Crockpot Cooking Feed

St. Patrick's Day at Our House ...❤

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Happy Friday, my friends! And blessings on this bright and bonny St. Patrick's Day! I have some pictures to share today - I've been busy with my boys and baking and books and blizzards and ... well, the usual. :) I know I've promised lots of planning-type posts and I do have some coming up - but how about a look at our past couple of days? This is one of our favorite feasts and it's always such fun to celebrate with the kids, especially when they're little. :)

First though, here's what my backyard looks like today - just three days shy of the Vernal Equinox! 


Yep, lots of snow out there! But if you look closely you can see the branches are filled with buds. I think last month's unseasonably warm weather pushed things a bit ahead of schedule ... before Winter stepped in and said: "Not so fast!"

I passed this sad little sight on my way in from getting the mail today ...


Pretty much sums up the weather right now - a fit-to-bursting bud, thrown to the ground (by those gale force winds we had no doubt) and now encased in a patch of driveway ice. sigh

Anyhoo ...


The sun has been out and that has been glorious ... I love working in sunny windows when we can! Our seasonal homeschooling theme this week was "returning light" and "rainbows." (Tying in with Daylight Savings Time and St. Patty's Day.) We explored colors and light and the return of the sun. Here is Little Bear working on a simple rainbow craft yesterday ...


His cotton balls, my rainbow strips which had to be taped - he has no patience for tape. For Little Bear crafting is pretty much all about the glue. He could spend all day (and all bottle) gluing whatever he can get his hands on. Sometimes I just let him "paint" with a little thinned out glue!

And happily, as we worked, Earlybird joined us ... another glue fan. :)


This is how projects usually go around here. I come up with an idea (or ideas) and gather materials. I set things up and stand back - or maybe I get things going. And then curious kids start to ask questions, poke around and maybe pitch in. If I really want them to participate I make sure some part of the project has something to do with glue.

We'd been rather sluggish this week so we were all ready for something hands-on. The boys have had a wicked cold this week - me too - and we're still not 100% better. It was one of those weeks where plans kept getting cancelled and we spent a LOT of time together, at home, watching too much tv and not feeling our best. We're on the mend now though and it feels good to get back to some semblance of normal!

Reading some books ...


Tending our "classroom" garden ...


Do you see the teeny bit of green there in the front? :)

I've been doing a lot of organizing in the learning room ...

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... and I'll have a "tour" post coming up soon!

Now this morning I started up the crockpot, eager to try out a new recipe ...


This is the beginning of corned beef and cabbage ... before the beef - and before I took the cabbage out realizing that cooks near the end! But oh boy, is it smelling good in here!

Roundabouts mid-morning, while Earlybird worked with his therapist and Crackerjack banged out his math in the library, Little Bear and I set in on a really fun project involving all kinds of fruit!


I had Bill (who is still healthy, knock-on-wood) stop by the grocery store on his way home from work last night and buy gobs and gobs of fresh fruit. For one thing, we can all use the vitamin C, but for another, I thought it would be fun to try making a fruit rainbow for the feast day - something I saw on Pinterest, of course.

So while LB chopped up bits of fruit with his dip spreader (another favorite activity) I started assembling the rainbow ...


When the fruit was all arranged, I added a small "pot of gold" (foil-wrapped chocolate coins in a glass bowl) ...


And then for a final touch, whipped cream clouds!


Cute, right? :)

There was a lot of leftover fruit so I let Little Bear have at it ...


We decided to make "leprechaun water" which is basically a lot rainbow-colored fruit steeping in a pitcher of water ...


True confession - I realized as LB filled the pitcher (so industriously) that he was including the melon rinds which is a no-no. I had to fish them back out, then drain the water and try again! Lol.

Here's a little bit of St. Patty's decor on our kitchen door ...


And here is a festive tableau I set up just after lunchtime - showcasing my Gram's Irish china and a poem I wanted to read aloud to the boys.


Do they use the china? No. But I do and I always make a point to talk about why this china is so special - to whom it belonged and how I grew up enjoying tea. I did however use some of this china to serve some freshly baked cookies!


These are called "Irish Lace Oatmeal Cookies" and oh my gosh, are they good! They're very easy to make and if you overcook them, you can just crumble them and serve them over ice cream. 

Now, lest you think we had a nice, quiet read-aloud with the above book and tea goodies ...


Well, THIS is how we read that book of fun faerie poems!


With the book perched in my lap and Little Bear hanging on my back! Which is about par for the course around here!


Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice week and that the weekend ahead is a restful one for you. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to read. I'd love to hear about your St. Patrick's Day traditions if you have the time to share! But for now I will say goodbye and ask that you take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!

Friday Bits and Bobs

Flowers in vases

Happy Friday, my friends! Popping in early to share a few links with you all ... :)

Now, are you looking for some meatless menu planning inspiration today? Here are a couple of older posts of mine with lots of great reader suggestions in the comments:

Meatless Menus? (2011)

Lenten Meal Planning (2015)

And here is a wonderful post from my friend Meredith, "Meatless Meals for Lent." Lots of links and ideas there! And also not to be missed is this post - "Five Meatless Dinners" from my friend, Chris! There's a Lenten link-up at the end of that post with even more meatless ideas!

Here's another spot for Lenten meal inspiration, Leaflet Missal's post, "8 Delicious Lenten Recipes for Meatless Fridays." I can't wait to try the hot cross buns on Good Friday, and the Passion Fruit Cheesecake on Passion Sunday!

Speaking of Leaflet Missal, here are "7 Ideas for Celebrating Lent Your Way" - filled with simple Lenten suggestions - and one of them was mine! I was so honored to be asked to participate in that article. :)

And here's a wonderful, witty and thoughtful post from my friend Karen called, "Five Reasons Lent is Hard on INFJs"- I read this with much interest, as I happen to be an INFJ too! (What is an INFJ you might wonder? Click over to Karen's and find out!) So much of her post had me chuckling and nodding my head ... 

And leaping away from Lent for a minute, there's another post I've been meaning to share with you all for some time, especially because recently someone asked me about my "mid-year review" and how I go about it. And to be perfectly honest, I am quite behind this year! I am hoping to work on this important project this weekend - a wee bit past the mid-year mark, ahem - but here's an old post of mine describing my process ... BUT! Even better, here's a fantastic post from my friend Mary Ellen about her mid-year review AND there are printables!

Ok, final link! (I think!) My friend Shirley Ann has updated her blog, Under an English Sky, and you must pop over and take a look. It is just lovely and always filled with great ideas, pretty crafts and lovely tours of England. She has a new series called "The Crockpot Chronicles" and her first recipe is perfect for Lent! I will be avidly following this series as I LOVE using my crockpot at this time of year.

(Speaking of crockpots ... I made this yesterday and it was so delicious. Next time we'll have some some crusty bread to sop up the soupiness, but it paired very nicely with rice pilaf. I just adore artichokes!)

Well I lied, lol - this will be my final link! Have you noticed my new nest button over on the lefthand sidebar? I have started a separate blog called Our Family Field Guide where I am storing nature notes and pictures. I won't be posting quite every day, but hopefully often enough to capture that "rhythm of the year" I find so fascinating and nurturing. I recently found this quote and it struck such a chord with me ...

"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature." ~ Rachel Carson

Yes. :)

So I hope you'll stop by once in a while and see what we're up to, what we're discovering in this beautiful world all around us. 

Well my friends I will let you go at last - but I hope you all enjoy this day and I thank you for spending a bit of it here. This weekend I have a couple of Book Party posts in queue - and I can't wait to share them! (Would love to hear from you, too!)

See you here again very soon ...

Monday pics ... and picadillo!

Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your week's off to a great start!

I am here this evening to share some pics with you - though unfortunately, not a "Masterpiece" re-cap. (Bill and I were exhausted yesterday and only made it through the British baking show before conking out! We recorded Home Fires and Indian Summers and hope to watch them tonight and/or tomorrow night.)

Anyhoo! Here are some photos from the past few days ...

Pumpkins from matt

How about these pumpkins? My brother, pretty much every year, brings us our Halloween pumpkins - one for each of us! You can probably guess which one is for Little Bear ... :)

Pumpkin goodies from matt

Matt also surprised us with some more autumn goodies - pumpkin spice coffee for me and a Halloween gingerbread house kit for the boys. How fun! My brother is SUCH a great uncle - and brother! We are very lucky he's such a big part of our lives ... 

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This is our Little Bear, walking the neighborhood with his Daddy, trusty wheelbarrow in tow - natch! He is rarely without his wheelbarrow. And this colorful, fleecy jacket is approximately 20 years old! Each of my boys has worn it, and it's my favorite piece of fall clothing EVER. As you can see, LB is just about to grow out of it ... and that fox hat is getting a bit tight, too! He's getting so big ....

Halloween paper chain

Today I started making a paper-chain countdown to Halloween for Earlybird, who is practically crawling out of his skin in excitement over the approaching holiday. I needed something visual/ tangible that would allow him to SEE how far/close we are to All Hallow's Eve. (Because every day is pretty much: "Let's do (such and such) to get ready for Halloween.") I will write a post about what I've written inside each link of the chain - every day we'll have something to know/learn about Halloween (history/traditions) and there will be plenty of simple activities to help us channel some of that Earlybird energy! It also helps me direct his perception of the holiday - which is preferable to the commercial/mainstream influence we'd rather avoid.

And finally, I made that picadillo recipe today and it has been declared a Family Hit!


Above you see how it looked as I turned the crockpot on low, and below is how I found it, seven hours later ...

Picadillo 2

Funnily enough, I didn't add garlic skin to the pot before I started cooking - but someone else *ahem* seemed to think it was a good idea. Also, said someone thought it prudent (fun? helpful?) to turn the crockpot down from low to warm when Mama wasn't looking ... about halfway through the cook time ...

Thankfully, the beef was already fully cooked (in a skillet) before I started the whole "mess" in the crockpot. And thankfully, it still came out great! Truly, it was a hit. At least with Bill and me. Bookworm, had he been home, also would have loved it. The younger boys, not so much. But we had it in wraps (Bill) and on wheat pizzas (me) for supper. And there is still PLENTY leftover.

And final note - 


I'm starting this soon, and it sounds really neat! It revolves around the downstairs staff serving the Bennett family (a la Pride and Prejudice) which is enormously intriguing, to me anyway. Our library Book Club is reading it this month and I'm really hoping to join in. I haven't done a book club in AGES. Of course, the night will arrive and I'll feel too tired to go out - but I'm still hoping to make it! I'm at least going to read it. So I just ordered it from Amazon. :)

Well friends, that's all for today ... but I thank you for stopping by, and hope to see you here again very soon! Enjoy your evening, and God Bless!

Looking for a Hearty Winter Meal?

Good Monday evening, my friends!

Well, I am so excited to see so many comments under this morning's Downton Abbey post! I'll be catching up there soon, but right now I want to share a really lovely recipe with you all - Beer-Braised Beef & Parsnips! Doesn't that sound so wonderfully wintry? We had it for our Monday supper and it was just perfect on this brutally cold and wickedly windy January night. (It's Twelfth Night, in fact!)

12th night stew 1

Beef, parsnips, beer, brown sugar, thyme, mustard, allspice ... it all blended and cooked down into a sweet and lightly spiced stew. I adore parsnips and I loved the idea of the mustard, brown sugar and beer, so I knew I had to try it. I also figured my home-on-break boy would enjoy it very much! (And he did!)

I first saw the recipe in the December issue of Rachel Ray Magazine - and I was going to pin it on my "Feeding My Family" board, but could not find the recipe on the RR website. So I'm typing it out here - for you and me both! :)

By the way, you could do this in a crockpot, but I wanted to use my Dutch oven instead. It cooked the dish right in the oven and did a beautiful job! Also, it is an economical dish - less than $3 per serving! I spent a bit more on a few of the ingredients at Whole Foods but it was still reasonable and I think it made more than the four srevings suggested.

Beer-Braised Beef and Parsnips

3 slices bacon, diced

1 large onion, halved and sliced

3 tsp. dark brown sugar

1 bottle (12 oz.) dark beer

*Note - I used some leftover Christmas beer we had in the fridge - I have no idea if it's considered dark or not!

1 lb. boneless chuck steak, trimmed and cubed

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1 lb. parsnips - peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces, thicker segments halved

4 bay leaves

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 300° Farenheit. In a large, heavy ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium, 5 minutes. Stir in the onion and 2 tsp. sugar. Cover and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until the onion is deep brown, 12-14 minutes. Stir in the beer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

In a bowl, combine the beef, allspice, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Transfer to the pot along with the parsnips, bay leaves, mustard, 1 tbsp. thyme and the remaining 1 tsp. sugar; bring to a simmer over medium. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until the beef and parsnips are tender, about 1 1/2 hours; remove the bay leaves and season. Divide among bowls; sprinkle with the remaining thyme.


(If using a slowcooker, cook the bacon, onion and sugar on the stovetop, stirring in the beer to scrape up any browned bits. Transfer to a slow cooker with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low until the beef and parsnips are tender, about 6 1/2 hours.)


I took the pot out of the oven at about 1 hr. 15 mins. and it was done. I served it over rice pilaf, but I think a bed of small, roasted potatoes would be even better! And crusty bread to sop up the soupiness is a must!

Well, I hope that recipe sounds intriguing to some of you - I'm going to add it to my Winter Meals section in my Family Food Binder. I think a post all about Winter meals would be a great idea ... I bet we can share lots of ideas for recipes cold, dark nights. I love using seasonal foods, especially - and even Winter has its share of humble, earthly delights.

Well, the wind is still howling out there, and the Full Wolf Moon is rising in the sky ... time to get these kidlings off to bed! (Or at least some of them, the ones who keep their Mama up, that is!)

See you here again soon, my friends ... enjoy the rest of your evening!

A Cozy Day + New Calendars!

Vintage new year card

Happy January, my friends! I hope your new year is off to a great start!

First off ... did you remember to say "Rabbit, rabbit" yesterday morning? I did - just barely - at 12:14 a.m., having been awoken by Little Bear - who had been woken by fireworks going off somewhere nearby! And also, have you noticed your first bird of the year yet? Tradition says the first one you see in the new year will be "your" bird for the year. I saw a robin on the way to Mass, and I'm quite pleased with that. :)

Speaking of Mass, here I am with a sleepy Crackerjack, just pulling into the church parking lot. It was hard getting up and going but we were very glad we made it.

Jack and mama at mass

(Quick story: Just before Mass begun we were asked to bring up the gifts, something we've never done before! I had just finished praying my request that God help me grow more fully in faith and become more involved in my church. A lovely sign, don't you think?)

On our way home, we stopped at a local Staples where I had my new weekly planner all bound up nice and neatly! I am just sooo happy with it and will be showing you all what it looks like and how I organized it in my very next post. I know I keep saying that and I honestly don't mean to be a tease ... I just need to find some quality "snap-sit-and-write" time! "Snap" being the picture- taking part of the process. :)


"There's nothing like staying home for real comfort." ~ Jane Austen

Oh, Jane - we are of like minds! Our New Year's was a quiet, homey day ...

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This stuff might not look very appetizing but let me tell you, it smelled so incredible! It is a concoction of milk and cream and spices and marshmallow that cooked on low for a few hours and became this ...

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(Disregard the mess surrounding the mugs, please - we had a bit of a whipped cream mishap!)

This is Spiced White Hot Chocolate - a recipe I found on (where else?) Pinterest. It is almost like a warm eggnog (the nutmeg is predominant) and just so rich and creamy ... very indulgent. I knew I wanted to make a white treat in honor of the Jan. 1st Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Served in blue mugs, natch. :)

Bill hung my new wall calendar - my hope is it will be a "family central" kind of calendar.

New year 3

 (And it's awfully pretty to look at!)

New year 5

And because I am a nut for calendars, I also have this pretty engangement calendar set up on the kitchen counter ...

New year 4

As well as this page-a-day calendar I found in my stocking ...

New year 6 

A daily dose of forgotten English and folklore - should be fun!

Here's a peek at the January page divider in my planner - love this vintage style.

New year 8

And below are last year's domestic journal pages, a calendar of sorts as my notes and clippings are quite seasonal, all stored away in a binder ...

New year 20

 And here are a couple more pictures from our quiet (relatively speaking) New Year's Day ...

New year 10 

 Earlybird asked for a "selfie" and I love it when he's ready to smile for the camera!

New year 14

Pretty blue mug, creamy white hot comfort ... just a dash of cinnamon on top!

New year 15

 I asked the boys to watch this movie with me (sweetening the deal with that hot chocolate!) because it's one of my all-time favorites and they'd never seen it.

New year 11

Love spending time with my boys - the youngers and olders!

New year 17

A beautiful sunset to end a lovely first day of the year.

Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice New Year's, and that 2015 is kind to you and your loved ones. Enjoy your Friday and I'll see you here again very soon!

(p.s. Are we all excited for a new season of Downton Sunday night???)

Friday Fun: Slowcooking, Cherries & Snoooooow

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope this post finds you well.

Thanks for all the encouragement and suggestions regarding a possible FCS video ... it seems I've got some thinking and planning to do! I also feel inspired to get cracking on my weekly planning sheet - *digging up old copies and seeing what's what* - and thanks for the feedback on feedburner ... so far it seems to be working pretty well. :)

I have just a few things to share with you today ...


First of all, I'll definitely be checking into this series of posts this weekend:

Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Each part (there are four) features several family-friendly recipes for the crockpot - to be prepared ahead - ingredients only - and then frozen in plastic bags. You end up with all these flat frozen bags of ready-to-go crockpot meals - I LOVE this!! How great it would be to have several of these meals stocked for after the baby arrives? (Plus crockpot cooking is wonderful for the hot summer months.)

Speaking of slowcooking, Bill has me looking at this Healthy Slowcooker, to replace the old Rival we are currently using ... anyone have experience with this model? Or, may I ask, what kind of crockpot do you use and are you happy with it?


And today is the 22nd of February - on this day in the Catholic calendar we celebrate The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, which takes on a bit more significance this year as we're soon to begin the process of electing a new pope. I'm starting a very simple conclave study with the younger boys today to continue throughout Lent - or until a new pope is chosen, hopefully before Easter! We're a bit intrigued by the buzz surrounding our own Boston Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, so that will be a neat angle to follow ...

The 22nd is also George Washington's birthday and I love to make a cherry cobbler on this day. (Referencing, of course, Washington's alleged childhood indiscretion with a rather unfortunate cherry tree.) So a cobbler will be made later today using up a can of cherry pie filling I had in the pantry. :)


And yes, the snow is still coming - though with less impact than originally forecast. It will begin sometime tomorrow afternoon and last through late day Sunday ...

This is the updated snow map for our area:

Weather map 5

We'd be in the purple neck of the woods ...

Here's a short video preview from PBS featuring a glimpse of Call the Midwife and Mr. Selfridges.

 Sundays This Spring

I'm thrilled to learn CtM will be moving to the 8 p.m. time slot. That is music to this oft-exhausted, expectant mama's ears!

By the way, Sarah asked about catching up with CtM and as best I can tell, full episodes are no longer available on the pbs website. The first season is out on dvd now - perhaps it's available at a local library? Netflix has it as well.


Will you be watching the Oscars Sunday night? I have yet to see even one of the best picture nominees, but we do have Argo in our Netflix queue. And - Oscars aside - I'm itching to take the kids to see Oz: The Great and Powerful, which, going by the previews looks pretty fantastic. I'm hoping to pull together a field trip for opening day.


Well I think I've chewed on your ears long enough, lol! Just wanted to pop in and catch up and wish you all a very happy weekend. :)

I'll back to "check in" again soon ...


Crockpot Chicken - Al Fresco!

Crockpot al fresco

Thanks to some great advice from Jen, we are using our crockpot again!

As I've mentioned before (probably more times than necessary), I just cannot stand the smell of cooking right now - particularly meats, veggies and anything breaded or fried. Ugh.

But November nights are perfect for a nice slowcooked supper, and of course half the joy of using your crockpot is how wonderful your house smells as the food cooks! (The other half is how incredibly easy it is to prepare a meal in this way - throw everything in, turn the pot on and you are pretty much done!)

Anyhoo, Jen suggested moving the crockpot outside, and doesn't that make all kinds of sense? :) Jen does this to escape the heat (she lives in Key West, after all), but it would also keep all that "cooking smell" out of the house!

So here we have it, seen above - our trusty crockpot, parked on the deck, just in front of the grill, industriously stewing away ...

Dinner will be ready at 5:30 p.m.


Although, I wonder if the cool outside temperature - high 40s today - will affect the cooking time at all? Any thoughts?

For the record, this is the recipe I'm using - I made it over the summer and it was a HUGE hit with my family. This time I had Bill do the skillet work while I got the peppers and spices ready. This dish makes a lot, and is wonderful served over linguine ... and with crusty garlic bread AND a glass of white wine IF you're not pregnant. ;)


More on the domestic front, we moved around our family room today! And by "we" I mean, Bill and Bookworm moved around our family room, while I sat on my duff and made "helpful" comments. ;)

Family room redo 1

Friends, family and longtime readers will remember our couch was facing away from the windows and the tv was in the opposite corner. But I like this arrangement a lot. It opens up the old TV corner for something else and makes a few cozy zones in an otherwise large-ish room. Plus, "my corner" of the sectional is now directly beneath a birdfeeder window and that will be so nice this winter. :)


Also, in between attending Mass, setting up the crockpot and moving around the family room, I taught CCD today. (Fyi: teaching 4th grade religious ed. is like herding cats on a bicycle - goodness me, how exhausting!) Anyways, we learned all about Advent this week - and boy did it get me excited! (The kids too, I think.) I am having a lot of fun brainstorming my ideas for this Advent season ... it begins just two weeks from today!


Well my friends ... I hope your weekend's been lovely. Have you seen any good movies? Are you watching anything fun on TV tonight? We'll be watching Once Upon a Time of course while recording Oprah's Favorite Things from 8-10 and Boardwalk Empire after that. The trick will be finding the time to watch all this good stuff later this week- and staying awake late enough, too!

That said, I'm off now to nap so I can keep alert for OUaT tonight!

Have a great night, my friends ... see you again very soon!