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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Something Other Than...

Ems here:

Funny quote of week: 

While carpooling several of the boys' teammates up to the soccer fields, the van was so full that kids had to sit on either side of the baby's car seat. Red-haired Mikey, on one side, asked Matt, "What's your baby's name?"
Matt replied, "Simona." 
Giving him a horrified and quizzical look, Mikey responded, "What?! Your sister's name is SEBULBA?!!"

Who needs a saint name when we can do a Star Wars theme?

Poor Simona has had many erroneous mispronunciations of her name--such as Samoa and Sonoma--but this was by far the most hilarious! I was cracking up in the front seat.

In other news, I'd like to thank the television networks for taking every interesting show off the air so that I am forced to read books. In particular, I'd like to thank Jennifer Fulwiler for writing a book that was entertaining as well as edifying--despite that fact that swordplay and magic were rather conspicuously absent. I mentioned her book, Something Other Than God, in a previous post, but since I've actually read it now, I thought I would discuss it a bit.

First, I just want to give a shout-out to converts. Folks who are raised with a belief system from their parents--or with no faith at all--who search and research and question until they discover Truth and follow it no matter the consequences, are such amazing people. And when they publish a book, we all get to share in the fruit of their labor! Jennifer (we're tight like that) was a militant atheist, so how she came to believe that there is a God is powerful;  how she came to be Catholic, very nearly against her own will, is astonishing. 

A couple big sticking points with her conversion were "Catholic policy" issues--contraception and abortion, in particular.  How could she embrace a religion which she had always believed to be essentially anti-woman, anti-freedom, really, at its core?  Deciding to give the Church a chance to explain itself, she dove in to the encyclicals of Pope Paul VI, specifically Humane Vitae (On Human Life).  She notes that the Pope predicted a couple of things should contraception become accepted and widespread: (1) it would be bad for marriages and (2) it would lead men to disrespect women.  It didn't take Jennifer long to see the writing on the wall--sky-rocketing divorce rates and magazine articles that screamed to women about how sexy we could be--pretty clearly, the climate in our country had shifted.  Quoting the Pope, Jennifer states, "He said that once men got used to the widespread availability of contraception, they would 'forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires'."  

Reflecting that in today's culture the measure of a woman's value is largely in her sexual appeal, "When, exactly, did the standard of beauty become a dictate that we must all look like Stripper Barbie?," Jennifer eventually draws a conclusion, the same one as the Church, that when you separate the procreative (life-giving) and the unitive (loving, pleasure) of sexuality, it becomes disordered.

Food for thought indeed, as we raise our boys to see past the surface, past the temptation of glossy pictures, to admire the qualities that elevate women to wives and mothers and women of grace--swimming like salmon against the current of blatant sexuality and rampant hedonism. We pray our daughters have the strength to resist a world that rewards crudeness and immodesty. I just read a Yahoo news story in which a college girl puts herself through school by stripping on the weekends (she makes 180K a year) hard would that be to turn down? But at what cost to a person's self-worth? And what message does this send to young girls? Be debt free, sell your body? So many things wrong with this news story, not only one is the abhorrent cost of college these days. Ok, rant over.

Anyway, if you are intellectually curious or looking for a bolstering of faith, Something Other Than God will do the trick, painlessly and with easy humor.

 Favorite line from the book:

"Now, a century and half later, a woman could hardly consider herself truly beautiful without a tight abdomen, perky breasts, a taut posterior, wrinkle-free face, and even, to quote one of the magazines in front of me, 'ultra-sexy upper-arms.' Upper arms? Did our ear canals now have to be sexy, too?"

So I ask, who is pro-woman and pro-freedom? Because the kind of freedom depicted in magazines at the supermarket checkout lane more closely resembles subjugation...I'll take the pedestal, please.

Easy Rule #51124: Ask questions and dig deeper--the truth can take it.

Here's a little sweetness:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cooking Contest Part 5- Battle of the Burgers

Jules here-

As you enjoy your Memorial Day celebrations, you may be in the mood to try something new with the standard American burger, and our neighbor hood battle shall not disappoint you.  Saturday night, we had the "Battle of the Burgers" the battle to see who is the "manliest" chef in the neighborhood-- and I am pleased to announce- I AM!

So if you are in the mood for a zippy, relatively hassle-free burger... here it is:

1 pound ground beef (since it was a competition, I used grass-fed, organic beef. It really is better tasting)
Montreal steak-seasoning
Salt & Pepper
Pepper-jack cheese

1/2 Cup sour cream
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
Mrs. Dash Southwest Seasoning blend

Banana peppers

1. Mix meat with Montreal steak-seasoning and salt & pepper to taste (I like mine quite seasoned).
2. Grill hamburgers until medium rare (or well done if you have no taste buds).  Add slice of pepper-jack cheese until melted.
3. Meanwhile, mix sour cream and mayonnaise with Mrs. Dash Southwest Seasoning blend until pink and smells yummy.
4. Grill the buttered buns until toasted.
5. Serve burgers topped with sliced avocado, banana peppers, and Southwest sauce.
6. Enjoy them!

According to the judges, my beef flavors pushed the burger for the win.  Reviewers said, "A nice, zippy style burger."   Now, Don's burgers were more complicated than mine-- and the judges truly enjoyed them too- just not as much as mine :)  So I present to you:

Ground Beef
Ground Pork
Ground Veal
Yellow Mustard
Worcestershire Sauce
Dill Pickles
Muenster Cheese
Kaiser Buns

Hand mix the ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal in a bowl. Add in the Worcestershire Sauce and Yellow Mustard to taste.

Fry Bacon, then use the bacon drippings to saute onions.
Meanwhile, simmer the drained sauerkraut in a German style beer. Don used Yuengling Lager (awesome beer that finally is in New England-- not quite NH yet, but closer...)

Heat grill prior to grilling burgers (about 400 degrees).
Grill burgers turning a ¼ turn after 3-4 minutes. (by turning the burger a ¼ turn, this puts grill mark patterns on the meat).
Flip after 6 minutes.
Add the onions to the top of the burger and top with Muenster Cheese.
Remove burger from grill.
Toast buns on the grill.
Top the burger with bacon (2 strips) pickles (2 sliced pickles), and sauerkraut.
The judges enjoying the feast

There you have it-- two new burger recipes for you to enjoy this Memorial Day.  For the record, John ate two full burgers with all the toppings while Lisa only made it through 1.5 (and she ate the "whole" version of mine--cinching the win!!).  Neighborhood match up so far: Julia: 3 Don: 2 (I have taken the lead...)

And a confession: I really hated both burgers. I know, why would I make something I don't enjoy?-- well I was pleasing the judges. I personally don't like zippy foods that much (I'm too prone to heartburn) and I despise sauerkraut.  So there you have it. Give me a plain turkey burger with some pickles and I would have been happy. 

In closing, here are quotes to celebrate this Memorial Day:

We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.
Francis A. Walker
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
Mark Twain

Easy Rule #97870- This memorial day try a new recipe to spice up your grilling life, but also take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. Thanks Grandpa Weinig & Grandpa Darnall!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

You might be inadvertently raising a dumb jock if....

Jules here-

After three years of raising girls, I was blessed with a big (9 pound) baby boy in 2011.  Though excited about the prospect of raising a boy, I had no real experience with the differences with the genders.  As the third child, he was lucky to have "boy" hand-me-down clothes, but he also was exposed to tutus, pink blankets, and lots of princess stuff.

Tinkerbell James... he will kill me some day for posting this....
Somehow, through all of his girly exposures, he has surpassed my husband's prayers and is a tad obsessed with sports. So my top ten this week will highlight the ridiculousness of having a 2 1/2 year old who exhibits early signs of being athletics-obsessed.

So, you might be inadvertently raising a dumb jock if....

10.  Your son's first word is "ball".  After the classic, "Dada", James instantly attached himself to any ball: tennis, baseball, basketball, etc.  He called all balloons balls too and often pretended they were different sports balls by kicking them, hitting them with a bat, etc...

9. Your son's only words are sports-related.  I often joke with strangers who comment on my son's proclivity to sports  that my son knew how to say "hockey puck" before milk. I'm actually not joking.  I would ask him repeatedly to say, "Please, milk, mommy," or "More please!" Instead, he could only utter sports phrases like a neanderthal ESPN anchor.

8. Your son helps with the laundry only for the dryer balls.  I have discovered James in my dryer countless times trying to access the amazing dryer balls.  After he gets them out, he likes to peg them back into the dryer as if playing dodge ball with my clean sheets.

7.  Your son travels everywhere with a ball.  James carries golf balls with him for car rides, museum trips, boat rides, etc.  He knows the rule that if he drops it, mom's got it, and if he throws it, he loses it for good.  He carries it around and NEVER loses it.  We traveled to an island in the Boston Harbor last week and he toted it for 7 hours, only putting it down to eat.

Here's where we were-- highly recommended day trip to George's Island!
6. Your son may want to move into a neighbor's house who has more sports equipment. My neighbors (who we are having the fantastic cooking contest with) are a bit hockey-obsessed with air hockey table in the basement, two kid's hockey nets in their living room, and a full-sized one in their driveway.  Unlike most shy, mommy-centered two-year olds, James repeatedly asks to visit them and plays non-stop when we go there...

5. Your son only checks out non-fiction sports books from the library.  James knows exactly where the "real sports" books are. We have read the history of basketball, techniques for golfing, and the encyclopedia of football.  Want to learn more about the perfect baseball swing? I don't.

I've read this book countless times. It's as boring as it looks.
4. Your son enjoys watching golf on TV.  Besides my brother-in-law, I really don't know anyone who likes to watch golf on television, except my 2 year old at 6 AM.  He begs to watch the golf channel and routinely cheers for the ball to "Get in the hole!!"  My son was named after my late grandfather, James William, who adored golfing. Now, I am not saying I believe in reincarnation, but it's a little uncanny how much my son LOVES golf...
Leaning forward, actually thrilled at golf...

3. Your son has a better golf swing than you.  I am an avid mini-golfer, but I have never played 'real' golf before--yet my son can hit the ball much better than I can.  He loves to putt and drive the ball throughout my house (the "real" golf balls are only allowed outside....).

2. Your son is pickier about his clothing than his sisters.  Yes, my girls love to dress up for church and wear their favorite clothes, but they never argue when I lay out an outfit.  I have never had a struggle to get them in clothes--- until James.  He only wants to wear shirts with sporting equipment on it. He threw a 10 minute fit over a guitar shirt screaming, "Me not rock n' roll guy-- me sports guy!" I eventually won; he was a begrudging rock n' roll guy for a day (but normally he looks like this)....

1.  No matter where you are, your son will find sports anywhere. We were blessed with a Florida time share vacation in the winter with my in-laws; sun, sand, and pools, but the whole time, James wanted to play on the putting green.  Luckily, I could sit near by and read while he putted....constantly....

Am I concerned that my son would rather throw or hit a ball than play with pretty much anything else? Nah. This could be a stage, or he'll need to train so he can go pro in whatever sport he finally ends up playing (because at this rate it doesn't look like he'll be getting any academic scholarships....). Someday I hope he wants to learn letters and numbers, but for now, we are on high alert for flying sports equipment at my house.

And yes, I have countless videos like this:

But don't worry there's still enough "girl" influence....

Easy Rule #897978- There are gender differences, no matter what new-age scientists are trying to tell you.

Easy Rule #89079-  You have to learn to have fast-reflexes in my house- DUCK!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Pasta Project

Ems here:

First off, let me agree that New Hampshire wildlife is off the hook! We live in Ohio, but in a mostly our wildlife consists of dogs (on a leash), raccoons (knocking over our garbage cans), and juvenile delinquents (testing car-doors in search of loose change or CDs).

However, nature does prevail occasionally, and the kids managed to discover giant puddles full of it at the soccer fields this week. The drenching rains that have made this sports season so delightful created a home for millions of tadpoles. The children spent hours, literally, catching and releasing (mostly) these little creatures in empty Gatorade bottles, never happier:

What I really wanted to discuss was The Mentalist. Oh My Gosh!! Did you see that awesome season finale?? Yay, love!

Actually, what I really wanted to talk about was pasta, and how fun and easy it is to make noodles at home with your kids with no fancy ingredients and no special equipment. The fact is, you don't have to be perfect in order for this to turn out and amaze the kiddies! Give it a try!

Homemade Pasta - recipe from


2 cups flour
3 egg yolks
2 T olive oil


1. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. 
2. Add eggs and oil into the well, and use your fingers to mix together. 
3. Add water as necessary (in small increments) till you get a nice dough-like consistency. 
4. Remove the dough and knead on a lightly floured surface until dough is elastic and smooth. 
5. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from wrap, and role out into a thin sheet. Get it as thin as you can, but make sure your table is floured so dough won't stick to it.  
7. Cut pasta into strips as thin or thick as you like. 
8. Hang to dry for about 20 minutes (I use hangers!)
9. To cook pasta: Add to heavily salted boiling water and cook for around 3 minutes.
10. Enjoy with butter and parsley, or however your kids eat noodles!

Well, I just wanted to share the pasta process because it was one of those things that intimidated me. I thought you needed special flour or a special machine or a special Mario Batali gene....but it's NOT scary! Maybe one day I will get an appliance to help me roll and cut it out; but until then, it's nice to think that I can make it like the women did way back before those machines were invented!

Easy Rule #41113: Don't be afraid to try something new, something homemade. You may be surprised!

Easy Rule #22644:  Sometimes it may be a bad surprise.*

*I tried this custard pie recipe last week that was an EPIC DISASTER! It was disgusting, seriously; I even lost a cookie sheet because the pie overflowed and then the filling burned onto the tray and I couldn't get it off so I threw everything out. Sad, sad day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Right in my own backyard

Jules here-

Spring has sprung in New Hampshire-- beautiful flowers, tweeting birds, playing outside from dawn until dusk... and hatching mosquitoes.... ugh.  The beauty of New Hampshire often gets a bit tainted by itchy bites and tedious black-flies.  Though the spring hatch makes me want to go all DEET on my backyard, I do find the ensuing frog-mating quite hilarious.  For some reason, our backyard and small marsh area in the forest is home to several species of frogs.  When you walk through the neighborhood our house is the only one that sounds like a South American rainforest.  It gets so noisy during mating season I have to shut the sliding door in the back so I can hear my television at night.... Now this video is mostly pitch black, but sit back, enjoy, and if anyone can identify the monkey-sounding frog around 40 seconds in, let me know:

**Side note-- videos often don't play in mobile version but they do work in regular.

Besides frogs, our backyard has been home to many an animal in New Hampshire which leads to pretty cool homeschooling nature studies too.  We have seen porcupines, hawks, chipmunks, racoons, deer, moose, and even the dreaded fisher cat (Never heard of one? They are creepy, weasel-like creatures that can eat house-cats). We especially see the wild turkey:

Wild turkeys at the mail box
Usually they are in flocks of 10-15 birds and they wander in and out of neighbors' yards. My children love following the turkeys around and seeing where they end up!

My favorite thing we see (and HEAR!) in our backyard are the barred owls. Usually, we have a very hard time spotting them with their amazing camouflage:
Can you spot the owl in our tree?
But one day, as I exited my car, I heard a very loud noise behind me... I turned around to see a giant barred owl sitting on our swing set. I also heard the answering mates/enemies of this owl surrounding me. I carried one of my kids in the house quickly, and then we videotaped it:

My favorite part is when John gets attacked by a yellow jacket while filming...

Now I live in the southern part of New Hampshire, but my parents reside way up north in the White Mountains which means they have even more amazing animal adventures, including this moose that we witnessed last summer:

I hope you have enjoyed this episode of Nature: New Hampshire.  Let's hope I don't have a bear encounter soon to post-- I've been quite lucky!  If you don't live abutting a preserve like we do, add a bird feeder so you can have nature come to you. We have a window bird feeder that has helped my children to identify over 10 species of local song birds. (Note: in New Hampshire bird feeders must be removed in the spring as to not attract the just-awoke-from-hibernating-and-very-hungry bears).

Easy Rule #4923- It's spring! Stop and enjoy the awakening nature in your own backyard! Or just go to a zoo....

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Faces of First Communion--Picture It!

I will do a real post a bit later when I don't have to make 48 cupcakes for Chess Club, but I thought I'd make up for not including a picture for Matt's special day last week. Here are the happy faces of children and parents and grandparents on the First Holy Communion of Matthias!

Easy Rule #5112: Be grateful for the camera-happy relative in your midst. In this case, thank you Tito (Bri's dad)!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cooking Contest Part 4

Jules here-

In the tradition of Mother's Day weekend, my neighbor and I decided to host part four of our amazing cooking contest: Brunch.  We decided to hone in on our favorite morning recipe: French Toast.  With so many recipes and styles to choose from, navigating the best french toast was challenging, but I did it. I finally crushed Don in the competition and my recipe swept the votes (even the elusive kid-vote!). 

Jules Champion French Toast

2 loaves Italian bread, sliced, and stale
1 pint cream
1 tsp vanila
4-5 eggs
Brown sugar
1 stick melted butter, divided (maybe need more depending on your bread/pan size)
Frozen mixed berries
1 tbs sugar

1. To stale-up my bread a bit more, toast them on cookie sheets for 10 minutes at 350° (I think this made all the difference in crispiness).  Remove bread from oven. Bump oven up to 400°.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the batter by adding the cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs and vanilla. Blend really well. You don't want chunks of egg. Season to taste.  Stir right before dipping bread so spices are blended.

3. Foil and pour 1/2 stick butter on sided-cookie sheet (butter will drip all over oven unless you use a jelly-roll or a 9x13 pan).  Sprinkle a generous amount of brown sugar all over buttered-pan.  Make sure all areas have a little sugar.

4. Dip each piece of bread for 10 seconds and then place on top of prepared pans.

5. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Flip each piece of toast, bake for 10 more minutes until sugar is caramelized. 

6. On stove, add mix of frozen berries on stove.  Heat at a medium heat until berries soften. Add sugar. Stir until berries easily squish with wooden spoon. Mash berries together to make a compote for serving with toast.   Garnish with confectioner's sugar as needed.

YUM!!! The French Toast was DELICIOUS!! I was inspired by Em's version of French Toast and added some flair to make it a contest-winner! 

Now, Don's french toast was good too... but not as good as mine :)  His "filling" was awesome and could easily used in tandem with my french toast with an over the top recipe....

Stuffed French Toast

Don's Stuffed French Toast


 2 lbs. Challah Bread
10 Jumbo Eggs
½ Cup ½ & ½ or Milk
¾ Cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
12 oz. Whipped Cream Cheese
10 oz. Jar Apricot Jam
Sliced Strawberries
12 oz. Wild Blue Berries 

 Heat griddle to high temp.
Slice the bread to desired thickness.
Whisk together eggs, ½ & ½ or Milk, ¼ Cup Bailey’s, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Mix whipped cream cheese and remaining Bailey’s in a bowl with a mixer on high speed.
Mix strawberries and blue berries together in a bowl.
Soak sliced bread in egg mixture & place on griddle turning once the first side is browned.
Once both sides of the bread have been on the griddle, transfer to a serving plate.
Coat one slice of bread with apricot jam and the other with the whipped cream cheese & Bailey’s mixture.
Place strawberry and blue berry mixture on top of apricot slice, then place the whipped cream cheese slice on top of that one. Top the creation with more berries and add whipped cream.

 French Toast is by far my favorite "ordering-out" breakfast recipe, and now I can enjoy a restaurant-quality dish at home!  Plus I had enough leftovers that I could make myself a mother's day breakfast treat!!

For those of you keeping track, the neighborhood championship is now TIED at 2:2.  If anyone has any suggestions for the next cook-off category, please comment!!

Easy Rule #5981- When all else fails, add sugar. It really does make everything taste better.

Delicious, over the top breakfast.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday

Ems here:

This is a cool blogger thing in which I have yet to participate.  For those not familiar, it's essentially a compilation of 7 various items of note during the week that the blogger wants to share with her readers. Hopefully, the readers don't find the items completely frivolous...hint, hint....

I am in the DARK AGES!! Ok, I was in the dark ages. For like, a minute. And it was HORRIBLE! I had to watch actual commercials and make sure my tush was in front of the TV to catch my shows LIVE. In case you can't guess what happened, I will spell it out:  my DVR broke yesterday morning.  I'm not sure how to put a sad face insert here, but it's implied. I lost 9 unwatched episodes of Supernatural, 2 Pioneer Woman's, the most recent episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and countless other recorded items.

Apparently, I am not the only one who finds a situation like this completely sooner did I dive into homeschooling this morning when a FedEx truck pulled up and brought me two new DVRs! It took less than 24 hours to rectify the situation. Hubby is installing as we speak, and I should be back in (show) business before you can say, "Ems is way too addicted to technology!"

I bought a new cookbook! I got it from one of my favorite stores, Ollie's, which sells books (among countless other random items) at amazingly cheap prices. For $4.99:

Inside are all sorts of delicious homemade-style recipes, along with special projects to do with your kids like (1) sourdough starter for bread;  (2) curing your own bacon; (3) making ricotta cheese; and (4) homemade marshmallows! I can't wait to try my hand at these, along with the more simple desserts and dinner recipes. The author is a big proponent of cooking with children in the kitchen, and there are many darling pictures of her two young daughters helping her with the process. I doubt my pictures and experiences will be quite as peaceful, but that's life!

Ice cream for 7 kids at most parlors: $20.00, at least
Ice cream for 7 kids at McDonald's yesterday: $3.43
Happy baby with dripping cone: Priceless

Just a quick shout-out to McDonald's / Burger King for the whole .49 cent cone dealie...large families have never been happier!
Here's another one about food: we got a new grill! Bri has been saving for a stainless steel grill in hopes that it wouldn't rust out and fall apart like our other two grills have.  Bri makes some awesome meals on the grill, and he deserves a good one. I look forward to many an evening of not cooking--sitting on the deck with a Fuzzy Navel wine cooler (shaddup, I hate real wine and beer...nasty, bitter stuff), watching the hubs do his grilling thing. I love summer!

Of course that's not my patio, silly!

Matthias made his First Holy Communion this weekend! It was so beautiful, and he was so excited to receive Our Lord. He now wants to go to Confession EVERY Saturday to prepare for receiving the Eucharist on Sunday. He shames me. I will have to post pics later, because the day was literally so insanely busy that I didn't take one photo, and left that task to Tito (Bri's dad) and the professional at the church. We had a wonderful visit with both sets of grandparents and are so grateful that they could share in Matt's special day!

It feels like summer today! The kids were able to pad outside at 8 in the morning to eat breakfast on the deck in their pajamas. There is something so awesome about not needing a sweatshirt early in the morning. Did I mention I love summer?

Here's the real "patio"...and the grill.

Here's a book recommendation about a book that I haven't read yet, but really want to: Something Other Than God, by Jennifer Fulwiler. She is the brilliant Catholic convert (from atheism) who is behind the Conversion Diary blog that Jules and I link to occasionally. So smart, so funny, such a good writer. This book has gotten rave reviews, and I hope to be one of them sooner rather than later. So, if you are looking for an inspiring and very humorous read, check it out! We can have a book club together! 

Easy Rule #28445: Remember that it's not really summer till June. The fickle season that is spring 
may still give us frostbite at the least provocation (probably because I declared my love of summer too gleefully). 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Going Green-for the Not-So-Right-Reasons

Jules here-

I've always considered myself a bit of a "hippie-conservative"; I support both people and the Earth. However, unlike a true environmentalist I definitively value human life over all else. I believe that we have to be good stewards to the Earth, but not at the cost of people's lives. That being said, I haphazardly became quite the conservationist-- mostly due to my cheapskate persona and my need for some outdoor-living.  So here are some ways that I am GREEN even for the non-altruistic reasons:

Enjoying nature!
  • Recycling- My town in New Hampshire went to "single-stream recycling"- which means I don't have to sort anything prior to recycling. The simplicity of the recycling appeals to my naturally lazy attitude towards trash sorting.  We have bins that have a mish-mash of paper, cans, bottles, etc.  It's easy, it saves the town thousands of dollars, it helps the environment- AND I use only 1-2 garbage bags a week!! With a family of five, it's quite impressive the amount of trash-avoidance we do by recycling. I love saving money on trash bags, PLUS I get to help the environment and my town.

  • Paper towel use- Paper towels ain't cheap, and they can't be recycled.  I use them sparingly while I use rags, dish towels and washcloths in their stead.  I cringe when I see house guests flippantly wash their hands and dispose of a paper towel instead of using my hand-towels.

    Grace Crafting
  • Re-using- With homeschool, my basement has become a treasure-trove of reusable items: empty jars, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and even cereal boxes.  Pinterest has inspired so many to "up-cycle" items into new and fantastic crafts, storage, and more.  Grace loves to re-work some of our recyclables into creative crafts! (That I secretly, and ironically, recycle later...)

    Bounty of clothes
  • Hand-me-downs- I have alluded to the fact the my children are 90% outfitted with the fantastic generosity of friends and family.  The consignment shop I use declares itself as a "Green-Organic" dealer because clothes don't get wasted. I declare myself as cheap as I never buy my children "new" clothes-ever. Did you know that makes me green? It does.
  • Free-cycle- Have you ever heard of freecycle? Look it up for your area online.  It's an online sharing community with the base concept of "another man's junk is another man's treasure."  You can post what you need and what you have. I have picked up homeschooling books, a baby swing, four giant bins of boy baby clothes, and more. I have given away an excess of clothes, toys, and household items to appreciative members of my community. This appeals to my anti-disposable society rant....

    Cozy fire
  • Keeping energy costs low- Did you hear I live in New Hampshire? Winter is approximately 5-6 months up here, which means oil/propane costs can be crippling to a family. So, we freeze. Well, not really, but I do keep our heat at 60 at night and 64 during the day. We have two-zoned heat, so the upstairs zone doesn't get about 60. I have a space heater in James's room, but the girls became heartier this year and made it the whole winter without putting their heater on.  We also have a fireplace insert and we burn about 2 cords a winter.  I have become quite the pioneer woman with hauling in wood and starting fires.  My husband fells the trees, sections it, hauls it, and splits our wood. Living off the land saves us about $1000 a year and stops us from depleting oil reserves... win-win.  
    Chopping wood party
  • Eating well-When I have the money (which is rare), I choose grass-fed beef (I've seen Food, Inc.) and some organic food.  I try to avoid highly processed food and I tend to make everything from scratch.  I re-use my leftovers into new and fantastic recipes (well, sometimes they taste good), and try not to waste what I buy.  And I avoid hormones in my food or my body (isn't it ironic when organic food junkies say, "I won't eat chicken with hormones in it" and then take a birth control pill?--which is a straight-up hormone. I think the Catholic church is ahead of its time for it's all-natural approach to family planning. Boo to hormones).
 That being said, there are certain green initiatives that I will never personally partake in: cloth diapers (ew, imagine the fecal matter in your washing machine! How is using that much water/energy a savings to the environment?!?); dumpster diving (did you know some "green" people eat out dumpster to eliminate food waste?!? I'm not that cheap); limiting my family size (I will never prescribe to the over-population myth and every blessing is welcome) and getting an electric car (they don't make a minivan model).

In what ways are you accidentally GREEN? If you try to save money like me--you might be more green than you think!

Easy Rule #42514- Go out and appreciate nature in the spring; it'll make you want to pick up litter and plant a tree.

Easy Rule #5456- Being environmentally-friendly doesn't have to be too infringing on your lifestyle.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hurry Up and Eat

Ems here:

Let's start with a large family funny comment of the week:

This one comes from the dental office, which is charmingly in walking distance from my home.  I took all the kids in last week for cleanings--5 out of 7 being old enough, and the other smaller two came along simply to make the trip more fun for me. Right away the kids make a beeline for the corner reading table and grab piles of books to read, scooching into the child-size wooden chairs or sharing the larger, adult chairs in the main area of the waiting room.  I sign them in, go take a seat myself, and we have only a minute wait before "Nate!" was called back by the super-charged friendly hygienist.  There is only one other person in the room, an older woman, who wore the typical expression of awed bemusement I am quite familiar with in folks observing my herd of little humans for the first time.  She didn't say anything as I read a couple books on tooth hygiene to Gabe and convinced Simona that the floor mat in front of the office door was not an appropriate place to lay spread-eagled.  After a couple more "mommy" interventions, it was like the light turned on in the woman's head:  "Oh!! You're their MOTHER!," she burst out suddenly.  I replied, a smiling, drawn out, "Yeees?" And she quickly explained, "I thought you were a daycare provider taking all the kids out for cleanings!"

Is that a usual daycare service? Who knew?  Well, my daycare obviously specializes in half-Asian children.

Anyway, sad news. Get ready.

Aldi is closed for the month because of renovations!!!

Oh, Lord, how will we eat?! There's only Kroger, WalMart, and Riesbecks nearby...!

Ok, we will be fine. But I am in sticker shock over the price of groceries in other stores. Aldi has truly spoiled me--the simplicity of the small store size and limited selections really helps me streamline my shopping experience. I literally spent 90 minutes roaming through the vast array that was Kroger, completely overwhelmed by the volume of choice, and ended up with a very random assortment of items in my cart. At least one of them was A&W cream soda.

What I didn't get was meat. Beef, even ground beef, was SO overpriced I literally couldn't put it in the cart because I was so aggravated, despite the fact that we have depleted most of the freezer. I'm holding out till May 22nd, and then I'm going back to Aldi, baby!  In the meantime, we will be eating more chicken and pasta and whatever other motley meals present themselves from my pantry scrounging and ineffective shopping.

I thought I would share two meals that are ideal for those times when variety is limited and time is of the essence (such as soccer season or any other time when dinner has to be on the table by 4 and finished by 4:30 and your kids won't be home till 9).

Biscuits with Turkey Gravy 

First off, I made two pans (9 inch rounds) of biscuits, courtesy of the Bisquick recipe on the box mix. If you don't want to do even this much, simply crack open a can of Hungry Jack's or whatever insta-biscuit is your favorite.

1. While the biscuits were cooking, I opened 1 lb of ground turkey and browned it, seasoning liberally with salt, pepper, thyme, celery seed (add whatever seasoning you like).

2. To the browned turkey, add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, some milk, and a couple tablespoons of flour, and a chicken bouillon cube until you get the quantity and consistency of gravy that you like.

2. Ladle over biscuits and serve with beans and a smoothie :)

Yummy Mayo Chicken

This chicken recipe (or variations on the theme) is getting a fair amount of press recently; oddly enough, while I was actually making this meal, a radio ad for Hellman's mayonnaise came on suggesting the recipe!
I find it is a tasty solution when you have a bag of chicken breasts, a hungry family, and zero inspiration.

3 llbs chicken breast
1 cup mayonnaise (not low fat)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Italian bread crumbs
seasoned salt

1. Cover a large rimmed cookie sheet with foil and spray with Pam
2. Lay out chicken breasts and sprinkle with seasoned salt
3. Combine the mayo and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and then coat the chicken with the mixture. Use it all up and really blanket them!
4. Sprinkle Italian bread crumbs over the top
5. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven.

Obviously I am not a food photographer, but it tastes better than it looks!

Easy Rule #45123: Look into daycare. It's obviously a full service operation.

Easy Rule #22155: Theo just told me that this post is just a mini-rant that happens to include recipes. Josephine said the rule should be, "Eating is good." I hope you learned something here today.