Menu Planning Feed

Family Films and Friday Food

But no felines yet ... I still have to pull that post together (perhaps I'll do a 'Saturday Scamps?'), but I was thinking about movies today and I thought I'd share what we've been viewing lately. (And I'd love to hear what you and/or your kids have been enjoying - we don't watch much TV, but we do love movies! And we always appreciate suggestions. :))

First of all, the Netflix movie we just returned was Kung Fu Panda 2. The older boys and I saw that in the theater last year and we all agreed we liked even better than the first. I'm not much of a Jack Black fan - we couldn't even finish Gulliver's Travels - but he has the perfect voice for Po. The movie may be a bit dark and sad for young children (or sensitive kids like my EB) but we found it poignant, humorous and uplifting.

Now lately we've been watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox on quiet afternoons. For some reason this movie (which we love anyways) brought us much comfort while we recovered from the virus. Earlybird especially loves this movie. My parents gave the boys a portable dvd player which has come in very handy ~ we set it up in the corner of the sitting room. I'd start it up as the day grew dark and before long I'd have three boys gathered 'round to watch with me.

This picture was taken the day Bookworm got sick - Crackerjack was in recovery, EB was still a-ok, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) I was just hours away from my turn.

Afternoon matinee

Now other movies the older boys have watched recently and enjoyed:

Iron Man (1 and 2) ... a bit off-color in a few parts, and of course, there was violence (it's a superhero movie after all) but I allowed my 12 year-old to see both films. (They are both rated PG-13.) Both CJ and BW loved these movies. They are part of the "Avengers" series which also includes Captain America and Thor. (Those were both awesome, too.)

The Goonies ... which the boys received as a Christmas present from their Aunt Ami. :) We watched it one night a couple of weeks ago, and wow, did it take me back! I had forgotten most of the movie so it was kind of new for me again. (Maybe that's an upside of getting older, lol?) There was some colorful and suggestive language but nothing too bad. A little violent and gross at times ... (and come to think of it, this was the night CJ got sick!) ... but you know that kind of humor appeals to kids - especially boys - very much. ;)

Bill and I have been watching old James Bond films now and then. He really loves these movies, so the boys and I gave him a couple of boxed sets for Christmas. I particularly like the older ones, because I love seeing the 60s clothes and settings (though I have to laugh at the chauvenistic attitudes!). And they're really fun to watch together because we both grew up watching Bond. :)

We also purchased Breaking Dawn, Part I, which is part of the Twilight Saga. I loved the books and I find the movies - while certainly not great filmmaking - fun to watch. We haven't seen BD yet - the one film we missed in the theater - so it will be neat to see it for the first time this weekend. (This is a movie for Bill and myself - not the boys.)

Speaking of filmmaking, I have to show you my little Spielberg-in-the-making ...


Crackerjack loves making stop-motion Lego movies. He's working on a minifig version of "David and Goliath" at the moment.

(Gotta love the hat. What's a director without a great hat?)


Now, before I go, I have to just quickly mention that I've been working on my menu plan for next week (and corresponding market list) and I realized it's time to think about Lent! Actually, I thought it was neat that in every store flyer I perused, there was mention  - celebration, even! - of this upcoming liturgical season. I so love the anticipation, the feel of the season, I even cut out a few of the ads for my clippings journal ...

Lenten food planning 1

... because I'm silly like that. ;)

So I have several meatless Fridays to plan for ... so I'm brainstorming on that (looking back at this post which was so very helpful thanks to many readers' suggestions). There are other food "matters" to plan for in Lent - feast days (for example, Sts. Patrick and Joseph) and special baked goods (like homemade pretzels and hot cross buns). So I'm sure you'll hear more from me on all that sooner or later. I'm pulling together our "Lent plan" this weekend - that was supposed to happen last weekend, but you all know how that went ...


I've kept you all here long enough, so I'll wrap up and say good night. I hope you all have a very nice weekend - stay safe and healthy! 

And I'll see you here again very soon ...

Doing a little today ...

... to make tomorrow a little easier!

We're just so off this week, between sick kids, tired parents and off-track schedules. But I still want to do some fun things for the feast day tomorrow, so when I had a quiet moment this afternoon, I grabbed the materials for our Martinmas Lantern ...

... and I set out the ingredients for our traditional St. Martin's Day "horseshoe" cookies.


Having these few simple steps done ahead, really help me make things happen. When I think about how I fit in those little seasonal things we do (the nature celebrations and the faith-at-home fun), so much of it happens thanks to a little thinking - and sometimes doing - ahead.

I learned this habit from my grandmother, actually, who was, among many things, a wonderful homemaker. She was also one of the most organized people I've ever known. Every morning, once her kitchen was clean and before she got on with her day, she'd set out the materials she needed for preparing the evening meal - including a recipe card set squarely in the baking dish or mixing bowl. As a child I loved to see the counter all set up in this way  - it made me feel happy and secure. :)

I find I often do something like that myself now. Usually around lunchtime when I'm working in the kitchen - getting the boys their lunch and neatening the sink - I'll think about supper and what might make the "making" a little easier. Once my counters are clear, I'll set out the (non-perishable) ingredients and any tools I might need. I'll also hang up the recipe if I'm using one ...


(Much to Bill's chagrin, I use a piece of tape - not great for the wood, and not very fancy, but it keeps it off the counter and right at eye-level.)

I find this all helpful in the practical sense - if I'm pressed for time tomorrow, I'm that much ahead of the game - but also, psychologically. Seeing those items all ready to go give me a sense of satisfaction as well as a little nudge of encouragement.

 So "doing ahead" is a great way to get a head start on any project - whether we're baking cookies, making crafts, or just cooking supper! It's not rocket science, of course, but I think I'll thank myself tomorrow - and I'd like to think my family will too.


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

Menu Planning & Marketing Routines


Recently, a few readers have left comments asking me to write about seasonal planning, and specifically, how I fit it in with the gajillion other things I do in any given week.

Now, as you all know, I loooove talking about seasonal planning, so I'm working on a post addressing that particular issue ... but for today I'd like to talk a little about menu planning and marketing routines. It happens to be Wednesday, which is my "kitchen day," so that's where my head's at today.

(Note: I wrote this yesterday, but didn't get around to editing and posting before bed.)

First, here's a quote from a neat little book I keep on my shelf:

"To plan for a daily menu that will provide the kind and amount of food required by each member of the family is the most important part of the homemaker's duties, and requires much time, thought, and a knowledge of foods." Home Economics: Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st Century Household, p. 33

Talk about pressure, lol! But this statement is very true. Sure, it might sound old-fashioned, but our responsibility for our family's food needs is timeless - and unavoidable. Whether we're whipping up a homecooked meal or whipping out a take out menu, somebody has to get the food on the table.

And usually, it's mom. ;)

So the question is, how do we feed our families nutritiously, economically, and efficiently? What about eating organically and/or locally and respecting the resources we all share? Then of course there's the dilemma of time: how do we spend it on menus and marketing, preparation and presentation - when we have so little to spend?

And let's not forget the emotional aspect in all this - providing our family with food that nurtures them body and soul. Food that not only tastes good - it feels good. And it's served in a way that expresses our love and care - at a nicely set table, with a place for everyone and everyone in their place.

Bottom line: there's a lot to consider when it comes to this area of homekeeping! So below I've outlined my menu planning and marketing routines, but first a quick disclaimer ...

Whenever I write one of these "how I do it" posts I feel compelled to point out FIRST that I am by no means an expert on any of this! And though it all looks good on paper, I don't always follow it to a tee. Also, I'm sure most of you have routines like this that suit yourselves just fine. So I don't mean to suggest I'm offering anything "groundbreaking" here, lol. I'm just like any other mom, trying to make each part of my homekeeping work as best as it can - for me and my family. :)

Ok, enough of my disclaimers - now for the nitty gritty!

I have the following items in my homekeeping binder, behind my "Menus & Marketing" tab:

  • a master marketing list
  • rotating dinner menus
  • a list of breakfast, lunch and snack ideas
  • an outline for eating by the seasons
  • a "well-stocked pantry" list
  • a list of local food sources
  • seasonal/holiday baking notes
  • general kitchen notes
  • family table notes
  • (I don't have a price book, but I think it would be useful.)

Outside of the binder I also have ...

  • a recipe collection
  • cookbooks and cooking magazines
  • a shopping notebook
  • a coupon file
  • weekly store flyers (advertising sales)

Now, for my routine:

As I mentioned in my Turkey Day shopping post, before I go shopping on Saturday I like to have my menu plan, coupons and shopping list all organized. This makes the best use of my time, money, and energy. So in order to have all this ready to go by early Saturday morning, I work on these tasks throughout the latter half of the week ...

On Wednesday:

I clean out the fridge, freezer and cabinets, and make note of what needs replacing, and what needs using up. 

I start a new planning page in my shopping notebook. (I like to call it my "marketing book" because it sounds nicer - but it never sticks, lol.)

On Thursday:

I check the store flyers that arrive in the daily paper, and note some sale items on my shopping list.

I check the calendar and see what next week looks like - days that are busy, nights one or more of us are out, special events like birthdays or feast days, and even the weather - i.e. a cold snap, a warm spell or impending snow.

I make note of any holidays or themes we'll be working on next week.

And finally, I consider what needs using up, what's on sale and what the week is throwing at us (the fun stuff and the challenges), and then make a dinner menu plan.

(Now, some dinners are pre-set - like practice nights are always "baked ziti" because it's super-easy and quick, and Saturday nights are always something I don't have to cook - like homemade pizzas or burgers (which are Bill's forte) or even take-out if we plan for it.

On Friday:

I clean out my pocketbook and organize my coupon file.


(Note: I'm no coupon guru - I just use the coupons that come in our Sunday paper and match them up with sales as best I can.)

I also look over next week's planning sheet - the learning & living notes - and list any other things we'll need for our week: library books, birdseed, craft supplies, etc.

I then finalize the shopping list. (Asking Bill and the boys if there's anything they'd like to add to the list. Invariably, they'll think of something after I get home.)

I gather the cloth bags and place them by the door. (I always forget to do this!)

On Saturday:

I head out as early as I can and do my shopping.

(Before I go, I make sure the kitchen is clean and the counters are bare OR I ask those staying home to be sure.)

Once I'm home I have the boys bring in the bags and unpack the groceries on the kitchen island. I put the food stuffs away.

I organize my receipts and enter my spending into the weekly budget.

On Sunday:

I clip coupons found in the Sunday paper.

I bake for the week ahead. (This doesn't happen enough!)


So that's my routine in a mutli-hued nutshell. :)

As for today, I'm afraid I'm a bit behind since EB is sick and things are a little off here. I did do a quick cleanup of the kitchen, but I still need to go through the refrigerator and cabinets and see what's what. (The reason Wednesday is my kitchen day is because Thursday is our trash day.)

I did start a new page in my shopping - ahem, marketing - notebook, and so far I've written down:

National Indian Pudding Day (11/13 - a great Sunday dessert!)

"nest/hibernation week" (our living/learning theme)


"boy" shampoo (because CJ just informed we are out)


And oh my goodness, I was going to talk about all the things I have filed in the binder, but this post has gotten ridiculously long! So that will come in a future post. If you're still reading, I thank you - and I hope some of this made sense or at the very least gave you some "food for thought." Like I said above, none of this is new or "improved" - it's just my spin on the neverending challenge all we homekeepers face:

"What's for dinner, Mom?"

(Lol, how early do your kids start asking that? Mine start around 10 a.m.)

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please drop me a note below in the comments box. I'd love to hear from you!

Well, my friends, I hope your day's been a good one. Aside from EB's illness, ours was nice and fairly quiet - but the weather was absolutely glorious! (Golden sunlight, near 70 degrees!) My Earlybird is still crashed on the couch, but he seems to be feeling a bit better. (Lemonade + watermelon + a few peanut butter crackers seemed to do the trick.) Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers - I know they helped as well.

So for now I wish you all a good night ... I'll see you all again very soon.


Turkey Day Shopping


This past weekend I worked on our Thanksgiving Day "game plan" so I thought I'd write about that topic a little ...

(Or maybe a lot if I get carried away, as you all know I'm apt to do.)

But first, a word about food shopping in general ...

Because Earlybird doesn't do that well with multiple-stop shopping (though he's gotten SO much better with shopping overall), I usually run my weekly errands when Bill's home from work. Typically, this would be Saturday and/or Sunday. (I really prefer not to shop on Sundays, but sometimes it can't be helped.) To make the best use of my time (and our money) I try to have a menu plan in place for the coming week, my coupons all sorted, and a detailed shopping list broken down into an itinerary.**

So I set out Saturday morning to shop - list in hand, gas in tank, coffee in cup holder. It takes up a good chunk of my day, but I like getting most of it done in one fell swoop, and, to be honest, I kind of think of it as "me time," lol. (There are still a couple of quick marketing trips with EB through the week.)

In the case of Thanksgiving, however, I'm going to have to split things up a bit!

Thanksgiving, after all, is the biggest "family dinner" of the year. There's just so much to plan and prepare! We need to order a turkey! Do we want a farm-raised turkey? We'd better check the pantry! Do we have the spices that make the cranberry relish so good? Are we trying some new side dishes this year? And how about pies - what do we need for the pies? Are we making pies? Buying pies? Assigning pies? :)

These are all good things to think about this month - and for obvious reasons, it's preferable to think about them earlier in the month rather than later. Today is November 8th - I'd say it's time to think about them!

So, while I am still working on my menu (we're expecting 18 this year!), I have planned out my "Turkey Day" shopping itinerary. I have done this carefully, because for one thing, I am limited on time, and for another, I don't want to be out there when everyone else is out there, fighting for cranberries and yams. So after considering my rather lengthy list - and consulting with my mum - I determined I need to do a combination shop - stopping at the local farm, a Whole Foods market, as well as my regular supermarket.


~ The boys and Mum and I will drive out to the farm one weekday morning next week (aka field trip!). Here we'll get keepers like local cranberries, apples, pears, squash and the like. We'll most likely pick up a few random "gourmet" items that catch our eye.

~ Our Whole Foods visit will take place the weekend before Thanksgiving. Very early that Saturday morning - I'm talking 7 a.m. - we'll head over to WF's and here we'll buy our natural food stuffs. A lot of what Earlybird can have I'll buy here - as well as special treats for the kids after-dinner. (Hammonds natural candy canes have become a post-turkey-dinner tradition. We might try pumpkin spice this year!)

~ The Tuesday before the big day, I'll pick up our free-range turkey from the farmstand down the street. They officially closed for the season on Halloween, but they open back up on this day to pass out the turkey orders. It feels good to support a local farmer and it's nice to know our turkey will have led a (relatively) long, happy life. :)

~ My regular market shopping (for basic dinner staples) will happen very early in the morning the day before Turkey Day (again, we're talking 7 a.m.!). Bill has that day off from work, so I'll run out bright and early to get the remaining things we need for our dinner. Then I'll head back home to bake ... and clean and cook and iron, etc.!

~ Also, I will send Bill out to the liquor store on this day to buy any spirits we'll need. We generally offer beer and wine at Thanksgiving dinner, but we also like to serve one "signature" cocktail for each holiday we host. Last Easter it was an "Easter Bunny Cocktail" and last Christmas we served "Candy Cane Cosmos." We haven't decided on this year's special drink yet ... but I'll be sure to let you all know!

Ok, so there are my notes and thoughts on holiday dinner shopping. This framework holds true for Easter and to a certain extent, Christmas, too. It might seem like a lot, but by thinking ahead and carefully planning out those lists, the shopping should be relatively quick and enjoyable. (Plus I'm keeping better track of my spending.) Generally speaking, if I'm not rushing about or fighting the crowds, I actually enjoy my marketing days!

(Oh, and the "**" above was to say, I have a follow-up post in the works about my overall menu planning and marketing routine. I hope to get that up sometime later this week.)

In the meantime, I hope you all have a nice Tuesday. The weather is going to be beautiful here in New England today - warm and sunny! - but we'll be taking things slow. I have a couple of kids fighting head colds, and one of them (my poor EB) was actually sick to his stomach this morning. So needless to say, I have a little extra laundry to do ...

I'll see you again soon, my friends ... stay well and be safe!


Our Pentecost Balloon

A quick and easy craft I made yesterday with Earlybird:


We glued a white dove cut-out (with flaming tail) to a red balloon, and added a few red streamers for flourish ...


Then we tied it to our deck where it bobbed and bounced in the breeze!

This morning it's cool and drizzly so we took the balloon back inside. Bill is making pancakes which we'll have with leftover raspberry sauce, diced strawberries and whipped cream - yum! Tomorrow promises to be just as rainy, so instead of cooking out, we'll "cook in" with our Foreman grill. We like to grill turkey burgers and serve them with cheese, assorted toppings and toasted buns. To round out our Sunday supper, we'll have warm dill potatoes and a nice fruit salad on the side ... and for dessert, something light and white.

Have a great day, my friends. See you here again very soon!


Happy First Day of Spring!


"The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven— 
All's right with the world!"
~ Robert Browning

It's finally here! We're free of Winter at last!

Well ... just about. I am pointedly ignoring the snowflake shown in tomorrow's forecast, and focusing instead on the lovely day ahead. A sunny, calm Sunday ~ the First Day of Spring. 

I had originally planned to make pasta "primavera," in honor of the equinox today, but for a variety of reasons the menu has changed. Instead we'll have an onion-crusted chicken, baked potatoes, maple roasted carrots and a spinach-artichoke spread with French bread for our Sunday dinner. Fairly springy, but still a hearty, warming meal for a still-chilly day. I foresee my boys out there cleaning the yard and working up a good appetite this afternoon. ;)

And how about that moon last night? Were you able to catch the Full Sap "Super" Moon in all its bright, beautiful glory? What an amazing sight to see!

Well, thanks so much for stopping by today ... I hope you are all having a nice weekend. Our prayers continue for the people of Japan - and especially for Sue's family. Hoping to hear good news soon, praying God watches over them through this crisis and brings them all together as soon as possible.

See you all again very soon ... :)

Meatless Meals, Menu Plans & Maple Cake

A bit of this and that for a Thursday afternoon ...


First of all, I want to thank everyone who shared their meatless meal ideas and recipes for Lent. I so appreciate your help! I encourage all my readers to take a peek in the comments box under my "Meatless Menus" post - there are so many great suggestions! I've been copy-pasting all the comments into a document which I will print out and file in my planner. Thank you, thank you dear readers, for always responding so faithfully when I ask something from you! You are so very good to me. :) 

As for this Friday - well, I'll admit - I'm "pulling the 'chute" as Bill would say. I didn't get my midweek marketing done, and I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I've got little to work with - i.e. ingredients or energy! So all that to say ... Bill's picking up pizza on his way home from work tomorrow night. ;)

(We won't be doing take-out too often - but for this first Friday of Lent, it will be just the ticket.)

In the meantime, I'm working on my dinner menu for next week - organizing coupons and perusing store flyers. Next week hosts several special days of note, as you can see reflected in my menu plan below ...

Monday, March 14th (National Pi Day)

homemade pizza pies

tossed salad

(kid-made) mini fruit pies

Tuesday, March 15th (The Ides of March)

grilled chicken "caesar" salad wraps

baked mozzarella balls (served with toothpick "swords")

fruit and yogurt, sugar cookies

Wednesday, March 16th (maple sugaring tour)

(prepared) chicken pot pie

roasted asparagus

soft rolls

slowcooker Indian Pudding

Thursday, March 17th (St. Patrick's Day)

cheddar/brown bread panini (w/ or w/out corned beef)

rosemary potatoes

spinach salad

"shamrock shakes"

Friday, March 18th (Lenten Friday)

baked potatoes

homemade soup

 fruit and yogurt, sugar cookies

Saturday, March 19th (St. Joseph's Day)

"sloppy joes"

assorted chips

veggies & dip

Italian pastry from a local bakery

Sunday, March 20th (Spring Equinox)

pasta primavera 

challah (egg) rolls

lemon pudding cake

Now, before I go, I want to share this really nice maple cake recipe with you all. (See page two of that article.) It was very easy to make and absolutely delicious (and it's pictured at the top of this post). I know a lot of homeschooling families do maple sugaring units this month and this would be a nice baking activity to incorporate. Maple is really our first "taste" of spring in New England. There are sugar shacks all over the region and it's always fun and fascinating to take a tour and watch the way sap travels from tree to table.

Well, dear readers, I'd best be off ~ I need to go tend to tonight's supper! Timers are ringing in the kitchen, so my time here's up. For now I'll say goodnight and see you again soon. Thanks so much for stopping by!


Meatless Menus?

What are you serving on Fridays this Lent? I'd love some suggestions, especially as my husband does not like fish! (He likes most seafood, just not fish, lol ...)

So far I have planned:

Pasta (in various forms)

Grilled cheese/panini

Homemade pizzas

Veggie burgers

I'd love to hear what dishes you serve as meatless meals - whether it's for Lent or just for better health and household economy!


P.S. We saw Rango today - it was pretty good! Defintely not for younger kids, but my 11 and 15 yo boys though it was great.

Have a nice evening, everyone ... see you again sometime soon.


Just right for a cold winter's day ...


... baked apples with dried fruit & honey!

It was a perfect day to bake something warm and wonderful - it was so very cold, and quite windy as well! I found a recipe for baked apples in a magazine at our pediatrician's office last week - for the life of me I can't remember what it was called, but I wrote down the instructions in my planner so I could try it at home.

I started with six good-sized apples (a mix of Pink Lady and Golden Delicious), as well as dried cherries and golden raisins. The recipe also called for honey and orange juice concentrate.


First, I washed and cored the apples, and pricked the tops lightly with a fork. Then I placed the apples in muffin cups brushed with canola oil. I also placed a small piece of parchment paper beneath the apple, in the bottom of each compartment.


I filled each apple with 1 tablespoon dried fruit, 1 teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate and 1 teaspoon honey.


They baked for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Note to self: next time, place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet to collect spills!)


The boys were downstairs building Legos (enjoying the last bit of their lunch break) as the apples baked. Before too long I heard a voice call ...

"Mom? What's that smell that smells so good?"


So we all sat down to a baked apple before we resumed our lessons for the day. These made a very nice snack, but I think they would also be delicious served at breakfast or even as a side dish at supper. (They'd be perfect with pork chops!)

Now, before I go, I thought I'd answer a few food questions that have been left for me recently ...

Lecia asked for recipes for the chocolate-chip cookie cake and the raspberry danish from brunch. Well, first of all, the danish was store-bought, Lecia! I had wanted to make a scratch coffee cake, but didn't have the time between Mass and brunch, so store-bought danish made do. ;)

The chocolate chip cookie cake was all homemade, however. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Heart Cookie

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray pan with Pam. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread dough into prepared pan with spatula. (I sprayed my hands and following manufacturer's directions I pressed the dough just short of the edges of the pan.) 


Bake 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool before cutting.

(Recipe from the Wilton Company)

We had this for dessert last night and it was SO yummy - a very nice, cakey texture, with a small amount of - but just enough - chocolate taste.

And Kristie asked me to expand on this week's long-day, "easy" dinner menus.

Here's what I have planned:

M - Valentine's Supper

T - baked ziti, salad and rolls

W - (frozen) chicken pie, butternut squash and roasted potatoes ... possibly, apple crisp for dessert (I have a lot of apples to use up.)

Th - hot dogs, veggies with ranch dip and tater puffs

F - pizza/leftovers 

Well, the timer on the pasta is ringing so I'd best wrap up. Thanks as always for stopping by ...

See you again very soon!

Sweet Things

Yesterday I spent some time with my mum, going through my late grandmother's things. (My grandmother, or "Damee" as the boys called her, passed away a little over a year ago.) I brought home several small items that meant something to me.

Among these treasures were her many lovely handkerchiefs (the monogrammed linens actually belonged to my late grandpa) ...


They're soft as butter and wonderfully preserved. You can tell she made - and cared for - these with love.

And I thought this sweater chain was just so sweet ...


It needs some cleaning, but I will wear it proudly with my cardigans.

And this has nothing to do with family heirlooms, but I wanted to show you the chocolate-chip cookie cake I made for tonight's Valentine's supper ...


And speaking of ...

~* Valentine's Night Supper *~

grilled sesame-ginger steak tips

brown rice pilaf

stir-fried asparagus

(ham rolls & cheese quesadillas for the picky eaters)

Valentine "cocktails"

(the aforementioned) chocolate-chip cookie cake

(Our Valentine cocktails will basically be a mix of leftover brunch punch ingredients. Crackerjack used Welch's "Strawberry Breeze" Juice Cocktail, Sprite and a bit of raspberry sherbert.)

Bill has a monster work schedule the rest of the week, so this will be the one big hurrah, lol. After tonight, the remaining week's dinner menus are as simple and easy as possible. I knew this was coming so I made sure to plan (and buy) for long-day dinners.

Well, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you all had a lovely Saint Valentine's Day! See you all again sometime soon ...


A Winter Night's Supper

Tonight's menu:


*lasagna made with ground turkey

*roasted broccoli and carrots

*garlicky toasted rolls

*a glass of red wine for the grown-ups *fresh cold milk for the kids

*leftover cake for dessert!

Bill had to work up north today, which means a longer, later commute home. If ever there was a night for a warm-you-up supper, this is it. 

(Nine degrees at last glance.)

Have a great night, everyone!


Monday Menu & Moon Talk

Bill's off from work today for the MLK holiday, so our homeschool has the day off too. :) It's going to be bitterly cold here (21 for a high!) so we probably won't spend much time outside. I do plan to run to the grocery store for a few items (and maybe The Paper Store too - I have a gift certificate from my birthday to use), but before I head out I'll be starting a beef & vegetable soup in the crockpot. It will cook all day and we'll have it tonight with crusty bread (made in the breadmaker) and a simple tossed salad. For dessert (yes, we do always have dessert, lol!) I'll make use of the leftover raspberry sauce ~ serving it over cups of peach frozen yogurt. The raspberry-peach combination might make me think of the summer ... so, so far away. 

In nature news, aside from the bitter cold and a messy storm coming on Tuesday, we have the Full Moon rising midweek ...


Can you guess why there's a wolf puppet on our nature shelf?

The weather chills,

 the night is long,

wolf lifts his head

in lonely song.

His notes float high,

his notes drift low,

mournful in the 

moonlight glow.

~ from When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year by Penny Pollock


I hope you all have a great Monday ~ see you again very soon! :)

A Dinner Menu After All

So I stared inside the fridge for a while yesterday, and looked through the pantry shelves - found a bunch of things that needed to be used up - and threw together a reasonable dinner menu for the week. (Remember I didn't have one in hand when I did my grocery shopping on Saturday?)

"Found" items included: turkey kielbasa, 3 Russet potatoes, 1/2 bag of small white potatoes, extra bag of baby carrots, lemon sorbet, extra bag of frozen raspberries, box of elbow macaroni, 2 boxes rice pilaf, 2 cans of tomato soup, can of green beans, leftover gingerbread dough, and a jar of butterscotch sauce.

These are all pretty tried and true dinners for us - not much new and exciting this week. But I feel a lot better knowing what I'll be making each night. Isn't it funny how the "what to have for dinner" question affects us all, but especially moms with busy homes, limited budgets and hungry kids?


Taco Potatoes

Green salad

Roman custard*



Grilled chicken & veggie wraps

Rice pilaf

Apple slices w/peanut butter 

Lemon sorbet w/raspberry sauce



American Chop Suey

Garlic bread

Green beans

Vanilla cake w/buttercream frosting



Kielbasa-veggie bake

Green salad

Crescent rolls

Gingerbread cookies



Homemade pizzas

French fries

Veggies & dip

Ice cream & sauce


*The Roman custard was part of Crackerjack's history assignment yesterday. You can see how it turned out in this post (bottom picture). It was very easy to make with CJ, and it tasted really yummy ~ a rich, spicy, eggy custard:

Pour 2 cups of milk into a saucepan. Mix it with 1/4 cup honey and scald it. Remove from heat and add 3 well beaten eggs. Add 1/4 tsp. nutmeg or cinnamon (I let CJ decide which spice - he chose cinnamon) and stir well. Pour the mixture into individual custard cups or a baking dish. Bake uncovered for 1 hour or until set, at 325 degrees F. 


(Please avert your eyes from the disaster that is my side counter, lol.)

And because everything tastes better with whipped cream, I made some and we added a dash of cinnamon-sugar before serving. :)

Have a great Tuesday, everyone - we're bracing for a BIG snowstorm here tomorrow! Wherever you are, stay warm and well ... I'll be back again just as soon as I can.

Sunday Dinner Centerpiece


I've just started dinner and thought I'd show you how pretty our table centerpiece looks today. In the middle is one of the kids' baptismal candles (can't remember whose!) and the tiny carnations, if you look closely are tinted blue. (We started them on January 1st and they've colored up very nicely. They were getting droopy in their jam jar, so I snipped them down and moved them to little glass candle cups.) A smattering of blue-green (craft) seashells complete the setting nicely. :)

So what's on tonight's dinner menu, you might wonder?

* chicken pie (not homemade)

* popovers (homemade)

* butternut squash (steamed, mashed and dressed with a little butter and brown sugar)

* niblet corn

* (macaroni and cheese for the picky eaters)

* apple brown betty with freshly whipped cream

I've had a lot of fun today puttering with a new binder I'm making. I'll do a post on this new notebook sometime this week, but for now I'll show you the paper I used:


Really in love with this paper. :)

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! See you again here very soon!

Wednesday in the Kitchen


First of all I want to thank everyone for the many thoughtful comments left in yesterday's crockpot post. I appreciate your input very much! I will be reading through the advice and checking out the links over the next couple of days ... and I also warned Bill we might be buying a new slowcooker this weekend!

The picture above I took yesterday in preparation for a planner post I'm working on, but I figured it would be fun to post a kitchen shot this morning. According to my daily routine, Wednesday is my kitchen cleaning day. Weekly kitchen chores include:

Sweeping and spot cleaning the kitchen floor.

Wiping down appliances.

Washing countertops.

Scrubbing in and around the sink.

Shaking baking soda down the disposal, letting it sit, then running with boiling water.

Going through the refrigerator and freezer - tossing/composting old food.

Going through the cabinets - tossing old food.

Starting a menu plan/marketing list for next week.

(I will also pull out all my spices and miscellaneous baking supplies today and make a list of what needs to be replenished this Fall.)

By the way, I keep a set of index cards at my work area (one color for each day of the week) that outline routine household tasks. Wednesday's card happens to be yellow. :)

Oh, and one last thing, on tonight's dinner menu: homemade whole wheat pizzas, tossed salad and leftover apple crisp. A homey, humble Autumn meal.

 So that's a peek into my kitchen today ... how are things in your neck of the woods?

So, what are Turkey Taco Potatoes?


I had a few queries about our dinner last night, so I thought I'd "talk tacos" today! :)

Turkey Taco Potatoes are, basically, just baked potatoes that have been topped with spicy ground turkey and taco toppings. It's like having a taco - on a potato! 

The details ...

Pop large, scrubbed Russet potatoes into a 375 oven. (We use 1 potato per 2 people. And not to sound like a food snob, but we've found that organic really does make a difference. The flavor and texture is much better, and the skins can be eaten without hesitation.) 

Bake the potatoes for one hour, then turn the oven off and let the potatoes sit in warm oven for an hour. I don't know why or when I started doing this, but I found it really improves the texture of the potato.

Meanwhile, stir fry sliced/chopped onions and bell peppers in a skillet. Set aside.

Brown 1 pound of ground turkey (you could use beef or chicken instead) in same skillet. Drain fat. To season the meat, we use a packet of Old El Paso Taco seasoning - "mild." (Ideally, I'd use my own seasoning mix here - less additives and sodium - I just have to find a recipe.) You basically sprinkle the powdered seasonings over the meat along with 2/3 cup water. Stir and heat through.

Split potatoes, fork-mash slightly, and top with meat and veggies. Add toppings of choice (shredded cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, etc.). And voila ~ Turkey Taco Potatoes!

Ridiculously easy and very tasty. And, if you're careful with the toppings, relatively healthy as well. We set some of the meat aside before adding the spices for the children who refuse anything spicier than Prego. And of course, they eat the meat, veggies and potatoes completely separate from each other (no touching!) because that's just the way kids can be. :)

This is a favorite meal of ours. It appears at least once in our two-week dinner menu rotation. The leftovers are great wrapped in tortillas. Sometimes, when I'm really on top of things (which is rare) I make up a baggie with sliced peppers and onions at the start of the week. The ground meat could also be browned and stored until it's ready to season and heat.

I also like making cheeseburger potatoes (ground beef, cheese and steamed broccoli florets) on occasion. They are really good served with hot soup. Great wintertime fare!

OK, you've all got my inner foodie all riled up now! I think I'll do a few more menu-related posts in the near future. I will also ask my mum for the fudge frosting recipe (chocolate and penuche) and I'll post it here very soon.

Have a Wonderful Wednesday, everyone! See you all again sometime soon ...

~*Halloween Week Happenings*~

Monday, October 27, 2008

Housekeeping: clean bedrooms, change bedding, laundry

Dinner: turkey meatloaf, maple-roasted acorn squash, rice pilaf

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, religion

Activities: a visit with Gram after supper


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Housekeeping: clean upstairs bathroom, clean living room, laundry

Dinner: smorgasboard night (aka leftovers! J)

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, science

Activities: Earlybird’s therapy, Library stop


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Housekeeping: clean kitchen, start grocery list

Dinner: whole-wheat spaghetti and meatballs, salad, crusty bread

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, religion (tea)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Housekeeping: clean dining room & family room, finalize weekend lists

Dinner: squash soup, grilled cheese & tomato sandwiches, garlic-rosemary homefries

Learning: math, vocabulary, spelling, history, science

Activities: orthodontist appointment, market stop


Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Housekeeping: Clear and organize learning spaces, neaten for the weekend.

Dinner: homemade mac & cheese, kielbasa, roasted autumn veggies, pumpernickel bread

Learning: A day off from formal lessons!

Activities: (See below!)

*  *



~ Other Holiday & Seasonal Notes ~


Bill takes a vacation day on October 31st every year, so we can spend Halloween together as a family. We always take the boys to the town farm to pick out pumpkins, and then to a favorite bakery for “gingerbread” muffins. We take the muffins and coffee with us as we walk around a lake and visit a local cemetery (there are graves from colonial times here).

Back at home we carve our jack o’lanterns (out on the deck to minimize the mess) and spend time cleaning up the yard – raking, clearing spent growth, etc. We might even have a little chiminea fire if the day is not too warm. (The forecast right now is sunny and near 70.) Back inside, we'll pop in a holiday classic, pop up some popcorn and roast some seeds. I start mulling a pot of cider in the late afternoon so the house smells wonderful by the time the sun sets. Just before supper, the boys will don their costumes (Anakin Skywalker, a Clone Trooper and a Pirate this year) and we'll take them over to Mum and Dad's so the boys can trick or treat Nana, Papa and Damee. Later on, after supper, our friends will arrive – as well as our beloved Uncle Matt – and Bill and the boys will head out for tricks or treats, while I stay home to answer the door.

When the gang returns we’ll sip our hot spiced cider, nibble cookies and trade candy till the eyelids start to droop and the doorbell stops ringing. Then it will be time to snuff the candles and say our goodnights, and Halloween will be over till next year.


At our weekly tea (of which we’ve been neglectful lately) I plan to serve pumpkin muffins and Halloween Cocoa ~ basically a Mexican hot chocolate (dark and spicy) with special Halloween marshmallows the boys picked out. Over tea, we'll choose saints to study this year.


Make soul cakes (follow recipe in Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions).


Decorate mantel with tealights, marigolds and photographs of loved ones who have passed away.


Fall Back one hour (Daylight Savings Time ends).


Attend a Saints Day parade at church.


Make up book basket for November.


Serve Mexican for Sunday's supper.


Clear off and re-do bulletin board for November; set up Grateful Tree.


Well, that should keep us busy for a while ... good thing there are seven days in a week! I'll check back in again soon, but in the meantime, I hope you all enjoy a lovely last week of October. :)

~*This Week's Dinner Menus*~

Bear in mind, this is my projected meal plan for the week ahead. It's always possible that something might come up at the last minute (or I might just get lazy, lol) and then grilled cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks it will be ...

Still - as I like to say - it's good to have a plan. :)


  • American chop suey (w.wheat pasta)
  • roasted vegetables (peppers, zucchini, carrots)
  • garlic bread
  • apple crisp



  • bay scallop saute w/ French bread
  • tossed salad
  • (macaroni and cheese for the kids)
  • crockpot fruit compote (apples, peaches, pineapple)



  • homemade pizzas (w.wheat crust)
  • (Bookworm and I are eating out)
  • cut -up veggies and dip
  • Italian ice cups


  • meatball subs
  • onion rings and french fries
  • tossed salad
  • butterscotch sundaes


Hope your week is off to a good start! See you all again sometime soon ...

Quick & Yummy: Dinner & Dessert

I want to share with you all a couple of recipes that worked very well for us the other night. Both dishes have earned a place on my 2-week autumn menu plan - speaking of which, I'm just working a few kinks out, and once I do, I will post the plan here ...

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Serves 8-10

(Adapted from a recipe found in Eat Healthy for $50 a Week)


24 turkey meatballs*

1 sweet pepper, cut into 1-inch strips

2 cans (16-ounce) chunk pineapple

2 Tbsp. cornstarch or flour

4 Tbsp. vinegar (white or cider)

2 Tbsp. sugar (white or brown)

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

*Note: I used up some frozen prepared turkey meatballs I had on hand. The recipe actually instructs you to make 32-40 meatballs from 2 lbs. ground beef or turkey, browning them in a skillet before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

1. In a small pan, sauté pepper in a little water until soft. (I did this in the skillet.)

2. Open pineapple cans; drain, reserving liquid in a water-tight plastic container. (Set fruit aside.)

3. Add to this container the cornstarch (or flour). Shake vigorously until lumps are gone. (I used a whisk.)

4. Pour this liquid into a sauce pan and add the vinegar, sugar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sauce becomes thick.

5. Combine the meatballs, pineapple chunks, pepper and sauce in a skillet (the one you would have used to make the meatballs) and heat through.


I served this dish over rice. It made PLENTY and got rave reviews from Bill! Not so much from the boys ("Pineapple and meatballs!?!"), but I hope this dish will grow on them. ;)


Cherry Crockpot Cobbler

(Serves ?)

(Found somewhere online.)


1 can (16 ounce) cherry pie filling*

1 cup dry yellow cake mix

1/8 cup softened butter*

*Note: I used a 21 ounce can as it was all I had on hand. Any kind of pie filling could be used in this recipe. (Bill noted that a chocolate cake mix might be tasty with the cherry flavor.) Also, I used a bit more butter than called for as the cake mix seemed a bit dry.

Spread pie filling on bottom of crock pot. Mix butter with dry cake mix and sprinkle over top of pie filling. Cook on low for 3 hours.


This was so easy and very yummy! I probably don't have to mention it would be even yummier with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream ...