Sep 30, 2016

Friday Feasting: Family Favorite Rice Pudding (Instant Pot)

Family Favorite Rice Pudding (IP)
Serves 10

2 C long grain rice
3 C water
¼ tsp salt
6 C milk, divided
1 C sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon, optional
2 tsp vanilla

1.  Add 2 C rice, 3C water and salt to pressure cooker insert.
2.  Put lid on and set cook time on manual for 3 minutes. At beep, do a 10 minute natural release, then quick release remaining pressure.
3.  Add 4 C milk and 1 C sugar to rice in instant pot. Stir to combine.
4.  Combine remaining milk with eggs and cinnamon, and add to rice. Set IP on saute and cook 4 minutes, or until thickened.
5.  Remove from cooker and add vanilla.
6.  Pour into serving dishes and serve warm or chilled. Top with whipped cream, dash of cinnamon and raisins, if desired.

Sep 26, 2016

Anyone else ever feel this way?

To be honest and fair, it should really say “my children”, but the point is the same.  Does anyone else deal with this same problem?  We definitely expect the kids to keep their rooms and school areas picked up, but for some reason their idea of cleaned up and ours is not quite the same.  Then what would take me, maybe 15 minutes to straighten, ends up turning into a saga that leaves me looking like Mr. Bones in that picture!!!

Sep 23, 2016

Friday Feasting: Protein Balls

**photo credit - found HERE**

"As Baby #8 Birthday approaches, I remember how spectacular it was last time around with #7 when my sister showed up with three gallon-sized bags of energy/protein balls and “breastfeeding balls” in three yummy flavors.  They were a game-changer, folks!  I snacked on those things all day and all night.  They were gone in no time!  But it was SO NICE having that quick snack to help keep milk production up and the “hangry” mama feelings away.

(I *may* have even told my kids that if they ate them, it would make milk leak out of their nursies. Boys, too.  Hey – a mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do!)

So here are a couple of basic recipes.  Make them for the new mom in your life.  She’ll remember it forever!  And mix it up!  Use dried cranberries or cherries, walnuts, and almonds.  You don’t have to use the whey powder either.  Just play with the dry vs. wet ingredients until you get the consistency you need"

Chocolate Protein Balls

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
2 tablespoons flax seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon chocolate-flavored protein powder, or to taste

1.  Stir oats, peanut butter, honey, chocolate, flax seeds, chia seeds, and protein powder together in a bowl until evenly mixed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2.  Scoop chilled mixture into balls. Keep cold until serving.

**photo credit - found HERE**

No-Bake Lactation Cookies

2 cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup ground or milled flaxseed
3 tablespoons brewer’s yeast
1 cup peanut butter or almond butter
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup dark chocolate chips

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add all ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Mix on low speed until mixture is well combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
2. Roll mixture into 2-tablespoon sized smooth balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or enjoy right away. Once the bites have set, transfer them to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Sep 19, 2016

Monday Meme: Making Everyone Happy??

Making Everyone Happy?

How does pizza really make everyone happy?  Think about it.  Can one pizza really make everyone happy?
Pizza can make everyone happy because there are so many types and varieties.  The crust alone could be deep dish, thin, tavern cut, self-rising, cheese-stuffed, and even gluten free.  Then think about the sauces and the toppings.   You can even do a half pepperoni and half sausage.  Then the combinations? And don’t forget the dessert-type of pizza. The possibilities are endless.  THAT is how pizza makes everyone happy:  a different type of pizza for different types of people.

So the next time the MOM in you has done everything and people are not happy, that is possibly not your fault.  You are not necessarily so flexible and versatile as pizza.  People have different expectations and wants.  Pizza can be made to order.  You can’t.  You are unique.  Sometimes people choose to not be happy.  Order a pizza for that person, but don’t live in that person’s cloud of misery.  Keep your happy spirit, and don’t forget to order yourself a pizza once in a while and smile…

Sep 16, 2016

Friday Feasting: Tuscan Chicken (Instant Pot Meal)

Tuscan Chicken (in the IP) 
Serves 10-12

6 chicken breasts, split in half, length-wise
Italian seasoning
Oil for sautéing
4 garlic cloves, diced
½ C chicken broth
Fresh spinach, a bunch or 16 oz bag
½ C heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese
2 tbsp flour mixed with water (slurry), optional
½ C Parmesan cheese, grated

1.  Turn on IP to saute. Once hot, add oil.
2.  Cut chicken breast in half to make thin pieces, creating 12 servings.  Season with salt and Italian seasoning.
3.  Brown 3 breasts at a time, turning after 2 minutes.

4.  Remove to a plate and continue with remaining chicken breasts, adding oil as needed.
5.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
6.  Add all chicken pieces back to pot, add broth, put lid on and set to manual for 4 minutes.

7.  When done, release pressure and turn IP to saute. Add heavy cream, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir until thickened, about 1 minute.
8.  Add slurry if you would like a thicker sauce, and cook an additional 2 minutes.
9.  Add spinach and stir until wilted.

10.  Turn off IP and serve Tuscan Chicken over rice or noodles.

Sep 14, 2016

God, Family, Work

Via my distant cousin/relative Nick Ball:

“Our family is a classic one of hard working immigrants, who got the ‘American Dream’ by putting God, family, work in that order. Then working every day to make it one gave our family anything. Everything they got and passed to us; it was not luck, but hard work.”

I wish every history and social studies book in America had that statement engraved in the front pages.  Life has no guarantees.  No handouts either.  Government entitlements can be given.  Or taken away.

Quite often, we moms want to help our kids, and we end up doing more for them than we should.  If our kids don’t learn from their mistakes, they may end up relying on their parents well into adulthood. So while it's hard to see them struggle through life's hardships, it is a necessary lesson.  Again, my cousin states the lesson well:

“Everyone wants to help their kids. I see no problem in this, but making it easy for them just makes them dependent on Mom & Dad or the government instead of themselves. No one likes to see their kids struggle. But it is in the struggle that the true character of what they learn from home comes into play and benefits them in the long run...........Doing too much for your kids handicaps them in life and since things come easy if given, the incentive to work hard is destroyed......why work? ...there is always Mom and Dad or Uncle Sam!”

This applies to all kids.  As one of my sons stated, he has to face the real world.

Thus, the priorities are set:  God, family, work.

Sep 12, 2016

Read To Me Monday: St. Patrick's Summer


I can’t believe I’m recommending a book that I haven’t even finished reading yet.  It’s like “sharing” an article on Facebook without perusing it first.  It comes dangerously close to sin, no??  I can rest assured, however, that I’m not leading you astray as many, many of my close “friends” have mentioned it more than a few times as essential reading for a child receiving their First Communion.
Of which I will have one this year.

I’m also all about combining children’s subjects in a large homeschool family (it’s all about simplification, right??).  So, since we’re expecting a baby in a little over month (or less…please let it be less!), I’ve been reading St. Patrick’s Summer by Marigold Hunt out loud to my children, ages 13 down to 5.

It is an OUTSTANDING book.  The kids have been asking great questions, I have been bowled over by ideas on the Blessed Trinity that I had never heard before, and I think we’re only on Chapter 4!!  I can only imagine where this book will take us, and I see now why it’s so highly recommended, even if you DON’T have a child receiving their First Communion this year.  This may very well replace ALL Faith & Life catechisms this year!!

Sep 9, 2016

Friday Feasting: Vanilla

Cam with coffee and vanilla

I can't buy vanilla extract without it having bad ingredients in it. Since my boys are gluten free, I bake all our breads, cakes, etc. from scratch, and we go through a ton of vanilla. Consequently, I decided to make my own vanilla.

The main ingredients in vanilla extract are vanilla beans and alcohol.  I didn't know much and what kind of hard liquor to use, so I asked my cousin (who is a bartender) what he recommended.  He cited that bourbon would be good since it "inherently has vanilla notes."  He also said that brandy might be heavy, but might work as would light rum.  He pointed out that vodka is tasteless, so it would remain neutral.
vanilla beans

I ended up purchasing vodka and bourbon. I cut up the equivalent of 3 beans in inch sections per 1 cup of alcohol. Then I sealed bottles, shook them, and placed them in a dark closet.  I shook them every week, and kept them away from the sun.  Within four months, I had some savory vanilla of my own.

vanilla beans at bottom of bottle

 The waiting… some say 2 months, others say 6 months to get the optimal flavor.  As the months go by, the liquid should get darker.  At four months I had a dark bottle, so we tried it.  Perfect.

three bottles of varying concentration: left bottle at one day; middle bottle at a week; right bottle at a month.

We preferred the vodka bottle to the bourbon bottle.  The bourbon has a strong flavor, which actually overpowered the vanilla.

As we use the vanilla from the bottle, we top it off with new vodka.  After three years, we did purchase new vanilla beans to reinvigorate the vanilla flavor.  Works like a charm.

Sep 7, 2016

Change Is Absolutely OK

One of my favorite lines from a television show is this, “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.” True statement.  Absolutely cuts to the heart of meeting change head on. I use that line all the time with other people, with my family, and with myself.

It's so easy to get stuck in a rut. This is especially true for me and really I think for any mom.  We find something that works, be it a morning routine, a homeschooling curriculum, a carpool route, or a meal plan. We put those things into practice and they work for us.  Then all of a sudden a new baby comes along, the math book gets too difficult, dad's work schedule changes, or a food allergy enters the scene.  AAAHHH!  What do we do now?

Sometimes change finds us and it really causes an uproar.  We find ourselves unsettled and confused about how to move forward.  We can't see the forest for the trees because it wasn't in our plan. If you're like me, I start mentally processing the long term effects of the change and I easily find myself overwhelmed. Even small changes can do this to me because I've put too much weight in my plan. (Spontaneity is not my strong suit!) However, when things finally settle back down and the “change” has become the new normal, life seems good again.  It's interesting how embracing what might be a little unsettling can actually help us to grow, to move forward in a positive way.  I think of this as God stretching me, asking me to step out of my comfort zone!

On the other hand, sometimes we need to seek out change, to search for that new normal that will point us in the right direction.  These occasions are best identified by that unsettled feeling or maybe a sense of disorder (beyond the usual!).  I've found in my own life and in my vocation as wife and mother that there are sometimes very obvious signs that something needs to change and other times when the signs are more subtle.  In either case, we must seek out the change best suited to our needs, to the needs of our family or to that particular situation.

Change is absolutely OK.  We need to be stirred to a new level of awareness.  We need to take courage and step out of our comfort zones.  God is still with us no matter what.  He doesn't abandon us just because we choose to shop at Aldi instead of Meijer, or because we choose to send one kid to school and homeschool the others, or because we decide to say no more often to cut down on the craziness of our schedules.  The list is endless but He's in the midst of those decisions and those changes when we allow Him to be.  Change can bring out the worst in all of us because we approach it with fear and trepidation. If we instead approach it with joy and acceptance (to the best of our ability and through prayer) then we will ultimately find the blessing in all change.

Sep 5, 2016

Read to Me Monday: William Shakespeare's Star Wars Trilogy

All Star Wars fans, prepare to be delighted.  
I mentioned this series back in the summer and wanted to report back.  
Ian Doescher has done an incredible job writing the Star Wars Trilogy 
in Shakespearean English, the whole iambic pentameter bit.  
He has captured all the characters brilliantly. 
Although I started out reading the book and did OK 
muddling through the strange English and the stage directions, 
our enjoyment sky-rocketed when we started listening 
to the books on Audible.  Now the voices match the characters 
and the sound effects add excitement and charm. 
It has been the perfect summer-time transition 
to our study of Medieval History.  

Sep 2, 2016

Friday Feasting: Turkey Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Carrots (Instant Pot Meal)

Ingredients       (Meal for Ten)
2 lbs ground turkey
1 c Italian Bread Crumbs (or Panko)
¾ C milk
2 eggs
¼ C worstershire
4 tsp salt, divided-3 tsp for meatloaf
3 tsp garlic powder, divided-2 tsp for meatloaf
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
4 Tbsp butter
¼ C half and half (or milk)
1 medium onion, or 1 tsp dried onion powder
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut in half
2.5 lbs small new potatoes (we use the Costco “Classic Baby Creamers” mix)
1 C water

1.  Add carrots to bottom of IP and add 1 C water.

2.  Combine first ten ingredients in bowl for meatloaf. Shape into two loaves.  Place two loaves on top of carrots, flattening until both of equal shapes.

3.  Add potatoes. Put lid on pressure cooker, set to seal, manually set timer to 12 minutes.

4.  Once time is up, leave on Low for 10 minutes then release pressure.
5.  Remove potatoes and mash with carrots, salt, pepper, garlic (powder), butter and milk. Serve.

Sep 1, 2016

Overcomplicating Life – Pride Run Amok


      How many times have we heard it?  “Simplify your life, and you’ll be so much happier.”  I’ve taken part in the “40 Bags in 40 Days” for Lent.  It was nice, letting go of those things that were just bogging me down.  It was years ago when we did this, and my closet reflects the fact that I usually go after my children’s clutter first before dealing with my own mess.

As I get closer to giving birth to #8 (less than 7 weeks!!), I am constantly thinking about ways I need to let go and reflecting on why I put so much time and effort into This or That or Meals or School and finding the balance that I know will be put to the test once Tiny Baby gets here.  My – and I do mean MY – problem is that I take so much PRIDE in the things I do.  It makes me feel so nice to eat a healthy, tasty meal and have *most* of the kids and my husband compliment me.  (Plus, I just like to eat yummy and not bleck-y food!)  I like to be the person reading the story out loud during school (because I can do it best, right?).  I like to the person in charge (because then I can make sure we do it my way, right?)  I like to keep things much longer than I should because there could be the day when it’s needed, and I’ll be the HERO who came up with just the right thing or just the right outfit!

But this is all PRIDE.  Run amok.  Burning me down.  ‘Cause I can not not NOT NOT be all those things and do all those things and stay sane.  One of my stock lines to my kids is “I am only one woman with two hands, one set of eyes and one set of ears; no I cannot {insert child desire here}.”.   Another is “CHILL!”  Why can’t I just take my own advice??  I want my children to remember a happy, not stressed-out mama; not that three-headed dragon of a woman I feel like I am too much.

I will tell you this:  I give thanks to God for my uneventful pregnancies and births.  He has graciously led me to the most wonderful midwife who will help me give birth at home (my first homebirth!) instead of in a hospital.  The simplicity of this pregnancy – even though I am over 35 (I’ll be 42 when the baby comes!), I have gestational diabetes, and I always have back labor – has been SUCH a relief for me.  I don’t have to do deal on a monthly – now weekly – basis with the doctor’s office receptionist, lab technician, nurse, and THEN midwife.  I won’t have to deal with a totally different set of the same on the day the baby comes, plus all the rules and regulations of the hospital.  On the tail end of it, if all goes as planned, I won’t have to deal with the bills and overcharges and wrong charges and “it’s because you haven’t met your deductible yet” junk.  Why do they have to make it SOOOOOO complicated just to have a baby??

I am simply a pregnant woman who needs to give birth.

I am simply a mother of many children.

I have found that through this experience of homebirth, I need to have more faith that God wouldn’t have led me down this path, if He didn’t think I could handle it.  It’s my own pride in worldly appearances  and desires that bring me to the point of breaking.

+ Lord, grant me more humility.  
Lord, grant me more faith.  
Lord, grant me more gratitude for this wonderful journey You have set me on.+