Friday, June 26, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #24 and #25


We have been doing a lot of school work. Having a week off was nice and both Bridget and I felt refreshed and ready to get back into it. We were also able to make a trip to the library last week.

We were supposed to be going on an overnight field trip this week but it got postponed due to the intense heat wave we're experiencing (who wants to be outside when it is 100 degrees?!?) and also the possibility of tropical depression Bill turning into something more. We've been playing inside a lot because I don't like being outside when it's that hot. The kids have gone out to play for very short periods of time. After a few minutes, they're red-faced and pounding at the door wanting to come back inside. They immediately run for their water bottles.

In other news, I had seen on Facebook that a family from church who had moved away a couple of years ago was dealing with a very serious health crisis. Their 11-month-old daughter nearly drowned (she was found face down in the pool after about 5 minutes of frantically searching for her) and her father had to perform CPR on his baby for 15-20 minutes before finally getting a heartbeat, and she was rushed to the hospital. After hearing this news, I don't think I have prayed so hard in a long time. Our family has been very fortunate in not having anything major happen since George's heart surgery almost 2 years ago, so I haven't had a need to beg Heavenly Father for something. But I certainly did this week. In fact, thousands have. The little girl has survived and is still recovering, and it appears she may not have any permanent damage (tests are still being done but things are looking good so far). There is really no other way to explain what has happened without calling it a miracle.

Normally, I wouldn't blog about things like this, especially when it has nothing to do with my family, but I feel that my testimony of prayer and of God's love for his children (especially the smallest ones) has grown immensely just by watching what this family has gone through. I may never see this family again and may never meet their baby girl, but their story has certainly impacted my faith in a positive way. Perhaps having an 11-month-old of my own made it hit closer to home than it otherwise would have. I've definitely been hugging my little ones more often this week. Children are special, amazing, and strong little beings.





I've had Bridget do a lot of writing practice this week. She normally writes well (for a 5-year-old), but I noticed her penmanship looking a little lazy. So I sat with her and watched as she wrote every letter and made sure she was holding her pen correctly. Now she's back on track. Then I noticed she was writing all of her numbers backwards again. She knows how they're supposed to be but again had gotten lazy with it, so we worked on that again. Practice, practice, practice. Some days she doesn't mind, other days she complains.



We experimented with dilution using Kool-aid. It was very simple and fun. I love it when George gets to participate and learn something right along with his big sister.



We learned about Benjamin Franklin. Bridget was fascinated by all he did in his life, and so was I! I was familiar with his role in history, but I hadn't really studied him until now. Reading the picture-book biographies of him was just as much fun for me as it was for Bridget. I think I may have another favorite historical figure to add to my list.

Linking up to: 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Our Field Trip to Roanoke Island

On Friday we went on a field trip to Roanoke Island to learn more about The Lost Colony and to visit the birthplace of Americas first English child, Virginia Dare. I am glad we live so close (about a 2 hour drive) to this historic site. Bridget did not know what to expect. She knew that the houses were gone even by the time John White returned from England. My hope was for her to be able to at least visualize how the island might have appeared to the settlers coming over from England.
At the beginning of the path, we found this monument. Bridget was excited that it had Virginia Dare's name on it.
Bridget pointing to the name "Virginia Dare".

A little further down to path, we came to Fort Raleigh, which was a reconstructed earthen fort.

Fort Raleigh

We kept going on the nature trail and stopped off at this spot to get a better idea of how it might have looked from the shoreline back in 1587.

All along the nature trail there were signs telling us about how the Algonquians lived, how the settlers lived, and about the local trees and plants they may have used. This sign tells us how the settlers were saved by sassafras.

"Saved By Sassafras"

After the educational part of our field trip was over, we headed to the beach at Nags Head! It was a beautiful day (as you can see by that sky) and the kids enjoyed their time playing in the sand and in the water. Liam even enjoyed himself this time. On our last beach trip, he was miserable. This time was different. He played with the sand rake and attempted many times to crawl towards the water. We had three very happy children at the beach. What more could I ask for?

When we left the beach, we stopped at 7-Eleven to get some slurpees. It was a hot day and we were really looking forward to our treat for the drive home. Not only did the kids have a wonderful time, but my husband and I also felt like the trip was a success. We had four hours of grown-up conversation on the drive to and from the Outer Banks while the kids snacked, colored, read books and slept in the back of the van. We're already looking forward to our next field trip---an overnighter!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #23


I'm a day late on our weekly review due to a fun field trip we went on yesterday. More details about that later. Edit: The post is now up for our field trip to Roanoke Island to see the location of The Lost Colony and the birthplace of Virginia Dare! You can find it here!

We've had a very busy couple of weeks at swimming lessons. Thursday was the last day for the kids. You can read more about how that went by reading this post.

We also made some incredible sushi earlier in the week. Bridget is really getting serious about helping me in the kitchen lately and she even helped to roll it up (when she wasn't too busy eating the mushrooms and avocado). The recipe for this delicious avocado-shiitake sushi can be found here.

Liam's third tooth (first one on the top) has come through. It hasn't put him in too much of a bad mood. He's also been grinding it up against his bottom teeth. His other top tooth will soon be making an appearance, and I'm thinking a third one up top is getting very close.


Because the kids swimming lessons were in the middle of our day, I called it quits on schoolwork for the week. It has been a nice vacation. I've been able to do some lesson planning and preparation for the coming week.

Linking up to: 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Swimming Lessons 2015

We had a good time watching Bridget and George on their last day of swimming lessons for the summer. The swim school we attend holds 2-week sessions where the kids take lessons four days per week for a total of eight lessons. This was Bridget's third year and George's first.
The first two days were spent getting the children used to the water. Luckily, we had just gotten back from Myrtle Beach the day before so the kids were used to being in a pool and playing in the water.
By Wednesday of the first week, the children are expected to put their face in the water. If they have not yet done this, the instructor will put their faces in for them. This day is known as "dunk day". Some parents might not like this method, but it works. I'm more of a "tough love" type of mom anyway. I don't like seeing my kids cry (which Bridget certainly did on her very first year of swim lessons), but the long-term goal of learning to swim and being comfortable with your face getting wet is far more important.
From Wednesday on, George got upset when I'd drop him off (parents are not allowed to stay by the pool, as it can be distracting for the children). On one of the days, he must have sobbed the entire hour. It hurt my feelings but I knew he was in good hands.
On Tuesday of the second week, they learned about life jacket safety. They learned to jump in the pool with a life jacket on (to imitate fall off a boat), get used to how a life jacket feels when you're in the water, how to float on your back, etc. After using the life jackets, they learned how to rescue a fellow swimmer who may have fallen into the pool or off a boat by using a towel, throwing it into the water, and pulling the person to safety and yelling for a lifeguard to help. 

George with his life jacket.
Bridget 'rescuing' her swim instructor
George did really good for his first year of learning to swim. He kicks really well and did his very best on the arm strokes. He had some really nice instructors this year. Both Summer and Peggy were able to cheer him up after I dropped him off and once he was in the water swimming around, I could see he trusted them and had a lot of fun.

Bridget was lucky to have one of her same teachers from last year. She's not too fond of having boy teachers, but she was happy and comfortable with Thomas again. Her other teacher, Lauren, was also really good with Bridget. I'm glad that Bridget looked forward to going to swimming lessons each day.

At the end of each class, the kids get to go down the slide. The bigger kids get to start at the top but the smaller kids get put about halfway, then gently guided down to their instructors arms. George loved this part and was always smiling when he came to get his towel.

The kids certainly enjoyed these past two weeks of swimming lessons. Now I hope we can keep working on those skills for the rest of the summer. As hot as it has been lately (today, it's in the 90s!), I'm tempted to go out and buy an adult sized pool for all of us to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Recipe: Avocado-Shiitake Sushi

My sushi taste-tester.
I have always loved sushi. When I switched to a plant-based diet, I thought my sushi days were over. I had made sushi a few times, using grated carrots, avocado, etc., but I missed the "meaty" aspect. This recipe uses shiitake mushrooms in a teriyaki sauce, which provides that meaty, salty, almost unagi-like texture that I had been craving. The avocado provides a nice contrast to that.

My 5-year-old daughter helped me prepare the sushi. And by prepare, I mean sampling the avocado, the shiitake mushrooms, and the rice, all before they were prepared in the nori. She did help me roll up one of the sushi rolls. Then she continued to eat whatever I'd let her have. She also loved the finished product.
When making this recipe, I did make a few modifications. While I would not call myself a professional, this was not my first time making sushi and I felt that Chef Chloe's instructions were a bit strange for preparing the sushi rice. Instead, I prepared it the way I have since I was still in the single-digits.

When making sushi, I strongly recommend purchasing a bamboo sushi mat. I wouldn't attempt to make sushi without one.

Avocado-Shiitake Sushi
Recipe Source: Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli

3 c. cooked white sushi rice (or short-grain brown rice)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 c. teriyaki sauce (recipe below)
1/3 c. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. agave  white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
4 sheets toasted nori (can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced

Cook rice according to package directions. While rice is cooking, prepare other ingredients.

Slicing the shiitake mushrooms

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, and sauté mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Add teriyaki sauce and cook until heated through. Remove mushrooms from skillet with a slotted spoon and reserve sauce.

Whisk together vinegar, agave, and salt in a small bowl. Transfer warm cooked rice to a large baking sheet. Slowly drizzle the vinegar mixture onto the rice, while gently folding the rice with a large spoon or spatula. Do not stir the rice or it will get mushy. Cover with a damp towel and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, add warm cooked rice. Drizzle rice vinegar and sugar over the rice. Gently stir to combine. Sample the rice to see whether more rice vinegar or sugar is needed. Adding salt is not necessary.

To assemble sushi: Lay a sheet of nori, shiny side down, in front of you on a flat surface or bamboo sushi mat. With wet finger tips, press 3/4 c. cooled rice onto the nori, leaving a 1-inch border on the top and bottom and a 1/2-inch border on the two sides. On top of the rice, later one quarter of the teriyaki mushrooms and 2 to 3 slices of avocado, parallel to your body, 2 inches from the edge of nori that is closest to you. Roll the nori away from you tightly, like you are rolling a yoga mat or sleeping bag. Seal the roll with a little water. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch off of each edge of the nori roll to make clean edges. Slice the nori roll into 3/4-inch pieces.

Serve sushi with reserved teriyaki sauce or soy sauce and wasabi.


Teriyaki Sauce

3/4 c. water
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, whisk together water, soy sauce, ginger, garlic brown sugar, and cornstarch. Heat the sauce over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and big syrupy bubbles appear on the surface.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #21 and #22


Life is good. We spent last week in Myrtle Beach and we all had a great time. I did not get even one picture of all three kids together. At this age, it's almost impossible. I made a separate post about our vacation, and you can read more about it here.

We got home on Sunday and swimming lessons started the very next day. Those are every day for two weeks. This is Bridget's third year and George's first. It's a great swim school, even though it's located on the other side of town. I would not be driving that far every day if I didn't like it.
While I take the kids to swimming lessons, my dad comes over to watch Liam. Most days, I've come home to find my dad laying on the couch with a sleeping Liam. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was jealous of their snuggle time. Babies grow way too fast and soon Liam won't want to snuggle with anybody (although, George at three years old is still very snuggly).
Gymnastics also started up again this week. The kids are no longer in the same class, and we're also meeting in the afternoon instead of in the morning. The time change will take some getting used to.




We've been reading about the Roanoke Colony and Virginia Dare. Bridget loves babies and so Virginia Dare has become her favorite historical figure at the moment, even though we know so little about her. We went to the library before our trip to pick up some books about the colony. Our plan was to read them on our trip during our down time, but we didn't have much of that. Instead, we began reading the books when we got back. For our next field trip, we'll be heading to Roanoke Island.

A Few Books We're Reading...


For School...



For Fun...

The Dirty Cowboy (George loves this one!)
How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight? (We've read this one a lot, too!)

Linking up to: 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Myrtle Beach 2015

Last week, we took our first vacation of the year. We went back to Myrtle Beach, just as we've done the past few years. My husband's boss owns a condo and let's us stay there. It's located at a nice resort community with beach access and a lot of pools, including an awesome splash pool and lazy river. The condo also has a full kitchen, so we made our meals at the condo and left the resort only once to play miniature golf. The kids really enjoy going there, and have gotten used to the area.
The day after arriving at Myrtle Beach, we made our first trip to the ocean. Bridget was looking forward to gathering shells. She did this for maybe 15 minutes before she realized she wasn't as scared of the ocean as she was last year. Soon she was out there jumping in the waves with George (and a few grownups, too).

This was Liam's very first trip to the beach. He started off fine, until he started putting shells in his mouth. He was not happy about us taking the shells away from him, and then proceeded to run his sandy hands all over his face, which didn't feel good either. He was done with it all a few minutes after we got there.

Daddy thought it would be a good idea to dig a hole deep enough for it to fill with some water. Liam played in his private salt water pool for awhile, splashing in the water, playing with beach toys, and pulling himself up and walking along side the edge of it. Then he was ready for a nap. I wrapped him in a towel and held him while he slept.

In the meantime, George took over Liam's spot and played in the sand, along with running back and forth to the ocean.

That first day was the only time we went to the beach. I didn't feel like holding a grumpy and sandy Liam anymore, so we spent the rest of our swim time at various pools. I know that Bridget and Liam enjoyed the pools more, and George was indifferent about it. This year, Bridget was old enough to go on the slides by herself, while George still needed an adult to go with him. Bridget must have gone down the slides 100 times.

George and Liam enjoyed being on the lazy river.

Another highlight of the trip was playing miniature golf and Bridget making her very first 'hole in one'. In fact, she was the only one who did this. I blame the hot weather for the rest of us not doing so well.

George had a blast just trying to get the ball in, even though it took forever. We just kind of played around him. He was cute to watch though.
It was nice to get out of town for awhile. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated when we arrived home that I even began doing laundry and cleaning the floors. Then I exhausted myself and am in need of another vacation.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Recipe: Tempeh Piccata

While I have used tempeh in the past, either in a "meatloaf" or as marinated strips in a vegan BLT, this was the first recipe I made that focused primarily on the tempeh. I was very impressed with how it turned out, and my children enjoyed it as much as I did.
I've made the recipe numerous times since then. I like to serve it with mashed potatoes and green beans (as a mom of 3, I like to keep things simple). The tempeh is very tender, perfect for the kids to eat without any problems. Even my 10 month old with just 2 bottom teeth chews it up (or gums it up) just fine. My husband also likes it and so this recipe has made its way into our permanent family recipe book.


Tempeh Piccata
Recipe Source: Chloe's Kitchen, by Chloe Coscarelli

1 8-ounce package tempeh, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt
black pepper
1 c. vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
2 Tbsp. drained capers
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Fill a large pot with enough water to reach the bottom of a steamer basket. Place the tempeh slices in the basket, cover, and steam of 20 minutes. Check the pot occasionally and add more water if necessary. Steaming the tempeh will remove its bitterness.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium high heat and arrange tempeh pieces in the skillet. Using tongs or a spatula to flip the pieces, cook tempeh on each side, for 5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Transfer to a plate.

In the same skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat and sauté onions until soft. Add garlic and let cook a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Very carefully and slowly add the broth to the skillet, so the oil doesn't spatter. Reduce the heat to medium and let the broth bubble down for 1 to 2 minutes.

Whisk together cornstarch and water in a small bowl and slowly drizzle it into the skillet, mixing continuously until sauce thickens. Add the tempeh to the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Add lemon juice and let simmer for a few minutes, turning the tempeh midway. Turn off the heat and stir in margarine, capers, and parsley until margarine is melted and incorporated. Season again with salt and pepper.

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