A Healthy, yet Comforting, Family Meal

Nutrition & Good Eats

You know those days when the only dinner that really sounds good is a comfort meal? Something warm, and hearty, and just feels like home. Growing up I hated meatloaf, but it was a common “comfort” food in our house. As my cooking has evolved, I’ve adapted to find ways that I actually enjoy meatloaf. The secret is, no bread, no large and soggy loaf, and add veggies when at all possible.

Last night the kids and I stayed at my father-in-law’s since my husband was on call and I decided I should invite Grandma and Grandpa over as well so we could all share a meal together and they could play with the great grandkids. Grandma and Grandpa also make for extra hands so that Mama has a better chance of preparing dinner without too many interuptions.

Anyways, the dinner menu looked as such:

Bacon wrapped mini meatloaves, greenbeans and onions, mashed potatoes, and homemade elk and onion gravy. Our side salads would be spinach, strawberries, cranberries and a tiny sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.

From just the name, you might think bacon wrapped meat loaf doesn’t sound healthy, am I right?

Here’s my recipe, it’s a bit different from your typical meatloaf. Remember, it has to be in order for me to like it.

(The recipe was doubled last night since we had a total of six adults and two kids eating)

1 package organic, ground turkey

1 package ground elk burger

1 large carrot grated

2 eggs

A combination of spices

Uncured, nitrate/nitrite free turkey bacon

And that’s it. Hand mix that all together, form into large patties, wrap with the turkey bacon, and set onto a foiled cookie sheet (or use a broiler pan) and bake at 425 degrees. Depending on the size of the patties, cook for about 15 minutes, flip over and cook another 15. If you want to add a lititle crisp to the edges, broil the last couple minutes.

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Now, for the sides.

Who doesn’t love green beans cooked with onions?! I had some freshly frozen green beans that needed to be used, so I sauted a full yellow onion and a little garlic until tender and beginning to turn translucent, and added the green beans. Seasoned only with a little garlic powder and black pepper, I put a lid on these guys and let them cook a little while.

The potatoes can be where healthy turns to unhealthy, so whenever we have potatoes it’s more about portion control for me than anything. Simple mashed potatoes, a little butter a little milk, and salt and pepper. (I like to leave the skin on my potatoes if they are red or yukon gold)

The gravy base was leftover from a roast we just made a couple days ago so the flavor was full and spectacular. Full of onions and garlic already, all I had to do was thicken it. I didn’t have any organic corn starch here at my father-in-law’s so I used a pack of organic brown gravy mix.

And there you have it, a comfort meal for a family event that won’t leave you over full and feeling guilty about over eating. Unless of course to go for seconds, but that would be your fault, not mine. ūüôā

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Natural Wasp Killer/Repellent

Our Homely Farm

We love bees and are teaching our children to respect and care for them as well. I believe they are necesary for our environment, they help pollinate our food, and so much more.

And then there are wasps.

Gnarly, ugly, just plain mean!!!

We knew we had a wasp nest in the ground behind our goat’s pen, and had every intention to take care of it but got busy and realized since it was out of the way, it wasn’t high on our priorities. And then a few days ago, we were working the property, and our son started screaming and we had no idea why. He wasn’t using his words or explaining anything to us (as I don’t think he knew exactly what happened) and it finally hit us that maybe he got stung!

Sure enough, we had a second wasp nest! This one closer to the house, under a wood pile we started digging into.

I picked up Parker and ran with him around the front and up the stairs and across the deck and into the house and those suckers followed us, chasing us down the whole way! It wasn’t until we got inside and Parker was still crazy that I realized there might be a dang wasp inside his clothes!

There was.

Poor guy got a total of 5 stings, I got 2 and Javin got 1. Thank goodness little Avaley didn’t get any because it was quite the fiasco at our house for about an hour trying to calm down after the sting. The thing was, we knew Parker wasn’t overreacting because the stings hurt! They hurt bad!

Okay, Mama was officially on a mission. Those things had to die!!! They hurt my baby.

Initially my husband wanted to dump gasoline over the first nest we found but I had told him I never liked that idea. So I researched effective ways to get rid of wasps and really wanted to be as natural as possible while still getting the job done. I came across something that seemed easy enough. So we tried it.

Instructions are as follows:

Boil a large pot of water, or even two, depending on how large you suspect the nest to be. (We had no idea how big the nests were, but since we had two nests, we made two big pots.)

Right after the water is done boiling, add peppermint essential oil.

Pour the boiling water with oil directly on top and into the wasps nest and remove yourself from the area quickly in case they come a flyin’!

***Note: don’t attempt to poor the water unless the wasps aren’t swarming or flying in and out. We chose to do this whole thing just before dark, the wasps were in bed at the time.***

(In our personal experience, no wasps flew out after we poured the water.)

The next day we kept observing the area and never witnessed any wasps flying around. So when evening came, we decided to poke at the area a bit. After we saw no signs of life, we dug up the ground a bit to destroy whatever nest was left.

Oh, what a relief!!! We were able to kill both nests, and do so in a manner that did no harm to our land and without using chemicals.

That’s a win in my book!

Sight Words to Learn

Homeschooling, Mama Mama

Sight words.

What are they, and what are the importance of them?

Sight words are commonly used words that young children are encouraged to memorize as a whole by sight, so that they can automatically recognize these words in print without having to use any strategies to decode. 

The level before reading, that’s where sight words come in handy.

Many kids learn sight words best through memorization rather than phonics. I plan to play it by ear and see how Parker takes on this challenge. If he shows me he should advance a little, we will add more phonics into our daily sight word lessons. Either way, I believe that for early readers, memorizing sight words is invaluable for literacy.

There are many words our son already knows, can recognize, spell, and write himself. However, in order to help encourage growth we are beginning a list of sight words once we start home-schooling in a few weeks. The list of words I have put together are ones that are small enough so that they are not overwhelming, but common enough to be used frequently in stories, and workbooks he may use and come across. I also added words that tie easily into biblical teachings, because for our family, that is important as well.

This is a rough list of the words I put together this morning. I say “rough” because I am sure I will adjust, and add at some point in our lessons. I am sure I have forgotten or not thought of a few important words, so those will be added in as necessary. My plan for the words is to split them up evenly through out the school year, a new letter every week. Because the school year is 43 weeks long, and there are only 26 letters, we will repeat them for review.

Parker wont be four until February, so again, the fact that I get to do these lessons with him already just blows my mind. The kid has a brain for learning. 

 

sight words

*Note that there are not many “x” words, so I added a couple that still use the letter, just not at the beginning. *

I am uncertain as to how I will utilize all the words. I have a few ideas. Either I will make flash cards, use dry erase boards, use magnet letters, or one of the many other creative ideas I will pull out of my hat! To be honest, I am sure each week will be a different strategy, to keep interest.

 

Message 2 my Kids # 52

Mama Mama

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While you were away for the night at Grammy’s, Mama cleaned up all your toys, all your crayons, all the mess, swept and organized. An hour after you came home it looks as though the mess was never gone.

How can two tiny humans possibly be as destructive as a hurricane!?

No Such Thing as Super Mom

Mama Mama

Some days I feel like I am on fire! Chores get done, kids are fed full and balanced meals, animals around the farm are happy, one or more of the many projects around the construction zone got checked off, we did arts and crafts, and even took a nature walk, and I made it through the day alive.

Then are are days and nights like yesterday.

My threenager would not listen, and every time I either asked or told him to do something I heard “I don’t want to” or there was a gigantic break down. Then, my youngest, Avaley, she could not for the life of her sit with Daddy, snuggle Daddy, or sleep in her own bed. She had to be on mama at all times, or kicking me, or touching my face or poking at any part of me she could. And for some reason, from the hours of 1:30 am – 3:00 am she was awake and tossing and turning in bed. Half dozing, half smiley. Which means I was awake, doing the same, because she was in my bed. No cries, or discomfort, just being a turd.

My weakness comes with my overactive brain. Definitely not a super power.

Once I was awake because I was so frustrated that she was not only in my space, but wouldn’t stop moving…I irritated myself to the point I was fully awake and then my mind wouldn’t shut off. I began thinking about all the things causing stress in my life right now.

  1. House construction. If we could just get the drywall done, we could paint, and we could get moved into the bedrooms upstairs, and if the kids had their own room it would be easier to MAKE them sleep in their own beds. Then this would not be happening.
  2. Money. Everything we are doing is costing too much money.
  3. Our third baby we are growing inside me right now. I was doubting ever fiber of my being last night because this new baby means another many years of not being able to sleep next to my husband, and more chaos and more cleaning up after, and more head butting and body slamming toss and turns at night.
  4. Back to the third baby. I saw the midwife yesterday and all day I worried about everything we talked about. I am going to have to go see a specialist again, to determine whether or not I should take progesterone shots with this pregnancy since Avaley was to term. There are so many questions, factors, and honestly, I don’t even think the specialist knows, but progesterone is really THE ONLY “option” for women who have had a preterm birth in the past. I’ve been doing my research myself, and I am at a lost for how I feel about it. I am praying my gut gives me some sort of sign sometime soon.
  5. Then I began thinking about today…what should our day look like? This is Javin’s ONE DAY OFF he has with us here at the house, so I know we are going to try to cram too many projects into too little time. We will start with banana pancakes, swimming lessons, picking up the durango while we are in town because it’s been in the shop (another cost we can’t afford). We will need to go to Freddie’s because we are out of fruits and vegetables, I’d like to organize the garage enough so that I can get my gym equipment in there and out of the living room, which means I need to get that slider out! So maybe I’ll try to sell that, then the crib and a few other things can be moved upstairs to the bedrooms for storage for now, the insulation needs finished, the dining room/craft table needs cleaned, and at some point, I need to prep and put together the meatballs we are having for dinner. Which reminds me, I need to take that meat out to thaw!
  6. After this shitstorm, I realized I needed to breathe and pray. So in order to not wake Javin and Parker, who were managing to sleep through the majority of Avaley’s craziness, I whispered calm thoughts to God.
  7. I got up to pee for the second time, checked the clock, it was 3:47. Crawled into bed and FINALLY fell asleep.

And though I got VERY. LITTLE. SLEEP. last night, and woke up before the sun did this morning, the first thing I wanted to put on my list of to-dos, was a workout.

Taking care of me, is more important some days than anything else because If i don’t take care of Mom, Mom can’t properly take care of everyone else. So even though there’s a list of to-dos a mile long that I made mental note of in the middle of the night, I am changing the game plan and making me a priority today so that I can feel my best and hopefully be as productive as possible. That’s how I have to do it.

And I remind myself:

supermom

There’s no such thing as super mom. And today, I’m going to wing it like every other day.

Stair and Band Workout at Home

Workin' Out

Sometimes a little fresh air makes all the difference when you’re pregnant, already have two littles running you 24-7 and just NEED a workout for your sanity.

First trimesters suck. During this time, I feel sleepy, emotional and at times light-headed. Everyone keeps saying with the 3rd baby I should show super early…and though I feel my body making changes, and we got to see little baby and it’s heartbeat this week, I don’t feel pregnant yet. Just feel blah.

The fresh air this morning helped wake me up and I was happy to be able to get in my workout before my afternoon exhaustion hit.

I’ve been wanting to use our stairs for a workout for a while now, but our contractors are usually busy in the area, so being as it’s Sunday, I had the stairs to myself!

With the resistance band, I did 5 sets each side of lateral step ups with lateral leg lifts. After that I did 5 sets forward step ups with glute kickbacks. I finished the lower body portion with wide banded squat jumps.

After that I did incline push-ups x 15, spidermans x 20, dips x max, and incline kb row x 10 each. 4 sets.

Ended up being a successful workout, and I felt great afterwards…but I was starving! ūüôā

 

Chicken Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Nutrition & Good Eats

When I was prepping for my first bikini competition, I ate so many sweet potatoes multiple times a day, it’s actually amazing that I still enjoy eating them. The thing is, they are probably my favorite carb.

Growing up, one of my all time favorite side dishes was twice baked potatoes. The cheesy, crisp topping never failed to match any main course my mom or grandma accompanied them with.

Now days, I try to find healthier versions of my childhood favorites. Which is where this recipe came from.

I have done sweet potatoes many ways, but this is one of my favorites by far. And the nice thing is, the whole family munches these down and I don’t feel bad about them getting seconds because these potatoes aren’t overly cheesy, and they are full of protein.

As far as twice baked potatoes go, there is the time consuming method, and the short cut. I usually take the short cut because as a busy stay-at-home mom, who happens to not have a full kitchen at this point in time, the most convenient route is going to be the one I choose.

Route number 1: Spend hours baking the sweet potatoes in the oven before prepping for the “twice baked” portion of the recipe. The number one benefit of this method is the skins of the potatoes get crisp and delicious.

Route number 2: Make multiple stabs into each full potato with a sharp knife, and microwave for about 5 minutes. Flip over and microwave again. If they are large potatoes they will take about 10-12 minutes to get soft enough so that you can hollow them out.

No matter which route you choose, allow the potatoes to cool so that they do not burn you on this next step.

During this time, prepare your meats. I like to add bacon and chicken to these potatoes. The chicken makes it feel like a meal and the bacon adds a little extra flavor. You could use turkey bacon as well. I used Applegate, uncured “Sunday Bacon”. After bacon is cooked, I set aside on a paper towel to drip any extra grease off.

Using the same pan, I remove the majority of the bacon grease and toss in chicken breast that has been cut into cube size bites. To spice things up, I added chili poweder, garlic, and black pepper with a pinch of salt. While this is cooking I return to the potatoes.

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Cut into half and hollow out the insides. Scoop the soft potato into a big bowl, and set skins/halves aside.

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Inside the bowl add a couple heaping scoops of cottage cheese, or ricotta. I have a hard time finding organic cottage cheese, so these potatoes in particular were made with ricotta. I prefer cottage cheese because of the protein and the taste is slightly more tangy than the ricotta.

Crumble the bacon into bits and add to the potato mixture.

Spoon the potatoes mixture back into the potatoes skins and top with a light sprinkle of cheddar (or your favorite cheese).

**You actually don’t need to add any cheese, the ricotta makes the potatoes super creamy as is**

After the chicken if fully cooked, scoop big spoonfuls over each potato half.

Broil the whole pan until the cheese and chicken is slightly crisp and golden.

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Serve with a salad full of veggies and you have yourself a healthy family meal!

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Deck of Cards Workout

Workin' Out

Today, again, started out as a busy day, and I know there’s no slowing down until bedtime. When Javin is home, it’s high on my priorities to get a workout in, even if it’s a quick one. So today, I grabbed a deck of cards, and got in a 24 minute quickie.

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There are a couple variations to the deck of cards workout, but today I stuck to the simple one. Not only is a workout like this super easy, but it’s versatile, and you can take it anywhere, depending on the exercises you chose to do. I have used this game in bootcamps, and it’s been a hit each time.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Shuffle your deck of cards. No jokers.
Step 2: Decide your exercises for each suit.
Step 3: Gather your equipment, if you need any.
Step 4: Flip a card, and do the planned exercise in the amount shown on the number of the card. ACES ARE 11 REPS, ALL FACE CARDS ARE 10 REPS
Step 5: Repeat until all the cards are done, or until you’ve maxed out on your allotted time limit.

The exercises I chose were:

Clubs: Alternating curtsy lunges off step
Diamonds: DB high pull into press
Hearts: Plank with DB rows
Spades: Pop squats

Example: The first card I flipped was the 7 of spades, so I did 7 reps of the pop squats.

I almost ALWAYS chose burpees for one of the exercises during this workout, however, the one pregnancy symptom I’ve been experiencing is light-headedness. So because of that, the only jumpy exercise I added in was the pop squats. I usually keep every exercise multi-joint, OR, I split 2 for upper and 2 for lower so that the workout is still total-body. In this case, I had 2 exercises that were lower body focused, and 2 that were upper body focused.

I knew I wanted to get through the whole deck, so I timed myself. It took me just about 24 minutes to finish all 52 cards. The tough part was, my shuffle wasn’t very good apparently because I drew diamond after diamond and my shoulders began to fatigue early on.

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Pop Squats

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Curtsy Lunges

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High Pull into Press

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Plank Rows

If you have no equipment, this workout is still effective if you do, say, burpees, squats, sit-ups, and push-ups. Or, get creative. Again, all you need really, is a deck of cards. 

After going through the whole deck, you will have done a total of 65 reps each exercise.

You could spice it up a bit, and throw those jokers into the pile. Each joker could be something intense like 50 burpees, or 100 jumping jacks, or another exercise that you aren’t already incorporating.

Preschool Home-school Themes

Homeschooling, Mama Mama

Being mama full time definitely is a lot of work.¬†Emotionally, as well as physically, it’s very demanding of me. But, I wouldn’t want my “job” to be anything other than this. This is the most important job I could ever have. And since our oldest, Parker, is somehow almost at school age, I begin a new adventure!

Parker will be four years old in February, so this September, when school season begins, we will start a preschool routine. I think I might be more excited about this than anyone else, mostly because I know I now have more excuses to get creative and be a kid and learn myself.

Preschool…usually fun stuff.¬†

However, still very educational.

Our boy is ahead of the game in a sense that he has been learning for the past two years, and to him, “school work” has always been fun.

A few days ago, while my husband was home, I had a chance to actually put together a full school year of weekly preschool themes in which I plan to schedule my weekly and daily work around. I figured for the youngsters, themes are something to look forward to every Monday morning. (Heck, even us adults like themes, am I right?!)

I figured I would share our list of weekly themes, in case there are any other mamas out there who are stumped at where to begin with homeschooling a preschooler, or even a kiddo at an older age.

Preschool Homeschooling Themes rainbow

We are teaching based on our core values, Biblical references, and Oregon guidelines for early learning and kindergarten through the Department of Education.

Each day of the week will be broken up into individual lessons based around the overall theme. In addition to the weekly themes, I will be creating a list of sight words that will be learned alphabetically as the year progresses. 

As for Avaley, she will be two at the end of December, so we will come up with a “younger” version of many of the same activities Parker will be doing. She is still learning shapes, colors, animals, and things like that.

I now have a month to finish getting everything in order, and I know August is going to fly by! This is a new thing to me, homeschooling. So if there are any other moms with any pointers and/or advice, it would be very much appreciated!