Monday, February 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday- Feb 27

Hey it's Monday and I'm blogging my menu on the right day! Yeah for me!!! If you read my blog last week, I'm thinking I need to own Recipes from the Root Cellar. The vegetable quinoa came out of this cookbook and it was excellent. Being as the copy I currently have is owned by the library, I'm thinking I want my own copy. :) I'm hoping to try some new recipes this week. I'm getting tired of the same soups and casseroles and am in need of new ways to cook winter veggies. Wednesday I'm taking a meal to have family at church who just had a baby. So I'll be making extra of that day. I'm thinking soup and I'll be gone for dinner due to Wednesday night prayers at church. Ok I'm rambling, so here is the menu.

Monday: Salmon Broccoli Bake
Tuesday: Red lentil and squash soup (from Love Soup)
Wednesday: Hearty Brown Lentil Soup (from Love Soup)
Thursday: Pasta Inverno (from Recipes from the Root Cellar)
Friday: Pasta with Kale and Chickpeas (from Recipes form the Root Cellar)
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: breakfast or simple supper

For more ideas and menus check out Organizing Junkie. Happy meal planning!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Where is God?

Cai is constantly asking questions. It doesn't matter how many of them I answer in a day, the next morning there are plenty more. Sometimes they are the same. Sometimes they are new. But Cai when Cai is not telling stories, he is asking questions. Lately a common is "Where is God?" My answer tends to be "God is everywhere. Above us, below us, in and around us." Last night the questions started like this.

Cai: Where is Jesus?
Me: Well Jesus was a man who lived a long time ago. After he died on the cross he went to live with God.
Cai Where is God?
Me: God is everywhere. But most importantly God is in your heart.
Cai: What is my heart?
Me: Your heart is an organ in your body that pumps blood throughout the body. You need it to help keep you alive.
Cai: Where is my heart?
Me: Right here (rubs Cai's chest above heart)
Cai: How can I see Jesus in my heart?
Me: Well..... you can't. He is invisible.

And apparently that was enough, cause after that the questions stopped. I'm never sure I've answered his questions correctly. How much does he understand? How much do I try and explain? Half the time I"m flying blind and feel later that I worded my answers all wrong. Mostly though I'm fascinated by his questions. And while sometimes I just wish for a moments peace without his constant chatter, deep down I hope he never stops asking questions. So I guess I need to keep coming up with answers, even if I'm only half sure of them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fat Tuesday 2012

Fat Tuesday seems to have come and gone. But not without a little celebrations in our household. When I was growing up my mother often made Carnival Cookies. They are a dough rolled very thin and fried in oil then covered with powered sugar. I've thought about getting the recipe from her to make for my boys. And maybe one day I will. I'll have to play with gluten free flours to make them gluten free, but hey I'm getting pretty good at that. :) Anyway, without my mother's Carnival Cookie recipe, I decided I would try my hand at doughnuts. I mean, they are fried. And sweet. They fit. Plus in my new book To Dance with God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration, the author talked about making doughnuts with her kids as part of a Fat Tuesday celebration. So we did our own variation of this.

 I used a  doughnut recipe I found on The recipe calls for Bette Hagmans gluten-free mix. I happened to have The Gluten-free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy  However, I don't tend to like GF flour mixes with too much rice flour. I took Hagmans' example and halved it to get a smaller portion. Than did some substitutions to come us with this. 1 1/2 cups Sorghum Flour, 1 1/2 cups Sweet Rice Flour, 1 cup Potato Starch, 1/2 cup Tapioca Flour. I still have flour mix left over but hey I'll use it for something right? The other change I made to the recipe was I used guar gum in place of xanthan gum. My understanding is they are very similar and are often used simultaneously. Anyway, after mixing up the dough, I rolled it out on my counter and had the boys come in one at a time and cut out large circles. 

I don't have a doughnut cutter, So we used a large circle and then I used a small circle to cut out the center
 I then fried them in canola oil in  a pan on my stove.

 Then I placed powdered sugar in a large bowl with a lid and let the boys take turns shaking the bowl. They seemed enjoy this.
Shake Shake
checking to make sure the doughnuts are covered
 But eating the leftover sugar was even more fun. It was a mess. But hey they had fun. And I figured one day of eating plain sugar is not going to hurt them. 
eating leftover sugar
Besides Fat Tuesday is all about indulging in all the fatty, sugary, unhealthy food we will be abstaining from during Lent. Seems to me that letting them eat the remaining sugar fit the bill for the day.

 The doughnuts turned out pretty good. They were more cake like in taste and texture. But still yummy. Next year I might try to find a yeast doughnut recipe. We'll see. 

he is trying not to smile
In addition to doughnuts, this year I wanted to enjoy fried foods that I rarely, if ever, make. So I made fried chicken. And I fried it in at least an inch of oil. I used gluten free crushed corn flakes and flax seed in place of breadcrumbs for the breading. They were very yummy. 

We then enjoyed mashed potatoes with gravy and peas. Cause let's be honest, I can't serve a meal without a vegetable. And while I tossed around the idea of making a green been casserole or something, it was just one thing too many. Frozen peas take five minutes in the microwave. Simple. Easy. And the boys love them, so hey it's works.

 Overall a satisfying feast. 

Menu Plan Monday- Feb 20th

Yes I know it's Wednesday. But I do have a plan for meals this week. So I thought writing it down would be good even if it's several days later. Here it is

Monday: Mark cooked spaghetti (I went to bed with a splitting headache)
Tuesday: Fat Tuesday dinner included fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and homemade GF doughnuts for dessert
Wednesday: Black bean and sweet potato soup
Thursday: Stir-Fry Noodles
Friday: Winter Vegetable Quinoa (a variation on Vegetable Couscous from Recipes from the Root Cellar)
Saturday: Shepard's Pie
Sunday: Simple  supper - breakfast maybe?

For more menus and ideas visit Organizing Junkie

Friday, February 17, 2012

Underwear, Angry Birds, Creature Power and Mario?

My boys are growing up. And I'm noticing it in many ways. Aiden's is the most noticeable as he is in the middle of potty training. Like Ian, Aiden just decided it was time to use the potty.

 It started small. Him telling us on occasion that he needed to pee or poop. As I stated in my Boyne post, our trip back lasted much longer due to his telling us he needed to pee. Yesterday, after telling me he wanted to pee I asked if he wanted a diaper or underwear. He chose underwear. He wore a diaper for nap and one again after wetting his underwear while playing outside, and of course at night. But this morning when he woke up he again chose underwear.

More often than not he is wetting his underwear. But he trying to let me know when he needs to potty. And we always race to the potty to try. I figure it took Ian three solid days of being wet before I saw improvement and he was 3 months older than Aiden is currently. Cai took a solid week of no success before we even got him to use the potty once. And he was almost three. I think Aiden is doing well. And while there are moments I wish I could have planned this into my schedule, it is nice to see him making his own decisions on the matter.

 My toddler is quickly growing up.

The other boys are getting older as well. And I see this manifest itself mostly in their play. Both are more imaginative. Ian, especially, has gotten more aggressive. Which to be honest is very, very frustrating. Ian comes home with games about Mario and Bowser and I wonder does he even understand what it is he is playing? Sure Mark has let the boys play MarioCart and the original MarioBrothers on our mediaPC (a computer Mark creative for our TV), but he didn't start this game until months after said games were played. The joys of peer influence.

Of course, while some of his games are too aggressive for my taste and we have to sit down and talk about what is appropriate behavior and what's not, other games just make me smile. A favorite PBS kids show for Ian is Wild Kratts. Often for days after watching this show Ian and Cai will run around the house with "creature power." They have been hawks, shark, bears, and many other animals. No longer are my boys satisfied with pretending to be cats, dogs, dinosaurs or lions. No they are polar bears, great white sharks, and other animals I forget they even know about till I remember "oh yeah, they saw that on Wild Kratts."  The fact they even remember half of these animals illustrates how much they are growing up.  And while they can become aggressive in their play with these "creature powers" it more often than not make me smile to see them incorporating what they learned into their play.

 Yesterday a new game was added to their list: Angry Birds. Now Ian loves playing this on Mark's phone when he gets a chance. Mark doesn't allow them to play on his phone often, but when he does Ian tends to either play Angry Birds or some racing game. Cai likes Super Why game. Yesterday the boys set up balls on our couch. These balls were the pigs. And the boys then pretended to be the birds and would run and jump onto the couch and balls. I'm still not sure how I feel about this game. I do know that I'm grateful that they were not running and jumping on each other. And really they were kinda cute all running towards the couch together.

 My boys are growing up fast. And while I don't like everything this brings, it sure is fun to watch their transformations.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boyne Highlands 2012

As I mentioned yesterday, this last weekend we spent up at Boyne Highlands. We left on Thursday, getting on the road at 10am. My plan had been to get out at 9, but somehow this seems to be our fate right now. Really we were mostly packed the night before, just had to get it in the van.

Here is where I should give a short life update. After become very frustrated with his job (long hours with little regard to his family commitments, etc) Mark applied to and was hired on to a company call eFolder. While based in Georgia, many of their employees work remotely from around the country. Mark's old boss from Kansas now work witht his company and had encouraged Mark to apply. So Mark's last day at his old job was the Wednesday before we left. And he started his new job on Tuesday after we got back.

Ok back to my main point. We would have gotten out shortly after my goal of 9am, but we had to run to the grocery store for garlic bread (I was cooking that night) and by Mark's old work to drop off keys to the company van that he forget and brought home with him the night before. :) Oh well. We did make the trip in 6 hours which was really really good.

Skiing weekend tends to go like this. Drive up on Thursday. Depending on age of family members, some leave before dawn in order to ski in the late morning and all afternoon. We then gather at our townhouse, eat a meal and either lounge around playing games and hanging out or for some go night skiing or to the pool/hot tub at the lodge. We take turns cooking meals and I cooked Thursday night. The great part of being the first one to cook is that I get to relax and enjoy everyone else's cooking the rest of the weekend. :)

Friday everyone that skis goes skiing. This is the day Mark and I have choose to put boys into ski lessons. This year, like last year,  Ian went to all day ski camp; from 9:30am till 4:30pm. In addition to morning and afternoon lessons, Ian got to eat lunch and have an afternoon activity there with the instructors and other kids. I'll mention here that Ian really wanted to learn to snowboard this year. But the snowcamps do not start till age 7 for snowboarding. You can get private lessons for younger kids but they are more expensive, much more. So I convinced Ian to ski this year, with the promise that when he is 7 he can choose to snowboard if he still wants to. Anyway, after showing the instructors he remembered how to "pizza" or stop they worked with him and other kids at his level on turning. He had a great time, to the point of being disappointed about not getting to go back to lessons the next day.
Ian with his instructor

Cai too got to take lessons this year. However, since he still naps in the afternoon I decided that a morning lesson only would be better. I could tell in the beginning he was nervous. He looked at me with "I don't want you to leave but I want to ski so I'll let you" look in his eye. I think it helped that Ian was there even if they didn't stay together and that Ian was so excited to ski. Cai had a great time though. And his instructor only had positive things to say about the morning. Cai spend the afternoon back at the town house with Aiden and his cousins Josiah and Oliver. My mother-in-law doesn't downhill ski so she spend alot of the weekend watching over kids. I was so very grateful for her excitement to watch them, allowing me to ski.
Mark and me sitting on the lift

Mark and I spend the morning with Rachel, Mark's sister, on the front runs. Then we spend the afternoon just the two of us on the back runs. It was nice to ski together. And as Mark commented at some point over the weekend, it was nice to ski together with the knowledge that we could wait at the bottom for each other. This is especially nice for Mark who likes to go faster and is much, much more daring than I am.
me at the bottom of one of the runs

That evening was spent relaxing, reading, knitting, playing games and for Mark sitting in the lodge hot tub. Several people went out night skiing, but I can't remember now if Mark did or not. I know he went night skiing at least one of the evenings but whether it was Friday or Saturday I can't remember. And really it probably doesn't matter.
one of the boys took this

Saturday morning Mark and I took both Cai and Ian out to the bunny hill to ski. We started on the magic carpet and then went up the lift. Both boys had a great time. Cai was having trouble with his "pizza" so Mark ended up keeping him in-between his legs with his arms draped over Cai's shoulders to keep him steady.
Mark and Cai at the top of the bunny hill

 Ian was doing really well turning when we went up the magic carpet, but decided the big hill was too hard to turn. He would race down only using his "pizza" (tips together) to slow down. Scared me silly. But he had a great time. We are purchasing a helmet for that kid next year. He is too daring for my taste.
Ian skiing down the magic carpet run

 The afternoon we spent back at the townhouse while Daddy went skiing. Then we all went down to the lodge (Aiden included this time) and swam in the heated outdoor pool. This boys love this and they get to see the hill and skiers while swimming. Plus the pool has an elevated area surrounding by bars that they can swimming, walk and Ian can even sit in, that is part of the larger pool. This way Mark and I could be in the deeper area and the kids could be near us but in their own area where they can touch. It's lots of fun.
sitting the the lodge waiting to pick up Ian

Saturday evening is much the same as any. I should state here that we played an awesome game called Pandemic on Saturday night. Rather than playing against each other you have to work together to save the world form the spreading diseases. Sadly we lost and the earth was over taken by the pandemic. But we sure did have a great time playing.  Friday night we played my new game of Anomia. I had played this at Winter Retreat with my Jr High Youth and thought it was so much fun that I bought a copy. It's a word/ random knowledge game. And lots of fun. Especially when you have two teenage brothers playing against each other. ;) Oh sibling rivalry is so much fun to watch when its not me.

We headed home on Sunday after breakfast. The car trip took longer coming home, but we were okay with that. Mostly because we stopped so Aiden could use the potty. While we changed his diaper twice in 7 hours, we probably could have used one diaper the whole way. He was that on top of letting us know when he needed to go. Potty training is here. And while its overwhelming cause we were not expecting it, it is still very exciting.
new goggles were a big hit
tired after a long weekend

As always I was sad the weekend was over. I could spend many more days up there skiing and hanging out with friends and family. But alas our time is done and I get to start dreaming about next year. The thing we look forward to: Cai will go to all day camp and Aiden will get a morning ski lesson. Our boys are going up.

To look at more of our Boyne pictures visit Mark's picasa site

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Completed Projects :)

Almost every year, since Mark was in high school, several members of Mark's family and another family from church, along with other family and individuals depending on the year, travel up to Boyne Highlands in northern Michigan for a weekend of skiing and fun. I've had the pleasure of joining in on this awesome weekend now four times. This year being the second year in a row! With us living in Goshen now, and thus the trip easier to manage than when we were in Kansas, Mark and I both hope to continue the family tradition for our boys to grow up in. Last weekend was our Boyne trip. And prior to this trip I had a long list of things I wanted to complete. Really I was very proud of myself. In the two weeks leading up to the trip I got most of what I wanted to do accomplished. And I have to say I'm very pleased with all my efforts. 

Christmas 2009 my creative sister-in-law Rachel gave the boys a felt puppet theater and two felt puppets. She had seen a puppet theater held up by a tension rod in a store and thought "I could do that." We have enjoyed the theater, and enjoy the puppets even more.
Christmas 2009 

This last Christmas (2011) Rachel gave Cai two more puppets, an owl and a dragon, to go along with our frog and bear.
Christmas 2011

 Also this Christmas, Ian was giving The Frog and Toad Treasury. If you have never read Frog and Toad and have small kids you should. They are fun. Both Cai and Ian love the stories. So realizing that we have a frog puppet, I thought wouldn't it be great to have a toad puppet and then they could act out the stories from the books. So I set to work making them a toad puppet.
Toad front and back

 Being that my nephew also loves Frog and Toad, I made him a set as well.
set for Josiah

 Since I was making puppets I made a cat for Aiden cause he loves cats right now
after detailed glued on

. And a tree. Now this once might seem weird, but trust me there is a reason. Ever since Cai got the owl at Christmas the boys have used this puppet only with an odd green one (I think it looks like a green gingerbread man) and sing Owl in the Tree, a song they learned at the library storytime. Watching them I decided that maybe a tree would be fun for them.
owl in the tree says "hoo hoo hoo"

 All three new puppets were met with squeals of joy.
one of the boys took this

And I learned some thing in the process. Most importantly, if you use hot glue to attach any detail pieces, glut them on after you sew the puppet pieces together. You can not machine sew through hot glue. My poor cat puppet had to be hand sewed because I had already hot glued the stripes on. Still it seems to be holding together.

The next thing I wanted to complete before our Boyne trip was a car road made out of old jeans. Rachel had told me about this when I was telling her about all the old jeans I had. When she asked if she could have some, I told her I would be glad to make it. Rach had seen the idea on pinterest.
all our road pieces

 Of course it should be noted that I didn't finish it until the night before we left. Oh well, it was made and the boys all enjoyed it.

 I had meant for it to go home with Rach, but it ended up in our bag. I'll give it to her sometime this week. Since the boys were giving an awesome road area rug from their grandparents for Christmas we don't need the road pieces.

In addition to some new toys, I made several new snacks for our trip. Since Cai can't have peanut butter, I tried soy nut butter in puppy chow. It turned out really good. Sunflower butter (our normal peanut butter substitute) just isn't the same and can sometimes just make a recipe taste odd. But the soy nut butter worked great, no oddness at all.  I made strawberry fudge from a link my mother shared with me. Two ingredients- strawberry icing and white chocolate chips. It turned out ok, really sweet and soft. Not something I would make very often to be sure.

 The snack I'm most excited/proud about was the gluten free goldfish crackers I made.

My sister-in-law Andrea sent me the link to this recipe. I used my own flour mix in place of Bob's Red Mill gluten free all-purpose flour. I also added a teaspoon of xanthan gum. The original recipe come from Chef Chloe. I didn't have a goldfish cutter. But when I was talking to Rachel she said something about using old aluminum pop cans. So that's what I used. I cut a strip out of an old coca-cola can, folded over the top edge so it wouldn't be sharp when I pressed down on it, and shaped it into a fish, Then I used scotch tape to tape it together. Simple.

 The downside to this type of cutter is that after only a few uses it would bend out of shape and I would have to reshape it.
Other than that it worked great.  Next time I make these I will add less onion powder and maybe less nutritional yeast. The flavor, while great for me, was alittle much for the kids.

one of the boys took this

The last completed project I want to share is this. I finished my sweater! Yes, the sweater I started last year. Here is the blog where I shared my goal of finishing within the year.  I'm alittle late, but not much. And mostly I'm just so excited to finish it. I don't have a picture of it completed yet. I'll try and take one soon. Next up is socks. We'll see how quickly I get a pair done. I haven't started yet. Spent most of my time up at Boyne reading when I wasn't skiing, playing with kids or playing games with everyone else.
Well that's it. I realize this isn't an update on our family or the kids. But that's what you get today. Boyne and skiing update to come soon. Any fun projects you've completed lately??