Monday, November 26, 2018

Kids in the Kitchen - Baking Cookies with Susannah

This past Sunday evening Daniel played for a special Thanksgiving Service at church while the rest of us stayed home (and the littles finished their naps).  Sundays after church are low-key for us, mostly resting and spending time together as a family.

This particular afternoon I decided to give Susannah some baking experience. She has helped me with baking a lot over the years (when she was a toddler she would stand on a stool watching and sometimes helping dump ingredients into the mixer). This time I decided to let her be as independent as possible, barring something terrible (salt instead of sugar, that type of thing).

I chose my favorite Gingersnap Cookie recipe, partly because I was in the mood for them, and partly because it is a very simple recipe. And they are super delicious!

I had her read through the directions of the recipe BEFORE she started putting ingredients into the bowl, to help her learn that ingredients list order isn't always the mixing order.

From there she just started making the cookies! She had questions from time to time but I only had to intervene once when she used baking powder instead of baking soda. I was able to scoop out the baking powder, and I told her that I've made the same mistake before. :)

She did all of the work from start to finish, even putting the cookies into the oven and taking them out when the timer beeped.

I was proud of her and she was excited to have gained and earned that level of independence. I'm looking forward to lots more cooking and baking together in the days and years to come!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Day in the Life

Today was our first "back to reality" day after our vacation.  We got home Friday, but took it easy Friday and Saturday.  Sunday was the normal day of church and resting. Monday morning was my MUMS group meeting and Catherine had a well appointment in the afternoon.  After her appointment I ended up getting groceries before coming home.  Monday was also my day to work in the office, so once I was home I holed up there for the tiny bit of time left in the day. I didn't even put away the non-cold groceries.

As such, this is how my kitchen greeted me this morning:

The morning got off to a bit of a rocky start and a lot later than I wanted, but eventually the ball started rolling instead of skidding.

Susannah did her piano practice, Charity unloaded the dishwasher and Sylvia had free time.  After that, Susannah and Sylvia started their school-work for today.  It's a challenge to get back into the discipline of staying focused and actually doing the work, but we managed.

While the girls did school I started cleaning up the kitchen.  I started with the groceries because I was stepping around them to do anything. Plus Silas was wanting to open all the packages, and managed to open the lid AND the pull-tab inner lid of a can of peanuts!

There was plenty of helping people with various needs mixed in every other minute or two. It seems to take forever to do a single task right now in life!

Finally the groceries were away and Silas stayed busy for a bit "fixing" the kitchen door.  He uses an old mixer attachment thing (that I no longer have the motor for) as a "screwdriver," and tinkers on the screws of the door.  At one point he was outside fixing on the deck.  He actually had gotten my meat thermometer to use at first, but I swapped him for the real pretend (??) screwdriver.

Charity played in the living room for quite a while.  These magnetic tiles were a fun Aldi find a few months ago.  I have always wanted some but never wanted to spend the money on them. When I saw them at Aldi they seemed to be a good price.  The girls love playing with them, so it was a worthwhile purchase!

Before I got much headway on housework (oh, I did wash and dry some laundry here and there), it was time to make lunch.  I made sandwiches for everyone else and a salad for myself.  It was yummy: lettuce and spinach, tuna, apple, avocado and grapes drizzled with extra light olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

After lunch Susannah put away the food while I fed Catherine.  Then I loaded Catherine into the Ergo (love that thing!) and we went for a walk.  Our first stop was the chickens to look at the peeps that hatched while we were away.

Then we went to a "meadow" that is literally 1 house away from us to walk.  This was the first time I took the kids for a walk like this. They loved it! We are definitely doing this more often.  The weather was beautiful too.

Silas held my hand for the first while. 😊 I tried to show him our shadows but he couldn't "get" it.  Catherine fell asleep and was a content passenger.

I love the colors of fall and noticed the deep burgundy of these leaves. I think they might be Sumac but I'm not sure.

This just begged to be photographed.

On the way home Silas stopped often to collect rocks.  It is interesting to see the difference between girls and boys!  He also will collect sticks to carry.  Hopefully I won't find toads in his pockets some day...

When we got back Catherine wanted to eat again.  Susannah worked on her school some more (she was in Sloth mode all day).  Silas went down for a nap and Sylvia and Charity played.

I finished cleaning up most of the kitchen and then had the girls work on some picking up.  Some worked more willingly than others.

I made chicken pot pie for dinner.  I just chopped up chicken to cook, added mixed vegetables, some chicken broth, 2 cans of Cream of Chicken, some Poultry Seasoning and some rubbed Sage. It filled the casserole dish to the brim, then I topped it with homemade pie crust.

While it baked, Catherine ate again.  About the time she was finishing I smelled something burning and thought the casserole was getting too overdone.  As soon as I could I went to check, expecting to see burnt crust on the pot pie.  Instead it had bubbled over a LOT, and was creating a puddle of oven lava on the oven floor. 🙄  Oh yay...

Catherine was happy after eating and hung out in her seat while we ate dinner.

After dinner it was baths for everyone.  Daniel and I have a pretty good system down pat: I start with Silas and work my way up.  As each kid is finished, he gets them dressed (well, Sylvia and Susannah don't need his help) and starts brushing hair and teeth.  This works really well and really helps lighten my load.

Eventually everyone was in bed, finally earlier than it had been for a while!!  I went out and closed up the chickens, and came back to clean up the kitchen. (The oven spill will have to be cleaned later. This Mama can't be all things to all people and do all things too.)

The Oven Lava awaits...

I'd hoped to get a lot more done than I actually did, but there were no dull moments in the day for sure.

It was nice to end the day with a much cleaner kitchen even if I didn't get to every nook and cranny.

The day ended with feeding Catherine once more before I went to bed myself.

And that is a day in my life!!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Favorite Fall Books for Kids

I am a bookworm through and through, and am thrilled to watch each of my kids be bookworms as well.  My trouble though is knowing what are the really great books for little kids.  Books for when they are past the board picture book stage but not into long stories quite yet.

A few years ago I desperately wanted to add some seasonal books to our then meager children's book collection.  Between asking friends and browsing kids books on the topics of "fall" and "apples" at the library, I found what became our 2 very favorite fall books.  Both have their own elements of fun, both are illustrated with great pictures, and both are the perfect story-length for young listeners. {Depending on the attention span of your child or children, I would say these could easily entertain at least a 3 year old, probably even as young as 2 1/2 if your child is used to being ready to.  My 6 and 8 year olds still enjoy reading or listening to these books read.}

I first borrowed them from the library to see how we liked them.  Sometimes books, while not "bad," are just kind-of "meh" and I wanted to give them both a trial run.  We loved both of them so much that after we returned them to the library the girls continued to beg me to read them.  So I found them online and ordered them. :)  They are MUCH loved by each of our kids, and I will admit, I think they are really great too!  I don't think I could choose between the two if I had to only keep one for our collection, they are that good!

So what are these two books??


(These are not in "favorites" order, I promise! You should have both of these!)

Fall Is Not Easy is one that makes my girls laugh with each page turn.  It was recommended by a friend who is a Kindergarten teacher as a book her students love every year.

The story-line is simple as it follows a tree going through all the seasons of the year.  The hardest season for the tree is fall.  He has so much trouble getting his leaves just right.  There are several silly pages as he tries and tries, over and over again. Finally he gets his leaves the right color and then... you'll have to read it to find out the end! 😉

The pages are filled with pretty color pictures that follow the tree's experience.  I love the detail that can be found if you look within the pictures: Look for the robin building her nest... the baby birds growing up and then leaving the nest. The flowers growing, blooming, wilting. Follow the squirrel as he darts around in the summer, later gathering and hiding nuts in the fall.

My girls laugh and giggle with each page turn of this story.  Even today when Charity (5) saw me writing this blog post she giggled and said, "Fall Is Not Easy! I love that book!"

An Apple Pie for Dinner is tied for favorite position among these two books.  The mixed media illustrations along with the title are what caught my eye at first.  Once we had the book I loved it right away.  Perhaps my love of baking and working in the kitchen helps, but I think even non-kitchen-savvy people would enjoy this story.

This is a story of Granny Smith (haha!) wanting to make an apple pie but she doesn't have any apples.  So she sets out to remedy that!  Along the way she barters with people she meets, filling needs that they have, and in the end finally finds the apples she herself needs.  Then she invites everyone to help make and eat the pie.

I love the friendliness that Granny Smith shows in each situation she encounters.  Early on she quickly trades away her plums for something she doesn't need, just because she is happy to fill the other person's need.  Psst, As you read this book to your littles, have them look for the ladybugs in every picture. It is one of the favorite things my littlest littles love to do as we read this story!

In the back of the book is a recipe for an apple pie, and we have made it.  It was a fun experience to make "Granny Smith's" apple pie, even though it wasn't my favorite apple pie recipe.

If you are looking for books, I highly recommend these.  You can get them from Amazon {Fall Is Not Easy and An Apple Pie for Dinner} but they may be available cheaper on E-bay; it would depend on the price and shipping.  (Both books are Amazon Prime items, so shipping would be free if you have Prime membership.)  These make great books for your own kids, for grandkids who come to visit, nieces, nephews, and they make great birthday, Christmas or baby shower gifts!!

Let me know if you would like to hear more about our favorite books, and feel free to share your favorite titles!

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Kids In The Kitchen: Cooking With Sylvia

This afternoon Sylvia and I worked together making dinner.  I had gone down to the freezers this morning looking for dinner inspiration. As it was the first "cool" fall day, what better way to celebrate the arrival of cool weather than a cozy meal of beef stew? I got a beef roast out to thaw while we went about our morning of school and all the general goings on in a busy homeschooling, piano practicing, toddler-activity, baby-nursing household. 😊

By early afternoon it was thawed and after Silas started his nap I asked Sylvia to come to the kitchen with me.  I cleared off the counters while she got potatoes from the potato basket in the pantry.  I peeled the potatoes and she cut them into large chunks, tossing them into the roaster.  After we finished the potatoes, I peeled and she chopped up several carrots.  Then I pulled out an onion. "Oh no, I'm not chopping that! I'm allergic to onions!"  (She thinks that because it makes her eyes burn she is allergic. Haha!)  So I peeled and chopped the onion for her.

When we went to add the roast we realized that our small roaster wasn't big enough so we pulled out my big roaster ($5 find at Goodwill!).  We put the beef roast into the pan and seasoned both sides.  Sylvia added the vegetables and arranged them around before we seasoned them.  Next we sprinkled dried parsley all over everything.  We both thought it looked pretty!

Seasoning for a Beef Roast:
Season all sides generously with salt
Sprinkle with a bit of garlic powder and pepper
If adding potatoes and other vegetables, season them with salt and pepper.

Since this was a larger pan I did add about half a cup of water before we put it in the oven. Typically I don't add water as a beef roast (especially from a fattened beef animal) will render a nice amount of delicious broth.

I had also been wanting to make a pumpkin pie and thought this would be a good meal with which to serve pumpkin pie. :)  I found the recipe in my recipe book and showed it to Sylvia.  While I mixed up the crust she worked her way through the ingredients list, making the filling.  It was her first time independently following a recipe, but I wanted her to do it herself as much as possible.  I knew there was a chance of something getting goofed up, but there is something to be said for independent learning and the experience of being trusted with following a recipe all by yourself.

At one point she asked me to read the next ingredient amount (it was 3/4 tsp.) and I realized she had just interpreted 1/2 teaspoon as 1 teaspoon.  Since she had just put in the salt, and we didn't want salty pie, I scooped some of it back out.  After that she had me double check her reading of the measurements.  She measured everything by herself!  After she had everything added, she did the preliminary mixing and then I gave everything a good stirring to finish.

The pie baked along with the roast, making the house smell wonderful!  Supper was very delicious; the roast was amazing and had made a delicious broth that I made into gravy to pour over the vegetables.  For dessert we had Sylvia's pie.  It was very yummy and she was thrilled to serve it to us with whipped cream on top.

The pie was a little "extra" with the spices, but for her first time measuring spices and making a pie, I think it turned out very well!  I think the extra flavor came from accidentally packing the spices into the measuring spoons as she leveled them.  I will show her next time how to better measure, but I didn't want to rain on her parade too much the first time.

I am looking forward to having little cooks working in the kitchen with me this winter!!

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