Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Easy, Delicious, Southwestern Black Bean Soup

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I made this for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and hit was a huge hit! Five out of five people in my family loved it. I found the original recipe here.

Southwestern Black Bean Soup

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 15 ounce cans black beans
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP lime juice
  • Sour cream
  • Cilantro
*Heat oil. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin and cook 1 minute more. Add all the rest except lime, sour cream, and cilantro. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Transfer 1/2 soup to blender and blend. Stir back into pan. Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

**I doubled the recipe for my family. (The above recipe is not doubled) The cilantro really adds nice flavor. :) I just love it when new recipes are received with much enthusiasm. We will be having this again soon!

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

Monday, February 27, 2012

Delicious Moon Phases

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My daughter and I have been learning all about astronomy this year, and thanks to pinterest, I saw the Oreo Moon Phase project just in time!

Seeing the above project spurred me on to look up "Oreo Moon Phases" on the web, and there were so many cute ideas. I decided to have my daughter draw the earth in the center of a paper plate and put the cookie moons around it. I saw one project in which a cupcake with blue frosting was used as the earth~yummy. :)

First, she made a Moon-Go-Round from What on Earth?

Then, the fun project she'd been waiting for . . . Oreo Moon Phases. After drawing her earth, she "glued" the 8 Oreo moons to the plate with frosting. I helped "make" the different phases by scraping off the white filling with a knife. She glued one of her moons backwards, but I think she got the point. I am sure this will be a project she will never forget!

She also used her sun (also a project from What on Earth?) for the photo. :)

I'd say these were the best tasting moons ever.

This tasty astronomy project worked for us!!  Linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Own Microwave Test

Pin It Now! I received an email from a friend asking about my thoughts on microwave use and attached in the email was a science fair project involving plants and microwaves done by a child in secondary school. I found a link of the project here.

In the science fair project, a girl watered one plant with cooled water that had been boiled on a stove and the other plant with cooled water that had been boiled in the microwave. She showed that the plant that had been watered with microwaved water died within 9 days. Click the above link to view her project in full and to also read a FORENSIC RESEARCH DOCUMENT
Prepared By: William P. Kopp. I have never heard of this guy, but he writes about the health hazards of microwave use.

What does this have to do with me? Well, it peaked my interest since I am one of those people who think microwave use probably isn't all that good for you. I have always limited its use; I even went years of my marriage without even owning one. The only reason I have one now is because it came with the house. Of course, I have to admit that I do use it occasionally--it is pretty convenient every now and then!

I figured, since I am a stay-at-home-homeschool mom, that this would be a simple project for me to do.

What I did: I bought some cheap viola flower plants from Wal-Mart. I planted them into containers when I got home. I thought I had 2 plastic, black ones on hand, but I didn't so, yes, they are in different containers. (Probably not the best way to start off a scientific experiment. But I am not a real scientist and I figured it wouldn't affect this particular outcome.)

I started the project on a Thursday and watered the plants every other day or as they needed water. For a few days I kept them on my kitchen sink's windowsill. I eventually moved them outside since it is pretty warm already in AZ.

The start of my experiment: fresh violas. :) The one in the black container was watered with cooled, boiled water from the stove. The one in the pretty container my daughter made was watered with cooled, boiled water from the microwave.

A few days later: didn't see a change in the plants yet. (I was kinda hoping I would--for some reason I wanted the microwaved water to kill the plant!)

Exactly 2 weeks later: both plants seem to be thriving. Hmmm.

I didn't bother taking too many pics as the plants weren't changing. Trust me, my kids were checking daily, and now my boys don't want to take my microwave warnings too seriously!! 

I honestly wanted to use this little test to have some tangible "proof" to show my kids how horrible it is to use the microwave. Oh well. So much for that!

My thoughts on the experiment: Well, I don't think it is proof that microwaves aren't bad for us. I guess all it proves is that my particular viola plant didn't die from receiving water that had been boiled in the microwave.

My thoughts on the original science fair project: (link above) Since I wasn't there to see it play out, I can't really say. Supposedly, the experiment was repeated several times with the same results. All I know is that my plant didn't die after 2 weeks of receiving microwaved water.

Anyone else ever done this experiment?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Marking Cartons in Fridge

Pin It Now! My daughter gets her own breakfast now. Most of the time she's downstairs ready to eat before I can even get down to the kitchen. I love that she's becoming more independent at 6 1/2 years old, but a particular problem arose due to this new get-your-own-breakfast independence: THE OPENING OF MORE THAN ONE OF THE SAME TYPE OF MILK OR JUICE CARTON!  Grrrrrrrr.

My simple, why-didn't-I-think-of-this-before solution: marking the caps with big, red O's!

O is for open. :)  No O is for not open. :)  My kids, especially my daughter, know to only use the cartons marked with the O.

Works wonders!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kids' Chore Schedule

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Our Own Personal Chore Schedule

Recently, I have had a few people ask me about the way we do chores at our house. I guess word gets out that my kids do a lot of cleaning! (My dad even whipped out his camera when he stopped by the other day and saw his 12 year old grandson dusting and straightening up the couch pillows!)

I surely don't want anyone to get the wrong impression and think that I've got it all together or that my kids are the perfect examples of well-behaved, overachieving homeschoolers. We've all got our issues. We are not perfect. (My kids are pretty awesome, though.) ;)

I am very systematic about chores, though! Our chore schedule has changed over the years as my kids have grown older, but right now this is pretty much what works for us on a daily basis.

*The key for getting my kids to do chores consistently and getting them to do them without having to constantly be reminded is using a dry erase board. I've written my three kids' names on the board, and each day I write their chores for the day next to their names. As each one completes his/her chore, I (or the child) erase it. Typically my kids do school first then chores. My boys can't play outside with their friends until their chores are done. Since my daughter is finished with school before her brothers, the rule for her is that she can't play X-Box until she's completed her chore for the day.

The following schedule is our "because you live here" chores; my kids do not earn money for these.

12 year old son                          

Monday- vacuum downstairs 
Tuesday- take out trash and recycling (also has to put away)  
Wednesday- dust and straighten living room
Thursday- clean room (includes dusting, straightening, and vacuuming)
Friday- laundry

10 year old son

Monday- dust TV and stand
Tuesday- laundry
Wednesday- vacuum living room rug
Thursday- clean room (includes dusting, straightening, and vacuuming)
Friday- dust TV and stand

6 year old daughter

Monday- empty bathroom trash cans
Tuesday- clean door that opens from garage into the house (it gets gross with all kinds of dirty fingerprints!)
Wednesday- clean outside of fridge
Thursday- clean room (straighten and vacuum)
Friday- clean kitchen trash can

**I have tried to give my daughter chores that are pretty easy--chores that I really don't have to worry about redoing. Cleaning fingerprints off the fridge is something I do daily anyway. :) Her chores will change as she gets older.

***My boys started doing their own laundry about a year ago. The only things I wash are their white t-shirts because I don't want them to shrink. I just throw these in with my delicate lights/whites when I do my laundry.

****Other daily chores that my kids do but are not written down--they are so ingrained, it's like brushing their teeth: they make their beds everyday, and each child takes a turn cleaning the table after meals. My daughter always cleans the table after breakfast, my middle son always cleans it after lunch, and my oldest son always cleans it after dinner.

Because we can now afford to do so, we've given our kids the opportunity to earn money for other chores that are done on the weekend.

12 year old--clean downstairs 1/2 bathroom and clean kitchen (vacuum floor and clean counter tops by moving everything off to do so) 

10 year old--dust computer room and vacuum edges of room with hand held vacuum, and vacuum stairs and clean railing.

6 year old--no set money chores yet, but I do give random jobs for $.50 here and there.  (Helping to fold laundry, sweeping back patio, etc.)
The money chores are pretty much optional, so if they don't do them they don't get paid.  They do need to tell me, though, before the weekend is over if they are not going to do them so I have time to.  The other brother can be given the option to complete them as well.

For now, this is really working for our family and has been for quite some time. :)

So, to sum it up-- Daily chores using a dry erase board works for us!

Linked to Works for me Wednesday

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Memories vs Duties

Pin It Now! In the background there's a pile of dishes that needs to be washed, a pile of schoolwork that needs to be graded, a pile of towels that needs to be folded, and a bag of oranges that needs to be juiced.

I hate piles. *Sigh*

On my to-do list a review needs to be written, an errand needs to be run, flowers need to be watered, cilantro needs to be chopped . . . and it doesn't stop there.  Can you relate?


instead of crossing off all of those things on my lists, (I love lists with lots of check marks!) I finished these really fun Valentine cupcakes.


I know it's the little, special, out-of-the-ordinary, things that put smiles on my kids' faces! It's these very same things that are tons of work but so worth it. :)

This is just the kind of thing they will forever remember: "Remember when mom made those cupcakes with the hearts in them?"

I doubt I will ever hear, "Hey, remember when mom cleaned all those dishes and graded all of our papers?!"

It's moments like these that spark other memories, too.  My boys always bring up our special egg lunch, and my daughter will never forget her fairy party for twoJust to name a couple out of a million. ;)

I was inspired by these amazing cupcakes.  You definitely want to click the link for some beautiful pictures!!

I did chocolate hearts instead of pink.  Less dye.  I also cut some corners and used Valentine sprinkles to save some time. :)

My kids were impressed with the surprise heart in the middle, and I even let them have a taste.  But the rest are for tomorrow!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Armed and Dangerous

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I never thought the day would come when I no longer sat in a lawn chair for hours on end so my kids could play in the front yard.  Yes, that day has come when I don't see every move my kids make.

So, what do you do in an age where evil is rampant and you never feel like your kids are safe?  Arm them with guns and send them out to play! 

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Decorate with Tissue Paper Balls

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To decorate for Valentine's Day, I wanted to use my new apothecary jars that my hubby bought me for Christmas. Hmmm, but what to put in them.\? I knew I'd be spending money on candy--what's Valentine's Day without some beautiful pink and red wrapped candy? The other 2 jars needed to cost me nothing!

So, I scrounged around the house and found some used pink, red, and white tissue paper. (It's the best I could do since I don't really have a lot of crafty stuff lying around.) I scrunched the tissue paper into balls, and that's it.

It might not have been my first choice in decor, but I think it turned out alright. :)

Tissue Paper Balls work for me!

(The cupcake I found in my daughter's room--it's a necklace box, actually.  I thought it was cute!)

Linked to Works for me Wednesday

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Yummy Hummus

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*Updated 5/11/2013

I was so glad when my hubby asked for healthy Super Bowl food this year! One of the yummy dishes was homemade Hummus with crisp, colorful veggies. This was my second time making it from scratch. SO GOOD.

After scanning the web for different hummus recipes, I decided to use what I'd learned and just make up my own. It was a big hit with all my boys--6 year-old daughter wasn't that impressed. ;)

Homemade Hummus:

*1 can of chickpeas, half drained
*Juice of 1/2 a lemon
*1 tsp. of minced garlic
*olive oil
*1 tsp. salt--I usually add more to taste
*1/2 tsp. paprika
*1-2 TBSP of sesame tahini

**Empty 1/2 drained can of chickpeas into a blender. Squeeze juice out of the 1/2 lemon and add to blender. (I just squeeze it right over the chickpeas.) Add the garlic, salt, and paprika. Begin blending on low speed. Slowly add olive oil to reach a nice, smooth consistency. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

I like it as is, but my hubby likes to jazz it up with some ground red pepper. :)

Tips for using Hummus:

  • Use as a dip for veggies, black bean chips or any tortilla chip, crackers, etc.

  • Spread onto warm bread or grilled flat bread. (Hubby grilled flat bread for Super Bowl--oh my--Amazing with Hummus!!

  • Use on a veggie sandwich as a substitute for Mayo.

How do you like Hummus?

Blogging Through the Alphabet
A little late on getting my H linked, but here it is finally!


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