Category Archives: food

What We’re Freezing (And Eating)!

You all know how much I’ve been enjoying preparing & having freezer meals at the ready, right? Well, this is what we did today!

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This is:

  • 2 Apple Butter Glazed Chicken meals
  • 2 Honey Sesame Chicken meals
  • 2 Slow Cooker Asian Shredded Beef meals
  • 2 Slow Cooker Caribbean Chicken meals
  • 2 Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwich meals

Here are my helpers, cleaning red and orange bell peppers:

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An here, the Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches with Deviled Egg Potato salad, which we had for supper tonight!

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I always make my menu plan for 8 servings, and so we had enough leftover to make a couple of lunches for my husband to take to work, as well as probably enough for the kids to have for lunch, on bread instead of sub rolls.

I am able to do this because I have a premium membership to a WONDERFUL place, called My Freezeasy. Go check it out, you will NOT be sorry! My family is LOVING this! If you’d like to join, please use my affiliate link.

As always, I would just love it if you would join me in all of “My Journeys Through Life.” Just go to the subscription box at the top of the blog and enter your email information. After that, you will always know when there is something new happening. I hope to see you here very soon! -)

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Filed under food, Freezer Meals, Freezer Prepping

“Gone, Gone, Gone, Gone, All My Kids Are Gone”!

OK, so, let’s just be real here . . . I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my kids, and if anything ever happened to any of them, my heart would be in shreds. However, as any of you who are moms surely know, especially if you are fellow homeschooling moms, sometimes, we just need a little break. Right? 🙂

So, my older two, “The Batman” and “The Artist” left yesterday with the teen group from our church for their annual winter retreat to the Cross Bar X Ranch in Durango, Colorado, and the twins, ”
Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” just left a little while ago for an overnight with friends from church who have two kids that are great friends with our kids. I am kid-less until late tomorrow afternoon when the teens return, at which time I’ll be getting the twins back as well.

So what will I do with my time alone, you ask? Well, write this post, for one, LOL!

I will also shortly, be doing an inventory of my pantry cupboard, fridge/freezer and deep freezer, in preparation for joining the Pantry Challenge posted by fellow blogger Jessica Fisher over at Good Cheap Eats.

You can read all about it by clicking the graphic below . . .

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She is doing a two week challenge, with specific goals. My challenge to myself is not for a specific time period, because I am planning to simply have us use up what we have, with a goal towards purchasing only the grocery items needed to round out meals made as much as possible from existing supplies. This will do a few things . . . it will save money, first and foremost. It will also force me to be more creative in meal planning and preparation, and it will help get these three areas emptied out for cleaning. I think it will also serve to show me where I need to make changes in food shopping, either because we have things that turn out to be something we don’t care for, or because it may give me the incentive to try harder to use more “real” foods, instead of convenient, packaged things. It will definitely help us become better stewards of what we have, which, as a Christian, I believe is something we should all learn to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what I find in my inventory, and hopefully, how I plan to implement this whole thing, and we’ll see how it goes.

In any event, I’m going to give it a try. Anyone game to join me? 🙂

As always, I’d just love it if you join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just go and enter your email into the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog, and you’ll never miss another update! If you enjoy “My Journeys”, how about a little Facebook “like”? I’d sure appreciate it! 🙂

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Filed under Christian faith, Church, family, food, home education, homeschooling, Kids, Pantry Challenge 2014, Ultimate Blog Challenge January 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up . . . Christmas Week!

As you may recall, we began the week with Sunday, when I sang a Christmas special at church for the very first time ever. Then, we got rolling with our week!

On Monday, the kids and I ran a few errands, which included going to the doctor’s office to pick up paper prescriptions for those who needed them, and going to shop for gifts for the children in the family we had invited to our home for Christmas dinner. That was so fun, because I really didn’t expect to be able to do much, with what little cash I had left, but a combination of two angels from church helping, plus a sale at Family Dollar Store, where they had all toys buy one, get one 50% off, helped a lot! I had really thought the best I’d be able to do would be some little toys from Dollar Tree, so this was so cool!

On Tuesday, I baked more mini loaves of Banana/Berry/Nut bread and Hawaiian/Banana Bread to use as part of our Christmas morning breakfast, part of the gift for the family who was coming for Christmas, and as part of dessert on Christmas. These are the same breads I made to put in gift baskets for our pastor, deacons and church staff.

My husband managed to get off work a couple of hours early that day, because business was quite slow, so he was able to be home and help with getting the kids ready for church. Our church moved the usual Wednesday service to Tuesday, and had a beautiful candle light Christmas Eve service! Mike was needed to run the sound for the service, and to be there by 5:00 pm to do the sound checks, so it helped that he got off work early, that way we could also get supper done and get there on time! 🙂

After church, we got home, got the kids settled down, watched an hour of TV with them, then got them to go to bed so the marathon wrapping could start! This happens nearly every year, as I tend to need to wait for the payday before Christmas to finish shopping, but it’s also what finally makes me really feel like Christmas, lol! Mike put together the breakfast casserole following a recipe I’ve used for many years while I wrapped, then came in and we watched old TV shows on a retro channel, all Christmas episodes. Think “That Girl”, “The Bob Newhart Show”, “Odd Couple”, etc. 🙂 After the wrapping was done, we went to bed, we knew it would be an early, long day the next day!

Here’s how nice it all looked when we went to bed . . .

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Christmas morning (controlled) chaos . . .

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“The Batman” and “The Artist” had wanted tablets for Christmas. Here is what they found in the top of the boxes . . .

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and here’s what was under them . . .

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For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, here is what we saw . . .

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Then, our friends arrived, and it was controlled chaos again! 🙂

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Finally, the FOOD!

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We decided to do buffet style. Most of the food was on the table, but there were some things on the island as well, and we had set up tables in our front room with folding chairs borrowed from church. We had a wonderful time together!

Mike posted this picture of our brown Christmas to Facebook, as our friends back home are covered in snow and ice . . .

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Thankfully, this couple of days after Christmas have been fairly calm and quiet, as I have a cold and really needed to rest.

The day after Christmas . . .

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And today, watching the DVD of 40 episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies”, which was one of the Christmas gifts they loved!

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I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and that your week was great, too! Why don’t you write about it and link up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers? For the guidelines, just click the graphic below . . .

As always, I’d love it if you joined me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! To do so, please go to the “sign me up” button at the top of the page and enter your email. If you enjoy “My Journeys”, we’d love it if you’d go to our Facebook Page and “like” it! 🙂

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Filed under Christmas, Church, family, food, Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap Up . . . Thanksgiving

This has been a busy, busy week! It began with finalizing my lists for Thanksgiving, as we were to be 15 for dinner! So, starting on Monday, the kids and I were working on getting ahead of the laundry and cleaning, among other things.

I was also working hard to finish assembling the base Christmas cards I’m working on for my Hairstylist, Jody Muniz! They are all completed except for adding the bling and stamping the sentiments on the inside! 🙂 I needed to get them to that point so I could put away all of my paper-crafting supplies by Wednesday.

On Tuesday evening, our church, Mesa Baptist held it’s Thanksgiving Feast at 6:00 p.m., followed by our annual Thanksgiving Praise and Thanksgiving service. During the service, our teen choir sang the special music. Both “The Batman” and “The Artist” are in the teen choir, and “The Artist” had one of the duets in the song, so watch for him in this video! 🙂

Thursday, my husband had to work a four hour shift in the morning, and then about an hour after he got home, our guests began arriving. My friend Rose (who actually happens to work with my husband), her husband Bill and their four children (Danny, Andrew, Ian and Ashley) arrived first, at around 11:00. She is a Pampered Chef consultant, and came with stuff to make a veggie tray and a relish tray, complete with Pampered Chef stuff to make and serve them with! We put those out for the football watchers, but it took a bit of time to get them to eat that along with the chips and dip, lol! She also did a lovely tossed salad, a Honey Baked Ham, dinner rolls, and brought two pies.

My friend Ann, her husband Charles and their son Charlie got here later in the afternoon. She had made delicious mashed potatoes, two kinds of green bean casserole, and brought three pies. We had spent Thanksgiving at their home last year. 🙂

I did the Turkey, Coconut-Pecan Sweet Potatoes, stuffing, cranberry celebration, gravy and brownies. I forgot to cook the corn I had bought, but there was certainly plenty of food without it!

We had such a good time, and those who are into football certainly got their fill this year on Thanksgiving!

Here are some pictures of everyone having a good time together . . .

First up, My friend Ann, with her very fun hat!
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Next, we have Charlie, dressed to root for his team . . .
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Here is my husband Mike, with Ann and her husband Charles . . .
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Here, “The Batman” is engrossed in a 3DS game!
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Next, we have my friend Rose, her husband Bill, 2 of their kids plus “The Artist” . . .
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My husband Mike, gabbing with Rose, Ann and Charles . . .
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Two of Rose and Bill’s kids, plus “The Puzzler” at the Wii.
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Well, that’s OUR weekly wrap-up, how was YOUR week? Why don’t you write about it and then go link up with the rest of us? Just click the graphic below!

As always, I’d love it if you’d join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”! Just go and enter your email information into the “sign me up” button at the top of the page, and never miss an update! And, if you enjoy “My Journeys”, please go to our Facebook page and “Like it. I’d sure love it if you did! 🙂

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Filed under Christian faith, Church, family, food, Kids, Mesa Baptist Church, singing, Teen Choir, Thanksgiving 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up . . . Oh What A Busy Week We Had! :-)

I think that Monday was the ONLY day we stayed at home! Tuesday, as I posted earlier in the week, Our church homeschool group had a field trip to McCall’s Pumpkin Patch, in Moriarty NM, followed by Ladies Bible Study at church that evening for me.

Then Wednesday of course, “The Batman” and “The Artist” had Teen Choir, after which we had Bible Study and Prayer Meeting at church. On the way home after church, we needed to stop and buy milk, because nobody had told me the day before that we were almost out (I don’t drink it, so I didn’t know).

Last night, our church had the annual Chile Cook-off and Fall Festival. I’ll be doing a post in the next few days with pictures from that, but here’s one picture of some of the Chile entries before we began sampling! 🙂
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This morning, our church homeschool group met for our November activity, which was a missions project, as our missions conference is this month. We divided into groups, three families per group, and we each filled a box with gifts for our assigned missionary family, along with a box for one of our college students who are away at school.

Here are our packages, with the kids in our group . . .

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I’ll do a full post about that later, too, with more pictures. Meanwhile, that’s how our week has been, and now I am finishing this post, doing laundry, getting things together for a Close To My Heart Gathering being held tomorrow, and then getting my ministry card that I do each week made.

So, how was YOUR week? Why don’t you write about it on Fridays and join the weekly wrap-up linky? Just click the graphic below to find out how!

As always, I would love it if you would join me on all of “My Journeys Through Life”, by entering your email information in the “sign me up” button at the top of the blog. And please, do also go here and “Like” our Facebook page! 🙂

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Filed under card making, Christian faith, Church, Close to My Heart, education, encouragement, family, food, home education, Home-school Group, Homeschool Field Trip, Kids, McCall's Pumpkin Patch, Mesa Baptist Church, NM, Weekly Wrap-Up

America The Beautiful . . . a T.O.S. Review

Oh my, were the boys and I excited when we opened the box from the Notgrass Company containing the complete American History curriculum we were going to review!

Book after book came out of that box, beginning with two thick hardcover books containing 75 lessons, which are put together in a series of 30 units between the two. “America the Beautiful: Part 1” covers the year 1000 to the year 1877, while “America the Beautiful: Part 2” covers the late 1800s to the present. We also received another large, hard cover book, “We The People: Words From The Makers of American History”, a wonderful collection of excerpts from biographies, articles and pieces of American literature. Next, we found the America the Beautiful Student Workbook, a very nice wire bound book, and the America the Beautiful Lesson Review, also a very nice wire bound book, which we will use in later years when we re-do this curriculum at a time my boys can do more in-depth work. Next out of the box was the book “Maps of America the Beautiful“. This book is full of very nice outline maps to be used in the different lessons. We are liking that we don’t complete a whole map at one sitting, in fact, we go from map to map, depending upon the lesson we are in. Next, we have the “Timeline of America the Beautiful” book, which I just love! I’ve wanted to do some form of timeline work in our home-schooling, but really wanted it to be in a book, and this perfectly fits what I wanted, and what my kids can handle. Last, but not least, I found the “America the Beautiful Answer Key” book, with answers to everything. From the website:

“America the Beautiful by Charlene Notgrass is a one-year American history, geography, and literature course designed for students in grades 5-8. It combines the flexibility and richness of a unit study with the simplicity of a textbook-based approach to history. Daily lessons guide your child chronologically through American history, highlighting key events, people, and places.”

This curriculum is absolutely beautiful, and so very easy to use! I really don’t have to do any teacher prep, other than to make sure we have the materials for the family activity listed for each unit, if we choose to do it. So far, we’ve done just one of them, because the others either didn’t interest us or were a bit overwhelming for our household.

We’ve chosen to work on this as a group, since my boys are at different levels of ability due to ages and varying special needs, and we take from two to four days per lesson. I read the actual lesson out loud, while we all look at the illustrations and photos given (which takes perhaps more time than it’s supposed to, because my boys love to ask questions and discuss what is in the lesson as we go). Then, there is generally a selection to read from “We the People: Words From the Makers of American History”, which is also a read-aloud. After that, we do the various end of lesson activities, which range from “thinking biblically” (for which they each have their own 3-ring binder), to vocabulary (which we often do orally), to a map page, and a page in the Student Workbook. All of this, as I said, usually takes us anywhere from two to four days, but we stretch it like that primarily because I have found that for my boys, the knowledge will stick better that way. The author of this curriculum, Charlene Notgrass, makes a point in the introduction to tell us not to be a slave to the written schedule, but to make it work for us, so that’s precisely what we are doing, and it’s working! Therefore, although this is written as a one year curriculum, we will be stretching it out for as long as it takes to go through it, and then, perhaps go back and do it again, using the “America the Beautiful Lesson Review” Book when the boys are older.

There are ten novels assigned at different times during the course of this curriculum, beginning with Unit 4. They are:

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Units 4-5)

Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Units 6-7)

Brady by Jean Fritz (Units 9-10)

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen (Units 12-13)

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (Units 14-15)

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Units 16-17)

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Units 19-20)

Blue Willow by Doris Gates (Units 21-22)

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (Unit 25)

Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass (Units 29-30)

The first five books go with “America the Beautiful: Part 1”, with the second five going along with “America the Beautiful: Part 2”. To get us started, I purchased the first three novels, and will get the rest as we get close to needing them. All are easily available at bookstores or your library, with the possible exception of the final book assigned, which was written by the daughter of the author of this curriculum.

I was a little bit nervous about whether or not my boys would (a) enjoy this curriculum, and (b) be able to do the work involved, but they really do like it, and because we are doing it together, and they are taking turns on each map lesson and student workbook lesson, they are handling the work quite well. Of course, if anyone looked at either of those books, they would immediately be able to tell that four different people had written on each and every page! 🙂 Doing the workbook and map book this way makes it much more manageable for my children. We do the timeline book orally together, and then “The Artist”, who has the easiest time with writing things down, actually writes the entry into the space provided.

If you would like to view samples of the different books in this curriculum, you will find them here. You will find the table of contents and a sample unit from “America the Beautiful: Part 1”, the table of contents, a sample unit and the index from “America the Beautiful: Part 2”, sample pages from “We the People”, sample maps from ” Maps of America the Beautiful”, sample pages from “Timeline of America the Beautiful”, and you may view the “America the Beautiful Answer Key”.

The Notgrass Company also offers a family newsletter, for which you can sign up using your email address here. It is emailed every couple of weeks, and includes “family activity ideas, articles, information about our products, and special offers.”

Here is “The Artist”, copying an entry into the timeline . . .

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“The Batman”, coloring in a section of one of the maps . . .

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“Mr. Loquacious”, also doing map-work . . .

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and “The Puzzler” working with “The Artist” on one of the Student Workbook pages . . .

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One of the end of unit family activities was to make Navajo Flat bread, which we did one evening when my husband had offered to make “breakfast for dinner”. It was very easy, and the boys and I all worked on it together.

This is all that we needed to make a batch of Navajo Flat Bread . . .

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Here are pictures of each of the boys taking a turn at hand mixing the dough . . .

First up, “The Artist”

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“The Batman” . . .

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“The Puzzler” . . .

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and “Mr. Loquacious”!

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Then, I kneaded the dough . . .

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after which we were instructed to let it rest for ten minutes. Then, we divided it into ten balls and began rolling!

“Mr. Loquacious” . . .

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“The Artist” . . .

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“The Batman” . . .

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and “The Puzzler”!

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Here are the boys with all ten circles rolled out . . .

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and finally, a piece of Navajo Flat Bread in the process of being fried!

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The bread was soft, and tasted very good with butter and honey on it. It was a tasty addition to our scrambled eggs with sweet onion and ham!

The “America the Beautiful” curriculum is available to purchase here for $99.95, and includes the following books:

“America the Beautiful: Part 1”
“America the Beautiful: Part 2”
“We The People: Words From the Makers of American History”
“Maps of America the Beautiful”
“Timeline of America the Beautiful”
“America the Beautiful Answer Key”

The “America the Beautiful Student Workbook” is available here for $11.95, and “America the Beautiful Lesson Review” is available here for $9.95.

For the most part, “America the Beautiful” is definitely a hit in our house, and we highly recommend it! The only thing I wish would be different would be to have (especially in the workbook!) Bible verses to be from the KJV. That’s the only Bible my family, and my church uses, so when a workbook page uses a different version, I either have to re-create the page, or go ahead and do it, using it as a lesson in why we believe as we do. I chose to do the latter here, because the only way the rest of the page worked was by using the verse as given.

Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed this and other products from the Notgrass Company. Please cruise on by and see what they thought!

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Filed under cooking, education, family, food, home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Kids, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post

Transitions Part 6: A 1700 Mile Adventure

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When we left off yesterday, my boys and I had just left Oklahoma City and headed toward Texas, where we would be spending one final night on the road. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, as I had never driven so far on my own before. I had been out west, as far as Phoenix and California, many years ago, but had gone by plane, never driving. I had honestly had my doubts about how well I would manage, and thought I would get lost, even with my GPS lady talking to me through my phone blue tooth, and my printed out directions from place to place. But so far, I had done well, even on the stretches where we had changed hotels, and thus changed directions!

My husband had warned me to put the AC on re-circulate for a while after crossing the Texas border, and he was RIGHT! I’ve never driven through cow country before, and the smell is very strong! We did enjoy looking at the scenery while going through the state though. I think Texas is where we saw a massive windmill farm. The boys thought that was pretty cool. They had been seeing lots of horse trailers on the freeway for a while, too, which was new to them.

At one point, we stopped for gas, and I took a picture of the sign for the sole purpose of posting it to Facebook, back to our friends in Port Huron, because when I left Port Huron, I paid nearly four dollars per gallon for my gas!

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We also took the opportunity to have everyone go to the bathroom. In the ladies bathroom, they had put up large sections of paper for travelers to write something about their trip. I added “moving from Pt. Huron MI to Albuquerque NM”

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Eventually, later than planned again, we reached our motel in Amarillo Texas. My husband had booked us into a Super 8, where we ended up with a surprising room! I got us checked in, and we went to the room we were directed to, but once I opened the door and went in, I was SURE they had us in the wrong room. I told the kids to stay put while I went back to the lobby to find out what was up. I asked the lady who checked us in if this was the room my husband booked us into, and she said yes, it was. Still concerned, because I honestly thought that perhaps after seeing that I had all the kids with me she had switched us to a bigger room without saying so, I asked how much they were charging me for this room. “$72.99”, she said. “Seriously?” I asked. “But it’s a suite!” She then told me that all of their rooms were like that, and that it was the only Super 8 in the country set up like this. So, if you ever need to stay in Amarillo Texas, go here!

When I texted my husband to tell him, he cracked up, because the only reason we were at that Super 8 was that the one he had stayed in when HE moved to Albuquerque the month previously was all booked up! 🙂

Here are all the boys relaxing in the living room of our little suite . . .

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The couch pulled out to a bed for the twins, so no using their inflatable sleeping bags that night!

Our eat-in kitchen area, where we chose to eat supper. Rather than going out, I ordered in a pizza for the boys and a salad for me . . .

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Here is the bedroom . . .

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Since we didn’t have to check out until 11:00 a.m., we didn’t! It was a comfortable room, and really, we needed to kill some time anyway. Our plan was to arrive at our new home AFTER my husband had gotten out of work that day, since I didn’t yet have keys to the house.

We left the Super 8 at around 11:00 a.m., and hit the road for New Mexico. According to my directions list from Google, which matched my GPS turn for turn, it would be about 5 hours (I think) to Albuquerque, so I figured it would work out just fine for getting there AFTER my husband was home. But then, as we crossed the state line into New Mexico, there it was. The big sign that said “you are now entering mountain time”. I had forgotten we would be going through one last time change, and it would suddenly be an hour earlier! So, I decided we needed to stop for lunch and kill another hour!

We got off the freeway at “Historic Santa Rosa NM”, where we saw signs saying we were on historic Route 66, and found this restaurant . . .

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From the Santa Rosa, NM website:

“Route 66 Restaurant

Offering the best in American and Mexican food, including home-made specialties like chile rellenos. Walking distance to major motels.
Historic Route 66
Contact: Patricia Velasquez
Phone: 472 9925”

We really enjoyed our experience there, the food was very good, and the children’s menu had Mexican dishes for my twins, which they liked. The place is decorated with historical Route 66 pictures and memorabilia, and my kids were snapping pictures of everything, using their camera functions on their electronic games. I would definitely go there again. It’s locally owned and operated, which is something my husband and I really like.

Stopping for lunch used up just the right amount of time, and we crossed into Albuquerque shortly after 4:00 p.m., right in the middle of big city (to me!) rush hour traffic. It scared me half to death! We had just moved from Port Huron, MI, a city of about 7 square miles in area, to Albuquerque, a city of about 187 square miles in area, and I had not had a lot of experience with this amount of traffic, at least not in a very long time. But, we made it to the house, getting there about 5 minutes before my husband. He took us in, and we saw our new home for the first time, filled with moving boxes that had finally arrived.

This is our front room, which is now a combination playroom, TV room, music room, library and craft room.

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The dining room area, just off the kitchen . . .

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Master bedroom . . .

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and master bath . . .

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As you can see, a lot of work was ahead, to get all of those boxes unpacked and put away! One of the first things on my agenda was to get the master bedroom in order, so we’d have a comfortable sanctuary at the end of each day . . .

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But before getting started on putting things to order, I just wanted to sit. This is me, in my new living room, after going around to look at all of my new home . . .

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Then, my husband took us out to supper at IHop, since we’d not had one in Port Huron, and the boys had never been. It was good, but I was tired, so once we got home again, I think it wasn’t too long before we all went to bed, because, as I said, there was a lot of work ahead! 🙂

I’ve come to the end of the 2013 Summer Blog Hop, and have enjoyed it, so much so that I think I’ll probably participate in the next blog hop hosted by the Review Crew, so stay tuned! And as always, to make it easier for you to stay tuned, I invite you to follow me via email, by clicking the “sign me up” button at the top of the page. I’d love to have you join me on my “journeys through life”!

and hop on over to the main blog post, to check out the other 89 bloggers participating, by clicking below . . .

Summer Blog Hop

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Filed under 1700 Mile Adventure, Albuquerque, Blog Hop Aug. 5 - 9, family, food, moving, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, Transitions, Travel

Simplified Pantry . . . a TOS Review for the Mamas! :-)

I was so excited to be chosen as one of the reviewers for Simplified Pantry written by Mystie Winkler!

As a reviewer, I was given access to three different products, and asked to choose one to use during the review period so I could tell my readers about it. I chose Mystie Winkler’s e-book Simplified Dinners, because I am ALWAYS looking for some way to simplify this part of my life, while at the same time, making sure my family is well fed with meals they actually enjoy. Well, Simplified Dinners is a definite winner with us!

This is a 30 page e-book, which I chose to print out and put into a three-ring binder. This is not a “cook-book” like I was used to, rather it is more of a how-to book. In her e-book, Mystie has given us first an explanation as to how and why she came up with this system, an explanation which really struck a chord with me. She was really tired of thumbing through and bookmarking cookbooks, recipe cards, etc, and having to keep track of ingredients needed. This system helped Mystie to pare down her pantry, purge her recipes, and even made it easier to let her children help in the kitchen. That last one turned out to be important for me, as during the review period I had surgery, and am currently unable to stand at the stove and cook, so my husband has had to take over a lot of what I normally do, with at least one of our children (“The Artist”) helping some. More on that later!

Mystie then gives us a master pantry list, which I went over when deciding which meal ideas to use during this review. I wanted to see just how much I could do without actually needing to go out and buy a ton of special stuff. I was surprised to discover how many things I was already set to make, with only minimal purchases! The reason for this is (from the Simplified Dinners website) “Simplified Pantry is all about encouraging homestyle cooking with basic ingredients. It is possible to cook good, healthy food without a pantry full of specialized ingredients, and it is possible to make easy dinners without shortcut, pre-prepared products. Simplified Dinners (and the gluten- and dairy-free edition!), enables anyone to transition toward home-prepared, real, whole foods cooking—even those less confident in the kitchen. Simplified Dinners helps keep dinner streamlined while allowing flexibility.”

Mystie also points out on her website how essential menu planning is in helping to promote peace in our home and our mind. However, we rarely think much about all the steps that are involved in menu planning. Also from the website:

“But do you realize how many steps are actually involved in menu planning? Typical menu planning involves multiple dependent steps:

1.Find out what’s on sale or what coupons you have.
2.Find recipes you can cook and want to eat.
3.Figure out what ingredients you need to cook those recipes.
4.Try to mesh the ingredients you need with what’s on sale.
5.Make the grocery list.
6.Shop.
7.Remember what you’re going to make for dinner when, and pull it off.
8.Use the perishables before they go bad.

No wonder we often dread it, forget to do it, or procrastinate.”

That was me, before this review, to be honest.

The e-book Simplified Dinners is SO easy to implement . . . if *I* could do it, anyone can do it, believe me! I make no claims whatsoever to being a “domestic diva”, lol!

Mystie has broken it down into categories:

•Slow-Cooker Roasts
•Slow-Cooker, No-Defrost Chicken Pieces
•Chicken-in-a-Pot
•Skillet Cutlets with Pan Sauces
•Marinades for Grilling or Broiling
•Foil-Packet Fish
•Stovetop Pasta
•Bean Pots
•Fajitas
•Quesadillas
•Taco Bar
•Burritos or Enchiladas
•Taquitos
•Frittata
•Oven Omelette
•Pizza
•Simple Stir-fry
•Potato Hash
•Baked Potato Bar
•Bean Soups
•Stews
•Blended Vegetable Soups
•Quick Soups
•Main Dish Salads
•Vegetable Side Dishes
•Side-Dish Salads
•Starchy Side Dishes

What Mystie has done, rather than create yet another recipe book, is to give a basic method for each of the above mentioned categories, along with anywhere from three to six or more alternative ways to make the same basic dish into something different. For example, Chicken-in-a-Pot gives the basic method for cooking a whole chicken, but then gives us three other ways to do it, called “Sassy”, “A More Interesting Basic”, and “40 Cloves of Garlic”. Each alternative idea switches up some ingredients, while using the basic method.

At the end of the e-book, Mystie even gives us a sample winter menu plan and a blank menu planner.

If you’d like to get a better look at what you’ll be getting, you can download a sample here, but really, I’m telling you that at the price of $12.99, Simplified Dinners is well worth the purchase!

Here are some of the dinners we had during the review period:

Peanut Butter Chicken (in the slow cooker) . . .

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and on the plate!

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Here, we have the Oven Omelette, which was a huge hit at my house!

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Orange Honey Chicken . . .

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Chicken-in-a-Pot (sassy version) . . .

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Now then, as I said above, I am now recovering from surgery on both of my feet, and unable to do a lot of what I usually do. My husband was able to take this method, with ingredients I had made sure to have on hand, and with “The Artist” as his assistant, he made the Flexible Frittata for our supper one night!

Here are the ingredients . . .

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The process . . .

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And the finished product!

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I think they did a great job, don’t you? Just so you know, that was my plate, and I only eat small servings since my bariatric surgery. There was enough for a family of six, with the other five being pretty big eaters, and nobody went hungry! 🙂

Mystie also offers a Simple Gluten Free & Dairy Free Meals edition of her e-book, also at the reasonable price of $12.99. I know a lot of people who need to find ways to feed their family without using gluten or dairy . . . this one is for you!

The third product reviewed by members of the crew was Paperless Home Organization, which is available for only $3.99!

I do intend to give this one a try when I’m feeling more recovered from my surgery, but I am more of a hard-copy schedule and list maker type, to be truthful. I know a lot of people who are really more likely to go paperless if given an easy way to do so, though, so here is the product if that description fits you!

The prices for Mystie’s e-books are very good as they are, but right now, she is offering a discount to my readers of 30% off any or all of the e-books! Just use the code TOS2013, and you will receive this discount. You do need to hurry though, because this code will only work until June 3, 2013!

Click below to find out what my fellow crewmembers thought of Simplified Dinners, Simple Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Meals, and Paperless Home Organization!

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Another day in Detroit…

I was just too tired to do this last night when we got home, instead, I put my feet up and fell asleep! So, here’s what we did yesterday.

We got up WAY earlier than usual, the alarm was set for 5:30 am.  Mike (my husband) got up to have the first shower, then got all the kids up and downstairs for breakfast, and to get dressed in the clothes I’d had them put downstairs Tuesday night before bed. When they headed downstairs, I was able to go get my shower and get dressed, then downstairs to check my blood (159, best morning reading in a LONG time) and have my breakfast.

We left the house at about 7:40 to go drop the kids off with wonderful friends who have been helping with child care when I have appointments, and got to their house just on time for the kids to help collect the morning eggs from their chickens!  Then, we got going to Detroit for my first appointment for the day, the initial consult with my surgeon, Dr. Carlin. Commuter rush traffic is SOOOO fun!

My appointment with Dr. Carlin (this was the appointment that I was required to bring my husband to) was for 10:30, I actually signed in a little before 10:00, I think, and actually was able to have my appointment begin a little early as a result. I had to go with a nurse to be weight, blood pressure checked, height checked, and answer questions. Then I was taken to an exam room and saw Dr. Carlin’s P.A., who asked many questions, measured me, checked to make sure I’d brought and handed in to the nurse my lab reports, my letter of intent, and my 11 page questionnaire.

I Finally saw Dr. Carlin after that. We talked about the surgery and the hospital stay, and he gave me my weight loss goal that must be met before the surgery, which is 15 – 20 pounds.  The reason for this is that it will shrink the liver, making it easier to do laproscopic surgery, as opposed to open.

After Dr. Carlin, Wanda (the nurse who is the coordinator for the bariatric progam at HFH) came and took us to her office for scheduling.

Wanda & Me

The surgeons have very busy schedules this time of year. My medical clearance appointment will be June 1, and my appointment to schedule surgery is August 13, unless there’s a cancellation before then. This will be a four hour appointment, because I have to be seen by three or four different people.

Once we were done with this appointment, we went to the hospital cafeteria for lunch, then on to my other appointment, the mandatory class with the exercise people.  We had a one hour presentation, then on to exercise machines. I was able to do 15 minutes on treadmill set to 1 mile per hour, I did a quarter of a mile. The treadmill is very hard on my back.

Then I did 15 minutes on a recumbant bike, which is more of a workout than I would have guessed! I did two miles in that 15 minutes. 

After that, the specialist spoke with me about what I should do to build up strength and ability to exercise.  To begin, I’ll walk the length of my block, because that way if I get out of breath or hurt, I can stop at my porch to sit long enough to drink some water. I’ll do that until I can walk long enough without a break that I won’t need to have something close by for a sit down.  I want to get to where I can go down the street and walk the track at the high school. I’m also going to dust off the wii fit and get back to using it, especially when the weather doesn’t permit outdoor exercise.

When we left there, it was time for commuter rush traffic again, so we decided to go have dinner before coming home. We went to Big Boy, knowing I’d be working hard on changes starting today, and I had things I probably won’t have again, some for a long time, some forever. I had chicken parmesan with salad bar, and an ice cream sundae for dessert. No pop, I quit pop already. I had water.

Then we got on the freeway in time for just the tail end of the rush traffic, went back to Port Huron, and went and got our kids, picking them up about a quarter to nine. I was in bed by 11:30, which is early for me, because I’m generally up until at least 1:00 or 2:00 am.

Today, I had a breakfast hotpocket and some strawberries for breakfast, a cracker, ham & cheese lunchable for lunch (Thursday is the day my kids have their home-school gym & swim program at the YMCA, I do a lunchable or the asian chicken salad from Wendy’s), 2 slices of swiss cheese for snack,  a small piece of boneless pork chop roasted with garlic and rosemary seasoning and a serving of mashed potatoes with margarine for supper. I will probably have a small amount of deli sliced ham and cheese for a snack later.

While dinner was cooking, I went out and walked. I walked the length of my block 6 times.  I need to find out how long it actually is so that I know how far I actually walk.

I washed the dishes, folded some laundry to be put away, and did my piano practice.

I’ve decided that since I’m going on a journey to a healthy me, I may as well take care of all the things my doctors have been nagging me about, so a couple weeks ago I had my mammogram, which came back normal, then this past Monday I went to the gynocologist for my yearly (it’s been two years sice the last one, and I’m supposed to see her every six months because of having had cancer), and set up my appointment for the “you’re over 50” colonoscopy, which will be on May 11. So, I am truly working on a healthier me.

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Filed under Bariatric Surgery, changes, exercise, family, food, health, just me, Kids, weight loss