Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving has got to be one of our favorite holidays. I love fall and fall decorations (although I did not put any out this year). I especially love fall food, and Thanksgiving dinner is an opportunity to prepare many favorite holiday dishes. The kids love the food, but they also love dressing up, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, having daddy home from work, seeing grandparents, and playing with cousins.


For the past three years, I have hosted Thanksgiving at my house because most Thanksgiving feasts involve everything we don't eat (turkey, ham, cheese-topped or condensed soup flavored casseroles, and butter) so it is much easier to do it all myself so that everything is "safe". We eat a plant-based diet and that doesn't change even for the holidays. But the food is still delicious, I promise! 

This year, because we have the homeschool table and our regular kitchen table, we were able to combine the two in our homeschool room (which is supposed to be the dining room) and have a nice long table for our family of 5 along with both sets of grandparents to sit comfortably and have all of the food on the table. I wish our house were a bit bigger to be able to have a family dinner more often. We are thinking that this may be our last Thanksgiving in our current house, but more on that later.

I am glad that my husband took a couple of pictures of the table while I was still getting things set up. He even managed to get me in one of them.



I did not manage to get a picture of my plate on Thanksgiving, but I did take this one the day after Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving leftovers!


Our vegan Thanksgiving menu this year was:

  • Country Meatloaf (in place of the turkey)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Vegan Stuffing
  • Golden Gravy
  • Sweet Potato Fluff (courtesy of my mother-in-law)
  • Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Candied Corn
  • Panko Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Polenta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Vegan Bacon (courtesy of my dad)
  • Green Bean Casserole (with homemade vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup)
  • Cranberry-Orange Sauce
  • Homemade Wheat Rolls (courtesy of my husband)

For dessert, I made an apple pie with apples from the orchard we visited on our recent trip to the North Carolina mountains.  I also made pumpkin chocolate-chip bread as an experiment but it turned out to be quite tasty so I offered it along with the pie. I took things very easy on the desserts this year, as it has been my experience that most people are too stuffed to eat enough dessert to where I don't have so many dessert leftovers.

After our feast, my sister-in-law and her family came over to let the cousins play for awhile while we visited (she has three of her own and the six of them together have a pretty good time).


Things I Am Thankful For:

  • My family. My children are everything to me, and the man they call "daddy" is pretty awesome too.
  • The gospel. It teaches my children good values and it also helps me to want to be a better person. 
  • A home. We're outgrowing it quickly but I am thankful that it is ours, as I know many people have it much worse than we do. It keeps us safe, dry, and warm and that is what matters most.
  • Employment. My husband has a great job with a great boss. He didn't always have this and we know what its like to work for the complete opposite, so we both appreciate the positive side of employment he gets to experience.
  • Our country. I have too many ancestors to name that came to this country when it was just beginning. These ancestors came for freedom, the same freedom that many of us (myself included) take advantage of and do not always appreciate. Election years (and the year before) tend to get us in a grumpy mood when it comes to where our country is headed, and we all have different ideas. On Thanksgiving, many of us are able to put those differences aside and just be thankful that we are where we are.

Bridget is thankful for (in her own words):
  • Heavenly Father because he teaches us the right things. 
  • Our family because I love them and they will keep us safe. 
  • My brothers because they are so fun to play with. 
  • For food that makes us healthy.

George is thankful for (in his own words):
  • My teddy bear.
  • My famiwy, my Mommy and my Daddy and my wittle bwother Wiam and my big sister Bwigit.
  • Wiam because I wuv him.
  • My teachers in the nursery.

Perhaps next year, Liam will be ready to tell me what he is thankful for too!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dance 2015 - Tap/Jazz I

As I said in my post about ballet and Bridget's new blue leotard, she is also now old enough to start tap/jazz class! It is a combined class where they do tap for two weeks, then jazz for two weeks, then back to tap, and so on. Parent's week happened to fall during her jazz week. 
 
I took way too many pictures and video because this was the very first time I've seen her do jazz. It's a very exciting and upbeat class, as opposed to ballet. I love ballet and the grace that comes with it, but jazz was an entirely different experience. There were lot's of energetic dance movies, a lot of stretching, and a few dance routines. Those dancers were getting a workout! I think I may need to join the class so that I can be more active and get in shape. (Ha ha!)
 
So here are a few fun pictures to share about Bridget's jazz class. She has a fantastic teacher, Miss Allie, and assistant teacher who just so happens to be the daughter of Bridget's ballet teacher from last year.
 


Looks comfy, doesn't it?
Point those toes!

 
 
 
 

After the dance routines and stretches, the dancers practiced more dance positions.
 
 

I also made a few videos of Bridget dancing but I'll only share one of them here:


Isn't she cute?? Hopefully she will become a little more coordinated as time goes on. You can't expect too much from a 6 year old.

After Bridget's very first jazz class back in September, she came home and told me that the teacher plays "big kid music" for them to dance to. She was worried, but I told her that as long as the words are clean that it should be fine. After sitting in on the class myself, I thought the music was just fine. I did think it was cute that she was so concerned about it. As long as they're not playing any Kanye West, Eminem, or Beyoncé, we should be good.

I am glad that she is enjoying the class. She wasn't sure she'd like jazz at first (she does love tap though, and I think that has more to do with the shoes). She's a ballerina at heart. I figure we will give it a couple of years and if she ends up not liking it, then we'll drop it and stick with ballet. I am also glad to know that after the third year of tap/jazz, it splits and she can take either tap or jazz/hip hop. But that will be a few years from now, so she's got a lot of time to figure it all out!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #46

Life

We've had a good week. The kids are always a lot of fun and I think often of how fortunate I am to be able to stay at home with them. Liam is becoming less of a baby and more of one of the kiddos. He is so funny and wants to do everything his big brother and sister do. I tried to get a picture of just the two boys together, but neither of them would look at the camera at the same time. I look forward to getting more "brothers" pictures in the future.


We had a cozy, rainy day this week. I let the children stay in their pajamas and we enjoyed the rainy day. We had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and I guess the rainy weather got to Liam because he passed out mid-lunch! I was able to take him out of his high chair, clean him up, change his diaper, and put him in his crib for the rest of his nap.
 
 
While Liam slept, Bridget and George enjoyed one of my favorite movies, The Sound of Music. They have seen it before and I hope that one day it becomes one of their favorites as well.
 
The very next day after the storm was beautiful and sunny. We joined my dad down at "the farm" to rake leaves. This is by far my favorite yard chore. We took the kids rakes too and they helped quite a bit. Even Liam got in on the action. By the time we were done, we had one very large pile of leaves. All of the leaves in the pile are just from the path in the picture. That equates to about 1/20th of the farm, if even that. We are no where near being done with the raking.
 
 
After finishing this small area, I ventured off to the scuppernong grape vines at the corner of the farm and started raking around there. The children later joined me. They didn't do too much raking this time but spent most of their time making trails, going through the "tunnel", and building a house out of fallen branches. 
 
 
After this, we went for a drive through what was the woods land and took a short walk to the pond. The trees were recently harvested and so everything looks so bare. I think they plan on replanting at the beginning of next year.



I was surprised to see a color other than brown at this time of year, so I had to take a picture of this:


There were also a lot of varieties of mushrooms around the farm, but this little guy looked perfect. George stepped on it immediately after, so this is more of an in memory of type of picture:


 

Homeschool 

We have not done anything noteworthy this week in school but I am happy to be getting caught up. We're in a good routine now and there is a lot less arguing about doing schoolwork. George  and Liam are also being a little nicer by allowing me to teach Bridget. They still get noisy at time, but I think they understand. It's difficult to balance a school-aged child, an active preschooler, and a toddler all by myself every day of the week, but I love it.

Linking up to:

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Recipe: Simple Vegetable Soup

It is another rainy fall day here, which means it is a perfect day for soup. If soup is not already for dinner, I do some rearranging on my weekly menu on days just like this one. One of our favorites happens to be the most easiest soup I've ever made, and I almost always have every ingredient on hand. It can also be made at the last minute if the rain storm doesn't start until the late afternoon. There is no need for this soup to simmer all day!
 
 
Simple Vegetable Soup
 
 
1 onion, chopped
2 16 oz. bags of frozen mixed vegetables
2 cans tomato sauce
2 "cans" of water
1 can diced tomatoes (optional)
1/4 tsp. sea salt (optional)
pepper to taste (optional)
 
In a large pot, cook the onions until tender. Add the mixed vegetables and heat through. Add the tomato sauce, water, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add sea salt and pepper, if desired. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables reach a desired tenderness.
 
Our family enjoys this soup with a peanut butter sandwich on the side. A perfect stormy weather meal! 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dance 2015 - Beginning Ballet I

This year, Bridget moved up from wearing a pink leotard to wearing a light blue leotard. Her dance academy uses a "uniform" where all the girls in a level of dance wear a specific colored leotard. While Bridget is not one to choose blue over pink, she was more than happy to move up into her new leotard.
 
She is now in Beginning Ballet I. The day we chose has a small class of only four dancers, which fits Bridget's personality perfectly. She is very shy and will not ask for help, so in a small class she is able to get a little more attention from the teacher who may notice when she's not doing something exactly right.
 
Each week, they talk about one of the princesses and then dance to the music from the movie. For the class I was able to sit in on, they were dancing to Sleeping Beauty. 
 
Performing a curtsy
This is supposed to be a "tendu" but I was a little slow with the camera
 
Bridget has a lot of fun in the class, though she doesn't show it. I caught her multiple times trying to hold back a smile. 
 
One of the things Bridget is most happy about is having Miss Becky as her teacher. She has known Miss Becky since she first started at the dance academy 3 years ago, but this is the first time she has been in one of her classes. Bridget absolutely adores her.
 

Bridget is off to a great start this year. She is slowly maturing as a dancer and takes the whole thing very seriously. She makes a good effort in trying to do the positions correctly and attempts to "teach" me at home (though I am not the best student).

Her goal in life right now is to dance the part of Clara in The Nutcracker. I do my best in trying not to give her false hope, as it is a very sought after part by many of the older girls at the dance academy. It is something that she will need to earn. Still, she is determined. She has about 10 years left to practice and to be the best that she can be.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #45

Life

It has been so nice to get back to a regular schedule! I came down with whatever the kids had last week but was feeling much better by Tuesday. My husband thinks it was mainly due to exhaustion. I am glad it did not last long.

This week was a busy one with our extracurricular activities. It was Parent's Week for both gymnastics and dance. I get to watch the kids at gymnastics every week anyway, but this time Daddy was able to see them as well. Bridget does not make a big deal of it but George sure loved showing off for us.




I was able to post about Bridget's class and George's class earlier in the week with more pictures and details.

Bridget also takes ballet and tap/jazz. We were able to attend both of those classes as well.




Bridget absolutely loves ballet and this her third year. The is the first year that Bridget has taken tap/jazz. We didn't know what to expect for Parent's Week, but it looks like they have a lot of fun in both dance classes. She has some really great teachers.

In other news, our dishwasher started leaking on Thursday. I ran a load which ended with water pooled on the floor. After a little research by Mr. Fix-It aka my husband, he determined that the seal was worn out and that's why it was leaking and that a new seal would cost about $50. A new dishwasher costs about $250-$300. We opted for the brand new dishwasher as our old one is about 10 years old and was probably on its way out soon anyway.

First thing on Saturday morning, my husband took the older two kids to Lowes to purchase a new dishwasher and brought it home with him, took out the old dishwasher, and installed the new one, all by about noon on Saturday. We ran the first load and wished we had bought a new dishwasher years ago. The new one is so quiet! Now we get to wait around and wait for the next appliance to die on us.

Homeschool 

 

Writing

We are all caught up with writing! What a relief! Bridget has been a real trooper, doing 2-3 pages of worksheets per day just to get back on track. I took a look at her handwriting from this week compared to the beginning of the school year and I am very pleased with her progress.
 

Math

This week, we learned algebra. No, really. The lesson was titled "solving for an unknown". This was by far the hardest concept for Bridget to grasp. Once she got it, she got it, but it took awhile. She still doesn't want to take the test. She does well with the worksheets until she stops paying attention and adds the two numbers together regardless of their placement. Something as easy as ___ + 3 = 5, she'll answer as 8, simply because she's not paying attention. Then she'll surprise me and do an entire worksheet of problems correctly. I want her to go ahead and take the test so that we can put algebra behind us, for now.
 

Family Movie Night


Things got so busy this week that we forgot to pick a movie. Luckily, my husband had bought another box of Lincoln Logs that he found at Staples of all places. This kept Bridget and George busy all of Friday night and Saturday afternoon. They were actually playing well together.

Linking up to:

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gymnastics 2015 - Little Flippers

George is in his second year of Little Flippers. He loves being able to let loose and run around. His teachers do provide some structure to the classes but they still make it a lot of fun for the little ones. He his favorite parts are tumbling and jumping on the trampoline.
 
The first station George was at was the obstacle course routine where they go around and around, practicing their jumps, cartwheels, tumbling, log rolls, donkey kicks, head stands, etc.

George after his tumble

"Donkey Kicks"

"Head Stand"

Next was a course involving the balance beams, tunnels, and the slide.

On the balance beam

Through the tunnel

Gymnastics is one of the highlights of George's week. It is currently his only extracurricular activity so he looks forward to it very much. He loves showing off for us, and was especially excited that daddy was also there watching him and came over for a hug a couple of times. Even though he is getting so big, he is still our fun little boy. It's always a treat to see him having so much fun.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gymnastics 2015 - Girls' Skills Development

We had the privilege of attending "Parent's Week" at our local gym, where Bridget and George participate in gymnastics each week. As a homeschooler, this is their "physical education" class.

This year, Bridget is in the Girls' Skills Development class. It's a little less of the "fun" stuff and more of the skills development, as the class title suggests.

So far this year, she has been working on the bars, the trampoline, and the balance beams. They are also working on basic skills like pointing their toes, head stands, arabesques, and various other positions.

Bridget on the balance beam

A couple of weeks ago, Bridget fell off of the balance beam. I did not see it happen, though she told me about it later. She said she cried a little because it scared her. Since then, we had our little pep talk and she is back on the balance beam. She's still very careful up there.

 

These two pictures were the only decent ones I got of her. She's very serious and also very shy and will not look at me during her routines, much less smile for the camera. She really enjoys going to her gymnastics class every week and likes both of her teachers.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Meal Plan: Week 45

You will have to excuse me for missing week 44. My oldest was sick, and then the younger two followed suit. Not only did I not have a menu planned for the week, my husband and I ended up eating freezer foods and leftovers for most of the week while the sick children ate whatever they asked for (within reason).

I am so very excited to be preparing even more soups and cold weather meals. I love fall weather!
 


SUNDAY

Breakfast
Cereal
Lunch
Pancakes
Snack
none--late lunch
Dinner
Veggie Starter: Yellow Squash
Main Course: Vegetable Soup with Peanut Butter Sandwiches


MONDAY

Breakfast
Mini Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Peanut Butter and Stewed Apples
Lunch
Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Brown Rice, Steamed Broccoli, Mandarin Oranges
Snack
No-Bake Cookies
Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Shepherd's Pie


TUESDAY

Breakfast
Special K Red Berries with Milk, Banana
Lunch
Southern Chickpea Salad, Crackers, Garden Salad, Grapes
Snack
No-Bake Cookies
Dinner
Veggie Starter: Sautéed Asparagus with Lemon-Olive Oil
Main Course: Mushroom Stroganoff

 

WEDNESDAY

Breakfast
Granola, Strawberries, Yogurt
Lunch
PB&J, Apples
Snack
Smoothies
Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Sloppy Joes, Tater Tots


THURSDAY

Breakfast
Whole Wheat Toast with Fruit Preserves, Almonds
Lunch
Fishless Filets with Tartar Sauce, Bun, Salad, Pineapple
Snack
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Lentil Loaf, Mashed Potatoes, Corn


FRIDAY

Breakfast
Slow Cooker Irish Oatmeal, Blueberries
Lunch
TBD
Snack
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
Dinner
Veggie Starter: ---
Main Course: Hawaiian Style Tofu with Brown Rice


SATURDAY

Breakfast
Apple Cider Donut Holes
Lunch
TBD
Snack
TBD
Dinner
Veggie Starter: Salad
Dinner: Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna, Garlic Bread


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

Friday, November 6, 2015

Week in Review 2015: #44

Life

Oh what a long and exhausting week it has been! This week was our scheduled week off for school (I do 6 weeks on, 1 week off). I had big plans. Clean, get organized, maybe do a little bit of catch-up work with Bridget. I have done non of the above. Why? The children have been sick ALL WEEK.

On Saturday, Bridget came down with a cold. She stayed at home with Papa while the rest of us attended church on Sunday. Then on Monday morning, George was beginning to cough. By Monday night, Liam was coughing. I took all three of them in to the doctor first thing on Tuesday morning. Lungs clear, no ear infections, negative for strep. Diagnosed as just a common cold with no special instructions. The cold symptoms continued on for the rest of the week. If Bridget talked too much, she'd cough; if she sat down to write or draw anything, she had to stop to blow her nose. Catching up on school work was definitely out. George's cough and runny nose never got as bad as Bridget's, and Liam only coughs a few times a day. I'm very thankful for that because sick babies make me very sad. Liam did spend much of his week being cute as a button.

Liam lounging on the floor with Daddy after a long day

Then this morning (Friday), I noticed spots on George's left arm. He had been attacked some sort of bug on Sunday, but all of those bug bites were now gone. The new spots on George's arm also did not resemble bug bites. They resembled ringworm, without the bumps. I got worried and called the doctor immediately and they got us in right away. It turns out, George has hives! The doctor said that they are due to the cold virus he has, and that they will probably get worse, move around to different parts of his body, etc. The only good news is that they are not contagious. However, the hives were a unneeded finishing touch to this terrible and unproductive week.

George's hives... he can't catch a break!


We also missed gymnastics, ballet, and tap/jazz lessons this week. I love trying to find the time to make up our missed classes (I don't have to do this, but I certainly want to get my money's worth). I am looking forward to Parent's Week next week, especially for Bridget's dance classes. While I do get to watch both of the kids at gymnastics, Bridget's ballet and tap/jazz classes are off limits for parents (some parents can be far too distracting for the little dancers).

In an attempt to end on a high note, we did look at houses today. We're getting ready to possibly build a house and we submitted our floor plan modifications to the builder, and they should get back to us within a week or so with the modifications drawn out and an estimated price. It's nothing to get excited about yet, because if their price is not what we feel it would be worth, then we're out. Being married to an accountant can be difficult sometimes, because he is always crunching numbers and getting down to the nitty-gritty of anything and everything.

Homeschool 

We're on a break from school this week!!!
 

Family Movie Night

My husband called me on Wednesday afternoon and asked if he should pick up a movie for the kid's to watch. He wanted to do something to lift their spirits. So he picked up the movie Inside Out and we got it started at around 5 o'clock. He also had a special treat for me... he picked up a Veggie Delight sandwich from Subway so that I wouldn't have to prepare anything for dinner! The children had a light dinner of fruit and toast (their appetites were small due to being sick), while I ate an entire foot long sub sandwich (and felt no guilt afterward).
 
While the movie didn't take place on our designated Family Movie Night (Fridays), it was still so nice to have a relaxing evening in with the family.
 
Next Week's Movie: TBD
 

Posts You Might Have Missed (Click Photo):

 
http://www.sparrowsathome.com/2015/11/apple-picking-in-flat-rock-nc.html
Apple Picking
http://www.sparrowsathome.com/2015/11/recipe-vegan-pesto.html
Vegan Pesto Recipe
http://www.sparrowsathome.com/2015/11/restaurant-review-green-sage-cafe-in.html
Green Sage Café, Asheville, NC
http://www.sparrowsathome.com/2015/11/happy-halloween-2015.html
Halloween 2015

Linking up to:

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

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Restaurant Review: Green Sage Café in Asheville, NC

Restaurants that sell a vegan breakfast are hard to come by. Most breakfast foods are usually off the table for vegans (scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and the list goes on). But here we were, in Asheville, the most vegan-friendly city in North Carolina. Instead of eating our usual vacation breakfast of a bag of dry cheerios, fruit, or a bagel, I found this vegan-friendly restaurant called Green Sage Café that looked like it may fit our breakfast needs.

It was a very busy café. Most people were there having morning business meetings over a cup of coffee (it was a weekday morning, after all), and there were quite a few people sitting at single-tables with their laptops and headphones on as they began their day.

When you walk in, you stand in line and place your order. After paying, they give you a cup to get yourself a drink, and you find a table to sit at, where you place your number so that they can come find you when your food is ready. We waited for about 10-15 minutes for our food. We didn't mind, because they had a lot of photographs on the walls taken by locals of the Blue Ridge Mountains, waterfalls, and all sorts of local nature spots.

For my breakfast, I ordered the Green Sage Plate, which came with a tofu herb scramble, a vegan biscuit with mushroom gravy, root hash, and sautéed kale and onions.

Green Sage Plate - Vegan ($8.95)

For the children to share, I ordered an additional serving of Tofu Herb Scramble and a tempeh "soysage". Bridget made a good effort on the tofu scramble, but I think it was too "herby" for her. She had some of the soysage, and so did Liam, but I honestly didn't think it was all that good. It was a bit on the mushy side.

Tofu Herb Scramble ($1.75) and Tempeh Soysage ($2.75)

I also ordered an extra biscuit with vegan margarine and fresh strawberry preserves (not pictured, though the preserves were tasty). Bridget and George both shared the biscuit and it was probably their favorite of all their breakfast options.

 
My husband, the only non-vegan in the family, ordered a pancake for breakfast. It may have been the most expensive pancake he ever ate in his life. He did say it tasted good, but was no where near being worth almost five dollars. The price in itself left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Buttermilk Pancake with Maple-Brown Rice Syrup ($4.50)

Overall, I thought the food was very tasty and very healthy, but a little too "earthy" to my liking. While I did feel good all day after having an extremely healthy breakfast, I felt this restaurant was not the best fit for my family. The children did not enjoy the food as I had hoped and my husband was not pleased with the prices.
 
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