Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Ok, I know it's been awhile since I've posted, and I'm warning you right now that it will probably be a few weeks before I'm back to posting regularly, or even semi-regularly.  For now, I'm going to give a brief update on where we are, and once things settle down I'll be back with lots of details on the house, the move-in and pictures!
  • Baby boy is 5 1/2 months and weighs about 16 lb
  • Baby boy is still nursing about 4 times a day, taking 1 bottle of juice and eating fruit/cereal/veggies twice a day
  • 3 year old is almost potty trained
  • 5 year old loves her new bicycle and rides it all the time.
  • 6 year old has discovered cartoons and Football Saturdays on Nana and Big Pop's television....he will be sadly disappointed when we move back home
  • Our 1997 Altima that I drove through high school and college and then hubby drove to work for 3 years after I upgraded to the "mommy van" died on us back in May and was officially sold today, no longer serving as a yard ornament that we had to push back and forth each week to mow around.
  • The brand new porch window that was cracked upon delivery 3 months ago has been replaced
  • Pantry shelves are up and stocked with groceries
  • Closet shelves are in place in the downstairs bedrooms
  • Countertops are being installed tomorrow
  • Final set of ceiling fans and remaining light fixtures will be delivered tomorrow
  • Gas range will be delivered Friday
  • Electricians will finish installing lights and range hood and turn on remaining power Friday
  • Plumber will install dishwashers and hot water heater Friday or Monday
  • Our 3rd delivery of rock (24 ton + 16 ton +14 ton) will be delivered Friday or Monday
  • Exterior doors now have door knobs and locks
  • We are planning on moving furniture into downstairs bedrooms this weekend!!
That's about it for now.  We are going to take a week off of school for fall break/move-in probably next week to help us get settled.  For the next few weeks I will be unpacking, washing dishes, washing clothes and attempting to keep up with the 4 little monkeys around these parts. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cranberry Crunch....the recipe

After posting yesterday, I received a request to share the entire recipe for cranberry crunch.  Of course I will oblige....

But first, a little history....

Back when my husband and I were still dating or maybe newly married, my FIL would talk about this cranberry crunch that used to be served by the local school lunchroom back when he and my MIL were in school.  Of course, he always took great care to make it known that he would always get second and third helpings from the girls sitting next to him who were watching their weight.  Even at church I would hear people talk about cranberry crunch.  Everyone locally seemed to remember it from school, but no one ever mentioned making it and, if they did, they never brought it to church pot-lucks.  The school no longer makes cranberry crunch, and I always assumed the recipe was lost somewhere along the way.  Although curious about this treat that was so loved by all the school children (except those watching their weight, apparently), I figured I would never experience it myself. 

Fast forward about 5 years.....Our local church ladies were compiling a church cookbook.  I was organizing and proofreading recipes, when lo and behold, there's "Mrs. Willie Mae McCutcheon's Cranberry Crunch."  Without letting my in-laws know that I happened upon such a treasure, I made the treat about a month later at Thanksgiving.  Needless to say, my in-laws were quite surprised that their daughter-in-law from the city could recreate such a local favorite.  It's always good to score brownie points with the in-laws :)

So, here it is....

1lb Oats
1lb brown sugar
1lb flour
1lb butter (or just 3 sticks)
1 tsp salt
2 cans cranberry sauce (jellied or whole, the original reciple did not specify, and I've used both)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix first 5 ingredients together.  Press 1/2 of mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  Spread cranberry sauce over mixture and then top with remaining oat mixture crumbles.  Bake until golden on top, 30 minutes or so. 

One day, I might actually measure out the ingredients after I weigh them, so that I will know how many cups of oats and flour, but that day hasn't come yet.  This is for a full recipe.  If you go trying to cut the recipe in half, you're on your own!

Although, it was served by itself in the school cafeteria, we like to serve it with vanilla ice cream around here.  Of course, we like to add vanilla ice cream to lots of things around here!  It has almost become a Thanksgiving tradition at our house.

It is a basic "crisp" recipe that could also be substituted with apple, cherry, blueberry or peach. 


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

1/2 of 1 = 1?

I'm blaming it on my father-in-law.  It's just easier that way.  And he doesn't know that I have a blog....

Last week, he bought this at the grocery store....

Who buys cranberry sauce in September?

Then, this morning, he left this sitting out on the counter....

So, I checked and yes, indeed, we had some of this in the freezer....

Therefore, I had no choice but to make Cranberry Crunch....which, by the way, is one of his favorites, even though he won't admit that he eats dessert.

So, this morning, I went ahead and put the rest of the ingredients on counter....brown sugar, flour, and butter, to give the butter a chance to soften and also serve as a visual reminder to actually make cranberry crunch rather than think all day, "What was I going to bake this afternoon?"  Trust me, it happens.

When I was ready to assemble and bake, I decided to cut the recipe in half since it wasn't Thanksgiving, and I didn't think we needed a large 9x13 pan of it.  I would bake it in the cast iron skillet instead.  Now, cranberry crunch is probably my only recipe that measures the ingredients by weight....

1lb oatmeal
1lb brown sugar
1lb flour
1lb butter - although, since I like to be health conscious, I cut the butter back to 3 sticks, instead of 4....

So, out comes the kitchen scale.  I weigh out 1/2lb of oatmeal, 1/2 lb brown sugar, 1/2 lb flour and then add the 3 sticks of butter that were sitting on the counter.  I start mixing and think, hmmm, even though I cut back on the butter, this still seems pretty moist and sticky.....Then it hit me.  I use 3 sticks of butter for a full recipe!  Now I had 100% more butter than I needed.  So much for being health conscious....  I considered my options for about 30 seconds...
1.  This would rank as the best cranberry crunch ever and then we would all croak from clogged arteries...
2.  Just go ahead and make a full recipe... but that would require getting the kitchen scale back out after putting it away and getting out the 9x13 pan when the skillet was sitting right in front of me.
3.  Wing it and add more oats, flour and brown sugar to make approximately 3/4 of the original recipe.

I decided on #3....although #1 was tempting....

And, I've also decided that doubling recipes is much more fun than halving them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

He was right....again.

It's almost birthday time around here again......and, there has been a lot of talk about bicycles lately.  Our six year old son got a bike for his birthday back in February and his 4 (soon to be 5) year old sister immediately started talking about a pink bike (as opposed to brother's red bike) for her birthday. 

Back in February, I asked my husband about training wheels for our son.  "He won't need them" was his reply.  I kept my "yeah, right" to myself and was picturing our son getting overwhelmed and frustrated by defeat and eventually never wanting to ride a bike again.

I was wrong.  While I would have tried to hold onto the back of the bike and help him balance all over the yard, my husband had a different approach to teaching kids how to ride.....push them down a hill and let them figure it out.  After just a few tries he was riding 30 feet or further each time.  By the end of the first day, he was riding circles around our house. 

Now, it's our sweet little girl's turn to learn to ride.  She will be 5 next week. 

Since she is only 5 (not six like big brother) and not quite a physically agile as her brother, I assumed that we would get her a bike with training wheels.  When I mentioned this to my husband, he again said "I don't think she'll need them."  I reminded him that she would be a year younger when learning to ride and he said "I don't think she'll need them.  We can always add them later if we need to." 

Green light!

What Plain Jane heard   "Go ahead and get training wheels.  We'll use them if she needs them."

I then had an opportunity to go shopping without the soon-to-be birthday girl, so I went to Target to look for a pink bike, thinking "I'll just go ahead and get one with training wheels so that we'll have them."  This is about what I imagined I would be buying...

Lo and behold, Target doesn't sell any bikes with training wheels!  No problem, I thought, "I'll just buy a set of training wheels to have at home in case she needs them."  Lo and behold, Target doesn't sell training wheels, period.  Maybe that should have been my clue.  I explain to my husband that I could not find any training wheels and he says "Just give me about an hour with her and we'll see how she does."  "Ok, we'll be headed to Wal-Mart the next day to get training wheels" I'm thinking to myself.  So, I bought the bike, without training wheels, and it is currently in hiding until next week.  It looks more like this....

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon, my six year old comes running in the house to find me, "Mama!  Mama!  Come look!"  I hurry outside to see my little girl sitting proudly on top of big brother's bike, ready for her Daddy to push her down the hill.  With just a little push, she is riding all by herself!  Over and over again she rode through the yard, with only 1 encounter each with the truck and hickory tears, no frustration, just a sense of accomplishment.   Now, if we can just get her to wear one of these....

Once again, he was right.  No training wheels for this family!  Maybe by the time #3 and #4 are big enough for bikes, I'll trust him on this issue and have more confidence in my kids' riding skills....or, maybe I'll continue to be the over-protective mama bear who doesn't want to see her little cubs get hurt.....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An introduction to our homeschool...

As a homeschooling mom in our third official year of school, I have learned a few things, but I'll be the first to admit that I have a long way to go.  For one thing, it is a continuous learning process, as well as trial and error.  What works for us, what doesn't.  What works for one family may or may not work for us. 

Each year has brought along new and different challenges, and we have made adjustments to meet those challenges.  The one thing that I have learned (although still finding it hard to accept) is that the school year will not progress the exact way that I have it mapped out in my little brain.  Last year, we decided to have a baby in April.  Well, we didn't specifically decide to have a baby in April, God decided for us.  (I would have chosen to have a baby about a year before, but that's another story, and just goes to show that I'm not in charge around here!).  We did, however, decide to start major construction on our home when the aforementioned baby was 1 week old.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I come home from the hospital after having my 4th c-section, taking care of 4 children, finishing up school with my first grader, nursing a baby around the clock, and 4 days later, contractors start digging a basement and foundation and then framing up a new addition on the house, beginning at 6am every morning. 

I thought, in my feeble little brain, that things would go smoother this year.  I came up with a general plan with goals lined up for the year and then some specific plans for the beginning weeks of school.  We started the school year at my in-laws, so because of limited space, I pretty much stuck to the basic supplies we would need.  One of my primary goals was to be very intentional in having activities and one-on-one time with my 3 year old, in addition to my kindergartner and 2nd grader.  Things went according to "the plan" for approximately 0.2 seconds....Starting the school year at my in-laws' house and spending part of every school day coordinating with different sub-contractors or going into town to pick out tile, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, lights, etc (with all 4 littles in tow most days), we are doing good to get by with the absolute minimum.  And because my 3 year old and Kindergartner don't have an attendance requirement, unfortunately, my time with them often gets pushed to the side.  Now, while driving into town to pick up lights and select paint colors, instead of singing ABCs or counting to 20 with my little ones, I am on the phone with the contractor or tile guy or my husband, discussing the newest development with the house.  When we are at home during the day, I am making several trips down to our house to check progress, pass along info to contractors, answer questions, write checks.....  The kids are doing schoolwork, but they have also discovered....TV.  They had rarely been exposed to shows such as Dora (which I greatly dislike) or even Andy Griffith.  Now, my 6 year old prides himself in knowing how to operate the remote control to find the "kid shows."  He's obviously learning something, right?  Right?  Hello..... 

I keep telling myself that once we get settled back in our own home I will be super organized and things will go "according to plan."  Ok, you can stop laughing now.  Really, stop laughing.  I have a plan.  Really, I do.  It is all worked out in my head and my children will love it, and school will be the easiest part of the day and we'll finish by noon everyday and there will be no complaints.  Really.  Are you convinced yet?  Am I convinced yet?

And, once we do get more established in a routine, hopefully in just a few weeks, I'll post more, with more details regarding curriculum, field trips, and typical days around the house.  Until then, cleaning out horse stalls, watching Sesame Street, playing in leftover construction sand piles, observing tile and rock-laying procedures, and a little bit of reading, writing and 'rithmetic will have to do.

Monday, September 6, 2010


we celebrate Labor Day.  A day to recognize the hard work of our American workers provide the necessary goods and services to make our country what it is today.  For that, we are thankful.

Today, I will be cooking my own version of this....

loaded with plenty of fresh parmesan, garlic and heavy cream.

My father-in-law will be grilling these....

And, this afternoon, we will take the kids to one of these....

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Labor Day!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Farmhouse Chicken Pot Pie

Last night I made one of my kids' favorite meals.  Chicken Pot Pie. 

Growing up, this is what Chicken Pot Pie looked like to me......

No wonder I never liked it!  It was loaded with mostly celery and a few bites of not-so-real-looking chicken.

I started making my own version of chicken pot pie during my first year of marriage.  The recipe I found had the bisquick biscuit-like topping, and although it was okay, I still wasn't too pleased with it.  Then, a few years ago, I met Pillsbury and my life has never been the same!  This is an easy, semi-homemade chicken pot pie that is absolutely delicious, stands alone as a meal in itself, and my kids love it!  How can I complain when they are requesting a meal that is loaded with veggies!

2 cups (or more) shredded/diced cooked chicken
1-2 bags (depending on size) frozen mixed veggies, blanched or steamed
2 refrigerated pie crusts (I use Pillsbury)
2 deep dish pie shells (optional)
3-4 cans cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the chicken, veggies and soup in a large bowl and mix well.  Spoon into pie shells or just a large casserole dish.  Cover with pie crusts and use a knife to cut slits in the top to allow for steam to escape.  If you want to go all out and really indulge yourself, you can brush some melted butter over the top of the pie before baking, but I think that negates the nutritional value of the veggies....

Bake 45 minutes to an hour, until crust is golden and pie is bubbly.

This recipe is so easy and versatile.  Sometimes I use rotisserie chicken that I pull off the bone, sometimes boiled chicken from the crockpot, sometimes leftover grilled or sauteed chicken or leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  However, I do not recommend using barbecued chicken....always check your leftover frozen chicken that you take out to defrost very carefully....just sayin'.

You can also use any combination of veggies.  We usually use the standby corn, peas, carrots and green beans.  Although, occasionally I toss in some fresh asparagus and my kids don't know the difference.  By the way, the steamfresh, microwaveable mixed veggies make this easy recipe even easier!

I used to make 1 pie for our family, but my 6 year old likes it so much that he will eat half a pie!  I now have to make 2 pies or a large casserole.  It also freezes well.  Just mix it together and prepare in the pie shell; then it should just fit in a gallon size ziplock bag.  I find that after it has been frozen, it needs to thaw completely and then bake about 1 1/2 hours to brown nicely.

I understand if you prefer the look and feel of the store-bought frozen pies...just bake it in individual ramikens instead.....

If I had the time (and patience) I would try to make my own crust and cream of chicken soup, but some conveniences are just, well, convenient!  In my 8 years of married life, I have made one homemade pie crust, per my husband's request.  After scraping a sticky mess of dough off the rolling pin and cutting board, I discovered there is a reason that Pillsbury exists.  I do have a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup, but I've never actually tried it and I'm just not sure that it would be worth the effort.  And besides, opening up cans with a manual can opener is a great task to keep little hands busy for a few minutes!