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These lizards will be the death of me!

June 21, 2011
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I’m loving my garden – but I’m not the only one! I had more struggles this year with my garden than I ever have before. I decided to make it easy this year and plant the seeds directly in the dirt, but the birds kept digging them up. I think I re-planted my garden 3 times. Once the plants started growing I discovered new little pests that loved the leaves and the little mini strawberries on my plants. Lizards. After a quick google search I found a recipe to keep little pests off your garden without having to use chemicals. It’s basically garlic, cayenne pepper, and water.

Grind up about 5 garlic cloves in the food processor, add 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper, and add warm water.

You let it sit for 3 days to let it all merge together then strain and put it in a spray bottle. Mine was still too thick for a spray bottle but I dripped it around the garden. The smell alone will make your eyes water. I can’t say it worked on all the pests but it definitely cut back!

Adjusting to a new schedule

June 15, 2011
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Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post! When I logged on this afternoon I was surprised to see that a handful of people have still been viewing our blog. Thank you to those who have visited even when we’ve been absent!

We’ve had a crazy few weeks around here. My husband started a new job just days before school let out, and we’re still adjusting to the new schedule. We’re thankful for the job, and I’m loving more time with my sweet 7-year-old. My schedule is constantly flexing and changing with different seasons, but this time it’s taking me a little longer to find my rhythm.

Thankfully, I now have my own personal activities director at home:

I’m not naturally and organized person, but I hate the feeling of flitting around with no direction, more tired from the things not accomplished than from what I’ve done. And even more sad are the days when I hardly speak to my children except in frustration. That’s why I’m constantly reading books, articles, and blogs on organization and homemaking. My goal is to work smarter so I have more time for pretending, drawing, blowing bubbles, and savoring the time I have with my kids. And in the mean time I’m trying to guard my own rest and personal growth.

Though I’ve been neglecting my own blog I’ve really been enjoying reading others. One I’ve recently stumbled upon has really encouraged me lately. Jamie at Steady Mom has so much wisdom to share, and I’ve been eating it up! I’m feeling inspired by her once-a-month cleaning schedule. Maybe I’ll try it!

I’d love to hear what helps you find your daily rhythm…and any reading recommendations you have. Here’s to a great summer!

You know you’re old when….

May 16, 2011
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I am fair-skinned. I love the sun, but it does not love me back. This does not work with my schedule because we are constantly outside at my boys’ sports events. I’m tired of not being able to blow dry my hair because my scalp is sun burnt so I decided to jump in and buy a hat. I’m not a hat girl, haven’t worn one in years. But my hair is finally long enough that I can wear one without looking like a 13-year old little boy. So of course I went to Target and with a time crunch I grabbed a neutral colored hat and checked out. Here’s the kicker – not only did I not try it on, I purchased this hat solely on price and function. This goes against everything I have ever stood for; being the fashion-conscious one of the family I have a reputation to uphold! Oh, but it gets worse. We’re getting ready for baseball practice and a game, which leads to several hours in the sun, so I put the hat on and took a quick look in the mirror. Let’s just say it looked better on the rack. Just then my son walked in and said the hat looked good on me. I cut off the tags. Yes, I took fashion advice from my 9 year old son. Today is a sad, sad day. I feel like I should go purchase some wrinkle cream and a holiday sweater.

“Bendy” Buildings and Butterflies

May 15, 2011
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Once a week or so, I get a “day off”, meaning I only care for my own kids. This day is precious to me, and I find myself dreaming about all I can accomplish.

But then I hear a little voice saying, “Mommy, who will play with me?”

I’ve recently learned what a joy it is to set aside my own plans for the morning to play with a four-year-old who was begging for some company.

Last week we curled up on the couch together and read a library book called And Then it Rained. After reading the book he noticed that the pictures had “bendy buildings”, so of course we had to draw a bendy building picture.

His buildings were much bendier than mine. Did mommy get into it? Well, maybe just a little. 🙂

He added rain and clouds, and I was all set to get the water paints out, but then he was inspired by the scissors on the table to draw butterflies and cut them out. So that’s what we did!

They're flying too fast to get a good look at them, but they turned out REALLY good!

He’s been practicing a lot with scissors, and he’s getting pretty good at it.

I could have made my own lesson plans for the morning, but it was so much fun to watch him make his own. I would have written something like “making connections between literature and his own life” and “observing and recording the natural world”. He would have just said “I had fun”. I think he’s better at it than me. 🙂

An Easy Weekend Pasta

May 9, 2011
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After meal planning and cooking all week I’m usually a little burned out on both by the weekend. That’s when it’s nice to have simple meals that come together quickly and don’t require much effort (or much of a recipe!). Here is one that we come back to time and again:

Pasta with chicken, spinach and creamy garlic sauce

This recipe has endless variations. We make it often when we have need of a quick meal and have leftover meat and veggies on hand.

Cook 12-16 ounces of pasta according to the package directions. Here we used whole wheat spaghetti. You’ll want to make sure that you leave it al dente, with a little bit of bite to it and not too soft, so that it holds up to the sauce without breaking to pieces.

While the pasta is cooking make your cream sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons butter or other fat in a saucepan, then stir in 1/4 cup flour. When the flour is dissolved whisk in about 3 cups of milk (you can do half water or chicken broth). Cook this over medium heat, stirring continually, until it thickens. If it thickens too much add more liquid. If it’s too runny reduce it a little longer.

When the sauce is thickened, add your seasonings. I started with a couple teaspoons each of salt and garlic, then added more to taste. We prefer powdered garlic for this recipe, but fresh would be yummy too.

For a cheesy sauce stir in 2-3 cups of cheese (we did mozzarella and grated Parmesan).

After the cream sauce is to your liking crumble in a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach or 2-3 cups torn fresh spinach. Add in 2-3 cups cooked cubed chicken. Pour the sauce over your cooked pasta and toss it together.

Some variations:

Saute a couple of sliced zucchini in the fat before adding your flour. Add in fresh or dry herbs like oregano and basil.

Add in diced ham and cheddar cheese.

Add crumbled bacon!

Frozen peas and a squeeze of lemon instead of garlic.

Instead of the butter and flour roux, reduce a quart of half and half or cream, then add the cheese to it. Yum!

What is your go-to weekend recipe?

A better use for Red No.40, Yellow No.5, and Blue No.1

May 2, 2011
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Plays silks have to be my favorite toy right now. They’re so beautiful, and they inspire so much open-ended play time.

We recently went to a birthday party for a very special one-year-old friend, and what better gift to make for her?

You can purchase colored play silks, but it’s much less expensive to buy them white and dye them yourself. We use Kool Aid and a microwave. I’m not a huge fan of food dyes, but they do make beautiful colors!

While I was taking pictures of her play silks, my own one-year-old wandered over and started playing.

You can find directions for dying playsilks here. Have fun!

Easter traditions

April 25, 2011
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Family traditions are what make the holidays special. I have some that I continue from when I was a child – for example at Easter I leave clues for the kids to go find their Easter baskets. That was something I always looked forward to as a child.  Another “tradition” I’ve started more recently is a specific springtime cake I bake every Easter. It’s not complicated or fancy, but this cake is the definition of spring. I had it first at an Easter gathering years ago and I’ve been making it every year since then – now I’m sharing it with you!

What you’ll need:
WHITE cake mix (not yellow because the colors won’t really show)
one package lemon jello mix
one package lime jello mix
large container whipped cream

Mix the cake mix per the directions. Split the mix equally in two different containers. Mix lemon jello mix in one and lime jello mix in the other.

Bake according to the directions on the cake box. Once cooled completely ice with the whipped cream. Refrigerate and enjoy!

This is the easiest cake I’ve ever made and it always gets rave reviews. It’s not rich or too sweet, it’s a very light flavor perfect on a warm spring day!