November 30, 2010

How not to be a stupid maniac when buying Christmas gifts

My friend Jody wrote this great post How Not to be a Stupid Maniac About Gifts. If you are shopping for your kids, you must read it.

Free Veggie Tales Download

Veggie Tales' album The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree is available to download for free from for a limited time only. You may need to install an (also free) Amazon MP3 downloader utility; but I found this to be quick and trouble-free. Amazon will also ask for a shipping address and generate an order invoice, but does not ask for your credit card number. Just click on the link below to go to the download page.

November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Freebies

Head on over to The Homeschool Freebie of the Day  and Money Saving Mom for Thanksgiving activity and curriculum resources.

October 9, 2010

Easy Black Bean Chili

My new secret to making yummy home-cooked meals is to open some cans, season appropriately, and throw in the crockpot for a couple hours. Seriously, I get raves on my beans & rice, and I feel guilty because it's just three cans and a cup of dried rice.

Anyhow, here's my black bean chili recipe:

1/2 to 1 lb. ground beef, browned (can sub ground turkey, TVP, etc.)
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 cans black beans
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp lime juice
dash or two of red (cayenne) pepper
optional:  1 can whole kernel corn

Combine all the ingredients in a pot or crockpot and turn on high until it is simmering; then reduce heat and simmer on low. In my opinion, it needs to simmer for at least 30 minutes, and an hour is best. If you put it in a slow cooker, it may take an hour or more to get hot enough to simmer, so keep that in mind. But if you are in a hurry, do it on the stove and you can be eating chili in under 45 minutes.

Top with grated cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips - whatever you like.

If you like stronger onion or garlic flavors in your food, use fresh instead of dried ingredients and put it in with the meat when you brown it. You can also adjust the red pepper if you like your food spicy. Use a whole pound of meat if you like your chili meaty, and two cans of beans instead of one if you like it beany (or are thrifty).

For you vegetarians - I once made this chili without the meat when we had company for dinner, and my husband never even noticed that it was veggie.

October 7, 2010

Cleaning out your clothes closet

Here's a tip I picked up along the way: At the beginning of a season when you do whatever you do with your clothes - you know, put up your summer clothes and get out your winter clothes (Or once a year. Or right now.), reverse the direction that the hangers face on the closet rod. This doesn't involve taking the clothes off the hangar, just flip the hanger 180 degrees so it is pointing out, not in.  When you wear a garment, put it back in the closet in the usual way. When you get to the end of the season, you will be able to tell at a glance which clothes you are not wearing. Get rid of those clothes. Of course, you will make some exceptions, such as that cocktail dress or the ugly sweater that your aunt knitted for you. But basically, if you are not wearing it, it shouldn't be in your closet.

September 22, 2010

How to Bake A Potato

When I need to bake a potato, I consult the aptly named

September 14, 2010

Checklists for Children

I'm a list-maker by nature. One thing that I have found to be helpful is to make checklists for children to remind them of routine things they need to do. For instance, now that my older boys are in school, here is the list of morning "to do" items:

  • Get dressed
  • Put away your pajamas
  • Make your bed
  • Eat Breakfast or grab to-go cup
  • Brush Teeth
  • Put Lunch & Water bottle in your backpack
  • Put on Socks & Shoes
  • Put on Sweater 
  • Grab your backpack – make sure your homework is in it.
I also have an after-school list. I post one copy of the list in their room, and another in the entry way. The checklist helps us in three ways. First, it cuts down on *my* frustration. Instead of constantly reminding them to do this or do that (and, when you have 2 or 3 boys at different stages in the getting-ready process, that's a lot of words), all I have to say is, "where are you on the checklist?" or "check the list!".

Second, it makes the boys responsible for their own daily tasks without asking them to remember a bunch of stuff first thing in the morning when they are still half asleep.

Third, I have one child who has difficulty processing verbal information, so for him, being able to read a list increases the chances that he will get himself ready in a timely manner, without my nagging at him.  And since my husband is usually the one getting the boys up and ready in the morning, it helps him remember, too.

For pre-schoolers, checklists are great, but they need to be short, simple, and combined with pictures or symbols. For little ones just learning to go potty on their own, I post this list in the bathroom:
  • SHUT DOOR (I add this to the list when we have a crawling/walking baby in the house.)
By each item on the list, I have a simple clip art drawing; for instance, a pair of hands or a bar of soap for "wash hands"; a light switch for "turn off light". You can search the internet for simple black & white clip art, draw your own, or cut pictures out of magazines. I can never get the hang of formatting clip art images within word processing documents, so I print them on a separate page and glue them to the list.

Some people have a chore chart which includes everyday tasks like making beds. But I find it easier to have targeted lists for particular days and times of day that can be posted in a location where the tasks are to be done, rather than in a central location. If you homeschool but go to church on Sunday mornings, you might want to put weekday tasks on your chore list in the kitchen, then post a Sunday Morning checklist by the front door just for getting ready. You can even make a list for yourself!  Keys, bible, diaper bag, etc. You know, the stuff you are always running back into the house for.

Another nice thing to do is include a message at the top or bottom of the list ("Welcome Home from School! Don't forget to...") and a scripture, motto, or encouragement.

August 10, 2010

History Movies - Story of the World

For history, we have used a combination of Veritas Press' history cards and Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World. The two flow together nicely with just a little re-arranging. One thing which is fun and (usually) educational is to watch movies (documentaries, historical fiction, etc.) to go along with each time period. Sometimes it's a challenge finding movies which are both interesting and appropriate for the maturity level of the child - there just aren't too many kid-friendly animated versions of Beowulf out there, but I found one. Between your local library and a service like Netflix, you can find quite a few resources.  

Mommy Lawyer Angela has put together a wonderful chapter-by-chapter list of movies and videos to supplement Story of the World which is available to download.  You can get more suggestions at The Well-Trained Mind forums, and at the forums here and here.

August 2, 2010


Granola is easy to make, yummy, and good for you, too. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, and my boys love it. Eat it with milk or sprinkle on top of yogurt. Throw in some nuts and chocolate chips and it makes a good trail mix, too. Put it in a cup, though - it doesn't clump up. You can customize this recipe to your family's taste.

Barb's Granola

Mix in a large bowl:
6 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not quick)
3 cups Grapenuts (we use store brand)

And as many as you like of the following, between 1/2 and 1 1/2 cups each:
shredded coconut (we use unsweetened)
sesame seeds
sunflower seeds
sliced or slivered almonds
raisins or dried fruit bits
sunflower seeds
ground flax seed meal
wheat germ

Combine, heat, and pour over the ingredients: (I microwave on high for about 2 minutes but you can heat in a pan.)
1/2 cup olive oil (or coconut oil)
3/4 cup honey
1 T vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt

Stir well and spread out in two 9x13 pans (or one large sheet pan). Bake  @ 350 degrees for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Let cool, and enjoy!

August 1, 2010

The Mommy Blawger at Home

I've been meaning to start this blog for quite some time. I even have quite a bit of content drafted. See, I have lovely template all ready to go, links on the side bar and everything, but no posts. The problem is that I am a) a procrastinator and b) a perfectionist. I've been trying to write (in my head) the perfect introductory post, and it's just not coming together. So instead, I'm just going to start posting and worry about explanations later. 

design by