Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One a Day, Week Seventeen

We've had a busy week -- my husband and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary and our oldest daughter is now 16!  I've been missing running a ton, so I decided to just go out and do a run/walk last Saturday.  I was able to run about 2/3rds of a 4 mile run, and it felt great.  So I got out yesterday morning with Marci again, who is willing to go at my glacial pace and take walk breaks with me. Three miles.  It felt awesome.  I'll be 28 weeks tomorrow.

I also missed my first one-a-day last week.  Somehow, I just spaced taking a photo on Tuesday.  I've been pretty lazy about it in general, just grabbing an easy shot here and there rather than trying for something amazing, so I wasn't surprised.  Here's to a 364-day project this year!
Eliza at the piano

Sarah's owls

18th Wedding Anniversary

Eliza and Sarah and the cookies they made

Singing Happy Birthday to Lillian at FHE

"I Love You Because I Like You"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kids in the Kitchen (a.k.a. teaching myself out of a job)

A few months back, I wrote about how I learned to enjoy cooking, a task I used to hate.  One of the problems with my enjoying the job more, however, is that I was less motivated about teaching my children to cook independently.  For several years, my older kids have had a dinner night assigned to them, where they were supposed to help me make dinner and then do the final clean-up after everyone does their five minutes.  In theory, it was supposed to be an opportunity to teach them to cook.  In practice, over time, I got lazy about planning ahead and inviting them to help and ended up mostly putting the meals together myself.

With a baby on the way, I decided it was time to be more purposeful about teaching my kids to cook. Lillian's always loved cooking (we even gave her subscriptions to Cook's Illustrated and Food Network magazines for her birthday last year) and is great at it, so she doesn't need any instruction. Joey knew a few recipes and makes a great chicken curry, and Michael made great lasagna. Allison and Sarah knew how to make cookies but needed help for everything else.

So it was time for more deliberate meal scheduling.  My goal is that by the time this baby is born, each of them will have four good family recipes they can make independently.  It's been going well so far and despite some hiccups (like the time Allison distractedly put a cup of salt in the cornbread instead of a cup of sugar!), I'm really proud of how well my kids are learning.  I had to do a lot of instruction and hand-holding a few months ago, but over time, I've let the kids do more and more of the cooking on their nights, stepping back into the consultant role rather than the teaching.

We're not quite at our goal yet, but we're headed there.  Best of all, the kids are actually excited about their night and the food they are cooking.

Allison making delicious chili
Here's how we did it:

1.  I brainstormed and made a list of all the recipes our family eats on a regular basis. 

2.  I sat down with each child to talk through which meals they wanted to make.  Michael, my pickiest eater (or perhaps tied with Cami), of course chose his favorites:  homemade pizza, lasagna, spaghetti and sausages, and stroganoff.  He'd been wanting to learn how to make garlic knots since discovering a love for them at a local restaurant, so on pizza night, I added that to the menu.

The others had a harder time choosing and there was a bit of jostling for some family favorites, like chicken dumpling soup.  Some of the recipes I had listed the kids couldn't remember if they liked or not, so we put it on their list, with the understanding that we could switch it around if they didn't like it.  There were also things that they decided they really wanted to make that we didn't have a family recipe for, so I knew that we'd be trying out different ones along the way to decide on a favorite.

I can't overemphasize how important letting the kids choose their own meals has been to the success of our adventure.  It not only gave them ownership in the plan, it also let them choose to make things they love.  I've gotten virtually no complaints about making dinner on their assigned nights since I started this and I think this step is why.

3.  We wrote up our rotating 4-meal menu.  

Our schedule, links to recipes, and some notes on how it's gone:

Allison's Night:

  • Orange Chicken or Teriyaki Chicken and Rice (her idea; we had to go looking for recipes and try some out before settling on a good one)
  • Chili and Cornbread.  
  • Pancakes or Scones (Flatbread).  She's gone back and forth between these, depending on how she feels that night.  What our family calls scones is really just our favorite bread recipe, risen and ready to cook, then pushed flat into pancake-size bread and cooked on our large griddle.
  • Porcupine Balls and Rice.  She ended up making this once and not loving it, so we found a recipe for Sweet and Sour Meatballs she likes better to substitute.

Sarah's Night:

  • Chicken and Dumpling Soup.  A fairly complicated recipe, but one that she's now learned to make even without any help!  
  • Company Chicken and Mashed Potatoes.  She's loved making mashed potatoes, but hasn't loved the chicken recipe.  I keep meaning to find a substitute she'll love more, but haven't gotten around to it yet.
  • Meatloaf and Dinner Rolls.  It's been great teaching her the steps to making rolls, and while we didn't have a family favorite recipe for meatloaf, we tried a couple of them and settled on this one as the best and simplest.
  • Chicken Marsala and Garlic Naan.  This is another one we need to tweak.  My favorite marsala recipe is a crockpot one (similar to this one) and the other one we tried took a little too long and had some strange ingredients.  So I'm on the search for a simpler Marsala recipe.  Our garlic naan is awesome, though, and Sarah's loved learning to make it.

Michael's Night:

  • Homemade Pizza and Garlic Knots.   The recipe we use for the garlic knots calls for store-bought biscuits, but we just double our regular 3-pizza crust family recipe and use some of the extra dough to make them.
  • Lasagna.  He already knew how to make this, so it was pretty simple.  He keeps track himself of when it's his turn for lasagna and reminds me to buy cottage cheese for it.
  • Spaghetti and Sausages.
  • Stroganoff.

Joey's Night:

  • Tortilla Soup.  A simple recipe but very good.  We usually do without the chicken in it.
  • Sloppy Joes.  This was one he wanted to learn how to make that hadn't been part of our family's repertoire before.  The recipe I found has been a good one.
  • Chicken Curry.  Another one Joey's done before and been very competent with
  • Enchiladas.   We've experimented with a couple of different recipes for this one, too, and haven't found the perfect one yet.  The first we tried was good, but very complicated.  The second was easier and yummier, but one that wasn't very precise.

Lillian also has a dinner night on Fridays, but she's on her own to decide what to have and is welcome to use that night as a leftover night if she wants.  She's so busy with a heavy load at school and orchestra and violin commitments that she hasn't had as much time to plan and cook the way she wants to.

4.  I used our digital calendar to schedule the rotation and reminders.  We use good old Google for our family   calendar, and it's a pretty simple thing to write down whose night it is to make what, then click the "repeat every 4 weeks" button.

5.  We go through our family calendar every morning after scriptures.  This helps in multiple ways (like keeping me from forgetting doctor/dentist/ortho appointments), but it's also been a great way to know every morning what is for dinner and who is making it that night.  If we need to make a last-minute change or have a conflict that night, we adjust when necessary.

We've been following this schedule for nearly four months now and it's been wonderful.  It's been fun to watch some of my kids be totally dependent on my direction to being more and more independent. Joey makes his meals all alone, Michael needs me here and there, and Allison and Sarah need me about half the time.  I love teaching myself out of a job, and I know that at least one area of my life will be easier when this baby is born.

Best of all, my kids are learning great life skills!

Some of our Favorite Family Recipes

I've been writing a post about how I'm teaching my oldest five kids to cook.  As I tried to link to the recipes we've chosen to use,  I realized that many of our family favorite recipes are simply ones we've used for many, many years and are not necessarily easy to find on the internet.  Some are from my mother-in-law, an amazing cook, some from my mom, and some are just some we've had shared with us over the years.

In my post, I link to the recipes from various cooking blogs.  Here are the ones from our family recipe book:

Oatmeal Pancakes
2 ½ c. milk
2 c. rolled oats
4 eggs
2 T. vegetable oil
1 c. whole wheat flour
6 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ t. cinnamon

Combine milk and oats in large mixing bowl.  Allow oats to soak for at least five minutes.  Beat the eggs, then add eggs and oil to the oats.  Mix well.  Stir in the other ingredients.  Makes 20 or so 4-inch pancakes

Porcupine Balls
3 cans tomato soup
1 ½ cans water
Simmer the soup and water.  Meanwhile, mix the following:
1 ½ lb. hamburger
1-2 eggs
½ c. rice
Salt and pepper to taste (pepper adds a great flavor)
½ chopped onion
1/3 chopped green pepper

Drop by spoonfuls into hot soup.  Simmer 45 minutes, then serve over rice.

Company Chicken
8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 slices swiss cheese (or a substitute)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can milk
Stove Top Stuffing Mix
1 can tomatoes w/lime juice and cilantro
1-2 garlic cloves
Place chicken in greased 9 x 13 pan.  Place slice of cheese on each.  Mix soup with milk and pour over chicken.  Stir stuffing mix with can of tomatoes and chopped garlic, then layer on top of chicken and soup mixture.  Cook for 45 minutes at 375

Tanya Killian’s Rolls                        
1 c. sugar                    
4 T. yeast
4 ½ c. warm water
Mix, then add:
4 eggs, beaten
½ c. butter
4 t. salt
4 cups flour
Mix, then gradually add about 8 more cups of flour.  You want a soft dough, but not runny.  Let rise for 1 hour in a greased bowl.  Roll into 48 or 60 rolls and place on 2 greased jelly roll pas.  Let rise, covered with tea towel, for one hour.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or 350 for 20 or so minutes, until the bottom has browned.

Homemade Pizza
3 c. water
2 T. yeast
1-2 T. sugar
1-2 T. oil
Mix the ingredients above, wait five minutes, then add enough flour to make a dough (dough is ready when it is pulling nicely away from the sides of the bowl).  Let rise about 30 minutes.  Roll out, put in pans, add your favorite pizza toppings, and cook for 12-15 minutes at 450.  Makes three crusts.  Note:  our favorite trick for yummy pizza is to add caraway seeds – it adds a great flavor to any type of pizza.

Lasagna noodles (usually 1 ½ boxes)
1 lb. Ground Beef or Sausage
Onion, chopped
Spaghetti sauce with some added water
8-12 oz. mozzarella cheese.
Cheese mixture:
1 lb. ricotta or cottage cheese
½ t. salt
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
1 T. dried Parsley
1-2 raw eggs
Layer lasagna, cheese mixture, mozzarella, sauce.  Then repeat several more times.  End with cheese and sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes covered, plus 10 minutes uncovered.

Hamburger Stroganoff
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Salt and pepper
1 cup milk
Sour cream
Brown hamburger and onion.  Add soup and milk.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper and sour cream just before serving.  Serve over rice or pasta.

Tortilla Soup
2 cans chicken broth
1 can corn
1 can Mexican tomatoes
1-2 cans beans
Cooked chicken, optional
Mix and warm ingredients and serve over cheese and chips

Chicken Curry
3 T. butter
¼ c. chopped onion
1 ½ t. curry powder (can increase this for more kick)
Melt butter in skillet and add the onion.  Add curry powder.  Saute.  Then add:
3 T. flour
¾ t. salt
¾ t. sugar
1/8 t. ginger
Slowly add:
1 c. milk
1 c. chicken broth
Cook until thickened and add:
½ t. lemon juice
2 c. diced cooked chicken
Heat through and serve over rice with condiments such as peanuts, almonds, pineapple, hard-boiled egg, pickle relish, coconut, raisins, bacon bits, chopped red or yellow onion, tomato, chow mein noodles.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Worth a Look (Friday Favorites)

How to Fall Asleep in Less than One Minute
Think it really works?

Birth Control:  Men Get Free Sex, Women Get Cancer  I think the case may be overstated here, but some interesting points here.

Benefits of Attending Church on Sunday (whether or not you are a believer)  Some really good points here!

Two Ingredient Super Stretchy Playdough  Sounds interesting.


Avalanche Bars  I'm a peanut butter lover and these look really yummy!


Shoot for the Light  I love the advice here to improve your shots!

Got an Android Watch?  This app looks super cool.  Awesome for portrait and landscape photographers who want to predict where the sun will be and when.  Plus I know the developer and he's super cool too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One a Day, Week Sixteen

Spring Snowstorm

DH fixing my in-law's computer

26 weeks

Sunday walk at the duck pond, Sarah and Cami

Eliza, Allison and Sarah just before track practice

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Three Months to Go

With a likely induction date of July 16th, I've got less than three months until baby Benjamin joins our family.  With the gift of a ton of hand-me-downs from a ward member, I have more than enough clothes to get this guy through most of his first year (just a few items I'll need in the 6-9 month and 12 month range).  And they're fun and cute clothes, too.  It's been 13 years since I've had a boy, so it's going to be a change.  I started giving away the boy clothes once Michael was four or five -- I figured even if we had more boys, storing the clothes for five years or more just wasn't worth it.  I also gave away his Buzz Lightyear toys and many of our action figures.  We've had so many years of dolls and ponies, it will be an interesting transition back to swords and superheroes.  But we do have a good amount of Legos, Magnetic building toys, and Little People, so we should be good.

I'm feeling huge lately and I'm wishing in some ways that my twin pregnancy hadn't been ten years ago -- I remember thinking all through Eliza's pregnancy how much easier it was.  The normal swelling and awkwardness of pregnancy just didn't get to me because after carrying around 11.5 pounds of two babies, a normal-size 7 pounder was nothing.  But though I can remember the desperation of the third trimester of my twin pregnancy, it's not fresh enough in my mind to keep me from feeling huge and awkward now, with 12 weeks still to grow.

26 weeks

I had to give up running a few weeks ago, at a little past 24 weeks.  My legs just felt dead when I was running, as if I wasn't getting enough circulation, and I was getting sooooo slow.  I've started to have contractions every day, whether exercising or not, and that wasn't helping, nor was the constantly reoccurring side stitches that seem to happen every time I move for more than five minutes, running or walking.  It was just time.

But I'm feeling a little stir crazy since I stopped running.  I miss talking to Marci.  I miss the psychological boost of doing something hard long enough that it's just part of my routine.  There's just something about coming home from a four to six mile run and feeling strong and healthy.  Walking seems so wimpy in comparison, and I've yet to get into a routine with my elliptical that feels as challenging.  (OK, I haven't gotten into a routine with my elliptical at all -- I've only done it about three times since I stopped running.  Maybe doing it more would help . . .)

But the most frustrating thing I'm dealing with right now are backaches, either in my lower back or right beneath my shoulder blades.  The latter got so bad last week that I was near tears on Saturday and trying to remind myself that this is all worth it.  My husband helped adjust my back and that has helped take off the worst of the pain, but it seems to come back.  I asked the hive mind (aka Facebook) and got some good recommendations -- chiropracters, yoga (already doing that one), Tiger balm or Deep Blue, and massage.  I hope it helps!  I don't remember feeling this much back pain in my previous pregnancies.  I'm thinking it might be because I'm carrying so high -- most of my belly bulk is right below my ribs, so I probably unconsciously pull my shoulders back.

But enough of me and my complaining.  I really do feel blessed that it's only been in the last few weeks that this pregnancy has been hard -- I'm so grateful for the relief I felt from my usual first trimester awfulness and if I only have to endure discomfort for three instead of six months this pregnancy, it's a good trade.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One a Day, Week Fourteen and Fifteen

Finally captured that elusive hawk in my backyard

Lunar Eclipse, picture taken by Lillian

General Conference!

Mommy Trip participants

These two are training to hike Mount Whitney with my husband.  This photo was taken after a 9-miler to Utah Lake

Picnic in the canyon with our cousin Kylee

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Moab Mommy Trip

Last week was our spring break.  My husband wasn't able to get away from work for any trips, so I decided to take seven of the kids (all that can fit in my van and truthfully, all that wanted to go) and head out for a few days' adventure. My oldest two stayed home, one to catch up on school work and the other to fix all our bikes, do a bit of yardwork, and spend most of several days out fishing.  I bet you can guess which kid did which thing.

Meanwhile, I brought Michael and six little girls down to Moab.  We hung out at Arches and Canyonlands, earned Junior Ranger badges, and doing a good bit of hiking.  Wednesday, the only full day we were there, we were pummeled by 45-mile-an-hour winds that freaked out Katie and Cami and confined us more towards looking at overlooks and doing scenic drives while trying to avoid tumbleweeds rather than long hikes.  We did do a 2-mile windy hike to Landscape Arch that day, however, where Sarah cemented herself in Cami's mind as the best big sister ever for carrying her a good part of the way.

Day One included Hikes to Double Arch and Skyline Arch, both short and easy.  The first hike was full of other people enjoying their spring breaks, the second we had mostly to ourselves.

Skyline Arch

Sarah and Cami.  On the third day, Cami refused to let Allison or me carry her.  Sarah was her clear favorite.  Unfortuneately, that meant that Sarah carried her on her back up the steepest slickrock part of the Delicate Arch trail.   But she was happy to do so and I was relieved that she was there to help.

Canyonlands on the morning of day two was stunning, but had no shelter from the wind, which whipped sand into our faces and eyes.  Still, I got a few stunning pictures from the overlooks.

And the kids got their Jr. Ranger Badges.

Our afternoon hike to Landscape Arch had slightly calmer winds 

That night, we got some late afternoon photos of parts of the park, then returned after dinner to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Balanced Rock.  Every time we drove by, I acted surprised that it hadn't fallen down yet. 

The Windows Area

I think this is my favorite photo from the trip.

Our last day there involved a fun hike to Delicate Arch.  Cami threw a major tantrum part-way up but Sarah was able to calm her down and carry her, then 2/3rds of the way up we finally distracted her into walking most of the rest of the way.  I didn't want to bother with my bulky camera, so I stuck to my stinky phone camera for proof we made it to the most famous arch in Utah (and probably the world)
Allison, Cami, Eliza, Michael, Katie, and me.  Sarah and Harmony were in line to get their picture taken in front of the arch

Sarah and Harmony under the arch.
I didn't see a single lizard except for this one the entire trip, but trust Allison, our eagle eyes, to not only see five or six of them, but catch this one.  She tried to carry it all way the way back to the van in hopes of making a pet of it, but it got away.

My seven youngest

The Mommy Trip group
I have to say that I started to more fully appreciate my husband and his regular Daddy-trip tradition. Though this trip was a ton of fun, it also had moments of frustration, times I needed to separate certain kids in the car, and times when I wished the kids would stop wiggling and fighting over blankets and just. go. to. sleep.  And that was keeping most extra things pretty low-key.  We stayed at a hotel two nights and had breakfast there, brought simple food from home for our lunch, and ate out for dinner both nights.  When DH goes on trips, he camps a good part of the time, cooks the meals, and is usually gone for ten days, not three.  I have a pretty awesome DH.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...