Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crockpot Meal: Swiss Steak

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Except for occasionally cooking pot roast, I usually don't use my crock pot throughout spring and summer. I really don't like having to scrub it clean. It's hard work!

You should have seen me as a newlywed the first time I tried to clean my brand new crock pot! I spent quite a bit of time and all of my strength trying to separate the "pot" from the bottom - is that the crock? Anyway, I think I remember calling my mom about the ordeal, and I guess that's when it hit me that not all crock pots can be separated. Oh boy, that made cleaning it even more difficult. I would have made the perfect pioneer wife, huh? Thank goodness, I didn't have to get messy turning the cow into the steak!

Back to the recipe - Swiss Steak is one of the first fall meals that I make. In September in the desert, it's just too hot to make chili yet! I can't wait though. :)

Swiss Steak
  • 1 1/2 lbs. round steak (I buy the kind already thinly sliced)
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 green pepper, sliced in rings
Cut round steak into serving pieces. Season flour with salt and pepper and dredge meat in seasoned flour. Put onions in bottom of crock pot; add meat. Top with carrots, celery, and green pepper. Cover with tomato sauce. I add more salt and pepper at this point. Cover, and cook on low 8-10 hours.

*This recipe came from the little Rival Crock Pot booklet. The only thing different is the added green pepper and extra salt and pepper. I like to serve this meal over rice, though the rest of my family prefers rice on the side. :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

This Phase

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It seems that in the blink of an eye I was transported to an entirely different phase of motherhood. It's what I've longed for and, wow, now I'm here. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself in the morning and ask, Is this for real?

I am still trying to wrap my brain around this phase. This phase where my house can finally stay mostly clean. Where I can sleep the whole night through (when I am not plagued by insomnia). Where my kids stay up later than me on weekends. Where my kids do lots of chores that actually help. Where my kids can entertain themselves for long periods of time. Where I have time to do things I want to do. And the list goes on!

This phase, oh this blessed phase! I love you!

It's so refreshing to be able to wake up and take a shower every single morning if I want to! (Sometimes I even put makeup on and do my hair. Yes, it's true!) All of my kids can get their own breakfast without making a mess. Yea! I have time to read my Bible, pray, and just have a moment to myself before starting the homeschool day. I no longer have to wait until nap time for that.

I so love being able to run errands with children who aren't going to throw any fits out in public! What's really neat is being able to leave the older ones at home, so I am left with just one tag-along. (Thank goodness she's cute, sweet, and quiet!) I don't have to haul around diaper bags and strollers or have to worry that anybody will have an accident in their pants. Oh, such freedom! I do smile to myself when I see young mommies with their little ones out in public. It is a precious stage, but I am so glad I am done. ;)

Not too long ago, my youngest started taking showers all by herself. Seriously, nobody needs bathroom help anymore! I do still enjoy drying my daughter's hair, though. She'd rather skip it, but I try to encourage her to cherish these sweet momma/daughter moments because soon, all too soon, she will be all grown up. :(

I think I've finally realized that I no longer have little kids. That stage is OVER. I can't ever go back. Honestly, it does make me a little sad. There are some things I miss dearly. But raising little ones is HARD work with very few breaks. It's physically draining. I am so glad that I don't feel as if I've been run over by a Hummer every day.

I love this phase! (Well, as long as my baby girl still cuddles, holds my hand, and lets me read to her.) When she stops doing those things, I am sure I will have a motherhood phase meltdown!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Washing the Unwashable

Pin It Now! I bought this big, pink, fluffy heart pillow as a decoration to go on my daughter's bed. At the time, she was still a toddler. Before I could stop the madness, she'd begun using it as her main pillow. How anyone could sleep on that furry mess?!

I am a clean freak, and I detested the fact that the tag on the pillow said hand wash only. Because I am usually very much a rule follower, I tried this for a long time. Seriously, I would spray the thing down with lavender, soap it up, and wash it outside with the hose. This just started to get old after a while, and I really didn't think it was getting clean enough.

Yep, one day I just decided to throw the "unwashable" heart pillow into the washing machine. (And I prayed with all my might that it wouldn't get ruined!) I threw Uni the Pillow Pet in, too, since it is made out of the exact same material.

They survived, and I have been washing them in the washing machine ever since. I love how they come out of the dryer so nice and fluffy and clean looking!!

For all the moms who've been hesitant to wash those furry pillows and animals:

*I washed the pillows on gentle with warm water. I dried them on low. Easy. It works for me!

(If you are concerned about the eyes of Pillow Pets or other stuffed animals getting scratched in the washing machine, you may want to put them in pillow cases first.)

Linked to WFMW.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

And Let There Be Noise

Pin It Now! Just as I was settling into our peaceful rental home located on a beautiful, tree-lined street in the heart of the Arizona desert, my boys announced they wanted to take up drumming and keyboarding. Yikes!

I am usually a no-tolerance-for-noise kind of mama, but truly it warmed my heart that they were finally taking an interest in music. (I mean, their dad is a worship leader.) I am always so envious of musical families, and I have always thought it would be so neat for all of my children to be talented musically like their daddy. Yes, that leaves me out, but so be it. :)

I am so proud of Lincoln for saving up his own hard-earned money to pay for an electric drum set. And my sensitive ears are forever grateful for the headphones. I do still hear the tapping, but when I hear it, I know he's practicing! He's been watching some DVDs from the library, and he says he's finally mastered the "Barbecue Chicken," whatever that means.

Mullin has mentioned since he was about 5 years old that he'd like to learn how to play the piano. So, 8 years later, he was finally able to purchase a keyboard (with mom and dad's help). I have heard the "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" tune coming from his bedroom so far, and he says he wants to learn "Amazing Grace" next.

Maybe one day they'll be writing and singing their own songs just like their dad, or join the worship team at church. :)

Friday, September 07, 2012

TOS Review: Speekee TV

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All three of my children have mentioned once or twice (or more) that they'd like to learn Spanish. But, I'm one of those homeschool moms. You know the ones. The ones that make their kids study Latin. (Enter wicked laugh.)

My deal with them is three years of Latin, and then they can study a different language or another extra curricular subject if they choose. Ya know, I've just never gotten around to researching Spanish curricula. My two boys would try and find things on the Internet and dabble here and there, but nothing serious.

I got really excited when I saw that a Spanish program was being offered to members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew! What really sold me on this one was the website's claim: "Spanish acquisition without effort. Just watch and play!" I was crossing my fingers I'd be picked. And I know my middle son was, too. He'd do anything to postpone his third year of Latin!

Obviously we were picked for the review, and may I say, We like Speekee! I was a little worried at first because we usually aren't sing-songy learners (mostly because my boys protest to that sort of thing). However, it didn't take long for us all to become quite fond of our new purple friend.

Meet Speekee, the lovable puppet who will have you and your family chanting words and singing songs in Spanish in no time! By the way, Speekee's favorite color is naranja. :)
Speekee TV is truly a simple and effective way to learn Spanish. Really, you just sit back and watch. In my opinion, it's living up to the without-effort standard! I like that my kids and I can learn together by watching 10 different episodes of real Spanish children in real Spanish locations. Everything is spoken is Spanish, but you do have the option of turning on the English and Spanish subtitles.

Each episode features children, characters, and catchy songs to help teach your family how to speak everyday Spanish. Along with Jim, Speekee, and many Spanish children you will visit a park, a cafe, a classroom, a beach, a zoo, a house, a market, a station, a party, and a garden. Also featured are sock puppets, Dino and Lupi, who sing songs and interact with each other making it fun for kids to learn.

Here's a sampling of the types of words you and your children will be learning about:
  • colors
  • numbers
  • weather words
  • greetings
  • vehicles
  • body parts
  • foods
  • animals
  • and so much more!
Here's a sampling of phrases you will learn:
  • I love you.
  • Be careful.
  • What time is it?
  • Where are we going?
  • Where are you going?
  • Come here.
  • I don't know
  • and so much more!

Speekee FastTrack is a 40 week plan which includes simple activities, worksheets, corresponding video clips, flashcards, and more to maximize your children's Spanish learning. Speekee FastTrack can be accessed on the website or you can choose to receive it by email. If you choose the email option, you'll receive one email each week for 40 weeks. FastTrack is absolutely free of charge with a Speekee TV subscription.

Here's an example of how FastTrack works. You will spend 4 weeks on one episode completing worksheets and activities 4 days per week. It's pretty flexible, though, if you choose to move at a faster pace.

Subscriptions are just $7.50 per month or $60 per year for customers in the United States. DVDs are available, but please see the website for information since details are in a European format.

Speekee is recommended for ages 2-10, but all three of my children (ages 7, 10, and 13) enjoyed watching the videos. We spent the first 2 weeks watching all of the episodes with the subtitles turned on. I really couldn't believe how much we were learning without much effort. The songs would get stuck in my head, and Spanish words and phrases danced through my mind especially as I tried to go to sleep!

After watching all of the episodes, we've started going back through them using FastTrack. We are working at our own pace and loosely following the recommended schedule. Sometimes we watch certain clips and complete corresponding worksheets. Sometimes we just focus on learning words and writing them on our dry erase board. Other times we sit back and watch an episode all the way through without turning on the subtitles. This helps us catch the words we haven't quite mastered yet.

We highly recommend Speekee TV! Me gusta! See what other Crew Members are saying here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine


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