Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thanksgiving Vegetable Casseroles

Maybe you clicked on to see what the joke is.  Cause me talking seriously about veggies is not an every day occurrence.  But, in fact, I have 3 favourite vegetable casseroles that are not disgusting and are also easy to make for family gatherings.  The trick is that each has a magic ingredient.  Link to the recipes if you need something to serve your family this weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving!

(magic ingredient: marshmallows)

(I know, sounds horrid, but yum thanks to secret ingredient: french fried onions)

Green Bean Casserole

(secret ingredient: panko - or maybe it's the water chestnuts, or perhaps, the mayo)

Zesty Broccoli Casserole Recipe

Monday, October 5, 2015

Back to School Finale: Bedtime

We've had some bedtime frustrations in our household, particularly because we have 4 kids.
If we could just put them all to bed at once, life would be so easy.  But apparently they all need different bedtimes so in the past my entire evening would be spent on the bedtime routine times 4. 

We used to send our kids to their rooms 30 minutes before bed so they could get ready, do their devotions and read.
We have come up with a different solution now that has helped us out.  This doesn't work out every night, but when we can, we have a family quiet time at 8:00.  Each kid has to be in their own room to do their devotion and read for 30 minutes.  During this time, Dino and I can then read with the youngest and have any discussions necessary with the others.   At 8:30, our youngest goes to sleep and the other 3 are free until their bedtimes which are 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00.  However, as those bedtimes arrive, we can just tuck them in and say good night.  

We also used to spend time reminding and giving warnings but now we have an agreement that any child not ready and IN their bed at their specified time will go to bed early the following night.

It has been much nicer not to spend my whole evening watching the clock.

I think I've shared these before, but here are the devotion books my kids are using.  It's probably time to switch it up again.   I'll put it on the Christmas list.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Back to School: Part 2 on Chores

The other day I had 2 big points I wanted to make about kids doing chores 
and sure enough, forgot em both.

Often us moms tend to end up doing jobs ourselves rather than getting help from the kids.  This can happen for two reasons...either the kids don't do the chore to a standard we're happy with, or it just ends up easier to do it ourselves.

What to do?

1.  Lower your standards where you can.  Sometimes we hang on to the ways we did stuff pre kid and often that is just not realistic.  So let it go.  There are lots of hidden spots where you can let kids cut corners - like tossing jammies unfolded into the drawer.

2.  Make things easier.  Have you ever asked a kid to do a job but then you had to help so much that you realized it would have been faster to do it yourself?  This was happening to me with table setting.  The plates and cups were up high so I had to get them out for the kids and it felt as though I might as well have set the table myself.  So I changed up their location for easy access.  If a small shuffle can give a kid independence in a chore, do it!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Back to School: Chores

There are endless ways to organize chores in a family.  
Charts and lists and incentives based on allowance or other rewards. 
And so many ways to do it all pretty-like.

Pinterest is full of smart and gorgeous ideas.

The truth in my home though, is that I don't do any of it.  
And it's not because I don't think my kids need to do chores or because I don't believe in allowance.  
The simple fact is, I just can't do it all.  I can stay on top of feeding them and keeping the house tidy and administrating their lives, but any time I've tried to have a formal system for chores or allowance, it has just been too much for me to maintain and ended in frustration.

So, rather than sweat it, this is my philosophy.  
We are a team.  
Different days different jobs need to be done for different team members.  So if I ask you to do a job, do it, and do it now, and don't complain about it.  Because that is what is most helpful and that is what is right to do.  If the dishwasher needs emptying and I'm making supper and you're done your homework, then you empty it.  No, it's not always fair cause maybe you did it yesterday too (gasp).  But life's not fair.  If it were I would not BE making supper that includes a vegetable every day thanks.  And when you need a ride to Superstore to buy a 1 litre milk jug for your class project, I'll drive you.
Some jobs we do together as a team, like folding laundry.  Everyone helps sort and fold their own.  If I have extra time I might do it for everyone.  If I'm super busy I might ask someone to do it for their sibling.  This is how life works and my goal is for my kids to understand that and to be willing to help so that no one gets left doing all the work and we can then enjoy family time together.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Back to School: Meal Plans

I know, I KNOW I am really not the best person to discuss this.  
Or, maybe the fact that I hate cooking makes me better at planning ahead.

I've done a variety of things to try to ease the monotony of making supper.

1.  Plan a week ahead.  On Sunday sit down and plan out what meal you'll make each day that week, taking into account the various activities you have and what groceries are available.  You can then add any needed items to your grocery list.

2.  Similarly, plan for a week in advance but keep the same plan week by week.  For example, every Monday is pasta, Tuesdays are a whole chicken, etc..  You can then vary the recipes but for the most part you will need the same main ingredients.

Find some free printables here.

3.  Make doubles.  Many meals you make are easy to double.  Lasagna for example is just as easy to make as a recipe of 2 pans as it is 1.  So on the days where you are already making a meal that's easy to double, do it and freeze the second meal for a day in the future when you don't have time to cook.

4.  Do a big cook.  There are all sorts of ways to cook ahead in bulk and freeze multiple meals.  I've done this with a group of women using a formal big cook recipe and I've also joined a couple friends and created our own recipes and plan.  Either way, it's fun to be together and nice to leave with a cooler full of meals!

5.  Join a freezer meal class.  Tomorrow I'll be heading to a fun, no stress Pampered Chef workshop where I'll leave with meals ready to freeze.  If you want to try one, click the link and ask to join!  Carla will also be offering Power Cooking in October.
Carla's Dinner's Done Freezer Meal Workshop Group

Happy Cooking!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Back to School: Teacher Gifts

Once upon a time I was a teacher.
So, you know, teacher gifts just seem very right to me.

Don't worry.  The goal here is not extravagance, it's acknowledgement of a difficult job involving a lot of small people.  It's thankfulness that someone besides you is willing to commit to your children.

Places like Target and Michael's are great for finding fun, appropriate teacher stuff and gift wrap.  The days of apple mugs and teacher poems are gone.  Stick to practical, useable items or gift cards.

Have fun wrapping it up and get the kids involved writing notes of encouragement.

Go with a theme.  
Give a seasonally appropriate hand soap for each holiday or start the year off with a napkin holder and then give seasonal napkins throughout the year (Darla's idea!).

Or if all this just sounds like too much, find out favourite drinks and bring a Starbucks or Tim's to teacher conferences.  

Yay teachers!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Back to School: Lunches

It's a tedious job, but it has to be done.  
Here are a few of my tips as well as some ideas I found online.

My biggest advice, is do it the day ahead.  In our home, the kids come in the door, unload their backpacks, and make lunches right away.  Straight into the fridge without another thought.

Second tip from make their own.  I assign the duty to one kid, usually the one with the least homework which is likely unfair, but such is life.  That kid makes all four lunches and the job is done.

From my research on making the school lunch process easy, the consensus seems to be to keep everything in one spot, prepackage it, and let kids do it themselves.

 Whether in the cupboard,

or in the fridge

store lunch items together so it's easy for kids to gather things up.

I read one tip about freezing peanut butter sandwiches.  Those kids must attend school on the moon cause I don't think any school in this country allows peanut butter anymore.
We freeze muffins in ziplocks of 2 each.

I also saw this fancy trick.

I love it.

So I was inspired to create my own bin of lunchables.

It was a great chance to clean out my cupboard at the same time.

I read a quote on BuzzFeed Life from Rachel Sanders that said, "At the end of the day, if they don't starve or get scurvy, you're doing fine."  
That I can manage.