Category Archives: Summer

Family Fun

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Family Fun

My mom and step-father came to visit us today, and they spent some time with the kids in the pool. A couple of the kids wouldn’t cooperate for a group photo, so this was the best I could get. I’m glad they were able to come and spend the day with us.

This boy has had a growth spurt recently. He has grown two full inches since his birthday in January! He is now 5′ 4 1/4″, which means I’m only one inch taller than him, and he will be taller than me in a few months.

Big sister didn’t want her photo taken, but I was able to snag one with her carrying the watermelon ball. My kids love that silly ball, but they don’t play with it like the directions suggest. They like to play solo instead of a group game, which means they usually end up fighting over who gets to play with it.

Little sister was happy to pose for a photo with Grammy in the background. When we first started swimming again this year, the twins told me they needed more swimming lessons. They wore their puddle jumpers the first few times they swam, but they are jumping in and swimming across the pool now. They also love to throw dive rings and torpedos in the pool and dive to get them. Ms. Alisha taught them well the last three summers!

Sissy was too busy swimming and diving to stop for a photo. She kept asking me last week to teach her to swim on top of the water, so I tried helping her swim freestyle, but that’s not what she really wanted. Yesterday, I finally figured out that she wanted to learn to tread water and dog paddle. That was easy for her to learn.

Before we got in the pool, I asked my mom to take a photo of me and the kids. I had to convince big sis to change out of a hot pink shirt so we could all match. This photo shows the dramatic height difference between my oldest two children. They are only 2 1/2 years apart but 12 inches apart in height! Big sis is 4 1/2 years older than the twins but only six to seven inches taller than them. We literally take clothes from her closet and pass them directly to the girls now. I expect all the girls to be in the same size clothing at some point in the near future unless big sis has a sudden growth spurt.

We had fun as a family today. I hope you were able to enjoy some time with your family today too!

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If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

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If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

I get so frustrated when I wake up early to work out and my little girls get up before I can finish or, sometimes, even start working out.  Today was one of those mornings.  I woke up at 6:00 am and got ready to work out.  I remembered that I needed to post an answer key for my students’ weekend homework, and while I was doing that, I heard a little voice yelling for me.  She woke her sister, and neither one of them would go back to sleep because they were hungry.  I don’t understand how they can be hungry before the sun rises after eating dinner at 9:00 pm the night before, but I gave them each a bowl of cereal, thinking I could still work out while they were eating.  They saw their “thumbs up” coloring sheets (from gymnastics) on the table and asked for crayons so they could color them.  After last week’s crayon catastrophe (see photos below), I wasn’t about to leave them alone with crayons.  

Little Sister said she was trying to draw circles on the floor.


I made her pose with her “artwork”.

She said she drew a butterfly on this wall.

It took her a long time, but she was able to remove most of the crayon off the floors and baseboards by herself. The walls had to be repainted, and my husband spent awhile working on the grout in the kitchen.

So I stayed in the kitchen and put away dishes, started working on our September menu, and ate breakfast.  Then, the girls wanted to go outside, and after a few minutes, they asked if we could go for a walk, which means they ride their bicycles while I jog along beside them and then push them up hills and over all bumpy, rocky, and uneven areas.  I get a good workout doing this, so we went for a “walk” for about 30 minutes.  

They took their babies along for the ride.


We need to work on losing the training wheels, so I don’t have to stop and push them every time they get stuck. Big Brother rode without training wheels at 4 years and 3 months. Big Sister rode without them at 4 years and 11 months. Three years and six months might be a little early, but I may try it when it gets a little cooler.  

After our “walk”, I was not as grumpy as I was earlier this morning.  I felt that if I made the effort to get up early, I should have been able to work out.  I need to remember when I can’t beat them in the mornings, I should just let them join me in exercising.  It’s definitely better than not exercising at all.  

Week 1 Progress

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The experts say you should lose no more than two pounds a week, so I allowed myself to eat up to 1800 calories a day.  I was afraid this would be too many calories, but my workouts have enabled me to eat a little more than I would be able to otherwise.  I will continue with my current daily calorie goal until my weight plateaus, and then I’ll make adjustments.  

First thing this morning, I weighed and took my measurements.  I am down 1.6 pounds since last Tuesday, which puts me at an even 145, which works out perfectly for my goal of losing five pounds each month.  I like for my numbers to be nice and neat.  I didn’t lose any inches on my hips, but I lost a whole inch on my waist at its narrowest point.  My other measurements ranged between 1/4-inch and 3/4-inch less than last week, so I feel good about my progress.  Slowly but surely, the weight and inches will come off.  


I am eating a balanced diet with plenty of lean protein and vegetables.  I usually eat leftover dinner casseroles/entrees for lunch, but sometimes there are no leftovers, and I need something that is healthy and filling, so I have made a large salad for lunch each day.  I don’t usually enjoy salads because there are very few dressings I will eat, but I love a salad piled high with meat and vegetables.   Yesterday, I added some grilled chicken leftover from dinner last week.  This was delicious without any dressing. 


The day before, I topped my salad with leftover taco meat from dinner last week. I used a head of romaine hearts, tomatoes from my garden, about a quarter cup each of corn (leftover) and black beans (another leftover), and one ounce of pepper jack cheese (yes, I measured it on my digital kitchen scale).


I was out of leftover meat today, so I added extra black beans and corn.  I planted an heirloom tomato plant this year, and it has large yellow tomatoes that have a wonderful flavor.  I topped my salad today with one of those tomatoes that my daughter picked fresh from the vine.  It was fabulous.

What are your favorite lunch options?  If you eat salads, what are your favorite toppings?  

August Menu

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I have finally completed our menu for next month.  Planning ahead saves time, money, calories, and frustration, so it is definitely worth the effort.  I probably overthink the entire process, but I need variety or cooking becomes another chore for me.  I try not to have chicken two nights in a row.  I alternate with beef, pork, or shrimp.  I also mix up our cuisines, alternating Italian, Mexican, and American dishes.  My son and I could eat Mexican food every night, but my husband would rather have Italian more frequently.  I do my best to keep things fairly even.  I also try to incorporate recipes using produce from our garden.


Busyness complicates our menu planning as well.  School starts in a few weeks, and we will have a few school functions in the evenings, which will require quick dinners or leftovers.  The girls have gymnastics one afternoon a week, so I plan a crock pot meal that day to have dinner ready when we get home.  My husband has a few meetings in the evenings, and I don’t cook if I have to clean it all up by myself, so we have leftovers then too.  We attend church on Saturday nights, so we are away from home during dinner hours and always pick up fast food on our way home.  

That being said, I have come up with a menu that will work for our family for the coming month.  You are welcome to use my menu or just use some of these recipes.  I have included links for all the recipes I use, most of which I found on Pinterest.  I love trying new recipes.  I hope you find a new recipe that your family will enjoy. 

August 1:  Southwest Skillet Chicken and Rice, side salad
August 2:  church function with meal

August 3:  Baked Ravioli, broccoli

August 4:  Pecan-Crusted Chicken BreastsLyonnaise Potatoes

August 5:  Breakfast for Dinner–bacon, scrambled eggs, Biscuits, fresh fruit


August 6:  eat out

August 7:  Caramelized Chicken with Jalapeño Cream, rice, salad

August 8:  Spicy Sausage Pasta, grilled squash

August 9:  leftovers

August 10:  Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin, baked potatoes, Spicy Garlic String Beans

August 11:  Spaghetti, salad, garlic toast

August 12:  leftovers

August 13:  eat out

August 14:  Tomato Basil Chicken, corn

August 15:  Chicken Tortellini Skillet, green beans

August 16:  Beef Enchilada Casserole (recipe to come), guacamole, salad

August 17:  Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole, broccoli

August 18:  leftovers

August 19:  Spicy Shrimp Pasta in Garlic Tomato Cream Sauce, grilled veggies

August 20:  eat out

August 21:  Beef Tacos

August 22:  Cajun Chicken Pasta, salad

August 23:  leftovers

August 24:  Hobo Dinners

August 25:  Tortilla Chip and Pepper Jack Crusted Chicken, sliced avocado, corn


August 26:  Crock Pot Sloppy Joes/Stuffed Bell Peppers (omit the bun, fill bell peppers with the meat mixture, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes), Hassleback Potatoes

August 27:  eat out

August 28:  Julia Child’s Quiche, fresh fruit, French bread

August 29:  Italian Chicken Bake with Homemade Basil Pesto, pasta, salad


August 30:  Mexican Skillet Casserole, guacamole

August 31:  Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss, corn

Country Life III

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A couple of weeks ago, my husband discovered a bird’s nest with three tiny eggs in our garage.  The nest is inside a manual fertilizer spreader (dark green in photo) on the top shelf.  There is now only one egg in the nest, and there are two baby birds in the clear containers on the shelf below their nest.  

 The mama and daddy birds fly in and out of our garage throughout the day to feed and care for their babies.  Early this morning, the girls and I were outside in the driveway when I heard a noise coming from inside our garage.  It was a persistent clicking noise that sounded almost like an alarm.  I saw one of the adult birds looking towards our garage window and making that noise.  It was an alarm because there was a snake in our garage, crawling from the top of the window down the side between the blinds and the frame.  I told my husband about it, but it was just a garter snake, and there didn’t appear to be any way for it to reach the baby birds, so he left it until this evening.  The snake stayed hidden on the far side of the garage away from the door into our house, so it didn’t bother any of us today, but we would rather not have a snake in our garage.  After dinner, my husband moved the tool chest that the snake was hiding behind and used a long piece of rebar to prod the snake outside.  It took a few minutes, but he was able to get the snake outside, and it slithered away into the brush on the other side of our fence.  


Both baby birds are still alive and in the containers, but one doesn’t look well.  It’s wings have lost feathers and have holes in them.  I’m not sure that one will make it.  The other one only has a little down left on its head and will probably be able to fly away in the next few days.  

MORE Zucchini Bread

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MORE Zucchini Bread


A few weeks ago, I made zucchini bread and shared my recipe.  I neglected to mention that my mom uses a similar recipe and instilled the love of zucchini bread in me at an early age.  My mom and her mom are both wonderful cooks and taught me well.  

This past Saturday, I had three large zucchini from my mother-in-law’s garden and decided to bake a few batches of bread and give it away to my terrific team of greeters at church.  I had no idea how much bread I would end up making!

I used my food processor’s grating blade to shred the zucchini.  Once I had it all shredded, I had about 18 cups of shredded zucchini!  My recipe only calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups per loaf.  


I made four double batches and then one single batch, putting two cups of zucchini in each batch.  I was able to make 32 mini loaves (equivalent to 8 regular loaves) and a dozen muffins.  I borrowed my mother-in-law’s mini loaf pan and temporarily reclaimed the one I had loaned her.  (I love baking in/on Pampered Chef stoneware!)


I had plenty to give to every person on my team Saturday night, and then my husband took a few to his coworkers on Monday. We still have plenty left for our family to enjoy until we get another zucchini and make some more bread in a few days. 

Zucchini Bread

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Zucchini Bread


My mother-in-law brought me a huge zucchini from her garden yesterday morning, and she had already given me a small one, so I decided to make zucchini bread yesterday.  I used my food processor to shred the zucchini and ended up with seven cups of shredded zucchini!  I was able to make 2 1/2 dozen muffins and a large Bundt-shaped loaf of bread.  


I thought we had enough to share with a friend, but my girls decided they liked zucchini bread and ate almost a dozen muffins yesterday!  When I was mixing up the batter, they weren’t sure about the green stuff going in the bowl, but once they smelled the muffins, they all wanted one. Big Sister is my pickiest eater and said, “This is good, Mom,” and asked for more!  The little girls were so cute with their praise that I had to video them. 

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Zucchini Bread

2 1/4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 cups zucchini, shredded

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add all other ingredients and mix well.  Pour batter into greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean–about 20 minutes for 18 muffins, 35 minutes for four mini loaves, or 45 minutes for one regular loaf or a Bundt pan.

I use this same recipe for banana bread, replacing the zucchini with three mashed bananas.  Zucchini is my favorite though. Just look at those beautiful, green flecks. 

Family Game Night

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When you have young children, family game night looks a little differently than it does when you have older children.  Fortunately, we have a few games for young children that we can all enjoy.  One of our favorites is The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game!  Grandmother bought this game for the twins for Christmas, I believe, and they play it with everyone who comes to visit. 


My little girls, who have trouble making the “s” sound at the beginning of words, call it “neaky, nacky quirrel,” which makes the rest of us giggle every time.  This game is for ages three and up.  It is simple and teaches them colors, matching, numbers, taking turns, fine motor skills, and strategic thinking skills.  If you have a preschooler, we highly recommend this game. 

Blackberry Cobbler

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Blackberry cobbler is one of my favorite desserts (I have several!), so I learned how to make cobblers from my grandma many years ago.  I like extra crust in my cobbler, so I prepare enough pie crust dough to have a solid crust on the bottom and a lattice crust on the top.  (My mom always made pretty pie crusts and cobblers with lattice tops, so I automatically do the same.)

Before I had children, I would take little balls of dough and mix them in with the berries for extra crust pieces throughout the cobbler, but now my children stand around our kitchen island waiting for me to give out pieces of dough to each one of them.  They aren’t satisfied with one piece either!  Just know that this is an option for your cobbler if you love crust and don’t have hungry little people clamoring for more.  

Back in October, I shared one of my pie crust recipes when I made a crust for a quiche, and I used the same recipe this evening for my cobbler, but I used butter this time and included the sugar.  (That’s probably why my children kept asking for more!)  I usually need to double this recipe for a double-crust pie/cobbler, but I only had about three cups of fresh blackberries (from our garden), so I used a small 8×8 baking dish.  If you make a 9×13 cobbler, you will need to double the recipe for this crust (unless you only want crust on the top). 

Sweet Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups flour

2 TBSP sugar

1/4 tsp salt

8 TBSP shortening or 10 TBSP butter, room temperature

4 TBSP cold milk

Combine all ingredients except milk.  Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter into the flour mixture.  Add milk and work into flour mixture with a spoon until dough begins to form a ball.  At this point, you can roll out your dough on your counter or on waxed paper.  I place about half of the dough in the baking dish and use a small roller to roll it out in the dish. For the lattice, I roll out the dough on a cutting board.  The dough doesn’t stick to the cutting board like it does to other things.

After you prepare your pie crust recipe, you can make a cobbler using your favorite fruit or berries–fresh or frozen.  I’ve had blueberry, cherry, strawberry, peach, and, of course, blackberry.  I have also used frozen mixed berries in a cobbler.  

My grandma doesn’t use many cookbooks or recipe cards.  She has cooked for so long that she just knows how much of each ingredient to add.  A scoop of this, a pinch of that, etc.   This makes it difficult for me to replicate her recipes, but she and I came up with this recipe for cobbler a long time ago.  I’ve never tried to find a different recipe because I like this one just fine.  It’s sweet and simple. 

Berry Cobbler

16 oz (about 4 cups) berries

1 cup sugar

1 TBSP flour

1 TBSP butter

Pour berries in baking dish.  (Place bottom crust in dish first if desired.)  Sprinkle sugar and flour over berries.  Cut butter into pats in baking dish.  Cover with top crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until berry juice is bubbling and crust is nicely browned.  

I hope you will try making this recipe sometime.  It’s worth the effort. 

Summer Berries

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Summer Berries

Is it just me or do berries from your own garden taste better than any others?  We planted a thornless blackberry bush three years ago, and we got several berries from it last summer, but we are getting at least two cups a day now!  

There are only three of us who like blackberries (Big Brother, Little Sister, and me), but we have been able to eat most of them the day we pick them. However, we did not eat all the blackberries Saturday because we ate dinner out after church, so we had twice as many as usual by Sunday evening. I decided to make a small blackberry cobbler with them. I forgot to take photos, but I’m sure I’ll be able to make another one soon!

Our blackberry bush has grown so much that it was covering the end of one of our raised garden beds, and I couldn’t pull weeds under it or get to all the berries. My husband and I constructed two side fences to drape the vines over, so the vines stay off the ground, the berries are easier to find, and I can weed under the vines. It is working pretty well. 


 The only problem is that the fence is so tall that I can hardly reach some of the ripe berries in the back, but I couldn’t reach them before either.  It would probably help if we hadn’t put the blackberry bush between the garden and the wood rack or three feet from the pasture fence, but we are making it work.  Now if I could just stay on top of those weeds!