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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Reluctant Art Teacher Part 2

She asked for paint and then to my horror, barely used it.  As a former art student wasting materials is a very very bad thing to do so I sit down to use up the leftover paint.  She comes to join me because it's more fun to paint what mom is drawing.

It's a crazy unplanned art piece.  It was only supposed to be a few flowers that I'd crop and put in my journal because the center was already cut out but it turned into a full art piece so I just glued some pink paper to cover the hole and placed a few more cut flowers in the center.  Weird, unplanned, total random piece of art, and we still had a little paint left over!

Monday, August 25, 2014

First day of First Grade!

I had a long mental list of things I was planning to do with Charlotte this summer and I can't say that we did any of it but she had an amazing summer so I'm not beating myself up over this.

There's this educational bug that's going around that makes parents want to cram as much knowledge as possible into our kids heads.  Make them read as many books as possible over the summer.  Make them do math every day.  It's helpful when people post articles about "Unschooling" on Facebook to help bring the frazzled overburdened parent back to earth. 

This summer, Charlotte left home for a month and not once did she call in a panic out of boredom or fear.  I knew she's be okay but I really thought she might need a little more hand holding, more phone calls, etc.  She did not. 

She left for Texas on June 26th, a week after her birthday and spent about one week in Texas with family.  She then went on a 2 day road trip with her grandparents to Montana where they stayed for two weeks.  She then did the return trip back to Texas and flew home on July 29th, just in time to celebrate Sam's birthday. 

She hasn't stopped talking about this trip since returning.  The outdoor stuff she discovered like finding dead animals, a bird that Odie the Dalmatian may have killed, a butterfly that had it's head fall off, a bag of rocks that were brought back to paint because she found a lovely one in a shop that she wanted to imitate.  So much learning and we just had to set her free to discover things.  This is the beauty of education.  The ugly part is the cramming.  Let's just hope I've learned my lesson and don't go into over drive next summer thinking we have to do school every day!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Starbucks Pumpkin Muffins - 3 ways!

I've been baking muffins obsessively for about 3 years now and have learned the value of butter VS oil.  Aside from taste, the biggest difference is the oil based muffins will last in the fridge longer than the butter base.  The butter base get harder and denser as the days go on so I suggest to eat these up within 2 days of making them. If you want an amazing butter based recipe, I suggest this one from Pioneer Women.  I've made it over 50 times and it's just wonderful.  It never lasts more than 2 days anyway! 

This recipe is oil based and I can't remember where I got the original recipe but I've made enough changes to make it my own so here goes:

Powder Mixture:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
Wet Mixture:
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin (or use your favorite squash)
  • 1 cup oil
You know the drill, mix powders in one bowl and wet mixture in a second bowl.  Slowly combine both in a mixer or by hand.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

This recipe makes 30 muffins so be prepared to grease a lot of muffin containers!  I haven't tried cutting it in half, instead I just got creative with the toppings.

1st 12 muffins - AWESOME ADDITION!
  • 1 bar of cream cheese blended with the following:
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Add one scoop of cream cheese mixture to each muffin, I use a cookie scoop
  • Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar on top of muffin
2nd 12 muffins - AWESOME ADDITION!
  • Topping can be any nuts and dried fruit you happen to have on hand.  The ones you buy at Starbucks have Pumpkin seeds so we thought why not use up some of this trail mix we have on hand!

3rd set of 6 muffins - AWESOME ADDITION!
  • We had a bag of cranberries to use up and thought, why not put these inside the muffin mix!  The topping was back to the brown sugar/cinnamon mix.

These freeze extremely well.  To thaw in a hurry, microwave for 15 seconds to thaw inside and then in the oven for 5 minutes at 350.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lego Man Slays the Dragon

I love taking photos of toys as my children have left them.  You could call it my long love for Toy Story, or just looking for humor.  I must admit, I did add Lego man.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Random Tuesday

Peeking my head out of the covers to rejoin the Random community.  Yawn, stretch, it's been a long year since I've joined in the merriment! 

1)  Husband brought this flower inside while it was a bud.  As it opened we discovered a beetle.  He moves occasionally, even after we were sure he was dead.  Maybe he's just alarmed by all the noise.

2)  I've declared today to be the last day Frozen shall be played until it snows again!  I want the kids to fall in love with it again and get excited about building snowmen so I'm hiding the DVD after today!  Sorry little girl.

3)  Fun signs my husband leaves on my work white board.

4)  Did you know it's cheaper to rent a castle in France than to stay at some Disney Resorts?!?  Check out the link.

Hope ya'll have a great Tuesday!

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to do Back to School shopping incorrectly

1 - shop with your kids, ALL of them! 
2 - shop after dinner, when you are tired and less likely to walk away from a transaction gone wrong. 

Here's the scenario:
  • You find a wonderful $10 off shoes coupon from Money Saving Mom and envision shoes for $15 each after coupon. 
  • Rush to JCP with entire family in tow
  • Go through the entire shoe fitting experience complete with two year old insisting she needs new shoes and telling her no, it's only the big kids who get shoes.
  • Get them to fall in love with shoes
  • Take each oldest to the bathroom, separately, because they couldn't consider going at the same time and we were too daft to ask
  • Finally take them all to the register only to find out they don't take Disney brand with the coupon
  • Resolutely redirect entire family back to shoe department to find they only stock brands that are not honored by the coupon.  In fairness to JCP, there was one brand available but they were out of stock on our sizes
  • Give up, buy shoes
Later in the week, stop buy Target to get their 2nd back up pair and find "Buy one, get 2nd pair half off".  Cry self to sleep because the total price of shoes is $37.50 rather than the $49 spent at JCP.

3 - Torture self further by taking all 3 kids (without husband to act as human shield to their grievances) and shop for the last thing on the list - school shirts for one child.  Go to Bon Ton, find nothing.  Return to Target for 30 excruciating minutes of holding two year old because she wouldn't stop screaming bloody murder from the cart and giving four year old a phone with games to play at full volume while trying to convince picky six year old to just pick 5 shirts that are in her size!!!

Next year, shopping will be done on individual child basis. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Refried Beans - Homemade Style!

This recipe is truly a labor of love because refried beans are cheap and how often do you eat them on a weekly basis?  If once a week then $1.00 per can is not going to hurt your budget.  However I like to think it's a matter of taste and preference for making food in bulk. 

I started with this recipe from Money Saving Mom and modified it to my own taste because the amount of onion made it taste too strongly of onion.  Also, I'd like to explain things more in detail and with photos.  If you are seriously into this project I suggest to read MSM's full article along with mine and make your own judgement call.

Soak Dried Beans
  • I started with a 2lb bag of dried pinto beans from Aldi.  I'm told dried beans can contain small rocks and to sift through them.  I found one rock and pulled out all the half cracked beans which was only a handful, washed the entire set in a strainer and put with 12 cups of water to soak overnight.
Cook Soaked Beans
  • The next day, it is recommended to drain the water to reduce flatulence.   Refill the pot with enough water to cover the beans, bring to a boil then cook on low temperature for 3-4 hours.  Some recipe's suggest less time but I like them really cooked through.
Refried Bean Recipe
  • 4 cups cooked pinto beans
  • 3 T butter or bacon grease (my husband actually strains bacon grease and freezes it, see MSM for other fat options)
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (I didn't have fresh garlic on hand)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I found the 2 t. sea salt from MSM to be too salty)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Milk, as needed - I found that splashing it 4 times throughout the skillet seemed to give the consistency I was looking for.  A little more will just cook out so don't worry if it  looks too liquidy
  • Cook the onions in butter or bacon grease for 10 minutes, I cook them this long because I don't like the chunky taste of onions.  

  • While the onions are cooking, blend all spices in a small bow and mix with 4 cups of cooked pinto beans

  • Once the onions are done, add the pinto bean/spice mix and splash milk on top, mix until it gives the consistency you are looking for

  • Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, keep an eye on it because you don't want the beans to dry out so if the milk is disappearing too fast, then you can reduce cooking time.

  • At this point you can mash them with a potato masher if you feel the need to be more smashed but I find that with the additional cooking time on the pinto beans it's not necessary
  • 2lbs of dried beans will make 10 cups of cooked pinto beans
  • We made 5 pints of refried beans which equals 5 cans bought in the store

Friday, August 15, 2014

3.5 hours standing in the kitchen - I'm SO not my mom!

I remember when my mom would spend an entire Saturday on her feet - baking, canning, cleaning, etc.  I'm on my feet 3.5 hours and I'm exhausted.  Oh wait, maybe it's because I'm 18 weeks pregnant :)

Tonight's accomplishments:
  • Homemade Taco Mix - it only takes 15 minutes but you wouldn't believe how long this gets put off.
  • Dried Pinto Beans - washed, sifted for rocks and soaking for the night so we can make a big ol' batch of Homemade Refried Beans tomorrow.  I need to find our recipe and blog about it!
  • 5 Acorn Squash - baked and pureed
  • 2 homemade pie crusts (froze one)
  • 1 Acorn Squash Pie
  • 2 Popcorn bags for kids movie night - burned the first bag LOL
That's it!  Also gave some thought to tomorrow's menu but too tired to tackle that!  Family is coming over so at least dessert is made! 

The Reluctant Art Teacher

My oldest is a self proclaimed artist and her manic energy has rubbed off on the other two.  She begs for paints and the others fall in line.  I'm busy with canning the acorn squash that's taken over our compost bin and looks like I'll be at it all month long so there's no hope of me helping.  Let's hope this rock painting project doesn't get too out of control.

She's learned window tracing.

How did that banana get in here?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Honest Toddler

Do you follow Honest Toddler?  If you love sarcastic humor from a child's perspective you will love Honest Toddler.  This photo is my tribute. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sweet Potato and Acorn Squash Casserole with Pecan Topping

When you have 2 sweet potatoes and a bumper crop of acorn squash, it only makes sense to combine the two for a classic family reunion side dish.

I like to roast my acorn squash in the oven for an hour or more - sometimes I forget to take it out and after 1.5 hours it's still fine.  Cut squash in half and place face down on a cookie sheet so it steams itself.

To take advantage of the oven heat, roast sweet potatoes at the same time and scoop them out of the skin when they are done.  They can also take anywhere from one hour to 1.5 hours when distracted. 

Puree both squash and sweet potato in a food processor - separately or together, it doesn't matter.  Combine the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups pureed sweet potato
  • 2 cups pureed acorn squash
  • 1/3 cup butter melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
The following topping can be combined in a small food processor; I have a little 3 cup that does the job nicely.

  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter cut in small pieces so it blends better
Pour the main ingredients into a 9 x 13" baking dish and drop the topping by small spoonful's over the top.  Bake for 45 minutes covered, 15 uncovered at 350.  Or get distracted like we did and bake it for 1.5 hours, it's very forgiving!!!  No photos, we were running late for the reunion. 

I'm going to try this in the slow cooker for Thanksgiving and will update on the results then.  It's always nice to have less oven items on the big Turkey day!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Sam's 4th Birthday

Sam's 4th Birthday Party
We invited friends and had a Pirate scavenger hunt
It was epic!