.  She pulled straight A’s this year, with her lowest average for the year was a 95.  She is beyond bored with her reading program because she is reading at a much higher level than her age.  In reading she was supposed to read three chapter books.  The teacher said, “Have you ever read a whole chapter book before?”  Um, yes.  Dozens upon dozens.  She can whiz through a Boxcar Children book or a Mandie book in a day.  I really need to get back to a public library because my wallet can’t afford all these books!  Needless to say, we are going to move up to fourth grade reading next year!

Big difference from the first day of school!  Proud mama here!

First Day of School 2016

Quinoa Casserole with Homemade Enchilada Sauce

My friend Danielle passed this recipe (don’t really like the title of her blog) for a Quinoa casserole on to me.  We like it a lot!  But I’ve made a few tweaks… 

When I went to make the casserole the first time I hadn’t been able to get any enchilada sauce at Aldi.  So I looked up a recipe to make my own.  The result was this super fragrant, delicious (and easy) enchilada sauce that I now use to make the casserole each time. 

Quinoa Casserole

1 cup quinoa, prepared according to package directions
1 recipe enchilada sauce
1 can corn, drained (you could also use frozen…)
1 can black beans (or 2 cups cooked black beans.  I like to cook a whole bag at once and freeze in two cup portions so I can pull it out for recipes like this).
Cilantro (I use dried, because I don’t cook with it enough to justify buying a whole bunch)
Salt & Pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded cheese
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese

Follow the rest of the instructions as listed at the link.
I’ve found that I don’t need the extra spices because the homemade enchilada sauce is so delicious.  I make it just as instructed, even though it’s for the kids, because the added ingredients in the casserole tone down the spice.  Also, by adding extra corn and black beans the casserole serves us for two meals.  We garnish it with sour cream, hot sauce, and dip tortilla chips into it. 
This was the first time I had ever cooked with quinoa.  I wasn’t thrilled to pay $3+ for a small bag, when I get a bigger bag of rice for $1.29.  But I got three casseroles out of the bag, so that’s still pretty frugal.  And in fact, the last time I made it, I only had 1/3 cup quinoa left, so I added some cooked rice to it.  I couldn’t tell the difference.  It’s still a frugal choice, either way.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Twinsie Four Year Portraits

Nehemiah 4 Year Portraits
Couldn’t resist this one since its a face I see multiple times a day!

Nehemiah 4 year Portraits   Nehemiah 4 year Portraits

Nehemiah loves all things boy and sports.  He is a very fast runner and gets easily discouraged when he doesn’t win!  He always wants his hair buzzed because he doesn’t like me to comb it.  He is almost OCD about a lot of things…which makes him fairly neat and organized.  He gets dressed and makes his bed first thing upon waking up every morning.  Nehemiah loves Bill Peet books and “Are You My Mother.”  His favorite movie (along with all of my kids) is Wild Kratts, and his favorite animal is wild horse.  (But if you ask him tomorrow the answer may be different!)  Nehemiah loves tacos and anything served with sour cream.  He can usually be easily located because he is always singing.  He tends to be monochromatic but is learning to add more color to his pictures.

Twins 4 Year Portraits  Twins 4 Year Portraits

Twins 4 Year Portraits   Twins 4 Year Portraits
These two play well together, although we are already hearing “I’m taller” from Nehemiah and “Yeah, but I’m the oldest” from Liberty!

Liberty 4 Year Portraits

Liberty 4 Year Portraits    Liberty 4 Year Portraits

Liberty is half girly-girl and half tomboy! She loves her purses and lip balm and baby dolls but gets right in there with whatever Nehemiah and Nolan are doing too.  On walks she can usually be found on her hands and knees digging in the dirt looking for bugs and rocks. Sometimes we call her the “bug whisperer”.  She is still a water baby and is in her happy place whenever water play is involved. She also loves anything served with sour cream, and is a sweet tea drinker!  Liberty loves Wild Kratts and “Horton Hatches the Egg” (along with any Bill Peet books).  She still has curly red hair and a fiery attitude to go with it.  She’s a pretty good helper around the house and can’t wait to start school like Elaine.  One of her favorite activities is feeding the sheep and goats at the zoo.  She loves stickers and coloring and all things art.

Double the Trouble!

Double the Fun!

I love my twinsies!

Friday, May 12, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things…

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I don’t always feel it in each moment on my mommyhood journey, but these kiddos are right at the top of my “favorite things” list.  Henry is a constant terror these days, but the others are growing up fast and becoming more independent, and even more helpful around the house on most days.

After my hubs and my kids, here are some more favorites.

/// Blogs ///

I love the Every Bitter Thing is Sweet Blog by Sara Hagerty, and I can’t wait for her new book to be released in August.  These three recent articles have challenged and blessed me:

Club 31 Women is another favorite with a smattering of articles on a wide range of subjects.  I don’t agree with her position of “separation” on everything, but most articles are very good!  (She has a lot of contributors, so some writers I have learned to just not read).

/// Chatbooks ///

I’m still in love with my Chatbooks subscription and it has given me a shelf full of scrapbooks of our daily life from the last four years with no more effort that pushing “share” on my Instagram posts.  Automatic shipping and billing and a flat fee of $8 a book is a no-brainer!

/// Kid Safe Essential Oils ///

I do not think EO’s are the solution to every ailment, but I do have several applications for them.  I always check out the Learning About Essential Oils website and the Using Essential Oils Safely facebook page, as I believe many people use and apply EO’s incorrectly (especially as regards children).  I bought the “Ban the Bugs” bug repellent blend which is made of only child safe oils.  I diluted it with Witch Hazel Hydrosol and water, and added Geranium Egyptian for ticks.  (Interesting…Ben confirmed this addition when he said the ancient Egyptians used to place Geraniums as pest control).

We have a plethora of ticks on the property where we are living, and even when my kids don’t go in the grass, they come inside with ticks on them.  We used this blend and playing IN the grass and had no ticks!  Also, Nehemiah is allergic to bug bites, so we use a lot of bug spray.  I don’t care for the smell of most store-bought sprays, but I can tolerate the sweet smell of essential oils!  Next time I am going to make my own blend using Lea’s Bug Off! Tick Off! recipe and try that for effectiveness.  I also love the Bug Bite Soother in a roller bottle as an itch relief application.

/// Coffee ///

I have taken to drinking half-caff coffee (so that I can drink more cups during the day…sometimes this is true!), but I really like buying plain coffee and sprinkling a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg over the grounds before I brew it.  Makes for a delicious flavor!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Twins Turn Four!

Four years ago we doubled our kiddos in one shot with the arrival of Liberty & Nehemiah.  I made it to 37 weeks and a day, but I was desperate for them to come long before 36 week (full term for twins!).  It was about 4 a.m. on Tuesday, April 30th (my only pregnancy which did not end on a Thursday) when my water broke and we started preparing to head to the hospital.  As soon as they had me checked into a room and an epidural in place, Liberty was born.  Nehemiah was pretty comfortable where he was, so it was 35 minutes before he arrived.  And yes, Liberty has already started telling him that she is older!

The twins wanted macaroni and cheese for dinner (big surprise there!) and a trip to the Bronx Zoo.  It was also the Little League season opener so we went to the zoo after that.  Grandma and Grandpa came down from Massachusetts to go with us!  We rode the monorail for the first time to see the Wild Asian animals, and enjoyed several other exhibits as well.

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On the Monorail to Wild Asia!

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Twins 4th Birthday

Bronx Zoo for Twins 4th Birthday
The tiger decided to take a swim right as we rounded his corner!

Bronx Zoo for Twins 4th Birthday

IMG_3922  IMG_3928
We decided to have Beauty and the Beast on the cake this year!

IMG_3942  IMG_3943
I love their delight over the simplest things!

Twins 4th Birthday   Twins 4th Birthday
The birthday twins – matching piggy banks!  I was thrilled to find some that were plastic instead of glass!  And it was perfect that several people gave them money to add to their banks!  (Though we are now struggling to put money in the offering plate at church because they want to add it to their piggy banks)

Twins 4th Birthday
Painting books from Grandma & Grandpa Hamilton

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Bill Peet books from Grandma & Grandpa Godby

Twins 4th Birthday
Puppet stage from Mom & Dad…and new puppets from the grandmas and grandpas!  Elaine and Nolan also colored fairy tale story pictures and laminated them to make popsicle stick puppets.