Posting at Writer…Interrupted Today

A new school year always sends me into a dither…juggling fifth and third graders and a very motivated preschooler means not verra much time for moi! Not to mention the whole housekeeping OR homeschooling dilemma!

But some good things have come of it…come see pics from our first day of school and read all about my adjustments!

Thought this pic of my youngest juggling cukes about sums it all up! Lately it seems I’ve been blogging by the skin of my teeth…sorry about that!

(Oops, wordpress isn’t letting me post the picture…I’ll try again later!)

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

I promised Leticia I’d share this recipe here SOON, and figured I better get it done tonight, b/c my days have been FULL up getting in a school routine!

This enchilada recipe couldn’t be simpler…my only gripe is that it’s expensive to make. But believe me, it’s worth the splurge every so often! It came to me via a great homeschool mom-friend after tasting hers at one of our monthly potlucks about two years ago. Here you go, Leticia!

Chicken Enchiladas

  • 2 cans (13 oz) chicken breast in water (you could cook your own chicken and save a little)
  • 1 cup salsa, your favorite brand
  • 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies (this is a great addition, but I usually leave it out)
  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream (most expensive item in this here recipe!!!)
  • 2-4 cups shredded Colby-Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 10 or more 8 inch flour tortillas

Combine chicken, salsa and chilies. Place mixture in tortillas and roll. Place seam side down in 9×13″ baking dish or larger. Pour whipping cream over top. Bake for 45 minutes at 350*F. Sprinkle cheese on top with ten minutes remaining in cooking schedule. Be sure to completely cover the tortillas with cream or the edges will burn. Once you serve the tortillas on a plate, use the remainder of the sauce to spoon on top.

I’ve taken this to potlucks, and I just leave it in the baking dish for serving. Mmm…I wish I had the ingredients on hand, now I’m craving this stuff!

Comfort Food~Favorite Meals

It’s fun to tour other people’s homes, and just as fun to me is talking foods…as in, what are some of your family’s favorite main dish dinners?

Here are the “basic run-downs” for two of ours…fried chicken quesadillas and smothered steaks! I apologize that there aren’t exact ingredients…but that’s what these kind of dinners are all about! No brainers–no recipe required! Got any? Share them or links to them, please! I’d love some new main dish meals…

Fried Chicken Quesadillas

My mom fixed these one night a few years ago when dh and I happened to be visiting over the dinner hour…I think it was a spur of the moment creation for her, one I took special note of, thankfully!

For a family of five, you’ll need:

  • 3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 7-9 chicken tenders (raw, uncooked)
  • a large plastic Ziplok bag or bowl filled with 1.5 cups flour seasoned with your favorite seasonings (I use powdered garlic, minced onion, Lawry’s Seasoning salt…)
  • large skillet w/vegetable oil covering bottom evenly
  • around 1.5 cups of your favorite shredded cheeses
  • 7-8 large flour tortillas
  • Salsa, if desired

Slice your raw chicken into strips (about 1 in x 3 in) and dredge them in flour mixture, covering completely. Place floured chicken into hot oil in skillet. Cook around 7 minutes, flip chicken to other side and cover with lid. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes or till done. Remove from skillet and drain chicken pieces on a plate covered with a paper towel.

The skillet should still have some oil left in it, leave the stove top on about medium heat and begin filling your tortillas. I use one tortilla per person, laying chicken pieces on one half of the tortilla and then sprinkling cheeses over the chicken. Then I fold the tortilla (in half) over the top of the chicken and put it in the hot skillet. You can brown two tortillas at the same time in this manner. My husband likes me to add salsa to the filling in his, everyone else likes theirs just plain chicken and cheese. We love these…the tortillas crisp up so crunchy and golden, and it’s just a fun treat to have fried chicken embellished in this easy way!

Smothered Steaks

This delicious recipe has been a stand by ever since the birth of my second daughter…a friend from church brought it over and I had to get the recipe! Of course, she claims there is no recipe, but she told me how she fixed it and I’ve been fixing it ever since! It’s yummo!

For a 9×13 pan full (our family of five always overeats on this and still has leftovers)  you’ll need the following:

  • 2-3 lbs cubed steaks (these may be called minute steaks or club steaks or round steaks–however, round steaks are pretty tough, you’ll need to tenderize them prior to using)
  • a large plastic Ziplok bag or bowl full of flour with your favorite seasonings
  • large skillet w/vegetable oil covering bottom evenly
  • 1 regular sized can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2-3 cups milk

Dredge your cubed steaks in the flour mixture and brown them lightly in hot oil. Drain the browned meat pieces on a paper towel covered plate and place into a 9×13 pan. In medium sized mixing bowl, combine mushroom soup, sour cream and milk until mixed thoroughly. Pour this mixture over your browned steaks and cover 9×13 pan tightly with foil. Place in a 350*F oven for 2-2.5 hours. This is delicious with mashed potatoes, there’s usually enough sauce to use for gravy, though not enough for leftovers. We love how this cooks up, so tender and saucy. I’ve never tasted better smothered steaks!

So there you have two of our favorite main dish meals! Hope you give them a try sometime, and in the meanwhile, whatcha got for me? 😉

Conflict of Passions

Are you struggling between two heart desires? Believe me, I have been there, done that and it’s not much fun.

For me, it began almost three years ago. You’ll remember many posts from me on the subject of my women’s fiction writing, and how easily I could lose myself in it–letting the children and housework fall apart around me. What a struggle to find balance, in fact, balance was so elusive, I finally quit fiction writing altogether. I just couldn’t reconcile the two passions–homeschooling and a writing career. I know better women than me can juggle these things…and maybe someday I’ll be able to, but not now.

At first letting go was terribly depressing. I hung onto my writing projects like a toddler on the verge of losing his blankie…I’d never had a passion outside my children and husband before. Sounds pathetic, but remember I married right out of high school, and my family has been my world. And I’ve been so fulfilled that I never felt anything was missing. Discovering the books within me, though, tapped a brand-spanking-new-and-exciting dimension of ME…a falling in love experience…a happy realization that God gifted me with this crazy love of words for a reason! Wow. Anyway. I lost myself in this dream for a year…devouring books on the writing craft and going to writing conferences and learning from other pros and wannabes. Pure bliss…that continually battled my family for my time until I realized that I had to cut back. And cutting back didn’t work. Giving it up altogether finally made the difference.

My point is, I’m not missing the fiction writing at all these days. I’m not even all that concerned when a week goes by without blogging. We’re ramped up about homeschooling and spending time with friends and church activities…right now the solitary and immersive lifestyle of writing isn’t possible! I don’t want it to be possible. I want my life to be about homeschooling and enjoying these girls while they’re little and being a 30-something stay-at-home mom is my ultimate joie de vivre!

How did I end up letting go of my writing dreams? Well, honestly, I haven’t let go of them. I feel a real peace that those are future chapters in my life, ones I anticipate and gladly put off for a more convenient time…possibly not until my kids are raised! I begged and pleaded with the Lord about it, especially because I got to the point where I would have gladly put the girls in public school just so I could have a full day of unfettered writing time. I began resenting my family’s needs and that was what finally opened my eyes to my wrong priorities. Wrong for *me* because God has emphatically called us into this homeschooling lifestyle.

Asking God to realign my desires with His really meant turning OFF my passion for writing. Please, I’m not preaching at anyone, this is *my* story–I’m not cut out to balance two passions. Not as whole-hog as I am about my “babies” (both real and imagined!)!

Anyway, I just realized today how God’s given me back my satisfaction with this season of life. And it’s a pretty blessed arrival, deserving of documentation at my site!

Anyone relate?

Turning a Bad Day Into a Good One

Even a sunshiny day has its cloudy spots. Life is sure like that, sometimes it seems that we have the same old trials spotting up our happy days…and it’s up to us to choose how to react. By God’s grace we don’t have to slug around in the shadows!

Today started out slow for us, with me feeling typically behind after “losing a school day” yesterday. Tuesday was a crazy busy day away from home…picnicking at the zoo, running errands in the “big” city, delivering a meal to a good friend who just had a baby boy (!), and barely making two meetings at church. The girls and I rushed home at 9:30 pm, head-achey and starving, threw a pizza in the oven and commenced to carting in all our “stuff”, coolers of perishables I’d bought, bags of other grocery items…by that point I didn’t want to even eat supper I was feeling so nauseous. But I slept great!

And I slept in…putting me further behind. Woke up to some discouraging news of the financial variety and you know what? God has shown me over and over again that nothing is TOO big for Him. But I’m human, and venting is part of the process. Fortunately for my kids, my house took the brunt. I cleaned all morning like a mad woman breaking only to supervise school and start on lunch. All the messy spots that remained from my bout with poison sumac are washed away…and something about all that homemaking rooted down deep within me and God brought peace to my heart.

It’s like, the sky can be falling in, but I am a mother and a wife and a woman, and these things are my heart–the things that matter–they surround me. My family and my home. I may not be able to change any outside circumstances, but I can whip my household into submission and be better for it!

I even got industrious about supper–thawed some cubed steaks, beat the tarnation out of them with my meat mallet, breaded them and fixed them up for smothered steaks tonight! Which reminds me, I have a pot full of potatoes boiling that needs checking…

Once my youngest was down for her afternoon nap, the older girls and I got out our devotional book and our Bibles and had a great quiet time…which progressed to reading a chapter in our Health book, and then assembling our spelling notebooks and filling in one of the spelling rule pages…we even had an hours worth of fun with our Botany, playing Taxonomy with shoes! Didn’t get all the subjects covered, but we had a wonderful time together, no sour faces about school today!

Around five o’clock, we headed outside to clean out the chicken’s brooding boxes and refill them with fresh wood shavings…collected ten cucumbers from the garden from which the girls chose a couple, hosed them off and munched them gone. Mmm!

For a day that started out sluggish-turned-panicky, I feel real peace and happiness right now.

I just shared one of my favorite verses with a good friend yesterday, and God knew I’d need it today. Maybe it would bless you as well.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (italics mine)

So next time you’re hit with something unexpected, try to turn it over immediately to Him…with thanksgiving! And don’t be surprised at the peace that eventually follows.

It’ll be okay.

Our Homeschooling Curriculum Favorites

All my lovely “first day” plans kind of went out the window, with last week’s bout of Poison Sumac–ick! You’ll all be glad to know that I’m so much better, in fact, well enough to go camping with friends this past Saturday/Sunday! I doubt I’ll take normal life and good health for granted for a long time to come!

Anyway, as I was saying, I’d planned on last Thursday being our first day of school…complete with our treasure hunt kick-off and craft day. Problem was, I didn’t have all my supplies together for either the craft OR the treasure hunt, so we’re jumping into school books anyhow and plan to work the other stuff in on a special day TO BE ANNOUNCED. Thankfully, my girls cut me some slack this year! We did, however, get to break in my middle daughter’s pottery wheel…and oh boy, was that a blast!

So everyone always asks me what curriculum I use, and the truth is, I’m eclectic…always using a hodge podge of whatever comes highest recommended to me by trusted family and friends. There is SO much out there to choose from…so many top notch resources, so much that I’d love to do if we could afford it…so each year I add something new, and continue using what I loved from years prior.

Here’s a quick list of what we’re using this year, and links to the websites so you can check them out if you so desire! You’ll notice I like to combine subjects with my girls…they’re in different grades (3rd and 5th) for math and language arts, but this year we’ll be tackling the other subjects together! Last year we did different histories and sciences, etc, so I’m really psyched about this approach. There are always ways to make it more intensive for my older daughter…so I feel certain this is the way to go…for us!

One last thing–I praise God for the freedom to hand pick my daughters’ educational resources. To have endless options as far as Christian curriculums go…you can’t ask for much more than that. What a huge blessing!

  • Mystery of History Volume 1, Creation to Christ–I’m super excited about this series, because it covers world history in ancient times, such as what was going on in China when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and what famous Bible figure was living when the Trojan horse was being built…I joined the yahoo group for this volume of MofH, and have already printed off timeline figures, map helps, additional book lists, book report blanks, etc. Plus, the pictures people have posted there of their completed projects are hugely motivational!
  • Historical Biographies– the What Really Happened series will be a wonderful read-aloud complement to our history program!
  • A Child’s Geography this is so highly recommended by EVERYONE who has ever used it, and we are loving the author’s kid-friendly style and enthusiastic approach to earth study! This textbook came with a CD-Rom full of helps, and there is also a yahoo group in support of it, full of files and resources that I’ve been taking FULL advantage of! I’m impressed by the “Reaching Out to His World” and “Further Exploration” book list sections at the end of each chapter. This is more than a textbook, it’s a revolution to get our kids thinking beyond their own self-focused backyard and across the world by encouraging a mission field type of outlook. Powerful.
  • The Star-Spangled State Book and Workbook we’ll tackle this once we’ve finished up the Child’s Geography. I’m super addicted to the Geo quizzes in this book, can’t wait to teach it to the girlies!
  • Apologia science, their elementary Botany program so excited about this, as I just discovered that creationsensation.com has Apologia lab kits for each subject all packed up and ready to go, with experiment items listed according to chapter projects…this will save me HOURS of planning and shopping! There’s also, yes–you know what’s coming, a yahoo support group for Apologia elementary sciences, with so many resources in their files…from games to vocabulary lists to scheduling guidelines…My girls are anxious to get a Venus Fly Trap in the mail–woo-hoo! Botany, here we come!
  • Professor B Math common sense math, taught and mastered in far less time than conventional math programs. I LOVE it! We have the CD-Rom, which is scripted, so my older daughter can sit with my 3rd grader and walk her through it if need be, and gain review in the process. Me likes that!
  • Spell to Write and Read by Wanda Sanseri this program is the best all around multi-age language arts program, imo, for teaching phonograms and for making sense of the English Language! I love the spelling lists that stretch from preschool to college level, and that each week’s words are accompanied by several spelling enrichment activities. Plus, each year, my girls make their own spelling book, featuring spelling rule pages that outline each of our language’s twenty-something spelling rules. Fantastic program. I’ve blogged about it here beforemany times! A curriculum you can buy once, use for all your children, each year. Very cost efficient!
  • Sonlight’s Grammar Ace with School House Rock what a fun way to reinforce grammar rules! This is a super fun, user-friendly program that my whole family enjoys. Hubby and I really get a kick out of reviewing the School House Rock DVD songs…Conjunction Junction, and Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here…and what’s even better, this program comes with ALL the School House Rock videos that were ever made! Not just the grammar ones…these jingles really stick in your head, my last year’s second grader particularly liked “3 is a Magic Number“–to which she learned her 3 times tables!

Of course, we’re still doing Mavis Beacon typing, and Music Ace, God’s World News and Bible…and all our handwriting will be covered by copywork out of our geography, history and Spell to Write and Read curriculums. The girls love to read and read aloud and be read to, so no need to assign extra reading…

Yes, I’m super happy with what we use, can’t you tell (?), but that doesn’t mean it’s the only good stuff out there, of course! Just sharing *my* favorites…the tip of the iceberg of all the goodies available to homeschoolers! If you are raising preschoolers, do your homework. You could start researching now, and be way ahead of the game…

I’ll leave you with an article I really enjoyed, 5 Essential Ingredients to Homeschooling Success by Terri Johnson. It outlines many of the things I love about being able to live this lifestyle…

How was your child’s first day of school? And if you happen to home educate, or have a favorite curriculum, please share it in comments!

Danish Meatballs

I just realized that I forgot to share this recipe with you all! It’s one of the scrumptious dishes my friend Jana spoiled us with during our June visit to her family’s home…shd doubled the recipe, of course, to feed all 13 of us!

Danish Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 TB grated onion
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs

Dill Sauce (this is SOOOOO good! especially spooned over a side of mashed red potatoes w/garlic!)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, bombine beef or turkey, salt, pepper, egg, onion, milk, and breadcrumbs. Shape into 1 inch balls and arrange on a rack in a broiler pan. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until browned. Transfer to casserole or chafing dish.

To prepare dill sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan and stir in flour. stir in broth, salt and dill. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream or yogurt. Pour sauce over meatballs. Serves 6 as a main dish.

We’ve Got Eggs!

My girls and their cousins came flying in the house yesterday afternoon proudly brandishing a smallish, brown egg! Our FIRST egg! We’re so excited! Then today, they caught one of our Buff Orpingtons in the act! Talk about fresh!

Woo-hoo! Omelettes, anyone?

I just love our chickens. Haven’t lost a one, yet…though I’ve scrambled out of bed after midnight and out the door to belatedly pen them up and they’re always in their roosts, happy little things.

I guess we’ll see how we do with 25 eggs a day. All my friends and family have been saving their egg cartons for us…I’ve got them stacked to the attic rafters, but good night, do you think I’ll need another refrigerator? I’ve read that the eggs can be stored at room temperature for weeks without spoiling, as long as you don’t wash them. But I’m not going to risk it. Here’s another picture, one that makes me happy. My favorite time of day, early morning, letting the chickens out in their coop to scratch around in the food scraps I’ve pitched out to them…

Okay, so it’s Poison Sumac

Hello, me here! My mil came and got the girls and I’m going stir crazy walking around with every appendage swollen and oozing. Decided to share the joy with you all and document this lovely process with pictures!

What a mercy though, that this poisonous process held off pretty much long enough for me to enjoy my visit with friends on Monday, because by Monday evening all bets for an easy recovery were OFF! Tuesday morning I was dying (yes, I know it could be a lot worse!) and called the pharmacist to ask him about a couple of products I’d heard could help me out. Zanfel and Technu. Apparently, Zanfel is a great product to quickly get you over poison ivy, etc, but according to the pharmacist, you have to start it right away, as soon as you break out with the rash. So much for that, then. (**EDITED TO ADD: I found out in the comments section below, from someone at the Zanfel laboratories, that Zanfel is proven to be effective at ANY time after outbreak!) Technu is a soap that removes the oils, again, you have to use it pretty much right after exposure. One of my friends recommended Burt’s Bees poison ivy wash…something I think I’m going to have to keep on hand after this…

So the pharmacist told me my only hope this far in the game would be to get a steroid shot. Normally I would tough this out, but my eyes were swollen shut Tuesday morning…everything affected was hot and in pain. With school about to start, I just could not imagine walking around holding my eyelids up with my fingers to see things! Add to that the fact that the pharmacist predicted this could last anywhere from 7 days to a month, and I was about to bawl! So I wasted no time dialing up our medical clinic to see if I could get lined up fast for the shot.

Thankfully I came to my senses. I mean, steroids are serious, have serious side effects…but–whine–I really didn’t care, so I set up an appt for that afternoon. Then I remembered our nutritionist and decided to call and see if she had any magic cures for poison ivy. But she’s on maternity leave, the receptionist reminds me. Within minutes of hanging up the phone, it rings. It’s Dr. T, the nutritionist, calling me from home–her receptionist had passed along my minor emergency. And Dr. T told me she’d meet me at the office at 2 pm and do a poison ivy/sumac treatment on me. And it would only cost $20! Cool! I called and canceled my appointment with the steroids and hoped for the best.

Hubby got home early to drive me to the appointment–trust me, I didn’t even bother to take my glasses along, can’t see anything anyway, right? Walked into Dr. T’s exam room and she first had to determine whether I had poison ivy or poison sumac. I’d told her I wasn’t sure, as I hadn’t seen any poison ivy, and I *do* know what it looks like after having been plagued by it for years and years!!!

Let me remind you that Dr. T is an applied kinesiologist. She determines, through muscle testing, what internal ailments her patients have. We’ve had great success with her before this…so back to the story…

She tested me with the poison ivy that she keeps in the office, and I resisted it with no problem, but when she had me hold a glass canning jar with poison sumac during the muscle testing…I had no strength to resist the muscle pressure… Bingo, guess I have poison sumac. This info was clinched when she asked if I’d pulled any reddish leaves on a vine up during my weeding. Um, yep, sure did. Boy, I wondered what that stuff was. What an unforgettable lesson!

So the desensitization process began. I held the jar of poison sumac to my forehead while she worked on my spine, then I rolled over and she worked on my hands and shoulders…hard to describe what she did, but it all felt great. I admit, I wondered how on earth this could do any good, but I guess we’ll see, huh. I’m supposed to start healing up w/in 24-48 hours of this treatment. By last night my eyes were less swollen, I could open both of them and actually attempt to read emails, my book, etc. (I’m not one that can stand to sleep the day away, and sitting around with my eyes closed was driving me crazy!)

In some ways, I’m worse. It seems like the sores in between all my fingers have gotten worse and are oozing more–and the backs of my thighs look like someone thrashed me with the leaves of this torturous weed. Nighttime is the worst…laying there, only able to sleep on your back b/c of all the sores on your face and arms. A cold wet washcloth is my best friend…I sleep with one draped on my neck and across my eyes, and everything else is slathered with Aveeno’s anti-itch lotion.

So I’ll keep you posted. Hopefully I make a turn for the better sometime today. The good thing is, my attitude has remained hopeful. I know that’s because of all your prayers. When I start to get down, a praise song comes to my mind, or I think about how much worse it could be, and how THIS TOO SHALL PASS!

I tried to get pictures of myself this morning…I think I look worse in real life, but I’ll let you be the judge! I should have taken pics yesterday when I could barely open my eyes, but you can probably get the idea from these…yes, it’s on my lips, feels like a thick callus of dried on food…just contrast that picture to the one in my header…you can see how distorted and swollen my eyes/nose/jawline, etc are. All these pics were taken after a lukewarm oatmeal bath followed by a cold shower…so nothing was actually oozing, which makes it a more palatable picture journey…believe me! Well, enough “poor me”…lol, I’m already planning on coming back to this post in the future when I’m tempted to groan that things are bad…reviewing these pics should put me in a great mood, don’t ya think? Enjoy your smooth skin, folks!

Poison Ivy

Growing up, I was the only kid I knew to get poison ivy practically once a month. Not funny. If you’ve ever had it, you know that there’s nothing like the feel of that scaly, oozing nastiness that you just can’t wash away. Not to mention the intense itching misery of the whole experience.

Well, I could sure use your prayers. Apparently I got into poison ivy or oak (I know what poison ivy looks like, so we’re thinking it’s poison oak). This morning one of my eyelids is very swollen up on one side, and the other eyelid is red, inflamed and itchy. I can feel it starting down the side of my nose, my neck, between all my fingers and completely covering the insides and backs of both arms from the wrist to the elbow.

Confession…I knew that I might be exposed to it, but I weeded anyway. It’s an area of my yard that has been bothering me all summer b/c of all the nasty weeds, and our weed-eater has been needing a part, so I tackled it night before last…pride had me wanting it done before several of my friends come over for lunch on Monday. Well, I’ll be amazed if I can even SEE my guests on Monday. I do hope and pray that I don’t get the crusty, seeping stuff on my eyes.

The good news is that I have had touches of poison oak/ivy off and on for the past 4 years and it hasn’t gotten to the weepy crusty stage, and it hasn’t really been intensely itchy either. My husband and I have the theory that since I pretty much had a bad case of poison ivy every month during my growing up years, my body has built up a weird immunity/ability to deal with it better.

So please pray for me to survive this, and not be scary to look at on Monday! And please God, let this be a mild case, b/c if it isn’t, from the looks of it now, it’s going to be really bad!

Thanks, friends!

Mary