Sunday, June 26, 2011

Scorching Heat, a Summer Sub, and Siblings

Does this not look amazing? It is!! I found this simple recipe from She has some yummy stuff on her website!! This is one of them! I thought, what a great summer dinner meal when it's hot and you don't feel like cooking and making something hot to eat? Boy was I right! It takes like 5 minutes to make, and is even delicious as leftovers!! Check out this site for the recipe!!

Hint: Layers of cream cheese, dijon mustard, Provolone cheese, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, and banana peppers - my fave!! Great for a picnic!

We have been having a lot of fun this summer! Because it's so hot, we spend a lot more time indoors than we ever have during the summer. Kind of a bummer! We do try to get out everyday though, doing something in the water!! Maddy likes to play dress up and puts this slip on her head as a veil. Well, Judah has seen Maddy do it, so one day when he was in her room, he put it on and came out like this! Hilarious!

Eating their afternoon snack!

Only 5 days left on the countdown calendar to go to Ohio to see Nana and Papa!!

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!

We went to the park last night after dinner, and at 7pm it was still 103 degrees! It didn't take long for the kids to be overheated. We didn't stay too long! Pass the water!

But they're okay! Well, Judah is ready to get out of the heat!

Maddy helped me make Pioneer Woman's Mocha Brownies for Father's Day!

At Uncle Joel's 14th birthday party, there was a pond, zip line, paddle boats, go-carts, animals, toys, etc. all at someone's house!! Maddy got to ride a horse by herself!!
Judah got to pet the horse, and that's their goat behind Aunt Lydia that just runs around like a dog!
I found them on Maddy's bed in her room looking at books together. Precious!

So, even though we have been hot, we have been enjoying the splash pad, the indoor pool at the YMCA with a kiddie area, and sometimes putting up the sprinkler, baby pool, and slip 'n slide in the backyard, if it isn't scorching. If you ask Maddy about the heat here, she says it is "nasty hot." She must have heard me say that!! Hope you all are enjoying your summer! We sure do miss that Chicago beach!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Maddy Finished Preschool!

Well, we did it! We finished Maddy's first year of homeschooling; she has finished preschool!! It has been a really fun year!! Homeschooling is totally out of my comfort zone, and I knew this year would be a new adventure as I put together lesson plans, taught Maddy her letters and numbers, and as we spent this precious, one-on-one time together doing activities and learning.
Overall, the year went better than expected! At first, it was a little frustrating because Maddy didn't always have a good attitude about school, especially with writing her letters. I think the main reason for that was that it was something new and foreign to her, and she wasn't good at it. So she would easily get frustrated with it and want to quit. I won't say I mastered how to change her attitude, but over time, as she learned to properly hold her pencil and as she got more skilled at writing letters, she didn't have a bad attitude about it. In fact, she loves writing now!
As a reminder to those who didn't read the post about our beginning with homeschooling in the fall, here is the curriculum we used this year for our letters:

I would highly recommend it! It is a great resource for putting together a lesson plan for teaching letters. For each letter, there is a corresponding verse, recipes, craft ideas, writing pages, and ideas having to do with each letter. Also, you pick a person/people with the first name starting with that letter, and you pray for them and find a way to serve them by the end of that week. We started out pretty strong, but by the end of the year weren't doing that part as much!! I would still highly recommend it!

Here is a link to that post with more info about our lesson plans.
Part of our makeshift area for school when we lived at Tad's parent's house.

Some more of the temporary school area.

Maddy working on decorating a Kleenex box for the letter "K."

We did have some hurdles this year and there are things I'm going to have to work on:

1. If we do school when Judah is awake, he wants attention and it's hard for me to give Madelynn my undivided attention for school. I don't want to be a distracted teacher, and I don't want to ignore Judah, so either way, I'm dividing myself among them.
2.We need to make sure we have time to get school done. I think school needs to be the top priority, and I don't want to load us up with playdates, activities, and other unnecessary things that will distract us and having us do school on the weekends because we are so far behind. I really got lazy at the end of this year, and I don't want Maddy's schooling to suffer because of my lack of discipline. I really want there to be even more structure to get her schooling done.
3. Sometimes there were issues with attitude with Maddy, and it really isn't fun to force her to do school. On the other hand, she doesn't get to choose when she "feels" like doing school, or what we are going to do, so I need to find an approach that works for her and I so that she can stay motivated. It's hard when you are with them all the time, and then switch to school mode, and they have to switch gears and do something they aren't used to.
4. I have a severe lack of knowledge when it comes to homeschooling. I wasn't homeschooled, and it is all my responsibility to make sure Maddy gets a good education. It is very daunting to me, and I want to make sure she has all the opportunities (or close) that she would get if she were in school. It is still hard for me to accept the idea of homeschooling, but Tad wants her to be homeschooled right now, so I still have a lot of research right now. Books. Curriculum. Activities. Co-ops. I want her to have opportunities.
Maddy working on a recipe.

The finished product!!

So, these are just some ideas for now, especially after finishing the year, and with Maddy finishing the alphabet. She was so excited! She thinks she is done with school now. We did have a good year, and I was pleased with how it went. I have a lot of preparing to do this summer as Maddy is about to enter kindergarten!! I feel so old!! I'm excited to see where this next year takes us!!

Please note that comments made on this post should be uplifting, considerate, and kind. I understand that people have strong opinions about schooling choices, especially in the homeschooling arena. As Tad and I embark on this journey, we have to make decisions for our own family, as do you. So please remember that our opinions, or my opinion might be different than yours, and that's okay!! Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, experiences, or advice, but in a loving manner. Thanks!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Delicious Recipes

Are you ready for some yummy recipes to try? This time, instead of posting an individual recipe, I want to share some good recipes that I've tried lately via the link where I found them! That way you can see the actual recipe, and maybe find a new website you really like! The first one is for mini sweet potato muffins. They were so yummy! The kids loved them, and we were naughty and added just plain cream cheese to the top! Judah was fussing for more!!

Also, this website Weelicious is all about yummy, nutritious food for babies and kids, so you might want to look around at her website! She has tons of videos, websites, and ways to incorporate your kids in the cooking process!
The next amazing recipe I found was for blue cheeseburgers. Now, I can't even begin to explain how good these burgers are!! I made them for the first time a couple years ago, I think for Tad's birthday, and they have been a staple ever since!! They never disappoint! Seriously, if you love blue cheese as much as we do, you have to try these! And they are so easy to make!!
I only had horrible pics of these burgers. I will just tell you that the cream cheese/blue cheese mixture is inside the burger, making for a wonderful surprise when you bite into it. Yum!!
Also, this website is called Pinch My Salt, and she has amazing recipes to try as well. Look around at her recipes!! Just her picture of the blue cheeseburger will make your mouth water!!
The next recipe is for a wonderful, light banana-cinnamon smoothie for those hot summer days!! I found this cute blog written by a high school girl who loves to run, workout, and make healthy food! She's amazing! She posts some good recipes, and when I saw this recipe, and knew I had all the ingredients, and being the smoothie-lover that I am, I had to try it!! It also makes a great breakfast!!

If you have read much of my blog, then you know how much of a Pioneer Woman fan I am! You might even know that I have met her, chatted with her briefly, and had her sign my cookbook! You might even know that she recently taped a cooking show at her ranch, won the Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and has at least 3 books out! She is amazing! I have made so many of her recipes and these Springy Shells are one of my favorites!! I actually haven't made it this summer yet, but I will soon! I usually make it for my girlfriends, since it doesn't have meat in it, and Tad likes meat in his main dishes! Or else he thinks something is "missing."

Lovely fresh, summer dish!!

Well, I hope you try at least one of these recipes!! I love summer cooking!! Kid food, grilling, smoothies, and fresh veggies!! Gotta love it!

What are some of your favorite cooking blogs/sites??

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Our Attempt at Gardening Part II

Well, our garden has been doing pretty well despite our total lack of knowledge on the subject!! Our first garden is actually growing things!! Not everything decided to come up, but we do have stuff growing and flourishing!!
I finally got a hoe for the garden, which really helps with the mass amount of weeding that needs to be done. Though I still have to hand-weed part of it, like the area around the watermelon and the carrots and chives are growing pretty close together, so I can't use a hoe there.
Here is a tour of our garden:

This is the only tomato plant we have left. We started out with 4 I think, and we transplanted 2 or 3 of them to a sunnier spot. and they didn't make it. I think they had some sort of bug get them before we even moved them. Since this plant was growing a little bit, I left it alone and it has gotten bigger. It isn't growing super fast, but we just put a cage on it because it is getting bigger. Hopefully I will get at least 1 tomato out of it!! It definitely doesn't get as much sun as a lot of my other plants.
Our cilantro is thriving! I have a bunch of little plants like this in the garden, and have already used it in my cooking! Exciting!! And when I water the garden, I smell the strong smell of cilantro! I love it!

Maddy's sunflower and watermelon (behind the towering sunflower) are doing really well! That sunflower gets bigger and bigger everyday!! She has had fun watering it and watching it grow! What a fun thing for little kids to get to watch a garden grow!

Those tall shoots are my chives, which are more like green onions now. They are doing well and I have used them in my cooking already as well. I love the taste of fresh green onions in dishes!
To the right is a row of carrots. I have several rows, and they are coming up nicely. When I water the garden, I'm starting to see the tops of the orange carrots, which is exciting!! They are all different sizes, not sure why, but they seem to be doing well!

And now, for our watermelon!! It is taking over! The baby watermelons are growing noticeable by the day!

The vines are taking over and are out into the yard as well. We need to prune them, as I've been told and have read, to get the biggest, best watermelon instead of a bunch of small watermelon.
Some of the first watermelon.

Little baby ones :)

Getting bigger...

They are at least double or triple this size now. I keep taking pictures of them, but the pictures quickly are not of the current size! They are really fun to watch everyday! Maddy is always asking to go outside and see them!
They are probably bigger than a softball right now. The other thing we have decided to do is to mulch the area under the watermelon to keep them from rotting on the ground (which happened to my friend's watermelon) and it also keeps down the weeds. Once the vines get going for the watermelon, it's really hard to get in there to weed, and I don't want them to choke out my plants.
So, for our first garden, I'm pretty happy! I wish more of our plants had come up, but I'm happy with how things are going, and it gives me a lot to learn from for next year!! Hopefully by the end of the season, I'll have a helpful knowledge of what to do/not do for my next garden!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Indian Pizza

You have to try this pizza!! Oh my gosh!! This is one of my favorite recipes I have cooked of all time!! It will definitely become a staple meal around here! We love Indian food, and we were spoiled to live by an amazing Indian restaurant in Chicago. Since moving here, I don't think I've had any Indian food! I could not even believe how easy this was to make, and how tasty it was!! I found the recipe in my Rachael Ray magazine, in the healthy issue, in the budget section, coming up at only $1.92 per person for a family of four!! That's amazing!! Make sure you like zucchini, onions, and the taste of curry before you try this! It is a little spicy as well!

Indian Pizza
Rachael Ray Magazine

1 pound store-bought whole wheat pizza dough, at room temperature (I couldn't find this here, so I just bought the original pizza crust in a can, at 11 or 13 oz. It fit my baking sheet just fine!)
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped (I picked this from my garden!!)
1 large jalapeno chile, seeds discarded, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 pound ground dark-meat turkey (I just used regular ground turkey, as this was all I could find) (You can't really find only 1/2 pound ground turkey, so if you really like Indian flavors, just double all the ingredients and you can make one pizza to freeze, and you won't have 1/2 pound ground turkey leftover!)
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1/4 large red onion, sliced (I used a yellow onion, since that what I had on hand to use up!)

1. Invert a 13 by 18 inch baking sheet onto the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Not sure about this step, see note below.) Oil a second baking sheet and stretch the pizza dough to fit the pan.
2. In a mini food processor, pulse the cilantro, jalapeno, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil (I used about 1/4 cup just for this part) until a paste forms; season with salt. Spread the paste on the dough, then sprinkle with the cheese.
3. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. (This will smell amazing!) Add the turkey, season with salt and cook, breaking up the meat, until just barely cooked, about 2 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and onion (I actually kinda cooked them a little). Top the pizza with the meat mixture. Place the baking sheet on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 20 minutes.

Note: I'm not sure what the deal is with putting the baking sheet on the bottom of the oven. My crust burned both times I made it, so next time I'm just going to follow the directions on the can for the pizza dough, and omit this step. My oven is really fast, so I burn things pretty easily, and with the temperature at 500 degrees, even at 16 minutes instead of 20, it still burned.
You will love this pizza!! If not, we will give a full refund! LOL. Happy Summer cooking with fresh flavors! And if you have cilantro, jalapeno, zucchini, or onions in your garden, then all the more reason why you have to make this! Make sure you leave a comment if you try it!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Red Dirt Run 5k

At the veteran's memorial

I haven't posted about running since last summer! My running has changed quite a bit since moving down to Oklahoma. In Chicago, I would run on the lakefront path and see a pack of other runners who were also out running, and I would soak in the city skyline and the lake next to me. Then, we moved down to OK and I started going out for some morning country runs around my in-law's neighborhood. It was quiet, peaceful, and a nice change from a city run.
It wasn't long before I met another mom at library's story time, and saw her again at MOPS (Mother's of Pre-Schoolers). She was looking for a gym partner; someone to run with her at 5:30 in the morning at least twice a week. It seemed daunting, but I was up for the challenge!! We started running at 4 minutes on, 1 minute off. We had another friend with us until her membership expired. After that, we got pretty serious. We started on the treadmills and got up to running about 4 miles. So we decided we should find a 5k to run together. We found one on Memorial Day Weekend, so we ran and trained about 3 months before we ran it. About 2 weeks before the race, we ran several times outside the YMCA and my friend, Kirsten, clocked the 3.1 miles we needed to run in town.
Kirsten's daughter, Alexis, and Maddy

The morning of the race, it was a little chilly, but it soon warmed up and was pretty humid. It wasn't bad, though. Kirsten did good and was ahead of me the whole time, but I had to keep my slow and steady pace to finish without stopping! Kirsten actually finished 3rd in her age group, and I finished 17th in my age group. I got 2 minutes faster than last year, and was glad I ran the whole thing without stopping!
At the finish line!!

So we are still running together in the mornings. We will still workout and continue running and maybe, who knows, run a race with a further distance!!
Not only are Kirsten and I running partners, but we have become good friends. We ended up moving a couple blocks away from them shortly after we started running. I didn't even know where they lived and then we figured out how close we were! It has been nice to get to know someone who lives close, has a daughter the same age as Maddy, and who loves God. We have gotten to know each other pretty fast during our workouts together, and it has been nice to have the accountability!!
Some spectators: Kirsten's kids, my kids, and my sis-in-law, Lydia, who so graciously got up that early to watch my run!!
Thanks, Lydia!!
My supportive family!!

We'll see if I will be able to run outside in this Oklahoma summer heat!!