Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Freezer Meals and Food Prep


It is no secret than moms are busy people.  Wake people up, get them fed and dressed, send them to school or school them yourself, clean the house, run errands, run kids to sports or lessons, fix dinner.  The list goes on and on.  And on!

Sometimes there is just seemingly not enough time in the day.  I am right there with you!

Through the years, in an effort to lighten my load and preserve my sanity, I have tried to find little ways to help make my life easier.  Especially when it comes to cooking.  As a homeschooling mom, I typically fix THREE meals a day.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, but you get the idea.  That is a lot of time in the kitchen.  A lot!   

One way to do that, especially in certain seasons in my life, has been freezer meals and meal prep.

Let's start with freezer meals.

There are lots of programs and subscriptions out there, but the main idea is fix things ahead of time in a large prep day and freeze.  Then when you are busy you can just pull a prepared meal out of the freezer and go.  While many of those meals advertised are crock pot friendly, they do not have to be!  I have many "packet" meals in my freezer that are defrosted the night before and cooked on the grill, as well as skillet meals and casseroles to pop in the oven.  The main point is the timely prep is already done and you just have to factor in cooking time. 

The last time I did a freezer cooking prep I froze 12 meals (two of 6 different recipes) and 13 "just meat" bags. (pork loins, pork chops, hamburgers, chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, fish and ground beef.)

That equated to 25 freezer meals at a cost of about $5.04 each for meat.



 
I will tell you that the MyFreezEasy plan is one of the best I have used.  (NOT an affiliate, just sharing!)  With a subscription you get monthly meal ideas and are able to mix and match as you like, as well as adjust your serving size to fit your family.   Erin Chase, creator of the $5 Dollar Dinners and MyFreezEasy, provides amazing options to include Keto, and Paleo/Whole30, clean eating, and kid    friendly meals.  Once you choose the meals you want to fix for the week or month, you print the menus, shopping lists, and directions and you are ready to go!  SO SIMPLE! 




I usually choose 4-6 recipes (each recipe makes two meals) to make each month and freeze so I always have a good selection in my freezer.  Our family typically uses them twice a week.


As far as further meal prep, I have blogged on this before.  Here are a few of my basic recommendations-

  • Buy rotisserie chickens!  I used to cook whole chickens myself, but since we do not have access to our own chickens at the moment, I have found Costco chickens to be a life saver.  I buy two each month for less than $5.00 a piece and come home and immediately de-bone them and freeze.  Two chickens yield 4 freezer packs of meat for our family!  We use them in casseroles, salads, tacos, stir fry, and soups!

  • Brown meats ahead of time.  I am not always good at this, but at the very least buy in bulk and separate into meal size packages.  If you have time when you first get home with ground beef, go on and brown it up and freeze in batches. It will save you time in the long run!
  • Shape and freeze hamburger patties. Again, saves you time on a busy night!
  • Filet chicken breasts.  First it saves you money!  And secondly, it yields a more appropriate serving size of 4-6 ounces of meat!

I am sure there are so many more ideas- feel free to share!

And have fun planning and cooking!

Blessings, 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

New Renovations Have Begun

When we bought this house we new it needed some things to be done to make it fit us better. That was part of the thing that drew us to it- the fact we could do some adjustments to better meet our needs.

One such area was the downstairs.  It has two bedrooms, one of which is currently occupied by our college son, Clarke's office, which is getting more use that we ever thought possible due to Covid, and then a living room.

For some strange reason the previous owners put two utility sinks in one corner and called it good.  Funny thing- they set them in a shower base with a drain, but the drain hole was open to nothing but the carpet underneath it.  Yep, genius.

So that went out pretty early on.

Clarke and I did some prep work, but with all the months of work we had done previously, we knew we needed help on this one.

The plan is-

New flooring put in one section of the living room and counters, sink, and fridge added to make a mini kitchenette.  A table will be added to the area for eating, or puzzles, and will make for a fun space for entertaining.  The space may eventually be used as rental, or for my mom, should she decide to join us.

 


The second part of the project involves this bathroom.  It is directly beside the larger guest room.  It housed one of the largest Jacuzzi tubs I have ever seen and one of the weirdest "steam" showers I have ever taken a shower in.  The first holds way too much water, and the second makes you feel like you are showering in a cave.

 

 

Both are on their way out.  A full shower with a bench will replace the existing tub, and the shower will be replaced by a short hallway that will go into the guest room, allowing direct access to the bathroom, making it feel more like a suite.  

Things have been taped off and demo work started last week!  Hopefully in about a month the work will be done!

 


 

 



I will keep you posted on the progress as I try not to pressure the poor guys to work faster!

Blessings,

Monday, October 5, 2020

Gushing Over Science

This is big for me, you guys!  The gushing part, that is!  Especially over science.  Most of you who know me or have been around Family, Faith and Fridays for a while know I don't LOVE science.  OK, in the past I found a few programs for younger kids I admit were fairly fun to use, but as they aged into higher levels, the fun was done!

Especially when it come to Apologia.  I have "taught" it to three kiddos already.  I have liked the process less every time.  But here's the thing- I still think it is one of the best science programs out there at a solid college prep level.


 

This is the year I hit the point of no more fun, time to buckle down with Apologia.  And I almost cried.  I even had visions of my husband teaching it while teaching college classes at the same time.  Just saying- that was a nope.

And then I am pretty sure God showed great mercy on me.

A sweet friend reminded me of a program online she had used with her daughter and is now using with her son called Science on Demand.  (thanks Michelle) She promised she thought it would help me, and well, I jumped.  'cause I was desperate, ya'll.

It is a buy it and watch it kind of program.  Mrs. Frates, the teacher, taught the separate Apologia courses at a co op and recorded her sessions.  You pay for the course, and then have access to those sessions and her schedule for a year.  Totally self paced!  

And she teaches from a Creation Scientist worldview! 

So some days we watch her lectures. (most are broken down into two, 30ish minute sessions for each module).  Other days there is a list of what the assigned reading and questions are, to include lab prep. 

 



 

LABS!!  Yes, I knew you would ask. Yes, they are in there.  She does all the labs you need in class so you are able to watch along. She tells you how to write up a lab, two parts which you do before you watch, and two that you complete after the experiment.   

 



 

Why is this important to me?

Because some states, Arizona being one of them, not only want you to have three sciences WITH labs, but want you as a homeschooler to PROVE you have had such classes by way of submitting lab write ups during the admission process. (don't even get me started!)  When we first moved here this was a real issue for us with our oldest son, as we had done the classes, but had not kept tons of lab records.

Our experience-

OK, so Colby is an 8th grader, age 13, taking Physical Science.  He was to first read Module 1, take note, and prepare for the first labs and THEN watch the lectures.  He read the first chapter and was panicked!  In his defense, so was I!  Not sure if it was just the sheer volume of info Apologia gives, or the info itself and how it is presented, but already I was pretty sure we were not going to get too far in this course.  


 

And then came the video!

And we were saved!

Oh my word, I cannot say enough about Mrs. Frates.  She is clever, articulate, entertaining, smart, and connects with her students.  Even the ones who are watching a video recorded several years ago.  And we got it!  The info we read came alive and made sense. 

And still does, now 4 modules in.  Does it take thought sometimes? Yes!  But every time we watch the video following the reading I see a light bulb go off in my son's head.  He gets it!

And his three 100's and one 96 on the tests show it!   It is Colby's favorite part of the day now.

Now THAT is a product I can gush over!

Watch out next year, Biology.  I, I mean Colby, is going to master you!

Blessings,

*This is not a paid endorsement in any way!  Just one homeschooling momma sharing a success with others.

Friday, October 2, 2020

What's With War?

Seriously?  Do all boys have a fascination with war, or is it just mine?

If there is a book or show out there about battles, my boys are in line to grab it.  They are history buffs that just eat that stuff up.  The good news is that there are some really cool resources out there.  The bad news is our bookshelves are starting to get pretty full!


 The newest in our collection is Amazing World War II Stories, available at Timberdoodle.  While it is available in the 5th grade Curriculum Kit, I think it is a good read for 4th grade and up.  There is no lack of details, and it is definitely not watered down.  I even caught my husband reading it last night after I talked about it.

While the version you see that we have contains four separate books, the one now available has all four books bound together.

 

So what is Amazing World War II Stories?

This fun, history based book is a collection of four separate stories-

  • U.S. Ghost Army,
  • The Unbreakable Zamperini
  • Night Witches at War, and
  • Navajo Code Talkers.

All are approximately 30 pages long and written in a graphic novel style.  While this style is not always this momma's favorite, it IS one on my son's favorite and he has added this to his list of "must read" for everyone.  It is also a great style for those kiddos who just do not love reading.  Often the pictures are enough to pull them in and encourage them to read. One of the things I appreciate about this collection is that while written in a cartoon fashion, it alternates between a narration of the events and the cartoon narrative, providing a healthy balance of fun and fact.

U.S. Ghost Army is most definitely my favorite of the four stories.  It tells of the "ghost" army that was used during WWII to confuse and distract German troops.  It is not a story I was overly familiar familiar with and I was amazed that such tactics were really used.  Blow up tanks, recordings of troop activity, "fake" planes."  Who knew?

The Unbreakable Zamperini is about the rising Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who survived a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean only to be taken hostage by the Japanese.  This story tells of his two year torturous existence as a prisoner of war and his will to survive.  This is a great story for children of how courage and determination can allow you to overcome even the worst of circumstances. It talks in detail about the infamous "the Bird," known for his terrible torture tactics.

Night Witches at War is about a brave unit of Soviet women who became pilots to fight against the Germans.  Using old equipment and planes and often in the dark of night, these brave women were instrumental in helping win the war.  The courage they showed is praise worthy for sure!

Navajo Code Talkers is probably the most familiar of the four stories.  While it was not until 1968 that the missions of the Navajo Code Breakers were declassified, much has since been made of them.  These brave group of soldiers created and then implemented an unbreakable code that was used in WWII and beyond.  Information passed from the ground to those in charge and vice versus saved many lives and eventually helped win the war.
 
Each book contains a glossary at the end of the book with any possible unfamiliar terms, as well as a Read More section that lists a few additional books on the subject. You will also find a few internet sites listed for further study and three critical thinking questions per book.  These questions are a great way to check for reading comprehension and spur deeper conversation with your child after reading. 
 

As always, Timberdoodle has come through again, offering a wonderful Historical fiction collection about World War II that will capture your child's curiosity and provide a story that will not only entertain them, but inspire and teach them.  Amazing World War II Stories is a great collection to add to your home and studies!

Blessings,



Thursday, October 1, 2020

It Arrived

 The door that is!  

While it may seem a bit silly to you, trust me when I say it is BIG for me!  I have been waiting for this door since we moved in May.

Yes, May!

And last week we heard it was in and almost delivered to the wrong job site.  Seriously??  Praise my husband who caught that in time!

This is what we have been looking at-



This is our new door!  Which now matches our garage doors!

 

Bet you can see me smiling from where you are at if you look hard enough! ;)

It's the little things, ya'll, that make a big difference!

Blessings,


Monday, September 28, 2020

Sabbath School

 


 Yes, we have completed the first six weeks of school and are taking this week off- a Sabbath week.

Named after the day of rest that the Lord commanded in the Bible, a Sabbath week of school is just that- a week off to rest and regroup after six weeks of school.  Give or take a week! ;)  For example, the next six weeks will bring us to just a week shy of the week of Thanksgiving, which I prefer to take off.  Therefore, our next grouping of school weeks will actually be seven, rather than six weeks, before the next break. shhhh, don't tell!

 



WHY DO SABBATH SCHOOLING?

For several reasons-

We tend to not take many breaks otherwise.  Unlike traditional school, I do not take a day off for things like President's Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday etc.  We do address those holidays as a mini history lesson of why they are observed, but I do not feel they all necessarily are due a day off.

We like the idea of work hard and then play hard.  I try to plan a few fun activities over our week's break to celebrate our hard work and give us time to work off steam.

Fewer little breaks allow us bigger breaks when it counts.  Like a week at Thanksgiving, often 3-4 weeks at Christmas, a week of vacation, etc.  At one point our girls were in college and we would schedule our Sabbath breaks around their school breaks so we could just spend time together as a family when they were home with no school books around.  Now that my husband teaches at a University, we will schedule breaks around his school schedule to maximize "vacation" time. 

It gives me a built in teacher planning time.  I like schedules and tend to plan way ahead.  Taking a force time out after six weeks or so allows me to assess what we have been doing, and what has worked or not worked, and then plan ahead accordingly.  Let's face it, sometimes the most well planned plans can go south and changes need to be made.  (Like the year I went to online ABeka Academy for my sanity!)

It allows us to school year round with fewer stress.  Yes, I am THAT mom who schools year round.  Each summer looks a little different depending on our past move schedule or vacation time, but we tend to do some form of school in the summer.  But taking a week off here and there makes it more bearable.

No matter what schedule you decide to follow, don't become a slave to it.  Make it work for you, be flexible, and allow your children to take breaks when needed.  It makes for a more relaxed student, a less stressed teacher, (that's YOU!) and a better school year!

What does your schedule look like?  How have you made it work for you?

Blessings,

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Quest for Bread

It seems that everyone decided to use the COVID quarantine as a time to master the art of bread making.  I, on the other hand, have been trying to master it for years with little success.  

When Ashton was a young teen she learned to make sourdough bread from her grandmother.  Starter and all!  It is arguably the BEST bread out there.  Seriously.  People would pay her to make it for them.  But eventually we learned she had a severe wheat sensitivity and the days of her supplying us with weekly bread ended.

Oh, I know, I could have taken her place, but I am telling you, that bread is HARD to make and I do not have the skill or the patience that she and her grandmother have.  

So I tried many different, "easier", recipes.  With no luck.  Most were either too complicated or had a crust as hard as a brick.  My boys like soft crust bread they can use for sandwiches.  They would have made bad french men!  Hard crusty bread is just NOT their thing.

There just so happened to be one recipe I had been carrying around for a few months and was determined to try when the virus hit.  Wouldn't you know it- just the same time that yeast became a hot commodity, right up there with toilet paper.

Luckily, Ashton found a way to get her hands on some (yeast, that is) and I got brave enough to try one more recipe.

WINNER!  Like, the perfect loaf of bread.

 

And not just an anomaly!  Perfect every single time. 

 And my boys LOVE it because it has a soft crust and is perfect for sandwiches.

 

And toast.

And french toast.

And snack.

You get the idea!

Hey, we all need to have times and things to celebrate!  This is my Covid celebration!

Now, off to find more yeast!

Blessings,






 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Epic Movie Night

Epic! Not because of the specific movie, mind you, but because our entertainment center came in!!!  In one piece! 

This is what we have lived with for four months. 

 


OK, for a family that has had one small TV for YEARS, and has not even have cable half our married life, this is BIG for our family!  While we do not watch TV often, this family loves its weekly family movie nights.  It is a time to rest and regroup after a busy week and we hold that time together closely. 

 



This is what we have now!


Finally!  Did I mention we first ordered the thing in MARCH?!!  Seriously, my patience has been tested. 

Mind you, the issue has not been so much about the entertainment center, though the mess ups in ordering and the continual delays have tried my patience.  The bigger thing for me is I like settled. And organized. And I have not been able to convince my organized crazed self that my living room was done with this wall NOT done!  It literally drove me bonkers daily.  Sad, but true.  

Even when we move, I try to get our main room done ASAP to allow us to have one place of rest and quiet.  A sanctuary in the middle of the madness.  

My sanctuary is now complete!  And I love it!

 


Who's up for a movie night?

Blessings,

Monday, September 7, 2020

Success!

This past week has been a good one in terms of house updates.  Slowly but surely we are making this house ours, but COVID shipping delays are still a battle we are fighting. 

Front door- still not in!

Entertainment center- not in either.

Thankfully the last cabinet for the kitchenette area we are adding downstairs came in, as did the butcher block countertops.  So funny story.  We opened the plastic protecting the butcher blocks to access the "instructions."  There, in step one, it clearly states one must stain or finish in desired way within 48 hours of opening.  Well, that wold be nice to have known BEFORE we opened them!  While that was on our list of things to do, our contractors do not begin work until the first of October so we thought we had some time.  


Seems we only had 48 hours!

So off to Lowes we went today and began staining! 





I LOVE how these turned out and am so thankful for a hubby who worked so hard on them.  



The flooring going in is a darker stain as well so I think they will look good together, while the white cabinets will help keep the area from being too dark.  Any thoughts on possible door knobs?

The other project that got done was a new dishwasher installation.  What looked like a quick project took a bit longer due to the fact that at first it did not fit under the countertop.  After a moment of panic, mine, not Clarke's (who tells the kids and I, Pleasants don't panic), we got it figured out and installed.  We being mostly Clarke.  (I was too busy panicking. shhh, don't tell!)


 

 Before-

After-


Excuse the dishes drying on the counter
 

We knew we wanted to change out the upstairs appliances at some point, but thought it would be a later project.  When it was decided that our white fridge was going downstairs, we knew we might as well replace everything at once.  At once being a relative term, seeing as how while all the appliances were ordered at the same time, only the dishwasher and sink have come it.  The three other pieces are scheduled for delivery in November.

Yes, November.  Don't even get me started.  It's a good thing the appliances we have work perfectly well or we would be up a creek!

Hopefully the sink will get put in this week, but until then we are taking today to rest a bit.  We hear cooler weather is right around the corner- you can find me on the back deck waiting for it!



Blessings,