Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Start of School

At the beginning of the month we started "homeschooling".  I use that term very loosely because we do a very short story and activity Monday, Wednesday, and Friday...then we carry on with our day as usual.  I'm still trying to figure out how I really want to go about it all, but I like trying to start now.  It allows us this year to figure things out while both kids are still so young, then with each coming year we can build upon our lessons.  Everything we're doing is very nature based - no formal ABCs or 123s yet.  But the beauty of children is they don't need formal lessons to learn these basics.  They are everywhere around us.  Without ever sitting down for formal lessons, Jackson can count to 20 and Summerlin knows her colors.  Life at home with my sweet babies provides us with all the lessons we need.

This week we focused on the moon/stars, harvesting, and the upcoming "Harvest" moon at the end of the month. I snapped a few quick pictures while they were working on making stars for our moon and star mobile.

Yesterday we went to the pumpkin patch and "harvested" some pumpkins. They had a great corn maze, pumpkin ice cream, and a HUGE variety of pumpkins...and of course I forgot my camera. Big bummer because the kids were precious, as always. But here's a few shots of our collection!

The snake gourds on the steps and "once upon a blue moon" pumpkin on the bottom step are the fruits of our pumpkin patch.  We had three pumpkins start to grow, but two didn't make it.  This is our only one, but it's a beauty.  The snake gourds were Jackson's seed pick and I find them...interesting.  I'm excited to expand next year and try more varieties of pumpkins and different types of gourds.

The ones from the patch we visited yesterday.

All ready for fall.  And yes, there are differing politcal views expressed in our household.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I have a confession.  I am TERRIBLE at following recipes.  I know that they are written down with the intent to be followed precisely...but that's just not how I cook.  For starters, I rarely manage to have all the ingredients, because even though I meal plan weekly, I tend to forget to check each recipe beforehand to make sure I have all the ingredients.  When I'm doing my dinnertime prep during naptime...I always find that I'm missing some ingredient...and I just veer off the beaten path at that point, resulting in my own "creation".

For example, tonight I wanted to make a yummy chicken enchilada casserole recipe from Pintrest.  Only, I forgot to write the recipe down and I don't have computer access until Justin gets home around 6:30 or 7:00.  Plus, we were out of chicken.  So, at 3:00 when I started to make dinner, I realized I had to wing it completely...yet again.  To my credit, I did remember to start soaking the black beans before I went to bed last night.  Anyways, this is what I came up with and it turned out to be a home run in our house.  Even Jackson cleaned his plate!

Enchillada "Inspired" Casserole

1/2 cp dried black beans or 1 can black beans
1 cp uncooked rice
1 lb ground beef 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 cp chopped fresh cilantro
1 small can diced olives
4-6 flour tortillas
1 1/2 - 2 cps diced tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes
1/3 cp flour
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp chili powder
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 cps shredded cheddar cheese

The night before, rinse dried beans, place in pot, and cover with water.  About 2 hours prior to starting dinner, rinse beans, cover with 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Bring 2 cps of water to a boil.  Add rice.  Reduce heat to low.  Cook covered for 15 minutes.  When finished, add chopped cilantro and beans.  Stir to combine.

Heat a large skillet, add oil, saute onions.  Add ground beef.  Saute until beef is cooked.  Add half of the cumin, chili powder, and garlic.

Puree tomatoes.  Add other half of spices to the flour.  Stir into the tomatoes.  Cook over medium heat until "sauce" thickens.

In a deep casserole dish, place a small amount of sauce and meat - just enough to cover bottom.  Cover with a layer flour tortillas.  Next, layer half of remaining meat, rice/bean mixture, half of remaining sauce, half of olives, remainder of meat, and half of the cheese.  Top with another layer of tortillas, the rest of sauce, cheese, and olives. 

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

I think that's what I did.  I hope so, because it was good and I'd like to recreate it in the future.  Also, I hope the directions/ingredients are complete in case anyone else tries to make it!  You may have to play with the amount of spices...I tend to forget to actually measure those.  I like to just dump things in and go by taste.  I'm still learning how to cook without using any processed ingredients.  If anyone has a great flour tortilla recipe, please pass it along.  This is currently the only "bread" product that I haven't tried to tackle homemade and I really want to! 

 No before picture, but here's what was left. 

In other news around here, we have begun to celebrate fall.  I LOVE FALL.  The kids get excited about all the pumpkins and gourds.  We all enjoy the cooler weather.  Here are a few pictures of our fall "decor".  The homeschool program we are following focuses on nature, so it really plays into the new decorations.

 Pintrest inspired candle holders.  I didn't have any of the cute tealights, like in the picture online.  But I did have plenty of large candles.  It's not quite as cute, but it works.  Up until this point we were using our Christmas candle at least we're in the right season.
 Pumpkins - some fake, some real.
Tiger stripe pumpkins (the kids love the name), mini pumpkins, and gourds.  These are on the coffee table.  The kids love sorting and observing them.  I love it when something so natural and simple is so engaging to them.

We also have our homegrown snake gourds and "once upon a blue moon" pumpkin on our front stoop, but I forgot to take a picture of that before the weather turned nasty.  I'll make sure I post a picture next time...or when I remember!