Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buttercup Pie

Uncooked buttercup squash bathed in a yummy orange colour!
We have been visiting our favourite farm stand like crazy.  Hy Hope Farms is in Ashburn, Onatario.  Very close to where we live.  We have developed a serious addiction to this place.  (It's because they make the best butter tarts...oh my I just had one.)  Anyway, we cannot get enough of those little tarts and those beautifully coloured Buttercup squashes.  My mom usually makes this savoury pie that we have at Christmas and I thought why not make a similar pie but with buttercup squash instead.  My mom's pie is soft and fluffy with just the right amount of seasoning.  We usually use a caribbean fruit called breadfruit to make the pie.  Breadfruit is closer to the texture of sweet potatoe but white in colour.  It has a natural sweetness and nutty flavour similar the buttercup squash.

I also have developed a liking to making my own Bisquick recipe.  I use this one from  Because I made a lot, I like to find ways to use it. I store it in a large air tight container and keep it with the other flour products.

2 Buttercup Squash
1 Cup of milk
3 eggs
1 cup of bisquick mix (Make your own- so so so easy!)
3 tablespoons of sugar
3 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper (I love white pepper but you can use black)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the squashes in half and place on a cookie sheet.  Roast until cooked.  (Approx. 35 minutes).  Remove from oven. (Do not turn the oven off.)  Peel the skin that forms on the inside and outside.  Mix until smooth.  Whisk the milk, eggs, bisquick mix, sugar, salt and pepper until smooth.  Add mixture to buttercup.  Whip this mixture on medium speed until combined.  Do not over mix.  Pour mixture into pie dish.  (You can add some cheese if you like.)  Bake until mixture is set and top is crisp. (20-25 minutes).  Remove from oven and serve.

From our kitchen to your table.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weighted Down With Joy

This weekend brought roaring unsettling "discussions" and also joyful moments of  sitting in the back yard making obstacle races with the kids.  How does this happen?  How in one minute can I feel so deflated and exhausted from the demands of marriage and family and then within a few short hours I feel light and easy.

I have mentioned before that we are following the ABC Scriptures series with Impress Your Kids.  Each night my kids and I do phonic activities while we learn scripture. Tonight our scripture was "...we are full of joy in God because of our Lord Jesus Christ." I had to explain to my son that we can still have joy even though we have moments and days where we feel alone or sad.  We can have joy because of what Jesus did for us. Even though I spent the previous night crying myself to sleep, and my arms felt like they were an old woven basket ready to give way, I realized that I am full of joy.  God has tucked joy in the form of:

obstacle courses
Hy Hope Farm's butter tarts
mothers that cook and care for their children's children
sermons that remind us of the work that has to be done
plans for Christmas baking (already!)
friends that come back from vacations
questions like "Is Jesus God's last name?"  (asked by Cohen during scripture time)
homeschooling (I can't believe WE are this excited)

As always our lives are filled with challenges that take us places we want to run from.  Yet, God is constantly reminding me to close my eyes and feel the fullness of his joy.

Join Ann Voskamp as she gives thanks.
holy experience

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Home (Sweet) School with Wallies

Do you want a chalkboard that is light as a feather, easy to move, and doesn't cause injuries?  Then you want a Wallies chalkboard.  These chalkboards are perfect for homeschools, offices and bedrooms.  They are easy to move and you can write on them with regular chalk.  I tired the Wallie chalkboard in different ways.  I did this while carrying my new born in a sling.  Now you know it is easy.

There was not much do in terms of perparation for these giant stickers.    You just remove them from the clear box, peel a small part off from the backing and voila you have a classroom.  I tried writing on the chalkboard right away and it was nice and smooth.  It is important to smooth the sticker out in small secitons as you work.  Also you can't use side walk chalk on these chalkboards.

My cousin took these picture.  Can you see my newborn in the sling?

MyWallie chalkboard is ready for some accessories!

These strips come in various patterns, themes, and sizes.  All you need are a pair of scissors and tape.  You can create a border that changes or have one that stays year round.

My new chalkboard from Wallies!
Wallies carries a variety of shapes and sizes. (They have the solar system, trees, animals, you name it!)  This set comes in four.  I wish I had known about these in my public teaching days!

The news is out that I am homeschooling our son for the first time.  We have a lot of work ahead of us.  Today we set up the room (see below). We also picked  a name for the school - Home (Sweet) School.  I am sure there a millions others who have picked that name.  Thank goodness Urban Bubbles sent me those chalkboards from Wallies.   It was lots of fun.  Get ready for our Home (Sweet) School tour.  So excited.

Here are some before shots:  (This room was used as a playroom/craft room for the past year.)

Now it looks like this:

My second said he wanted to model - with his shirt off. Can you see our new word wall?

Our new word wall. We will only keep new words on the board until they learn them.

I used cushions to hide my supplies and made a reading nook.  The kids started using it right away!

Storage for our stuff.  Each subject has a shelf.  I love being this organized!

Supply central!
Another place (filing cabinet) to make words.

I keep a school picture to remind me of what worked and didn't for me.

Quiet work station.

I think I'll end on a quiet note.  The way most long days at school should end. Thanks again Urban Bubbles and Wallies for making our classroom into a Home (Sweet) School!

Home Schooled Mama

Last year when I started this blog I wrote about the challenges of sending my child off to school.  This year I will be welcoming him in.  I have made the decision to home school our son. He had a recent diagnosis that forced me look at his future head on.  He has trouble with consequences.  He is impulsive and very smart.  Not the easiest combination for a parent.  He is also very forgetful and never runs out of energy.  Trust me we have tried!  After our 3 hour appointment with the doctor I felt a huge responsibility resting on my narrow shoulders.

Last year, every day he left for school I held my breath hoping that every phone call wasn't from the school.  When he came home I anxiously searched his face for any signs of guilt from a day of wrong doing.  Being an elementary school teacher I felt a lot of pressure.  My child couldn't be the one sitting in the Principal's office or getting notes in his folder.  My son's difficulties forced me to deal with pride and control.  I had to learn that his behaviour is not a reflection of who I am as a person.  I learned that in the end my son would be held responsible for his actions.  This idea irritated the control freak in me.

So that is one of the reasons why I avoided the whole idea of teaching my son.  Even though I told parents on numerous occasions that they are their child's most significant teacher - I didn't feel that I was up to the job.  Yet it slowly occurred to me that maybe that is what God had in mind all along.  I felt that God was using this experience to change my heart.  He was calling me to be less preoccupied with the next perfect step and more concerned with obedience to him.  He was also calling me to show more patience and compassion towards my children.  This was a bit of a stretch for a tell-it-like-it-is kind of mother like me.  Homeschooling heightened my awareness about the impact I make in my children's lives and the changes I need to make in my own life.

Join Ann Voskamp as we share our parenting stories.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Butter Cup Chicken Soup

One of my favourite things about living in our town is the multitude of farms around us.  I love living here because we have all the conveniences of a city and all the luxuries of a small town.  Today we went to The Cottage Hospital.  You know you are going to get good service when you go to a hospital with that name.  It is in a nearby town that I have to say I have a little crush on.  The hospital is probably the size of my house, but the town is beautiful.

These tiny onions melt in the soup. No chopping.  Love it!
These are regular onions.  I didn't use them in this recipe.
More fresh local goodies.

On our way back from the hospital I wanted to stop at a little farm shop that sells fresh produce and the best butter tarts ever.  My friend Libby was coming over and I wanted to get something I know she would love.  We saw what I thought was butter nut squash.  It happened to be butter cup squash.  The squashes were the most beautiful colours of orange and green.  Each one was absolutely perfect.  I also picked up some small cooking onions, smooth potatoes, long green leeks, cabbage, and fresh garlic.  I also caught something else I have never heard of before - sweet potato squash.  It was a light creamy colour with green strips. I couldn't wait to introduce these ingredients to our kitchen.

You have to love the lush oranges and yellows.

All these ingredients were screaming to party in my chicken soup.   I love how new ingredients produce surges of inspiration for the kitchen.  Here is my recipe for Butter Cup Chicken Soup.  This recipes made 3 pot fulls.  (I borrowed 4 slow cookers for our children's blessing ceremony and I wanted to return them full rather than empty.)

Butter Cup Chicken Soup

I challenged myself not to use anything out of a package for this recipe.

2 whole chickens cut into quarters
4 cups mini or cut carrots
6 celery sticks chopped
2 bunches of garlic smashed
1 large bunch of fresh thyme  (You can use dried thyme (4 tablespoons))
6 small cooking onions peeled and cut in half
1 butter cup squash peeled cut into large chunks (I suppose you can use butter nut squash)
3 sweet potato squashes peeled and sliced into large chunks (optional)
3 leeks washed and cut in half
salt and pepper to taste (I do love my white pepper but you can use black)

Fill a large pot with water to cover all of the ingredients.  You might need to make this in three batches or in a very large pot.  Add all the ingredients and let come to a boil over medium heat.  Cook until all the squashes have dissolved and chicken is falling away from the bones when you stir the pot.  The onions should have dissolved by this time. Continue to simmer on low-medium heat until the soup thickens.  Taste the soup to ensure you have enough salt and pepper.  You are ready for some awesome chicken-squash goodness.  You might want to cut up some of the chicken if you prefer chicken in every spoonful.

From our kitchen to your table!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Raising Blessings

I waited 4 years to formally bless our 4 children.  It was definitely worth the wait.  I had planned a fun day at the local park that included possible walks along the nearby beach, splashing in the splash pad and playground fun.  I had stocked the freezer with sausages, min burgers, and ribs for this special day. I checked the weather meticulously to make sure it would cooperate.  The night before I had 5 crock pots full of sweet sticky ribs.  My mom  made vegetable and fruit trays.  I counted cookies for our ice-cream sandwich bar and spent way too much time planning every minute of the day.  Then I woke up to find the skies full of clouds and heavy with rain.  My heart sank.  My blessing ceremony wasn't going to be the big out door bbq I had planned after all.  

Instead we used the church.  My friends help set up tables, chairs and our food in 20 minutes before everyone arrived.  Tables were lined with steaming containers of meat, salads of various kinds and drinks ready to quench thirst.  Inside I felt a sting when I remembered friends who were missing and plans that were altered.  It was not going to be the big party I had planned.  Then the official ceremony began.  My husband and I listened as the children's pastor blessed our children with words of our saviour and graciously led our "community" on this altered journey.  We laid our hands on the heads of our children and blessed them.  Our friends and family read blessings for each child while meeting their eyes and embracing their hearts.  Our children beamed with that awesome feeling of knowing you are special.  At the end I felt full of love for my children and eager to embrace these altered plans.

In the end it wasn't my countless perfecting list, a crowd, the sunny skies, and a menu that made our day a blessing.  It was the look in our children's eyes that showed the bursting hearts and beaming joy.  It was a commitment that bound friends to family and family to child.  It was a shelter protecting us from natures unpredictability.  It was a pastor whose words inspired and touched the hearts of two parents struggling to raise the blessings that God had poured into their lives.  

Today I would like to thank God for four blessings: 

1.  Thank you for the spirited blessing that is our first born.

2.  Thank you for the humorous blessing that is our second born.

3.  Thank you for the determined blessing that is our third born.

4.  Thank you for the soothing blessing that is our newborn.  

Who are the blessings you are raising?

Follow Ann Voskamp as she encourages us to give thanks!

holy experience

Friday, August 20, 2010

Four Tips to Help Your Child Read (Ages 3-10)

Reading is such a complex concept and can be very difficult for children.  As a Reading Recovery teacher, I had 20 weeks to bring a struggling reader to grade level.  The next time your child brings home books to read, follow these simple tips to make this time together enjoyable.  Join me at Blissfully Domestic today as I share some strategies.

The Blog Identity

Baby  Steps
I started my blog last summer as a way to chronicle my son's arrival into a world I left - school.  I thought I would write about the way the school system appeared from this side and share my insights.  Then I found myself taking a long break and not writing for weeks and months at a time.  I eventually got up from my stumble and took a few awkward steps and wrote about things that had little to do with my son's education.  I didn't really give much thought to finding a niche or fitting into this on-line world.

Teenage Fits
Recently someone asked me to describe my blog.   They wanted to know if I have a mom blog. I wasn't quite sure how to answer that question.  I said I write about parenting, cooking, cleaning, diaper wipes, friends, faith and on an on.  I didn't know how to define my blog.  All of a sudden the desire to fit in grew.  I wanted to fit in. So I tried different things, contests, giveaways, reviews etc... I joined blog communities in the hopes that I would gain approval and friends  followers.

All Grown Up
None of that felt right.  I asked myself what is the purpose of my blog?  It was no longer to chronicle my son's entrance into my old world, it wasn't to gain a following, it was to inspire.  I realized that when I go to a blog over and over again, I go there for inspiration.   So I will put the contests, giveaways, Tasteful Tuesdays, Make it Fridays away for now.  But don't be surprised if I do share a recipe and talk about how I made something that saves me time and money. After all it is my blog!

The insecure, trying to get everyone to sign your year book, zipper jean wearing stage is behind me.  I finally realized that fitting in is only important if it's the right fit.  These words on this page are my perfect fit.

(Please don't be offended if you do any of the things mentioned above. You are entitled to find your perfect fit.)

Have you found your blog identity?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stumbling on Gentleness

I stumbled upon an amazing site that inspired me to spend more time with my children learning about God. This site appealed to me because it had very easy directions, the activities were engaging and always included an educational element.  What more could a Christian mom want?

Anyway, the site, Impress Your Kids, has activities that teach your child scripture and learn basic literacy skills at the same time.  I was excited to start this with my children.  I got all the materials ready and laid everything out.  I clicked on the first verse and found God speaking to me through a megaphone. 

"A gentle answer turns away anger." Proverbs 15:1. 

I have always struggled with anger.  My anger shows itself in yelling, name calling, and criticisms.  There are days where I feel sorry for the mess I put my children through.  I find most days I am squeezing my anger so tight so I won't "lose it".  The worst days are when I lose it and blame my kids, "if you had listened, mommy would not have to yell".  This is where I fail as a mother.  I allow my frustrations to get the best of me.  I excused my anger by telling myself that I was frustrated, tired and fed up.  So you can understand that when I stumbled on our very first verse and it is about gentleness I was convicted.

As we went on exploring this activity I had to demonstrate what a gentle answer was, apologize for my behavior and do a lot of reassuring.  I realized that through my constant reminders about what my son isn't doing right he got the idea that he "wasn't a good boy".  Our hearts lay broken side by side.  He cried and explained that he felt he "ruined everything" and he "couldn't stop doing bad stuff".  My mind searched for comforting words and I fell upon my own weaknesses.  I asked him if he thought I was a good mother.  His eyes lit up and he said yes.  I asked him if I did wrong things.  Then I said yes.  I explained that doing wrong things doesn't make me bad it just means I need God's help.   We talked about how remembering this verse could remind us that we need God's help.  

I did not expect this 'kid's stuff' to penetrate my heart.  I did not expect that by teaching my children the truth about God that conviction and repentance were going to follow.  I thank God that he can teach me to see his love through the eyes of my child.

Join Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tasteful Tuesday: Pina Colada French Toast

Welcome to Tasteful Tuesdays!  Every Tuesday I will post a meal I have made for my family.  I hope this post offers some good options for your family.  Share your recipes that you are making for the week.  Let us know what works for you.
I use a slip mat to place toasts on and keep in the oven to keep warm.

Lately I have been a little obsessed with coconut, banana, and pineapple.  I have started putting one or all of these ingredients in everything.  Can you tell I am still breastfeeding and dying for a girlie drink?

Okay here is the easy to make recipe:
Our family friend makes this whole wheat bread for us every week!

-bread (I use whole wheat)
-1/4 cup of shredded coconut
-1/4 cup of icing sugar
-3 large eggs
-1 crushed banana
-1  1/2 cups of milk
-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
-1 teaspoon cinnamon (grounded)
-1/4 cup veg. oil and some for cooking (you could use butter for the batter instead)
We always use maple syrup!

Mix all the ingredients (except the bread- of course) together until combined.  Oil a skillet and turn heat to medium.  Dip bread in picture and make sure you pick up the bits of coconut and banana too.  Cook each side until golden brown.  Serve with maple syrup and enjoy!

Note:  If you are really in the Pina Colada Mood then make a shake with the banana, milk, pineapple, and coconut juice.

From our kitchen to your table!
The kids loooooved this!  Yours will too!

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Don't forget to check out more recipes at Tasty Tuesdays.