Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's all Greek to us

Yesterday, after taking several months off, we finally "toured" another country.  The country was Greece. Hannah taught her siblings various things about the country, even giving them a quiz over what they had learned.  They also watched a video from the library which let them visually tour various places in Greece.  My job was to prepare the food.

I had planned on making pita bread on Friday, but David and I went to the home of friends and played a game which lasted the entire evening and we arrived home around midnight, too late to start bread.   Oh well.

For breakfast I had intended to serve pita bread, rice pudding, and fresh fruit. But since I didn't make the pita bread, we ate regular ole wheat bread, and since I overslept, it was too late to make the rice, so option three was fresh fruit, cheese, and bread.

Sorry, no pictures of breakfast, I was still half asleep at the time.

For Dinner we ate:
Salata (Greek Salad)

Arni Souvlakia (skewered lamb) served atop a bed of.............
Pilafi (Rice Pilaf)
David and I enjoyed a glass of red wine, which complimented the lamb wonderfully.  The lamb was very delicious.  It had marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and Greek Seasoning I had bought from Penzeys awhile ago.  I also used it to make the dressing for the salad. David couldn't praise the salad enough.  He admitted he was a little concerned about having Feta cheese in the salad, fearing it would taste like bleu cheese, but once he tasted it, he loved it.

For Supper we ate:
Cut up vegetables and Tzatziki(Cucumber and Yogurt Dip)
In the book I used (Cooking the Greek Way by Lynne W. Villios) it said that many Greek people eat appetizers in the late afternoon to ward off hunger (it also said that they eat supper late - around 10pm).  Our supper was later than normal and I cut up vegetables for us to snack on prior to sitting down for supper.

The dip is very good.  I used my homemade Greek yogurt and added the seasonings: cucumber chopped, garlic, scallions, olive oil, vinegar, and dill.
Soupa Avgolemono (Egg and Lemon Soup)
This might be a number one soup in Greece but it ranked the lowest in this household.  No one really cared for this soup, although I was quite proud of all the children. They all tried one to two bites before eyes were turned pleading to not have to eat the rest.

Psari Plaki (Baked Fish)
This was very good.  Normally we eat fried sunfish (graciously caught by members of the church who want to fish more and give us some so they are under the legal limit).  It has been a long time since I've tried a white fish recipe as most of them we haven't liked enough to try again. This one though is a keeper.  I used cod.  The seasonings on top were olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, thinly sliced onion, parsley, and a can of diced tomatoes.

Patates Fourno Riganates (Baked Potatoes Oregano)
These were yummy, although some of the children didn't like them.  First I boiled potatoes with the skin on for about 20 minutes.  Then I drained them and let them cool to room temperature before peeling them, slicing them into a baking dish, adding olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt and then baking them for about 20-25 more minutes.

For Dessert:
Baklava (Walnut-Honey Pastry)
This tasty treat is very delicious and it is easily understandable why this is a favorite and best-known Greek dessert.

The nuts and sweet honey taste are mmmm mmmm good.  Perfect with a cup of coffee.
We had a wonderful taste of Greece and I have added new recipes to my book.  I didn't try spanikopita (spinach pie), although I am copying the recipe and plan to try it another day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Two years ago I began making weekly menus, it worked well.  Last year I didn't and well, it made the year a little harder, so this year I started again.  It is a good habit for me and keeps me honest in the kitchen.  When I plan my menus, I rarely will try to get away with not cooking and we also eat more of a variety as I get less in a cooking rut.

Long time ago (when I was in a cooking rut) and didn't know what to make, David helped me typed a list of the meals we generally eat.  I still have that list with pencil additions and that stays right inside my notebook where I plan my meals.  It helps to look at that so I'm not staring at a blank page when planning the week's menu.  The list is categorized into Meats (with subcategories of the different kinds), Side Dishes, Vegetables, Fruits, Breakfast Meals, Soups, and Crockpot ideas.

If you're new to menu planning and would like to try it, try this step first.  By listing the meals that you know your family likes, you have something to look at each day and can pick what to make based on what's in your fridge/freezer/pantry, what's on sale, and what sounds tasty.

The next step I took was then to say on certain days it would be a certain type of meat.  So for example Monday's might always be chicken, Tuesday's beef, Wednesday's pork, etc.  You can do this however it works for your family and budget.  Depending on the day, I knew what meat to get in and fixed one of our meals from the master list adding vegetables and sides to go along with it.

After awhile of that (like a year or so), I dove in and began the weekly menu planning.  At first I took a pre-made chart from Donna Young's website and it worked fine for awhile.  But this year, I asked David to make me my own chart.  So he made it for me.  It is a simple four column, 8 row grid.  The top row is small and it has "Breakfast," "Lunch," and "Dinner" in the second through fourth columns.  The first column is blank in the first row but has the days of the week in the next 7 rows.

Now since Kristi asked, here is the menu for this week:

Leftovers from freezer

Meatloaf/Mashed Potatoes/Green beans

Red Beans/Rice/Bread
Lenten supper @ church

Shepherd's Pie/fruit salad
Sunday Chicken Supper

Homemade Pizza

Greece Day, you'll have to wait to see what I make for this day :-)

Coffee Cake
Biscuits and gravy

A good thing for me is that this list is a guide, I'm not a slave to it.  If we have more leftovers than I thought we would, I simply will use them up and not make a meal listed till a future time.  Also, I switch things around depending on what the day happens to bring.  But, for me, by having this list, it is so much easier to adjust to the normal goings on of unpredictable life if there is a plan to work from.

I also have been saving the menus and that also helps in each weeks planning to look back and see what I've made in the past and could make again.

Happy planning and eating!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jesus at Gethsemane

I like this picture.  In the church I grew up, it was above the altar.  In the church we attend now, it is in the back by the organ so you see it when you walk out from service.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Random piles

I use to not have so many piles of stuff.  Decluttering (a la FlyLady) wasn't a factor for me as I didn't really have anything to declutter, we used everything we had.  Not now.  Somehow, someway, I have more junk here, there, and everywhere and I don't know where it all came from.

Having five kids doesn't help.  They all want a space to keep their "treasures."  But boy oh boy, those "treasures" need to be weeded out and thrown away!  Not to mention my own piles, like that one over there.....Why don't I just throw away those baskets.  I'm not using them, they simply collect dust and other junk.

Or that one over there......boxes of old vcr tapes.  Do I really need to keep vcr tapes of college pom routines or  that high school Jr. Miss Pageant?  And since the answer is "no" why can't I just toss them in the garbage?

Or the totes and piles of clothes in the kids' bedrooms?  I put off switching over their closets from summer to fall and we've been living with the piles all winter.  Why don't I just take the time to put what gets donated into bags and what gets saved into totes and in their proper place in the basement?

Instead I simply live with the piles, moving them from here to there, adding to them, putting off thinking about them, until finally I have to make a decision about what to do with them before I go insane.

I think I may have missed the mark this time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No Good

When my husband isn't around, I'm lazy.  I don't want to get up, I don't want to cook, I don't want to do the work I'm to do.  When he is around, I battle to keep the lazy dragon at bay, but the fight is overwhelming when he is gone.

Hopefully only two more days of battling the dragon and my knight in shining armor will rescue me and we'll live happily ever after...............

until the next dragon rears its ugly head.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Amazing but true

This May we will be going to visit Washington D.C.  I knew that I needed to request tours from my representatives.  If you watch the news, you know that currently I only have one senator, whom I wouldn't request a tour from, while the other seat is being argued in court.  So off to the House of Representatives I went, emailing my request this week on Ms. Bachmann's helpful website.  Soon afterwards I received a notice stating the request went through and I would receive notification of tour times prior to our trip.

Tonight, my husband has a meeting at the district office.  Two other men in the area met him here at our home to all drive together.  The one man asked, "Are you guys visiting D.C. soon?" Why yes but how did he know? Well, his daughter is working for Congresswoman Bachmann and is the one who emailed the response to me!  He was speaking with her today and mentioned whom he was traveling to the meeting with tonight, and the name triggered her memory of sending the email note to me.  To make it even smaller, his daughter went to the same LCMS high school as my husband and at the same time as his cousins.

Cue theme music:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm not loving February

This month is tough.  I knew it would be, but that doesn't make it any easier.

The four oldest are still in swim club and I decided to sign up the youngest for swim lessons. But the class which is held at the same time as the older kids' practice was full, so I took the one before it.  That means two days a week, we eat supper at 4:30 in order to leave at 5pm, drive to the next town over, and shuttle kids through swimming until finally the oldest two are out of the pool at 8pm.  But they still have to shower, change, and dress, so, we're usually arriving home around 9. At which time I want them all in bed, *now* but they want a snack first.

What long days these are.

Add in the other running for piano lessons, violin lessons, flute lessons and I simply have no desire to do much of anything else.

But we did this whole goal thing, so it at least keeps me honest with bookwork.  I'll be super happy when February ends (youngest finishes lessons) and even happier the second week of March (swim club winter season is done).

Now to just make it till then.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Civil War Projects

Since my kids worked so hard on their Civil War projects, I thought I would brag over them a bit here. My original intention was to have all of them do a lapbook and a timeline, but that evolved into having the older two do a lapbook and a timeline, and the next two only doing a timeline. I got the idea for the timeline when I was reading the Homeschool in the Woods website and her free ideas on civil war studies (scroll down and click on the free unit study of civil war on the left hand column or click here).

For Nathan and Abby I took  6 poster boards (about 22x14 inches) and taped them together end to end using clear mailing tape. Then I used colored plastic tape (I alternated colors to add variety) to tape a line down the middle. It was on that colored tape that I wrote the dates or events with a sparkly pen .

Using the timeline suggested on the above website (or by clicking here), I had them copy the various events after we had read about them. They didn't copy everything from this timeline, only the main things, and some things I wrote for them to copy that wasn't included on the above timeline website.

Sometimes I drew the lines on the timeline for them to write on and other times I drew them on colored paper and we added a picture. This was simply to make it more interesting.
Most of the pictures I found by searching on google pictures and then printing them. Some I copied from books, like these two maps below which are from Joy Hakim's History of US book.

One time I had Nathan and Abby draw a picture of what we had read and written about.  Here is Abby's drawing of Gettysburg Cemetery.

And here is Nathan's drawing of the  battle between the iron clad Merrimac and iron clad Monitor.  Boys and battles go hand in hand.

This was hard work for them, but they love looking at their timeline. It hangs on our basement wall. One thing I did to help them not complain (too much!) about all the writing was that while one was writing, the other was coloring in one of the two Dover coloring books I bought for this time period. One book was on President Lincoln's life and one was on the battles from Antietam to Gettysburg.

Hannah and Ellie also did a timeline, but for them I taped seven 8.5x11 pieces of white cardstock together with the mailing tape, added the colored tape down the middle, gave them a copy of the timeline, and had them write the important things where they belong.

They also did a lapbook. I gave them a list of what I wanted them to cover, checked out oodles of books from the library and let them go. They worked together and decided on doing the same flaps for the various events and, I think, did a fantastic job. Here are their books.

Open the front cover to see the flaps on slaves (including information on some of the more famous ones), the 13th Ammendment, and the Underground Railroad. Opposite it is the page which has a map of the US colored to indicate which states fought in the Confederacy and which in the Union, and a red pocket which contains cards on which they wrote about the various battles throughout the war.
Turning the page the flaps on President Lincoln, President Davis, and Generals Lee and Grant are opposite the page containing the fold-out timeline.

On the next two pages they added the flaps on Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the H.L. Hunley submarine. (The backside of the Hunley page is the fold-out timeline.)

Turning the left yellow flap (which has the Gettysburg Address on it) to the right, the next two pages are these:
The purple flap includes famous writers during the Civil War.  I had intended for them to only do Walt Whitman, but they decided to find others who lived during this time and wrote on them as well.

The green flap is information on Matthew Brady and his photography of the Civil War.
And this flap is on (can you guess?)............

Ford's Theatre and Lincoln's assassination.

The last two pages (after turning the left red flap to the right) compares different things in the Union and Confederacy.

One flap compares the different foods,
one compares schools,

one tells about life as a boy or girl

and the last compares the soldiers.
As you can tell, I think they did a fantastic job.  We started this project at the beginning of December and my lofty goal was to finish before Christmas.  Hahahahahaha!   That didn't happen so we spent the first two school weeks of January finishing.  Once finishing this, though, the seemingly mundane daily History reading and narrating is rather refreshing for all of us.  Plus after spending so much time on this, we look forward to our trip east to Washington D.C. and visiting some of the battlefields of this terrible war to see first hand some of these places we read and wrote about.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A child of God

David's cousin once removed (so that means his cousin's daughter) and her husband had their first child.  He was given new life in the waters of Holy Baptism this past Sunday.  Unfortunately we couldn't make it to the service, but did come over after our services to enjoy the luncheon, congratulate Katie and Josh, and hold Caleb.

I had never been in this church and you simply can't miss this beautiful stain glass window when you walk in.

Here is little Caleb being held by his great grandma (who would be my husband's aunt).

Isn't he cute!

Look at all that hair!
(I'm sorry Katie that you had to experience heartburn for all that hair - but he is so cute, I'm sure now you think it was worth it. )

My kids loved him and crowded around me as I held Caleb and all clamored for their turn to hold this little guy.  Hence why there are no pictures of this, my hands were full of baby Caleb and I totally forgot to take pictures at this time.

Here is Katie and Caleb.  Can't you see that new mom glow in her face?  And I just love it when babies yawn, such cute expressions.

And what about Josh - doesn't he have that proud dad look?

The lovely family all together.
And yes, I'll have you over as often as possible so we can cuddle Caleb before you go off to vicarage this summer.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Reward Day

Yesterday, Monday, February 2nd was our reward day for accomplishing our homeschooling goals for the month of January.  We chose from our list, dinner and a movie.

We ate dinner at 

a restaurant we saw on the Food Network's show, "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives."  This is one of our favorite shows and one time while watching we saw Donatelli's  highlighted and we made a mental note that we wanted to eat there one day.

Yesterday was that day.

Boy we were not disappointed.  It was simply delicious.  I had the mostaccioli with Italian sausage.  Yum yum!

The kids tried fettuccine, spaghetti, and one tried the lasagna.  David enjoyed the baked spaghetti with Italian sausage.  It was all delicious and we even brought some home as leftovers.

After our filling meal, we went to a:
(we were way to full to take advantage of the popcorn and pop)

to enjoy the movie:
We were the only ones in the theatre that afternoon.

(Sorry for the fuzzy, blurry, pictures, but it was dark and I don't have a good lens to take pictures in such low light situations.).

We enjoyed the movie a lot and had a grand day.  Now we have set goals for February and hope to enjoy another reward day at the end of the month.