Friday, October 30, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #43

Life

We've had a good week. Very quiet and restful. It's nice to be done with our vacations for the year. Don't get me wrong; we all love travelling. It's fun to see new places and try new things. It's even fun to do the same things we've done before. But it's also nice to be at home, unpacked, suitcases put away, and nothing to look forward to but the upcoming holidays and family time at home.

I did manage to take Bridget to her 6-year check-up at the pediatrician's office. Nothing much to report from that. She is perfectly healthy and growing well. She's now a whopping 47 pounds (58th percentile) and measures 46.5 inches tall (70th percentile). While she was not due for any vaccinations this year, I did make her get her flu shot. She was not happy about that at all, as she thought she was in the clear. Today, she is feeling slightly under the weather. Most likely it is the effects from the flu shot. She's so sleepy and her head hurts. While there are no other flu-like symptoms, I've allowed her to take a "sick day" today to recover.

Bridget's "Sick Day"

She is trying her hardest to feel better, as tonight is our church's Trunk-or-Treat. It's the only Halloween activity we participate in (we stay indoors on Halloween and do not pass out candy), so she has been waiting all year. Costumes came earlier this week and both of the older children are thrilled with them.


Homeschool 

 

Grammar

She has been enjoying this more, I think because it requires little to no writing on her part. She does well will the poem memorizations from our book and she is getting so much better at narrations and telling things back to me in complete sentences.

 

Science

We learned about elephants, hippos and rhinos this week. They're all pretty neat, but I think I gained a new love for elephants. They are absolutely amazing animals. We read a few non-fiction and fiction stories about them. One of the issues we discussed were ways that we can ensure that elephants are still on the earth decades from now (the books discussed poaching, which has become a bigger problem that many of us care to admit). Bridget's idea was to build a big fence in the wild to protect the elephants. George, on the other hand, had the idea to "throw toys at the mean people that get the tusk out the elephant" and "maybe our car can zoom all the way to  the elephants to throw toys at the mean people and kill them". He went on and on for a few minutes, but those were two ideas I was able to write down word for word. He was obviously very passionate about it. (Disclaimer: I do not condone his idea to "kill" the poachers, and I did discuss with George that killing them was not what Heavenly Father would have us do.)  

 

A Few Books We've Read...

Baby Elephants by Alice Twine
A Baby Elephant in the Wild by Caitlin O'Connell
Elephant Families by Arthur Dorros
Elephant's Story by Harriet Blackford
Rhinoceros Mother by Toshi Yoshida
 

Family Movie Night

Our church is having their annual "Trunk-or-Treat" on our movie night. However, we have spent the week watching Halloween movies during quiet time as a special treat. So far, we have watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloweentown, Casper, Corpse Bride, and Hocus Pocus. Two more on my list is It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  That is most definitely enough movies for the week, don't you think?!
 
Next Week's Movie: TBD
 

Posts You Might Have Missed (Click Photo):

 

Biltmore Estate

http://www.sparrowsathome.com/2015/10/restaurant-review-bean-vegan-cuisine-in.html
BEAN Vegan Cuisine
http://www.sparrowsathome.com/2015/10/gem-mining-in-hendersonville-nc.html
Gem Mining
 


Linking up to:

 
http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/26338-2/ 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Restaurant Review: BEAN Vegan Cuisine in Asheville, NC

You know how everyone has a favorite restaurant? Or at least have it narrowed down to a few top picks? Well, as of October 22, 2015, I have a favorite restaurant. BEAN Vegan Cuisine, located at 2145-A Hendersonville Road in Asheville, North Carolina. Everything about this restaurant receives an A+ rating from me. Where to begin...

On the drive to the restaurant, I told my compassionate vegan 6-year-old daughter that I had a wonderful surprise for her. We were going to be having dinner at a special restaurant that serves ONLY vegan food. Her face lit up. Where we are from, they do not have any restaurants like these. Every trip to a restaurant involves me explaining to her a million times that what I ordered for her to eat is safe and that there are no animals or animal byproducts in it. After additional reassurance, she will somewhat hesitantly begin eating her food. But here was a restaurant just  for her. We arrived just after 7 o'clock for dinner.

It was a small location with just one girl working as hostess/waitress/cashier, and two additional people (that I could tell) working in the kitchen. She was as nice as can be and told us to take a seat anywhere we'd like. It was surprisingly busy for such a small place. She gave us our menus which included a special kids menu. Bridget was excited to order. The lunch/dinner menu was filled with Southern comfort foods not normally enjoyed by vegans because they're difficult to recreate. For example, Crabbie Dip with crackers and Pimento Cheesish dip with chips for an appetizer. I wish I had tried both of these, but I was more focused on the main portion of the meal. They had a wide variety of vegan burgers to choose from, and all sounded delicious. I knew it was going to be a tough decision.

Bridget holding the BEAN Sprout Menu for BEAN Vegan Cuisine

The children's menu only had three options to choose from (both $5 each): Fried Fingers with Ranch + 1 side, 'Lil Quesadilla and salsa + 1 side, or 3 "Sprout Sized" sides. We ended up ordering both the Fried Fingers and the 'Lil Quesadilla for the kids to sample and share. For the sides, we ordered fried squash and tater tot casserole (I failed to take a picture of this, but it both looked and tasted very good).

A divided children's meal including fried squash (in front), fried tofu fingers (in back) and vegan cheese quesadilla (right side)


Happy with her 100% vegan dinner
 
She couldn't wait to dig in! The kids both enjoyed their dinner. The fried squash especially was a winner with Bridget.
 
My husband ordered the Cowboy Burger. It's a vegan burger patty, seitan bacon, Daiya cheddar, onions, pickles, BBQ sauce, and Ranch. My husband ordered the Ranch on the side because he had never had a combination of the two before and was feeling a little hesitant (even though our waitress assured him it was very good).
 
"Cowboy Burger" ($11.00)
 
Doesn't that look heavenly? For a vegan who does not get to enjoy a juicy burger like I used to, I was ready to dive across the table and dig in. It's all vegan so there would be no guilt! I resisted, as I knew my meal was about to arrive.
 
My husband ordered his burger with a side of Mac and Cheese for the baby to enjoy.
 
Mac and Cheese (one of their many sides to choose from)

As the oh-so-nice waitress was taking our orders, I had not fully decided which burger I was going to have. I had it narrowed down but couldn't make the final decision. Then the waitress told me that their Good Burger was a vegan take on the Big Mac, with a vegan patty, lettuce, Daiya shreds, pickles, onions, and "special sauce". That. Was. It. Before I took the plunge into veganism, the Big Mac from McDonald's was my go-to burger. And here this nice girl was telling me they made it into a vegan burger. Oh my.

"Good Burger" ($10.00)

I ordered the burger with a side of fries, mainly for the kids in case for some reason they didn't like their food. Fries have always been our safety net for filling their little tummies if all else fails. Just so you know, I ended up eating the fries myself and shared only a couple with the baby.

Both of our burgers were just as good as they looked, if not better. I was actually sad as I took my last couple of bites, as I knew it would soon be over. It even crossed my mind to order another one. My husband, being the only non-vegan on our family, was very impressed with his burger. He is very hard to please at restaurants when we order something vegan, but this sold him. It was decided then and there that we would be back any time we were in that direction. Even if we were driving to Tennessee in the future, we would be stopped by this magnificent restaurant for a bite to eat.

Our very satisfying meal did not stop there. They have a dessert menu.

My husband looked at the menu for two seconds, saw the words "peanut butter", and placed his order. What he ordered was called Kitty Kat Cake, which consists of layers of wafers, caramel, and chocolate with chocolate and peanut butter mousse.

"Kitty Kat Cake" ($5.00)

You'll have to excuse my child's fingers in the background, as he was ready to grab his first taste.

I opted for an Old Fashioned Layer Cake, which the flavors change from day-to-day. On this particular day, they were serving a layer cake with raspberry filling and vegan cream cheese frosting.

Old Fashioned Layer Cake with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting ($5.00)

I really took this picture at the wrong angle, but you get the idea. Doesn't that look tasty?

We all sampled each others piece of cake (the kid's shared with us). Both were winners for different reasons. My husband is a peanut butter lover and I have a weakness for raspberries. We could not have been happier. Neither could this precious girl.

Bridget enjoying her vegan desserts
 
There's more.
 
BEAN Vegan Cuisine also sells vegan grocery items not normally found at your neighborhood grocery store. They had boxes of Earth Balance mac and cheese, Dandies vegan marshmallows, an assortment of vegan candy bars, vegan meat substitutes, and much, much more. They also sold some "homemade" treats, such as vegan pimento cheese and BEAN Jerky. After we had already purchased a bag full of vegan goodies and loaded up the van to head to the hotel, my husband went back in to purchase their BEAN Jerky. Weird, right? 
 

BEAN Jerky from BEAN Vegan Cuisine
 
Those tender, juicy pieces of jerky are made from soy beans. That's right. Soy beans. And they're really good.
 
I'm not done.
 
A very nice man who had been working in the kitchen came out and spoke with us about all of the vegan treats for sale in their "grocery" section. He selects them and stocks them and does a great deal to promote them. I had asked earlier about an ingredient used in their dishes known as jackfruit. I've seen it in recipes online as a substitute especially for seafood. While I did not order anything with jackfruit, he was happy to answer my questions about it. He even let me take home two cans of jackfruit from his kitchen to try once we got home (I told him how far we had traveled and how difficult it is to find these vegan substitutes at home). He also told me how they come up with these recipes in their restaurant and it did not take me long to realize that he must be an owner. He was also nice enough to share tips with using certain meat substitute-type ingredients, which I really appreciated. Many restaurants (even vegan ones) are very tight-lipped on their ingredients and methods, but he was very open and honest.
 
I was blown away by our entire experience with this restaurant. Oh how I wish they'd build a location closer to our side of the state (the owner did say that they are thinking of possibly expanding next year to the Raleigh area... I certainly hope this happens. It would still be a 90 minute drive, but it'd be worth it!).
 
If I were to ever start a restaurant, this would be how I'd do it, but I don't need to think about that anymore because it has already been done. Successfully. A+++.
 
This review is from a visit made on October 22, 2015. All prices are what they were at the time of our visit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gem Mining in Hendersonville, NC

We love gem mining! When we travelled to western North Carolina in April of 2014, we went gem mining for the first time at Elijah Mountain Gem Mine. We all had a blast. Because we were going back to the same area, why not make another trip to the same gem mine? This time, my husband had discovered that this particular gem mine was started 8 years ago by a homeschooled boy. This was a special project he wanted to start and it has grown a lot since then. I might be a little biased, but I love homeschool families and thought that bit of information was quite interesting.

We ordered a $60 bucket of gem-rich dirt and sat down at the flume. The older kids remembered what to do and got to work immediately.
 

I tried to get Liam into the gem mining fun, but just moments into it he attempted to put a rock in his mouth. He was then handed over to my husband to hold for a bit while I helped the other two kids. Liam didn't seem to mind this. He's too young to really know what he was missing out on.

George didn't look up at me very much for me to snap his picture. I got him to show me what he was doing, but of course him showing off his rock covered his sweet face. He was a busy boy.

George showing off one of his rocks

Bridget had a particularly good experience. On our last visit, we had purchased a rock chart to be able to identify the rocks and gems we had collected. Bridget had fallen in love with a particular rock called "peacock copper". It's a shiny rock with pink, purple, gold, and other metallic colors. I casually asked the woman who was helping us get set up how common it is to find this particular rock and if we even had a chance to uncover one, as my daughter so badly wanted to find one (I wanted to explain to Bridget that if it was a rare stone that she probably will not find one). The woman, while giving me a wink, said that she thinks Bridget has a very good chance of finding some peacock copper today.
 
As we were nearing the bottom of our bucket of dirt, the woman returned and very carefully snuck a special surprise into the remaining dirt in our bucket. After some small talk with Bridget about the rocks and gems she had already uncovered, she scooped up another bit of dirt for Bridget's sifting box. Bridget put it into the flume and seconds later saw the rock. Bridget, being an extremely shy girl, cracked only a small smile. But being her mother, I knew she was beaming on the inside. Finally a bigger smile appeared on her face. This made her entire trip. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of any of this because I was too busy living in the moment.
 
I did, however, get a picture of Bridget with another one of her discoveries: a geode! After telling Bridget what it was and how Bridget would be the first person to ever see what was on the inside of the rock, the nice woman took us inside and cracked it open for us. Here is a picture of the kids with the geode cracker (with geode already in place):
 
 
Once cracked open, we took it back to the flume to rinse it out and see it sparkle. Bridget and George were both very impressed. This all made for a very enjoyable gem mining adventure.
 

I love a family-oriented business (especially when started by a homeschool, as mentioned earlier), but what I love more is when someone goes above and beyond to do something nice for my children. It wins them major points with me. The gem mine was great to begin with but with the outstanding customer service, it's become our favorite gem mine. I'm already planning on another trip here in late 2016 or early 2017 when we are officially studying rocks gems in earth science.
 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Recipe: Classic Minestrone

Right up there with my vegan Brunswick Stew recipe, this is one of my husband's favorite soups. We enjoy it "Olive Garden style" with homemade breadsticks. I love it because it is full of delicious vegetables; he loves it because it goes great with breadsticks. It's a win-win.

 

Classic Minestrone

1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, julienned or chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomato, drained
6 c. water
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1 can Italian green beans, drained
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. medium pasta shells (or 1 1/2 c. small pasta shells)
2 c. baby spinach
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper


In a large pot, add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Sauté over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, then add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add the 6 cups of water, zucchini, Italian green beans, kidney beans, and cannellini beans, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta shells. Lower heat to medium and add spinach, parsley, oregano, basil, sea salt, and black pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, then lower the heat to medium-low for an hour, to allow all of the flavors to mingle.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (Fall 2015)

My husband and I both love the city of Asheville (and surrounding areas... you can't go wrong with the Blue Ridge Mountains), and we have been to the Biltmore Estate four or five times in our ten years of marriage. This was our very first time going in the Fall, (our last trip was made in Spring of 2014) so I was very excited to see the changing colors. Typically brown, orange, and red would not be my favorite colors, but put them in nature and call it a season and it becomes one of the most breathtakingly beautiful sights ever.
 
We left our house in the morning for the 5 hour drive to Asheville and arrived at the Biltmore Estate at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon. We like to park in the Garden Shop parking lot and walk through the gardens to the house, then come back down to the gardens to explore. The house was about the same as it has always been. I think they have opened a couple more guest bedrooms to the public, but we didn't see those because we never made it to the third floor. We only toured the first and second floors and by that time, Liam was done. We did tour the overpriced shops after walking through the house, but did not buy anything. Then we made our walk back down to the gardens. Each season, they have a different type of flower growing (in the Spring, it was a tulip-lovers paradise). This season, it was decorated with chrysanthemums! It was so beautiful, which is to be expected at Biltmore. I was able to take a few pictures of the kids with the mums, although Bridget was the only one who cared to pose for the camera. George was more preoccupied with kicking up the gravel on the pathways.
 
Bridget and the mums at the Biltmore Estate

For our tulip pictures, the kids were able to stand in the tulip beds, but the mums were a different story. Not only are they much fuller than tulips, they also had a bunch of bees collecting their last bits of nectar for the year. It's always a neat thing to see nature at work so I watched them for a few minutes while explaining the process to Bridget (an impromptu science lesson) and took a couple of pictures.

Busy as... bees.


Normally, I am the one behind the camera but my husband grabbed the camera from me and handed me the baby. He was able to capture this shot (and many more) of me and the kids. I had Liam in my arms (trying to get down to hug George) and George giving me a great big squeeze of a hug, and of course sweet Bridget standing with me also giving me a hug. I have some pretty awesome kids. I hope we can always be this loving towards one another.


After getting the camera back from my husband, I managed to get a few of the three kids together. I always think that Liam is getting to so big, but then I see him standing in the middle of his big brother and sister and he looks so little again.


This next picture may be a strange one, but it comes with a valuable lesson learned by my dear husband. Before we entered through the front gate of the Biltmore Estate after a 5 hour drive, the van told us we had a 43 mile range left before we ran out of gas. There was a gas station across the street from the main gate which I told my husband to stop at. Being the smart man that he is, he reminded me that the van says we have 43 miles left that we can drive and that the roads going around the Biltmore are not 43 miles long, so we'd still have plenty of gas for our visit to the estate.

I rolled my eyes at my husband's "I'm the man and I know what's best" mentality and he proceeded through the main gate. Our tickets were scanned and we were on our way to the house. Just moments after getting on the road up to the house (which includes a lot of uphill driving), the van now tells us that we now only have a 31 mile range. My husband, now looking a little worried, says, "Wow, that dropped fast". Keep in mind that we had only been driving not even a mile into the estate and our range dropped by 12 miles. My husband then says that 31 miles is still a lot and we'd be fine. We finally reach the house, pass through the gates at the front of the house, and the van then gives us a nice loud 'ding' sound and reads "LO FUEL'.



That's not even a range. I give my husband the look that all wives have given their overly confident husbands. By this point, my husband is apologizing all over himself. We don't know what to do. We know the estate well and know it is a longer drive back down the mountain, through Deer Park and the Antler Hill Village, and back out through the main gate to get to the gas station, which need I remind you, was right there across from the main gate. We're both stressing out (he was stressing out because he was trying to figure out when and how I'd be killing him) and I was stressing out because I didn't know if the van would start up again if he turned it off.  Because all of the odds seemed to be stacked against us either way, we went ahead and parked the car and toured the house and gardens. Once we finished in the gardens, I told my husband that I hoped he had been praying for the van to start up and get us back down through the estate and out the main gate.

Thankfully, we made it, and my husband learned a very valuable lesson. A lesson that all men need to learn (sometimes over and over and over again): WIFE KNOWS BEST.

Now back to our trip. After filling up the van at the gas station, we went back onto the estate and went to Antler Hill Village. We first took the kids to the petting zoo to see the.... kids. They have a lot of goats on the estate and these goats were only born this April. They looked full grown to me!

Bridget at the petting zoo at Antler Hill Village on Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Winery is also located at Antler Hill Village. While my husband took Bridget and George on the winery tour (we don't even drink wine but my husband loves seeing how things work), I did a little bit of window shopping and playing on the lawn with baby Liam. There was some live music playing and Liam was having a great time. He has not figured out how to walk with his shoes on, so he just stood there on the grass, squatting down every so often to pull up the grass and play.

 
We promised the kids before we left that we'd let them play in the playground. George especially had a great time. He loves playgrounds and running around. Hardly ever willing to hold still for a picture, I was still able to get a few of him being his fun-loving self.
 

It was an afternoon well spent at the Biltmore Estate!


There is more to come from our recent trip, so check back for additional posts!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Meal Plan: Week 43

This week, we are having some repeats from the previous week. We are having company on Sunday and my husband wanted me to prepare another pot of minestrone soup. I have no complaints with this, as it was rather delicious. Last week, things got crazy and I never ended up making Tofu with Ginger Scallion Sauce, so that is back on the menu for this week.


Here are this weeks afternoon snack and dinner plans:

SUNDAY
Snack
none--late lunch

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Salad (with homemade croutons)
Main Course: Minestrone and Breadsticks


MONDAY
Snack
Apples with Peanut Butter

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Steamed Broccoli
Main Course: Tofu with Ginger Scallion Sauce and Jasmine Rice

TUESDAY
Snack
Kiwi

Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Cheezburger Wraps and Tater Tots

WEDNESDAY
Snack
Crackers and Peanut Butter

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and Poppy Seed Dressing
Main Course: Crockpot Spaghetti

THURSDAY
Snack
Stewed Apples

Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Tempeh Piccata, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans


FRIDAY
Snack
Fig Bars

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Yellow Squash
Main Course: Southern Black-Eyed Peas, Biscuits, Collards



SATURDAY
Snack
Grapes

Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Dinner: "Ghoulash", Mashed Potatoes


Recipes for the meals above are provided in the appropriate link or will be provided in a later post.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #42

Life

For the past few weeks (since the last day of our Washington, DC trip), Liam has been teething. Some days are better than others, but he's been having a rough time. He is growing four molars, all at the same time. There are days that he is so cranky he screams on the floor until I pick him up, and even then he's still sobbing while holding his ice (thought it's not as bad). This typically happens in the morning, when I am doing school with Bridget, which can complicate things as he always trying to grab at the pages of anything I'm reading or working on.

Here is a picture from one of his worst days this week. One part of his gums where a tooth is coming in is even a little bloody. He was crying so hard with tears streaming down his face, but much to my surprise, he was all smiles when I brought out the camera. You can still see the tears under his eyes but he was having a good time cheesing it up for me.



In other Liam news, he has been sleeping in his crib at night for two weeks now! It took maybe two nights for him to fully adjust and I think it helped that he had already been napping in his crib like a champ. It sure is nice having our king sized bed to ourselves again.

We also went on another mini-vacation this week. We headed up to the Blue Ridge Mountains to see the fall colors. We left early Thursday morning and after a 5 hour drive we were at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville checking out their fall garden. I had never seen so many chrysanthemums in one place before. We spent the night in Asheville and on Friday morning drove down to Hendersonville, where we went gem mining and apple picking. We made it back home at 9:30 Friday night. We all had a great time! I took 217 pictures on our trip so I'll be posting a few of those in later posts, but here are a couple to share now.

Liam and I in the fall garden at the Biltmore Estate


The kids at the apple orchard. We were on top of a mountain, but you can barely see another mountain top on the far left.

 

Homeschool 

 

We only had three days of school this week due to our trip. We were able to complete our writing work for the week and also got close to finishing a math lesson. All that is left to do is to take the test, then we'll be able to move on. We're moving along in other subjects as well.
 
 

Family Movie Night

No movie this week, as we were out of town on Friday night.
 
Next Week's Movie: TBD
 

Linking up to:

 
http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/weekly-wrap-up-the-one-in-which-i-was-sick/ 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Recipe: Panko Stuffed Mushrooms

I remember how old I was when I tried my very first stuffed mushroom. A family friend had brought them to a get-together and after the first bite (which was only to be polite), I was hooked. Never before had I eaten a mushroom and enjoyed  it. Now I couldn't stop. Early in my marriage when we went out to eat far too often, we frequented The Olive Garden. I ordered their stuffed mushrooms many times as my entire meal (at the time, they had a pick-3-appetizers options, so I got two portions of stuffed mushrooms with a side of fried calamari). Now that seafood is out of my diet and vegan is in, I thought I'd never be able to enjoy stuffed mushrooms again. Last week, that changed. My first attempt was keeping it simple, but it became an instant winner.

Everyone loved them, but what surprised me most was that my husband and my three-year-old, the pickiest eaters in our family, enjoyed them too!



Panko Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb. white mushrooms
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 c. panko

2-3 Tbsp. vegan margarine, melted (I use Earth Balance)

Wash the mushrooms and trim the very ends (the hard, dried out part) of the stems. Discard.

Remove the remainder of the stems and chop the stems finely. In a frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the chopped mushroom stems. Cook these until tender and the juices have been released (approximately 5 minutes). Add sea salt, black pepper, and parsley. Cook for another minute or two. Add panko. Mix this in well with the mushrooms. The panko should absorb the remaining olive oil. If it still appears dry, add a bit more olive oil. Stir until well coated and turn off heat.

In a baking dish, pour the vegan margarine. Prepare the mushrooms by stuffing about 1 teaspoon of panko filling into each mushroom. Some mushrooms may need more, others may need less. Assemble the mushrooms in the prepared baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the stops of the mushroom filling are beginning to brown.


These may be served as a tasty appetizer or a savory side at any meal. These will most certainly be included on my Thanksgiving dinner menu!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

House Hunting

For a while now, we have been searching for the perfect home. We have lived in our current home for 8 years (has it really been that long?!?). We've enjoyed our time here and it is a good starter home, but we need more space. There are so many pros and cons to weigh out with our options.

We have a few options to choose from:

a) We could get a house in the country. (We have yet to find this perfect country home or land to build our house.) It would be a longer commute for my husband each day and a longer drive to church and extracurricular activities for me and the kids than what we're used to. But we'd have space for the kids to play. We'd also have ticks and wild animals (including snakes) to keep us company. It'd be a lot more for my husband (and the boys as they get older) to mow and maintain. It would be quiet and peaceful. Someone could also move in next door with their pack of hunting dogs and kids on 4-wheelers making a muddy mess of things. I could read a good book on the porch swing while listening to the birds chirp, or go back inside after 5 minutes because the bugs are just too much (this is eastern North Carolina, after all).

b) We could move into an established neighborhood and renovate an older home. It could be fun and rewarding. There is a charming house I've found in a great neighborhood on .5 acres right in the middle of town. It has 5 bedrooms and 3 baths but has not been redecorated/renovated since it was built in 1971. It is way overpriced considering the amount of work that would need to be put into it. But it is also in a neighborhood that will not be going down in value any time soon. I love the house, but for the money... oh my goodness.

c) We could start fresh by custom building our own home. No renovations or remodeling necessary. We've narrowed it down to one particular neighborhood. The lot sizes are smaller than I would like, but it's a new neighborhood, about a 15 minute commute for my husband, and seems to be pretty safe. We've toured a few of the existing homes and have picked out a floor plan. The floor plan does need to be modified to fit our needs (I need a large kitchen and houses these days seem to be built with tiny kitchens). My husband wants the family room to be larger, so an outer wall would need to be bumped out. He also wants the stairs widened. Like, each step. I guess he wants his entire foot to fit on each step rather than having to tip-toe. With two boys that will probably grow to be as big as he is, I can see that the stairs may need to be modified. With these adjustments, we may be redoing the majority of the floor plan. Fortunately, the builder has a design center that can help us build the perfect home.

We are also in somewhat of a pickle with purchasing a new home. While our banker has said we can afford a home that costs x amount of dollars, we know we cannot afford our new home + our current home. That's the downside of already owning a home. We either need to sell this house first (which would be great to get the equity out of it to add to our down payment), or rent it out. If we rent it out, we'd prefer for it to be to someone we know. Hopefully they'd have more respect for our property than the average renter. If we sell our current home first, we'd need to find a place to live for about 6 months (the amount of time the builder told us it would take to build our home). There is so much to think about with buying/building a new home. What I do know is that I would like to stay in our new home at least until the kids have graduated and moved out on their own. So... twenty or so years from now.

Something that we are mostly sure of is that we will be moving next summer, give or take a couple of months. I am not looking forward to being poor after spending so much money on a new home for our family, but I know it needs to happen.

Decision, decisions.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Meal Plan: Week 42

This week is a little weird for us because we have a lot going on, especially later in the week. I tried to keep this weeks meals a little easy with minimal prep work (with the exception of Sunday dinner).



Here are this weeks afternoon snack and dinner plans:

SUNDAY
Snack
none--late lunch

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Salad (with homemade croutons)
Main Course: Minestrone and Breadsticks

MONDAY
Snack
Grapes

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Yellow Squash (pan fried with sea salt and pepper)
Main Course: Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

TUESDAY
Snack
Kiwi

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Steamed Broccoli with Thai Peanut Sauce
Main Course: Tofu with Ginger Scallion Sauce and Jasmine Rice

WEDNESDAY
Snack
Crackers and Peanut Butter

Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup

THURSDAY
Snack
No-Bake Cookies

Dinner
Eating Out!

FRIDAY
Snack
Apples

Dinner
Take-Out!

SATURDAY
Snack
Grapes

Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Dinner: TVP Chili (Copycat Wendy's)


Recipes for the meals above are provided in the appropriate link or will be provided in a later post.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #41

Life

Nothing much to report on our day-to-day lives. This week was a relaxed one with only our usual routines and extracurricular activities. My parents adopted a kitten named Freddie, which the children finally got to meet this evening. They were excited, but now George is not happy with the cat because it "sworded him with its claws". His words, not mine.

Liam colored his first picture this week (took no interest in it until now). He had fun scribbling at his own little table while big brother and sister colored at the homeschool table. The coloring stopped once he realized he could eat the crayons. Once that took over, I snapped a couple of pictures of him and his masterpiece before putting his crayons away and giving him his snack cup.

Liam and his first official masterpiece. Notice the red crayon on his bottom teeth.

Homeschool 

 

Reading

We had shelved Bridget's reading lesson book for a few weeks, due to her becoming too frustrated to deal with. We hadn't stopped reading in general, but just the formal lessons from the book. This week, however, she brought it out and wanted to do it. We sat together on the couch (where we do our reading) after lunch once Liam was asleep in his crib and worked on a couple of lessons. She still got very frustrated (which aggravates me because it is usually accompanied by an attitude) but she said she still wants to do it. I'm glad she's getting more serious about learning to read.

 

Science

We finished up our study of cats. I had made some notebooking pages with photos from around the web of the animals we are studying. For each animal, she tells me one thing she found most interesting about that animal, and I'll write it on the board for her or on another piece of paper and she copies it onto her notebooking page. It also includes a place to put their diet and the habitat they are typically found in. Then she gets to glue a matching picture of the animal onto her habitats board (George helps with this). Last week we studied lions and cheetahs. This week, we finished up our study of cats by learning about tigers, leopards, panthers, jaguars, mountain lions, American bobcats, and European wildcats. I was able to find a few books at the library in the children's fiction section about tigers and mountain lions. I was so disappointed that I could not find a book about cheetahs. We read about them on our non-fiction books but I was hoping for a cute 'storybook' about them. Cheetahs seem to be her current favorite of all the wild cats. She still enjoyed the other books very much (story time seems to be George's favorite part of science anyway). Next week we're learning about elephants, rhinos, and hippos!
 
Bridget and her big cats notebook pages and habitat board
 

A Few Books We've Read...

Tiger's Story by Harriet Blackford
Mother to Tigers by George Ella Lyon
Little Lions by Jim Arnosky (about mountain lions)
 

Family Movie Night

No movie this week, as we had some other things to get done to prepare for our daytrip to visit the grandparents tomorrow.
 
Next Week's Movie: TBD
 

Linking up to:

 
http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/weekly-wrap-up-the-one-with-the-book-choices/ 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Recipe: Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This is a recipe I've been preparing for a couple of years now, typically around the holidays, as a side at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. However, it is still a tasty side to enjoy year-round. Most recently, it was a veggie starter/side for Creamy Pumpkin Penne.
 
My oldest (now 6 years old) LOVES Brussels sprouts prepared this way. It was the first way I ever prepared them for her (and also the first way I ever prepared them for myself... ha!) and now we're both hooked. She'll even eat Brussels sprouts, steamed, with salt and pepper. If you want your little one to try new a new vegetable, this may be a good recipe to start off with.
 
My oldest was so excited the other day to discover that I was making this for dinner that she squealed, "my favorite!!!" and ran to daddy and her little brothers to tell them the good news.
 
 
Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. Brussels sprouts
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut ends and discard outer leaves of Brussels sprouts. Cut each Brussels sprout in half. In a bowl, combine Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss until the Brussels sprouts are well coated.

Pour the contents of the mixing bowl onto a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir the Brussels sprouts and roast for 10 more minutes. Then stir again and drizzle maple syrup over the Brussels sprouts. Roast for 10 more minutes, or until they are fork-tender.

 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Meal Plan: Week 41

After a bit of inspiration/motivation, I knew that my family's meal plan needed a major overhaul. After a summer of being lazy when it comes to preparing healthy foods (and relying a bit too much on processed foods) for my family, and not feeling the best that I know I should feel, it is time to get back to basics.

Last winter and spring, I had an excellent meal plan that incorporated a lot of fresh seasonal vegetables that the kids would try and actually enjoy. Even George (my most picky eater) was eating squash, peas, and most other vegetables I prepared (it was all in how and when they were served). I will be incorporating the same meal plan anatomy that I used then. I'm confident that it will get us all back on track!



Here are this weeks afternoon snack and dinner plans:

SUNDAY
Snack
none--late lunch

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Main Course: Creamy Pumpkin Penne w/ Crispy Sage

MONDAY
Snack
No-Bake Cookies

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Stuffed Mushrooms
Main Course: Tuscan Bean Soup w/ Bread

TUESDAY
Snack
Apples w/ Peanut Butter

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Salsa and Chips
Main Course: Veggie Fajitas, Mexican Rice, Refried Beans

WEDNESDAY
Snack
Phyllo Mushroom Turnovers

Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Moroccan Lentil Soup

THURSDAY
Snack
Kiwi

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Chinese Green Beans
Main Course: Sesame Tofu, Brown Rice

FRIDAY
Snack
Chocolate-Dipped Almond Biscotti

Dinner
Veggie Starter: Bruschetta and Flatbread
Main Course: Spaghetti Squash w/ Pesto, Tomatoes, and Toasted Pine Nuts

SATURDAY
Snack
Grapes

Dinner
Eating Out!


Recipes for the meals above will be provided in later posts.

Linking up with:

http://orgjunkie.com/2015/10/menu-plan-monday-oct-1215.html

Friday, October 9, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #40

Life

Last weekend, we stocked up on food and other essentials in preparation for hurricane Joaquin. Thankfully, we did not get any damage at all. Areas south of where we live experienced a lot of flooding but we did well here. In the middle of the week, the sun made its first appearance in 12 days.

On Wednesday, we celebrated George. October 7th marks the anniversary of his open-heart surgery. This year made two years. I made a short post about it here. For a more in-depth look at our experience with George and his congenital heart defect, you can read about his journey here. Doesn't his super hero scar look great?


The following day we celebrated my dad's 64th birthday. We joined him down at the farm where the logging trucks have just begun their work of clearing the forest in preparation for planting new trees. Later in the day, we went over to my parents house for birthday cake.

We finally made a trip to the library. We've been so busy with various different things (trips, birthdays) that I had not made a much needed trip for books. Now that we finally had books for school (and for pleasure), I could get back on track. The kids were nice and quiet after we got home as they looked through their new selection of books.

Homeschool 

 

Handwriting

Bridget is finally doing her handwriting worksheets without putting up a big fuss. That's worth noting. I don't know what it is with writing. She has neat penmanship and always wants me to write stories for her as she tells them to me, but getting her to pick up a pencil and writing things on her own is worse than pulling teeth.

 

Science

We have been studying animals diets (carnivore, omnivore, and herbivore) and mammals. This week we studied big cats, beginning with lions and cheetahs. Next week we'll cover more big cats. Science is really getting fun.
 

A Few Books We've Read...

Outside and Inside Big Cats by Sandra Markle
Cats of the Wild by Alice Twine
Just Like My Papa by Toni Buzzeo
 

Family Movie Night

We finally watched African Cats! It is a great DisneyNature film following the family of a cheetah mother and her cubs and also a pride of lions. At one point, the two big cats come face to face. The movie was very well narrated and kept the kids attention. Bridget looked as if she was on the edge of her seat the entire time. It was exciting, funny, and at times heartbreaking. At one point (during a very intense part of the movie), my husband stated that this was just too stressful for him. But we all enjoyed it.
 
Next Week's Movie: TBD
 

Linking up to:

 
http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/weekly-wrap-up-the-one-with-the-tires-the-leak-and-the-drastic-new-do/ 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

George: Two Years Post-Op!

Today is a special day, and it's a day all about George. It is not his birthday but it is a day I will remember each year for as long as I live.
 
George is now two years post-op! He had open heart surgery on October 7, 2013. It was the scariest day of my life, but he pulled through and he is stronger than ever. I am so grateful to all of his doctors and the nursing staff in the PICU who took care of him throughout this entire ordeal.
 
We are so happy to have this boy still with us. I look forward seeing him live a long and healthy life.
 

October 7, 2013 (just after open-heart surgery)

George today! Growing so big and strong!
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