Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quinoa Salad

Big Littles: Looking at his plate... "When there is grass on it, I just brush it off."

The grass was kale. :P

A couple of years ago, I discovered couscous and it became an instant favorite in our house! It was a delicious, light summer lunch that provided for endless variations, and became an excellent vehicle for getting our toddler to eat broccoli. I still love couscous - it is tasty, and you can't beat it for speed. The problem is that it is not the healthiest choice out there. It is really just tiny pasta. Tiny white pasta. And white pasta is ok, but there are definitely healthier choices out there.

Quinoa Salad on Spinach

And then QUINOA entered our lives and I've been singing its praises ever since! Quinoa is the queen of whole grains, and it is naturally packed with protein. A salad made of quinoa is going to stick with you for a long time! I find that quinoa and couscous can be used interchangeably, so quinoa is my new vehicle for getting the Littles to eat their veggies. With the delicious, buttery taste, they don't even know how good it is for them.

Couscous can be ready in 10 minutes flat! Quinoa... not so much! It takes a little more preparation and cook time. If you skip these couple of steps, your quinoa will still taste great, but it will be hard on your digestive system. (Yeah... we learned that one the hard way! I'll spare you the details.)

  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 3 c. water
  • pinch of salt

Approximately 7-12 hours before you want to eat your quinoa salad, put the grains into a fine mesh strainer and run under water for a couple of minutes to rinse thoroughly. Put the quinoa into a stainless steel pot with the water and let it sit out at room temperature for the day. After it has soaked, add the salt and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until it is tender. Drain before serving.

Now for the veggies -
  • a few Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 diced onion (red onion is delicious, vidalias are also a treat!)
  • 3 lg. cloves minced garlic
  • 1 med. diced zucchini or yellow squash*
  • 1 ear grilled corn - cut from the cob*
  • 1 lg. grilled chicken breast - sliced thin (optional)
  • chives or green onions (optional)
  • diced tomato or halved cherry tomatoes*
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • may serve over a bed of fresh baby spinach
(Feel free to swap out whatever veggies you have on hand, using whatever is in season. Other delicious variations for the * veggies = carrot, bell pepper, broccoli, spinach or kale cut in a chiffonade.)

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion until it turns golden brown. Add the garlic, and cook until the garlic softens. Add the zucchini and any other veggies you decide to try and stir fry until tender. Near the end, add your grilled corn, pine nuts, grilled chicken, chives, tomatoes and seasonings. Serve over a bed of fresh baby spinach if you like. Parmesan adds a nice touch.

Quinoa Salad

Beautiful, isn't it? And so colorful!

Suggestion: The grilled chicken/corn really is amazing in this, but don't haul out the grill just for one ear of corn and a chicken breast... do some batch grilling! Grill corn/chicken for dinner one night and save some for your quinoa salad for the next day.

This may be eaten warm, room temp. or cold. Perfect picnic food!

Now don't you feel virtuous just thinking of eating these delicious veggies and good for you grains?

*happy sigh*

This post is part of the Four Moms Picnic Linkup.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gardening With Littles

The Littles love it when I work in the garden. They love being outdoors with me and all kids love to dig in the dirt. But as always happens when I have my two tiny helpers, things get complicated.

I'm all about teaching children how to work in a fun and enjoyable way. At their ages, they are naturally interested in what I am doing and they don't think of it as drudgery, they think it is FUN! I want to cultivate a good work ethic in them now, but teaching them how to work in the garden means doing a bit of damage control, learning to let go a little bit of my expectations of perfection, and cultivating patience and love in how I teach them. It's an opportunity for growth all around.

I do not claim to have the perfect system here, but I'll share a little bit of what is working for us and the Littles - one pre-schooler and one older baby.

  • Set clear boundaries
Garden Boundaries

For half of the year, the Littles have free reign to dig around in the dirt, but once we start planting tender seedlings, they are not allowed to go into the garden for a while. They don't know to look down and walk carefully around baby plants, so we just keep them out until the garden has matured and the paths are obvious. (If we've kept up with the weeding, that is!) We've found putting up this very simple reminder in the way of some re-bar and twine helps them remember the new boundary.

  • Give them hard jobs and praise them for their efforts
family motto

Our family motto: Do Hard Things. We borrowed this idea from the Harris brothers' book by the same title, which I highly recommend. "Hard Things" for a little one in the garden may be something like collecting all of the weeds you pull into a bucket and taking them to the compost, or carrying rocks to the rock pile. It may be taking the green beans or peas you have picked and putting them into a bowl at the end of the row. It may be digging up a stubborn weed. Look for jobs that will stretch their abilities just a little bit, praise them for their strength and skill, and you will have some happy workers that take pride in a job well done.

  • But not too hard!
june 21 peas

The goal is to keep them busy doing productive (rather than destructive) things when they want to get involved in what you are doing. They are not slaves, so allow little ones to get distracted with a stick or a worm if their attention wanes. If you give them a job that is just too much for them, they will become discouraged. It's a fine line and takes some experimentation.

For instance, Big Little really wanted to pick peas like I was doing. I showed him how to look for pods that were ripe (nice and fat, visible outlines of the individual peas showing) and let him try to pull one. That didn't go very well. He nearly yanked the plant out of the ground, which would have been sad, but ok (see my last point). So I tried holding the plant for him and showing him where to pull. Still didn't work. Those peas are tough! I quickly gave him a different job to hold his interest. When all else fails, let them munch. ;) (See the second to last point.)

  • Give them real tools, their own plot of land, and some seeds

Yesterday, I held out the small trowel and the large hoe and asked Big Littles to choose one to carry for me. He picked the large hoe of course! (Little Littles loved toddling with the trowel though.) Don't bother buying plastic junk, just let them play with the real thing. Teach them safety (don't leave the rake lying on the ground with the teeth point up) and how to respect tools (put them away when you are finished), but let them try doing real work with real tools with real seeds and dirt.

  • Teach them to respect the plants as a food source

This one has made a really big difference with the pre-school child... the baby? Not so much, but we'll get there! We have an ongoing dialogue... "Watch where you step! Those baby plants are going to be our food!" "Don't pull out the lettuce! That is our food to eat!" "Don't kick your ball into the tomatoes, they are our food!" And so forth. It really has helped to enforce those boundaries and to help them understand that the garden is more than a big sandbox in which to play.

  • "Do not muzzle the ox..."
Shelling Peas

When the child is helping you in the garden and wants to eat some pea pods or a green bean straight from the vine, why on earth do we say no? I found myself saying no one day because it was right before dinner and then I stopped myself in my tracks. Why am I telling my child that he cannot eat fresh veggies? How many night do I find myself urging this very little one to eat veggies? A lot! (Big Littles has gotten pickier in the past year. We mostly ignore it, but veggie consumption takes more urging these days.) So I have started allowing unlimited fresh veggie snacking in the afternoons. They can eat from the garden, they can eat what I'm chopping for dinner, they can taste to their little heart's delight, and especially while they are "helping". As I titled this section, "Do not muzzle the ox"... the Bible says a laborer deserves wages, so I allow little workers to snack while they are helping.

  • Just let go!

Let go of your perfectionism. People are more important than things! You may lose some of your crop to an enthusiastic helper. It is sad when it happens, but it is ok. If possible, plant extra in anticipation. Have patience and remember that tending those budding little souls is of eternal significance, while your garden is not.

The story of the final picture: While showing Big Littles how to shell peas, Little Littles sneaked onto the dining room table and greedily started eating the blueberries brought that afternoon by a friend. Of course, I had to get a picture before administering the necessary consequences. ;)

This post is a part of the Busy Mom's Guide to Frugal Gardening linkup.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Self Portrait and Garage Saleing

self portrait

Hi Folks!

Had a bizarre morning of garage saleing. First of all, we had picked up the wrong ad booklet. Got last week's by mistake and planned our route around sales that had already happened. *sigh* So upon realizing our mistake, we got the current booklet and realized that there just wasn't much going on. And it was threatening rain, so the first one we went to had been moved inside. But it was a creepy/scary apartment and I didn't feel good about going in there, so we passed it by. Then another that had looked promising and was a bit of a drive turned out to be a real dud. Like... not worth even getting out of the car kind of a dud. After driving for about 30 minutes and getting nothing, we started home. Big Littles was upset though, so we thought we'd stop at a little consignment store we were passing and look around. I'd never been and had been wanting to check it out. The signs said, "open", the clock said "open", the lights around the window said "open", but the door was locked. It was sad. I was annoyed and Big Littles was heartbroken and Little Littles was mad about getting back in the car seat. We made a last ditch effort following the signs to an unlisted sale and hit the jackpot! YIPPEE!!!

Garage saleing is so hit or miss, but finding ones like this one make it worth it. Good, clean stuff... unpriced, but they were fair when I asked them for prices, and useful things for me! So we got a nice wooden glider rocker that I am planning to make a cushion for with materials I already have, two bike hooks, two brand new NICE bed pillows (the lady said they'd only been used for decoration and I could tell), a large plastic storage 3 drawer thingy, 3 CDs, and two nice suitcases! Total $37! WOOHOO!!! I've been looking for suitcases at garage sales for 2 years, but every one I've seen has been in terrible shape. These are NICE. Good, sound zippers and wheels, I'm a happy camper!

So the trick to garage saleing is to only buy what you already need and not cave into buying junk that you don't. This sale filled some true needs - things we'd been putting off purchasing brand new (the pillows, hooks and suitcases in particular). We also got a few nice things to make life easier, such as the storage drawers and glider rocker. I've nursed two babies without a glider rocker and I'm excited that by the time we are expecting #3, I'll have a nice comfy place to nurse and rock.

Hoping to go out tomorrow to a different area with some sales that look promising. Wish me luck!

What is your favorite garage sale find?

(Garage Saleing looks funny to me, but I'm not sure of how else to spell it or say it. Any grammarians out there want to correct me? Be my guest!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lightbulb Moment... Being "Green" Is Not...

We don't have TV, but a short while back I was waiting in a dentist office where HGTV was on. I don't know what show I saw, but it was one of those, get-your-house-ready-to-sell ones, and the theme was on making the house "green" to be more appealing to buyers.

The first thing the "style expert" did was to waltz through the front door, make shocked exclamations that the sellers were using the older style lightbulbs and order every lightbulb in the house to be thrown out and replaced with the new energy efficient kind.

I was floored.

I'm more motivated by frugality than environmentalism, though I have written before about how they go hand in hand. I could not believe the waste that was being promoted in the name of "being green". Yes, the new lightbulbs use less energy and save money. That's great. (They also contain mercury, and that is not great... I digress...) But how many lightbulbs do you think are in an average house? I just googled, 15-30. Why throw away 15-30 perfectly good lightbulbs? Think of the cost! Think of the waste!

Ever heard the saying, "haste makes waste"?

It's true.

To save money, try not to get in a big hurry. Make small changes over time. As the lightbulbs go out, replace them one by one with the newer energy efficient style if that is your desire.

This goes for many things. Unless dire health issues require a radical diet change, make adaptations slowly. Throwing out half of your pantry is expensive and wasteful. Donating unwanted food is better, but best of all, is to stop buying certain products as you run out of them.

Be frugal... be healthy... just don't be in such a hurry!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus"

Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Sunday Hymn Post

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus"

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Refrain -

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

by Helen Lemmel

A note to my relatives -

I want this song to be sung at my funeral. I hope it will be a comfort to those who remain to know that I am fully confident that when my life is over, I will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, forever.


Romans 8:37-39 - Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Mini Tacos

Can you believe that I used to think you HAD to buy taco seasoning in those little packets? Oh the things I have learned... It's so easy to mix this up yourself and I like it much better because it doesn't have MSG, salt and other fillers, or nasty preservatives. Best of all, it tastes wonderful!

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 1/4 cup instant minced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. crushed dried red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. instant minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
Mix it up and store it in a jar. Use 2 Tbs. per pound of meat. This recipe will make about 6 pounds worth of seasoning mix. (I tripled it because we eat a lot of taco meat!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Improvising a Diaper in a Pinch

Have you ever run out of diapers? It happens. I use cloth diapers and have a small stash of prefolds and covers that I reserve for my "back up diapers", but there are still times when I come very close to running out of diapers. Most of the times I have been short a diaper or two have been while out and about. You can't always predict a significantly delay or multiple diaper disasters. Running out of diapers doesn't have to be a disaster though, just use your noggin!

When I ran out of diapers one time at a gospel meeting, I still had a usable diaper cover, so I just folded two burp cloths inside and put it on our baby. Alternately, I could have used a receiving blanket or even my husband's undershirt - all you need is a piece of cloth that will wrap around the baby's bum and provide a reasonable amount of absorbancy. If you don't have a diaper cover to give you a waterproof barrier, just use a plastic sack.

I think everyone should know how to improvise a diaper. Even if you use disposables, you may find yourself in a situation where you simply cannot get diapers and the need is imminent. Babies need to be clean and dry - it is basic sanitation. Leaving a baby in a wet or soiled diaper for too long can cause awful health problems. Just imagine if you were so very helpless and dependent for your basic care, wouldn't you want to be kept clean?

Improvising a diaper is something I'm sure your grandmother knew all about. Seems like in our strangely sanitized and detached society, this knowledge has missed a generation or two. So take a look at the link and tuck this one back in the recesses of your mind. You never know when you are going to need it!

Cotton Babies - Almost Free Diapers

Have you ever had to improvise a diaper? What did you do?

And if you have no babies or grandbabies, or have no interest whatsoever in diapers, here's a great link on making your own yogurt. I make my own yogurt from time to time in a yogurt maker, but intrigued by this technique and look forward to giving it a try.

Four Secrets to Thick, Creamy Yogurt Every Time


In case you've not noticed already, I'm taking a break from blogging while enjoying special time with family for a couple of weeks. We're also getting into the busiest weeks of our entire year - time to write and plan for VBS! Posting during June and July may be a little more sparse as I take care of these prior commitments during my quiet time.

In the time being, I hope you enjoy some of the lovely things I've been able to photograph from God's creation in the past week.

bleeding hearts

Bleeding Hearts

Lady slipper

Ladyslippers before their bloom


Pair of Butterflies

baby ferns

Baby Ferns


Pink Lupines

wild strawberries

Wild Strawberries


My favorite trees - birch and poplar
Their leaves look like little coins dancing in the breeze.

more baby ferns

More baby ferns - couldn't find any fiddleheads this time, but I just love these little knobby ones

Luke 12:27-28 - Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Brown Bear


Today I'm thankful for picture books, especially what I call "singing books". I have a musical background and one of my greatest joys in life is sharing musical books with children. Books do not have to be based upon a song or about music to be musical. Reading a book with a child is a very special experience, but singing a book with a child adds an entirely new dimension. Music, even at its most basic level, touches the very soul of a child.

The very first book I sing for my babies is Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear. I just love Eric Carle's gorgeous illustrations and the bright, simple pictures are very appealing to the eyes of a newborn just learning how to focus. The words of this book are set to a simple tune, and if you pay careful attention to the video, you will notice that I've made some slight modifications to the words and when to turn the pages to help it make more sense to babies.

Now if you are interested in the more technical aspects of what makes this such an enriching experience for babies, read on:
  • The tune is a "sol-mi" melody with with a "la" and a "do" thrown in for those who are familiar with solfege. The sol-mi interval is the most natural for young children to sing. It is the same interval children sing when they taunt with "nanny-nanny-boo-boo". Did you know every culture has a "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" song? There are different syllables used, but the tune is universal. Fascinating isn't it?
  • When you sing, use a high and light voice as I demonstrate in the video. Children find it easiest to match pitch when singing between the D just below the treble clef staff up to the C on the staff. Most adults tend to sing way too low for children to be successful matching pitch. Try to listen to the pitch where your child naturally talks (if they talk yet!) and match them.
  • You don't need instruments to sing with children. A simple guitar accompaniment can enhance the singing a bit, but anything else becomes a distraction. Most recorded children's music is rather overwhelming in the amount of noise bombarding the child. Just sing using your natural voice! Your child will love it and it is the best way for them to learn!
  • So you can't carry a tune in a bucket? That's ok, sing anyway! Do your best and realize that your baby is not a critic. Your baby will love your singing because it is YOU. Every baby thinks his mother has the most beautiful voice in the world, so soak up those adoring looks and relish in it. After you sing a nap time book or two, rock and sing a few lullabies. Years later, you will be thankful for those sweet times together.
Finally, Brown Bear is not just for babies! Pre-school children love it too! When I share this book with pre-readers, it often becomes the first book they are able to "read" on their own. I have the sweetest video of Big Littles "reading" this book, singing it perfectly in tune by himself when he was just two. I'd love to share it, but it shows his adorable face, which is just way too adorable for this blog. ;)

This post is a part of the Four Moms Read Aloud linkup. See here for some other wonderful nap and bedtime read alouds.

In addition, each of the Four Moms talk about having a daily quiet time each afternoon for children of all ages. I highly recommend the practice. Mrs. Smockity posted some of the best advice EVER for quiet time and it made all the difference in making it work with our pre-school child. I'm ever thankful for these four ladies sharing their wisdom every week! (Hey, another reason for Thankful Thursday!)
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